16 June 2005 Edition
The issue of Ireland's alcohol culture has come to public prominence recently. For his part, Michael McDowell had planned to tackle the problem through the introduction of trendy 'café bars' for the well-groomed ladies and gentlemen who enjoy a liquid lunch with their meal.
Everyone agrees Ireland's alcohol use is a problem: the volume of drink taken increases as surely as the price of a pint year on year, it fuels chaos on our streets every weekend, as well as being a major contributory factor in road accidents and domestic violence. The Department of Health estimates that alcohol use costs us €2.4 billion per year.
All sorts of reforms have been mooted — changing licence laws, altering opening hours, public education, better policing — but I feel we are overlooking the most obvious solution to Ireland's drinking problem: ban alcohol.
Possession of alcohol should be punishable by a fine for a first offence and jail thereafter. Production or intent to supply alcohol should carry a mandatory ten-year sentence.
These penalties would bring alcohol into line with other 'recreational' drugs such as cannabis. Given the roaring success of Ireland's policy of prohibiting drugs like cannabis, MDMA, cocaine and heroin, eliminating alcohol use in Ireland ought to be a simple task.
Some may question the wisdom of my proposition, but I feel confident that the fun-loving delegates who voted down Ard Fheis motions to de-criminalise cannabis will join me in my crusade to keep our children safe from alcohol, a highly addictive drug which is proven to cause brain damage, liver failure, cancer and dementia.
Why are we talking around the issue? We are supposed to be fighting a war on drugs. Alcohol is the most widely abused drug in this country, so we can't possibly preclude it from our righteous war on such substances, lest we appear to be utterly hypocritical. I look forward to fellow anti-drug comrades joining me in my crusade.
It's all good
What a great time it is to be a 'Shinner'! For several months we've had to endure a cacophony of lies, misinformations and insinuation. The establishment and their spindoctors would have us believe that they are winning, that they have the upper hand. But as per usual they are reading the situation all wrong. Sinn Féin has just passed three stern tests and can prove them wrong.
It all kicked off in the dark evenings of February and March. Joe Reilly increased his vote by 3% in the Meath by-election.
Gráinne Mhic Géidigh went even better by winning us our first ever Sinn Féin seat in the Údarás na Gaeltachta elections.
Westminster and local Six-County elections continued this upward trend. We now have five MPs rejecting Elizabeth Windsor's oath of allegiance and her parliament.
Add to this the five TDs in Dáil Éireann busily making room for the next batch of Sinn Féin deputies due after the next general election and it's all good.
Happy days. Tá ár lá ag teacht.
Alan Ó Fionnagáin,
Dún Dealgain, Co Lú.
EU lessons for Irish left
The result of the French and Dutch referendums on the EU Constitution has caused such a shockwave through the political and media establishments that they are unable [or unwilling] to see the obvious. They blamed "the French" for racist attitudes to Polish plumbers and Turkish EU-applicants and insist that, despite the clear result, they will press on regardless.
While it is true that there was a small far-right component to the "Non" vote, exit polls found that one of the main reasons for result was the neo-liberal, ie, Thatcherite nature of the Constitution. This reflected the No campaign, which was largely composed of a large section of the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Green Party and smaller leftist groups.
The decision of the Irish Labour Party to back the Yes side here, combined with its desire to coalesce with Fine Gael, shows how far to the right that party has shifted.
In France, the big loser was Francois Hollande, the right-wing leader of the Socialist Party, who backed the "Oui" side, while the winners were his leftist rival Laurent Fabius and Marie-George Buffet, who re-invigorated the Communist Party by building a broad left "Non" campaign, which may lead to a strong left coalition in the next general election.
The lessons for the left in Ireland are obvious.
Finglas, Dublin 11.
Fight the water charges
Full credit to An Phoblacht for inviting Gary Mulcahy to outline the arguments for non-payment as a way of beating the Water Charges. As someone who was involved in the campaign against the Poll Tax in Britain, I can see substantial parallels between the two struggles.
At a recent party meeting, a Sinn Féin official observed to the audience that as we get bigger and focus more on elections, it is vital we do not lose our radical edge or campaigning zeal. A mass campaign of civil disobedience, a position now backed by the NIPSA, the largest union in the North, is just such an opportunity for us.
The party should seriously consider changing its position on how we fight the water charges in the North.
Bunclody, County Wexford.
The debate on coalition in the pages of An Phoblacht over the last few weeks has been extremely useful and has contributed to increased debate, and increased quality of debate, about the issue among republicans. One argument that was recently made to me was that we should look at the PDs as an example — a small party with only eight seats but that is able to set the economic agenda of government because of Fianna Fáil's hunger for power at any price.
While it is an interesting comparison, and worth reflecting whether we could bring Fianna Fáil to the left as much as the PDs brought them to the right, it ignores the fact that while the PDs have minimal electoral strength, they have massive political strength. PD economic policy is fully in line with that of IBEC, the foreign multinational corporations, miscellaneous Chambers of Commerce, the media's economic analysts and even the European Union, all of whom will back them up and push their politics.
This gives them an enormous level of political strength in the 26 Counties that we cannot counter simply by pointing to our far greater electoral mandate. Votes are merely one measure of political strength, and regrettably, for those of us with a commitment to democracy, not the most powerful.