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12 January 2006 Edition

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Third Worlding - Citizens rights sacrificed for private and foreign interests

The last decade-and-a-half has seen a transformation in the Irish economy and society with unprecedented economic growth, greater prosperity and more people working. However, successive Irish Governments have not only failed to use economic growth to tackle the structural inequalities that warp our economy and damage our society, but have actually worsened the situation.

Here, Justin MORAN argues that many of Ireland's current social ills stem from problems associated with a concept that has become known as 'Third Worlding'

"Third Worlding means to unwisely allow use of land for purposes that, in all probability, will result in severe loss of life. However, the country's government places so little real value on such loss, that corporations, or for that matter, governments are willing to take the risk of massive catastrophic failure, usually for perceived short term gain."

A small paragraph, mostly ignored, in the extremely thorough report on the proposed Corrib pipeline prepared for the Centre for Public Inquiry by independent US analysts Accufacts. The concept of a government willing to risk the lives of its citizens for the benefit of foreign gas and oil companies is, as the quote makes clear, assumed to be a characteristic of Third World nations with corrupt governments and limited democratic accountability.

That it is used in reference to the seeming indifference of the Irish Government towards clear and present dangers in Shell's proposed Corrib pipeline is a telling indictment of the mentality of the political and media establishment in Ireland.

The proposed pipeline will run as close as 70 metres to the homes of local people and over unstable bogland notorious locally for landslides. If the pipeline ruptured the explosion would kill anyone within a radius of one mile according to retired US Navy officer and explosives expert Dr Dave Aldridge whose report is available on the Shell to Sea website.

Corrib campaigners have pointed to recent gas pipeline explosions, all of lower pressure to the one proposed for Rossport, as confirmation of the threat. In July of 2004 a gas pipeline operated by Belgian company Fluxys, partly owned by Shell, exploded destroying everything within a 400-metre radius, killing 21 people and injuring over 100, many suffering from horrendous burns.

One firefighter, Patrick Chevalier, described the scene as "the apocalypse, we couldn't see anything or anyone, and then we began to find the bodies scattered around the area, completely carbonised". (See http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/07/30/belgium.gas.blast/ for pictures, click on Gallery)

A more recent gas pipeline explosion in Mexico in July of 2005 killed two people and injured dozens more. According to the Accufacts Report on the proposed Corrib pipeline: "The proposed onshore pipeline route presents the greatest risk to population. The Gas Processing Plant placement greatly influences risks associated with the onshore pipeline..."

It goes on to conclude: "It is the opinion of the author that the risks of the pipeline have been considerably understated. Various critical commitments that would ensure that the pipeline would not fail have not been clearly demonstrated or obligated, a serious indication that in all probability risk assessment is not appropriate for this project."

Wastewater from the refinery will be pumped into Broadhaven Bay, an EU Special Area of Conservation. This untreated waste water will contain many lethal substances, including lead, nickel, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, arsenic, mercury and the radioactive gas radon.

The establishment parties have attempted to isolate the campaigners who have also been attacked in many media outlets as being opposed to any development and motivated simply to squeeze a few more euros compensation from Shell. Leading the opposition to the campaign has been Independent Newspapers, the state's largest media conglomerate, whose owner Tony O'Reilly, also happens to own Providence Resources, a gas and oil exploration company with fields off the coast of Ireland.

Oil and gas exploration is not the only place where the government applies the principles of Third Worlding, of putting the interest of the Shell Oils and the Tony O'Reilly's of this world before workers and local communities.

Last year 70 workers lost their lives on the job according to the Health & Safety Authority, 21 more than in 2004. The rate of death in the construction sector alone was almost two a month while 17 people, including seven over the age of 65 and two children were killed in the agriculture sector.

"All those involved in construction and farming must face up to the safety issues," urged Tom Beegan, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority. "Year in year out the same industries has the worst safety record and people keep getting injured and being killed. It must not continue and we will use every means at our disposal to ensure that it doesn't."

'Every means at our disposal' does not mean sufficient means to do what the Health and Safety Authority is mandated to do. Trade unions believe that a minimum of 70 Labour Inspectors are needed in the 26 Counties to carry out inspections and ensure employers are complying with Irish labour law. Earlier this year the government increased the number of inspectors from 21 to 30 but has yet even to fill many of the new places.

While legislative changes to the health and safety requirements of workers are obviously beneficial, with so few inspectors the chances of employers being caught violating them are minimal. With so few inspectors the government is signalling to industry that it is not serious about preventing death and injury in the workplace.

Speaking after the deaths of four workers in one week in late October, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers' Rights Arthur Morgan said: "I am also calling on the government to bring forward legislation for the introduction of the crime of corporate killing without further delay.

"This is a long-standing demand from the trade unions sector which results from the criminal law's failure to be able to convict companies of manslaughter where a death has occurred due to gross negligence by the organisation as a whole.

"Corporate killing rules, in force in many other states, would go along way to tackling the fact that penalties are not creating sufficient deterrents." After all as British trade unions, who have forced the New Labour Government to propose a draft corporate killing bill, point out a hard day's work never killed anyone. Negligent bosses are what kill workers.

But the appointment of more Labour Inspectors and corporate killing legislation goes against the principles of Third Worlding. The value the government places on the lives of Irish workers is simply less than the value it places on the interests of business and foreign capital.

The Irish Ferries dispute is further evidence of this. Countries right across the globe, especially in the developing world, are providing corporation tax breaks, anti-union laws and under-cutting health and safety legislation to attract multinational corporations.

Hence the government's insistence on a Corporation tax rate of 12.5% in the faint hope it will persuade companies to invest here rather than in a developing economy in the Third World with a tax rate of 0%, no unions and in some countries a quasi-military force to execute union organisers. Irish Ferries, and the forthcoming EU Services Directive, are all about undermining the rights and wages of workers for the benefit of capital.

We are also blessed with another common feature of many Third World states — the presence of a US airbase. Over 330,000 US troops passed through Shannon Airport in 2005, almost 1,000 a day and more than double the figure for 2004. It is unclear whether this figure includes the almost 20,000 American servicemen and women tragically killed or injured as a result of Bush's war policy.

As well as soldiers and equipment Shannon may also be a waystation for the US intelligence network. It is alleged that US civilian-registered aircraft, operated or rented by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), have been using Shannon Airport to transfer prisoners taken in the 'war on terror' to foreign countries for interrogation and trial.

According to Village, a minimum of 85 such flights have taken place over the last five years and include two planes making multiple flights used in so-called 'extraordinary renditions' where the prisoners are subsequently subjected to torture at the behest of the US Government.

Anti-war protestors and peace activists like Tim Hourigan who have regularly reported detailed complaints about the use of Shannon for the illegal transfer of prisoners to the Gardaí have had their complaints ignored and been subject to Garda harassment, intimidation and arrest.

Their complaints have in recent weeks belatedly received support from the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and the Council of Europe. The President of the IHRC, Dr Maurice Manning said: "Given the fact that the obligation on the state to protect against all forms of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment is an absolute one, and given the gravity of the allegations that have been made to date it is not sufficient for the Government to rely on such US assurances.

"Accordingly, the Commission calls on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to seek the agreement of the US authorities to the inspection of aircraft suspected of involvement in this traffic."

The Commission's position has been backed by the Council of Europe. In a letter last week the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles Robles wrote: "I very much welcome the attention the Irish Human Rights Commission is paying to this issue and support its calls for greater transparency. I have frequently maintained that States have a responsibility to ensure that their territory and facilities are not used for illicit purposes, especially not human rights violations.

But the government, fronted on this issue by Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, maintains a refreshingly uncomplicated position. There are no prisoners being moved through Shannon and we know this because the US Government tells us so and it would be rude to doubt them. That this US administration has been exposed again and again as dishonest on Iraq does not concern the US surrogates currently masquerading as a sovereign Irish Government in this regard.

Speaking about the Irish Ferries dispute, Jack O'Connor said: "In a moment such as this you are on one side or the other." The reality is that in all moments you are on one side or the other.

You stand with the people of Rossport demanding the exploitation of our gas to be done at sea, and for our benefit. Or you stand with Shell and its backers in the Irish Government selling our gas at no benefit to us after obtaining it in a manner dangerous to the local community.

You stand with workers demanding safer conditions and proper enforcement of labour standards. Or you stand with IBEC and its backers in the Irish government in arguing it is too expensive and undermining enforcement.

And you stand with those believing that some civil and human rights are inalienable and cannot be violated, especially by a foreign government using the space of an allegedly neutral country. Or you stand with torturers and those in the Irish Government willing to turn a blind eye to it.

You stand against third worlding. Or you stand with it.

You stand on one side or the other.

"Third Worlding means to unwisely allow use of land for purposes that, in all probability, will result in severe loss of life. However, the country's government places so little real value on such loss, that corporations, or for that matter, governments are willing to take the risk of massive catastrophic failure, usually for perceived short term gain."

A small paragraph, mostly ignored, in the extremely thorough report on the proposed Corrib pipeline prepared for the Centre for Public Inquiry by independent US analysts Accufacts. The concept of a government willing to risk the lives of its citizens for the benefit of foreign gas and oil companies is, as the quote makes clear, assumed to be a characteristic of Third World nations with corrupt governments and limited democratic accountability.

That it is used in reference to the seeming indifference of the Irish Government towards clear and present dangers in Shell's proposed Corrib pipeline is a telling indictment of the mentality of the political and media establishment in Ireland.

The proposed pipeline will run as close as 70 metres to the homes of local people and over unstable bogland notorious locally for landslides. If the pipeline ruptured the explosion would kill anyone within a radius of one mile according to retired US Navy officer and explosives expert Dr Dave Aldridge whose report is available on the Shell to Sea website.

Corrib campaigners have pointed to recent gas pipeline explosions, all of lower pressure to the one proposed for Rossport, as confirmation of the threat. In July of 2004 a gas pipeline operated by Belgian company Fluxys, partly owned by Shell, exploded destroying everything within a 400-metre radius, killing 21 people and injuring over 100, many suffering from horrendous burns.

One firefighter, Patrick Chevalier, described the scene as "the apocalypse, we couldn't see anything or anyone, and then we began to find the bodies scattered around the area, completely carbonised". (See http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/07/30/belgium.gas.blast/ for pictures, click on Gallery)

A more recent gas pipeline explosion in Mexico in July of 2005 killed two people and injured dozens more. According to the Accufacts Report on the proposed Corrib pipeline: "The proposed onshore pipeline route presents the greatest risk to population. The Gas Processing Plant placement greatly influences risks associated with the onshore pipeline..."

It goes on to conclude: "It is the opinion of the author that the risks of the pipeline have been considerably understated. Various critical commitments that would ensure that the pipeline would not fail have not been clearly demonstrated or obligated, a serious indication that in all probability risk assessment is not appropriate for this project."

Wastewater from the refinery will be pumped into Broadhaven Bay, an EU Special Area of Conservation. This untreated waste water will contain many lethal substances, including lead, nickel, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, arsenic, mercury and the radioactive gas radon.

The establishment parties have attempted to isolate the campaigners who have also been attacked in many media outlets as being opposed to any development and motivated simply to squeeze a few more euros compensation from Shell. Leading the opposition to the campaign has been Independent Newspapers, the state's largest media conglomerate, whose owner Tony O'Reilly, also happens to own Providence Resources, a gas and oil exploration company with fields off the coast of Ireland.

Oil and gas exploration is not the only place where the government applies the principles of Third Worlding, of putting the interest of the Shell Oils and the Tony O'Reilly's of this world before workers and local communities.

Last year 70 workers lost their lives on the job according to the Health & Safety Authority, 21 more than in 2004. The rate of death in the construction sector alone was almost two a month while 17 people, including seven over the age of 65 and two children were killed in the agriculture sector.

"All those involved in construction and farming must face up to the safety issues," urged Tom Beegan, Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority. "Year in year out the same industries has the worst safety record and people keep getting injured and being killed. It must not continue and we will use every means at our disposal to ensure that it doesn't."

'Every means at our disposal' does not mean sufficient means to do what the Health and Safety Authority is mandated to do. Trade unions believe that a minimum of 70 Labour Inspectors are needed in the 26 Counties to carry out inspections and ensure employers are complying with Irish labour law. Earlier this year the government increased the number of inspectors from 21 to 30 but has yet even to fill many of the new places.

While legislative changes to the health and safety requirements of workers are obviously beneficial, with so few inspectors the chances of employers being caught violating them are minimal. With so few inspectors the government is signalling to industry that it is not serious about preventing death and injury in the workplace.

Speaking after the deaths of four workers in one week in late October, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers' Rights Arthur Morgan said: "I am also calling on the government to bring forward legislation for the introduction of the crime of corporate killing without further delay.

"This is a long-standing demand from the trade unions sector which results from the criminal law's failure to be able to convict companies of manslaughter where a death has occurred due to gross negligence by the organisation as a whole.

"Corporate killing rules, in force in many other states, would go along way to tackling the fact that penalties are not creating sufficient deterrents." After all as British trade unions, who have forced the New Labour Government to propose a draft corporate killing bill, point out a hard day's work never killed anyone. Negligent bosses are what kill workers.

But the appointment of more Labour Inspectors and corporate killing legislation goes against the principles of Third Worlding. The value the government places on the lives of Irish workers is simply less than the value it places on the interests of business and foreign capital.

The Irish Ferries dispute is further evidence of this. Countries right across the globe, especially in the developing world, are providing corporation tax breaks, anti-union laws and under-cutting health and safety legislation to attract multinational corporations.

Hence the government's insistence on a Corporation tax rate of 12.5% in the faint hope it will persuade companies to invest here rather than in a developing economy in the Third World with a tax rate of 0%, no unions and in some countries a quasi-military force to execute union organisers. Irish Ferries, and the forthcoming EU Services Directive, are all about undermining the rights and wages of workers for the benefit of capital.

We are also blessed with another common feature of many Third World states — the presence of a US airbase. Over 330,000 US troops passed through Shannon Airport in 2005, almost 1,000 a day and more than double the figure for 2004. It is unclear whether this figure includes the almost 20,000 American servicemen and women tragically killed or injured as a result of Bush's war policy.

As well as soldiers and equipment Shannon may also be a waystation for the US intelligence network. It is alleged that US civilian-registered aircraft, operated or rented by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), have been using Shannon Airport to transfer prisoners taken in the 'war on terror' to foreign countries for interrogation and trial.

According to Village, a minimum of 85 such flights have taken place over the last five years and include two planes making multiple flights used in so-called 'extraordinary renditions' where the prisoners are subsequently subjected to torture at the behest of the US Government.

Anti-war protestors and peace activists like Tim Hourigan who have regularly reported detailed complaints about the use of Shannon for the illegal transfer of prisoners to the Gardaí have had their complaints ignored and been subject to Garda harassment, intimidation and arrest.

Their complaints have in recent weeks belatedly received support from the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and the Council of Europe. The President of the IHRC, Dr Maurice Manning said: "Given the fact that the obligation on the state to protect against all forms of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment is an absolute one, and given the gravity of the allegations that have been made to date it is not sufficient for the Government to rely on such US assurances.

"Accordingly, the Commission calls on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to seek the agreement of the US authorities to the inspection of aircraft suspected of involvement in this traffic."

The Commission's position has been backed by the Council of Europe. In a letter last week the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles Robles wrote: "I very much welcome the attention the Irish Human Rights Commission is paying to this issue and support its calls for greater transparency. I have frequently maintained that States have a responsibility to ensure that their territory and facilities are not used for illicit purposes, especially not human rights violations.

But the government, fronted on this issue by Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, maintains a refreshingly uncomplicated position. There are no prisoners being moved through Shannon and we know this because the US Government tells us so and it would be rude to doubt them. That this US administration has been exposed again and again as dishonest on Iraq does not concern the US surrogates currently masquerading as a sovereign Irish Government in this regard.

Speaking about the Irish Ferries dispute, Jack O'Connor said: "In a moment such as this you are on one side or the other." The reality is that in all moments you are on one side or the other.

You stand with the people of Rossport demanding the exploitation of our gas to be done at sea, and for our benefit. Or you stand with Shell and its backers in the Irish Government selling our gas at no benefit to us after obtaining it in a manner dangerous to the local community.

You stand with workers demanding safer conditions and proper enforcement of labour standards. Or you stand with IBEC and its backers in the Irish government in arguing it is too expensive and undermining enforcement.

And you stand with those believing that some civil and human rights are inalienable and cannot be violated, especially by a foreign government using the space of an allegedly neutral country. Or you stand with torturers and those in the Irish Government willing to turn a blind eye to it.

You stand against third worlding. Or you stand with it.

You stand on one side or the other.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

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