Friday 9 May 2008

The Plough Vol 05 No 06

The Plough
Web Site
Vol 5-No 6

Friday 9th May 2008

E-mail newsletter of the Irish Republican Socialist Party

1) IRSP Tour of Catalonia
2) Speech in Catalonia by Willie Gallagher IRSP
3) Republicanism, Irish and Iranian
4) Union News
5) Fact File
6) From the Media
a. The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots
b. The border — economic asset for North and South
c. Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York
7) What’s On

Sunday the 18th of May is the date of the National Hunger Strike Republican Socialist Commemoration being held in Derry, it starts at 2.00pm from the Rosemount factory. All welcome


At the beginning of May two comrades from the IRSP toured Catalonia giving the IRSP view on the Irish Peace Process to a number of well attended public meetings. Each of the public meetings, lasted between two and a half hours and three hours each with some very lively debate and question and answer sessions. In between meetings the IRSP meet with a number of groups throughout the region. The IRSP delegates met grassroot socialist groups working hard at a local level, Alerta Solidaria, (Solidarity Alert ) MTD ( Movement for the Defense of the Land, ENDAVANT ( Socialist Organistion for National Liberation, Pro-independence student union SEPC, anti- repressive organisation Rescat (Rescue) and CUP ( Candidacy for Popular Unity as well as six well attended public meetings throughout Catalalonia including the cities of Barcelona, Castello, Vic and Vilafranca.

The Catalonian groups/audiences were well versed in both the Agreement and Irish politics in general, but only had Provisional Sinn Fein's version of the GFA. The audiences were up to date on issues such as such as the Richard O”Rawe controversy, MI5's influence in shaping the process through infiltration, water-tax, and the Irish Language

Although Provisional Sinn Fein's presence in Barcelona is well known their supporters declined invitations to attend the public meetings. Perhaps they feared dealing with the IRSP analysis, particularly around the “consent” principle, the acceptance of a British police force, the continued existence of Diplock courts and the calls for arrests and imprisonment of anti-GFA republicans by leading Provisional Sinn Fein politicians Judging from the mood of the various groupings and audiences they were wise to decline as they would have had some very difficult questions to answer. Recently Provisional Sinn Fein were on tour in Catalonia where they advised local separatists to adopt 'their' model of conflict resolution and that of the GFA as a way of achieving independence.
The IRSP on the other hand advised our Catalonian comrades to study our analysis and to get a copy of the GFA, study that, in particular the constitutional aspects of it, and make their own decisions.
The IRSP delegates also had a lengthy conversation with the editor of a left wing paper who admitted that there was an article in their paper recently slagging off the IRSP. She, the editor, revealed that other Catalonians had challenged the article and the editor apologised that the content had being biased and one sided. It was based on information she got from one of the Basques who in turn got their 'information' from PSF. IRSP delegates confirmed that Provisional Sinn Fein have been demonising the IRSP in particular and anti-GFA republicans in general for years. They had alleged that Republican Socialists were involved in drug dealing, an other allegation also made by some Basque nationalists under the influence of PSF.

But a number of Catalonians actually lived for a while in Belfast and Derry and, both in the audiences and groups, were aware of the machinations of the Provisional Sinn Fein and of the extent of their lies against the Republican Socialist Movement

The IRSP pointed out that the main focus of the analysis presented centered around the agreement and the consequences of it in relation to the constitutional/partition. The agreement was a massive defeat for republicanism. It was stated that historically the IRSP/INLA focused on national liberation believing that the resolution of partition was a prerequisite to the struggle for social liberation. We also pointed out that the agreement institutionalised sectarianism, keeping the working class divided.

There was a big interest in the prisons issue. Many were surprised that there were between 30 and 40 political prisoners in Ireland at present. Some had been led to believe that there were only 3 prisoners left, the Castlerea(PIRA) ones.One Catalonian ex-prisoner, Pep, related that he had visited Derry last year and attended a meeting in the Gasyard where PSF came out with that line on prisoners and that he challenged them on that lie. Willie Gallagher of the IRSP also gave an account of the 'undermine and absorb' campaign from the mid-eighties in the H-Blocks. He also pointed out the 26 County State’s current propaganda campaign, particularly through the media and their adoption of the membership charges being employed against the IRSP and the 32csm.

Many Catalonians found it difficult to get their heads around PSF publicly calling for nationalists to play a part in imprisoning anti-GFA republicans with public calls to inform to a British police force and put republicans through a British judicial system using repressive 'anti-terrorist' laws which Provisional Sinn Fein once had opposed for so long.

The IRSP delegated pointed out that we were a small organisation who have been greatly weakened through decades of conflict with many in our leadership having been assassinated with many attempts to crush us completely. Republicanism has been greatly fractured. But the IRSP were sure of our politics , our revolutionary commitment and our desire to establish socialism in all Ireland

Speech in Catalonia by Willie Gallagher IRSP

“It is an honour to be here today to give you all the analysis of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement in relation to what is generally known as the Irish Peace Process.

The year 2008 will mark ten years since the Belfast Agreement was signed. This occasion offers the opportunity to examine the reasons advanced for advocating or opposing the Agreement and how well they have stood the test of time.

The parameters of the Belfast Agreement were the logical outcome of the peace process. Gerry Adams claims that the peace process represented a seismic shift in British state policy. He claimed that the British policy towards republicanism had changed from one of repression to one of accommodation. He claimed that the British position was one of inclusion in dialogue and negotiations. What goes unmentioned is that ‘the strategic objective was to include republicans while excluding republicanism’. The price to be paid for the inclusion of republicans in the talks was the exclusion of republicanism. This means dialogue with Republican leaders and organisations but on the basis of an agenda that excludes the political objectives of Republicanism.

Central to the political objectives of Republicanism were that there would be no internal settlement, that the Irish people have a right to self determination and it’s not dependent on the agreement of a majority in the north. The whole peace process may have included Republicans, but from the 1993 Downing Street Declaration to the final 1998 Belfast Agreement, was always based on the British states political alternative to Republicanism since 1972: an internal county solution with cross border bodies grafted on it. The longstanding Republican demands were never serious runners for all party talks, and none of them appeared in the final Belfast Agreement.

The key conditions were later formalized in the Downing Street declaration of 1993 as an end to violence and a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. Equally important was the British government’s commitment to the consent principle and its refusal to act as a persuader for a United Ireland. When it called the cessation of its campaign in 1994, Republicans were in effect, accepting these parameters for talks. The recent publication of Alastair Campbell’s diaries shows that Blair made it clear to the Provisional leadership that the settlement would not “explicitly commit to a United Ireland” and that “Adams was ok” with such parameters, although Mc Guinness appears to have been more reluctant.

The culmination of this peace process was the signing of the Belfast Agreement on April 10th 1998 and its subsequent endorsement n two referendums on 22nd May 1998. Apologists for the Belfast Agreement argue that it was an act of self determination, freely negotiated and democratically endorsed.

There are three objections to this.

First, it was not ‘freely negotiated’ as it was the British state which determined the parameters of the negotiations restricting them to those of the Downing Street Declaration, the Framework Document and the Mitchell principles. The paramount principle endorsed in those documents, to which all participants in future talks had to pledge their adherence and commitment, is the principle of consent. Therefore all participants to the process were committed to partition before the talks commenced, which was in effect a negation of an expression of self-determination.

Second, the political package on offer was subordinate to the British states approval. The Belfast Agreement had to be accepted and ratified by Westminster before it was presented to the people of Ireland, leaving aside any objections they may have. Irish objections, whether raised or not, are meaningless to the British government under this wholly undemocratic arrangement.

Thirdly, there were two referendums held in two different states for different purposes and different sets of questions. The fact that they were held concurrently did not make them a single event and even less an act of self-determination, with the Six County referendum having the power of veto over that to be held in the Twenty Six Counties. For those three reasons, “the triple lock” as Blair called them; the Agreement was not an exercise in self determination, but instead was a copper-fastening of partition. For those three reasons, the fact that the referendums were carried by a big majority of those who voted in the Six Counties (71%) and an even larger one in the Twenty Six Counties (94.5%) does not refute that there was a democratic deficit in the whole process.

On top of that, the 1998 Belfast Agreement was promoted by the ‘manufacturing consent’ – as Chomsky would have put it – that a ‘No’ vote meant a vote for violence and a ‘Yes’ vote as a vote for peace, manipulating opinion polls and relegating dissenting voices to the margins.

‘Information Strategy’ a British government document outlines the governments strategy for getting the right result through campaign and blatant media manipulation designed to flood Northern Ireland with positive stories about the peace deal.

The logic, dynamic and parameters of the peace process combined to mould a partitionist framework which served to pre-determine a type of outcome republicanism had for long stood rock solid against. The 1998 Belfast Agreement amounts to the following: the British state has repeated its 1973 Sunningdale declaration of intent to remain in the North until a majority in it asks it to do otherwise; the British state has made it clear that the unionist veto shall remain in place and has strengthened the partitionist ethos underlying that veto by having it enshrined in the revised Southern constitution; the British state has ruled out any transition to a United Ireland by refusing to state that by a certain date - no matter how far in the distant future – it will no longer have a presence in Ireland. The principle of consent, no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people is enshrined. With no end to partition, no British declaration of intent to withdraw, no United Ireland, the outcome of the peace process had no identifiable Republican content. It was a ‘partitionist fudge’.

The Provisional movement claims that the Belfast Agreement does not represent a defeat for Republicanism. Danny Morrison, former Sinn Fein publicity director, claims that the British couldn’t defeat the IRA nor could the IRA defeat the British, so the IRA did not win but had not lost either. That is demonstrably wrong. The political objective of the Provisional IRA was to secure a British declaration of intent to withdraw. It failed. The objective of the British state was to force the Provisional IRA to accept that it would not leave Ireland until a majority in the North consented to such a move. It succeeded.

The Sinn Fein movement claims that the Belfast Agreement does not represent a defeat but an honourable compromise. First is that it was Nationalism and Republicanism that did the main compromising. The bitter pills the peace process has required Republicans to swallow are: “the deletion of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution (the territorial claim over the North); the return of a Northern Assembly; Sinn Fein abandoning its traditional policy of abstentionism; reliance on British-government-appointed commissions on the equality and human rights issues and on the future of policing; and the implicit recognition of the principle of unionist consent on the constitutional question”

Republicans sit in an assembly they never wanted. The British government never gave a declaration of intent to withdraw. There is still a heavy British army presence in the North. The police have not been reformed. MI5 are entrenched in the North. Unionists won on the big philosophical issue. In return for Unionist concessions on power-sharing and an Irish dimension, Nationalism and Provisional Republicanism explicitly signed up to acknowledging that there can be no end to the union without the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland, and that it is legitimate for consent to be withheld if that is the majority view. The Sinn Fein movement has gone much further than a ‘compromise’, an ‘accommodation’ or a ‘negotiated settlement’. In endorsing the ‘principle of consent’ contained in the Agreement, accepting that Northern Ireland will as of right, remain part of the United Kingdom until such time as a majority within the six counties decides otherwise, Sinn Fein had ditched the idea that lay at the heart of its own tradition and that had provided the justification in political morality for the campaign, indeed the existence of the IRA”

The only significant constitutional shift went in the opposite direction of republican objectives, the British state retained sovereignty in the North and the consent principle was embedded, whereas Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution were deleted. Thanks to the framework of the Belfast Agreement, it is the Dublin government, not the British, which has dropped its claim to jurisdiction, leaving Northern Ireland within the UK. In the words of former British Prime Minister Blair, the settlement
‘is not a slippery slope to a United Ireland. The government will not be persuaders for unity’.

For the DUP, Northern Irelands place within the Union has been strengthened.

“I have not changed my unionism, the union of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, I believe is stronger than ever”

declared Ian Paisley in his inauguration speech as First Minister. The DUP believes that it has safe-guarded Unionist interests through forcing the Provisional movement “to transform and conform” to use the expression of new DUP Leader Peter Robinson.

In positive terms, according to Mitchel Mc Laughlin:

‘There is steady demographic, political, social and economic change, undeniably pointing in one direction, towards support for a United Ireland’. But do these changes really point in that direction? The first argument is that demographics show that the Catholics will soon be in a majority position in the North and will vote for a United Ireland at the earliest opportunity. Partition will supposedly come to an end when Catholics reach the magic figure of 51% of the population in the North. However, the idea that a United Ireland could be brought about by demographic change has been highly disputed and dealt a blow by the most recent census figure, for those reasons senior Irish government sources have stated that they do not expect Northern Ireland’s constitutional position to be raised again for ’30 to 35 years’.

The second argument is that the development of an all-Ireland economy will create a dynamic towards unification and therefore make partition redundant. The argument that the ‘all Ireland economy’ is a stepping stone towards a United Ireland is 100% wrong. Economic exchanges by themselves will not abolish the border no more that the development of the Benelux economy merged the three countries together.

The third argument is that the development of cross-border institutions will generate a political dynamic towards unification. Cross-border bodies – cannot and will not lead to re-unification and an end to British rule. In his address on 30th September 2000, Martin Mansergh, Northern Advisor to three successive heads of 26 counties administrations stated that
‘there is no evidence, let alone inevitability, from international experience, that limited cross-border co-operation necessarily leads to political unification’. Such bodies have existed for decades and have not brought a United Ireland any closer.

The Belfast Agreement is non-transitional and that Sinn Fein strategy is no logger designed toward destabilising the northern state which would possess the potential to create transitional structures.

Clearly, by its own admission, it is no longer Sinn Fein’s intention to destabilise the Northern State , as one senior figure pointed out,

“we are prepared to administer British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future”

Consequently all the central tenets of both traditional republicanism and Provisional republicanism have been jettisoned. In making the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements work now, Sinn Fein are working the same basic institutions and arrangements that they worked to undermine more than 30 years ago and refused to accept until recently. They are also accepting that the SDLP’s policy, analysis and approach throughout the years were correct.
“It should be clear that what they are doing is implementing the policies which have been consistently pursued by the SDLP. The Good Friday Agreement, again heavily negotiated by the SDLP is identical to Sunningdale” in 1974. This raises the question of whether Sinn Fein can justify the IRA campaign, between its rejection of the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 and the Belfast Agreement of 1998, objectively speaking, very little progress towards Republican objectives if the provisions of Sunningdale and the power-sharing executive ad the provisions of the Belfast Agreement are compared.

If Republicans were right to reject Sunningdale, there logically is little justification for them to accept the terms of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements. As Bernadette Sands-Mc Kevitt said about her brother’ “Bobby did not die for cross-order bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal to British citizens within the Northern Ireland state”.

Opponents of the peace process like her have been vilified. However, opponents are neither ‘dissidents’ as they do not dissent from the core principles of Republicanism, nor war-mongers as they are often portrayed. They are not against peace, but against the process. They are for peace, but not peace at any price; and for all the reasons discussed above, the current process cannot deliver peace and justice.

The essence of the Agreement is that when the Provisional movement openly supports the policing and court systems, the DUP will share power with them, with a DUP First Minister and a Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister in devolved government. According to a DUP document the St Andrews Agreement makes fundamental changes to the Belfast Agreement and offers from a Unionist perspective ‘undoubtedly a better package’ compared to the 1998 Agreement. It secures:

Unionists setting the political agenda

DUP veto over all major decisions

DUP veto over cross border relations

Republicans jumping first

Republican support for the police, the courts and the rule of British Law

No Sin Fein policing and justice minister

For the provisional leadership the most contentious issue in the St Andrews Agreement was the pledge to support the PSNI, MI5 and the court system. It has caused untold heartache amongst the republican community. Futhermore, the leadership of Provisional Sinn Fein have openly called on the republican community to inform on anti-GFA republicans, arrest them using anti-terrorist legislation, to put them through the Diplock courts and create more political prisoners.

They expect us and the community to support these anti-republican declarations. The transfer of ‘counter terrorist’ intelligence from the police to MI5 means at present that any justice minister would have no effective control over counter terrorist operations in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein is colluding with the British state to hide the fact MI5 has been given an expanded role in the North to take supreme control of all counter terrorist intelligence with virtually no accountability or outside control.
According to Ian Paisley;

‘Monday 26th March 2007 was a day of great victory for the unionist people of Northern Ireland. That was the day republicanism accepted the strength of unionism; that was the day that Irish republicanism adhered to our demands. That was the day that unionism secured its future’. Paisley says that the DUP made Sinn Fein realise

‘it was the end for republicanism’ Gerry Adams will sit in our Assembly – a British institution of the British state. He will take an oath pledging to support the police, the rule of law and British Justice… The IRA has finally been shunned from the politics of this province. The DUP will ensure that it ever returns” He concluded by saying that the DUP is in control: ‘Unionist are writing the agenda, we are dictating the pace of change and we are controlling the conditions for government’ This is because Unionists will have an effective veto on all Sin Fein policies, unionists will have the ultimate veto.

The Achilles heel of the current settlement is ‘creative ambiguity’ has been central to the peace process. George Orwell would have appreciated the way ‘an “agreed Ireland” ‘turned out to mean the very opposite of a ‘United Ireland’, while ‘power-sharing’ came to denote ‘separate spheres’, not reconciliation”.
Or as Bernadette Devlin Mc Aliskey puts it more bluntly, peace has been bought by “perjury, fraud, corruption, cheating and lying”. That is probably one of the reasons why Professor Paul Bew asks whether the St Andrews Agreement and restoration of devolution are a “model for world peace or Hitler-Stalin Pact Ulster style”. Despite all the hype about the St Andrews Agreement and power-sharing there remains a split in its interpretation by the two communities which is fundamental enough to bring it down. For Nationalist and Sinn Fein, it is supposed to be a transition to a United Ireland. For Unionists, it is supposed to secure the six counties’ place within the UK and give them the ‘ultimate veto’. Both cannot be right at the same time and therefore the process is likely to generate further instability. This fundamental flaw should create the space for a political alternative to develop.

Republicanism, Irish and Iranian

Listen to "The Foggy Dew," sung by The Wolfe Tones , in commemoration of the Easter Rising (24 April 1916). The song's lyrics contrasts Irishmen who served on the British side in the Battle of Gallipoli with Irish republicans who fought against the British Empire:
Right proudly high over Dublin Town
they flung out the flag of war
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky
than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar . . .
'Twas England bade our wild geese go,
that "small nations might be free";
But their lonely graves are by Suvla's waves
or the fringe of the great North Sea.
Oh, had they died by Pearse's side
or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their graves we'd keep where the Fenians sleep,
'neath the shroud of the foggy dew.

An Irish friend of mine in Belfast, James Daly , told me: "By the way, the Iranians sent a plaque to the family of my friend Patsy O'Hara commemorating his hunger strike to the death."

Intrigued, I looked up more signs of Iranian identification with Irish republicanism. Here's the most eloquent: Iranian revolutionaries renamed "Churchill Street" -- the street behind the British Embassy -- "Bobby Sands Street" (Pedram Moallemian, "Naming Bobby Sands Street," The Blanket, 24 February 2004). Despite the British government's pressures on the Iranians to change the name again, the street remains dedicated to the memory of the Irish revolutionary.
Neither in Iran nor in Ireland have the highest revolutionary goals been achieved yet. But the flames of republicanism are still alive in the finest of their men and women. Tiocfaidh ár lá. Our day will come.

Union news


“We've been asked by the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) in Ireland to help wage a global online campaign targetting British Telecom (BT). It turns out that BT is happy to recognize unions in Northern Ireland, but will not do so in the Republic. In fact, BT is refusing to even talk to CWU officials. Enough is enough -- companies cannot play the game of respecting workers' rights where they have to, but ignoring them where they don't. Please take a moment to send a strong message of protest to BT:”

Fact file

According to an article in the 13/04/2008 edition of the Sunday Business Post (Jonathan O Brien, The Truth Behind The Agreement), 61 per cent of all crimes in the North in 2005 were sectarian in nature.
This is ENORMOUS, especially if compared with crime in the US or Britain or France - you wouldn't have 61 per cent of all crime racist in nature!

USA 2008: The Great Depression
Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world's richest country faces economic crisis

From the Media

April 21, 2008
30 Years Ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened?
The U.S. Role in Haiti's Food Riots

Riots in Haiti over explosive rises in food costs have claimed the lives of six people. There have also been food riots world-wide in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivorie, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

The Economist, which calls the current crisis the silent tsunami, reports that last year wheat prices rose 77% and rice 16%, but since January rice prices have risen 141%. The reasons include rising fuel costs, weather problems, increased demand in China and India, as well as the push to create biofuels from cereal crops.

Hermite Joseph, a mother working in the markets of Port au Prince, told journalist Nick Whalen that her two kids are
"like toothpicks"they' re not getting enough nourishment. Before, if you had a dollar twenty-five cents, you could buy vegetables, some rice, 10 cents of charcoal and a little cooking oil. Right now, a little can of rice alone costs 65 cents, and is not good rice at all. Oil is 25 cents. Charcoal is 25 cents. With a dollar twenty-five, you can't even make a plate of rice for one child."

The St. Claire's Church Food program, in the Tiplas Kazo neighborhood of Port au Prince, serves 1000 free meals a day, almost all to hungry children -- five times a week in partnership with the What If Foundation. Children from Cite Soleil have been known to walk the five miles to the church for a meal. The cost of rice, beans, vegetables, a little meat, spices, cooking oil, propane for the stoves, have gone up dramatically. Because of the rise in the cost of food, the portions are now smaller. But hunger is on the rise and more and more children come for the free meal. Hungry adults used to be allowed to eat the leftovers once all the children were fed, but now there are few leftovers.

The New York Times lectured Haiti on April 18 that
"Haiti, its agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself." Unfortunately, the article did not talk at all about one of the main causes of the shortages -- the fact that the U.S. and other international financial bodies destroyed Haitian rice farmers to create a major market for the heavily subsidized rice from U.S. farmers. This is not the only cause of hunger in Haiti and other poor countries, but it is a major force.

Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for their Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The U.S. has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened. "Within less than two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they called 'Miami rice.' The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as cheap, U.S. subsidized rice, some of it in the form of 'food aid,' flooded the market. There was violence, 'rice wars,' and lives were lost."

"American rice invaded the country,"recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Haitian priest who has been the pastor at St. Claire and an outspoken human rights advocate, agrees. "In the 1980s, imported rice poured into Haiti, below the cost of what our farmers could produce it. Farmers lost their businesses. People from the countryside started losing their jobs and moving to the cities. After a few years of cheap imported rice, local production went way down."

Still the international business community was not satisfied. In 1994, as a condition for U.S. assistance in returning to Haiti to resume his elected Presidency, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced by the U.S., the IMF, and the World Bank to open up the markets in Haiti even more.

But, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, what reason could the U.S. have in destroying the rice market of this tiny country?

Haiti is definitely poor. The U.S. Agency for International Development reports the annual per capita income is less than $400. The United Nations reports life expectancy in Haiti is 59, while in the US it is 78. Over 78% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day, more than half live on less than $1 a day.

Yet Haiti has become one of the very top importers of rice from the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008 numbers show Haiti is the third largest importer of US rice - at over 240,000 metric tons of rice. (One metric ton is 2200 pounds).

Rice is a heavily subsidized business in the U.S. Rice subsidies in the U.S. totalled $11 billion from 1995 to 2006. One producer alone,Riceland Foods Inc of Stuttgart Arkansas, received over $500 million dollars in rice subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The Cato Institute recently reported that rice is one of the most heavily supported commodities in the U.S. -- with three different subsidies together averaging over $1 billion a year since 1998 and projected to average over $700 million a year through 2015. The result? "Tens of millions of rice farmers in poor countries find it hard to lift their families out of poverty because of the lower, more volatile prices caused by the interventionist policies of other countries."

In addition to three different subsidies for rice farmers in the U.S., there are also direct tariff barriers of 3 to 24 percent, reports Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute -- the exact same type of protections, though much higher, that the U.S. and the IMF required Haiti to eliminate in the 1980s and 1990s.

U.S. protection for rice farmers goes even further. A 2006 story in the Washington Post found that the federal government has paid at least $1.3 billion in subsidies for rice and other crops since 2000 to individuals who do no farming at all; including $490,000 to a Houston surgeon who owned land near Houston that once grew rice.

And it is not only the Haitian rice farmers who have been hurt.

Paul Farmer saw it happen to the sugar growers as well. "Haiti, once the world's largest exporter of sugar and other tropical produce to Europe, began importing even sugar-- from U.S. controlled sugar production in the Dominican Republic and Florida. It was terrible to see Haitian farmers put out of work. All this sped up the downward spiral that led to this month's food riots."

After the riots and protests, President Rene Preval of Haiti agreed to reduce the price of rice, which was selling for $51 for a 110 pound bag, to $43 dollars for the next month. No one thinks a one month fix will do anything but delay the severe hunger pains a few weeks.

Haiti is far from alone in this crisis. The Economist reports a billion people worldwide live on $1 a day. The US-backed Voice of America reports about 850 million people were suffering from hunger worldwide before the latest round of price increases.

Thirty three countries are at risk of social upheaval because of rising food prices, World Bank President Robert Zoellick told the Wall Street Journal. When countries have many people who spend half to three-quarters of their daily income on food, "there is no margin of survival."

In the U.S., people are feeling the world-wide problems at the gas pump and in the grocery. Middle class people may cut back on extra trips or on high price cuts of meat. The number of people on food stamps in the US is at an all-time high. But in poor countries, where malnutrition and hunger were widespread before the rise in prices, there is nothing to cut back on except eating. That leads to hunger riots.
In the short term, the world community is sending bags of rice to Haiti. Venezuela sent 350 tons of food. The US just pledged $200 million extra for worldwide hunger relief. The UN is committed to distributing more food.

What can be done in the medium term? The US provides much of the world's food aid, but does it in such a way that only half of the dollars spent actually reach hungry people. US law requires that food aid be purchased from US farmers, processed and bagged in the US and shipped on US vessels -- which cost 50% of the money allocated. A simple change in US law to allow some local purchase of commodities would feed many more people and support local farm markets.

In the long run, what is to be done? The President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who visited Haiti last week, said "Rich countries need to reduce farms subsidies and trade barriers to allow poor countries to generate income with food exports. Either the world solves the unfair trade system, or every time there's unrest like in Haiti, we adopt emergency measures and send a little bit of food to temporarily ease hunger."

Citizens of the USA know very little about the role of their government in helping create the hunger problems in Haiti or other countries. But there is much that individuals can do. People can donate to help feed individual hungry people and participate with advocacy organizations like Bread for the World or Oxfam to help change the U.S. and global rules which favor the rich countries. This advocacy can help countries have a better chance to feed themselves.

Meanwhile, Merisma Jean-Claudel, a young high school graduate in Port-au-Prince told journalist Wadner Pierre
"...people can't buy food. Gasoline prices are going up. It is very hard for us over here. The cost of living is the biggest worry for us, no peace in stomach means no peace in the mind�I wonder if others will be able to survive the days ahead because things are very, very hard."

"On the ground, people are very hungry,"reported Fr. Jean-Juste. "Our country must immediately open emergency canteens to feed the hungry until we can get them jobs. For the long run, we need to invest in irrigation, transportation, and other assistance for our farmers and workers."

In Port au Prince, some rice arrived in the last few days. A school in Fr. Jean-Juste's parish received several bags of rice. They had raw rice for 1000 children, but the principal still had to come to Father Jean-Juste asking for help. There was no money for charcoal, or oil.

Jervais Rodman, an unemployed carpenter with three children, stood in a long line Saturday in Port au Prince to get UN donated rice and beans. When Rodman got the small bags, he told Ben Fox of the Associated Press, "The beans might last four days. The rice will be gone as soon as I get home."

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at
People interested in donating to feed children in Haiti should go to People who want to help change U.S. policy on agriculture to help combat world-wide hunger should go to: or

Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York

We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.
Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.
The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.
Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story.
Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000.
"We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but we have also seen it climbing more in recent months," Maureen Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan's programme, said. "It's been increasing steadily. Without the programme, some families and kids would be going without."
But the trend is not restricted to the rust-belt regions. Forty states are reporting increases in applications for the stamps, actually electronic cards that are filled automatically once a month by the government and are swiped by shoppers at the till, in the 12 months from December 2006. At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, have had a 10 per cent increase in the past year.
In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps has risen by 18 per cent in two years. The food programme started 40 years ago when hunger was still a daily fact of life for many Americans. The recent switch from paper coupons to the plastic card system has helped remove some of the stigma associated with the food stamp programme. The card can be swiped as easily as a bank debit card. To qualify for the cards, Americans do not have to be exactly on the breadline. The programme is available to people whose earnings are just above the official poverty line.
For Hubert Liepnieks, the card is a lifeline he could never afford to lose. Just out of prison, he sleeps in overnight shelters in Manhattan and uses the card at a Morgan Williams supermarket on East 23rd Street. Yesterday, he and his fiancée, Christine Schultz, who is in a wheelchair, shared one banana and a cup of coffee bought with the 82 cents left on it.
"They should be refilling it in the next three or four days," Liepnieks says. At times, he admits, he and friends bargain with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. "It can be done. I get $7 back on $10."
Richard Enright, the manager at this Morgan Williams, says the numbers of customers on food stamps has been steady but he expects that to rise soon. "In this location, it's still mostly old people and people who have retired from city jobs on stamps," he says. Food stamp money was designed to supplement what people could buy rather than covering all the costs of a family's groceries. But the problem now, Mr Enright says, is that soaring prices are squeezing the value of the benefits.
"Last St Patrick's Day, we were selling Irish soda bread for $1.99. This year it was $2.99. Prices are just spiralling up, because of the cost of gas trucking the food into the city and because of commodity prices. People complain, but I tell them it's not my fault everything is more expensive."
The US Department of Agriculture says the cost of feeding a low-income family of four has risen 6 per cent in 12 months. "The amount of food stamps per household hasn't gone up with the food costs," says Dayna Ballantyne, who runs a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. "Our clients are finding they aren't able to purchase food like they used to."
(By David Usborne in New York
Tuesday, 1 April 2008)

The border — economic asset for North and South

Even in a recession the potential for cross border co-operation is stunning and will be the big story of the next couple of years.
Expect to hear more about the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor linking the 1 million people in Greater Dublin with the 700,000 in the Belfast travel-to-work area as well as lifting the economic fortunes of centres like Dundalk, Drogheda, Newry, Lisburn and Banbridge.
The surprising thing is that much of this economic potential is fuelled by political partition.
Politicians are discovering what smugglers always knew, the border, with its differential tax and grant regimes, can be used like a natural resource for mutual enrichment. Its potential has been unlocked by the removal of the threat that political unity could be pushed through without consent.
In a past so remote that it is hard to credit it was the same man and not some distant ancestor, someone called Ian Paisley once campaigned for a boycott of Irish goods and currency under the slogan “we don’t want your Mickey Mouse Money.” It may also have been some earlier Peter Robinson who posed with an automatic rifle and called for a fence along the “frontier” with the republic.
That was a world away when increased cross border investment was announced at Stormont on Tuesday. “For a number of months now Brian and I have had meetings, correspondence and our officials working together to arrive at this position ... we want to ensure that there is the highest level of co-operation to the advantage of both our peoples.”
There are good reasons for the change of tone. When Robinson wanted a border wall, the IRA were using the republic as a base for attacks, extradition for terrorist offences was nonexistent, and security co-operation was poor compared to today. Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution, claiming jurisdiction over Northern Ireland, made cross border co-operation look like a Trojan Horse and gave the whole idea a threatening character for unionists.
The articles were removed as part of the Good Friday Agreement which, far from lying in a Sadducee’s Grave, continues to shape the political architecture of the island. A visit by the Queen to Dublin would have been impossible with the territorial claim in place. Its removal has also silenced any doubts about Dublin’s attitude to physical force nationalism. The links between the two parts of the island are now a practical matter to be decided democratically.
The other big change, which calls for closer co-operation, is the economic and social transformation of the republic. Then unionists looked down on it as a backwater where pothole candidates won Dáil seats and the Catholic Church dictated the social agenda. Now it’s the north which has the potholes, while the south appears a prosperous, progressive sort of place whose success Ulster wants to emulate and share.
Northern Ireland still relies on an economic subvention from Britain which would cripple the republic, with its smaller tax base, if there was unity in the morning.
The rationale for much of the southern investment in the north would also disappear. Aer Lingus, for instance, chose Belfast over Shannon partly because they could offer differential wages and benefits in the north. As an Irish company it can also use transfer pricing to avail of higher levels of grants here while realising many of its profits in Dublin where corporation tax is 12% instead of the 30% paid in the UK.
The decision by Cowen to allow Dublin based companies to establish subsidiaries in Belfast follows proposals by the Bank of Ireland to move its hedge fund operations here. Both are based on the advantageous fiscal relationship as well as our ready supply of graduates. They can do the work in the north, with its lower overheads and better incentives, while paying much of their corporation tax in the south.
That gives us an edge not enjoyed by Cork, Galway, Limerick or even London. There, JP Morgan, the US bank, predicts that 40,000 workers in the City will lose their jobs as a result of the credit crunch. Let’s hope that Cowen and Robinson are right and the new arrangement is allowed by the EU.
In Northern Ireland we have a unique economic niche in difficult times. This unique selling point is a border with a friendly neighbour on the other side of it.

(by Liam Clarke, News Letter 17 April 2008)

What’s On

Talk with former Guantánamo detainee Murat Kurnaz Limerick, Sat May 10th, 8pm

Talk with Murat Kurnaz, who was held in Guantánamo Bay detention facility for almost five years, will visit Limerick next week following the publication of his book, Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo. Murat Kurnaz spent almost five years as a prisoner in the so-called 'war on terror' first in Kandahar in Afghanistan and then for over four and a half years in Guantánamo Bay before being released.

Quaker Meeting House, Southville, Gardens, Ballinacurra, Limerick, Sat May 10th, 8pm. (see attached map of Limerick for directions)

Regular monthly vigil at Shannon airport Sun 11th May, 5pm.

A vigil is held every month at Shannon airport on the 2nd Sunday of the month. Former Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz will attend this month's vigil.

Further information on these three events are included in the attached documents and on Indymedia event notices.

All events are in association with Amnesty International.


Edward Horgan ( for further information on the Ban Cluster Bombs event.

John Lannon (, 087 8225087) for further information on the events involving Murat Kurnaz.

As you may know, this year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Nakba (the catastrophe), whereby the indigenous population of Palestine was driven from their lands, through a mixture of murder, massacre and mayhem.
This was done to facilitate the foundation of the State of Israel, a Zionist state, which was illegally declared on May 14, 1948.

By this time, some 750,000 Palestinians had been ethnically cleansed from historic Palestine, some 531 villages, towns and cities had been depopulated and destroyed, and even today, some 6 million Palestinian refugees are prevented from returning to their homes, by Israel, in breach of United Nations Resolution 194.
This refusal bears heavily upon the Palestinian people, many of whom still have the keys to their homes and the deeds for their lands.
If justice is to be served, if right is to be seen to be done, then the Palestinian refugees must be accorded their RIGHT of return.

To this end, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign is holding a national demonstration in Belfast on Saturday 17 May, assembling at the Arts College (York Street) at 1:30pm and marching to Belfast City Hall for speeches and a rally.

As a long and loyal supporter of Palestinian rights, we would urge the Irish Republican Socialist Movement to join with us on this seminal day. We would call on you to bring you banners, placards, flags, members, friends and supporters to the march for justice in Palestine.

It would help us immensely if you could reply to this email indicating whether or not you intend joining us on the day.
Should you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact us through email, or by calling me personally on 07708941904.
I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the assembly point.

In solidarity,

John McCusker

Chair Belfast Branch


There is a great need for solidarity to be shown to the Raytheon 9 whose trial is due o take place in Belfast mid-May. If you can keep in tune with activities via their website they would appreciate it very much.
1. Raytheon 9 Trial Set to Kick Off in Belfast May 19th.
Please send messages of solidarity and/or show other forms of solidarity for this important trial.

Iraq war updates:
This blog is one of the best in terms of analysis of what is currently happening in Iraq

Chekhov's article 'Libertas: US Military Contractors Against Lisbon!' is interesting pre-June12th Lisbon Treaty referendum reading:

6. Grassroots Gathering June bank holiday weekend 2008
Pencil this into your diary as it will be a great opportunity to catch up with other activists, co-ordinate/initiate activities and have some down-time to keep your engines running.

No comments: