What is the purpose of Seanad …ireann?

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Does anybody know what real purpose Seanad …ireann serves. Not only is its membership appointed by a flawed and undemocratic process but its programme is erratic, tendentious and frequently overlooks crucial issues. Little illustrates this better than its agenda last month. While giving prejudicial vent to its hostility towards China, it failed to mention an important issue relating to policing in the southern Irish jurisdiction.

Twice within the past four years, the current Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has been severely criticised for major errors of judgement in relation to important, sensitive issues. In 2017 Justice Seamus Treacy ruled in the Belfast High Court that the decision signed off on by Drew Harris to shut down†the Historic Enquiries Team (HET) investigating state collusion with the Glennane gang was an extreme” abuse of power. Then last month the Supreme Court in London ruled that the 2014 decision by the PSNI, also signed off on by Harris, not to proceed with an investigation into maltreatment of internees known as the ‘Hooded Men’ was flawed and irrational.

One could surely be forgiven for thinking that there is, at the very least, a serious absence of priorities by our unelected senators when they could devote their attention to self-serving allegations of events 5000 miles distant yet overlook a serious and well authenticated operational deficiency by a holder of high office in the Republic.†

There is, however, the hard reality that these political manoeuvrings in Seanad …ireann are not random acts and or egregious aberrations. Rather, it is part of a right wing, pro-imperialist strategy being promoted by well-connected members of Ireland’s ruling class. These reactionary advocates have two main concerns and objectives. On one hand they are determined to maintain, at all costs, the current social and economic free-market capitalist status quo across this island. This they believe can best be guaranteed by preventing constitutional change that would challenge Ireland’s position within the imperialist matrix.

The Irish bourgeoisie’s concern with China is generated by their slavish adherence/dependence to the needs and demands of US capital. The North American superpower is in decline. Of course it has a massive military capacity but its economy is faltering and its population riven with dissent. As a consequence of building an economic system focusing on reaping ever increasing profit for an ever smaller number of people, much industrial production has been outsourced overseas with the inevitable loss of what once was well paid employment.†

Mellody Hobson, chair of the Starbucks Corporation and a director at JP Morgan Chase, highlighted the difficulties facing the US economic model in an article last month in the Financial Times*1. Writing that, ‘systemic inequalities exist’ she mentioned the fact that in the 1970s 61% of US households lived in middle-income households while that figure is now 51% and falling.†

In contrast to the faltering US economy, China is growing all the time. Significantly too and in spite of Whitehouse disapproval,† America’s financial sector recognise this fact and is eager to invest in China*2. Consequently the Peoples Republic is increasingly seen as offering an alternative to the Washington led economic block both as a successful, sustainable model for economic development and as a valuable trading partner.†

It hardly requires a great deal of imagination, therefore, to understand why Ireland’s bourgeoisie would be determined to badmouth the government in Beijing. A prospering state led by a competent communist party could and most likely would set an example for others to follow. This would be especially the case in a country with a festering housing crisis, an iniquitous two-tier health system and structural inequality plus an unresolved national question.†

Unwilling to risk contesting the arena with China in terms of economic development, Seanad …ireann’s right-wing has opted instead to try and blacken the country’s reputation through reference to events in Hong Kong and criticising Beijing’s long time ‘one China’ policy in relation to Taiwan. In doing so, the Dublin Senate was demonstrating not only astonishing arrogance but also contempt for the history of colonial exploitation.

For over a century China suffered what its people call ‘the hundred years of humiliation’ when the country lost territory, including Hong Kong, to western powers and control over its own governance. Just how humiliating, not to mention damaging, was this period can be gauged by the fact that in the 19th century British naval gunboats bombarded China’s east coast in order to force Chinese people buy opium from British merchants.†

Interestingly, when PRC spokespersons talk about Hong Kong and Taiwan, they speak in terms of national reunification. Indeed, when the Chinese embassy in Ireland issued a statement critical of the China-hostile motion recently adopted by Seanad …ireann, it drew a pointed parallel with Ireland’s own and long colonial experience*3. With a powerful reference to Ireland’s past it requested that, Irish politicians respect the Chinese people's aspiration to realise national reunification as much as they (i.e.the Chinese) respect the Irish people's aspiration to realise national reunification.

Let’s be clear about what motivates the Irish bourgeoise’s fixation with China and It is not concern for human rights. If that were the case there is a long list of violators (beginning with the US and Britain) demanding censure well before the People’s Republic might come up for mention. The reason is down to the changing balance of power in the world*4. Consequently those benefiting from current US dictated imperialist world order (including the Irish ruling class) are determined to preserve the status quo. †

There is nothing new in this tactic. Every progressive development in human history has been vilified by a reactionary ruling class … from Spartacus, to the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks to name but a few.†

Little of this will come as surprise to most readers of Socialist Voice. However it is worth reminding ourselves that many well meaning people are misled by the establishment media both print and broadcast. It is important that we maintain and where possible increase our drive to correct this false propaganda. In the course of doing so it would also be worth raising a few queries about Seanad …ireann’s odd position in relation to British state’s employees condoning of torture and collusion in the northern jurisdiction.†

Tommy McKearney … 10 January 2022

  1. Mellody†Hobson, “The US must confront financial illiteracy head-on,”†Financial Times†(London), 18 December 2021.
  2. See, for example, Steve Johnson, “Investors shrug off Beijing intervention worries to pump money into†ETFs,”†Financial Times,†22 December 2021.
  3. Xinhua, “Chinese embassy in Ireland expresses opposition to China-related motion passed by Irish Senate,” 3 December 2021 (https://bit.ly/3EtE2MV).
  4. Zanny Minton Beddoes,†“Rivalry between America and China will shape the post-covid world,”†Economist†(London), 14 November 2021.

This article first†appeared in Socialist Voice, Jan 2022

This© Tommy McKearney 2012 † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †email: † †tommymkearney@me.com