Thousands of Irish children in mass graves

This 15 July 2020 video says about itself:

Six years after from the discovery of 800 babies’ bodies in sewage tanks under a former [Roman Catholic religious] mother and baby home in the Irish town of Tuam, a state commission to investigate what really happened still has yet to report. But Tuam seems to be the tip of the iceberg.

Irish religious children’s mass graves scandal

This 9 June 2020 video says about itself:

Ireland’s Mother and Baby Scandal (Part 1) | People and Power

Content warning: Some viewers may find this film distressing

Six years ago, Catherine Corless, a local historian from County Galway in the Republic of Ireland, discovered that hundreds of babies and young children had died in a home for unmarried pregnant women, run by Roman Catholic nuns in her hometown of Tuam.

Further research revealed that many of the babies had died of malnutrition and other forms of neglect. Most of their bodies had been disposed of, officially unrecorded, in an old septic tank buried in the grounds of the home.

Angry survivors and relatives called for an investigation – for the remains to be exhumed, identified and properly buried, for compensation and immediate government action. Concerned families began to ask questions about other homes run by the Church in Ireland and how many other babies had died in equally mysterious circumstances.

In 2015, in response to publicity and pressure in Dail Eireann, the lower house of the Irish Parliament, the government announced it was setting up an official Commission of Investigation. The body was required to provide answers by 2018. Indeed, some modest interim findings have since been released, but two years since its official publication date, the full report has still not seen the light of day.

This June, partially in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the report was again delayed until October 2020.

In its absence, the suspicion, frustration and anger of relatives have mushroomed. And the once shameful secret of a single small rural town is developing into a broader and more profound national scandal; an affair which goes to the heart of the close relationship between successive Irish governments and the Catholic Church.

In two special episodes of People and Power, from filmmakers Callum Macrae, Mark Williams and Al Jazeera correspondent Laurence Lee, we investigate deeply disturbing allegations that both the Irish state and its religious orders were responsible for a systematic decades-long regime of institutional neglect and exploitation involving the death of thousands of children.

Irish pine martens help red squirrels

This 2013 Irish TV video is called Red Squirrels | The Secret Life of the Shannon | RTÉ Goes Wild.

From the National University of Ireland Galway:

Red squirrels making comeback as return of pine marten spells bad news for invasive grey squirrel

NUI Galway study finds Ireland’s native species recovering and returning to natural habitats

June 17, 2020

The number of red squirrels is on the increase in Ireland thanks to the return of the pine marten, a native carnivore, a new survey led by NUI Galway has found.

The new findings indicate that the return of the red squirrel is due to the decrease in the number of grey squirrels, which compete with them for food and carry a disease that is fatal to the native species. The re-emergence of the pine marten, which had previously almost disappeared in Ireland, is linked to the local demise of the greys.

High densities of pine martens were found in areas — particularly the midlands — where grey squirrels had disappeared, with red squirrel numbers recovering in many of these areas indicating that they are capable of sharing habitat with the native carnivore, unlike grey squirrels. In urban areas, such as Dublin and Belfast, the grey squirrel continues to thrive.

Grey squirrels were introduced to Ireland early in the twentieth century, and had spread to cover the eastern half of the island. As a result, the red squirrel range had contracted over several years and the native species was struggling to survive.

The citizen science survey, a cross-border collaboration with the Ulster Wildlife and Vincent Wildlife Trust led by NUI Galway, detected significant changes in the ranges of squirrels and pine martens particularly in the midlands and Northern Ireland.

Dr Colin Lawton of the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway said: ‘This study brought together colleagues from institutions all across the island, and this collaborative approach gives us a full picture of the status of these three mammals in Ireland. We are delighted with the response from the public, who were enthusiastic and showed a wealth of knowledge of Ireland’s wildlife. It is great news to see two native species recovering and doing well.’

The report on the survey makes recommendations to ensure that the red squirrel and pine marten continue to thrive, with further monitoring required to allow early intervention if conservation at a local or national level is required.

Dr Lawton added: ‘We encourage our citizen scientists to continue to log their sightings of Irish wildlife on the two national database platforms. Our collective knowledge is a powerful tool in conservation.’

The survey used online platforms provided by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (RoI) and Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (NI) to develop the data. It was funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Badger family in Ireland, video

This 29 April 2020 video from Northern Ireland says about itself:

Wildlife is thriving at the places cared for by the National Trust and during lockdown, with fewer people around, some creatures are taking a chance to enjoy themselves. Take a look at this badger family at Mount Stewart, having an evening outing. It’s thanks to your support that we can continue to look after these special places.

Irish COVID-19 solidarity with Navajo nation, USA

This 5 May 2020 video from Ireland says about itself:

Ireland Owes A Blood Debt To The Choctaw Nation – Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund

In 1847, the Choctaw Nation provided $170 of relief aid to the Irish to help them (today that is the equivalent of $5,000). Not long before the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland, 60,000 Native Americans, including the Choctaw people, had suffered through the experience of the Trail of Tears. The death of many people on the Trail of Tears sparked empathy for the Irish people in their time of need. Thus, the Choctaw extended $170 of relief aid.

Now it is Ireland’s turn to repay this amazing generosity by helping to combat Covid-19 and aid the descendants of the Choctaw Nation, Navajo & Hopi by giving what we can to repay the kindness shown to us and our ancestors before us.

Although oceans apart we are Brothers and Sisters in the historic struggle for freedom we have faced. Now is the time to renew the bonds of friendship between our people as we face this global pandemic.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 6 May 2020:

Irish donors raise £2m in Covid relief for Native Americans inspired by solidarity during the Great Hunger

NEARLY $2.5 million (£2m) has been raised for Native Americans from Irish donors inspired by the solidarity shown to them by the Najavo nation during the 1847 Gorta Mor (Great Hunger).

A GoFundMe page was set up for the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation, which has one of the highest per-capita rates of Covid-19 infections in the US.

A high percentage of the nation’s 175,000 population falls into at-risk categories.

From Esquire magazine in the USA:

Somehow, the news reached the Choctaw people who, only 16 years earlier, had been marched from their ancestral lands across the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Thousands of them died along the way, many from starvation. In 1847, from their meager finances, the Choctaw raised $170—the equivalent of $5,000 in today’s money—for Irish famine relief. Only fairly recently has this story been brought to light, and a lovely memorial was built in honor of the Choctaw people’s generosity in Midleton, in County Cork.

Memorial in Middleton

This photo shows that memorial in Middleton.

Now, it seems, the Irish have chosen to repay that old debt by coming to the aid of this country’s native peoples. From The Independent:

Over 70 people have died with Covid-19 in the Navajo Nation, which lies across parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Navajo and Hopi families set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for food, water, essential supplies and personal protective equipment, which has raised more than $1.6m (£1.3m). Several donations came from Ireland, inspired by the help provided by the Choctaw Nation tribe during the Great Famine.

One of the campaign’s organisers, Vanessa Tulley, wrote: “The heartache is real. “We have lost so many of our sacred Navajo elders and youth to Covid-19. It is truly devastating. And a dark time in history for our Nation. “In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world. Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness. Thank you, Ireland, for showing solidarity and being here for us.”

A massive humanitarian crisis. A criminally neglectful and inhumane central government.

Baby perch swimming in Ireland, video

This 30 March 2020 video from Ireland says about itself:

These fish are so small that we call them fingerlings because they are about the size of a human’s little finger. The fish are newly hatched perch babies, and they are hiding out amongst aquatic vegetation in the water to avoid being caught and eaten by a predatory fish or a wading bird such as a heron. These are beautiful baby fish to watch swimming.

River lampreys back in river after century

This 18 April 2016 video from Ireland says about itself:

First River Lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis spawning activity we observed in 2016: Castleconnell, Lower River Shannon. Also note that there is a Brook Lamprey L. planeri getting involved! Unfortunately, water quality problems also apparent in these photos. River Lampreys are listed under Annex II and V of the Habitats Directive. The Lower River Shannon is designated as a SAC for the three Irish lamprey species.

Translated from Waterschap Rijn en IJssel in Gelderland province in the Netherlands, 12 March 2020:

The start of the migration and spawning season for fish is a good time to see how many and which fish use the fish passage at Doesburg. The first results are promising: many roaches, ides and even river lampreys are using the passage through swimming from the IJssel to the Oude IJssel. River lampreys have not been seen in the Oude IJssel for 100 years.

The fish passage was taken into use last September and connects the Oude IJssel to the Gelderse IJssel. Due to the great height differences of these rivers, up to five meters, the fish passage in Doesburg is one of the largest and most innovative in the Netherlands.

Irish election yesterday, vote counting already

This 9 February 2020 video says about itself:

Politics in Ireland seems on the brink of a momentous shift.

In its general election, Sinn Fein has won a surge in support.

Exit polls have the left-wing nationalist party matching the vote share of the two main parties.

It would bring a party previously on the fringes to prominence as Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan reports.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Ireland’s election indicates big changes ahead

EXIT polls in the election to the Dáil Éireann indicate a surge in support for the left-of-centre Sinn Fein, mainly at the expense of the two right-wing parties that have dominated the Irish Republic’s politics for 70 years and more.

The electoral system for the Dublin parliament’s lower house is based on a Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies. As a result, it produces an elected chamber which broadly reflects the preferences of the voters, including support for smaller parties such as Solidarity — People Before Profit and the Labour Party.

But the multiple counts also mean that all the results may not be in for a day or two yet, while close margins between the main parties are likely to result in extensive horse-trading before a governing coalition can be formed.

In any event, the electors have spoken and made clear their concerns about the dire social problems which persist in one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies.

Ireland’s complex health system cannot cope with the growing number of patients, as hundreds lie on trolleys in emergency departments because there are fewer hospital beds now than 10 years ago. The introduction of a part-free, part-fee National Health Service alongside a large private sector has so far failed to meet people’s aspirations and they are punishing Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accordingly.

Next on the list of popular concerns is housing and homelessness. The economic fallout of the 2007-8 financial crash hit the Irish Republic particularly hard and was made all the worse by the drastic austerity cuts demanded in 2010 by the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Housebuilding came to a halt and the scarce supply has doubled house prices in Dublin and other urban centres. With little public and social sector housing available, private landlords are making a killing. Sinn Fein and Labour propose a rent freeze, which the chief opposition party Fianna Fail claims would be “unconstitutional”, while Varadkar’s Fine Gael merely freezes.

Other issues to emerge at the hustings before Saturday’s vote were pensions, the reformed water industry and — to the clear benefit of the Green Partyclimate change.

But it is the near-doubling of support for Sinn Fein which is grabbing the headlines in Britain as well as Ireland.

The party fought the Dail Eireann elections on a manifesto radical enough to draw condemnation from the Irish Business and Employers Confederation. IBEC fears the prospect of the rich and big business paying higher taxes to fund public-sector investment in housing and childcare and restoration of the state pension age to 65.

Nor was the party shy about Irish unity. While most southern Irish politicians prefer to stay silent on the question, proposals for an all-island Citizens Assembly and north and south referendums comprised the lead item in Sinn Fein’s manifesto.

Nor did Giving workers & Families a break — A Manifesto for Change pull many punches when it came to the European Union. It opposed the EU trade deals which undermine democracy, workers’ rights and environmental security and condemned Irish participation in new EU and Nato military structures, while pledging to restore Irish sovereignty in foreign policy and defence affairs.

How this can be achieved by “radically reforming” the EU was not spelt out.

Nonetheless, with polls putting Sinn Fein far ahead of the other parties among young people and Brexit demonstrating the logic of Irish reunification — as former leader Gerry Adams said it would — the party’s future looks brighter today.

Whichever Dublin government emerges from the horse-trading, the issues raised by Sinn Fein — and the Communist Party of Ireland — are not going away anytime soon.

From in Ireland, already on 9 February: Sinn Féin wins more than 20 seats as big names falter.

SINN FEIN President Mary Lou McDonald said today that she was trying to form a “people’s government” with the support of smaller parties after Saturday’s momentous general election in Ireland. She described the “historic” results, which saw Sinn Fein top the polls with 24.5 per cent of all votes, despite standing just 42 candidates, as a “revolution” in Irish politics: here.

Elections in unequal Ireland

This 3 February 2020 video from Ireland says about itself:

Sinn Féin MLAs Caoimhe Archibald, Philip McGuigan and Declan McAleer are to put a motion to the Stormont Assembly calling on it to declare a Climate Emergency.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Sinn Fein surge into lead ahead of Saturday’s general election

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a press conference at Wynn's Hotel in Dublin, on Sunday

SINN FEIN’S dramatic upsurge in Ireland has continued, with polls putting the left-wing republican party ahead for the first time going into Saturday’s general election, while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces the boot.

His Fine Gael party – which has its origins in Ireland’s fascist Blueshirts – trails in third place on 20 points, behind the opposition conservative Fianna Fail, standing at 23 per cent.

Sinn Fein is now in first place on 25 points, according to Monday night’s Irish Times poll.

Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have ruled out entering a coalition with the republicans, who entered the election campaigning for a border poll on a united Ireland. Statistics show support for reunification within both loyalist and nationalist communities. A Times of London survey published on Sunday suggested that 80 per cent of residents favour a united Ireland.

A chronic housing shortage and chaos in the health service have also been key issues in the election campaign.

While the strong showing may not translate into seats for Sinn Fein in Saturday’s vote, it will increase pressure for a referendum on a united Ireland as laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.

By Dermot Byrne:

Social inequality main issue in the Irish general election

6 February 2020

The general election in the Republic of Ireland takes place February 8. There are 531 candidates running to fill 159 seats across 39 constituencies. The election campaign takes place in conditions of immense anger felt by working people against Leo Varadkar’s outgoing right-wing Fine Gael Party.

Varadkar’s government has been kept in power over the past four years with the cooperation of Fianna Fáil, the main opposition bourgeois nationalist party. Under the leadership of Micheál Martin, Fianna Fáil signed on to a “confidence and supply” agreement with Fine Gael has fuelled resentment against the entire political establishment.

Growing social inequality, declining living standards culminating in the worst housing crisis in the country’s history, and a severe deterioration in the healthcare system and major aspects of social care stand alongside a concentration of extreme wealth in the hands of very few individuals.

A new study by the charity Oxfam has shown that the Republic of Ireland has the fifth largest number of billionaires relative to its population of any country in the world. Ireland is mirroring the global trend in wealth inequality with only Hong Kong, Cyprus, Switzerland, and Singapore having more billionaires per capita.

For the past three weeks, the central issues have been homelessness and the housing crisis along with the scandal of patients forced to wait on trolleys in overcrowded and understaffed hospitals.

There has been a public outcry at the introduction of measures to raise the state pension eligibility age from 66 to 68 years. It was already increased in 2014 from 65 to 66, but under the terms of the bank bailout conditions imposed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund in 2011, the then Fine Gael/Labour government legislated to raise the pension age in three stages by 2028 to 68. This has inflicted significant hardship. Workers contracted to retire at 65 now find themselves forced to sign onto unemployment benefits for a year after working all their lives. …

The working class, as well as bearing the consequences of crumbling public services, has seen a general deterioration in its quality of life. Figures published recently show that Irish workers have seen their living standards plummet by 14 percent since the banking and financial crash of 2008.

Workers often find they must travel in congested traffic conditions a hundred miles or more to get to work in the major cities and larger towns. Ireland has the highest childcare costs in Europe and a soaring crime rate that is the product of growing inequality and an oppressive class system.

While official figures put the number of homeless people at 10,000, this does not include young people, many with children, who have been forced into living with their parents because of spiralling rents. …

Indicating the level of disaffection with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and a radicalisation amongst broad sections of workers, the latest opinion polls show Sinn Féin winning more support than any other party. Sinn Féin are now potentially the largest party with 25 percent support against Fianna Fáil on 23 percent and Fine Gael on 20 percent, although their low number of candidates, 42, means they are unlikely to be the largest grouping in the next Dáil Éireann. …

Liberal commentator Fintan O’Toole mused on the utility of this in the Irish Times in a piece titled, “It is time for Sinn Féin to come in from the cold.”

O’Toole noted that the decision of the Labour Party to enter government with Fine Gael in 2011, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, to assist imposing crushing austerity on the working class destroyed the Labour Party. It meant that “Sinn Féin would occupy the space where a traditional social democratic party should be.” …

Richard Boyd Barrett, the leader of the PBP/Solidarity Alliance with five TDs, has reassured those who vote for them that they “will not prop up a Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael dominated government,” but would seek “a broad left alliance to form a government” including Sinn Féin, the Greens and the Labour Party.