Monday, 30 January 2017

Can Special Purpose Vehicles help alleviate the Housing Crisis?

Tom Healy: A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) is a technical term that refers to a wide variety of arrangements where a financial entity is established for a ‘special purpose’ as the title suggests.  The National Asset Management Agency is a type of SPV set up to buy distressed assets from bust banks and seek to work off these loans over time and recoup some of the loss for the state.  In this case, the vehicle established is said to be ‘off the books’ (of the state.

Monday, 23 January 2017

What have Idi Amin, Erich Honecker and Theresa May in common?

James Wickham:  Welcome to the biggest loss of citizenship rights in recent European history...

Brexit is about taking away citizenship rights from millions of people: British people, Irish people, Polish people, indeed from anyone who is currently a citizen of an EU member state. 

Brexit is not just about economics and trade, it is fundamentally about politics, indeed about the most fundamental political issue of all.  Political boundaries and political rules define who can live where and thus who can fully participate in society. By definition, the citizens of a national state have the right to live within their national territory.   Every now and then however, national states decide that certain groups are not ‘really’ national and so are expelled.  To take away somebody’s citizenship is thus to remove them from the polity – and from politics.

The free movement of labour is often described as the ‘fourth freedom’ of the Single Market, along with (and subsequent to) the free movement of goods, services and finance.  But labour is people.  The right to work on the same terms as a national necessarily means access to civil rights and employment rights.  Our study of Polish migration to Dublin in the boom documented how newly arrived Poles were fully aware that they had the right to be in Ireland (Krings et al, 2013:137). Crucially this means that EU citizens are not bonded to a specific employer:  Polish workers in Ireland, like British workers in Germany, are free to leave their jobs if they wish without being sent ‘home’.  By contrast, in almost every country in the world some immigrants’ right to remain is tied to a specific employment.  At the most extreme, as for Pakistani building workers in the Gulf, this essentially amounts to bonded labour. Notice however that the same applies to expatriate professionals in Gulf – and can even apply to Irish engineers in Australia.

Although decisions of the European Court of Justice have extended the scope of free movement from workers to persons, European citizenship is not a complete generalisation of national citizenship.  Especially for pensioners, the right to reside in another country remains somewhat conditional – to varying degrees in different countries – on being able to support oneself.  Furthermore, European citizens’ political rights are usually limited to voting in local elections and in elections to the European parliament.  Nonetheless, the basic fact remains.  The free movement of labour has become the right to work and live in another member state.  Since these rights can be enforced by the European Court of Justice, they are not just dependent on the possibly temporary goodwill of a particular member state.

All of this highlights one bizarre bizarre feature of contemporary British discussion.  In Britain it seems that supporting EU citizenship is conflated with support for unrestricted (or at least weakly controlled) immigration in general.  Even more so than in other European countries, discussion of ‘immigration’ often takes little account of whether or not migrants are EU citizens.  Revealingly there is no British equivalent of the Italian term extracommunitari (people from outside the [European] community). For Brexiters and Remainers alike, it seems there is only one category of foreigners!

Theresa May has refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently in the UK, on at least one occasion saying that this depends on how other member states treat their UK immigrants.  After World War I new national ethnic states were created in Europe (Poland, Ireland etc.) which usually contained minorities of the ‘wrong’ ethnicity.  These minorities became bargaining chips between countries – you be nice to ours and we’ll be nice to yours, give you better trade terms or whatever.   Worse was to come.  During the 1930s the Nazis declared that Jewish German citizens were no longer citizens: they could therefore be expelled and eventually murdered.  After the holocaust and the Nazi mass murders of whole population groups it was the turn of the Germans of the new Soviet empire: between 12 and 14 million Germans were driven West from East Prussia, Sudentenland etc. having lost their citizenship rights (Douglas 2012).

OK that all sounds a bit extreme.  Unfortunately states continue to decide that certain population groups are no longer citizens.  In 1972 Idi Amin decided that Ugandan Asians were not really Ugandans and expelled them; during the later years of the German ‘Democratic’ Republic the DDR government under Erich Honecker got tired of locking up its disobedient citizens.  Instead dissidents like Wolf Biermann were ‘ausgebürgert’ – expelled from their country because their citizenship was removed. 

By 2019 UK citizens entering Germany – or for that matter Ireland – will no longer enter through the EU citizens’ channel at the airport.  This will not just be an inconvenience, it indicates that they have lost the right to move within the European Union.  Brexit means that UK citizens will no longer be European citizens, so all UK citizens, even if they’ve never left the country, have lost their rights.  For those UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU Brexit means that they no longer have the right to live where they do (actually I should say ‘we’ since as a UK citizen living in Ireland this affects me personally). 

The fourth freedom changes the Single Market from a trading area into a polity in which citizens have rights.  In 2017 many Europeans are going to lose those rights.  Like Idi Amin and Erich Honecker before her, Mrs May is saying to a category of a people:  ‘No, you may live here but you have no right to be here, we might expel you, you might be ausgebürgert…

Douglas, R. (2013) Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War.  Yale UP.
Krings, T., Moriarty, E., Wickham, J., Bobek, A. and Salamo?ska, J.  (2013).New Mobilities in Europe: Polish migration to Ireland post-2004.  Manchester UP.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Brexit: What does Teresa May’s veiled Brexit threat really mean?

Paul Sweeney: Brexit is a slow train crash. Most damage will be done to Britain, but some damage will be done to the European project and to the other European 27 members. And the consensus that Ireland will suffer more than others states is probably correct. But the British exit may have a wee silver lining.

                                                        Teresa May, UK Prime Minister.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

How policy is driving precarious work for professionals in childcare and higher education

Sinéad Pembroke: How much do we know about the working conditions of the educators who look after and teach our children, our family members and ourselves? For the childcare and third-level sectors, a lot of the media focus tends to be on the cost of childcare, higher education fees and malpractices within the childcare sector. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Why further reform of the CAP is needed now

Alan Matthews: Recently I argued at the European Parliament that further reform of the CAP is needed now. Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy has been ongoing since the seminal McSharry reforms in 1992. They have covered both the common market organisations, which have become more market-oriented, as well as rural development programming.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Better research engagement can deliver better research impact

Maura Adshead: Nearly half the world’s population eat food cooked indoors on stoves fuelled by wood, coal or animal dung. The World Health Organization estimates that solid-fuel stoves contribute to about 4.3 million deaths a year. In addition to tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer, solid fuel stoves also contribute to air pollution and climate change. It estimated that 40 per cent of India’s air pollution comes from domestic fuel burning.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Ethics law needs to set the tone for standards in public office

Nuala Haughey: Issues of ethics in public office are enjoying a rare moment in the spotlight with the ongoing discussion over US President-elect Donald Trump’s handling of his private business affairs as he prepares to take up his new post.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Windfall tax could lower the costs of cash-for-ash

Nat O'Connor: While it may not be possible to renege on contracts already signed under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme in Northern Ireland, one option open to the Executive and the Assembly is to introduce a windfall tax of 100% on any profits made under the scheme, along similar lines to the windfall tax introduced by UK Prime Minister Blair on privatised energy utilities in the UK budget of 1997.

This would not effect anyone who is receiving the scheme as a subsidy for heating, but it would dissuade anyone from excess heat production as any profit incentive would be removed.

Monday, 9 January 2017

TASC in 2017

James Wickham:  Welcome to 2017 and a brief guide to our most important activities in this new year.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Government social housing figures don’t stack up

Rory Hearne: The government has been responding to the Apollo House action by stating that dealing with the housing crisis is its “number one priority” and that their housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland, will address the crisis through the investment of €5bn in “a truly ambitious social housing programme of 47,000 units to 2021”. Minister Coveney claims that "There's a real acceleration happening here in terms of delivery” and has stated that there will be more than “21,000 social housing solutions provided in 2017”.  With Budget 2017 providing “for a very significant increase in housing funding (of €1.3 billion).

Lasting legacy of Sir Tony Atkinson, pioneer in economic inequality research

James Wickham: The death has been announced of Sir Anthony (‘Tony’) Atkinson. For us at TASC Professor Atkinson was one of the most significant contemporary social scientists. Over several decades his work documented the extent of economic inequality in advanced societies.  For us it was important that he was able to address TASC’s 2015 conference.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Women at Work in Ireland

Paul Sweeney: Did you know that until 1973 if a woman got married in the Irish civil service, she had to resign so that a man or single woman could take her job? Married men got higher pay than singles as the “providers.” Until Ireland joined the EEC (EU) there was widespread state and private discrimination against women for not being men. Entry to the EU changed the role of women radically, outlawing widespread sexism and discrimination. 

Bye Bye Daddy Male Bread-winner!