Social media helps us to connect with people internationally. It is a good tool to connect us with friends both new friends and old friends that we have lost touch with. Social media is a great tool for business as well. It helps us to connect with customers. It helps us to build up our business. Consumers can connect and contact businesses with feedback. Business can develop and grow on social media.
But there are problems with using social media as well. I find that the level of personal abuse on social media in relation to politics to be a problem. This problem is worse in relation to politics than it is in areas of business promotion and in areas of social media that people use for personal communication. Manners costs nothing. When political debates creates more heat than light then political ideas gets lost. Problems of personal abuse happened before the advent of social media there was no quick feedback in the past. Personal abuse was limited by the fact that radio, tv and newspapers were usually consumed locally and nationally.
Online abuse isn’t limited to political discussions. We have examples of personal abuse and bullying. This type of online bullying has ruined the lives of vulnerable people. Businesses can suffer from false rumours that are spread online as well. These problems existed before the Internet existed. But the Internet has made these problems worse.
There is a debate on how we as a society should react to online abuse. Should we use our existing laws better? Should we create new laws that punish people who engage in online abuse? On one side of the argument is the idea that society should protect vulnerable people. Other people state that using the law would only weaken freedom of speech. Other people have stated that the companies that provide social media services have a responsibility of care to its users. This debate is ongoing and a consensus hasn’t been reached yet on how to tackle online abuse.
Attacking a person in political debate ignores the political issues that concern people. In a democracy people have different views on different issues. It is a sign of a healthy democracy that the voters can argue about current affairs. But to insult a person instead of dealing with the political issues prevents us as a society from dealing with political issues in a rational manner. It is immature and it causes great harm to our democracy.
Overall I believe that our new technology and social media has been positive. We need to be aware that other social media users are real people too. We need to respect the humanity of other social media users even if we disagree with their viewpoints.
A big issue in the news recently is the increased cost of motor insurance. The European Union has looked at our motor insurance industry because they believe that the motor insurance industry might be engaged in anti competitive practices. The insurance industry blames the high payouts that the courts make in these cases. The legal profession blames other factors. The government is looking into the situation. Meanwhile while these different stakeholders argue the cost of motor insurance goes up. Business and private users of motor transport have less money to spend on other areas. Transport companies could go out of business due to the hike in motor insurance. Looking at the national economy in overall terms the rise in motor insurance is bad for our economy. It is slowing down economic growth.
The rise of motor insurance is an example of the rising costs in the economy that needs to be addressed. There are other examples of rising costs in our economy. Rising rents and rising prices of houses is harming us economically. The seller of the house might benefit from the rise in house prices. But the buyer of the house isn’t benefiting. If you are using the value of the house to pay back that money with interest then that costs you more money in the long run. Rising house prices don’t make you richer. It could make you more indebted. Like the rise in motor insurance premiums the rise in house prices doesn’t benefit the individual. It doesn’t benefit the economy nationally. Middle and lower income groups are badly affected by these rising prices. Officially the inflation rate is low. But the insurance and the property markets makes you wonder if the inflation figures are measured correctly.
These examples of rising prices shows us that the rising cost of living in Ireland is a problem that needs to be tackled. Certain industries benefit like property developers when the price of houses rises. But what is good news for them is bad news for everyone else. The high cost of living puts up the wage bill as people seek more money to pay their bills. High wages makes us uncompetitive internationally. But the high wage bill can’t be fixed by cutting wages. This move will not bring down the cost of living. It will only make people poorer. It will only reduce spending in the economy. I believe we need to tackle the cost of living. I believe that if we do this then we can be more competitive. It would mean that there would be more money for investment. It would mean that ordinary people would have money to spend on themselves. Having a good quality of life is important for people as well.
Recently the French people celebrated Bastille Day. July 14th in France is their national holiday. Different nations have their own national holidays. The United States has July 4th, Independence Day. We Irish have Easter Monday when the Republic was first declared. Though St Patrick’s Day seems to be a national day for us as well. Unlike Easter Monday St Patrick’s Day is celebrated internationally. St Patrick’s Day is a day that unionists and nationalists can both celebrate together. A national day is like a birthday of a nation. Bastille Day remembers when the people stormed the Bastille. This day is a symbol of the French Revolution. Bastille Day symbolises modern France. It symbolises liberty, equality and fraternity. The legacy of the French Revolution is complex. Historians still argue about its legacy. The French Revolution gave the world Napoleon and the Reign of Terror as well as the Rights of the Citizen.
. This year Bastille Day saw President Trump joining President Macron in reviewing the festival. It was the support that the France of Louis XVI gave to the American rebels that bankrupted the French state. This state of affairs started the movement that led to the French Revolution. France was America’s longest ally. The world’s media was focused on the Bastille Day this year due to the fact that President Trump visited France. When President Macron was first elected he was seen as an anti Trump figure. Yet here was the Macron couple and the Trump couple getting on as great friends. Understanding the news can demand a lot of thinking.
. President Macron was elected because his opponent in the 2nd round of the Presidential election was Marine Le Pen. He is a young man who’s experience in life is in banking and the civil service and as a Cabinet Minister before he became President. President Macron doesn’t have the experience of the struggles that the middle class have never mind the poor. President Trump is a billionaire. But during his Presidential election he appealed to the suffering of the ordinary workers. If you were to judge him by his promises then President Trump was going to defend the American worker. As President he seems to be going along with the agenda of the Republican right. President Trump seems to be a man of no fixed principles.
. The social media has focused on these 2 Presidents meeting in France. This is personality politics. The issues that affect ordinary people gets lost in debates of personality politics. The political crisis that gave rise to a President Trump gets ignored in this circus of personality politics.
Traffic is diverted in Buttevant Co Cork. The tailbacks has slowed traffic. This morning proved to me that a motorway is needed between Cork and Limerick. The Dáil accepted the Labour motion that the sale of the AIB shares should be on hold until we could use the money to invest in the economy. The government ignored the will of the Dáil. The government decided to pay down the debt at a time of low interest rates. Investment in capital projects benefits the economy in the medium term. To have the money without going to the international markets makes sense. We need as a country to plan our future. Yes our debt level is high but to increase our economic activity would mean an expanded economy. This expanded economy would mean we could reduce our debt. The action of the government shows a disregard for the democratic will of the Dáil.
The 2017 British general election has been an exciting and an unpredictable election. Before this election the media consensus was that Jeremy Corbyn was an extremist. His leadership of the Labour Party would doom it to opposition. The Conservative Party looked on as the events in the Labour Party gave them a feeling of joy. The Conservatives expected that they were going to win the next general election with an increased majority. There was even talk that the Labour Party could be in danger of permanent decline. As we know from the 2017 general election the Conservatives failed to win an overall majority. The Labour Party gained around 40% of the vote. The Conservatives rule as a minority government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.
. This general election has transformed Jeremy Corbyn from a fringe candidate into a credible alternative Prime Minister. Latest opinion polls shows that the Labour Party would win the next general election. If a week is a long time in politics a year must be a very long time. And yet the old rules of politics has been upset since the last general election.
. An interesting aspect of the surge in support for the Labour Party is that young people are voting, and they are voting for Labour. This isn’t youth voting for youth or novelty. There is an economic reason for this. The opportunities for young people to succeed is less than their parents and their grandparents had. The vision of student debts and poor jobs would make a lot of young people question the status quo. They are looking for alternatives. Despite some portraits in the media the Labour’s manifesto is quite moderate. It seeks to help workers and small businesses. The rich would pay extra tax but the majority of people wouldn’t see an increase in tax. These policies would have been acceptable to the Conservative Party in the 1950s and the 1960s.
. We do know that voters are seeking alternatives to the status quo around the world. President Trump shows that voters could put their faith in false alternatives. Unless we can find reasonable alternatives to the status quo then we could face the danger of false and dangerous ideas gaining power. After the 1929 crash the Nazis went from being a minor party to gaining power in 1933. But in the United States in 1932 FDR’s New Deal saved American democracy. As we reflect on our world since the 2008 crash we will need to distinguish between real solutions to our present economic difficulties and false promises. We need to know that not all solutions that politicians offer will resolve our problems.
Before the 1st world war the world experienced an era of peace and plenty. There was hope that the horrors of the past would remain in the past. Women were fighting for their rights. The welfare state was being developed in Germany. There was a belief that the future would be better than the past. People believed in progress. People had hope in the future.
. When the 1st world war started there was hope that it would be a short war. But this war was a long war. It created chaos, death and destruction. This war produced political philosophies that influenced the 20th century. Communism, fascism and militarism can only be understood in the context of the 1st world war. The 1st world war undermined the international economic order. Instead of international free trade national governments took over their economies. National governments took control of their economics. They put their economies in the service of the war machine.
. Before the 1st world war the spirit of the major nations was a pacific one. With war the military spirit dominated societies. The military spirit manifested itself as blind obedience and putting the unit ahead of the individual. This is the spirit of collectivism and irrationality. As a temporary measure to depend as a nation on the military spirit is vital. But if this spirit of militarism becomes permanent then liberty and individual enterprise suffers.
. During the later part of the 19th century there was a belief in progress. People had faith in the future. But the 1st world war destroyed this faith in the future. Instead of hope despair became the mood of many people. When people want a better world they need to have hope that their projects will succeed. Feelings of despair is fatal to humanity. When people believe that they can’t change things then they wouldn’t bother making the world a better place.
. During the later 19th century both the conservatives and the liberals and the socialists believed in democracy and they sought to help the poor. But military spirit in society due to the war affected politics. The Communist Party in Russia split from other socialist parties. It was run using military discipline. The success of the Communism in Russia scared many people in Europe. Fascism became a real alternative to communism especially in Italy and Germany.
. The 1st world war undermined many old monarchies. It lead to the extention of democracy to women and to poorer people. It also unleashed anti democratic political forces that wreaked havoc on the world.
Ireland has elected it’s first gay Taoiseach. His father is from India. His mother is from Waterford. He is the first Trinity graduate to be elected Taoiseach. At 38 years of age Leo Varadkar is the youngest Taoiseach to hold the post. This election is global news. It shows that Ireland is a tolerant place. It might help in our trading relationships with India. The response in Ireland shows that we are more interested in Leo’s policies than in his background. People will argue about politics but Leo’s election shows that we are a tolerant people. During the 19th century the run away slave Frederick Douglas was given sanctuary in Ireland. Daniel Ó Connell was a friend of his. Frederick Douglas liked his time in Ireland. The Irish people treated him with respect as a man. Later on Frederick Douglas went back to America. He supported Abraham Lincoln. After the civil war Frederick Douglas supported the rights of women to vote. Our friendliness as a people goes back a long time.
Around the world people are not allowed to develop their talents to their fullest because of the colour of their skin or their religion or because they are women. Discrimination of any sort weakens society.
Normal politics will resume in Ireland. The political debates will be about policy. The election of Leo Varadkar shows Ireland in a positive light in the world. It shows that despite our other problems that we are a kind people. I do think that while Ireland isn’t a great power like the United States we do have a moral authority that gives us leadership in international politics. Ireland has a proud record in the UN since 1955. Ireland has a proud record as peace keepers in trouble spots around the world from the Congo to Lebanon to the Balkins and beyond. Our foreign policy makes us look good internationally. It has benefits for our trading relationships internationally. Ireland with its image as an honest honourable country with a proud neutral tradition opens doors for us internationally. Our agri food sector is dependent on exports. We Irish have a tolerant tradition. It is a tradition that we can be proud of. I hope that we will continue this tradition in the future.
During the Cold War it was easier to be neutral. A neutral country just didn’t support any of the two Superpowers. Now with different powers seeking supremacy the choices that a neutral country faces is more complex. But Ireland as a neutral country should continue to act morally on the world stage. It has served us well in the past. It will serve us well in the future.
John O Brien.