View from Cork

by Jim Savage

THE PEOPLE of Cork are reeling from a series of recent factory-closure and job-cut announcements.

The closure of Youghal Carpets in early March, with the immediate loss of 190 jobs, was the first blow. The firm, which at one time employed 660 workers, had operated from its base at Killacloyne since 1969. There seems little chance of finding a buyer for the factory, the only one in the area.

The closure was followed by an announcement by the data storage giant EMC that they are intending to reduce the 160 workforce at its European base at Model Farm Road, Cork. The announcement has left workers at the sprawling 540,000 sq ft plant with the feeling that this could signal the beginning of the end and that the jobs could be moved to the Far East where wages are substantially lower.

Not far away, around 100 people recently picketed the headquarters of the Southern Health Board in protest at its failure to provide adequate services for autistic children. The picket was organised by the Irish Progressive Autism Alliance.

An even larger protest was organised to greet former US president Nixon’s advisor on national security affairs, former US secretary of state and the originator of the term ‘collateral damage’ for the killing of innocent civilians, Henry Kissinger, who visited Cork recently at the to give a lecture at the city’s university.

During his visit Kissinger accepted the challenge to answer questions over his role in determining American foreign policy during his years as a key figure in successive US governments.

Recalling a conversation with Nixon in the White House executive office buildings in 1972, a few weeks prior to an escalation of the US war effort in Vietnam, he confirmed that the US president had actively considered the nuclear option.

In response to Kissinger’s suggestion of hitting major infrastructure targets, he recalled that Nixon has responded matter-of-factly: “I’d rather use the nuclear bomb”. “I rejected the bombing of the dikes, which would have drowned one million people for the same reason that I rejected the nuclear option,” said Kissinger, recalling that Nixon then turned to Charles W Colson and said: “We want to decimate that goddamned place”.

The uproar caused by this statement provided clear evidence that Kissinger’s twisted attempt to throw a more positive light on his own contribution had been in vain. At the end of the lecture he was whisked out of the back door of the college building to avoid the throng of angry protesters.

On another positive note, a monument in memory of the Irish radical and proto-socialist William Thompson has been erected at the Mall, Clonkeen, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork. Historians Dr Dolores Dooley of University College Cork, Dr Tom Duddy of Galway University and Professor Alun of Queen’s University Belfast were among the guests at the last year’s well-attended unveiling ceremony.

Born in Cork in 1775, William Thompson was a remarkable man. Despite being born into the aristocracy and considerable wealth, he abhorred the deprivation and injustices which surrounded him.

After inheriting the family estate in Carhoogariff, Thompson spent his remaining lifetime campaigning to improve the conditions of Irish tenant farmers through the establishment of communal villages. He was also notable as an early ‘feminist’.

Thompson’s ideas on political economy, set out in several works, influenced the Irish trade union movement, particularly James Connolly who regarded the Cork man as the first socialist.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-03-29 14:27:38.
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