Sean Gallagher and political agendas in RTÉ

I note than Sean Gallagher’s case against RTÉ may be heard in the High Court this year.

Good.

What the media overlooks is often more interesting than what it reports. The drama of the Halawa family was a missed opportunity to ask hard questions about a group of Irish Muslim activists in Egypt. Once upon a time, people who asked questions about Communist subversion of the American government were called paranoid “red-baiters”. Then came the Mitrokhin Archive and the declassification of the Venona Project in the 1990s, and we know those red-baiters were right. Senator McCarthy was widely laughed at in the 1950s for calling Harry Dexter White, one of the architects of Bretton Woods, a Soviet agent. In 2013, Foreign Affairs could run lengthy articles asking why Harry Dexter White spied for the Soviets. We can do the same for Alger Hiss, John Stewart Service, Owen Lattimore, and perhaps hundreds more of their contemporaries.

In the spirit of making sure justice is done today rather than by historians decades from now, the painful possibility of subversion of some kind needs to be confronted. Of particular assistance here may be be an assistant producer of Frontline, Aoife Kelleher, daughter of the Labour Party politician Tom Kelleher. It seems a lot of players here revolve around her.

So, even though Passover is still a few months away, I have Four Questions for Ireland’s national broadcaster about the infamous night of October 24th, the final Presidential debate:

1. Why was Michael D. Higgins was not asked a direct question by a member of the audience? This seems inexplicable, given that along with Gallagher he was the main contender.

2. Why was Glenna Lynch, a businesswoman and left-leaning activist, permitted to ask not one, but two questions to Sean Gallagher? Lynch is a follower of, and is followed by, the assistant producer Aoife Kelleher on Twitter (whose account is now private). Aoife has a history of sending supportive tweets about Lynch when she makes radio and TV appearances.

3. Why was Austin Stack not accepted on the show? The son of prison officer Brian Stack, who was murdered by the IRA in 1983, he made a request to Frontline in order to ask a question to Martin McGuinness. He was declined, and two others got to ask questions to McGuinness instead. One was an unremarkable Fianna Fail girl, and the other was Kevin Conroy. Conroy said he personally disliked Sean Gallagher and was contacted “out of the blue” by Aoife Kelleher to ask questions at the debate. Conroy opened his question to McGuinness with a statement condemning Sean Gallagher.

4. How could 26 minutes lapse between the reading of the infamous hoax tweet and the end of the program without a correction being issued?

I believe the real answers to these questions will show there really was a conspiracy that night. It was all rigged against Gallagher and in favour of Higgins. One can even make the case for Norris being hard done by. A young man by the name of Fitzpatrick was allowed to ask Norris a question. It was really more of a statement claiming he was irresponsible to re-enter the race. This man failed to identify himself as a Higgins supporter, and indeed his question would have bolstered the case for voting Higgins for those of the left-wing persuasion. He also appears to have at least some acquaintance with Aoife Kelleher.

In media circles, there was clear preference for the left-liberal, openly homosexual candidate that was David Norris. After his campaign was wrecked beyond redemption in late July ans early August of that year, with the help of yours truly, Norris was too much of a lost cause. Yet we still have what many people in RTÉ probably wanted: a President with far more loyalty to the teachings of Marx, Shaw, and the Webbs that he does to the Irish Constitution.

Once this fact is established, the Irish people will have to make an informed choice about the future of RTÉ. We can stay the course. We can reform. Or we can do what Kennedy wanted to do to the CIA after the Bay of Pigs: splinter it into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.

You can guess my preference.

Religious perspectives on money-lending

So, I had an encounter with a rather unreasonable libertarian atheist who insisted the Church held back economic development for centuries by outlawing usury, which he said to be a clear indicator of an anti-capitalist worldview. This position is simplistic, contains error in basic facts, and a possible example of anachrony in narrating historical events.

While there existed since Gratian a broad principle that the lending of money for profit is sinful, often overlooked is the fact that canon lawyers used the word “interest” to mean a lawful charge for the loan of money. Generally this was seen as a fair charge to cover factors like risk and opportunity cost. “Usury” then and today has connotations of an unreasonable charge on borrowing money. In the Church, the law on this was often unclear and for a long time not systematized. Many inveighed against charging interest on personal loans, but not commercial ones. Some condemned both.

The Medieval Church proclaimed blanket prohibitions on usury in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. However, this must be seen in light of the economic structure of the time. Borrowing prior to the twelfth century was almost entirely for consumption rather than production or investment. In an agrarian society, tillers of the soil tend to simply borrow to get through hungry periods before the harvest.

With the rapid development of commerce in the 11th and 12th centuries, however, the Church began to properly systematize the law on usury and declared many for-profit financing operations and credit devices as non-usurious. The Church and the Papacy were themselves borrowers and lenders of large sums of money at interest, and Church institutions themselves pioneered strategies for investing the large sums of money they had lying idle in deposit.

Today, governments are borrowing large amounts of money to cover day-to-day operations, like the welfare bill, that they cannot pay off with direct tax collections in the course of a fiscal year. That cannot be justified like borrowing for large, expensive infrastructure projects with long-term benefits. So we might want to consider the nuances of the Medieval Church’s position on borrowing and debt.

The Jewish perspective on this is very similar with some interesting differences. Rabbi Baruch Epstein of Belarus, writing in the early 20th century, says that with economic development in the latter Middle Ages, offering a loan to a neighbour was no longer only to offer him some of your surplus to get him through bad days. It was now handing over capital and ultimately the main tool by which one earns a livelihood. This can be classed as an investment, which enjoys greater esteem in Jewish law than the acceptable interest-free loans and the totally forbidden act of usury.

However, Jewish law, unlike the Church and other systems, never drew a distinction between taking interest and usury. Thus there is the legal category called iksa, where the lender becomes a silent partner in the business so it is not considered a loan at all but an investment.

As is said in the Talmud:

He who lends money is greater than he who performs charity; and he who forms a partnership is greater than all (Talmud Shabbat 63a).

I used to disparage the iksa system as a legal fiction to justify usury but lately I see a beautiful consistency in it.

Good sources on this are Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition by Harold Berman, and Judaism, Law, and the Free Market by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz.