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What's law got to do with it?
Wise parables, working your way up in the meat industry, how to get deported and how to get paid to go to a gig.
Eamonn McCann, 12 Oct 2004
Parable for Our Times (1)
A convicted fraudster who once worked in the Republic for beef baron Larry Goodman is now manager of a meat factory in the North at the centre of allegations of malpractice and breaches of safety laws.
Tony Butler, given six years suspended in 1995 after admitting his role in a major scam at Goodman’s Rathkeale, Co. Limerick plant is now general manager of WD Meats in Coleraine. Former employees have detailed a series of abuses, which they say are endemic at the Co. Derry factory.
They say Butler operates a regime more suited to the 19th than the 21st century, involving hefty fines for lateness or losing protective clothing; that Polish workers at the plant are treated as “slaves” at work and live “stacked” four or five to a room in houses owned by the company; that workers maimed on the job are pressurised not to report the injuries outside; that anyone mentioning trade unions is told that the company would rather close down. They say that corners are routinely cut to fill orders on time.
One worker describes WD Meats as “a jungle”.
Jungle isn’t a bad word to describe the set-up in Goodman plants in the South outlined in the 1994 report of the Beef Tribunal. After the report’s publication, Butler and fellow executive Sean Goodwin were charged on 121 counts of fraud between 1989 and 1991, involving IR£905,000 of tax-payers’ dosh. In October 1995, the two pleaded guilty and were sentenced to six years each. But a stay was put on the sentences pending 240 hours community service. A series of “technical administrative problems” prevented completion of the community service until July 1997. At which point, Judge Cyril Kelly (yes, the same) suspended the jail terms. The jaunty pair of fraudsters walked free.
You might think the experience would diminish Tony’s enthusiasm for the hurly-burly of the meat trade. But not a bit of it. By all accounts, he is as ebulliently self-confident as ever, leaving no one at WD Meats in any doubt about whose word prevails. It’s not always the word of the law.
Take the chap whose tendons were slashed through last March, leaving him permanently scarred and with reduced power in one limb. Make a report to Health and Safety officers as the law requires..?
That’s not the way where Tony holds sway. The injured man was pressurised to sign a document effectively promising silence and absolving the company of blame in return for his pay for the duration of the lay-off. Which he’d have been entitled to under law, anyway. But then, like I say, what’s law got to do with it?
More on Tony and WD Meats anon. In the meantime, let us note again that a fellow who half-inches a couple of hundred from a handbag can expect social disgrace and banging up. But rob the tax-payer of a million and the upward curve of your career won’t be disrupted at all.
Parable for Our Times (2).
How come the US authorities thought Yusef Islam (pictured) might be a terrorist? The answer comes from attorney Lynne Stewart.
In the mid-nineties, Stewart, one of the best-known radical lawyers in the US, took on Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman as a client. The blind Egyptian cleric was eventually convicted of a conspiracy to bomb various places in New York City, including the UN building.
In May, 2000, at a prison meeting to discuss an appeal, Abdel Rahman dictated a statement to an Arabic translator calling for an end to a ceasefire between his organisation and the Egyptian government. On his instructions, Stewart passed the comments to reporters. As a result, both Stewart and the translator, Mohamed Yousry, have been charged with conspiring to assist terrorists.
Evidence in the case has included illegal wire-taps of the May 2000 prison conversation. In these, the Sheik strives to recall the names of famous Muslims who might be coaxed into contributing to his defence costs.
“That singer...he was a famous singer, then God changed his life. That British singer who was a member of the Beatles or something and now he is a Muslim?”
“Is it Ringo?” Stewart asks
“Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr...the drummer, and the third one who was never around...George Harrison,” muses Mohamed Yousry.
“Maybe,” says the Sheik. “Oh yeah, he was the most famous. That’s him. George Harrison.”
It was on this basis, and on none else, that the homeland security wallahs decided that the former Cat Stevens is too dangerous a character to be allowed to set foot on homeland soil.
What else could a poor fed do but sit right down and think:
“We can’t let him in... Oh we’ve gotta kick him out...”
So-cool psycho-country retro-punk soon-to-be Red Organ Serpent Sound being top-billed for the Gweedore, we reckoned it’d be all full and fuck off long before midnight. So, spying singer Rory Moore wandering the afternoon boulevards with paste-bucket and brush daintily in hand, we ask him to put the name on the door, if that’s not too much bother, like. No problem, he lies.
Showing early, we’re told, no. You’re not down. But these are nice people. “S’alright, go ahead.”
This was the celebratory gig for the signing-up of Vertigo as the Sound’s record releasers. Everybodywho’s anybody and a whole mob of us nobodies have forgathered. I meet a man and then a women who tell me they are writing books which, funnily enough, neither am I. There’s a fellow who won the Guinness (I think it was) Irish artist of the year, and another who’s the only artist from the island scheduled to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. And the man who invented Urban Strawberry Lunch, and an Oscar-nominated film-maker, and Seamus Keenan the playright, anti-capitalist singer-songwriter Colm Bryce and Jamesie from Schtum and so parish-patriotically on. And hundreds of half-mad proper people rammed, slammed and jammed. In Derry we don’t have high society. We have hi society. Holy moses what a caroo, some of them black and some of them blue, some of them fought and some of them – phew!
This is a band to tingle your groin and tangle your mind and dazzle the sight of your ears. “Take me, Take me, take me back to your place,” soars Rory, the man in the ironed mask, luscious voice surfing on swells of beautiful noise, carried out in a wide arc over the audience on sinuous waves of upturned palms, “I want to be your boy tonight.”
Float home with your soul shired. “Hey, tell me, man, how much more do you want?”
And, oh. Just before he goes on, he remembers he’s forgotten to put the name down and so reckons, naturally, I must have paid in. Scoots out, scoots back, presses four pound coins into my hand, says sorry. Of course, I don’t tell him. This is how to get paid into a gig. Socialist chanteuse Eileen Webster of the Bluebells says I should shine these coins and keep them. This was before we had to bunch up for the carry-out wine.
If you’ve never taken my word for anything before, believe me on this: Red Organ Serpent Sound.