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French press review 24 June 2014

The upcoming budget vote and the government's handling of industrial disputes are among the key subjects this morning - but first to Ireland ..


The main report in today's communist paper, L'Humanité, is a horror story from Ireland. The world's press has, for three weeks now, been reporting the terrible discovery of 796 baby bodies in a mass grave at a convent in the west of Ireland. These children were born to young, unmarried mothers, and were ostensibly available for adoption. Why did so many of them die? Well, according to L'Humanité, it now transpires that many of the dead children may have been the victims of experimental vaccinations, notably by the British company GlaxoSmithKline, and all of this with the blessing of both the Catholic Church and the Irish State.

As the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has sadly admitted, if there were nearly 800 deaths at the only site so far investigated, there is reason to suspect that the same situation was evolving in other Irish catholic convents.

Left-wing Libération says we're seeing a new approach in the way the government is currently handling the hot topics... they mean the strike by workers in the entertainment business, the rail stoppages, the sale of Alstom to America, and the little-loved ecotax.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

In contrast to the hesitations and uncertainties of the era under Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Manuel Valls is praised for his clarity, fluidity, professionalism. In its editorial, the left-wing daily recycles François Hollande's election slogan, suggesting that the promised change might finally be happening, two years late, but better than never.

If the Alstom sale and the resolution of the rail strike have, broadly, left the government basking in the warm glow of success, Libération is quick to point out that the summer festival season remains threathened, that the Corsican ferry operators are on the verge of their annual strike, and that the vexed question of the ecotax on heavy good vehicles using secondary roads remains to be sorted out.

Le Monde and Le Figaro both look at the same hot topics, but from slightly different points of view.

Centrist Le Monde is worried that the government has had to spend rather a lot recently, the bill for concessions to the entertainment workers and those who don't like the ecotax is believed to be around four billion euros. Which would be a lot to pay for peace, but seems excessive in view of the fact that the two disputes are still going strong.

And those four billion may come to seem paltry when we find out how much government concessions to disgruntled socialist deputies are going to cost in the upcoming debate on the budget.

Le Figaro says nothing less than the credibility of the budgetary reform is at stake as Manuel Valls tries to secure the support of his own left wing. Forty-one socialist deputies voted against the government's savings plan, intended to ensure budgetary stability, in April. How many will join them to reject the overall budget and the reform of social security spending?

Manuel Valls has, according to Le Figaro, been working overtime in an effort to get the rebels back on board. Like the entertainment workers and those who refuse any form of ecotax, the rebels don't appear to be listening.

On inside pages, Libération reports from China. The story concerns a government official named Wang in the central province of Jiangxi. Mr Wang was visiting the search area for three children who fell into a flooded river. He was wearing his best leather shoes. A local offered to carry Mr Wang on his shoulders so that he wouldn't get his shoes destroyed. He accepted. He saved the shoes. But the photo of Wang being carried went viral on social media, and the bad bastard has been sacked. The report, sadly, gives no news of the missing children.

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