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Redmond redux August 21, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in 1913, Culture, Irish History, The Left.
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So much to think about in relation to this issue. According to the Phoenix there are those within Fine Gael itself who are concerned and not best pleased by the former Taoiseach’s solo run on the issue of a commemoration for Redmond. And why would they because they provide a most unwelcome mood music to this decade of remembrance. And inconvenient too given the government’s attempts to chart a course between the various constituencies it seems to feel it must satisfy.

This weekend we saw the unusual sight of Ronan Fanning taking John Bruton to task over the issue in the pages of the Irish Times, and last week we saw Bruton attempting to explain away why Redmond’s actions post-the Larne gun-running of April 1914 – given that Dr Conor Mulvagh described Redmond as “a gun-runner, a back-room dealer and the leader of a private army” on foot of those actions – were explicable. Explicable because they were, according to Bruton set “against the background of certain activities by our brethren north of what is now the Border”. Very good, but implicit to his argument(s) on this issue is that the same events impacting on those who would later provide the core of the 1916 Rising gave rise to actions that were inexplicable. But if such a staunch parliamentarian as Redmond could be swayed to support political militarisation, which is in effect were what he oversaw to a greater or lesser degree, what would those who weren’t such staunch parliamentarians be swayed to do?

The answer to that is the course of Irish history across that decade or two. Still, one has to wonder whether that question was asked at the summer school these exchanges took place at.

It is all of a piece with the response to the stamp commemorating Redmond here, which – inconveniently for some, shows Redmond as a recruiter for the British Army. I’m genuinely amazed at how Bruton sought to minimise the import of that stamp, and how Stephen Collins could mistake it for a parody put about by Redmond’s political opponents. It was, of course, no such thing. But perhaps I shouldn’t be in light of the comments on the gun-running for this is – surely – a perfect example of that dynamic in politics where everything those one supports can be explained away while everything those one opposes is cast in the worst possible light, and in addition when problematic evidence appears it is simply ignored.

Meanwhile, and on the same topic, we have this fascinating further contribution from Stephen Collins which attempts to provide an explanation of sorts for John Bruton’s thoughts on Redmond, and simultaneously provide another for his comments on social welfare and pensions from a dinner in 2013.

Collins posits this in relation to the first:

Bruton’s core point is that if commemorations are about drawing relevant lessons from the work of past generations, then the remarkable exercise of parliamentary leverage that achieved home rule may have greater relevance to today’s generation of democrats than does the blood sacrifice of Pearse and Connolly

That doesn’t, it has to be said, convince me. At best Redmond was a problematic democrat – one who was deeply opposed to women’s suffrage, and along with many Home Rulers appears to have attempted to ignore the events of 1913. Add to that the small but entirely salient fact that he did not seek Irish independence. There’s simply no getting around the fact that his vision was of an Ireland comfortably positioned within the British Empire. That Bruton and Collins appear unable to engage with this point is telling, is it not? It is as if the goal of the movements, and they were plural, and perhaps multiple, at that time, is completely ignored in regard of the process they supposedly bypassed. The process is democracy? Again, given the nature of the British democracy at that point that raises all manner of contradictions and problems.

If Redmond were committed to independence, if all that he had done was predicated on that, well, that might be a different matter. But he simply did not share the vision of an independent Irish Republic.

Yet this is ignored and we are offered counterfactuals where Irish independence was achieved on foot of Home Rule at some point, who knows when? Even that is arguable. There is a counter argument that the fact of even partial Irish independence in the 1920s had a significant effect on how matters developed subsequently in the Empire. Perhaps Ireland might have been locked in to Britain through Home Rule for many decades, too close to the centre to break free, but always seeking to. Can I make a case for a low level war in a Home Rule state by advanced nationalists who recognise the limits of that state, or worse again the potential for cross border strife – for Bruton himself admits that there would be partition, and perhaps from either side. I sure can. Imagine a sort of 1969 to 1994 played out across the 20s and 30s? Or ethnic cleansing from the North? Or…

That’s the thing with counterfactuals, it’s not difficult to envisage better or worse outcomes than reality. Now it’s one thing to muse on them here on this site, but it’s another entirely to be attempting to direct public policy on foot of them at state level.

And as ever that past is filtered through another segment of the past, that of the late 1960s and onwards…

That is certainly a point worth considering, particularly as dissident republicans plot violence and mayhem in the name of the 32-county republic envisaged by the 1916 leaders, despite the overwhelming endorsement of the Belfast Agreement and its core principle of consent by the majority of people on this island.

But this state exists as the out workings of the struggle for that 32-county republic envisaged by the 1916 leaders, not the struggle for Home Rule which now appears as an effective cul-de-sac. No less an authority than Ronan Fanning points to the fact that Home Rule, even as Redmond envisaged it, was never on offer from the British state as a realistic prospect. And it is worth noting that the GFA/BA dispensation specifically allows for a 32-county republic. That is in no way invalidated by dissident republicans. Not in the slightest.

Still, it’s the latest twist, that dinner in New York (a ‘social function’ as Collins rather delicately puts it) held by legal firm Matheson in his honour that is so revealing.

His critics got more ammunition to attack the former taoiseach with the release of a tape recording contain comments he made at a social function in New York last year. In the course of a discussion he raised the issue of how the European social model, its welfare entitlements and pensions were going to be funded into the future as the continent tried to compete with the rising power of China and other developing countries.
There was certainly something off-putting about a group of very wealthy business people being told the governments of the developed world would ultimately have to default on their commitments to their citizens. That, however, does not invalidate the nub of the argument.

And:

Asking questions about the ability of the developed world to fund its spending commitments over the coming decades is surely relevant and necessary to prod the political system into long-term planning.

Wait a second. That wasn’t a ‘discussion’ where he ‘raised the issue’ or ‘asked questions about the ability to fund…’. To determine what he did say let’s return to Gene Kerrigan’s original piece where he notes that Bruton said:

Mr Bruton predicted, “We’re still going to be well off, but other people are going to get richer, and we’re going to be not getting rich as fast.”
And that, he said, “requires a whole lot of difficult adjustments”. American social insurance schemes, “Medicare and Medicaid and social security”, he said, “are completely unaffordable. And will not be afforded. And will not be deliverable. These promises will be broken here in the US. The same is going to happen in Europe.”
He said, “it’s going to happen — those promises are going to be broken.” He emphasised: “And they have to be broken. Because they can’t be afforded.”

There is no question formulated by Bruton. Anything but. This is no raising of issues – those aren’t ‘may not be’s’ but ‘can’t be’s’. Bruton has self-evidently already determined in his own mind what will occur.

Perhaps aware of this difference between what he suggests Bruton is saying and what Bruton actually says Collins here takes a step towards suggesting that that outcome of a society with social protections stripped away is an inevitability, albeit he still couches it as a ‘question’.

Bruton’s critics have not come up with a coherent response to his basic question and instead highlighted that he is currently very well paid as chairman of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin and draws a handsome pension as a former taoiseach. That is all true, but has nothing to do with the case he is making.

Well, perhaps in a world where one is a cheerleader for lower taxation and lower state expenditure. But that brutish, short and nasty outcome is one that many of us resile against – and Collins well knows the arguments that can be put against it. I guess I could say that it is a bit disturbing to see someone seemingly argue that the withering of even fairly low level state provision of pensions and welfare to little or nothing – nothing, actually, if one takes Bruton at his word, is regarded with such equanimity. But there you have it.

He finishes with this:

Both in office and out of it, Bruton has made a habit of speaking his mind. The latest bout of venom directed at him shows why so many Irish politicians often keep their true opinions to themselves. Playing the “cute hoor” is still the safest option in Irish public life.

Priceless.

26th Desmond Greaves Annual School 2014 August 19, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, The Left.
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Greaves Leaflet July 2014 1_Page_1

Greaves Leaflet July 2014 1_Page_2

The ultimate in vinyl completists… August 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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…here.

Science Fiction television: A for Andromeda August 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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I recently picked up a late 60s paperback of Fred Hoyle’s October the First Is Too Late,
an interesting but flat little tale, very characteristic of the author’s output. But you know there’s something about him, and he was a crusty contrarian in the less toxic sense of the term, that I kind of admire. I’d forgotten until I looked up his wiki page that it is he who coined the phrase ‘Big Bang’ in cosmological terms, and was a staunch opponent of that theory until the end), I was reminded of this – the television series A for Andromeda which he wrote, and which appeared in 1961.

I never saw this back in the day – given that it was broadcast before I was born. However I did see the reworked version in the late 2000s which was… well, so so. Read the book, too, though that wasn’t written by him. Again, Hoyle would not be one of the greatest writers in the world in any genre (I’ve mentioned Hoyle before, not least in this overview of his rather strange, and Irish related, Ossian’s Ride) but the ideas were often intriguing, and the fact he was a scientist no doubt lent them greater credence.

It’s another fairly thin little tale, with stuff thrown in one suspects because the main plot line wasn’t sufficient, or not enough could be done with it. The basics are that a signal is received from another galaxy containing instructions to build a computer. The computer once built has further instructions to build a human like organism (a woman – natch!) who is named Andromeda. And from there on it’s all about whether Andromeda, or the computer, are a threat to humanity or the Earth itself (the SF writer John Barnes later wrote a sort of solution to the Fermi Paradox in a short story which riffed on some aspects of communications by radio telescope in an amusingly unpleasant sort of way – the story is called Enrico Fermi and the Dead Cat whose text you can find online if you so wish, and arguably Sagan’s Contact was a massive inversion of the plotline).

The 1961 version much of its time in its own way – some worrying gender politics – though the more I think about it that’s built into the very structure and concept of the story from start to finish, and it’s entertaining to pick out more…erm… modern elements, hair styles and so on, as well as the sense that this truly was a pre-digital era. This version saw Julie Christie’s first significant television. The 2006 version, with Kelly Reilly and Tom Hardy, is equally of its time, though perhaps less entertaining.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Chrome Hoof August 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Prog, punk, soul, dance, electronica, metal, experimental chamber rock orchestral tracks – it must be Chrome Hoof. They’ve been around since 2000, and were established by Leo and Milo Smee, the former of whom is a member of the late and very lamentedCathedral, purveyors of doom metal, who themselves took a prog turn (though not too much of one) an album or two back. Their sound is eclectic and filled out by trumpet, bassoon, saxophone, violin, viola and more. There’s a crossover with some personnel having been in Knifeworld and associated groups.

So if you think they’re like Cathedral, well, they ain’t. Their latest album, released last year, Chrome Black Gold, is to my ears amazing. As noted on emusic, by having a range of female lead vocalists, including Chantal Brown and Shingai Shoniwa of the very excellent Noisettes it ‘offer (s)a defiantly un-macho take on prog, traditionally the hoariest of rock sub-genres’.

Sure, there’s the straight ahead prog of When Lightening Strikes, until the point where Shoniwa steps in and suddenly it’s not straight ahead prog at all. There’s Knopheria which surely must be a disco hit in another universe completely (and those of us partial to Cathedral may recognise one familiar keyboard sound in it). Tortured Craft reminds me just a little of Rip, Rig and Panic, and is none the worse for it. Instrumental Kestrel Dawn comes over initially as a sort of electropop/EBM before… before… before… what might be a beefier take on hauntology, meets some prog and then fades out – all in the space of a minute and forty eight seconds. Varkada Blues has fantastic doom rock vocals, from I’m presuming Leo Smee, tricksy keyboards, a great female vocal which wanders in from another song entirely but is entirely appropriate to the track and ends in neat electronica and Exo-Spektral is strange and great, a weird cross between ELO, Siouxsie and Kurt Weill. It’s that kind of an album.

Highly, highly recommended.

Nopheria (ft. Shingai Shoniwa)

When Lightning Strikes (Live)

Kestrel Dawn

Tortured Craft

Varkada Blues

When Lightning Strikes

Quiz from O’er the Water – No. 2 August 14, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, History, Irish Politics, The Left.
12 comments

Many thanks for this quiz which was set by NollaigO. Answers to follow in a few days time!

Q1 Famously, Napoleon invited the Pope to his coronation as emperor in 1804 but seized the crown out of the hands of the Pope and crowned himself. In which famous venue was the ceremony held and what was the name of the Pope? [Just the regnal name; not the number!]

Q2 On 17th December 1985, 15 MPs of the British House of Commons applied for the Chiltern Hundreds and for Steward of the Manor of Norstead [aka “resigned their seats”].

What caused this?

Q3 Following the establishment of the Irish Free State, three deep water Treaty Ports were retained by the United Kingdom in accordance with the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921. As part of the resolution of the Anglo-Irish Trade War in the 1930s, the ports were returned to Ireland in 1938.

Name the Treaty Ports.

Q4 What is the link in the following 16th century, chronological list:

1 : Peterborough Abbey; 2: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London;

3: St Georges Chapel, Windsor; 4: Westminster Abbey;

5: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London; 6: Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire.

Q5 The origin of the phrase “Your name is mud” is often wrongly attributed to a Dr Samuel Mudd because he sheltered and medically treated a famous fugitive at his home in Charles County, Maryland in April 1865. Who was the fugitive?

Q6 Which famous people were killed by the following assassins:

Prince Felix Yusupov
John Bellingham
Ramon Mercader
Marcus Brutus?

Q7 James Hoban was born in Callan, in County Kilkenny in 1762. He studied architecture at the Royal Dublin Society Drawing School. In 1781, he emigrated and in 1792 he won an architectural competition to design a still world famous building. In 1814 he was appointed to rebuild the building after it had been deliberately destroyed by fire.

Which building and who burned it?

Q8 What was the controversial publication, allegedly written by Gregori in 1924, that enabled Stanley overcome Ramsey?

Q9 The 1912 American presidential election was contested by the incumbent president, a past president and a third candidate who won the election.

Name all three.

Q10 Former Irish Naval Services vessel, Muirchú was withdrawn from service in 1947. The ship then sank off the Saltee Islands while being towed to the scrapyard.

What was the previous name and controversial role in Irish History of the Muirchú ?

Home Schooling… August 13, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Education, Irish Politics.
20 comments

Always find this an interesting issue. I get in the abstract why there might be an instance a parent might wish to home school, but I tend to the view that in the concrete the advantages of socialisation with other children and so on – well before we get to the issue of education itself – are so great and so necessary that schools for all their flaws are a better ‘choice’ (and to be honest this often seems like a ‘choice’ which is exercised by those with financial resources to do so – not exclusively so, but often). There’s the point too that home schooling has become so inextricably linked to the right in the US (and further afield) that the political aspect is deeply off-putting. But whatever about all of those it is clear that it is constitutional to home school in this state and only a very small number of people actually do (the Home Education Network had 120 families as members last year – one can extrapolate from that but obviously it’s not a massive number).

Still, no surprise to see Breda O’Brien, whose husband home ‘educates’ (as she puts it) her her children (while, she is a teacher herself), pointing to the case of two home schoolers who have refused to be assessed by the state and (at least one of whom ) has been imprisoned for a number of days because they refuse to pay a fine on foot of that refusal. Given that O’Brien herself recognises that the state ‘is relatively benign towards home education’ and that in her own families case ‘we registered, had a perfectly pleasant home visit and heard no more’ it’s hard to see what the problem is.

She suggests that somehow in the event that the State turned nasty (not her words, but the implication is there) ‘the current system could be used to impose that’. That’s true, but so what in the case at hand? And truth is it remains unlikely given the Constitutional right to home schooling. And very very curiously she argues that ‘Given the current trend towards “one size fits all” in education, those concerns may not be outlandish.’

This would presumably be the trend towards multiple different types of schools and so on. And that continuing Constitutional right, which I can’t see sight nor sound of a referendum on the political horizon about. So perhaps outlandish is the correct term.

She continues:

There are all sorts of hidden assumptions in the way the current system operates. For example, there appears to be an assumption that if a child is at school all is well from a welfare and educational point of view, despite the fact that the education system is creaking at the seams due to lack of funding. But when a child is educated at home, there is an automatic query over how well that child will fare.

As to the broader argument, Jacques de Molay in comments below the IT article makes some very pertinent points. But one thought strikes me. I find it very hard to take entirely seriously the idea that the assumptions she points to in the above quote are unreasonable. Many of us will have been assessed for various roles by state services – fostering for example comes to mind. The state has – under the Constitution, not just the right but the duty to ensure that its citizens are looked at and looked after to the appropriate degree (that we can have an endless discussion on that latter is another issue entirely).

And there’s no real substance to the line that schools aren’t examined in the same way as home schoolers. There’s a rigorous system of assessment, control and communication in school rooms – O’Brien herself will know that. Not just the formal ones of inspection but also lines of communication for pupils through other teachers, and between teachers and principals and the relevant bodies that oversee them, and no less importantly boards of management, parent teacher meetings and so on. That vast net isn’t infallible, as anyone who has had the appalling experience of encountering abuse by teachers will know (though the safeguards are much greater now than they were hitherto). But those systems of assessment, control and communication cannot exist in the same way in the family home. Indeed, when contrasted with that, it’s not that difficult to make the argument that the state’s assessment is actually very minimal indeed (and again look at the structures around fostering or adoption which are exhaustive in way that the processes described as regards home schooling appear not to be).

And in this instance it would seem this bare minimum is what is being asked of these parents. And why, because in all this the child/citizen’s right to education is paramount. And to reiterate, the reason for the imprisonment is not the refusal to register but their refusal to pay the fine.

By the way, for a sense of the mind-set of some in the US as regards home schooling, this report on the Dublin case is revelatory – as are the comments below it.

This is kind of cool… August 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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…from the Guardian during the week a link to this…

They’ve got to be kidding… August 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Uncategorized.
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I’m no fan of U2, and this doesn’t make me feel any more warmly towards them…

When they released No Line on the Horizon, U2 blitzed the BBC in a day of television, radio and online appearances. The broadcaster later admitted that it had given the band “undue prominence”, in breach of its editorial-independence policy, and that temporarily altering its logo to “U2=BBC” was inappropriate. So expect a softer release this time.

Around the time of the Brooks/Croke Park controversy there was a lot of talk about how, correctly, the institutions of state seem sometimes to bend to commercial forces all too often, but the BBC?

Which by the by reminds me of this unkind view of them…

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Tower Of Babel August 9, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Tower of Babel were a Goth band from Dublin that were around from 1986 to 1989. The wonderful Fanning Sessions has a 1988 Session up on the site and that prompted me to go atticwards to see if I could find the bands first single which I have. There was no luck , so hopefully it is still in my Mothers attic.
I found a few bits on youtube but like many long gone Irish bands they had a Soundcloud page. I must have seen them at some stage as I wouldn’t have bought the single otherwise. I may have seen them in McGonagles , I wouldn’t have been a goth although I had a few friends that were. So I must have been persuaded to go along by them.
Were there many Irish Goth bands? and did any of them have any success?

Tower of Babel have a great flickr page of images which contains pictures of gigs , press coverage etc.
Their Soundcloud page , where some of these tracks came from :)

Oh and I also came upon this site whilst searching for Tower of Babel material which may be of interest to some of you.

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