The Phoenix 30 Year edition May 22, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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This is well worth a read. I like the format, looking back across the 30 years of the Phoenix and engaging with those years in various different ways. Highly entertaining are a number of individual pen portraits of figures like Haughey, Harney, FitzGerald (a man, who as the Phoenix says, was far from the image portrayed of him), Dessie O’Malley and so on.
What’s most striking is how the Phoenix serves as a sort of mirror to the society. Sure, it has its quiet moments but reading this there’s no question that more often than some might expect it has been spot on. There’s a great anecdote about how Goldhawk met Haughey who proceeded to berate the former about ‘the shite you print about me’ only to get the response ‘you should get down on your knees and give thanks for the stuff we don’t print’. I paraphrase, but only slightly. But that encapsulates the point that the critique of Haughey was almost overwhelmingly political from the Phoenix with little or none (bar the very occasional pointed barb) of the gossipy stuff that dominated other media.
It’s also worth considering that while its ideology has been at times only gently dissident from various orthodoxies it has been dissident, and that is not necessarily a problem given its purpose, in its business coverage it has been often far far more accurate than the most of the rest of a remarkably credulous and compliant newspapers and outlets. It is no surprise to see that a month before Anglo-Irish went to the wall it was the first and only publication to point out that the bank was technically bankrupt – but tellingly even at that stage Anglo sent solicitors around to try to prevent the piece being published.
If there’s a sense that the stakes are less high than they used to be, well there’s some truth in that. The functional end of the conflict in the North certainly softened things, and a degree of homogeneity in Irish politics (in the main) didn’t help.
Perhaps tellingly there’s been a bit more bite on inter-Coalition issues in recent times.
More on the AIA… April 10, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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Given the discussion on the issue of the Anglo Irish Agreement, there’s a very interesting mistake in Stephen Collins overview of the Anglo Irish Agreement in the Irish Times today. He notes that:
Haughey returned to power in 1987 and immediately abandoned pledges to unpick the deal. Instead Brian Lenihan worked the institutions established by the agreement and meetings of the North-South Intergovernmental Conference became an important feature of Anglo-Irish relations.
There’s a problem. No such North-South Intergovernmental Conference was established under the AIA. There is, of course, the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference established under the BA/GFA and the North/South Ministerial Council. And there was the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference established under the AIA but, North-South Intergovernmental Conference? Nothing. I’m sure it’s the AIIC he’s referring to but it’s a telling error.
Though if that’s telling, it’s no more so than the remarkably partial reading of that period of Irish history which somehow manages to ignore a raft of British government and military actions (and I’m pointing to that in particular given that the focus of his piece is on Thatcher and her role in relation to Ireland).
Readers of the Lost Revolution… February 22, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Uncategorized.
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…can be found in the most unlikely places. Or perhaps not.
Flags and political loyalism January 31, 2013Posted by smiffy in Loyalism, Northern Ireland, Progressive Unionist Party, The North, Ulster, Uncategorized, Unionism.
Regular readers may be interested in a newly-published book on political loyalism by U.S. academic, Tony Novosel, entitled Northern Ireland’s Lost Opportunity: The Frustrated Promise of Political Loyalism. published by Pluto books.
Over at the Pluto website, Novosel has published an interesting and timely article, situating the current protests around flags within the context of an historical pattern of the exploitation of working-class loyalist political mobilization by mainstream Unionist parties. While not uncritical of loyalist communities and their political expression, he does give the current situation an important added dimension, going beyond the sometimes easy stereotyping of #flegs.
Joe McCann 1972 and the HET January 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
From An Phoblacht… many thanks to the person who forwarded this.
Talking about flags – more from that RedC poll… January 17, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
Voting for the status quo… that flag issue.
In the recent RedC/Paddy Power poll there was the following question:
Recently Belfast City Council restricted the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall, by limiting the number of days it can be flown to 17 days per year. Do you think the council were.. Right/Wrong/Don’t Know
And the figures? Right 36%, Wrong 46% and DK 18%.
Can’t help but feel this slots right into a discourse of ‘don’t bother us about up there’. Could it be that the threat and actuality of paramilitary violence and protest – and perhaps loyalist violence in particular – is still enormously potent in shaping responses in this state.
And that’s unfortunate because it also suggests a detachment from the details of the issue: that this was a democratic vote, that it permitted the flying of the flag when the alternative was to not permit it at all and that the response to this has been extra-political and at times extremely violent.
That the reality is that public opinion in the Republic has at best tangential influence on this is another matter entirely.
Neutrality or parity? The ‘new’ Northern Ireland. December 12, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
Interesting reflection by Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times today on the issues raised by the Census figures and touched on here in the earlier post this afternoon. As he notes:
What the census clearly demonstrates is that Northern Ireland is changing and unionists and nationalists would be wise to be mindful of how that change is managed.
Scrutiny of the information might persuade the unionist politicians who are getting so agitated over the British union flag and the loyalists who are threatening and attempting murder and causing havoc around the issue “to wind their necks in”, as they say up here.
And it is hard to disagree with the following either:
Unionist politicians can take some comfort that just 25 per cent of the population consider themselves solely Irish. But unionist politicians can also do the arithmetic. If there are 864,000 people from a Protestant background and 810,000 from a Catholic background, then they should know it’s in their interests to keep on side those Catholics who are happy with the current powersharing that recognises Irish identity.
Ignoring local democracy as was applied, however cack-handedly, at Belfast City Hall over the union flag signals a very self-serving and selective understanding of democracy. If unionism refuses to act smart and with respect, it could rapidly alienate the Catholics First Minister Peter Robinson knows he needs to maintain the union.
This is, as noted earlier, a crucial time for unionism. It has to come to terms with the fact that even if the union, at least in many respects, is secure for the moment there is a contingent aspect that was not there before, or not recognised as such. This requires unionism to accept and acknowledge an Irish identity, and it is also important – I think – to recognise that a Northern Irish identity is not synonymous with a British identity. That is food for thought for Republicans and Nationalists, but also for Unionists. Perhaps much more so for the latter. We’ve seen straws in the wind – ameliorative noises from Robinson, but frankly nothing of any great substance. To make up lost ground – and again, this point was made in the earlier piece today – Unionism is going to have to much further than it has hitherto.
Moriarty also says the following:
A more cautious approach from Sinn Féin and the SDLP at Belfast City Hall might have been helpful. They could have bided their time on the flag, allowing the census figures sink into the unionist consciousness, to demonstrate more vividly that Belfast is no longer a unionist city.
It is interesting how in his view it is SF and the SDLP who have to be more careful. It is worth noting the role of Alliance in this as well, hardly a party to take precipitate risks. And yet in the same piece he notes that the response of unionism in relation to the issue has been very self-serving and selective.
But I think there’s a broader error here, removing one flag – for some of the time – and leaving the space neutral is not the same as removing one flag and replacing it with another. As I noted in comments Mícheál Mac Donncha made a point about a neutral political space that is well worth considering. That in a sense, is the the spirit of the GFA/BA.
But this goes further. Parity of esteem might suggest that both flags would be flown, that shared identifiers would be used, combining both visual identities. But does anyone think that Unionism and Loyalism are anywhere close to that? In the meantime as with the Assembly and the Executive we have neutral depoliticised or non-political imagery which references no community/political ideology.
And that raises a further question or two. Does Unionism want a situation where its identity is projected openly but in a context of allowing for an Irish Republican identity to be projected – because given the figures it must acquiesce to the reality that it too is now a minority within Northern Ireland.
The alternative is that in formal political spaces its identity is shown, as with Belfast City Hall, less and less and is replaced with that neutral identity referenced above.
Which is more palatable – and I don’t mean that in a coat-trailing or glib sense – to Unionism? Neutrality or parity? Because given those census returns the status quo ante ain’t coming back.
After the census… December 12, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
In some respects the figures released yesterday as regards demographic changes in the North are perhaps the most important piece of news that we’ll hear as regards the future shape of the island now or for some time to come. The communal identity figures are telling. Above and beyond formal identification with a given religion the narrowing distance between those from a Catholic (45%) or Protestant (48%) background – and in relation to the last figure the dip below 50 per cent from the last census (53%) is hugely significant. Consider the overall change since the establishment of Northern Ireland.
Now, as important are the national identity figures. Perhaps in some ways more important.
Of those questioned, 40% said they were British only, with the remaining 8% choosing British along with another one of the identities, such as British and Irish or British and Northern Irish.
A quarter of the population defined themselves as Irish only, while 21% said they were Northern Irish only.
This suggests a dislocation between religious background and political/national identity – and yes, this dislocation may be across all communities and party support, though only to a limited degree in most instances. Note the fracturing that occurs in relation to Irish national identity. It will be useful if the figures released allow us to burrow into those figures to cross match against religious background.
But be that as it may it suggests a number of things. Firstly that a united Ireland isn’t about to happen tomorrow, secondly that in terms of communal identity that which is British or ‘British and…’ is arguably more solid than that which is ‘Irish’ – and it’s difficult to quite work out how to map the communal identity onto voting patterns for SDLP and SF. Thirdly that unionism, much more so than nationalism and Republicanism has to come to terms with that fracturing for the basic reason that Unionism is still the predominant force, is still more closely wedded to the functional status quo (vastly closer links to the UK than to the RoI) and it is the one with potentially the most to lose – from its perspective.
The dynamics behind the figures are inexorable, not necessarily pointing towards a traditional United Ireland, at least not for some time to come, but certainly pointing towards change. That this change is unpredictable, in that it is unclear what shape any future dispensation might take, whether federalised, semi-autonomous or with some sort of at present unclear structural links East and South, is irrelevant. Something will happen along those axis and will tend to shift away even from the current GFA/BA status quo, even if it is simply, in the shorter to medium term a deepening of that status quo.
In that respect suddenly SF’s approach seems almost prescient, laying the ground work for shifting towards – at least in part – their chosen goal. They may never achieve that goal, but they’re pushing the ground in the general direction of it. But the response of the DUP and other parties seems much more leaden. Sure, we had the rhetoric displayed at the recent DUP conference, but somehow that evaded rather than engaged with the issue, and for all the talk that it is impossible (at least in the present context) for SF to reforge itself as a party that can attract unionism to its political programme, or perhaps more accurately unionists, much the same can be said of the DUP as regards nationalists.
Yet look at the figures and it is evident that both, and all other parties, must ultimately come to some sort of accommodation with demographic realities. And one stark reality is that of a Catholic and Nationalist (and Republican) population that will almost unquestionably seek stronger North South links. These may well fall short of a UI, at least in the medium term (though it would be interesting to see if certain economies of scale and so forth operate to enable a transition to such an end), but they’re going to be sought. And this has implications not just for the polity in Northern Ireland but also for the Republic.
But as noted above perhaps the main questions lie with Unionism itself. In 1920 there was a sense that the partition of the island would be if not quite temporary at least relatively short-lived, at least in the perception of unionism and leading unionists. Whether that was a rhetorical hope that sheer facts on the ground crushed into nothingness even before it was articulated is moot. That was the sense of what was happening. Yet almost a century later we can see that while the situation has altered and significantly there’s little sign of partition ending tomorrow.
I have to add another thought. A cri-de-couer that one often hears is the idea that there’s a stable middle ground that if only, if only the likes of the SDLP and the UUP could work together could be found. Looking at the figures above in relation to all aspects of the question I wonder if that’s true. It seems to me that there’s considerable fragmentation and differences in the outlook of citizens in the North, that in some ways given that fragmentation it is little short of remarkable that an agreement was reached at all. But then again, what is the surprise? Perhaps it is inevitable that after the best part of a century in a contested polity there would be dislocation and fracturing of identity.
The Truth About Alliance? December 11, 2012Posted by Garibaldy in Northern Ireland.
You’ve got to laugh. Then be angry at the insult to Lenin!
New LookLeft Magazine Out Now December 6, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left, Uncategorized.
Ireland’s leading magazine for progressive news, views and solutions – available in Easons stores and good independent newsagents across the country – 48 pages for just €2/£1.50
In the latest issue of LookLeft:
The New Frontline – Trade unions are re-forging their links with working class communities and building new alliances in the fight to defend vital local services, Dara McHugh reports
No More Victims – Ireland’s abortion laws have been claiming victims for decades, writes Stephanie Lord
Where’s the left? - The left of centre received its highest vote ever in the Republic in February 2011, but the country has since been run on unwaveringly right-wing lines without the political upheaval evident in other EU States. Kevin Brannigan asks what has happened to the Irish Left.
Beyond the Law: the US Military at Shannon Airport – In opposition, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore repeatedly committed himself to dealing with the US military’s use of Shannon Airport. But in Government what has he done? Paul Dillon reports
The Attack on Public Transport – The push towards privatisation at Dublin Bus is part of a wider strategy of undermining public transport in the name of profits. Harry Stoneman reports.
The Ideals Remain – Aleida Guevara, a Cuban paediatrician and daughter of revolutionary leader Che, visited Ireland in October and talked to Paul Dillon
A Stranger in Her Own Land – Palestinian politician Haneen Zoabi talks to Francis Donohoe about how Israel’s apartheid policies forced her to take a stand.
Eric Hobsbawm: Revolutionary Historian – Ultán Gillen looks at the life of the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, and how he helped transform our understanding of the history of the working class.
Unions must lead campaign to repudiate bank debt
Anti-capitalist prank lands Occupy activist in prison
Industrial action low in the Republic
Central Bank wrong on wages
The Waterford Spring
The Household Tax Battle Continues
LookLeft politicians pensions campaign
Only the first steps for children’s rights
IKEA Ireland: No trade unions here
Irish who fought for the Spanish Republic commemorated in Dublin
Irvine Welsh backs bridge for fellow Hibs man Connolly
The Live Register: For Real TV
Charting the Left course for Northern Ireland
Hidden Crackdown in Bahrain
Gavan Titley explores the politics of the new racism
Michael Taft on Public Enterprises
Tom O’Connor on the economic myths peddled by the Irish establishment.
Conor McCabe on the Irish tax exiles
John Jefferies on development of Primary Health Care centres
Mick Finnegan calls on SIPTU President, Jack O’Connor, to reconsider his support for Labour
Are elections a waste of time for the Left? – Alan Myler and Mark Hoskins debate
Irish Socialist Republicanism 1909-1936
Come here to me: Dublin’s other history
Privatisation: Robbing the people’s wealth
‘History from Below’ Network launched in Barcelona, Donal Fallon reports
A True Red Rebel – David Lynch on the live and times of Con Lehane
US hip-hop artist Boots Riley of The Coup
Supporters have revived the pride of North Wales, Wrexham Football Club, writes Barry Healy
Plaque to honour Francis Hutcheson
LookLeft Forum: Connolly’s Legacy Debated
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