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Sunday and other Media Stupid Statements from this week… May 16, 2021

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One correspondent excels himself…

A barrister and Dublin city councillor, he has a political and legal pedigree second to none. One grandfather, also named James, was a Fianna Fáil minister for justice in Eamon de Valera’s first government and later attorney general and Supreme Court judge. His other grandfather Thomas Finlay was an active member of Fine Gael who ended up as chief justice. Both of the candidate’s parents were also Supreme Court judges. Looked at from one perspective, Geoghegan can be portrayed as a representative of privilege and entitlement. The other perspective is that of a bright young man with a lucrative legal career ahead of him who has decided to devote himself to public service. 

Isn’t Newton Emerson confusing opinion polling with referendum polling in the following (and the overall tone of the piece is notable – nationalist thinking is described successively as ‘dishonest’, ‘afflicted’ and suffering from ‘cognitive dissonance’) ?

Perhaps even worse is the 50/50 split in Scotland’s popular vote – to be precise, 48.99 per cent for all nationalist parties on the constituency ballot and 50.12 per cent on the regional ballot.

Whether a Northern Ireland Border poll requires a threshold of more than 50 per cent plus one is an argument Irish nationalism is having with itself, although it is still managing to greatly aggravate itself. There is no significant dispute from unionism that a simple majority must suffice.

However, events in Scotland show that a result as close as 50 per cent plus one does not necessarily meet the test of making a nationalist win likely. It only makes a win possible, or as likely as not. A UK government could require the appearance of higher support before calling a poll, and this could be legally justified.

Apparently there’s never not a good time, in world of social media, the ability to start blogs (or multiple twitter accounts!) and platforms allowing people to say near enough anything they want to say, to start warning darkly about censorship. Finn McRedmond – in a column in the far from cancelled IT – certainly seems to think so, anyhow:

The end of April marked the launch of the Journal of Controversial Ideas. Its founders, a consortium of academics – including the standard-bearer of academic iconoclasm, Peter Singer – claim it is a necessary corrective to a climate where “freedom of thought and discussion” is no longer “a universally-held value”. 

Their diagnosis may well be correct, as the boundaries of what it is acceptable to believe and say appear to narrow daily. 

Meanwhile RTÉ offers this remarkable insight.

A new report by Sport Ireland has shown a rise in the overall levels of physical activity among adults during Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the quarterly report, which was published today, found a decrease in organised sport participation.

During restrictions? Who’d have guessed?

Tintin in trouble… May 15, 2021

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In more ways than one. This is a great story, from the Guardian, about how…

The French artist who was sued by the Tintin creator Hergé’s heirs over his paintings that place the boy adventurer in romantic encounters has won his case after a court deemed them parodies.

Xavier Marabout’s dreamy artworks imagine Tintin into the landscapes of Edward Hopper, including a take on Queensborough Bridge, 1913, or talking with a less-clothed version of Hopper’s Chop Suey.


Earlier this year, the Breton artist was sued for infringement by Moulinsart, which manages the Tintin business. Moulinsart’s lawyer argued that “taking advantage of the reputation of a character to immerse him in an erotic universe has nothing to do with humour”. Marabout’s lawyer argued that the paintings were parody.

Interestingly the court argued that the paintings were clearly parodies and with ‘humorous intention’. In a way I wonder why Moulinsart thought it sensible to pursue the case – though I suppose it does set down a marker as to how far one can go with Tintin’s image.

I’ve always liked Tintin, though these days I’d be fractionally more fond of Blake and Mortimer from Hergé’s colleague Edgar P. Jacobs. And there’s a whole world of other ligne claire comic strips – most in French but all well worth a look if you’re interested in the style. Indeed interestingly the style developed as time went on, with a new twist in the 1980s as ‘atoomstijl’ (atomic style). And it has itself been parodic or self-referential or overtly political. As wiki notes:

Contemporary use of the ligne claire is often ironic or post-modern. For example, Van den Boogaard used the simple, clear style to set up a conflict with the amorality of his characters, while Tardi used it in his Adèle Blanc-Sec series to create a nostalgic atmosphere which is then ruthlessly undercut by the story. A recent serious clear line artist is the Dutchman Peter van Dongen, who created the Rampokan series about the Dutch colonisation of Indonesia.

This makes sense too given the roots of the style and indeed as a response to Hergé’s own politics and political development. 

An expensive trip… May 15, 2021

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This from the Guardian recently outlines the likely costs for those thinking of using private space transportation systems to get into orbit, or almost orbit.

Virgin Galactic … aims to fly private customers in early 2022, after a first flight with Branson onboard later this year. Its zero-gravity experience is anchored by its SpaceShipTwo plane, and the company has plans to offer point-to-point travel between far-flung cities at near-space altitudes.

Virgin says it will charge more than $250,000 for new reservations but has not announced final pricing. Sales will reopen after Branson’s flight.


Reuters reported in 2018 that Blue Origin was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for the (sub-orbital) ride, based on an appraisal of rival plans from Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and other considerations, although the company’s stragegy may have changed.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX seems less interested in space ‘tourism’ – and small wonder, they’re landing 1950s style rockets vertically and seem to be winning NASA contracts left right and centre. I stayed up to watch the most recent SpaceX landing, and mighty impressive it was. Though the fire beneath the Starship rocket which raged for quite some time until it was extinguished might tend to dampen my enthusiasm for all these ventures. It is still quite some distance until space travel, even space so-called ‘tourism’, is anywhere near safe enough for most people.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Quintron and Miss Pussycat May 15, 2021

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You like garage rock, you like electronics, you like puppet shows, you might well like the blend of all those and more that Quintron and Miss Pussycat from New Orleans offer on Goblin Alert! and other albums. Read about them a while back, discovered they’d released a range of albums. Took a listen, liked what I heard, and here they are. It is a bit like the Fleshtones and the B-52s gigging on an ITV Childrens TV show from the 1970s and with any number of improbable synths thrown in. Or something like that.

I would recommend reading the AllMusic bio to get a sense of just how prolific and inventive they are. They also appeared playing live in a scene in the third season of Treme… what more do people want?

New (old) arrival… May 14, 2021

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As noted in comments…

Edwin Poots has been named as the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series May 14, 2021

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Meanwhile in Scotland May 14, 2021

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Thanks to the person who sent this…

Competing national identities… May 14, 2021

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Some intriguing thoughts in the Guardian as expressed by Ciaran Martin, who “created the framework for Scotland’s 2014 independence poll as the Cabinet Office’s constitution director” but is now outside government. He strongly criticises the UK government and notes that currently it pursues ‘England first, flag waving politics and policies’.

This was “Greater Englandism”, he added. “But it’s not a unionism of partnership. It’s a unionism where England sets the rules because that’s enough for a governing majority. If Scotland doesn’t like it, it gets overruled or ignored. If Northern Ireland doesn’t like it, it gets told nothing’s really changed but here are some special, highly destabilising arrangements to make sure you don’t mess things up for England.


“What sort of UK is the government building and what is Northern Ireland’s place in it? Because at the moment it seems that the UK government wants to build a post-Brexit UK based on a very 17th-century English notion of parliamentary sovereignty. It was delivered with English and Welsh votes but we are talking about a very singular sense of identity rooted in the English tradition.

“There has been a dramatic removal of the acceptance and appreciation of the subtleties of national identities within the United Kingdom, particularly in Northern Ireland at a time when identity there is becoming much more complicated,” he said, adding that the forthcoming census results were likely to be fascinating.


There had been no acceptance on the part of the British government that Brexit had been highly disruptive to both communities, he said. “The government has a general duty to promote stability in Northern Ireland. You can undermine the delicate political and social balance in Northern Ireland without breaching the letter of the 1998 Good Friday agreement.”

His point about English national identity coming to the fore is crucial. Because not merely is this potentially in contradiction with the interests of nationalism and republicanism, but it is emphatically in contradiction with that of unionism too. As he notes, this isn’t unionism but the domination of the UK by England. And that generates alienation on the part of those who are in opposition to the UK, but also alienates those who are nominally in alliance with it. Perhaps this was inevitable, that at some point a government would come to power in London that had near enough no interest in the union in other than purely rhetorical terms – which is not to say they seek to jettison it, but rather that it functions essentially for the good of England and from the perspective of England. With one crisis, say the gathering support for independence for Scotland, that would be problematic, with multiple and overlapping crises – Brexit, Northern Ireland and a Border Poll, and additional sub-crises such as the fault lines within unionism this becomes perilous. 

Global Britain: Don’t call us… May 14, 2021

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Well now. Yesterday afternoon in the Guardian there’s this:

EU citizens are being sent to immigration removal centres and held in airport detention rooms as the UK government’s “hostile environment” policy falls on them after Brexit, according to campaigners and travellers interviewed by the Guardian.

Europeans with job interviews are among those being denied entry and locked up. They have spoken of being subjected to the traumatic and humiliating experience of expulsion, despite Home Office rules that explicitly allow non-visa holders to attend interviews.

In some respects this is really just more of the same in relation to Britain’s attitude to those from beyond its shores, as evidenced across years. An extension, as it were, to encompass those from the EU too… (not those of us though in the CTA).

Araniya Kogulathas, a barrister with the NGO Bail for Immigration Detainees, said EU citizens were experiencing Britain’s hostile environment for immigration.

“The Home Office need to explain why exploring the job market or attending an interview justifies refusing EEA nationals entry at the border when immigration rules specifically allow visitors to – among other things – attend meetings, conferences and interviews,” she said. “It seems to be detaining people despite being unclear of its own position. This is yet another illustration of the normalisation of immigration detention in the UK and the Home Office’s disdain for the right to liberty.”

National security… May 14, 2021

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Anyone see this, a report in the Irish News about how:

REVEALING sensitive documents connected to the assassination of an INLA chief could damage national security, the High Court has heard.

The widow of Ronnie Bunting is locked in a legal battle over an alleged attempt to prevent Northern Ireland’s attorney general from ordering a new inquest.

But lawyers for the British government have raised concerns over the disclosure of some material in the decision-making process.

A troubling case. Not least:

In 2016 a newspaper reported claims that an undercover RUC unit had been watching the property due to intelligence that Bunting’s life was in danger.

The surveillance operation was allegedly withdrawn for unexplained reasons before the assassination.

Interesting to see this the same week as the Ballymurphy verdict.

I was also struck by this:


 The son of a major in the British Army, Ronnie Bunting was a founding member of the INLA after becoming involved in Irish republicanism during the early seventies.

Major Bunting, as noted by wiki was an interesting figure in his own right. An associate of Paisley:


 (and) a committed Ulster loyalist, who organised armed stewards for counter-demonstrations (against civil rights marches) called by Ian Paisley, most infamously at the Burntollet Bridge incident, when his followers attacked a People’s Democracy civil rights march on 4 January 1969.[2] Despite their political differences, Ronnie remained close with his father.[1]

There’s a very sad photograph of Major Bunting, in Deadly Divisions – the history of the INLA, weeping at the funeral of his son which perhaps points to the complexities of this island and indeed these islands.

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