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Letter critic November 13, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Not sure I buy the Eoghan Harris critique at the weekend of the recent letter, signed by numerous luminaries, including Fintan O’Toole and Brian Feeney. The letter can be read here:

But here is the text;

We write to you as citizens to record our deep concerns about the negative repercussions which Brexit will have for our country, for the GFA and for the peace process.

Brexit has changed everything. The constitutional, political, social and economic status quo on the island of Ireland is now in flux.

Discussion about the reunification of Ireland has moved centre stage. Many citizens are already involved in formal and informal discussions about this. We believe that a new conversation is now required about our shared future on the island of Ireland. The government needs to plan for this.

A clear majority of people in Ireland, both in this state and in the North, want to remain in the EU. The majority of citizens in the North voted to remain in the 2016 Referendum. This includes many Unionists. In recent years a conversation about Ireland’s future and the place of Unionists in it, is publicly taking place among Unionists. This a welcome development.

Irish citizens should continue to enjoy the rights which accrue from membership of the EU as well as the protection of the ECJ. It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the democratic wishes and rights of Irish citizens are respected and protected, regardless of where they live on the island. Let’s have a discussion on how this can be achieved.
We would urge you to start this process, based on the vision of democratic change set out in the Good Friday [Belfast] agreement. Start planning now.

We ask the Government to establish a Citizens Assembly reflecting the views of citizens North and South, or a Forum to discuss the future and achieve maximum consensus on a way forward.

Harris, rather entertainingly doesn’t bother to do much analysis of the letter, bar to argue that:

Nothing could be more partisan than last Monday’s letter in The Irish Times calling for a “conversation” on Irish reunification – but lacking unionist signatures.

And:

Like him, in his last days, I believe unionists would be wise to ultimately negotiate, by treaty, a powerful place in a Federal Ireland. Meantime, they are entitled to be let live in peace under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
That summary roughly represents the current position of all the major Irish political parties with the exception of Sinn Fein. But the politics of the Ireland’s Future letter is far closer to Sinn Fein’s position than that of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

All this – and he conveniently ignores that it is entirely within the precepts of the GFA/BA to argue for unity, as much as it is to argue for the union, before doing his usual playing the men and women behind the letter rather than the ball. For example, and perhaps entertainingly, he writes:

Turning to academe, it’s notable that the signatories are a tiny fraction of academic staff in NI universities and even tinier in terms of the Irish university sector as a whole. Few of them, in my view, are notable scholars in their academic fields.

Well, by his own logic some if few are. Not sure what that would prove either way or why Harris thinks he is well-placed to judge such matters. But Harris misrepresents the letter nearly in full. As one commenter BTL notes rather than arguing for ‘unification or reunification’ as Harris purports, it is very open-ended indeed and the lack of Unionist signatures (though having not done a forensic analysis of them perhaps there are some) is hardly surprising or something that delegitimises it. Moreover the same commenter notes that Harris is wrong in arguing that “Ireland’s Future claims, a “conversation” going on among unionists about their future place in a unitary Irish State”. In fact it merely suggests, as the text of the letter above notes, that among some unionists there’s a discussion about Ireland’s future – a significantly different discussion. Finally Harris with no evidence whatsoever argues that: Ireland’s Future seems to subscribe to the “false consciousness” delusion that there is a secret majority of pro-unity unionists in the Protestant population – a delusion that has been around since 1920.

How he gleans this from the text of a letter which no-where makes that case suggests a degree of projection on his part.

But there’s a further point – those behind it argue for caution:

Ireland’s Future spokesman Niall Murphy, a lawyer from Belfast, told BBC News NI his group does not consider that a vote on Irish unity “should happen today, tomorrow, this year or… next year”.
He said it should not happen “until… all of the economic modelling has occurred and until there has been a mutual inclusive conversation about how a new Ireland would look”.

That certainly sound like someone who is demanding a very specific outcome to that – frankly, necessary process. Which elides with an excellent point made on Slugger BTL, where it notes the curious contradiction at the heart of Harris’s line on these matters.

Those raised of a nationalist background who question the received wisdom are seen as acting with ‘good authority’. Their counterparts on the other side are liable to be subject to a moniker such as the one EH used on Susan MacKay: ‘guilty prod’.

Harris asks:

Finally, Tony Blair’s problems with Brexit also apply to the begrudging “reunification” envisaged by Ireland’s Future. Blair says Brexit won’t fix the NHS, non-EU immigration or broken British politics.
Likewise, what pressing problems will a united Ireland ”fix”? Literally none.

Well that’s a different question entirely from that which Ireland’s Future attempts to raise – but at the least given the current volatility in relation to NI (where for example at the weekend Johnson appeared to contradict his own stated intensions relating to his own deal on NI with the EU/ROI), a UI of whatever form would address the issue of Brexit and ensuing chaos.

But what, pray tell is Harris’s solution?

Let me pause to set out my own position on Irish unity, which is similar to that of Conor Cruise O’Brien, who predicted the British would eventually betray the unionists.
Like him, in his last days, I believe unionists would be wise to ultimately negotiate, by treaty, a powerful place in a Federal Ireland. Meantime, they are entitled to be let live in peace under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
That summary roughly represents the current position of all the major Irish political parties with the exception of Sinn Fein. But the politics of the Ireland’s Future letter is far closer to Sinn Fein’s position than that of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

So then, set the controls for Eire Nua! And mischaracterise the position of many Irish political parties. And the GFA/BA! And then get a gratuitous dig in at SF!

The Great Hunger in the North Inner City – Talk in East Wall, Monday 18th November November 13, 2019

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I sense optimism. Great optimism. Is it unwarranted optimism? November 13, 2019

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This report in the IT on the Labour national conference in Mullingar presents a curious picture of that party.

They’re enthusiastic.
 

Labour members at the party’s national conference in Mullingar have a pep in their step not seen for a long time at such events.

But they’re also oddly optimistic.

More younger people attended than in the past three years, and predictions of gains at the next general election varied from four Dáil seats to at least a doubling of their number to 14.

And they believe the party will win two by-elections – in Dublin Fingal and Wexford – where the party has sitting TDs.

Am I wrong in being sceptical about gains at the next General Election and at the by-elections?

What you want to say – 13 November 2019 November 13, 2019

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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Attention seeker November 12, 2019

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Not the worst response from the Taoiseach to this from Noel Grealish in the Dáil today. Someone clearly is enjoying his notoriety and absolutely heedless of his rhetoric. But this is coat-trailing of the worst sort.

Changing the narrative on the climate crisis November 12, 2019

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I’ve mixed but broadly positive views with regard to Greta Thunberg, not least positive because of the effect she seems to have on some. A further education lecturer I know tells me that in various groups they teach this year a number of middle aged men appear deeply triggered by Thunberg. I find that dynamic bizarre.

There’s – naturally – contradictions about Thunberg, but it’s important not to over-exaggerate or diminish the utility of what she (and it’s not her alone) has done or the message that she has broadcast. And the reality is that climate change is a very real and present danger and my view is that publicising that fact is no harm at all.
Sure, Thunberg, like XR, tends to over-egg the pudding, but from a purely tactical view of these matters it seems sensible to open the space for potential solutions as wide as possible so that when political activity catches up it goes further than might be expected.

This isn’t to deny the contradictions can be tooth-grinding. For example the idea that it is feasible to shut down international air transport is implausible and the timelines XR et al have are frankly absurd. But… I think it not unimportant someone is articulating these scenarios in order that others realise the importance of actually doing something (in advance of the inevitable victory of socialism. 😉 ).

And here’s the thing. It does appear to be having some effect and – importantly – not just on the level of the personal, which is of little to limited utility, but instead:

Agencies who work with large corporations have also seen a spike in investment in carbon offsetting over the last 18 months. ClimateCare, a company that provides programmes to help organisations offset residual carbon emissions, has seen the amount of carbon offset increase from about 2m tonnes to 20m tonnes in that time, according to its chief executive, Edward Hanrahan.

It’s not enough, not nearly enough. But bringing those ‘large corporations’ to account is not a half bad step and would appear to be driven in part by Thunberg, XR and other protests (school strikes are mentioned). Absent those latter entities would the same have happened in a time of Trump? Doubtful.

Left resources and links – November 2019 November 12, 2019

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We’re back looking for links/resources useful to the Left at Starkadders suggestion. This can be archives, support groups, study groups, whatever people think can assist in building up a stack of easily accessible tools necessary to the tasks ahead. Perhaps keep articles – unless they’re longform, to the What You Want to Say thread.

And here’s one from Starkadder which is very useful.

Ban private jets? November 12, 2019

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About time.

Labour is exploring plans to ban private jets from UK airports from as early as 2025 should it win the election, in the party’s latest broadside against the super-rich.
After a report revealed carbon emissions from the sector equivalent to 450,000 cars each year, Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said that billionaire users of private fossil fuel aircraft were damaging the climate and the party would consider a ban.
He tweeted on Monday: “The multi-millionaires & billionaires who travel by private jet are doing profound damage to the climate, and it’s the rest of us who’ll suffer the consequences. A phase-out date for the use of fossil fuel private jets is a sensible proposal.”

This isn’t anti-tech. As the piece also notes:

The warning shot came in response to a report from Common Wealth, a thinktank with close links to Jeremy Corbyn, and A Free Ride, a campaign group that called for a ban in Britain from 2025 to encourage the development of electric aircraft.

It is kind of staggering to see how polluting private aircraft can be:

According to the assessment, a typical private jet passenger journey within Europe emits seven times as much greenhouse gas as a flight in business class on a typical airliner, 10 times as much as flying economy class and about 150 times as much as an equivalent journey using high-speed rail.

Which makes one think about military aircraft…what is their footprint?

A New Tactic …… November 12, 2019

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There was a bit of fuss over the past day or so about Tweets from Fianna Fáil Dublin Fingal By-Election candidate Lorraine Clifford Lee. Whilst obviously I disagree with the content of the Tweets, one angle of the story was where it originated, the right wing anti choice website Gript.
So the story appeared, was shared by various of our Right Wing commentators , it then got publicity (later picked up by the Indo, RTE etc) … soon Fianna Fáil had to respond to queries on it and make a statement. Then FF TD’s went on the airwaves to defend the candidate ……
Now in the normal run of things it’s a story that lasts a day, however if we go back to the where the story originated there’s a wider issue at play.
When the Far Right candidates running in the various By-Elections and beyond start (as they will) making racist, anti immigrant comments, FF having previously played down the comments by Clifford Lee will be in a weakened position to criticise them, and more importantly for them, they will also be able to make an equivalence with what Clifford Lee said and the racist misogynistic bile that will come out of their mouths.

Welcome to a new age of centre-left, social democracy! November 12, 2019

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Great news yesterday.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should agree an “orderly wind-down” of the deal underpinning the Government ahead of the general election.
Mr Martin said an agreed conclusion would show that confidence and supply, the mechanism that sees his party facilitate the Fine Gael-led minority administration, can provide stable government.
The confidence-and-supply agreement lapses once Brexit takes effect and the legislation giving effect to the budget is passed.
Mr Martin’s comments, in an interview with The Irish Times, raise the prospect of an agreed election timetable with Mr Varadkar.

I’m really enjoying watching how FF are trying to bridge the gap between their de facto support of the present administration across now near enough four years and their need to criticise that administration. For example:

“The Government hasn’t delivered in health or housing … but nonetheless, can we bring this to a reasonable, sensible conclusion that just demonstrates: ‘Here’s an exercise that has its critics, but it leads to government for a period of time?’

And this is simply weird:

He said the confidence-and-supply agreement has probably been “the most effective thing” Fianna Fáil has done “to rebuild trust with the Irish people”, although many in his own party, and those who are annoyed with current government policy, are not happy with it.

Really? Self-praise is no praise, and so on…

Meanwhile, new social democratic left of centre age?

He said the next election would be a context between two “political visions”.
He said it would in essence be about a centre-left, social democratic vision offered by him, and a centre-right, Christian democratic vision offered by Mr Varadkar. Mr Martin also said he wanted to take on Mr Varadkar in a head-to-head leaders’ debate during the campaign.

I don’t disagree with his characterisation of Fine Gael and this government. But… I’d imagine quite a few of us are sceptical about his characterisation of what a future FF government will offer.

People rightly, suggested that we saw in outline at the O’Devaney Gardens votes messages being sent to FF (and FG). Telling to see messages being sent the other way.

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