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Meanwhile, back in the North… May 29, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.


This piece on Slate on the fact that Northern Ireland is now the only part of these islands where same sex marriage is prohibited is intriguing. One has to wonder how long they can hold out? It suggests that the DUP is the main stumbling block. Clearly it’s one of them… what do others think?

But, as intriguing is this:

Political homophobia is connected with religious power. Northern Irish people find themselves living under what has been called “essentially a theocratic regime,” due to the hold the Calvinist fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church has over the DUP. A recent study found that Free Presbyterianism “remains the largest faith among both DUP members and elected representatives.” As many as 30.5 percent of DUP members are Free Presbyterians, compared with a measly 0.6 percent of the Northern Irish population at large.

Two thoughts, is it quite a ‘theocratic’ regime of does the nature of the dispensation alter or ameliorate that? And is that correct about the membership of the DUP? According to this page here on wiki the church has 10,068 members in NI. And according to this, research by Professor John Tonge (quoted on the Irish National Caucus website, no less ) suggests:

just under a third of DUP members (30.5%) are Free Presbyterians and slightly more (34.6%) are members of the Orange institution.
To put these figures in context, the 2011 census recorded that there were 10,068 Free Presbyterians in Northern Ireland – just 0.6% of our total population.
Like most political parties, the DUP does not disclose its membership, but it is believed to number around 1,100 people.

Seems remarkably small, doesn’t it?

Some more interesting stuff:

Overall, Free Presbyterians are more than 50 times more common in the DUP than they are in the population. Orangemen are 21 times more common in the party.
The prevalence of both bodies increases as you move up the ranks. Almost 40% of the 175 DUP councillors elected in 2011 were Free Presbyterian and more than half (54.2%) were members of the Orange Order. These proportions may have fallen a little in the council elections held last month.
Among the DUP’s 38 MLAs over a third are Free Presbyterians and exactly half are Orangemen. The proportion increases further among the party’s eight MPs.

But, perhaps counterintuitively – or perhaps not:

Prof Tonge points out that the influence of the Free Presbyterian Church has declined over time, whereas the Orange Order membership appears to have increased.
This is partly due to an influx of new members between the signing of the Belfast, or Good Friday, Agreement in 1998, which it opposed, and 2006 when the DUP signed the St Andrews Agreement on power-sharing with Sinn Fein.


Assessing the most active members of the party, Dr Tonge found: “It is the Orange contingent not, contrary to popular myth, the Free Presbyterians, who really count as the most active of all.”

By the by, any figures on the UUP membership numbers, or those of the SDLP, and while an all-Ireland party, how many SF members would there be in the North?

Tipperary and the next election May 29, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.


The two three seaters of Tipperary North and Tipperary South united to form the new five seater Tipperary Constituency. A part of North Tipp has gone to the new Offaly constituency. It is thought that this area was an area where Labours Alan Kelly would have polled well.
Currently the sitting TD’s are Noel Coonan and Tom Hayes of Fine Gael, Alan Kelly of Labour , Seamus Healy of WUAG as well as Independents Mattie McGrath and Michael Lowry. All are due to contest the next election.

So we have a redraw, going from 6 to 5 seats and all six sitting TDs due to contest. Fianna Fail won 3 of the six seats available in 2007 but lost out in both North and South in 2011, so they will be looking to win back at least the one seat.

Sinn Fein won a seat in each of the five council areas in 2014 and if the polls are correct they should be in with a chance here. Their main problem is that although their councillors would be known in some areas they wouldn’t have a Countywide profile so it may be difficult to win a seat here. This could also be a place where Renua could be in with a chance were they to attract a well known respected candidate. So thats at least nine candidates with decent prospects of winning a seat.

Talking to Tipp contacts there is an assumption that Michael Lowry and Tom Hayes should be safe. After that it’s anybodys …..
Fianna Fail have selected former ICMSA head Jackie Cahill ,he has should have a good chance (however the area gone to Offaly would have been good FF country).
Tom Hayes has been a TD longer and is better placed geographically of the two Fine Gael TDs, so he is more likely than Noel Coonan to hold on.
Alan Kelly should be in trouble and Labour only won the one seat in Tipperary in the Local Elections, part of his Nenagh hinterland has moved to the new Offaly constituency what could save him is if Fine Gael lose a seat it could be those Fine Gael transfers that get him over the line.
Mattie McGrath has a high profile and would be ‘a good constituency TD’ and there are plenty of FF gene pool votes in Tipp. His base in Newcastle in the South West of Tipp may do him no favours geographically.
For Fianna Fail Jackie Cahill has a good chance, although it is suspected that Siobhan Ambrose and/ or Michael Smith jnr will be added to the ticket. They certainly need a candidate in the South. There should be an FF seat here but it is one hell of a competitive constituency and Mattie McGrath and Michael Lowry may hoover up potential FF support .
Seamus Healy , who lost his seat in 2007 before regaining it in 2011, is probably vulnerable, especially with the Geographical situation of Clonmel and WUAG only winning one Council seat at the Local Elections. The scrapping of Clonmel Borough Council was also a blow for WUAG ….. which has led to unlikely talk of him running for Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein will poll well but will find it hard to win a seat as they have no particularly high profile candidates . Were Healy to run for Sinn Fein he would hold his seat easily. An unlikely scenario but you never know. That said he could probably rely on some Sinn Fein transfers depending on the candidate they select.

A bloodbath of a constituency so. I have a funny feeling it will end up being Lowry, Hayes, McGrath, Healy and somehow Alan Kelly will win a seat…….. but I could be totally wrong

Someone said something somewhere about someone else but no one can be told what the something they said was… May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

…so much for Dáil privilege. RTÉ, the Irish Times, etc aren’t reporting on what Catherine Murphy TD said today in the Dáil due to legal pressure from you know who. The concept of Dáil privilege appears very shaky – does it not?

Addendum, Broadsheet are made of more resilient stuff. As is Murphy herself.

Remind me again why the Tories have a problem with the BBC? May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

From the Guardian…

The BBC has defended a new TV reality show pitting unemployed and low-paid workers against each other for a cash prize, which has been accused of echoing film the Hunger Games, arguing it is a “serious social experiment”.

The show, called Britain’s Hardest Grafter, is seeking 25 of Britain’s poorest workers with applications limited to those who earn or receive benefits totalling less than £15,500 a year.

The five-part BBC2 series will pit contestants against each other in a series of jobs and tasks with the “least effective workers” asked to leave until one is crowned champion.

And speaking of power relationships… we’re all consumers now..? May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

It shouldn’t but it does surprise me when I read about stuff like this. For all the cant about regulation it is disturbing how little there can be. For a new Consumer Rights Bill is being introduced. And what does it cover?

… “a basic imbalance” between consumers and retailers and service providers.
Other proposals will seek to introduce information rights for consumers in transactions for healthcare, social services and gambling, including price information for GP and other medical consultations.


Rights for anyone buying services will be strengthened, and for the first time people will have the right to have a substandard service remedied or refunded
A standard 30-day period in which consumers can return faulty goods and get a full refund will be introduced to replace rules on this time period which are unclear, and those who get goods as gifts will have the same rights as those who bought the goods.


Expiry dates on gift vouchers will be scrapped, consumers who download or stream content will get enhanced protection and unfair contracts are to be outlawed as part of the most sweeping reform of Irish consumer law in decades, to be announced

What’s remarkable is how this stuff is still lagging behind. Richard Bruton’s point about a ‘basic imbalance’ is appalling – this being 2015.

Only one LP TD voting against sale of shares in Aer Lingus? May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Apparently so….

Labour deputy Michael McNamara looks likely to lose the party whip after stating that he will not support the sale of Aer Lingus.

After the UK General Election… May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I’ve been wondering what the left and further left in Britain might make of the election there, and here’s the CPGB/Weekly Worker with their take on it. Some interesting thoughts in there, to put it mildly, not least one very obvious one that left of social democrat challengers in Europe have, with one exception – that being Podemos (and even there there’s some of the orthodox in its DNA), been constructed with at least partially former orthodox Marxist parties as an element of their make-up. Moreover that the British Labour Party for all the obituaries written on its behalf, is unlikely to implode. A most interesting phrase too is the following line about ‘a whale joining a minnow’ in respect of the possibility of Unite disaffiliating from the LP let alone joining Tusc.

What one makes of the rest is quite a different matter.

Greece… and an insight into power relationships May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics.

Here’s an article that caught my eye in the Observer at the weekend. Heather Stewart suggests that given the continuing crisis in relation to Greece and a situation where:

Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s combative prime minister, is facing yet another week of fraught negotiations as he and his team struggle to agree a shopping list of economic reforms stringent enough to appease the country’s creditors, but different enough from the grinding austerity of the past five years to satisfy the Greek electorate.


And all the while, bank deposits will leach out of the country, investment plans will remain on hold and consumers hammered by years of austerity will continue living hand to mouth.

Not mad keen on the word ‘consumers’ there but… the broader sense of the article is I think correct.

She continues:

Change the actors – and the stakes – and it’s a tired plotline familiar to many governments across the world. According to Eurodad, the coalition of civil society groups that campaigns on debt, there have been 600 sovereign debt restructurings since the 1950s – with many governments, including Argentina for example, experiencing one wrenching write-off after another.
Many of these countries plunged deeper into recession as a result of the uncertainty and delay inherent in this bewildering process and the punishing austerity policies inflicted on them, with a resulting collapse in investor and consumer confidence.

And she points to a very very useful contradiction at the heart of the international order.

Yet while the world’s policymakers have expended countless hours since the crisis of 2008 rewriting regulations on bonuses, mortgage lending, derivatives and too-big-to-fail banks, little attention has been paid to what should happen when a government is on the brink of financial meltdown.
Sacha Llorenti, the Bolivian ambassador to the UN, is currently touring the world’s capitals trying to change that. “We’re not just talking about a financial issue; it’s an issue related to growth, to development, to social and economic rights,” he says.

Stewart makes an excellent point as to why the UN, unlikely as it may seem, may be precisely the venue for some movement. She notes that as against the IMF the UN general assembly ‘isn’t dominated by the world’s major powers’. And this translates into interesting political dynamics.

When Argentina tabled a motion calling for the UN to examine the issue of sovereign debt restructuring last autumn, 124 countries voted for it; 11, including the UK and the US, with their powerful financial lobbies, voted against; and there were 41 abstentions.
Llorenti, who is chairing the UN “ad hoc committee” set up as a result of that vote, says the 11 countries that objected hold 45% of the voting power at the IMF. He believes they would prefer the matter to be tackled there, where they can shape the arguments: “It’s a matter of control, really.”

Is this a surprise? No, of course not. But it is a rare insight into just how nakedly the interests of the ‘major powers’ are pursued when it comes down to it.

Moreover what Llorenti and others want isn’t the last word in radicalism, an important aspect in itself in pointing to just how loaded the game is against most of those involved and particularly those who seek alternatives whether within or outside the orthodoxy. The example of Greece itself demonstrates how difficult it is, indeed how close to impossible, to push even mildly back against the dispensation. How one fashions genuinely radical counter-measures is difficult to determine, not – of course, that the effort shouldn’t be made.

The proposals he is pushing – drawn up by the UN’s trade and development arm, Unctad – would create something like a bankruptcy procedure for countries. As a starting point, troubled governments would be given a standstill on repayments – something Tsipras is having to fight tooth and nail for – while talks with creditors take place.

And it’s not as if there’s no recognition that this is necessary – even from some of those who cleave to a non-left position:

At a lively seminar to discuss the proposals in the European parliament earlier this month, Unctad’s Richard Kozul-Wright said: “Bankruptcy rules are a key part of any healthy, democratic, free-market economy.” One MEP after another expressed anger and frustration about the damage inflicted on the Greek people by the eurozone’s botched bailouts.

And meanwhile, as Stewart notes, for Greece there’s no respite, and the hypocrisy and sheer futility of the current process imposed by the EU, ECB and IMF continues apace:

As Syriza MEP Stelios Kouloglou put it in Brussels: “We are pretending this is a sustainable solution, which it is not: it’s getting worse and worse.” Instead of the hated troika of the IMF, European Central Bank and Brussels, he said, “we’re facing another troika, made up of blackmailing, threatening and ultimatums”.

Reasonable chastisement? I thought this was already banned… May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From RTÉ

Minister for Children James Reilly has said officials from his department have started talks with the Department of Justice and Equality on removing the defence of “reasonable chastisement”.

He said child safety is everybody’s responsibility and he would like to see the options available for removing the defence of “reasonable chastisement”, before legislation is considered for a ban on parents smacking children.

The conservative right and the working class. May 28, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. The last week I hovered around Politics.ie checking out broad sentiment. Got to say it was so adrift of the results on the part of some on the socially conservative right that one would perhaps hope some commenters there whose belief in their supposed hot line to the psyche of the Irish people being the last word might think again. Unlikely to happen though.

That said what was very revealing was the way some in that cohort sought to drag the working class into the frame as a touchstone of sensible conservatism. The line was usually that working class areas wouldn’t support the proposals or that TDs didn’t canvass those areas or make statements because they knew that their working class constituents weren’t four square behind the measures.

I also think there’s an echo of this in Breda O’Brien’s article this week where she complained about hypocrisy in relation to certain public services not being funded sufficiently when the marriage equality referendum was going through. As with that the broader interests of the working class get little airing in the generality of discussion from these sources.

And as we’ve seen, the assumption at its heart is rendered absurd by the results. Jane Suiter noted as much in a very useful piece on the respective campaigns of YES and NO in the Irish Times.

The strength of the Yes vote in traditional working class areas was also notable. So what mobilised this vote? A first hunch is that it was a direct appeal from “people like me” asking for support. Yes canvassers were a hugely mixed bunch, young and old, but crucially were local to each area. One campaigner in Simmonscourt on Saturday had knocked on almost every door in his local area of Darndale, for example.

I think a lot of it also came from the following dynamic she notes:

The No posters, on the other hand, engaged in negative campaign tactics, using messages about children that had been found to work in Croatia and Slovenia. In fact it is possible these posters and messages had a negative impact leading to thousands of donations to Yes Equality and a building of resentment in many communities who felt their families were being disrespected.

But in any event the list of constituencies that have large working class populations and that came in as top YES constituencies was notable. Dublin North, Dublin Central, Dublin South Central, Dublin South West, Dublin West, Dublin North West, and on and on. If the working class had any hesitations about what camp it was in it surely didn’t demonstrate them on Friday last. Evidence on a granular level confirms this. It was the leafier older, more wealthy environs which could be more hesitant.

Now let’s note that there can be – shall we say – exaggerated attitudes as regards the working class in other quarters too. Sometimes this is reductive, an argument that the class is only interested in economic issues – despite considerable evidence, and not just from this referendum, to the contrary. Sometimes this can be proscriptive, that the class should only be interested in such issues, and that other issues are a diversion or are only the interest of the middle class. But, that’s a minority flavour on the left.

But what is it that feeds this attitude about the working class on the right? It is the idea that it is a repository of authenticity and legitimacy, that its values are – ironically – meant to be near indistinguishable from the conservative social (and at times economic and political) values held by those making the case. It’s a sort of gross sentimentalisation/projection – an attitude that the working class isn’t radical, isn’t, for want of a better word, open. Or is it a belief that somehow the working class sits aside from modernity, that it is sceptical of such things.

All these things are true in part, as they tend to be about most groups in society, but clearly not true as regards the totality. That’s one outcome from this referendum which is particularly useful to remember.


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