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Legislation on outdoor drinking May 17, 2022

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In the greater scheme of things this probably isn’t hugely important, the news that the Cabinet has approved the NMH is considerably more so – but that feels like it was inevitable and it will be useful to see what pushback is possible from here on out, but was struck by the news this morning that:

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will today seek Cabinet approval to extend the operation of outdoor seating areas for pubs and restaurants as the hospitality industry enters the summer season.

Minister McEntee will ask her Government colleagues to agree to a six-month extension to the legislation, which permits the sale and consumption of alcohol in outdoor seating areas.

The law is due to lapse on 31 May but the minister will seek an extension until the end of November.

And:

The legislation was first introduced to assist the hospitality sector during the Covid pandemic.

However, Minister McEntee believes that extending its provisions will support the industry as it continues to recover from the pandemic.

I was in Dublin City centre last week on the Monday night and happened to drop in to a large usually tourist filled pub about 10.30pm. There was a session upstairs from which perhaps twelve people emerged, all tourists. Downstairs in the various sections of which there were many there was no-one. Not one person sitting over a pint. Now, it was a Monday, but pre-pandemic even on a Monday at that time, for I’d have been in there every few months, it would be far from empty. I was asking the bar woman did it fill up during the week. She said it did, but later in the week. Clearly people are coming in to pubs, but not in such numbers and towards the weekend. There are no doubt examples of pubs that buck this trend, those catering to certain demographics, who will be busy throughout the week. But the entirety of the pub trade doesn’t depend upon them solely.

Talking to a neighbour who was in pub close to East Wall late last week which was quiet he said the bar staff there told him that a whole tranche of customers – those who would be in there night after night had simply done the math – realising they’d save thousands by drinking at home. So that’s another factor. 

And just generally, as retail seems depressed and still well below 2019 figures there’s the issue of the pandemic. People have got out of the habit of going into pubs, crowded pubs are…well… crowded and another friend who would be far from cautious about such matters who was in the city centre a weekend or two back expressed uncharacteristic concern about the numbers they saw in some establishments they were in. 

All that said it’s been long evident that alcohol consumption has been declining in terms of bars. The pub this site is part named over – a nice suburban pub in the middle of Raheny, was much quieter in the last twenty years than in the previous twenty years. The change was very visible in terms of numbers and, as I recall, the effective closure of the large upstairs bar. So it is also fair to say that the pandemic has likely accelerated a long embedded dynamic. 

But I wonder is this extension precisely because the new normal isn’t the same as the old normal for some and while politicians and business commentators in the newspapers and on radio can argue all is well a fair few people are still leery about going out, or going indoors. Of course for some there’s no issue at all, they’re partying like its 2019. But businesses want to expand their business so small wonder they’d be keen to use every tool at their disposal. Just don’t mention the pandemic. 

 

That latest ST/B&A weekend poll May 17, 2022

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Sinn Féin at 36%. As The Sunday Times notes:

Support for Sinn Fein in the Republic has risen four points to 36 per cent in the wake of last week’s assembly elections, where it became the largest political party in Northern Ireland, according to a Behaviour & Attitudes poll for The Sunday Times.

It’s early days but not sure the dog in a manger approach of FG and FF to the result in the Assembly is getting traction if this poll is to be believed. And, naturally, SF doing well in the North in that context is likely, though not inevitably so, to have ramifications in the southern polity. 

The figures are:

SF: 36% +4
FF: 24% +1
FG: 19% -5
LAB: 5% NC
GP: 2% -2
PBP/S: 2% +1
SD: 2% NC
AON: 1%

IND/Others 9%

It’s not entirely in line with other polls – as can be seen from here where Fine Gael has been a touch ahead of Fianna Fáil. Nor are the parties such as Labour etc polling quite such low numbers in other polls. Independents/Others are down too a bit. But, look, it’s indicative though not as useful – to my mind, as the more frequent polls from the SBP/RedC, etc.

I see some chatter on social media about how a certain legal issue for the Tánaiste may be part of the reason for FG’s less robust numbers. Perhaps. Or perhaps Martin as Taoiseach is doing okay for much of the public, or… who knows.

And SF on 36%? That’s interesting territory for that party.

‘Reforming’ the GFA/BA May 17, 2022

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Mentioned in the Sunday Statement post, but worth a look on its own terms, was a piece by Dan O’Brien in the SBP at the weekend. It’s an odd one. There’s some good points in there, albeit couched in the usual acid approach. So for example he at least recognises a certain truth in the following:

despite quite a bit of barely numerate comment over the past week, there should be no doubt that the North’s centre ground has collapsed. Even accounting for the Alliance’s 14 per cent of the vote in the assembly election 10 days ago, the long-term decline of the SDLP and Ulster Unionist Party meant those three centrist parties got just one third of first preferences.

Even if one quibbled with some of the above he is correct that the great ‘centrist’ dawn is over-egged in much of the media reporting. But he then continues:

By contrast, well over half of voters, 58 per cent, gave their number ones to Sinn Féin, the DUP or Traditional Unionist Voice, the most tribal parties and ones that, by any European standard, are on the extremes. If that outcome is considered a success for reconciliation and the bringing of the communities together, one has to wonder what failure would look like.

Tribal? On the extremes? I think that with respect to Sinn Féin that’s overdone. Is Sinn Féin more extreme, say economically or socially, than many parties of a left social democrat persuasion in Europe? More so than Podemos who manage to get along in government in Spain? Seems implausible. Many of us would argue that while left-wing in the context of a party that is now the most popular in polling it is hardly extreme in its programme. And as for tribal, that’s a strong term to use.

How is Sinn Féin’s aspiration to a united Ireland more tribal than, say, Fianna Fáil as was until recently, or Fine Gael’s leader who has spoken in glowingly positive terms of such an outcome.  The TUV might fairly be considered to be extreme. But the DUP in broad terms is a socially and economically conservative party. Hardly unknown on this island. Extreme? Extreme enough but not particularly for those reasons. As noted before in the last number of days, it is not the DUP’s unionism which is extreme so much as the manner in which it goes about supporting it.

But there’s another even more intriguing aspect to his thesis that requires consideration because for him the votes going to the DUP or SF are signifiers of failure or at least a lack of success of the GFA/BA, whereas one could make a contrary case that the very fact there are elections to an Assembly, one which Sinn Féin is a central part of and aspires to be the largest party within surely speaks of success, that the political institutions and processes are still regarded as legitimate to a greater than a lesser degree. Granted with the TUV that’s not at all clear, and with the DUP there’s so much ducking and diving that one would have to wonder where it would land. But even that latter party participates, seeks the First Minister position and assures one and all that it is keen to return to the Executive as soon as possible.

And here I think is where O’Brien’s waspish analysis is so incorrect.

The GFA/BA was never about buttressing the centre as goal so much as about enabling Unionists and Nationalists and Republicans to share power and work together. It didn’t seek as an overt or covert goal to transform any of those into centrists. Quite the opposite, it was entirely comfortable with them retaining their beliefs and aspirations as long as they were willing to work within the framework of the GFA/BA. Arguably, it is not merely entirely comfortable but functionally serves to offer a way for Nationalism and Republicanism to bring Northern Ireland out of the Union given in its very processes it reifies departure from the Union with no means to return to it. Granted, one has to get to that point of a Nationalist and Republican majority for that outcome to become tangible but that’s far from inconceivable in the next quarter century.

Reconciliation was in spite of respective political/national identity, not due to that identity changing into some sort of blended one or into centrism. This can be considered an institutionalisation of political/national identity, but the more sceptical and cynical (as well as pragmatic) reading might be that given those political/national identities long predate the GFA/BA and arguably by centuries it would be almost perverse to expect that twenty four years would see them change materially, if at all.

The very fact that there’s been a cohering of ‘other’ (to an extent, and how substantively remains to be seen) around Alliance, even if that has been partly at the expense of the SDLP and UUP (and before we shed bitter tears over the latter and the way in which its supposed ‘centrism’ is now depleted might be worth O’Brien looking up some of the comments of a recent enough former leader and pondering how that centrism is expressed), might be considered a remarkable enough phenomenon.

So when one reads O’Brien seriously write the following:

None of this is to suggest that the Good Friday Agreement is bad. It is merely to highlight how little detached analysis there is of what it has and has not achieved.

One might reasonably ask what he thinks the GFA/BA is and is not.

Pat Rabbitte in the same paper had a not entirely dissimilar analysis, though he made an interesting point in the following:

Sinn Féin ran a very shrewd low-key Northern Assembly election campaign that focused, for a change, primarily on bread and butter issues. After the election, the triumphalism that the party had displayed after other recent elections was largely absent. Yes, Mary Lou McDonald, the party’s overall leader, gave the quest for a border poll a half-hearted mention on a visit to the count centre in Belfast, but perhaps she had to do that for the heartland.

But he too slumps into the rather lethargic trope of the centre ground:

So all is changed, then? Well, not really. The dreary steeples have not receded and what is surprising is how little has changed. To have produced the prospect of a nationalist leader for the first time in 100 years is, certainly, a monumental symbolic change, while the stellar performance of the middle-ground Alliance Party is an overdue reward for years of sensible and tenacious campaigning.

However, the centre ground remains a prisoner of polarised politics. The respective strengths of Sinn Féin and the DUP is little altered, the latter surrendering some of its vote to Traditional Unionist Voice, the more extreme organisation which Bertie Ahern (perhaps intentionally) referred to as the TUP.

And:

The rival steeples are still standing and the old political landscape is still recognisable. A new and consciously more progressive leadership of traditional unionism was not reflected in the performance of the UUP. The honourable record of the SDLP and its role as an author of the Good Friday agreement did not spare it losses, as more nationalist voters responded to DUP provocation and voted for a nationalist first minister.

Both the UUP and the SDLP lost votes to the Alliance which, taken with the defeat of the Greens, does not enhance the clout of the centre. The reality remains that it is only with the willing participation of the two big parties that evolution in politics in Northern Ireland becomes possible.

But even that seems an odd enough analysis. For example, it has been Alliance, SDLP, the GP (now departed from Stormont) and… Sinn Féin, who have been working together over Brexit. Is that not a centre ground of sorts? Is that not the very manifestation of working together that the likes of Rabbitte and O’Brien apparently want? 

 

A new communist group May 16, 2022

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Anyone know anything about a new group: Party for Communism & Liberation (PCL Ireland)? They’ve stickers and posters up and a website https://www.pclireland.org/

Are they linked to the CYM split in the CPI?

‘You co-wrote it, you better own it’… May 16, 2022

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is the thought that strikes one reading David Frost’s recent column on the Northern Ireland Protocol. There’s something unbelievably unseemly about an individual who was at the heart of negotiating the Protocol so visibly abandoning it and almost gleefully taking about the chaos that would ensue on foot of same.

In a provocative newspaper column, he said the UK “cannot be defeated” by Brussels and needed to “make sure it is ready” for the consequences of a unilateral move to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

The foreign secretary, Liz Truss, is expected to announce plans for legislation next week to disapply some of the protocol in a risky move that could result in sanctions or even the suspension of the trade deal that Lord Frost negotiated in December 2020.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph about the potential move, Frost said: “We may, of course, face EU retaliation, although it would be disproportionate to the trade involved, only arguably legal and entirely self-defeating. I am not convinced every EU member’s heart would be in it either. Logic may yet prevail. But if it does happen, it will complicate things, but we should not fear it.”

Given the centrality of the Clinton administration to the GFA/BA that betrays not merely a remarkable lack of understanding of the processes involved but also a misunderstanding of the power relationships involved. As the Guardian notes, a delegation of US Congress representatives is flying to London on foot of the rising tensions over the Protocol and concern in Washington about that.

So how have Frost’s words gone down in the latter capital.? 

The IT’s Martin Wall had this take on matters:

Frost who told the Heritage Foundation event on Thursday that talks had effectively reached the end of the road with the EU and now the UK government had to act.

He contended the Biden the administration did not fully grasp Northern Ireland and the impact of the protocol.

He suggested that American politicians should stay out of Britain’s affairs in relation to Northern Ireland.

“I am not convinced the niceties of Northern Ireland are well understood. I get slightly frustrated when we are told by a third party – albeit a very important one in this context – how to manage these issues. It is our country that had to face terrorism, so we don’t need lectures from others about the peace process and the Good Friday agreement.”

The comments did not go down well on Capitol Hill or in Irish America.

One political figure said Frost was a private citizen and could say what he liked. However, if his views were reflected in the attitude of the British government then they would be well to remember that sovereignty worked both ways and any British proposals for a trade deal would be “dead on arrival”.

And:

Frost’s comments emerged ahead of a meeting between Burns and a group of academics, former diplomats, Irish American organisations and others who had been involved in Irish/American issues down the years.

Sources familiar with the meeting said there had been anger among a number present at Frost’s attitude towards Biden.

Sources said the British side appeared surprised at the level of knowledge in Washington about the workings of the protocol. Some maintained the British arguments were “unconvincing” and believed the whole issue was based around political power plays under way within Westminster rather than in Northern Ireland.

The Irish side were also out and about in Washington on the protocol issue in recent days.

And perhaps the British won’t find Washington to be quite as receptive to their line as they might imagine:

On Friday, congressman Keating, who had co-authored the letter to Truss, said any unilateral move by the British to override the protocol would not go down well on Capitol Hill.

“My view is the EU has been negotiating, there have been concessions and a willingness to come to a resolution,” he said.

“I do believe the solution is within our reach and I desperately want [the British] to go back and negotiate in earnest.”

He said the British were the friends and allies of America and it was unfortunate to see the protocol issue playing out in this way.

“We have our own problems in the US. But this one we are part of. And we feel very strongly.”

Indeed they do. That Frost could believe his comments would fly well tells us something about the level of delusion in London, even if he is semi-detached from the government there (though one presumes he would have had at least some regard to representing their interests). But then this generation of Tories has demonstrated that it believes that rhetoric is a substitute for reality – and yet time and again has had to bow to that reality.

And Europe, and the EU, has become a football which the British government and its proxies can kick around as they see fit seemingly oblivious to the consequences or the actual power dynamics. Take the following asinine contribution.

What’s most grating beyond the immaturity of that statement about ‘feeling bad’ is the ignorance, well actually basic stupidity, displayed by these individuals. There’s no nuance, no depth to their analysis, just clumsy counter-product self-damaging rhetoric. This is the best of Britain in the contemporary era? Pity the nation.

Left Archive: Socialist Worker, Socialist Workers Party, No 354, November 24 – December 7, 2012 May 16, 2022

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Please click here to go the Left Archive.

To view a more complete archive at Socialist Worker Issues please go to here.

This edition of Socialist Worker joins others in the Archive and is the first from the 2010s. As is well known Socialist Worker is the newspaper of the Socialist Workers’ Party, formerly the Socialist Workers’ Movement. This edition dates from a time of very great political activity. The front page headline calls for a Boycott of the Property tax and a 24 Hour General Strike. There are pieces on the death of Savita Halappanavar who was denied an abortion.

Another piece examines the role of the Labour Party and argues that it ‘strangles union resistance’. There is a Briefing Document on an Alternative Budget from Richard Boyd Barrett. And other pieces look at the track record of the Obama administration in the US, austerity budgets in Greece and the plight of Gaza.

More songs for Europe May 15, 2022

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Caught the last half of the Eurovision final on Saturday night. It never changes, it never stays the same. I’ve no particular hostility to it, more a bemusement at the whole thing. This is even though way back in 2008 I wrote on this site that although I can’t stand much/all of the music, I came away sorry that I hadn’t seen the whole thing (Eurovision and camp…). And that still held true fourteen years later.

Marty Whelan on RTÉ sounded in better health than he had last year (Songs for Europe). I decided to avoid most of the voting and felt all the better for it. I don’t need to be stressed out over the placing of songs that I won’t remember tomorrow, or come to think of it today. 

If you’d asked me hand on heart to say what song I least disliked it would probably be Norway’s which was no great shakes. If you asked me which I most disliked it would probably be the affably sung one from Britain which seemed to reference no end of other songs – Bowie and Babylon Zoo in there in the mix. Bar the strange electro-pop and sub-metal efforts or odd tilts at folk every year now seems to throw up (and just on that, Serbia?), I have a real dislike for stuff which is rock or glam or whatever lite which the British song seemed to typify entirely. Eurovision seems to be really about the grand gestures or the odd bit of a pop sensibility. Anything in between seems destined to fail. 

No great surprise then that Britain came in second to Ukraine. No great surprise Ukraine came in first. It was a spectacle.

Maybe next year a live thread would be entertaining because I have to admit there was some entertainment value in the whole thing.

Fortnightly Culture Thread May 15, 2022 May 15, 2022

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gregtimo proposed in comments recently the idea of a Culture Thread.
It’s a great idea. Currently culture is a bit strange, but people read, listen to music, watch television and film and so on – spread the net wide, sports, activities, interests, all relevant – and any pointers are always welcome. And it’s not just those areas but many more. Suggestions as to new or old things, events that might have been missed, literally anything.

Sunday and other stupid media statements of this week May 15, 2022

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Starting with this from the IT during the week, an embarrassment of riches in the linked article, but none more so than the following.

No one is more derided in right-on political discussion than the centrist. But that’s where Alliance has always planted its yellow flag: the boring, non-sectarian middle ground. Instead of a divided, fragile Executive held to ransom by one party or another exploiting division, it wants a devolved government formed by willing partners rather than a mandatory coalition as laid down in the Belfast Agreement.

The sheer normality of Long’s ambition in 2022 is almost touching. For those arguing that it would be incompatible with the agreement, Newton Emerson even suggests a “voluntary-mandatory” coalition, ie the two largest parties are entitled to places but not required to take them. What are the chances?

As someone BTL in comments on the piece asked, what does the author think the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement was about, what does she think is the nature of the polity in Northern Ireland? 

Mark Paul is at it again in the IT:

Catherine Martin, the Green Party’s deputy leader and the Minister for Tourism, has proven to be a capable advocate for the sector at the Cabinet table during the pandemic. She demanded buckets of cash and Donohoe had no option but to give it to her, especially as the tourism sector was being so cruelly sacrificed for the good of the State in the fight against coronavirus.

For the good of the State? Capital ‘S’? Surely he means for the good of the citizens of this state? 

Speaking of the song remaining the same, from yesterday there’s this:

If you had asked a year ago would Micheál Martin see out his term as Taoiseach, it was at best a 50:50 bet.

So loathed was he within his own party over the poor start to this government, his overly cautious handling of Covid-19 and poor opinion polls, talk of a heave had elevated beyond mutterings over pints or cups of coffee.

Earlier in the week there’s this:

 All of a sudden, it seems, Ireland wields outsized influence on the international stage. And its soft power – long extant – has morphed into something of a marvel… The shift also emerges from the central role Ireland took in the Brexit negotiations. And that is something not just thanks to the unfortunate facts of geography that thrust the Border into the epicentre of events, but also the product of a clever and well-oiled diplomatic mission.

No disrespect to the diplomatic mission, but surely it is almost entirely about the ‘unfortunate facts of geography’. Which is why we don’t hear much about Belgium or the Czech Republic taking a central role in Brexit negotiations.

Finally, in a week where no end of commentators have been talking about the need to ‘amend’ the GFA/BA (as with this example) we have the following in the SBP today:

But the agreement has never lived up to expectations; although even saying that has come to be viewed as almost heretical. One reason is because the agreement is so often wrongly conflated with the much wider peace process. In fact, the agreement was the political outworking of a peace process, not the process itself. It is an institutional framework that can and should be tweaked or changed if it is not working, as happened in 2006 with the St Andrews Agreement, for instance.

Any other examples?

Cashless society May 14, 2022

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Was in at the demo about the National Maternity Hospital outside the Dáil today. Decent-sized crowd but not massive or indeed a crowd of a size that would have the Government worried.

Whilst there I came upon one of the issues caused by the “cashless society” –
left-wing activists having to give their papers away as nobody had spare change for a ‘donation’!

Was funny as I was witnessing it happening around the place, I then heard a few people from a particular organisation chatting about it!

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