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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Jane Weaver July 22, 2017

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I kind of got this on spec – following a review which suggested it had motorik and folk roots. And indeed it does. Jane Weaver has been toiling away for a while now both in groups (Kill Laura and Misty Dixon) and solo.

It’s great, it’s also kind of odd. It’s certainly not limited by motorik and folk and there’s pop and electronica too. There’s a base of interesting analogue and guitar sounds running through many of the tracks, particularly towards the end of the album. And then there’s the sense that tracks are layered, that there are additional sounds that are used to enhance the overall feel. It’s not sparse and it never overwhelms the melodies but it is genuinely atmospheric.

But there’s also a Hawkwind connection. Weaver on her previous album sampled Dave Brock’s Church of Hawkwind song Star Cannibal (and was herself sampled by Coldplay 😦 ). As she notes this was from Hawkwind’s deeply unloved 80s period, one which she likes. And I tend to agree. The three or four albums from then and after are ones that I’ve never stopped listening to. I’ve thrown that in too.

Great album.

Did You See Butterflies

Slow Motion

The Architect (Live)

The Electric Mountain

The Irish Convention, 1917-1918: A Centenary Symposium July 21, 2017

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25 — 26 JULY 2017
Regent House and Trinity Long Room Hub,
Trinity College Dublin

In the wake of the Easter Rising, Lloyd George summoned a
convention of representative Irishmen to try to solve the ‘Irish
question’. To mark the centenary of the Irish Convention, the
Trinity Centre for Contemporary Irish History will host a two-day
Symposium to examine what the Convention hoped to achieve,
and the reasons why it failed. The Symposium will also address
the Convention’s legacy, particularly in terms of how all-party talks have shaped the recent history of this island.

Our symposium will open in Regent House where the
Convention met, and contributors will include:
Bertie Ahern, John Bruton, Ian d’Alton, David Dickson,
Anne Dolan, Patrick Geoghegan, Michael Laffan,
Martin Mansergh, Conor Morrissey, Eunan O’Halpin,
Patrick Maume, Margaret O’Callaghan, Fionnuala Walsh,
Bernadette Whelan, Padraig Yeates.

Trinity Irish Convention 1917 Programme

Coalition? July 21, 2017

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Pat Leahy in the IT in a roundup of the political year – yeah, the Dáil has shut up shop for two months so therefore the media tends to the view that nothing much is going to happen (though in fairness to Leahy he hangs the article on the hook of that rather than assuming there will be no political activity across the rest of the Summer). For him Varadkar’s accession is the big ticket item but he makes the point that for a man who spent so much energy getting to the top there’s been little or nothing of any vision as to what to do next. I think that’s crucial and it may have wider repercussions.

Meanwhile he argues that SF is slowly inching towards accepting participation in a coalition as the smaller party. Two thoughts on this. Very possibly, and secondly I think if SF lost seats at the next election they might well eschew coalition. The reason being that the capacity to hold seats, particularly in the context of government would be weaker. That said if the economic situation is relatively stable – Brexit excepted, I think they’d go for it. Anyhow, Leahy argues:

If the party goes ahead and formally changes its attitude to coalition – then the question of who forms the next government will be utterly different in the next election than it was in the last one. And when you change the question, you usually get a different answer.
It will present a bigger dilemma, I think, for Micheál Martin than for Leo Varadkar. There is nobody in Varadkar’s party that envisages a government with Sinn Féin; there are quite a few in Martin’s party that would welcome the prospect of a return to power leading a coalition with Sinn Féin.
Even the realistic prospect of that would change the terms of a general election campaign.

The thing is that I cannot see Martin accepting the very idea of a coalition with SF prior to an election. He’d be all too aware that FG would make hay in such a context. But then again how much hay? Has sufficient time passed since cessations and decommissioning and the conflict itself for voters to be willing to wave through such a coalition. And let’s keep in mind while I might think SF would go for it, what of SF as a whole itself?

The real UK pro-EU party… July 21, 2017

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Difficult not to think, looking at the latest polling on members of the British Labour Party that far from the Liberal Democrats being the pro-EU party it is the BLP that neatly fits into that slot. Small wonder too that the LDs didn’t make any hay given that fact at the last election.

For the ESRC in the UK has discovered that:

On Brexit, the survey revealed that their views are fiercely pro-EU, including that:
• 49% of members think there should “definitely” be a vote on the final Brexit deal, with a further 29.4% answering “more yes than no” to the question, and only 8.8% definitely opposing it.
• Two-thirds of members (66%) think Britain should definitely stay in the single market with a further fifth (20.7%) saying “more yes than no” to the question. Only 4.2% of Labour members said they definitely believed Britain should leave the grouping.
• There were similar levels of support on the customs union with 63.1% saying Britain should definitely stay within the group, 22.2% leaning towards the same position, and only 2.4% saying the UK should definitely leave it.

This could only be a surprise to people who have little or no knowledge of the BLP. My own recollection of being a member in the late 1980s in a constituency that was reasonably left wing was a clear pro-EU sentiment. Albeit not uncritical, which accorded very much with my own views.

What is interesting to me, though it again makes sense on reflection, is that clearly the new membership, Momentum inspired etc, is equally if not more pro-EU than those who were in the party a long time. Again, these are often young, though not exclusively so, and active. Why wouldn’t they be pro the positive aspects of EU cooperation – and hopefully critical of the negative aspects.

There’s further aspects to this. As Tim Bale who was involved in the project notes:

Members overwhelmingly wanted to stay in EU and now want to remain inside the single market and customs union, so there is likely to be some discomfort over any ‘have our cake and eat it’ policy from the leadership,” he said.

And there’s a political aspect to this too…

Bale said there would come a point at which Corbyn’s party would be forced to “show its true colours on this – and it can either go with the membership and probably the feeling of most MPs, or it can carry on with what is effectively a hard Brexit”.

This is going to be tricky for the leadership of the party, and no question. Because this goes way beyond the left/right divide. Indeed it’s difficult to discern that divide in this at all. The support is too great to break down into Blairites or legacy Blairites and Corbynites. The latter are as enthusiastic about the EU as the former. More so perhaps and by quite some distance if some of the rhetoric about support for immigration controls on foot of Brexit from the legacy Blairites are to be believed.

I’ve mentioned before that I think the studied ambiguity is no harm at this point though. And Corbyn et al are absolutely correct to pay out the rope to the Tories. This is the Tories disaster and it is for them to deal with it and not for the BLP to try to save them.

That said it is very difficult to see the BLP being able to strike a position in support of a hard Brexit given this sentiment inside the party. Though clearly, and this isn’t unimportant, there’s a degree of realism as to the fact of Brexit and that it will happen.

But then, and this may really pose an issue politically, what of the obvious rational alternatives to EU membership such as EEA/EFTA membership?

Looking for special legal status in/out of the EU July 21, 2017

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Someone in comments on the Guardian a while back wrote that while they were no fan of Brexit one aspect of it was that they knew a lot more about a range of issues and areas of modern life than they used to. And so it is with this here (in the Guardian – natch!) on foot of the suggestion from Marian Harkin MEP that suggestions should be coming not just from the EU or the UK but from this island as to solutions to the border. There’s a heap of micro states, enclaves and so on around Europe. More even than I’d have thought – I was only vaguely aware of one of the enclaves in Italy (and I’d forgotten Monaco itself is an enclave).

The big problem. The overwhelming problem is that the DUP will not accept special status for NI (even though by dint of the political structures already extant the North has functional and legal special status as regards the rest of the UK).

I had to smile that Harkin was…

…citing Vatican City, the Aland Islands in Finland and two tiny communities in Lombardy in Italy that have tailor-made trading arrangements with the EU.

Not sure that first example is one I’d fix on if I was set on convincing the DUP of something.

Overwork… July 20, 2017

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A while ago the Guardian asked readers a range of questions on the following:

Up to three in five parents often work late and end up missing their children’s bedtime, according to a charity’s survey. The charity Working Families’ survey of 2,700 adults revealed parents have been finding it difficult to strike a balance between work and home.


To mark the longest day of the year, the charity is campaigning for parents to take part in Go Home on Time Day, in order to highlight “that going home on time should be the norm, not the exception”.

The answers are not exactly cheering:

Staff reductions with increased workloads make for a permanent sense of job insecurity. As the primary source of family income, covering all expenses, including mortgage and school fees, I feel the pressure to ensure I can continue to support them. I seldom work less than 50 hours a week.


I think a lot of architects are still recovering from the last recession, which left many of us unemployed or out of the industry for several years. So when the whole office is still there at 7pm it is difficult to be the only one leaving on time each day. It has a terrible impact on us. I have a young son and he will only go to bed for me. If I am home late he goes to bed late and is exhausted and upset. My current office is relatively flexible if I come in early but it is limited. The only reason I stay late is because being unemployed again is worse than the stress of working late and having a tired baby.


There is more work to do than the staff can deliver. I know that to keep my manager’s salary I need to continue to deliver the same results so I end up working until 7 or 8pm. I used to take work home to do after the family dinner when the kids are in bed, but as I get older I find it harder to motivate myself back to work once I’ve switched off. Hence I stay later.

I find this very depressing. Presenteeism is a curse. I’ve been in employments where what you do is less important than seeming to be around all the time. And even where I am now which has flexible working hours and the ability to start earlier to finish earlier or start later to finish later there’s the odd comment – because I come in just after 8 am and when I’m leaving which would be consequently earlier than some others – about ‘half-days’ and so on. Granted the comments are infrequent and meant as jokes but…

And let’s be clear – it’s not just workers with children – indeed I have a bit of a problem with this issue being couched in such terms (not least because I had a creature late enough in life and all that is stated here holds true for the years before the creature). It’s workers who don’t have children, or with adult children or whatever. All are equally effected by this dynamic even if it doesn’t seem like it to a cursory analysis. It impinges on lives in ways that are deeply detrimental. And even if sometimes it seems to be only a minor inconvenience or even not a problem at all – where for example there are no significant reasons to be home at a reasonable hour – that too is problematic since it predicates against building up involvement in non-work activities or establishing or sustaining friendships and old or new social connections.

And so often it is about misperception of what a workplace should be. Simply because we spend much of our waking lives in work doesn’t mean that it should be the be all and end all. I work to live, not vice versa. It’s a bonus if where I work and what I do is interesting and engaging.

I’ve mentioned before going to an interview in the 1990s where when they were outlining the job they mentioned that the hours were like those of ‘a bomber crew flying through the night while the infantry have more normal hours’. I couldn’t see the appeal to be honest. Wasn’t quite sure what they were offering – it surely wasn’t money – that would make me, or anyone, want to jump across to them.

It also feeds into other issues. I don’t mind the odd social function in relation to work, but I’m not gone on orienting my social life towards my workplace. Never have been. It’s oddly like family – you can’t choose your family and in many ways you can’t choose who you work with. But a sort of ‘compulsory’ or forced non-work interaction I find hard going. I’m not talking about a cuppa during the week or whatever. That is fine, though presenteeism eats into that too.

Part of the problem is that workplaces are, by dint of necessity, filled with people at different points in their lives or very different outlooks on life. That’s self-evident, but it also has significant ramifications. For the person in their twenties the range of responsibilities may be different to a person in their forties and so on. If you’re in your fifties and have, as many of us do, older relatives who require care in the home or regular visits if not in the home, or anything of that nature, that can have similar impacts.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series July 20, 2017

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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?

Interview with Regina Doherty, Minister for Social Protection July 20, 2017

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…in the current issue of Hot Press – conducted by Jason O’Toole. Some interesting stuff in it too. It covers a lot of ground. Her admiration of Clare Daly, her growing up in Ballymun and how she lived on the same estatet as Bono for a while. Various other matters too.

There was a row when you said you that could see Fine Gael going into coalition with Sinn Féin.

I never said that, right? I did an interview and then the headline is: Shocker Offer From Fine Gael’s Whip! Which was never an offer. I think the question was: would I do business with them? I do business with Sinn Féin every week. I sit on the business committee with Aengus O Snodaigh, who happens to be a decent man.
There are really talented and intelligent people in Sinn Féin. And some of the people are very nice. But what they stand over is not something that I could ever tolerate. So, I can recognise intelligence, I can recognise people being able to speak well and debate well. That doesn’t mean I believe in their ideology. As for coalition – whatever about anybody else in Fine Gael – I can 100% guarantee you that I would not go into coalition with Sinn Féin. I’d resign in a flash, before I’d go into coalition with Sinn Féin.

And she has extremely harsh words for Adams, McDonald and others in SF – and she mentions she is a friend of Maria Cahills.

Martin McGuinness got a lot of plaudits when he passed away. Was he a terrorist?
He became the soft face of the IRA because he was honest. But, actually, he wasn’t honest: he told you a little snippet that allowed him to say that he wasn’t a liar. He was probably one of
the most ruthless people involved in the IRA. Yet people have forgotten that, or maybe have forgiven him because of his instrumental activities involved in bringing about peace. But there’s a fine line of where the forgiveness starts and the
forgetting ends.

She’s in favour of repeal of the 8th but not necessarily of choice. And there’s also mention of the case of the American based blogger and academic cautioned by Garda going through Dublin Airport…

Why not sue the person in question?
Okay, can I tell you off-the-record, Jason? (The Minister gives me a detailed explanation. It would undoubtedly win the Minister a more sympathetic hearing from the media.)

An interesting insight overall into FG thinking on a range of matters. But what of her Ministerial role. Just this.

Have you plans for your new Department?
I’m like a child in a sweetshop because there’s so much I can do and I’m just afraid that I won’t get enough time to do it all. I want to look after carers. I want to look after older people.
And I don’t just mean giving you a fiver – that’s easy stuff. I want to change policy so that we encourage people to start saving for their own pensions.
I want to look at the education we give people through activation courses – to give people real valuable education and training skills, so that they can actually get jobs. Look at the people who are in real disadvantage to find out why people are long-term unemployed and see what we can do to shake that up and help them.
But there’s so much to do. It’s an enormous department. And I’m enjoying it. And it’s cool.

That tells us something too.

The GFA/BA and Brexit? July 20, 2017

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Hey, wasn’t Newton Emerson dismissing the idea that EU or Brexit had any significant part to play in relation to devolution and in particular the GFA/BA? Why, yes, yes he was.

Leaving the EU cannot affect one word of the Agreement, as unanimously ruled by the UK Supreme Court five months ago, upholding a judicial review in Belfast last year.


If you are going to specify the importance of the Agreement as a legal document, you should give some weight to the fact that no judge can find Brexit has any bearing on it.

And even this very day he takes Simon Coveney to task for his comments on the impossibility of a technical ‘fix’ solving the issue of border controls… and his ‘doom-laden’ language.

But hey, doom laden language, what about this from the formerly highest ranking Catholic officer in the PSNI and more recently CEO of Co-operation Ireland…

Sheridan also has a concern about Brexit and how that unknown will affect community relations. He recently showed the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, around the Border.
“I said to Barnier: ‘Do you see the Border there?’ And he said no. ‘That’s the idea,’ I said. ‘We want to keep it like that.’”
Sheridan provided Barnier with a snappy back-to-the-future version of the dangers of a hard Border, and how dissident republicans would see it as an opportunity to be seized. He said to him: “If you think it’s just a question of putting up customs posts then you will have made a mistake. If there are shots fired at customs posts then police will be required to protect customs officers. And if shots are fired at the police then the army might be required to protect police officers. Then if they shoot at the army you will need to build watchtowers and permanent checkpoints and close Border roads.” Sheridan reckons Barnier got the picture.

But what would he know?

Or what of the House of Lords EU Affairs Committee which this week has noted that:

“It . . . appears that the Brexit debate has undermined political stability and exacerbated cross-community divisions, contributing to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and the calling of an early Assembly election. At the time of writing, the powersharing institutions have yet to be restored,”


“The supremacy of that EU law, and its interpretation by the Court of Justice of the EU, have helped to hold the UK together and maintain the integrity of its internal market. Brexit thus presents fundamental constitutional challenges to the United Kingdom as a whole,”


Chaos and stasis in UK politics… July 20, 2017

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Another snippet from Andrew Rawnsley in the Guardian that is worth considering…

We do live in incredibly volatile times; public opinion can be extraordinarily fickle. Ask Jeremy Corbyn. Not so long ago, the Labour leader was plumbing record depths for unpopularity; now, senior Tories tell me that Mr Corbyn would become prime minister if there was an election tomorrow.

I worry about this, not because I don’t want him as PM – I obviously do, as do we all, want him as PM. This decade with a coalition government, the two largest parties vying for vote share, a Tory/DUP agreement, is all very very reminiscent of the 1970s (granted there was no coalition, but not difficult to see how it might have happened). And instability is… well… unstable.

Corbyn is, I’d think, best served by May holding on. That said, and Rawnsley makes this point, there’s no viable popular candidate to take over. I may be wrong, I often am in regard to this sort of stuff, but Johnson seems to me to have lost enormous political capital before and since Brexit. Davis? Hammond? To ask is almost to answer the questions. And while Davidson is perhaps the most feasible contender what would it take to deliver her to Westminster? Something so overtly political that it’s probably not feasible.

Can May recover? Rawnsley appears sceptical. I don’t think she can. So… stasis politically for the foreseeable, at least superficially, though beneath the surface everything is in churn, as well as the looming jump from the cliff of Brexit but a volatile mood in the electorate. Is that good for the BLP?

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