jump to navigation

The UUP’s latest recruit… July 29, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
add a comment

…Ian Marshall, former Ulster Farmer’s Union president, former Unionist Senator and now UUP member is a most interesting character. And he talks solid good sense in the IT this week when he notes one basic reality and makes an appeal for another quite intriguing proposition.

That basic reality?

On the protocol, Mr Marshall said it was time to get past all the “errors of judgment” that had been made in the Brexit negotiations.“We are where we are. We have a protocol that is here to stay,” he said.

While the “hard facts on the ground” are it is causing disruption and cost to some businesses – “for some it is minimal and small, for some more serious and it could be a threat to the business” – he said there are also undoubted advantages.

“There can be opportunities here for business and trade. It goes back to the pre-Brexit situation when we had all this access before, but we forfeited that.

And while he seeks some amendments or modifications they do not appear to be beyond the bounds of possibility. Indeed even the way he phrases matters is useful in terms of pointing to tensions needing to be addressed ‘whether it is reality or perception’. 

He also suggests that:

…the Oireachtas Committee on the implementation of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement to sit some of the time in Belfast to bring unionists on board.

“It is a committee that sits in Dublin, it never sits in Belfast,” he said. “There is maybe a degree of sensitivities here, that here is a committee that maybe should meet in Belfast as well as Dublin.

“Because then unionists can be encouraged, maybe in a light-touch way, to engage in a softly, softly approach, sitting down together, to be seen to be more inclusive.”

One presumes it is precisely because of such sensitivities. But, the idea is a sound one, even – perhaps particularly, as Marshall frames it within a more nuts and bolts approach to the GFA/BA and one where Unionism must ‘take ownership’ of the Agreement – but also work it through “trade, business, infrastructure, tourism, education and the health service”.

And he’s spot on about saying that it was a ‘missed opportunity’ for FF in not renominating for the Seanad. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the Seanad, and that process is problematic in the extreme, but in the context of the crying need to have more voices there from across the island that’s a waste. 

Just on the Protocol interesting how that report from the cross-bench House of Lords Committee was released this week. Even more interesting is that it doesn’t seek the removal of the Protocol, but rather like Marshall, wishes modifications of it. It attempts to apportion blame fairly equally, but anyone listening to Morning Ireland this morning when Michael Jay, the chair of the Committee appeared will have noted that he stated the Command Paper delivered by the UK government this last week or so ‘went further’ than the Committee was recommending or presumably thought feasible. 

“[Bringing] back the legacy of fear and suspicion that has lain between our two peoples…” July 29, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
add a comment

A quick question… who wrote the following recently?

At the end of the article, the two ministers say that, if solutions are not found (although they do not offer any), “we will of course have to consider all our options”. In diplomatic terms, for British ministers to use such words, in an Irish newspaper, is menacing.

A large non-EU state is threatening a small EU state, with whom it has a land boundary, with unspecified actions, because of the out working of an international Treaty, to which the larger state freely agreed, less than two years ago.

Why none other than… er… John Bruton. 

He’s not wrong. 

But what a change from his comments to Prince Charles in 1995 where with quite some hyperbole he stated:

Your courage your innovation and your initiative in coming here has done more in symbolic and psychological terms to sweep away the legacy of fear and suspicion that has lain between our two peoples that any other event in my lifetime.

Government appointments: the buck apparently stops somewhere else… July 29, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
5 comments

There’s a lot to unpack in the appointment of former Minister Katherine Zappone as special envoy for freedom of expression. For example, there’s the problem with who knew what when. The Taoiseach wasn’t told by his Tánaiste or Minister for Foreign Affairs (both of whom had served with Zappone in government) about the appointment prior to it being brought to Cabinet. There’s the fact she herself according to RTÉ offered herself for the position. There’s the question as to what procedures were put in place in respect of the position and potential candidates.

The Tánaiste’s comments in the following do not inspire confidence on many different levels:

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Varadkar said it is “nonsense” to suggest that her appointment amounted to “cronyism” and that it is “not a plum well-paid position”.

Whether a position is well-paid or not is not the issue – and nor does it have any bearing on whether such appointments are cronyism or not. Nor is the point whether an individual is well qualified or not for the position. The key point is that processes in any context such as these are open, transparent and that there is democratic oversight. 

Martin is, many would think, being far far too generous in the following with respect to those who oversaw the appointment:

Micheál Martin told reporters today: “In relation to the appointment of Katherine Zappone, Minister Coveney has accepted it was an oversight in terms of procedures, he brought the appointment to Cabinet.”

The Taoiseach added: “We move on now – it is an issue you have to keep in perspective.”

And as for the following being an example of responsibility taken – unfortunately not so much.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he or his advisors or Minister Coveney should have informed the Taoiseach ahead of her appointment being brought to Cabinet for approval yesterday.

He said: “The procedure would normally be that – at the advisors’ meeting – the names are flagged and in this case they were not.

“In terms of a belt-and-braces approach, the line minister or me as party leader would have flagged it to the other party leaders or to the Taoiseach and it didn’t happen and it should have happened and we accept responsibility.”

So what should have happened? Daniel McConnell in the Examiner notes:

 

what normally happens is that the names of those being proposed are shared at advisor level, and Mr Martin should have been informed of the proposed name by Mr Varadkar at their leaders’ meeting on Monday.

While the Cabinet memorandum did include mention of the position of special envoy on freedom of expression, what it did not include was Ms Zappone’s name.

According to McConnell some in FF aren’t well pleased with Martin’s response, particularly after the Woulfe debacle last year. The feeling is that he should either have owned it or pushed back hard against the appointment. But if FF isn’t exactly happy about this interestingly some in FG…

A succession of TDs, senators, and councillors have made it known as to their deep unhappiness at the appointment.

Many see Ms Zappone as playing a role in the demise of Enda Kenny, and to see her elevated to a paid position, on the appearance of simply asking for the role, is causing a considerable amount of angst internally.

And:

The bottom line is that Fine Gael, for the second time, have rammed an appointment through in an unseemly fashion, and while they have rejected accusations of cronyism, it is hard to escape that conclusion.

What is striking is that this was happened at all. No-one in this can be entirely happy with the outcome. Everyone involved comes away looking less good. So where and for whom is there a win? Or is the assumption that like Woulfe, a year will pass and all will be forgotten and forgiven? 

He said what suited him, they heard what they wanted to hear July 28, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
12 comments

Alex Kane in the IT has an excellent piece that really nails the problem regarding Boris Johnson and the Northern Ireland Protocol with regard to the DUP. He notes that:

Party-political unionism (the DUP, UUP, TUV and a few fringe parties), along with elements of older and younger loyalism, and the Orange Order, insist – for now – they are not willing to pay the price. Their fear is that accepting what would be, to all intents and purposes, a changed relationship with the rest of the UK would make it much harder to insist that Northern Ireland remains an integral part of the UK. And that, in turn, could raise problems in the event of a Border poll (which seems likely within the next decade or so).

All that is true to an extent, but this was – to repeat once more, a direct outcome from a Brexit that the DUP, TUV and a few fringe parties, sought. That the changed relationship with the rest of the UK is not as they expected when they supported it is hardly here or there. Something was going to change should Brexit come to pass. And it did come to pass. 

Once upon a time there was the Backstop. Political unionism loathed this, and were more than happy when one T. May was ejected from the position of PM and Johnson took over.

But then, Johnson, compounded this as Kane notes:

But his deal, which took Britain out of the EU, while leaving Northern Ireland partly within it, was much worse than May’s backstop, which planned to keep the entire UK in the customs union and much of the single market. The Northern Ireland protocol resulted in the North being treated very differently from the rest of the UK and placed in a position not dissimilar to that of a semi-colonial constitutional granny flat.

And it’s not as if Johnson was not and is not up to speed on all this:

Johnson is aware of the problem the protocol presents for unionism, not least it is seen as another massive betrayal by a UK government. He is aware of it because the DUP was telling him about it every day between July 2017 and December 2019, when it was propping up the Conservatives in government. Yet he was willing to attend its annual conference and not tell the truth to them. Willing to attend an event hosted by the party at the Conservatives’ own conference in 2019 – and not tell the truth to them. Willing to attend a general election event in Belfast in December 2019 – and again not tell them the truth.

 

It’s a compelling indictment of Johnson on so many levels. But the problem for unionism is, of course, that Johnson doesn’t answer to the DUP or the UUP or those other worthy representatives of political unionism. Indeed he doesn’t care about them at all. Kane rightly points to the fact that Johnson doesn’t need, or care, about votes or representatives in the North. And so:

 So, the chances of him bringing down his entire “getting Brexit done” withdrawal agreement to help Northern Ireland unionists seem remote. And unionists know it.

Moreover as Kane continues Johnson knows that for all the stuff about those set against the Protocol, and that may vary, there’s a solid other bloc, seemingly a majority or near enough, who are in favour of it, and perhaps more. Indeed Kane goes further and notes that it’s not at all clear that the majority of unionists are not in favour of the Protocol. And those being the case then there’s no appetite to pull down Stormont, let alone put the current numbers in the Assembly at risk. 

So Kane points to one factor that might influence Johnson: “

The only thing that might give Johnson cause for concern is the possibility of the recent, mostly low-key, protests from a section of loyalism tipping into violence.

But quoting accounts from the Anglo-Irish Agreement (and as it happens I’m a bit of a fan of the AIA because it was the agreement that – as it were – forced the UK to actually concede that NI, whatever else, was not as British as Finchley and that an input from the ROI was absolutely necessary – that was to have ramifications further down the line. Sovereignty after all is either absolute or it isn’t, and of course it isn’t absolute and once the latter is demonstrated, well then it becomes easier to modify it again and so on). And what was the intelligence and security forces assessment at the time of the AIA? That unionism as a whole wasn’t going to fight to the last over a small number of ROI civil servants at Maryfield. 

Yet there was a short burst of unionist and loyalist agitation against the AIA – including the RUC getting a very torrid time of it for a while and then… it dissipated. As Kane notes, no doubt there’s been assessments made about the response to the Protocol. And presumably Johnson feels reasonably sanguine that throwing shapes but doing nothing overly substantive to same will win the day. And he is likely correct in that assessment. But Kane has a deeper point to make. Even if Johnson is wrong:

Johnson hopes for the former but may have to deal with the latter. What he does then is anyone’s guess. Either way, he is the worst possible ally unionism could have right now.

Podcast – The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association July 28, 2021

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
add a comment

The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association "The Others" The Alan Kinsella Podcast

The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association fielded five candidates in the 1955 Local Elections in Carlow. They were mainly concerned with the issues of Farm Labourers and Cottage Tenants.
  1. The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association
  2. National Action -Episode 57
  3. The Socialist Labour Party -Episode 56
  4. Archive — TV Candidates from Billy Kirwin in 1977 to Tom Gildea in 1997
  5. Independent (Anti-Coalition) Labour candidates in the 1977 General Election

Podcast – The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association July 28, 2021

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association "The Others" The Alan Kinsella Podcast

The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association fielded five candidates in the 1955 Local Elections in Carlow. They were mainly concerned with the issues of Farm Labourers and Cottage Tenants.
  1. The Carlow Cottage Tenants Association
  2. National Action -Episode 57
  3. The Socialist Labour Party -Episode 56
  4. Archive — TV Candidates from Billy Kirwin in 1977 to Tom Gildea in 1997
  5. Independent (Anti-Coalition) Labour candidates in the 1977 General Election

What you want to say – 28th July 2021 July 28, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
10 comments

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

Europe and Britain July 27, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Telling to see this in the Guardian recently.

A proposed new law that could impose time and noise limits on protests in England and Wales would seriously harm freedom of expression and should be rejected by parliamentarians, Europe’s human rights commissioner has said.

Dunja Mijatović of the Council of Europe made her concerns clear in a letter to MPs and peers as the former prepare to debate the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill on Monday.

No doubt the blood of some Brexit proponents was boiling. But hold on… as the Guardian notes:

The Council of Europe is not an EU institution and the UK remains a member.

 

The PDs July 27, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
14 comments

A strange piece by Stephen Collins in the IT just before the weekend where he suggested (and this was noted in the Sunday Stupid statement slot as well) that:

The PDs remained a significant policy force for almost a quarter of a century and could claim a number of important achievements on social and economic policy during the party’s four terms in coalition. Ultimately, though, it was the party’s stance on the North that defined its identity and after the Belfast Agreement its primary objective had been realised.

But one only has to go to the PDs own website from the 2000s to see that the party’s stance on the North had little or nothing to do with defining its identity. This from the Wayback Machine is striking:

About the Progressive Democrats

The Progressive Democrats is a liberal Party which was formed in 1985 by Desmond O’Malley, Mary Harney and Michael McDowell to break the mould of Irish politics and give the Irish voters a new and real alternative to the Civil War parties then dominating Irish politics.

The party has campaigned on prudent financial management, reduced taxes and an increased role for the individual in all walks of Irish life.

The Party has been in Government three times from 1989-1992, from 1997 – 2002 and are serving in the current government which was formed in June 2002.

And:

In Government the Progressive Democrats successfully campaigned to:

  • Cut the basic rate of tax for one million taxpayers from 26% to 20%.

  • Cut the higher rate of tax for the first time in five years, from 48% to 42%, benefiting 400,000 people.

  • Reduce Capital Gains Tax rate from 40% to 20%, encouraging greater investment in business activity generally.

  • Reduce unemployment to the lowest figure in decades, way below the EU average.

  • Reduce long-term unemployment to under 2%.

  • Introduce the minimum wage by our leader Mary Harney in April 2002.

  • The old-age pension target of £100 per week on track for new target of €200 per week.

  • Massive increase for the funding of social services – health, education and welfare.

It beggars belief that if indeed Northern Ireland was so central to its identity that it wouldn’t have mentioned this either in the outline of its formation, or more particularly in reference to its campaigns. 

The Policy platform is available on the same site in PDF form. In it are listed ‘Our Core Values’ taken from the Party’s Constitution. Here there is passing reference to unity:

• Build in Ireland a democratic society organised on republican principles, in which legislation, where possible, allows citizens freedom of choice free from unnecessary state interference and regulation, taking into account the views of minorities.

• Promote policies that allow individuals, each in their own way, reach their maximum potential and protect and help weak and deprived members of society and promote social justice for all

• Establish and maintain laws that safeguard the rights of the individual and to minimise unnecessary regulation by the State in the affairs of its citizens.

• Ensure that while society gives the individual rights, the individual has a corresponding responsibility towards society.

• Promote liberal economic policies that: foster competition and innovation; reward initiative and encourage ever-greater economic and political participation by all its citizens; and promote sub- sidiarity and balanced regional development.

• Foster a fair and just system of taxation that promotes the work ethic and encourages creative endeavour.

• Ensure that the wealth produced by this nation is wisely used to afford a decent standard of living to all its citizens.

• Ensure that the legislative, judicial and administrative arms of government function independently, effectively and with accountability to safeguard the common good.

• Conserve, protect and enhance the natural, the physical and the built environment of Ireland, promote sustainable development and foster civic awareness and pride.

• Promote unity of the Irish people by peaceful means based on consent and pluralist principles.

• Promote and maintain laws that reflect the independence of both Church and State while valuing the contribution to society of religious and philosophical beliefs.

• Promote and support the development of community and voluntary organisations. • Safeguard and develop all strands of Irish culture, language and heritage.
• Promote a European Union dedicated to liberal and democratic principles.

The same document has a somewhat more expansive take on the North:

New Ireland

Reaching agreement on the Good Friday Agreement is one of the central achievements of this government. The Agreement provides the framework for both communities to work together in peace. It also settles the constitutional question and makes clear that the people of Northern Ireland have the final say on their constitutional status.

Paramilitary activity has dropped dramatically as a result of the Agreement. Much practical progress has also been made. The North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) has met 65 times. But fully implementing the Agreement has proved difficult and time-consuming. Unionists were reluctant to enter the Northern Ireland Executive while the IRA retained its arsenal. The IRA was reluctant to live up to the aims of the Agreement that full decommissioning would have taken place within two years.

In late 2004, talks were held at Leeds Castle to resolve these issues. We stood firm in the face of the refusal of the IRA to commit themselves to respecting people’s human rights. Within months that position was vindicated when the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery and associated kidnappings. Later, IRA members brutally murdered Robert McCartney.

Current Background

The IRA has decommissioned its weapons. Sinn Fein has endorsed policing and the PSNI. On the 26th March last, we witnessed unprecedented, positive and welcome developments with agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP on the restoration of the devolved institutions. This new Executive must be able to discharge its responsibilities with full and immediate effect from May onwards.

Other issues that remain open regarding Northern Ireland include:
• Eliminating sectarianism at local level.
• Promoting cross-border social and economic activity.
• Enhancing cross-border cooperation between the two governments.

New Opportunities

In government the Progressive Democrats will:

• Refocus the work of the International Fund for Ireland, whose Secretariat is jointly provided by both Governments, to target reconciliation activities in the most deprived and marginalised communities
in Northern Ireland and the border counties.

• Work to develop an all-Ireland energy market.
• Continue working with the Northern Ireland authorities to jointly promote Ireland as a tourism

destination.
• Work closely with the Northern Ireland authorities to keep Irish agriculture disease-free.
• Broaden out the agreement for Donegal people requiring cancer treatment to get it in Belfast

to include more medical services and more people living along the border. • Promote personnel exchanges between the Garda Siochána and PSNI.

Still, this overview by the party itself doesn’t really place the PDs in quite so central a role as Collins suggests – something one might have expected them to do so, if only to say, the GFA/BA was the culmination of a significant part of their political project – and notably it is a single page in a 68 page document.  

A further oddity on foot of those 68 pages. The party clearly had the sense it had more to say, the problem was that the electorate weren’t listening. And FF and FG had between them, and more FF one might hazard, mopped up PD inclined support. So once more Collins thesis seems somewhat divergent of the reality. 

The PDs: Not so much mould-breakers as pushing an open door… July 27, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
2 comments

I was once having a discussion with smiffy, of this parish, about Fianna Fáil – this being when it was the largest party, and how a determined left party might be able to put its imprint on a coalition with them, given the tropes that FF liked to put around about having a mild watery leftism, whatever about the reality of same. And I pointed to how the PDs had managed to push FF further right. To which came the reasonable response that the PDs were effectively pushing an open door, driving FF no further than that party wished to go but giving it cover for that process.

And while Pat Leahy is sometimes taken to task on this site his overview of the FF governments of the 2000s certainly bears this out, where there seems under FF to have been remarkable latitude given to individual Ministers and their rightward drift and in particular the axis of Charlie McCreevy and the PD Ministers. Would a genuinely combative Labour or A.N. Other party have managed to do the same? Probably not, though ironically we may see the process from the other direction should an SF led coalition with FF emerge.

All these musings are sparked by the death of Des O’Malley and the impact he made. In some ways he was remarkably low key – even more so than his successor as leader of the PDs, Mary Harney, and it was always the PDs more than him (at least in my recollection) which was the source of hostility and antagonism, much of it well-deserved antagonism. But then the reality was that the PDs were always much more a splinter from FF than anything else, and served a useful purpose in mopping up some Fine Gael tending voters too. Their heyday saw them occupying curious ground – a sort of liberalism and economic conservatism (shading even more economically rightwards amongst some of their supporters and members). Tellingly it was on the first area that O’Malley explicitly broke with FF – though through an abstention on a vote rather than outright opposition, but it was the second that predominated. And yet, place him back in FF and one wonders would one have noticed him standing out to any great degree in that cohort?

And after? The PDs went on their way straight back to Fianna Fáil and government. This seeming contradiction tells us much about the nature of the state and the electorate during that period, that time and again there was acceptance of FF government, even FF government led by Haughey, but only in the context of the PDs being there. And it is not even as if the PDs served as a mudguard to FF. Remarkably all that came later seemed to do little enough damage to them, at least until 2007 (though they were remarkably fortunate with the numbers of seats they retained and gained on as little as 4% of the vote from the early 1990s onwards until the catastrophic 2007 election where they garnered 2.7% of the vote and just two seats).

Which raises an interesting question, what changed then? But perhaps as interesting is why the PDs folded up as a going concern and essentially moved off, some becoming born-again Independents, others going to FG and still others fading out of political activity. And when one thinks of it isn’t it curious how FF itself began to disintegrate from that period on, albeit at a slower rate?

A party that raises no end of questions.

%d bloggers like this: