Take The Quiz……. December 9, 2016Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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Exam blues December 8, 2016Posted by Tomboktu in Bits and Pieces, Education.
I’ve been back in college since September. It’s part time, postgraduate (diploma for year 1, a masters degree if you add a thesis in year 2) in a subject area specifically relevant to my work, and delivered by specialist body under the academic oversight of one of the universities in Dublin.
I don’t mind the hard work, but I am finding this course a nightmare.
Now, I’ve been at the books on and off for over a decade, including a previous masters degree a decade ago. Last year I did a course at the Law Society. It was a short enough course, but with some tough slogging at assignment time. They had reasonably short turn-around times, and strict word counts. For the early assignments, you needed to critically assess the specific primary materials – usually court judgements. For the final, major essay, you needed to find the relevant cases as well as critically assess the judgements.
The problem with my current masters is the main assessment method: closed book examinations. I had one exam last week, and have three more in the next eight days. My approach to the study has been to delve into the assigned readings, annotate them, and when I can synthesise some points I think are to be drawn from a number of them, do so. But yesterday and today, going back over my marked printouts and my notes, and drafting mini-riffs to have ready for tomorrow’s exam, I find I cannot make it stick in my brain.
Maybe I’ve become lazy in that department. At work, I write a lot of policy analyses, and within the space we operate in they’re good* — my manager doesn’t read my work closely+ any more, and the only feedback from the board for my last project was to correct a single typo. But when I am drafting those positions, I have free access to all of the sources I can find, and don’t need to remember the details.
In my last masters degree, the main assessment for taught modules was by take-home exam: two questions to be returned in two days. The questions were designed to get your analysis, and when we started, we were warned that it would not be enough to summarise the relevant literature.
But this memorising is doing my head in.
*Whether the people we give them to think they’re good is a different matter.
+ Update: Actually, that’s not quite true. She no loner reads it closely before it goes to the board, but she sits me down before a board meeting so she can understand the rationale for all of the points and any possible banana skins.
Neutrality December 8, 2016Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
Thanks to the person who forwarded this, Archon from the Southern Star
That bitter Cabinet row last week between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and wandering minister, Shane Ross, was important – if only for the light it threw on Fine Gael’s policy on neutrality about which we, the plebs, know very little.
Sinn Féin wanted a lock on neutrality. Precisely, the Republicans sought the following amendment to the Constitution: ‘War shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war or other armed conflict, nor aid foreign powers in any way in preparation for war or other armed conflict, save with the assent of Dáil Eireann.’
Uncontroversial, one would think, and in conformity with the views of most citizens, particularly given the street cred Ireland enjoys around the world because of its non-intervention stance when disputes break out among the Big Powers.
Consequently the plain people of Ireland found it somewhat bizarre that Kenny should blow a gasket after Transport Minister Shane Ross called for a free vote on the Sinn Féin neutrality amendment. The Dear Leader is said to have furiously bellowed that the independents would get their free vote on another occasion, but not this time.
The matter, he roared (allegedly, we hasten to add), was of ‘fundamental public policy.’ He feared that, if the Sinn Féin motion were enshrined in the constitution, ‘it would mean unforeseen difficulties in so many areas for the country.’
Not one member of his ragbag cabinet asked him what he was on about!
We can only speculate, assisted in no small way by an observer’s account of Kenny excitedly waving in Ross’s face a copy of Bunreacht na hEireann, and at the same time spluttering that article 29.9 of the Constitution made it perfectly clear, as did the treaties of the EU, that there were very tight ‘safeguards’ on neutrality.
Article 29, commits Ireland to ‘the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations’ and to ‘the principle of pacific settlement of international disputes’ – which is hardly a ‘tight safeguard’ against involvement in blood-soaked US adventures!
Ross, to his credit, was having none of Kenny’s sophistry and demanded the right to support a referendum on neutrality. In other debates, he had objected to the use of Shannon Airport by the US military.
He described Minister Charlie Flanagan as the ‘greatest advertisement for the abolition of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ and said ‘Ireland was no longer an independent neutral nation whose word was listened to around the world.’
The unctuous Health Minister, Simon Harris, pleaded with Ross and Kenny to find a formula of words that might defuse the row, while the contribution from motor-mouth, Minister John Halligan, went down in history for its Churchill-style profundity: ‘I’m not too pushed,’ he commented nonchalantly before going on to add with all the discernment of someone possessing remarkable political wisdom ‘because it’s almost impossible for Ireland to go to war.’
Eventually, after the Dear Leader declared that there was no question of our neutrality being infringed in any way, nor would there be a European army, Ross caved in. There was no free vote, and the Sinn Fein motion was strangled at birth.
But the plain people of Ireland were not fooled! They knew Kenny was spouting bunkum thanks to people such as Richard Cole, chairman of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, who for years pointed out that Ireland could not be considered a neutral state if you have over 2.5m US troops landing in Shannon Airport since 2001.
Former army officer Tom Clonan, describes Shannon as a ‘virtual forward operating base for ongoing American operations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.’ The airport, he says, has had daily landings of military transport aircraft, mid-air refuelling tankers and other US Air Force, Navy and Army aircraft ever since Ireland became a member of the ‘coalition of the willing’ in the US global ‘war on terror.’
But, despite the evidence, Flanagan and Kenny (supported by Fianna Fáil) continue to push the myth that the flights are ‘civilian’ and that Shannon is used only for crew rest, refuelling and passenger transfer. It is an argument rejected by the Peace and Neutrality people, who claim successive governments have granted the Yanks permission to carry weapons and, in some cases, ammunition.
Recently, the magazine Counterpunch reminded us that a 2003 High Court judgement stated that Ireland had been in breach of the Hague Convention on neutrality by allowing US troops to use Shannon Airport on their way to and from the war in Iraq.
As for the likelihood of Ireland participating in a EU army, well, Roger Cole points to the fact that Irish troops already are part of a British-led EU battle group that has been conducting exercises on British soil. Kenny, however, sees no threat to our policy of military neutrality.
His viewpoint is difficult to reconcile with the fact that France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are in favour of a joint European army and that NATO has declared the EU a strategic military partner
Britain, which has always opposed the formation of a EU army, has seen its influence wane in Europe since Brexit. This, in turn, has encouraged sabre-rattling from God-help-us countries, such as Poland and Hungary, to press for an acceleration of EU military integration – and that includes Ireland!
Nonetheless, Flanagan continues to reject the possibility that a EU-wide army is in the process of gestation. His argument is based on the premise that since there is no provision in the EU treaties for the creation of a EU army, ergo, there will be no EU army.
To add to a Fine Gael witches’ brew deliberately concocted to confuse the public, Simon Coveney’s recent white paper on defence strongly supported the harmonisation or ‘interoperability’ of Irish military forces and equipment with NATO and EU military forces.
And, in another Fine Gael-inspired policy document, entitled the ‘Department of Defence and Defence Forces Strategy Statement 2015-17,’ we are informed of Ireland’s commitment to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, to EU Battlegroups and to the NATO-PfP. Ireland (to our surprise) has long been an enthusiastic supporter ‘of positive engagement’ with other like-minded EU member States and with NATO-PfP. Current strategy is to enhance Defence Forces’ ‘interoperability’ in multi-national operations and ‘to contribute to the development of military capabilities in accordance with international standards.’
Against a background of almost clandestine military developments that strike at the heart of Irish neutrality, is it any wonder Kenny went ballistic (a term apt in the circumstances) when Shane Ross demanded a free vote on the Sinn Fein amendment?
If it had gone through, then the definition of neutrality would have been strengthened in an inalterable fashion. Kenny and his gung-ho pals certainly didn’t want that!
Yet another poll December 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
The Irish Times has a poll today, that yet again points to a fairly static picture of Irish politics. The larger so-called ‘centrist’ parties (copyright Pat Leahy) are in or around 27-30% each. Sinn Féin is on 17%, Ind/Others on 20% and Labour on 6%. Movement from the last IT/Ipsos MRBI poll is relatively small:
Fine Gael, 27 per cent (up one point compared with the result of the October poll); Fianna Fáil, 30 per cent (up four points); Labour, 6 per cent (up one point); Sinn Féin, 17 per cent (down two) and Independents/Others, 20 per cent (down four).
One knows one is in trouble with a poll when the photos of those representing parties and ind/others on graphics are perhaps the most interesting aspects. Is that really Shane Ross representing Ind/Other? Sure is.
With an MOE of 2.8% it’s difficult to get too exercised about this. By way of comparison here are the figures from the last RedC/SBP poll:
Fine Gael 25% (no change)
Fianna Fáil 24% (-2)
Sinn Féin 16 % (+3)
Independents 12% (+2)
AAA-PBP 5% (-4)
Independent Alliance 4% (-2)
Labour 5% (no change)
Social Democrats 4% (+1)
Green Party 3% (no change)
And Others including Renua 1% (+1).
Reading a bit into the articles one will find this sort of thing:
Sinn Féin’s drop of two points still leaves the party on a solid 17 per cent of the vote, but the decline in party support in Dublin to 13 per cent would be a concern if the trend was maintained in future polls.
The party may be losing some support to the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit group, which is on 6 per cent in the capital and 3 per cent nationally.
But apparently FF is ‘improving’ its support in Dublin.
And elsewhere one can read that:
Support for Independents/Others has fallen back four points. For the most part, the drop is among Independents who do not belong to one of the better known parties or groupings, the one exception being Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance which is marginally lower in this poll (down one point to 2 per cent). Other parties and groupings have held steady (Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit on 3 per cent; Green Party on 3 per cent; Social Democrats on 2 per cent; and Independents4Change on 2 per cent ).
Make of it what one will.
Signs of Hope – A continuing series December 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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UK workers in a time of Brexit December 8, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
…companies should start drawing up a list of regulations they want to see abolished or reformed.
Gove highlighted a government-commissioned report by Marc Bolland, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, which ran through a list of EU employment protections it would like to see withdrawn or changed including pregnant worker proposals, the agency workers directive, the acquired rights directive and the working time directive.
Oh, there’s lip service paid to the ‘concerns of the TUC’ but…
John Longworth, the former chair of the British Chamber of Commerce, who campaigned to leave, told the committee that he thought the “opportunities for deregulation are legion”.
“Some of it will be to do with employment rights. Some of it will be to do with the fact that people might not be allowed to do overtime that they wish to do,” he said, citing lorry drivers as an example.
As to the Tories… December 7, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The Tory party could lose the next general election if Theresa May alienates its core of moderate supporters by imitating Ukip and pushing through a hard Brexit, a group of former Conservative ministers and MPs says.
The warning to the prime minister from the party’s senior ranks comes after Tory voters turned to the pro-EU Lib Dems in droves in Thursday’s Richmond Park byelection, delivering one of the biggest electoral shocks of recent times.
Oddly, some of the arguments are very similar to those some of us would feel appropriate to the LP:
Writing in the Observer, the former Conservative cabinet minister, Dominic Grieve, ex-foreign office minister Alistair Burt and former transport minister Claire Perry, along with education select committee chair Neil Carmichael and Bath MP Ben Howlett, say the Richmond outcome must serve as a wake-up call to the prime minister.
“The Conservative party needs to be alert that there is a moderate core of Conservative voters, who voted Remain, and who want to hear the Conservative government speaking above the noise of the Brexiters,” they say. “They do not want the Conservative party to be Ukip-lite, nor to hear that their desire for a negotiated Brexit … is somehow an attempt to delay or simply an expression of Remoaning.
But it’s odd. With May, who isn’t so much a protean figure as one who is almost entirely opaque – to the extent that one has to wonder what if anything she actually believes in bar the curtest of soundbite, there’s a sense that she may not have any inkling of how to progress. This is no great surprise, as has been noted here before, a broad range of people, civil servants, think-tanks, economists and so on have pointed to the sheer scale of disengagement from the EU, a challenge so huge that it is quite literally overwhelming significant parts of the British government’s ability to govern.
And as ever the fact that the very term Brexit has no clear meaning adds to the confusion. It can – quite literally – mean whatever those who use it want.
Damned if they do… damned if they don’t… December 7, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Good analysis here from the Guardian on the surprise Liberal Democrat win in Richmond Park. I’m no fan of the LDs – particularly the pernicious role they played in 2010-2015 but there is some pleasure to see Goldsmith ejected from parliament. I’m not pushed one way or another about his pro-Brexit position, but his attacks on Sadiq Khan were abysmal and should have seen him isolated long before now.
But as interesting is this, which in a way explains why the LP (and Ed had an excellent analysis of that issue last week on this very site) has to be so cautious in relation to Brexit.
Labour’s candidate, Christian Wolmar, was unable to break through a wave of tactical voting that squeezed his vote to an embarrassingly low, deposit-losing level as supporters turned in droves to Olney instead. The result underlines a major challenge for Jeremy Corbyn’s party, which must beware that while it understandably needs to look over its shoulder at Ukip, it should not forget that its potential supporters are also packed at the other end of the Brexit divide. On the final weekend, three Labour activists even turned up at Lib Dem HQ and asked if they could go door-knocking to help get out the vote.
This too is concerning in that respect:
Prof John Curtice said Sarah Olney’s defeat of Zac Goldsmith was not simply about the Conservative party but also something that ought to worry Labour, which he described as a “fragile creature” that had taken another blow.
If I were the Labour party I would be worried if the Lib Dems are back in the game. Labour is worrying about losing socially conservative end of the coalition, but they forget that it is smaller than the socially liberal end.
As Ed noted, despite the strong pro-Remain sentiment in the BLP there’s little point in that party attempting to stymie Brexit. That is going to happen and it would be perverse for the LP to attempt to roll back the result of the referendum. This isn’t to say that others are incorrect to campaign against it – that’s their democratic right, but rather that the referendum does have some democratic effect and should not be revisited as such – I’d argue, at least half a decade or more. The UK should leave the EU. What its status outside the EU should be is a different matter.
Nor should the LP feel in the future it should argue against returning to the EU – but that’s a different matter for LP members to determine as and when and if they see fit. It could be that outside the EU is an EEA style position and it could be that that is not a bad place for either the UK or the EU (certainly it would be a relief to see some of the most toxic rhetoric of an UK only partly attached and strongly wedded to the neoliberal orthodoxy, as was, removed from that latter organisation). Or something else entirely. And that’s where the LP could usefully be exercised by attempting to salvage something from the wreckage albeit in a different context. Strong links with the EU, but not in the EU and instead in some other entity. That might be a message that would resonate well with both those upset at the departure from the EU but also those who entirely sincerely support the departure but might be wondering just what is going on.
What’s telling, and problematic, is that the penny may have dropped on the Tory side on this. To read Davis, IIRC, saying the UK might pay for access to the single market in some sort of EEA-lite situation underlines the vacuity of the Tory led process taking place.
But Labour can ill afford to become the voice of a Remain that – short of being overturned constitutionally/legally, is simply finished for the meantime. Nor can it become a echo of UKIP. As Curtice notes, that demographic is even smaller – at least the part that Labour can access. And Curtice notes something else:
Everyone is going around with an outdated vision of what a typical Labour voter is about. Between two thirds and three quarters of Labour supporters voted remain.
In that context it is correct to move on, all the while pointing up what a complete shambles Brexit is and will be. That’s another part of the argument – damage limitation but no aversion to pointing up the damage and who is responsible and how there may be a least worse solution on offer, and one that the Tories are unwilling to take due to their fear of their right and UKIP.
By the way, this is worth keeping in mind. The Tories are now down to a majority of 13. Far from the end, but could that impel May to an early election? Or not?
Leaving a sinking ship to join..? December 7, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
IEL mentioned it yesterday and there was also an interesting snippet in the SBP at the weekend on the tale of one Patrick McKee, a former FF councillor who joined RENUA last year, ran for election for them in both the by-election that year and the election earlier this year – on neither occasion winning, and who only some weeks back departed from his new home, as the SBP notes ‘removing all references to the party from his website and social media’.
And where’s he headed now? Why in his own words he says ‘I am exploring the possibility of rejoining FF’. He may have a rocky road, apparently being not ‘very complimentary’ about FF when all was exciting back in the day, er last year, in RENUA. But be that as it may is there any chance this represents a broader trend of consolidation around FF across the next few years? Will we see a slow trickle of former FFers who jumped away in the wake of the crisis and with the appearance of potential alternative political homes return to their original party?
Here’s a new one – alt-Stalinist? December 7, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Perhaps little surprise here that Momentum is under some pressure – and from within. The political weather, and it’s heavy weather at that, is being made on the right of the spectrum for the most part.
I’ve no horse in this race, Momentum seems like a goodish idea, some very good people involved, naturally some drift in from elsewhere, it is what it is. But it’s not the BLP and I’m not sure it can be a replacement for same and clearly it was never intended as such by those who established it.
What’s interesting is that someone so close to the Corbyn camp would be framing matters in a certain fashion – that is concern over infiltration of Trotskyists. Is that a solo run or does it indicate a broader perception in and of the Corbyn camp? Notable is mention of the AWL – hardly, one would think, the most influential of groups of the British further left.
Anyhow, I’m always worried when we see stuff like this, not so much for what it indicates as what it doesn’t – that the core purpose of groups is overwhelmed by jockeying for position. And that makes me wonder if some of the energy that Momentum has represented has begun to dissipate because, well, frankly, when one is busy campaigning one is busy campaigning rather than concerning oneself with structural matters.
But here’s a new term, one I was unfamiliar with until now.
Murray’s blog claimed that a row over the form of internal voting structure the group should use at a meeting of its national committee on Saturday ended in bullying and intimidation. Murray, who advises Labour’s town hall spokesman, Grahame Morris, accused AWL members of bullying those they suspect of being “rightwing” or “alt-Stalinist” members.