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Sinn Féin ‘not like any other party’ and the next election… June 6, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Stephen Collins had a fantastic piece in the Irish Times the other day. Again, the term fantastic is used in a very broad sense. He’s been writing about the excellent, as he sees it, ploy by Fine Gael Junior Ministers over tax cuts for middle income workers – though, curiously, serious analysis demonstrates these are tax cuts that actually privilege the wealthiest. Strange that.

But for Collins this is great:

Having generated a political controversy with their demand for tax cuts for middle-income workers, Fine Gael Ministers will have to deliver a significant package in the autumn budget or stand convicted of the charge of political play-acting levelled by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

The démarche on tax by three Fine Gael ministers certainly got the attention of the political world. The ensuing row was just what the party needed to show the electorate that it is still in business, and in the process provide a morale boost for its weary supporters. However, if it can’t deliver then the party’s credibility will take a serious knock.

Except the most recent polling suggests this did nothing to get the attention of the electorate. So whatever about the ‘political world’ (and media) it failed on those terms.

Anyhow he points to Fine Gael TDs announcing they won’t contest the next election and ’12 gruelling years’ in office for a malaise in that party. Worse again the opposition is… opposing. 

The incessant onslaught from Sinn Féin, which has focused the mind of the electorate on the party’s big failure – housing – and shifted the focus from the extraordinary economic achievements of the last decade, has taken its toll.

Now I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll do so again. There seems to be an idea around that somehow all was sweetness and light between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and others before Sinn Féin entered the Oireachtas in numbers. There was an auld decency about the place. Yes they were rivals but at the end of the day they could come together and let bygones be…

Wait. This is nonsense.  Having had the opportunity to observer matters from fairly close at hand I’d argue that nothing could be further from the truth. The sheer contempt between those parties was deep-rooted. Look no further than the time it took and the straits facing both parties for them to forge a coalition deal. It takes but a moment’s look at the Debates to see the reality. That said all this serves Collins purpose because he can use it to make Sinn Féin look positively sinister. 

Oh and he does. He really does. 

This has prompted some in the party to come to the conclusion that a spell in opposition is what it needs to regroup. There is a related assumption that, once in office, Sinn Féin will be exposed to the inevitable stresses and compromises of government and the party’s popularity will slide as a result.

That complacent view is a dangerous delusion, as Sinn Féin is a very different political animal to the other parties in the Dáil. Once in power it will not prove easy to dislodge, regardless of its economic performance. Just look at the way its steadily increasing dominance of politics in Northern Ireland hasn’t been hampered by its dire performance in actual governing.

Passing over the line about ‘dire performance’ which he could certainly expand upon, note that these are assertions. Note too how in the context of the South he ignores so much in the following:


The political challenge facing Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as they enter the last phase of the Government’s life is how they can translate their competent management of the economy which, among other things, has brought unemployment to its lowest recorded level, into support at the ballot box come the next election.

Which brings him to the following, because even he has seen that the tax proposals have been getting a lot of pushback. And in doing so he touches on groups he might usually be less keen to reference in a positive light. 

That has been achieved on the back of the sacrifices made by so many citizens in response to the financial crisis which almost bankrupted the country just over a decade ago. Income taxes were hiked dramatically, public servants took pay cuts and endured a long pay freeze while many self-employed people lost their life savings and unemployment hit a record high.

The budget surplus is so large – projected at €65 billion over the next four years – that there will still be an opportunity to put a considerable portion of it away to meet future needs


Despite the severe belt-tightening, social welfare rates were maintained at their existing levels. This was in marked contrast to other EU bailout countries, where welfare rates were often the first item of Government spending to be cut. Here, the working population endured massive rises in income tax to ensure that social spending was maintained.

Which leads QED to this:

That is why tax cuts for middle income earners are justified, and are in no way comparable to the tax cuts for the wealthy introduced by Donald Trump in the US and advocated by right-wing Conservatives in the UK.

Yes. So so different. 

But then of a piece with an analysis that can somehow ignore the issues around housing, etc, in the following. This is the best of times. It really is. All is well. Could hardly be better. Don’t just splash the cash, though he seems unworried about that as long as the right people win the election (and note that tax cuts themselves cost money). 

The key to their future is to find a way of spending it that can capture the public imagination. Boldness will be required, along with the basic political instincts to spread the largesse in the most effective way. It is not simply a matter of splashing the cash around to appease every section of society, but coming up with an overarching narrative that can persuade people that the country’s future is safest in their hands, and should not be trusted to people who have consistently opposed the very policies that have brought us to this happy position.

Ireland is no longer a poor country or the basket-case economy of a decade ago. The challenge ahead is to devise policies that see to it that some of the fruits of prosperity are shared as widely as possible now, while overdue investment is made in areas that will ensure that the astonishing upward trajectory of the Irish economy continues well into the future.


Here’s a most interesting map of Northern Ireland June 6, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From Irelandvotes.com and a visual representation of the results of this latest local elections by DEA.

Track down to see two more interesting map. And by way of comparison here’s 2019 in visual terms. Of course that doesn’t tell the whole story, but consider that when Northern Ireland was established it was precisely this sort of outcome that Unionism sought to avoid.

For example:

The occasion of the May 1973 local elections also marked the re-introduction of PR-STV, which had been abolished for local government elections by the Northern Ireland government in 1922.

The structure of local elections was such that:

From 1921 until the suspension of devolved power in 1972 the system of local government in Northern Ireland remained largely unchanged from that introduced under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. As a consequence by the late 1960s for a population of some 1.5 million there were some 73 local authorities across Northern Ireland. The electoral franchise for local government elections continued to be based on certain practices abandoned in the rest of the United Kingdom by 1946. For instance in Northern Ireland the franchise was based on the ratepayer suffrage and the company vote. Ratepayer suffrage meant that, with some exceptions, only those who were owners or tenants of a dwelling (or their spouses) were entitled to vote in local government elections. Thus many adults who were lodgers or still living at their parents home did not receive a vote. It was estimated that in 1961 over a quarter of the parliamentary electorate were disfranchised at local elections. The company vote resulted in a number of company directors (property owners) being entitled to more than one vote.

Worth noting that at another electoral level proportional representation was abolished for the NI Parliament in the 1920s. Hardly a novel idea to suggest that structurally so much was done to constrain nationalists and indeed dissenting unionist voters and votes. Fascinating to look at the maps above and wonder what a more open and generous Unionism might have achieved had it had the capacity to do so.

Cycle commute numbers down June 6, 2023

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What to make of the news that the number of cyclists in Dublin is down 28% on pandemic levels. They say this is partly due to remote working (pedestrian numbers are down 31% and cars just 13%). I’d imagine too that given the option of remote working or braving roads, such as North Strand, clogged by now year long efforts to instate and reinstate cycle lanes some would take the former over the latter in an instant.

That said the lower number of cyclists on the way into work is very noticeable indeed. Prior to the pandemic it had really hit a high. My own personal yardstick was the queues of same around the Five Lamps on North Strand in the morning or at the bridges across the Liffey in the evening. Sometimes there’d be long tailbacks of cyclists. All but gone now.

But the tone of the city is different post-pandemic. Fewer numbers there, a lot of boarded up shops as pre-existing trends regarding online shopping continue and retail outlets fold or move to the suburban shopping malls (that said I see Gamestop has closed at the Pavillions in Swords so even that’s not a given). It’s easy and not incorrect to look to the pandemic as a reason for much of these changes, but there’s a broader mix too.

NI Councils pick mayors and… hold Bible readings? June 5, 2023

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This from Belfast Live notes that this last week:

Councils pick new mayors while Stormont ‘ice age’ continues

Councils are holding their first meetings since last month’s local government election as their new mandate gets under way.

Meetings involve the appointment of new mayors and chairpersons, including the installation of Belfast’s new lord mayor.

But not only but also!

One council has also had a debate about whether it should continue to begin their monthly meetings with a Bible reading.


Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have voted to retain a Bible reading at the start of their monthly meetings.

Speaking at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s annual general meeting on Tuesday evening, newly-elected Ballyclare Alliance Councillor Lewis Boyle proposed that it be dropped from proceedings.

Traditionally, the mayor’s chaplain gives a Bible reading ahead of Antrim and Newtownabbey council business. It is not mandatory for councillors to attend.

Cllr Boyle proposed the prayer and Bible reading be omitted from future council proceedings. His proposal was seconded by Airport Alliance colleague Cllr Andrew McAuley.

Antrim DUP Alderman John Smyth asked for a recorded vote. Glengormley Councillor Alison Bennington proposed to continue with prayers before every council meeting. Cllr Boyle’s amendment fell after 17 votes in favour and 22 against.


No change poll June 5, 2023

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So, another poll this weekend, this time from the Ireland Thinks/Sunday Independent stable.

SF 32% +1

FG 20% NC

FF 19% NC

IND 13% +1

SD 6% +1

LP 3% -1

AONTU 3% +1

GP 3% NC

SOL/PBP 2% -2

Broadly speaking no change at all. Indeed to the extent that there’s nothing to actually say (as noted by Aonrud in comments) above and beyond the figures.

That said the analysis from the Independent itself is somewhat interesting:

Fine Gael’s call for a €1,000 tax cut in the budget has fallen flat, with a majority of voters saying it would make no difference to whether they would vote for Leo Varadkar’s party in the next election.

The latest Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks poll finds last month’s tax-cut call by three junior ministers did little to enhance Fine Gael’s popularity among voters, with 56pc of those polled saying it would make no difference to their voting intentions.


Despite 59pc of those polled favouring the €1,000 tax cut for people earning the average household income of €52,000 a year, more than a fifth of voters (22pc) said it would make them less likely to vote Fine Gael. Just 15pc said it would make them more likely. This falls to 10pc when Fine Gael voters are excluded. The party is also unchanged in the state of the parties’ poll at 20pc.

Perhaps more accurately the call by Fine Gael had no impact. And why would it? It’s an appeal really that is designed to most hit home with their own base. I suppose they might pull in a few FF votes but many beyond that? Seems implausible. And the pushback against the idea it was for genuinely ‘middle income’ earners as distinct from a nice little gift for the better-off was strong. 

Here’s an interesting stat:

Only 18pc want an immediate election now — an 11-point drop since last September. By contrast, 45pc of those polled want an election as scheduled in 2025, up 13 points on nine months ago. The latest the next election can take place is March 2025.

I wonder if that will have any impact on the government parties. Probably not. Then again can they (or rather any component within them) be seen to cut and run? Probably not. 

Left Archive: An Phoblacht/Republican News, Volume 16, Number 32, Thursday 11 August, 1994, Sinn Féin June 5, 2023

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To download:

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To download the above please click on the following:


Please click here to go the Left Archive.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive. 

An important issue of An Phoblacht/Republican news dating from 1994 which has a special supplement on 1969 to 1994. As the front page article notes:

AS PEOPLE in Ireland and worldwide prepare to mark the 25th anniversary of the redeployment of British troops on the streets of the Six Counties, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has made a call to nationalist Ireland to use all its powerful potential to bring about political and constitu­tional change. Speaking in Belfast on Wednes­day evening, 10 August, Adams said that “for the first time since the heady days of the Civil Rights Movement, there has emerged tan­gible evidence of increasing self­confidence and awareness within nationalist Ireland”. He said the task now was to harness this confi­dence and hope for the future, in a way which can assist the resolu­tion of the conflict. 

It concludes:

Expressing optimism that a viable strategy to address and resolve the core issues at the heart of the conflict can be achieved, Adams said he was optimistic that, after 25 years, the Irish people can move beyond division and conflict and towards and just and lasting peace.

The Editorial argues:

AQUARTER of a century ago, Ireland was a rapidly-changing coun­try. Social and economic forces were consigning the old Ireland to the past and few would have denied that for better or worse, nothing would ever be the same again. The 1970s offered the prospect of further rapid change, the onset of EEC membership, growing industrialisation, the fast growth of the cities and the rise of a new suburban working-class generation. It seemed at one stage that the old pattern of unemployment, emigra­tion, rural decline, urban decay and even ‘Civil War politics’ would be broken. This was the promise in the Ireland of the 1960s, now an almost mythical decade. 

And it continues:

The civil rights struggle in 1968 and 1969 was essentially about the nationalist people rising up off their knees after 50 years of oppression. The reaction of the state to the ·civil rights demands was to unleash the violence of the ‘B’ Specials and loyalist mobs against peaceful protestors. The first deaths were caused not by rioters or the IRA but by the RUC. The IRA hardly existed as a military organisation in 1969. The resump­tion of armed struggle originated as a defensive response to the com­bined attacks of the RUC, loyalist mobs and the British army.  


Stormont was toppled in 1972 and the British imposed direct rule from London. Over two decades of unremitting warfare have passed since, with massive destruction and suffering. The conflict has devastated the Six­ County area and scarred the island as a whole, turning the dream of the late 1960s into a nightmare for many of our people. The situation cries out for a negotiated settlement which will bring peace. The potential for progress in such a direction has never been as strong as in the past year. out for a negotiated settlement which will bring peace. The 25th anniversary of the redeployment of British troops on Irish streets provides an opportunity for those who want to see a final break with the failed policies of the past. The end of the 1960s provided hope for the Irish people, North and South, and events provided an opportunity for the British to break with the past. It was an opportunity they failed to grasp at the time …
New opportunities now exist, but pressure must be applied for them to be tak­en up.

Of particular interest is a chronology of August 1969, which of course preceded the split in Sinn Féin and the IRA, and an account of the burning of Bombay Street.

Fan culture? That’d be nice.  June 4, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This amused me, a piece in the Guardian by Shaad D’Souza that argues:

Since it was alleged that Taylor Swift is seeing Matty Healy, the frontman of the pop band The 1975, these fans have been up in arms, cancelling orders of Swift’s forthcoming album, posting lengthy reflections on Twitter justifying their attendance (or lack thereof) at Swift’s current tour, and launching a campaign – #SpeakUpNow – implicitly demanding that Swift break up with Healy. (Swift has not publicly acknowledged the relationship, but Healy has been seen at her concerts and the pair have been photographed together multiple times in recent weeks.)


In the #SpeakUpNow letter, circulated by a number of Swift’s fans and reported on by a handful of major news outlets, the authors urge Swift to “reflect on the impact of your own and your associates’ behaviour”, “advocate for inclusivity, celebrate diversity, and promote empathy and understanding”, and “actively engage in this process of personal and social transformation”. Although never explicitly stated, the letter’s message is clear: Taylor Swift needs to dump MattyHealy in the name of racial justice.

Had to go to wiki to see the problem, such as it is. 

Anyhow D’Souza continues:

If you’re not well-versed in the intensity and politics of stan Twitter – “stan” is internet lingo for fan, by way of the Eminem song from 2000 –this will probably read as massive, incomprehensible overreach: an example of people acting in a bizarrely paternalistic and proprietorial way over a star whom they supposedly love. If you do follow stan Twitter with any regularity, you know that this behaviour now passes for business as usual. The star/fan dynamic has almost inverted in recent years: many musicians now take their cues from social media. To some degree, pandering to your core base is a necessity of the job – even the most omnipresent star can no longer assume that they have a captive audience whose attention won’t be directed elsewhere when they’re about to release something new.

I only learned in the last few years that Dave Vanian of the Damned married Patricia Morrison of Gun Club/Sisters of Mercy years back. None of my business. I didn’t know because at the time we didn’t have the internet to link up fans in this way. There wasn’t the cosmetic social media immediacy of such relationships, at least of people at that level, nor the concern at their doings. 

I’ve no particular interest either in Swift or Healy or whether they are together or not. But I don’t think either that it is really anyone else’s business as to their relationship and it seems to me that there are category errors aplenty in all this. As D’Souza puts it, once they were the sort of fan who was complaining about all this – “thinking that an intense devotion to someone’s art should translate into some level of input on their day-to-day life.”

But that’s an illusion and quite a dangerous one too. Because if we examine our own lives and our interactions we, many/most of us, have family, friendship, work links with people who are flawed or wrong about issues or whatever. The idea others would intervene in the manner discussed would be deeply inappropriate. Moreover adults can make their own decisions. 

D’Souza mentions writing an opinion piece criticising Grimes for her then relationship with Musk and arguing that it was the opposite of her political ‘leanings’. All true, but all irrelevant. If only the world was so simple. And Healy doesn’t seem to be close to Musk’s level of problematic.

But this obsession, this strangeness about fandom, is something else. Living one’s life vicariously through others, and then demanding that those others accord to some sort of pre-selected direction of travel. Very strange. And oddly enough deeply destructive I suspect to those who are the fans.


A (tech) solution for a problem that does not exist June 4, 2023

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These are strange, Dyson earphones/air filtration. The question for me is what is the use case? Where precisely and when is one meant to wear them?

And this goes for the much heralded, though yet to appear, Apple headsets. Said to be on the point of being released in the next couple of weeks. These are VR/AR (Augmented Reality) headsets, for which read not glasses and not something unobtrusive but something that apparently sits over the eyes.

Now, it is possible that once released it will be quite different, but as it stands at the moment I can’t imagine anyone wanting to wear these out. There was an entertaining discussion on the MacWorld podcast where they mused on the idea that these goggle like devices, at least as described currently, might have a screen on them where you could ‘see’ a live digital rendition of the eyes of the person wearing them and how this would make them more palatable to wear. Yeah. But no.

Except yeah. Apparently. This from The Guardian:

  • A tethered battery pack, designed to sit in the user’s back pocket, to ease the tradeoff between power and performance on the one hand and weight and comfort on the other.
  • A screen on the front of the headset, designed solely to show the user’s expressions to the outside world, with the goal of making it more comfortable to interact with people wearing the device.
  • A focus on “passthrough” use, where a camera on the front of the screen shows the outside world to the wearer, with apps and features superimposed on top.
  • And, most importantly of all, a price tag of about $3,000.

Surely it can’t be all that? For $3,000 too? Perhaps Apple is about to confound critics with the release of a much more slimline device that might, and I emphasise the might, build traction. Maybe. 

Sunday and other stupid statements this week June 4, 2023

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All contributions welcome!

Who would offer this account of religion? Who indeed?

There are plenty of traditionalists who see the inherent conservatism at the heart of the church as crucial to maintaining a religious society. But I do not believe that is true. A vibrant civil religion need not preach fire and brimstone nor seek to exclude and harm the vulnerable. A shared set of values needn’t come with the mandate that we all adhere to every letter of the New Testament. We can spend hours relitigating all the harms the church has wrought, and lamenting the deeply entrenched fissures introduced across the world by religious extremism. But we must remember that atheism is as doctrinaire an idea as any traditional faith. And that an atomising society – where self-interest reigns – is as unpleasant as it is dangerous.

How about this headline from the Sunday Independent?

You know where you are with a nuke, but AI threat is a worrying mystery



From the Business Post editorial today on Dublin Airport:

The sale of 260 acres by the McEvaddys to Dublin Airport is a blow, but an independent third terminal might lower prices and generally inspire DAA

That ‘might’ is doing a lot of work in that sentence. 



Library fine, redux June 3, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Discussed this topic recently. Here’s a good example:

A history book about the US has been returned to a library in California, almost 100 years overdue. The copy of Benson Lossing’s A History of the United States, published in 1881, was returned to St Helena public library in Napa Valley earlier this month. It had been due back on 21 February 1927.

At the time the book was borrowed, fines for overdue titles were a nickel (five cents) a day, meaning Jim Perry, who had the book, theoretically owed about $1,756 (£1,417). Luckily for him, the library scrapped late fines in 2019.

I wonder what the psychology of that is? Was it a matter of putting it off and then realising that any fine would be massive (though why didn’t the library concerned pursue the rogue borrower?). Or that the person simply forgot, moved house, or something. 

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