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State Papers from 1983 released this week… December 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

…I’ve been reading, as best as I am able, the various accounts in the news media of the State Papers. Obviously there’s a filtering effect, but this RTÉ report isn’t bad. This, from the IT, is perhaps sketchier than might be expected. Here’s some from the BBC on NI state papers.

This from the latter is educative:

The secretary of state noted that he had power to proscribe any organisation that appeared to him to be concerned in terrorism or promoting it.

There were, the official acknowledged, considerable drawbacks to this course of action.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly in 1983 Police released this photo of Gerry Kelly in 1983 after he escaped from the Maze prison

Mr Lyon noted: “It would be seen a reaction to the London bombing, when terrorist outrages in Northern Ireland had brought no such response. Sinn Féin might well change its nom de guerre.”

The memo added: “There was a danger too that those who had voted for Sinn Féin in recent elections without actively supporting terrorism might be further alienated from the constitutional process.”

In the end, the idea of banning Sinn Féin was rejected.

Here’s some from RTÉ on UK state papers.
And here’s a radio clip on same.

From the former there is (in addition to a British assessment that PSF was increasingly focusing on political activity) this:

In the same section of the report it is stated that “local Communist parties are extremely small and of no threat to the State. However, the Workers Party (formerly Sinn Féin the Workers party, formerly Official Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Official IRA) is an ideological party of the extreme left with a violent, subversive background.”

“The party has a small membership but an uncorrespondingly high number of officials. Soviet advertisements appear in the party’s magazine, Workers Life, and there are obvious contacts between the party and the Soviet Embassy.

“The party has two members of parliament and a number of party members hold positions in the news media (particularly RTE) and trade unions.”

And then there’s this, indicative of the hesitancy that reappeared in relation to British politicians and the North across the decades:

An account of a meeting between Mrs Thatcher and her Northern Secretary recorded: “The Prime Minister asked whether it was Mr Prior’s basic concern that because the supporters of violence were going to win, we should organise a tactical withdrawal. Mr Prior said that this was not his view.

“He was not suggesting for one moment that we should withdraw troops from Northern Ireland. This would be utterly wrong. He was absolutely convinced that withdrawal would mean civil war. His main point was that he believed it would be a massive mistake to do nothing during the next five years.”

The account, just released under the 30-year rule, continued: “The Prime Minister expressed doubts as to whether we could solve the Northern Ireland problem. This must be for the people of Northern Ireland to solve though we could perhaps act as a catalyst. Agreeing, Mr Prior said that we could also provide a framework within which the people of Northern Ireland could try to solve their problems.”

And more links or accounts from the papers that have caught people’s eyes gratefully accepted.

Also, here is a thread on a more local aspect of these releases – raised by Tomboktu – that is of concern.

Ageing disgracefully… December 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

… those stars – well, some not so stellar – from the 1980s! Though it seems a bit out of date to be honest. Gulp!

Libraries gave us power… though not necessarily these ones… December 27, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, The Left.

Tom Lamont in the Observer had an interesting review some while back of “The Library: A World History”. The book written by James WP Campbell and Will Pryce and published by Thames and Hudson retails at an eye-watering £48 sterling, and appears to be highly impressive. Campbell and Pryce are an architectural historian and photographer respectively and as Lamont notes it is a study of ‘libraries that are designed to be seen”.

As Lamont also notes, there’s a lot to see. An awful lot. He notes the ‘towering book wall at the Shiba Ryotaro Museum in Osaka”, ‘Yale’s Beinecke library…walled with Vermont marble”… “The library at Phillips Exeter Academy in new Hampshire has one person desks each with a private window”. And they’re not ancient, many of them, by any means. The Phillips Exeter Academy was constructed in the 1970s.

Lamont notes ‘glimpses of folly’… ‘Utrecht Library, its walls rippled balk, looks as if it was built for a climatic showdown between man and alien. I was struck by the statue of Lenin in the Russian State Library: old Vladimir flattered and brainy looking, but back-folding a book in a way that would get him ejected from any reading room in the year. Climbing a staircase inside the National library of Slovenia, visitors are meant to think of themselves (so the architect expressed his hope) rising from ignorance into wisdom. Sure. Or they might think they’re climbing a staircase.’

But Lamont puts his finger on it when he notes that ‘it’s clear within a few pages… that there will be no place in this survey of libraries for the one I grew up visiting. A shame. Palmers Green Library in Enfield and an impeccable selection of plastic-backed Quantum leap novels, plus all the Tintins. But it was never pretty – a teal-carpeted dog, honestly’.

The one I know best, or knew best before jumping ship to the Central Library was one in Raheny. It was built, well, I imagine sometime in the very early 1970s, certainly it was there as long as I can remember. It was… modern at the time. And still. And even now I have the occasional dream of being in it searching for some obscure New Wave novel by Ballard or Priest or whoever. I joined the children’s section and enjoyed it but by twelve I wanted access to the adult section. I got it too. And as libraries do it opened my eyes in so many ways. It wasn’t just fiction, I was a voracious reader of anything pretty much, and still am.

But modern as it was at the time, it was unpretentious, it was quiet but not overly so, and it was easily accessible. In it’s own way it was an embodiment and representation of democracy.

And thinking of that it’s hard not to agree with Lamont when he continues:

For all the seductive beauty [on display in the book] there is a niggling sense that superb buildings get erected not to celebrate books and refine access to them, but rather as a way for architects to flex and test themselves; as a way for flush universities to slough off money: as a way for benefactors to create expanses of wall for their good name to go up on.

And he concludes:

…the buildings in The Library: A WOrld history aren’t really the libraries of the world: they’re the libraries of the few. Teal-carpeted alternatives weren’t ‘designed to be seen’ but they they were absolutely designed for fairness. Malorie Blackman calls them ‘equalisers’. They don’t ask you for a recommendation on headed notepaper, and they aren’t Oxbridge – or Ivy League-exclusive. They have all the Tintins and let anyone in to read them.’

Operation Unthinkable: The war that never happened December 26, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History, Uncategorized.

I hadn’t heard of this before, though apparently it became public knowledge in 1998, but apparently according to this pretty comprehensive overview in a Russian/Indian online publication:

…the ink had barely dried on Germany’s surrender document when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked his War Cabinet to draw up a plan to invade the Soviet Union.

This was driven by a sense on Churchill’s part that the USSR had gained too much and Britain too little from the war. Perhaps he realised that the post-War dispensation was going to see the latter displaced by the United States and the Soviet Union. Perhaps too he was, quite simply, too old, too used to violence. It’s somewhat chilling to read the following:

According to Alan Brooke, Britain’s Chief of Army Staff, Churchill told him at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945: “We can tell the Russians if they insist on doing this or that, well we can just blot out Moscow, then Stalingrad, then Kiev, then Sevastopol.”

That sort of glibness about what would – of course – be mass murder, whatever one’s thoughts about Stalin and the high Stalinist period in the USSR, suggests a certain detachment from reality. This wasn’t unnoticed by his own armed forces:

Asked to prepare for war just days after the end of the bloodiest conflict in history, the British generals thought the Prime Minister had really lost it. Brooke wrote in his diary: “Winston gives me the feeling of already longing for another war.”
The generals drew up a plan, appropriately codenamed Operation Unthinkable, which proposed Western forces attack the Soviets on a front extending from Hamburg in the north to Trieste in the south.

And the British military was all too well aware of how thinly spread their forces were during that period. With 103 divisions against the Soviets 264 it is implausible that any conflict would have been easy, even if one factors in the then dubious proposition that Poland and others states being subsumed into the Soviet orbit would have been in any position to rise up and assist such a war.

Ironically, in view of the rhetoric of the subsequent Cold War, British military planners thought it possible that the US might simply not be interested, particularly since they were bearing the brunt of the war in the Pacific. Of course this wasn’t the only curious plan unveiled in the dying days of the Second World War.

There’s more on this here.

The article mentions the Morgenthau Plan, whose aim was to destroy ‘forever’ the prospect of a united, industrialised Germany by destroying the country’s industry and forcing it to return to an agrarian stage of development. Thankfully wiser heads prevailed.

Christmas shopping ‘marginally’ down on Christmas 2012. December 26, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.

From the IT on Tuesday:

Mr Fitzsimons said the retail industry was bullish entering the festive season due to the rescheduling of Budget 14 to October, a return to economic growth and the departure of the troika.
“Unfortunately these positives did not impact on spending in the run up to Christmas 2013,” he continued.
“Instead customers remained cautious and retailers responded with significant discounts.”

Is this a surprise? They themselves one problem:

…the residential property tax also damaged consumer sentiment and dampened Christmas spending, along with the weather.

Or perhaps it’s unemployment, or low or stagnant wages…

They’re still holding out hope for the future though…

“It is likely that the sales period will be one of the best on record.

“Retailers have not sold through on significant lines of stock and this will be priced to sell over the period of the sales.”

And this seems a bit gratuitous:

Mr Fitzsimons said the Irish customer has never had it this good.

“Retailers are preparing to reduce prices by upwards of 70% in a bid to convert stock to cash,” he added.

What you want to say… Christmas Week 2013 December 26, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

It’s that strange time between Christmas and New Years but as always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life and the FBI December 24, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

The more I see of Christmas the more I think it’s nostalgia for nostalgia, a sort of recursive process or reminding about songs, films, events, weather phenomenon that we don’t or haven’t experienced at first hand for the most part. That’s okay, there’s a value in nostalgia, and time out from the daily grind is good in itself, already I’ve watched Kiss Me Deadly and All About Even this last few days, which in the normal run of things I wouldn’t get the time to, and they were both great in their own way and weirdly from now on will remind me of Christmas, so you make your own traditions.

More seasonally there was the 1990s Miracle on 34th Street with a twinkly Attenborough. Mileage will vary on that, but it sailed close to the wind for some viewers in regard to the is Santa real or not question.

Meanwhile there’s this news here from yesterday Flavorwire about how “It’s a Wonderful Life” had an FBI file. Now I’ve read analyses which see Capra’s film as the epitome of a certain sort of US conservatism so this is a good one and perhaps points up how ideological that time period, the late 1940s, was in cultural and political terms.

According to historian John A. Noakes, who analyzed the FBI’s 13,533-page “Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry” file, the Los Angeles field office pinpointed eight films in general release in 1947 as possible carries of stealthy Commie propaganda. “To determine which films were subversive and to identify the actual subversive content,” Noakes writes, “the Los Angeles field office utilised a report issued by a self-assembled ‘group of motion pictures writers, producers and directors who had been alerted to the common menace within the industry’. This ad-hoc group identified three categories of ‘common devices used to turn non-political pictures into carriers of political propaganda’.”

And look whose name turns up:

That group included Fountainhead writer and future Tea Party pin-up girl Ayn Rand, who had herself, according to her own FBI file, “published a booklet which was designed for furnishing information concerning the type of Communist propaganda used in motion pictures.” Sadly, we have no way of knowing if the dour Rand wrote the hilarious “report” on It’s a Wonderful Life and all of its subversive themes; it may have been her, or she may have been assigned to write up some of the other very dangerous titles on the list, like The Best Years of Our Lives, The Farmer’s Daughter, or (I’m not making this up) Abbott & Costello’s Buck Privates Go Home.

As to the egregious crimes of “It’s a Wonderful Life”? It was ‘written by Communist sympathisers’, it ‘attempted to instigate class warfare’ and…ahem… it ‘demonized bankers’.

How very 2013/14.

They’ll be back, won’t they? December 24, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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There’s a point made in last week’s Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole which is worth reflecting on:

The truth is that, under a Labour-influenced Government, the budgets have been regressive in their social impact, hitting the most vulnerable hardest. Fianna Fáil’s “austerity” budgets hurt the best-off most. Under the troika, this mildly decent approach has been reversed. The 2014 budget took 2 per cent of the income from the bottom 20 per cent of earners – twice the average loss. “Protecting the most vulnerable” is as much a fairytale as “burning the bondholder”.

I can’t help but think that while there’s been a couple of polls for the government that show some slight firming of support – if even that, that FF is bound to play on this.

For all the stuff about the scope for new parties of the right it seems that the centre left is the most propitious territory for parties attempting to contest it. That being the case no doubt FF will as part of their sackcloth and ashes approach be all too keen to point out the above.

The audacity of FF presenting itself in a sort of echo of an echo of social democratic politics (contemporary definition) is something else, but hasn’t that always been their approach. Whether it works is another issue. Perhaps it is that tension between what FF has been, what they are and what FG and the LP are that has generated the still remarkably high Independent/Other vote.

Not that FF are going to return to their position of political dominance as seen in 2007 where they had 42% of the vote, but rather that they’ll be able to claw their way upwards in their poll ratings from the low 20s to the mid or high 20s. And if that is the case then the question then becomes at the expense of who, singular or plural?

More on the state of the parties and so on over the next week or two but if anything there’s a feeling that at the edges there are shifts in voting support.

Today’s reflections from Eamon Gilmore have to raise a hollow laugh, particularly when one reads him say:

“We could not pay €6 billion of taxpayers’ money to a dead bank and that would have brought the Government down.”

Though what of this?

Mr Gilmore says he has had a reputation for hard work throughout his political career but has never worked so hard in his life as in Government.

“There is rarely a week in which I work less than 100 hours. It’s highly intensive. You are moving at pace from the Economic Management Council one minute where you are dealing with complex financial figures, to a constituency issue, to a meeting of the parliamentary party.

Oh the humanity.

The year in guff 2013 December 23, 2013

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.
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Following last year’s round up, we turn again to the realm of political blather – and it’s like we never left. A five month abortion debate, social media panic and the near overthrow of democracy in October counts 2013 as a bonanza year for spurious hooey. A personal favourite was Senator Healy Eames’ contention that women will soon be travelling to Ireland for terminations, likewise this post could have been composed entirely of conflicting lines from Eilis O’Hanlon. The weight of waffle was overwhelming at times so further suggestions welcome in the comments.

 Companies in Ireland pay close to the correct amount of tax

– Eamon Gilmore

Has President Berlusconi been known to be misogynistic in the past ?

– asks Mary Wilson 

In short, [Clare Daly] has the kind of strong, handsome face that appeals to a wider male constituency than the hard left.

– Eoghan Harris never short of sharp analysis

Like a lot of people, I underestimated Enda Kenny, he’s been nothing short of a phenomenon

– Simon Coveney

Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror

– Barack Obama

I would like to thank the Four Seasons Hotel.

-Nora Owen and Judge Judy conclude a lengthy unemployed bashing interview

The country breathed a collective sigh of relief as the electricity outage strike was called off.

–  no shortage of balance RTÉ News

oppression haters

–  John McGuirk identifies the real enemy

Finest police work anyone has ever seen in the world at any time

– Boston bombing coverage was hard going at times

Twitter is the Seanad of the people

– Dominic Hannigan

Enda Kenny has been the number one promoter of abortion in Ireland

– Spokesperson for Boston based ‘Students for Life’ on RTÉ News.

It exclusively extolled left-of-centre thinkers, including some quite extreme figures. All non-leftists mentioned were implicitly traduced. Worst of all, it excluded the majority who occupy the middle ground and who carry little or no ideological baggage.

– Dan O’Brien and the tiresome name-calling of the reactionary left.

Hook: Have you been watching Mario Rosenstock?

Vincent Browne: I have yeah.

Hook: What do you think of his impression of me?


It is a bit late at night for conspiracy theories

– Noonan dismisses speculation during the IBRC liquidation or a plan later revealed to be called ‘Project Red’

The decision of the trade unions is one that they have made

– an awkward order of business for an Taoiseash as Croke Park II results came in

The conclusions of the report are the conclusion of the the report and the report concludes..

– Pat Rabbitte spending too much time with An Taoiseach

It is the politics of class warfare which I hoped was long forgotten.

– Shane Ross enjoyed the 1913 centenary

In every battle, there are deserters and we have had a few

– former left wing politician Eamon Gilmore

I would always have been comfortable with the label of pro-choice but never have had to define that or reason it out for myself

– Colm Keavney

It sounds like someone got carried away while designing the website

Bill O’Herlihy definitely not advising Government and the tobacco industry

I have just come from another heavy day spent reducing the living standards of the Irish people.

– Pat Rabbitte

Sinn Féin does a huge disservice to socialism and the great socialist leaders and thinkers of Ireland’s past with its exercise today.

– Comrade Damien English defends the property tax

I think people underestimate the steel, determination and patriotism of Labour parliamentary party members.

Brendan Howlin

A very capable Minister, but also visionary European

– Noonan popular with EPP adviser Siegfried Muresan

Ruairi Quinn wants a communist state in Ireland

Deputy Tom Barry on efforts to eh, further remove state involvement in funding education

Let’s be truly liberal and stand against this illiberal culture.

– sadly Gay Mitchell’s intervention came too late for the abortion debate

Delighted to see NNI finally doing something to protect newspapers’ intellectual property. That principle more is important than the detail

– The Irish Times Health Correspondent Paul Cullen and ‘the detail’ being Irish newspapers threatening domestic violence charities while trying to undo the internet

It’s time politicians stood up and said they’re not afraid any more

– Minister Rabbitte on arrival of social media

It will take a great deal more than the expenditure of hot air and windy rhetoric in basketball arenas to achieve a successful outcome in this battle

– SIPTU statement during the Croke Park waltz

Standard of TD is higher because of dynasties

– according to third generation Deputy Dara Calleary

I believe that we will one day read in the history books about this period that the crisis brought Europe even closer together, the continent is currently enjoying a very fortunate era.

– German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

If this is the backwoods, I’m glad we’re in it

– Edwin Poots and the Stormont abortion debate in a nutshell

We have also reduced the cost of borrowing to the State. This is probably the greatest saving of all. One only had to read the report on the front page of the Irish Independent

– strictly reliable data from Deputy Martin Heydon

We pray for courage – the kind of courage that is needed to look the truth in the eye and to call it as it is, without yielding to self-deception or bowing to convenient compromise, scrupulously avoiding ambiguous language which cloaks the true horror of the situation and reduces its seriousness in public.

– Cardinal Sean Brady

Reality and perception… December 23, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Economy, Irish Politics.
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A useful piece this weekend listing ’10 things I hated about business in 2013′ by Heather Stewart in the Observer. Stewart isn’t anti-business as such, she’s the Observer’s economics editor, but she makes some pertinent points as to what is… well… wrong with much of business. And business related matters.

This one is perhaps the most important, if only to point up yet again, the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality in British political discourse.

2 The “culture of worklessness” and benefits as a “lifestyle choice”. Handouts for the unemployed make up 2.57% of the £200bn benefits bill; tax credits and other top-ups for working people, 21%; pensions and benefits for the elderly, 42%. It’s a complete nonsense to suggest, as George Osborne and David Cameron repeatedly have, that the burgeoning cost of the welfare state is a consequence of the failure of some in society to throw up their blinds in the morning and get on the bus to work.

With unemployment now falling rapidly, and universal credit, when it is eventually rolled out, set to blur the lines between in-work and out-of-work support, there is some cause for hope that the Tories’ “skivers” rhetoric may be (ahem) redundant. But with the chancellor conceding recently that he envisages cutting “many billions” from the welfare budget in the next parliament, don’t bank on it.

We’re not quite at that stage here, for obvious reasons: the nature of the crisis, perhaps the forces in Government here and their relationship with the society (though given time and inclination who is to say what will happen, and there have been low level efforts in that direction), perhaps even the fact that there are other targets, and that in a context with double figure unemployment pointing the finger at those on benefits is markedly more difficult to do.

Here’s another, which unfortunately, is creeping in…

10 Scrooge employers whether, and how rapidly, real wages start to rise as the economy picks up will be a central question for policymakers in 2014. But alongside sagging wages, the downturn has seen an explosion in questionable employment practices, ushered in under the banner of the “flexible labour market” – including the burgeoning use of zero-hours contracts, as revealed by Vince Cable’s department last week. It’s time for downtrodden workers to fight back.

Though perhaps another way to put it would be that it has never really gone.

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