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Meanwhile, back in London…  June 30, 2016

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Yet further indication that the concerns of this island were low low low on the list of priorities of those in the Tories. Theresa May (who by the way is hardly much better than Gove and/or Johnson)… 

Q: What would you do about the border with Ireland?

May says there is a common travel area in Ireland. The government is speaking to the Irish government about this.

That’s not an answer. That’s a description of the status quo ante.

One slightly better answer.

Q: [From my colleague Rowena Mason] Are you still committed to pulling out of the European convention on human rights?

May says she set our her views on this in a speech. But there is no parliamentary majority for leaving the ECHR, and so she will not be pursuing it.


Charley’s War and the Somme June 30, 2016

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From Joe Mooney.  A reflection on how Charley’s War in Battle , illustrated by Joe Colquhoun an written by Pat Mills was a real effort to move beyond the jingoism of most stories in comics that had war as their subject. Charley’s War was a class conscious, hard-headed and cold-eyed appraisal of the reality. A world away from the pious stuff we’re going to be subjected to.

Contingency June 30, 2016

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Again, to underscore the points made earlier in the week in relation to the Border and the Good Friday Agreement on here, Noel Dorr writing in the Irish Times makes the point that whatever people may say about the relationships on this island the reality is that there is simply no assurances that what emerges may be to our liking. The logic of Schengen and Irish membership of the EU in the context of a British departure, even one – perhaps – to EEA or EEA plus status, is that:

At best, like Norway, the UK, though outside the EU, might negotiate full access to the single market. But even so, there would still be customs posts and “rules of origin” procedures for goods moving between the EU and the UK, as there are between Norway and Sweden.

Dorr hopes that the GFA/BA can be used to leverage a more satisfactory arrangement, but he has to admit that although there are precedents (including the period 1940-1952 where all travel between the island of Ireland Britain involved passport/identity checks), are ‘matters for detailed negotiations’.

Cynicism? Nah, business as usual. June 30, 2016

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Can the Irish Times be right when it notes that:

…surprise, surprise, Vote Leave has pressed delete on its website’s “history” of speeches and pledges.

It appears so.


What is most astounding is that supposed insurgent campaigns of the right (I exclude left forces pushing for a Lexit from this) built in some part about the duplicity of political discourse act as badly or worse. Is it that they literally don’t care?


But then this is the crew who can deliver this, a naked jostling and bargaining for position  amongst the main protagonists.

You couldn’t make it up.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series June 30, 2016

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

An Phoblacht July Issue June 29, 2016

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In the July issue…

Ian Paisley’s son 

and former IRA Volunteer Pat Magee

THE JULY issue of An Phoblacht’s Uncomfortable Conversations series includes contributions by two significant figures – Reverend Kyle Paisley, eldest son of the late DUP leader Dr Ian Paisley; and Pat Magee, republican former political prisoner convicted of the Grand Hotel bombing in Brighton in 1984 which almost killed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the entire British Cabinet.


Other features include:-

  • Gerry Adams – After Brexit, the need to put the island of Ireland first
  • Community and business leaders fearful of fall-out from Brexit
  • Rent certainty: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael block move to protect tenants
  • ‘An AK47 doesn’t make you a freedom fighter’ – Danny Morrison
  • Wolfe Tone Commemoration – Bodenstown 2016
  • Teanga Ár Linne, Slí Beatha Ár Linne
  • Collusion at the heart of 1994 World Cup massacre at Loughinisland
  • Book Reviews: Challenging and cherry-picking volumes – ‘Signatories’ and ‘Unhappy the Land – The Most Oppressed People Ever, the Irish?’

A straw in the wind? June 29, 2016

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One small, and admittedly singular, straw in the wind is the following from the Guardian:

A new Guardian/ICM online poll provides a snapshot of the shape of party politics after the referendum. The fieldwork was conducted over the weekend, so entirely after news of the leave vote was announced, and David Cameron announced his resignation.
It suggests a small Brexit boost for the Tories, who are on 36%, up two from the last ICM online survey reported in the Guardian a fortnight ago. Labour, meanwhile, also climbs two from 30% to 32%. Ukip drops four points, to 15%, while the pro-European Liberal Democrats slip back one to 7%. The SNP, which campaigned successfully for the strong remain vote in Scotland, climbs one to 5%. The Greens are also up one on 5%. Plaid Cymru is on 1%.

Very small, entirely marginal, changes. Wait and see. That said, if the vote on Thursday was indeed anti-austerity it is curious to see the architects of that – the Tory party, not losing support, and actually gaining support.

More predictable is the fall in UKIP. The purpose of the exercise has been fulfilled – sort of.

Unparliamentary language? June 29, 2016

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Thanks to the person who forwarded this from Archon of the Southern Star:

‘GOSH!’ we exclaimed, surprised that the Irish Property Owners Association should utter such a withering riposte to a comment made by one of Dame Inda’s closest pals, Mr John Halligan, an outstanding scholar and Minister of State for Education and Skills.
At the heart of the matter was Mr Halligan’s description of Irish landlords. It was remarkable for its bravura and intense depth of feeling! He called them ‘bastards’!
Needless to say, landlords considered the taboo word to be deeply offensive. His opinion of landlords was made even more odious because of the subtle innuendo that landlords were a motley gang of disreputable social types who would be better off in jail. An association that represented landlords strenuously objected.
But, whatever about the Minister’s use of what society considers a type of low language that is not in accord with accepted social proprieties, the bookish knowledge that he displayed was impressive. It echoed Shakespeare who popularised ‘bastard’ as a particular unit of language in his play ‘King Lear’ and who made a definitive statement on whether or not ‘bastard’ was an indecent word.
Think of Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, whose stirring defence of bastards is one of the joys of the Queen’s English, and which all spotty adolescents have to learn by heart if they have any hope of getting a D in the Pass Leaving Cert. It goes like this:

Why bastard? Wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th’creating a whole tribe of fops
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
… Fine word – ‘legitimate’! Edmund the base
Shall top th’legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

So, when Mr Halligan dramatically expressed anger at landlords ‘upping the rent on good people’ and that he hoped the ‘bastards’ would face jail, the young people of Ireland cheered. Shakespeare was being brought to life in a most extraordinary fashion!
Of course, Shakespeare’s Edmund may not be the nicest of people, but the same can be said of some politicians and landlords. Edmund is an arrogant land grabber, ruthless, evil and a nasty bit of goods from the beginning of the play to the end.
Yet, on a personal level, he’s strangely likeable, even though socially he’d have been perceived as ‘a complete bastard,’ similar to the ‘inglourious basterds’ in Quentin Tarantino’s film!
Perhaps in today’s world Edmund would have been a sort of BOFH or ‘Bastard Operator from Hell’. In recent computer fiction, BOFH is a rogue system administrator, who takes out his anger on fools that ask him to solve their computer problems (‘Sorry sir. Your laptop has ceased to be and it’s pub o’clock opening’).

But, whatever about Minister Halligan’s application of Renaissance English to a delicate matter – that of characterising landlords as a contemptible group born on the wrong side of the blanket – the property owners took the politico to task in a cogent and convincing way for his offensive comments.
Launching a ‘blistering attack,’ the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) accused Halligan of ‘offensive and undignified remarks that bordered on incitement to hatred.’ In a statement to this newspaper, the landlord group advised the Minister of State to ‘seriously consider his Government position, given his crucial role in Irish education.’
The IPOA chairman, Stephen Faughnan, went on to say that Halligan’s comments were ‘despicable, filthy and foul mouthed’ and did not represent ‘the crucial role played by the providers of good quality accommodation to over 700,000 people.’
Mr Faughnan said that Minister Halligan’s ‘jail the bastards’ remark was published online and in other outlets. Even stronger language using a string of ‘Anglo-Saxon expletives’ followed it.
According to The Journal.ie, Minister Halligan was angry that ‘landlord speculators were driving people into homelessness … if I could bring in legislation to goddam jail them, I would, for doing it. I would jail the bastards.’
He continued: ‘We allowed developers and speculators to wreck the country and we still have developers and speculators wrecking the f…… country, upping rent, outrageously upping f……rent.’
The landlords association had a point. Halligan used the f-word twice in one sentence, which prompts this scribe to suggest that he has been reading too many naughty words in ‘King Lear.’ He might consider carbolic soap as a verbal mouthwash.

But, of course, Halligan is not alone in his use of unparliamentary language. In spite of the fact that the Dáil maintains a document, ‘Salient Rulings of the Chair,’ which covers behaviour in and out of the House by TDs, it is largely ignored.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, for instance, in November 2012 accused TDs of being like ‘gurriers shouting on a street at each other.’ In 2009 Greenie Paul Gogarty apologised in advance before shouting ‘f*** you’ at an opposition chief whip.
Last January, then Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan, faced calls to step down after appearing to brand Sinn Féin as c***s in an angry Twitter exchange.
Former Environment Minister Alan Kelly told Mattie McGrath to f*** off, although he insisted he didn’t remember making the claim. He apologised just in case. Even Taoiseach Brian Cowen was caught uttering the f-word in the Dáil.

Of course, it’s open to question if ‘bastard’ offends in a similar way to the Anglo-Saxon f-word. ‘Bastard’ has more nuanced cultural resonances with regard to society and to life in general than the obscene f-word.
It tests the differences in attitudes to illegitimacy, particularly in societies where illegitimacy carries little stigma, which is a point the anthropologist Malinowski excellently makes.
Indeed, many moons ago, this scribbler, having read nothing but Malinowski in his First Year at the Uneee (as one does), was dismissed as a nutter by the professor of English, BG McCarthy (terrifying author of ‘The Whip Hand’ and ‘The Female Pen’) for having dared suggest that in a primitive and savage society like UCC’s, bastardy was central to understanding practically everything on her Eng Lit course!
Oh, and the b-word is not unknown to the publication ‘Waterford Whispers’: In a clarification of the term ‘hung Dáil,’ the writer explains that he understood the phrase as ‘dragging every TD onto the streets and hanging them from the nearest lamppost.’ He was most disappointed to learn that such was not the case, even though he took a half-day off work to buy a brand new rope in the expectation that those ‘robbing, lying bastards were finally getting what they deserved’!
‘Nuff said!

Fianna Fáil’s rise from the ashes? June 29, 2016

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There’s an entertainingly breathless piece in the SBP this last weekend which examines the ‘fall and rise of Fianna Fáil’ in the manner of those books on US elections. You’ll know the type, all filled with little anecdotes of people entering rooms to speak with other people about actually quite mundane matters in achingly self-aware ways, and where linear narratives are constructed about events that often are unconnected or dislocated from one another.

The basic thesis is that Micheál Martin saved FF by focusing on the essentials, on…er…rebuilding. This may seem so banal an observation that it is hardly worth making. But for all that there’s some entertainment to be had.

For example:

To rebuild, Martin believed his colleagues had to recognise one thing: ‘the Irish people hated Fianna Fáil’.

There’s a pat on the back for a certain polling company:

Opinion polls and not the doorsteps dictate the political narrative of the day.

Hmmm, might be one’s response to that. Anyhow, continuing:

Martin was acutely aware the polls sapped morale. One senior strategist was more blunt. ‘We’d meet some Monday mornings and I’d say: ‘those fucking polls are lying.’ But we knew, we definitely thought the Red C was the truest one. It was very disconcerting and very disheartening at times.

Well I never.

In early 2015, FF’s internal constituency polls showed FG had not arrested its slide from the local elections. In fact, its vote was worsening. In the north and set of the curry FG voters who had switched from FF in 2011 were coming back to the party.

Though let’s not get too much ahead of ourselves. FF added at Election 2016 precisely 6.9% onto its 2011 vote share and 23 seats. So yes, voters did come back. But in dribs and drabs (though it will be fascinating to see how matters proceed from here).

This is more interesting:

FG and the LP began warning of the choice facing voters: stability versus chaos. It surprised Sean Dorgan who’d presented research to the parliamentary party showing that most people did not worry that a change in government would stall the recovery.

“People wanted recovery and stability but they didn’t agree that changing the government equated to chaos. So for us that seemed strange.”

I wondered at the time about that as well.

Still, here’s another example of what seems to me to be an over-emphasis on media coverage. Discussing how at the January Ard Fheis Martin said:

This is an arrogant and out of touch government. They want a coronation, not an election. Well, thesis a republic and we don’t do coronations.

It’s a good line. But is it quite as good as the SBP report suggests

At the ard fheis the delegates loved it and perhaps more importantly the media talked about it.

Or this good?

“If we hadn’t have set that ground from very beginning I don’t think we should have got 44 seats,” Martin said later. “The perception from the electorate was we were just an add-on to FG and we were there just to make up the numbers for Enda to be crowned Taoiseach.”

I’m unconvinced the line had that much reach. Or that it changed perceptions of FF as a makeweight in a potential FG/FF coalition.

Here’s another useful nugget of information.

FF ran a low-key campaign that cost around €560,000, much less than the government parties spent.

Perhaps that is making a virtue of necessity.

Anyhow, we’ll all be glad to know that – surprise, FF did get that 44 seats, but wisely has avoided the blandishments of coalition with the ould enemy. And apparently they’re privately ‘jubilant’ on forcing climb downs on that ould enemy on water charges and bin charges. And are even content with holding the balance of power.

Or so they say.

Yet I can’t help but feel it is all a bit over-egged. 2011 was a dismal year for FF. Yet even at that point they still retained almost 20% of the popular vote and a good 20 odd TDs. They weren’t really going anywhere, at least not once the LP decided to hop into coalition with FG.

But that, as we know all too well, is another story entirely…

We’ve never been so popular… June 29, 2016

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…to judge from the ‘surge in applications’ for Irish passports. Too popular for the system(s) to cope with just yet. Passport processing, a growth area for this state. Who’d have thought it?

The Irish government has urged Britons to take some time to think before applying for an Irish passport as it warned that a surge in applications threatened to place major pressure on the system for processing them.

A spike in interest in Irish passports has occurred in Northern Ireland, Britain and elsewhere in the past few days, according to Ireland’s foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, who said there was no urgency for UK citizens to apply.

Stirring words of comfort from Leo Varadkar:

In a debate on Brexit’s implications for the republic, the minister for social protection, Leo Varadkar, said: “On some occasions, perhaps most, our interests are aligned with those of the United Kingdom but where they are not, it is not our duty to fight England’s battles for her. We must put the interests of Ireland first in the coming years and in the negotiation process.

But Varadkar promised to protect pensioners on both sides of the Irish Sea, both British people living in the republic and Irish citizens residing in the UK. He said: “Their pension and employment rights and their social insurance protections and obligations remain unchanged today and will remain unchanged until such time as there is a new agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.”

Yes. That must be very reassuring. ‘Until such time’. Which would be most likely in the next 36 months at latest.

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