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A Miracle in Ballymore – last evening Saturday October 1st September 30, 2016

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at Seán O’Casey Theatre, East Wall, October 1st.



Crisis? What Crisis? Well… perhaps a hard border crisis. September 30, 2016

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Graham Gudgin, former advisor to David Trimble is in a happy place, dispensing wisdom on Brexit to all and sundry in the Irish Times. For example:

Apocalyptic views are still current. For instance, former taoiseach John Bruton recently said “Brexit will devastate trade flows, and human contact, within Ireland, with incalculable consequences”. Indeed, Bruton sees the consequences for peace on the island as so serious that they should arguably be the subject of a second referendum.


These deep fears stem from an anticipated need for the EU’s external tariff to be applied on trade with the UK, and for migration controls at either the Border with the Republic or when people leave Northern Ireland for Britain.

And also:

At all levels there is a feeling that Ireland may have to take the side of the EU in the upcoming negotiations.
This is not necessarily the view of the Irish Government, nor of senior officials who have been meeting British officials to plan a strategy for Ireland that will maintain free trade and free movement. Although pressures to behave like good Europeans may well intensify, the intention of the Irish Government, like the UK government, is to keep the land Border open. Neither see a serious danger to peace on the island.

Uh-huh? Not necessarily the view of the Irish government he says? The intention of the UK government he says?

Well what of that Irish government? Indeed what of that UK government? For the actual Irish and British governments seem to have somewhat different views this very week. As reported also in the IT:

Demands by a leading British minister to quit the EU’s customs union will make it “extremely difficult” to maintain an open Border with Northern Ireland, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said.
Saying he was “surprised” by international trade secretary Liam Fox’s declaration, Mr Flanagan cautioned: “I’m not sure that is widely shared among his colleagues.”
In a speech, the Conservative minister suggested that the UK would leave the customs union and negotiate its own trade deals as an independent member of the World Trade Organisation.

Now in fairness Gudgin has some good proposals about the manner in which matters should proceed.

Pessimists can, and do, argue the UK is likely to need border controls in Northern Ireland to prevent illegal immigration. If large flows of illegal immigrants do occur, the problem can be managed mainly though the UK’s systems of national insurance numbers for workers. Even if this system was circumvented, the obvious point of control is not at Northern Ireland’s porous southern Border, but at the limited number of exit points to Britain.
The DUP opposes such controls as a weakening of the ties between Northern Ireland and Britain, but border controls, if needed, will not represent any such weakening. Instead, they will be a practical solution to a specific problem, just as removing shoes and belts to board aircraft is a practical response to security threats for all modern air travellers.

But should and will are two different issues, and really, as Flanagan’s alarm suggests, the noises coming out of Britain – the divergent noises – are far from reassuring. Those who want a hard exit in the UK would near enough guarantee the imposition of a hard border on the island. Those who want a softer exit seem blissfully unaware of the fact the EU is not going to concede freedom of movement once Brexit actually is complete.

It would be a laughably pathetic situation if it wasn’t so serious in its implications for this island.


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A former Minister writes about the SBP poll. September 30, 2016

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Michael McDowell, for it is he, is in thoughtful mood about the latest RedC poll.

What the poll tell us is that nobody sees a coherent option for the next government. Worse still, it seems that the polls are predicting an incoherent option – or options – for the next government. The “new politics” are in fact the politics of paralysis.


Assuming that FF maintains its position of “no coalition with FG” up to and including the next election, we seem set to be governed by a centre party (FF or FG ) having the support of a quarter of the voters,  in coalition with an entourage of left-wing splinter groups chosen from among “the Left, the Hard Left and the Left-Overs”. And such a government will face its mirror image on the opposition benches. God help us!

Ignore the jibes about the ‘Left…’ and he has a point in relation to how matters will proceed.

Funnily enough Adrian Kavanagh’s latest projections bear this out:

Fianna Fail 27% (down 2% relative to the previous Red C opinion poll), Independents and Others 26% (NC) – including Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit 6%, Social Democrats 4%, Green Party 2%, Renua <1%, Independent Alliance 4%, Other Independents 10% – Fine Gael 25% (down 1%), Sinn Fein 15% (up 2%), Labour Party 7% (up 1%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows:  Fianna Fail 52, Fine Gael 44, Sinn Fein 23, Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit 8, Labour Party 7, Social Democrats 4, Independents 20.  

I think we have to be careful about the churn at the lower percentages but what is apparent is that FF bests FG by really not that much – this is no great breakthrough. SF retains the same number of seats there or thereabouts. AAAPBP might see some extra, possibly the SDs likewise, and… painful as this must be to the larger parties… Independents and Others retain a cohesiveness that blocks further movement by FF or FG. Oh, and the demise of the LP is perhaps overrated – though… though, presumably some will be retiring, etc.

McDowell hopes that matters will resume a more… traditional course, but I wonder. One has to ask why should they? Where do voters go? Why do they go there? Granted over time we may suspect that FF will gain a few more percentage points. But it is not an inevitability. And then where will be? 🙂

Fine Gael Spelling September 30, 2016

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.

Anyone know why Fine Gael spell it Connaught and Fianna Fail spell it Connacht ?


Then there is Fine Gael using “Bye-Election” and everyone else using “By-Election”



October edition of An Phoblacht September 29, 2016

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The October edition of An Phoblacht is just rolling off the press and will be in your local newsagent nationwide from Friday morning.

In the October An Phoblacht…

Spotlight Allegations – ‘A pile of crap’
Pearse Doherty – We need a fair Budget where no one is left behind
Máire Drumm – 40th anniversary of her killing
Leabharlanna féin-fhreastal?
Bernard O’Hagan – 25 years after his assassination, collusion questions linger
Eyewitness Palestine – The village that refused to be consigned to oblivion
Pearse, St Enda’s and the Hermitage
Reinforcing Ireland’s neutrality
Unionist politicians drive campaign against republican symbols
Fight for workers’ rights central to fight for a better economy
Bayer/Monsanto merger – ‘The Return of Frankenstein’
Fron Goch – Crash course in revolution

Signs of Hope – A continuing series September 29, 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?

The “new politics” redux… September 29, 2016

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Well, here’s another column by Stephen Collins. Another column, another day, and another dose of his key words and phrases. It’s like a particularly grim drinking game, isn’t it?

A slow start one might think…

Why is it that former Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis, who was such an abject failure in office, is lionised by the Irish media while his counterparts here who managed to save this country from a fate similar to Greece are generally treated with disdain?
The question was raised during the week by one of Ireland’s leading academics, Bridget Laffan, in the course of a stimulating lecture which looked at the response of the Irish State to the financial crisis.

But it picks up:

While the erosion of faith in the political system was prompted by the failures of political leadership that led to the crisis, it is hard to argue with the view that the media’s coverage of the state’s response has generally left a lot to be desired.

Faster still:

Laffan examined the response of the Fianna Fáil/Green government and the Fine Gael/Labour coalition to the enormous problems posed by the crash, and she gave them both considerable credit for taking the tough decisions required to stave off disaster.


By contrast [with Varoufakis], successive Irish ministers, central bankers and officials opted for persistent but quiet diplomacy that gradually restored the country’s reputation and fortunes. Yet the Irish media never gave Brian Lenihan, Michael Noonan or Brendan Howlin anything like the fawning treatment reserved for Varoufakis.

And here’s a special special paragraph:

If anything the Irish ministers who steered the country back on track were given a consistently hard time and their policies often misrepresented as the imposition of wilful hardship on a long-suffering electorate for no apparent reason.

Is he saying that there was hardship imposed on a long suffering electorate? Why yes. But it wasn’t wilful or for no apparent reason. Though he seems to ignore, for example, the point that the balance between expenditure cuts and taxation increases was a political issue rather than an economic one.

There’s more…

Now it is the media’s role to question political leaders and hold them accountable for the impact of their policies on the citizens of the state, but a diet of unremitting and often ill-informed criticism has helped to promote a corrosive cynicism that has serious implications for our democracy.
From this side of the Irish Sea we can recognise the baleful influence of so much of the British media in creating the atmosphere in which a majority of people there voted to leave the European Union and do so much damage to their country’s future prospects.

But the point is made. And in Laffan he appears to have found a soul mate. She said:

“The treatment of these issues in the media does not help us address them. Political commentary more often than not portrays politics as a game; who is in or out; who will be the next taoiseach, will John Halligan survive and so on. The John Halligan story mattered of course for the future of the Government but the big issue at stake was and is the allocation of very scarce public resources to the Irish health system.”

Well scarce is as state taxes. And while I agree that the treatment of the issues is problematic that extends to those like Collins who have strenuously argued that there is no alternative to the orthodoxy, whether inside the system as presently constituted or outside it. Many will find that unconvincing.

Haiti, the US Presidential election and us. Cynical? Difficult to be cynical enough… September 29, 2016

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…is the thought that comes to mind reading this quite brilliant overview in Slate.com/a> of how Haiti has become a political football in the US election (indeed a certain name is mentioned only today – though more on that…) and some background on the issue. <What’s most fascinating is the way in which it perfectly exemplifies so many different aspects of the contemporary. Trump uses it as a stick to beat Clinton with – but in doing so aligns himself with the most reactionary elements from that society. Clinton uses it as an example of her supposedly far-sighted economic and foreign policy, but in doing so underpins economic oppressions that cannot be waved away. And as the author, foreign correspondent Jonathan M. Katz writes:

But what the shallower critics of the Clintons miss is whom this fundamentally unjust system is designed to benefit. Despite cherry-picked, half-understood stories about permits for nonexistent gold mines and isolated instances of naked (and duly punished) fraud that account for rounding errors in the actual billions raised and spent after the earthquake, there is simply no evidence that the intent was to line the Clintons’ pockets.
The system isn’t designed for them; it’s for us. The low wages that the U.S. embassy helped suppress are the reason we can enjoy a steady stream of $9 Mossimo camisoles and $12.99 six-packs of Hanes T-shirts. Even U.S. military uniform parts get made in Haitian sweatshops. As America moves further away from its producer past and deeper into its consumer present, we will want cheaper and cheaper smartphones and cheaper and cheaper clothes that we can afford on our stagnant service wages, and we will demand our leaders find us alternatives to sourcing from rivals like China. Places like Caracol are the result. Some Americans say they want production jobs to come back home, but few are ready to pay twice as much for their clothes or $100 extra for their iPhones, most of which would still have to be sourced from overseas.
To get the things we want, the United States has been in the business of overturning elections and toppling governments for more than a century. Clinton’s trip to Haiti in 2011 represents the softer end of a long tradition of U.S. invasions, coups, and usurpations: Panama in 1903 to Iran, 1953; Guatemala, 1954, to Congo, 1961; Vietnam, 1963, to Chile, 1973, to Iraq 2003, and on and on.

And just when you think that the resonances couldn’t be more apt, there’s a local one to here.

Bill continues to mix his post-presidential fame and Haiti business matchmaking in ways that set off alarm bells—often in conjunction with his trademark quarter-million-dollar speaking fees. In the reconstruction effort, he often partnered with Irish cell phone company Digicel and its head, Denis O’Brien. The company helped arrange at least one lucrative speaking engagement for the former president, while the Clinton Foundation “facilitated introductions” to help O’Brien build a luxurious new Marriott hotel next to Digicel’s Port-au-Prince headquarters. USAID has directed about $1.3 million to Digicel since 2008, along with private grant money. Digicel has donated tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. It’s hard to say how, or even if, any of those parts fit together: Digicel was dominating Haiti’s cell phone market and doing development work there long before the Clintons re-engaged with the country in 2009. USAID money started going to Digicel while George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice were running U.S. foreign policy, and most has been paid out since Clinton left the State Department. An indirect speaking fee is hardly proof of a kickback scheme. Still, the relationship is clearly an example of the many ways money and celebrity combine and strengthen each other at the highest levels of power.

Hold on there Boris, isn’t that your job? September 28, 2016

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Is the thought that comes to mind reading this report that Boris Johnson has said…

The British government cannot allow the process of opening formal negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union to “drag on”….


“There is obviously Euro elections coming down the track,” he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“I think people will be wondering whether we want to be sending a fresh batch of UK Euro MPs to that institution which, after all, we are going to be leaving. So let’s get on with it.”

And then last night we have this:

Liam Fox has used a speech to the World Trade Organisation to portray post-Brexit Britain as a “proud and outward-looking trading nation” that would battle for liberalised commerce outside the EU.

The address in Geneva was billed in advance as the international trade secretary making a significant push for a so-called hard Brexit, taking the UK outside the EU’s single market. However, critics said the lack of any new details on the terms of Brexit indicated confusion in the government over the issue.

They haven’t a clue. They really don’t.

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