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Seanad reform: No change is bad change… June 27, 2017

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Interesting piece by Michael McDowell in the SBP recently where he takes Enda Kenny and Leo Varadkar to task for failing to implement Seanad Reform. The argument is that despite Maurice Manning being brought in following the defeat of the Seanad abolition referendum to assist a Seanad Reform plan and despite this being in the programme for government and despite this being tabled by McDowell and other Senators as draft legislation and despite an All-Party Implementation Group being promised by Kenny and formed…

That was a year ago. nothing has happened since. Absolutely nothing.

No great surprise there. The referendum was a misfiring political stroke (which in other times might have worked but was so obviously diversionary that citizens recoiled if not at the detail at the idea of being railroaded by the government into the idea) and all that came after it was of a piece with the expedience of it and whatever was convenient to keep the main show, that being the government on the road.

McDowell writes of how ‘FG Senators sought and received private assurances of no real Seanad reform from canvassers’ for the FG leadership contestants. And he argues…

If Leo has his way, the Seanad will continue to be elected in the main by county councillors.

Depressing in the extreme. But it’s difficult to envisage how the Seanad can be reformed at this point given the evident lack of political will. And I wonder if someone does bring a referendum to abolish it again will that pass?

The special relationship summed up literally… and sovereignty, don’t mention sovereignty.  June 27, 2017

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HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail – a massive ship. There’s going to be another – the Prince of Wales. And perhaps a pointless one, as this piece in the Guardian notes:

The carriers, along with the Trident nuclear programme, account for a huge chunk of the defence budget. Critics within the military complain such high-profile projects have been at the expense of surface ships, soldiers and the air force. They also question whether aircraft carriers are anachronistic and vulnerable to attack from increasingly sophisticated missiles.

Asked by the Guardian whether the carrier is a white elephant, [Captain] Kyd unsurprisingly, disagreed. “These assets give you a global presence, a serious punch, anywhere you want, at immediate notice,” he said. “I think it is a pretty good investment at £6bn. In 50 years from now, we will look back and say that was extremely good value and they will be used a lot.”

But check this out…

Each carrier can hold 36 planes and four helicopters. The navy is hoping to have 24 F-35s by 2023 and a further 24 by 2025. In addition, the US marines will fly their own F-35s off the carriers, though the number is still under discussion.

In all the stuff about sovereignty in relation to the EU and Brexit it is curious, isn’t it, that the massive implications to British sovereignty of a foreign power siting military bases on its land and on its ships ne’er deserved a mention. Some might think that the intertwining of the UK and US military in terms of nuclear deterrent etc is the antithesis of sovereignty.

Speaking of which, check this out… From the Independent some years back and a fascinating overview of these matters. As matters stood in 2014…

Since the highwater mark of the 1990s, when the number of US-manned military facilities in Britain reached 100 or so, the US presence has fallen to 13, ranging from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk – one of the largest air bases outside the US – to a joint GCHQ and National Security Agency satellite station at Morwenstow in Cornwall. The result is nonetheless a significant US military presence on British soil, consisting of 24,000 personnel, civilian staff and family members.

And while:

The MoD insists that there is full oversight of the “RAF” bases, including a British commander who scrutinises all actions to ensure they comply with British law, and legislation holding all foreign service personnel to UK legislation.

But critics insist such assertions are a poor exchange for a grim reality of opacity over US activities and what they say is a legal no-man’s-land resulting in British impotence when it comes to holding the UK’s first ally to account.

The fracturing of British politics…  June 26, 2017

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We talk a lot about the fracturing of Irish politics, and rightly. The last twenty to thirty years has seen the dominant blocks lose considerable weight under pressure from Independents and smaller parties. Perhaps that situation will rectify itself – or perhaps it won’t. I’m still fascinated by the static nature of the polls here at the moment where votes appear to be moving between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil rather than elsewhere.

But be that as it may, reading this piece by Christopher Kissane in the IT there’s this comment:

Politicians promising everyone the best of all possible worlds has left open the very real risk of a “no deal” Brexit, leaving Britain adrift in international economic waters. British politics has become not just parochial but myopic, its horizons ending at the Channel and the short-term squabbling over the deckchairs while the icebergs get closer.

In many European countries such a moment of national crisis would inspire a broad coalition to build the consensus necessary for a way forward. Yet British democracy actively discourages such co-operation. Designed to produce durable majority governments, the first-past-the-post system instead has produced hung parliaments in 2010 and 2017, while 2015’s slender Conservative majority lasted just two years.

I tend to disagree with analyses that look for some much vaunted but usually invisible centre ground. Yet the point about how the British system has, if not broken down, certainly come under some pressure is well made. The crisis of the late 2000s has impacted there as much as anywhere, but as is almost inevitable it has taken on local characteristics – delivering the SNP to levels of MPs even today after the recent election that they could only have dreamed of a decade or so ago. It has led to Brexit, a rupture albeit a hugely problematic one. It has also arguably led to further contention in NI.

And that simple fact of hung parliaments and slender majorities is fascinating. Not that this is unprecedented. The 1970s where characterised by precisely this sort of instability. And one has to consider the broader picture of that time to see how and why that happened.

None of this is set in stone. It is entirely possible that the fractures will be mitigated. The remarkably robust support for Tories and Labour at the recent election although not translated into seats speaks of a degree of consolidation. Perhaps that will continue.

And on a slight tangent as we’ve noted elsewhere this week, Kissane points to the ineptitude of the British government.

Officials in Brussels have become increasingly alarmed that their British counterparts do not understand basic but crucial elements of the Brexit process. Indeed, the current cabinet is simply not up to the job: the defining issue of the election was May’s arrogance and incompetence, Liam Fox and David Davis seem ignorant of the realities of international trade, while the less said about Johnson the better. Britain is fielding a team far off test-match standard.

This is staggering. These people led a whole state to a decision and, again, whatever the rights and wrongs of that decision, clearly had little or no actual grasp of the issues at stake. And Kissane argues:

Yet there is no clarity as to what will come next. One of the world’s largest economies currently has no economic policy.

We share a land border with this crew.

And the border? June 26, 2017

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Just had a quick read of the Tory/DUP agreement and nowhere do I seem to see mention of the border. Not necessarily a good sign if so.

Already the Guardian reports irritation and more from Wales and Scotland over extra funds for NI. Clearly some unions are a bit more unionist than others.

(Customs) union man…  June 26, 2017

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Anyone read Simon Coveney’s interview in the Independent last week? It’s well worth a read in terms of laying out the RoI position on the border given his new status as Foreign Affairs Minister. 

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Coveney said the Government will be pushing for a special deal, with “unique status” for the North to ensure the Border remains as close as possible to the current arrangement.

That could see the North retaining a link to the customs union, he said – adding that Michel Barnier, Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator, is on board.

A scenario that would see a customs barrier, even an “e-border” using technology, would be a non-runner, the minister added.

And:

“Ireland’s staying in the customs union. So if we’re going to avoid a hard Border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, there needs to be some relationship with the customs union and common market that allows Northern Ireland to be able to operate the way that it does today,” the minister told this newspaper.

He said that if we think in terms of Northern Ireland being simply in or out of the customs union or single market, then it’s “almost impossible to see a solution”.

And:

“That’s why in the terms of reference for the EU negotiating team, they talk about imaginative and flexible solutions being required, and they will be. We will need to think differently in terms of how Northern Ireland relates to and interacts to the common market.”

Yet… for there’s so much that raises a ‘yet’…

Those solutions need to be devised without threatening the integrity of the UK, or the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, he added. The plan, therefore, entails Northern Ireland leaving the European Union with the rest of the UK.

Mr Coveney said the European negotiating team would have to insist on solutions that “don’t have any precedent”, to maintain the current relationship on the island.

Jasus, I’m not sure I like the sound of that. Or this, at least in terms of the practicalities…

Mr Coveney accepted that if Northern Ireland was able to retain a link to the customs union, and the rest of Britain was outside of it, then there would still be a requirement for a border somewhere. Asked if this meant it would have to be in the Irish Sea, between the island and Britain, Mr Coveney said: “Not necessarily. We need to talk about whether or not the checks that are necessary can be facilitated a different way, whether that’s in airports or ports, and Ireland and the UK working together to facilitate that.

I can understand why many people would have a concern that shifting a border to the Irish Sea, and creating a potential trade barrier between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, that is something that is very sensitive, and understandably so.

“It’s complicated. Two things need to happen. You need to protect the integrity of the single market. And then if you’re going to do that, how do you square the relationships between Northern Ireland and Britain?”

And he continues that in relation to unionism he ‘takes heart’ from comments by Jeffrey Donaldson about a ‘seamless border’. Well, as was noted by bjg on this site and An Sionnach Fionn on ASF last week any undue optimism on that regard (including my own) is probably misplaced.

The Indo flags this as Coveney’s ‘plans’ for an invisible border. I would have thought it more accurately his ‘hopes’ for same.

A poll! June 26, 2017

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As reported on RTÉ, DailyMail/Ireland Thinks offers us a poll this morning…

FG 31% +6

FF 26% -1

SF 15% -1

LP 7% +2

GP 4% +2

SD 2%

Solidarity-PBP 2%

Inds/Others 11% -4

________

MOE 2.8%

Interesting if replicated in other polls. The overall bands of support are not dissimilar to SBP etc polls in the last six months to a year. That movement between Inds/Others and FG somewhat different to the last poll which showed movement between FG and FF to FG’s advantage. Still, and all. Is this the Varadkar bounce? And if so is it enough? And what of the left? No sign of a Corbyn bounce (unless that extra couple of percentage points on the LP indicates an almost osmotic dynamic).

 

 

 

Left Archive: Leaflet, Irish Workers Group (Larkin), 1930 June 26, 2017

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Many thanks to Tony Williams for forwarding this to both the Left Archive and Irish Election Literature. Produced on behalf of the Irish Worker League, which was the Larkin party, it outlines IWL candidates for the 1930 Dublin Municipal League. For further information on the IWL see here.

The group was notable for its links to the Comintern and Moscow.

 

Avowedly working-class it outlines a range of issues on which the candidates are standing. These include Union Wages, Union Conditions, Security of Tenancy, Reduction of Municipal House Rents, the Continuance of Rent Restriction Act and Houses.

The candidates include Frank Cluskey, a Trade Union Secretary (Butchers), Hilary Williams a Bricklayer and John Sunderland a Railway Worker.

A very useful addition to the Archive. Any other materials from the Irish Worker League would be very welcome.

 

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week June 25, 2017

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A holding post today… Garibaldy is otherwise engaged, but getting the ball rolling here’s RDE’s thoughts on people who don’t like the DUP’s politics (or aspects of same). 

I don’t wish to be mean to [Stephen] Rea and [Caroline] Lucas, for they are merely reflecting a section of British and Irish opinion that is so exhausted from expressing tolerance towards terrorists that they’re dying for targets they can despise without guilt.

 

You know you’re getting old…  June 25, 2017

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…when Daniel Day Lewis retires – albeit at a good decade earlier than most of us will. Never my favourite actor, though I have to admit to liking There Will Be Blood – but I do agree with this point made in this overview here in the Guardian of his career… 

 

…my favourite Day-Lewis roles are not his Lincoln or Christy Brown. I loved the sheer sinuous sexiness and subversion of his gay ex-fascist street-fighter punk Johnny Burfoot in My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), scripted by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Stephen Frears.

That’s a fantastic film and with a depth and complexity (politically too) that foreshadows some of what we’ve seen in more contemporary times.

Life is strange… June 25, 2017

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This looks kind of cool, Life is Strange – a third person adventure/mystery game. Anyone play it? 

The game’s plot focuses on Max Caulfield, a photography student who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time at any moment, leading her every choice to enact the butterfly effect. After having foreseen an approaching storm, Max must take on the responsibility to prevent it from destroying her town. The player’s actions will adjust the narrative as it unfolds, and reshape it once allowed to travel back in time. Fetch quests and making environmental changes represent the forms of puzzle solving in addition to using branching choices for conversation.

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