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Ceasefire January 23, 2018

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Is this reported ceasefire by PIRA splinter group Óglaigh na Éireann a surprise? Just wondering had there been talk of it coming for quite a while?

An Irish News analysis quoted on Slugger argues that because it had a leadership that came from the IRA it therefore was ‘well known to intelligence agencies’ and that jail and remanded members stymied it (it was responsible for the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr). All true no doubt but that didn’t stop organisations in the past, so does the following also account for it:

A nationalist re-engagement in politics, as seen by increased turnout in the two snap elections of 2017, and discussions around a border poll post-Brexit, has also opened up the political process to more republicans.

And that:

The remaining dissident groupings are fractured and disorganised, with attacks sporadic and activity largely concentrating on money-making criminal enterprises or paramilitary shootings within their own communities.

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A new leader in waiting… January 23, 2018

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So, Sinn Féin has a President-Elect. Mary Lou McDonald will be the next leader of the party, to be ratified in hardly more than two or three weeks time at a Special Ard Fheis. This is a fascinating moment, but it raises questions. Does this change matters for Sinn Féin in terms of increasing its popularity – or does it come somewhat too late? On a not unrelated matter how does it impact on the perception of the party and indeed on how its political rivals attempt to critique and criticise it. And what does it tell us about the political development of Sinn Féin to this point?

Some clues here. No doubt more to follow.

Apostate leader January 23, 2018

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Some telling letters in the IT on Micheál Martin’s supposed apostasy on the abortion provision issue. To give a sense of them consider the following:

At the Fianna Fáil ardfheis last October, the party’s membership voted overwhelmingly to oppose the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. This week in the Dáil, however, the party’s leader Micheál Martin not only supported the repeal of the amendment, but expressed his strong support for the radical proposals for abortion on demand that have been proposed by an Oireachtas committee.
Mr Martin is the leader of Fianna Fáil, not just a backbencher. Accordingly, what he says is inevitably seen as expressing the position of his party. He, after all, is the public face of the party and would aspire to be taoiseach after the next general election.
The people who voted for Fianna Fáil in the last election did not do so with a view to bringing about a radically liberal abortion regime in Ireland. There were other parties assertively pushing that agenda. Those who voted so decisively on this issue at the October ardfheis are the very people who Mr Martin would be expecting to be his foot-soldiers in the next election.
Having abused his position to call for abortion on demand in Ireland, contrary to the democratically expressed position of the party he leads, it is difficult to see how Mr Martin can continue to retain the confidence of his party to lead them into the next election. It might indeed be time now for Mr Martin to consider joining Fine Gael?

I just don’t get the idea that in a context where a conscience vote is allowed Martin is not allowed to express his opinion or vote upon it. Indeed isn’t that precisely the point of a conscience vote? Surely for Martin to do otherwise would make him a hypocrite? Moreover the agreement to allow a conscience vote predated the Ard Fheis vote and the latter wasn’t binding upon TDs as was made clear in advance of the AF vote. Now if it had been…

In any case freedom of conscience must mean freedom of conscience – if that is the ground that is chosen – and one doubts there were any complaints when Martin put that to FF TDs some years back. Not that there aren’t contradictions in all this. But fewer than the letter writer might think. Indeed famously we have the example of Liam Cosgrave voting against his own government’s legislation in the 1970s. It would be interesting to hear their thoughts on that.

The more I look at it the more Martin’s gesture, sincere though it was, seems done from weakness rather than strength, that in fact the majority of FF TDs and Senators are against repeal and replacement with a 12 week time period of unrestricted abortion provision, but that Martin may be doing his party quite some favour given the voices raised by those opposed to him by underscoring that attitudes aren’t fixed within FF – something that is not unimportant further down the line.

Mind you, Michael McGrath’s contribution isn’t entirely unuseful. He accepted that

While he did not agree with Mr Martin, Mr McGrath said Fianna Fáil cannot “have a situation where the party agrees there is a freedom of conscience vote, but that freedom doesn’t apply to the leader”.

And he has said he won’t join anti-repeal groups inside the party either.

It may seem curious to parties without such divisions, but if this is how FF organises itself – and that’s key, this was agreed by FF members and representatives, then it is difficult to argue against them organising as they see fit.

As to Martin resigning? Well, I suspect it won’t be as a function of the abortion provision referendum that Martin may lose the FF leadership. Though the stubborn lack of movement in the polls is another matter. But what if he gains a fillip from this stand he made?

Popular reading January 22, 2018

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This photo taken at the weekend shows My Life in the IRA by Michael Ryan is selling very well.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded it.

Tone policing January 22, 2018

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Wow, Newton Emerson is no fan of Arlene Foster. Still, he isn’t wrong when he notes that for all the positive reporting of her speech south of the border a week or so back on Brexit, little of substance has changed.

And he makes a most interesting point:

Yet now she is trapped in a limbo that makes it hard to address this offence.
Technically, Foster is still first minister – the outgoing incumbent remains in office until the post is refilled. But without an executive, she is first minister of nothing.
Foster is leader of the DUP and hence of unionism. But the focus of unionist power has moved to Westminster, supercharged by the DUP-Tory deal – and Foster is not an MP.

And:

If direct rule is introduced she will hold no elected office and must step down as DUP leader under the party’s rules. Sinn Féin believes the DUP’s leader in the Commons, Nigel Dodds, is already in charge behind the scenes.
So whenever Foster opens her mouth she provokes that most damning of Ulster dismissals: who does she think she is?

Another interesting point from Emerson:

The Barry McElduff Kingsmill affair has shown there is still a strong appetite for rapprochement in Northern Ireland. A sense of hatred running out of control ended with palpable relief at pulling back from the brink, thanks largely to a BBC interview last Thursday, when Sinn Féin and DUP former ministers John O’Dowd and Edwin Poots found exactly the right tone of acknowledgement.

And another thought worth considering:

While Stormont was functioning, she tended to comport herself not as the unionist first minister of Northern Ireland but as the prime minister of a unionist Northern Ireland – to understandable nationalist annoyance.

And:

Commentators and political representatives were affronted that Foster spoke for a unionist Northern Ireland, with no acknowledgement of its Irish population.

This last is hugely important. The current context of Brexit has brought all this to the fore – a sense that the DUP has seized its moment in the sun. It is certainly no slouch at presenting itself as the only voice of Northern Ireland, and one, as Emerson notes, which mostly ignores the realities – demographic and political that indicate the situation is much more finely balanced than that. Moreover this has significant implications. Eoghan Harris was talking about ‘indulging’ Nationalists in the North and how that had to be ‘stopped’. But what of the indulging of a unionism that attempts in this circumstance to entirely ignore nationalism? And this, a unionism, that is directly linked into Westminster and the current government there.

There’s a grievous lack of perspective of the actual power relationships in operation in the analysis of Harris and others. But it goes deeper than that. Isolation of nationalism led to abysmal outcomes in the last century. To see the same happening again, a pretence that the North is something other than contested and complex and incorporating overlapping national identities, is potentially an error, but another unforced one that could have significant ramifications well into the future.

Left Archive: Workers Republic, LWR Conference Documents 1977, Sept-Oct 1977 January 22, 2018

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To download the above please click on the following link. AP 1970

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

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

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

This is an important edition of Workers Republic (see here for more issues) from the LWR. Printed in 1977 it came at a time when Fianna Fáil had just returned to power after the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

The editorial ascribes the 13% achieved by the latter party and the loss of seats by Labour Ministers as a result of ‘coalitionist’. It argues that Fianna Fáil won because it ran ‘on a programme of concessions to the working class and middle class’. it also criticise the Liaison of the Left Committee for refusing to ‘organise a broad left opposition to coalition within the LP’ which ‘caused the LP left to be totally unprepared to meet the ruthlessness of the apparatus in blocking all candidates who might pose the slightest threat to the coalition’ and it further criticises the Browne/Merrigan ‘ill-prepared and politically confused independent labour campaign’.

Other parts of the publication include the main document adopted at the LWR conference in May 1977. These, as the introduction notes ‘first advance the new tactical turn of the LWR, where we turned from the sectarian attempt to build revolutionary party outside of the mass organisations of the working class to an orientation to those mass organisations’.

These documents address both international and national issues and provide a compelling insight into the thinking of the LWR during this particularly eventful political period.

Self-abasement and self-effacement January 21, 2018

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The German SPD, the oldest political party in Europe, has just opted for its own slow strangulation. A delegate conference voted by 56% to go into coaltion talks. During talks on a framework agreement as a basis for a coalition the SPD gave everything and got next to nothing.

The framework agreement is in essence: more of the same plus much of the AfD’s anti-immigrant agenda. All that’s new is that the anti-immigrants have got an effective stop on refugees’ families joining them. With predictable effects.

The way in which the framework agreement was announced at a press conference is indicative of the current relationship between the Union (CDU/CSU) and the SPD. First Schulz gave a little talk where he thanked everyone involved, and mentioned no substance. Then Merkel spoke and unscripted said something to the effect that Schulz was ‘a great man for a vote of thanks.’ And then the head of the CSU, with his usual sharkish smirk, listed off the two or three minute gains of the SPD as a collective achievement.

The contempt of the Union for the SPD is palpable. The relationship from here on in will be sado-masochistic. And not in a good way.

The SPD is split over the deal with nearly half the party against, and probably the majority of grass-roots members against a coalition on the basis of the framework agreement – the usual delegation selection effect in favour or the leadership applies. The leadership and the grass roots in the party have never been so split.

Normally leaders speeches at an SPD conference are ritually applauded with standing ovations. Schulz got at best half-hearted applause. Those speaking against the coalition enjoyed, in contrast, huge applause.

So the SPD leadership is putting out a number of stories to cover their arses. First, there is a myth that during negotiations the SPD will get more. Why? The Union knows they can’t walk out of the relationship and will turn the screws and the SPD will bend the knee.

There is also a myth that the next government will only go half term. Highly unlikely. The SPD are now in the same position as the Irish Labour party were in the last two Irish governments – hanging on for dear life because they knew that they would incur further losses at an election. So the new German government will be highly stable. No wonder the German employers organisations are cock-a-hoop.

What could the SPD have done otherwise? Well, they could have refused to enter coalition, then voted for Merkel as chancellor, without a working majority – that’s the way the German constitution works. Then it would have been up to Merkel to either form a minority government or call another election.

Either way the SPD could have started campaigning for the genuinely social democratic positions that have a wide acceptance in the electorate.  They could have tried to ensure that the game was played on that playing field rather than the racist and anti-immigrant one constructed by the AfD (and their CSU fellow-travellers), which favours only the AfD. The media may or may not have played along, but at least the SPD would have had a chance of renewal rather than certain decay.

At least genuine social democrats in Germany have somewhere to go other than apoliticisation and tiny left parties. Die Linke encompasses a broad range of positions ranging roughly between genuine social democracy and democratic socialism. If die Linke can’t attract numbers of former SPD members and trades unionists then they are doing something badly wrong.

What will the effects for Ireland be? Harder to say, but barring the faint possibility that the SPD membership will reject the coalition agreement when they vote sometime before Easter, it will mean that in the Brexit negotiations there will be no wedge to be driven between Macron and this German government. The Brexiteer UK government will have no friends in the German government now the the FDP have ruled themselves out, and the AfD are still in opposition.

That means Ireland needs to prepare itself either for a CETA plus a bit agreement, with continuing confusion over the the border on the island, or the real possibility of a hard Brexit.

Sunday and the Week’s Media Stupid Statements… January 21, 2018

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An old regular makes a reappearance on these pages…from earlier in the week:

The latest Churchill film, Darkest Hour, opened last week in Irish cinemas.
The title also applies to the dark hours ahead of us if we don’t stop enabling Sinn Fein and indulging Northern nationalists.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson speaks.

 “it’s crazy that two of the biggest economies in the world are connected by one railway line when they are only 20 miles apart”.

All those aircraft, container ships, ferries and so on that cross the 20 miles… and just what are they? And his solution – a bridge.

Small wonder that some are dubious…I rarely quote Tory MP’s… but…

Charlie Elphicke said: “Boris is right. We absolutely must invest in infrastructure to keep trade flowing between Britain and France.
“Let’s start by dualling the A2 to Dover, building the Lower Thames Crossing and lorry parks on the M20. Surely it’s not a bridge too far for the Government to invest in Kent?”

While: “Jonathan Roberts, of the UK Chamber of Shipping, told Sky News that “building a huge concrete structure in the middle of the world’s busiest shipping lane might come with some challenges”.

Haughey|Gregory Play January 21, 2018

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Thanks to Tombuktu for noting this…

Former Dublin TD Tony Gregory will be honoured in a new play at the Abbey Theatre.

Gregory, who past away in 2009, was credited with rejuvenating inner-city Dublin.

In 1982, the Independent TD was elected to the Dail and struck the famous ‘Gregory Deal’ with Charlie Haughey which returned Fianna Fail to power.

The deal, which was worth an estimated IR£80million to Gregory’s Dublin Central constituency, has become part of Irish political folklore.

Gregory, who was from Ballybough in the north inner city, remained a TD from 1982 and while he never held a government position, he remained one of the country’s most recognised Dail deputies.

The play itself…

Haughey | Gregory

By Colin Murphy
​​1982: Dublin’s Inner City is devastated by unemployment and addiction – and the planners’ solution is to simply bulldoze it. But the results of the general election leaves the novice TD, Tony Gregory, holding the balance of power.

​Can Gregory use his vote to achieve something sustainable for the Inner City? To do so, he will have to face off against the dominant personality of Irish politics – Charles J Haug

8-10 February
PEACOCK THEATRE

A new poll… January 21, 2018

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From the Sunday Times/Behaviour & Attitudes… and…

FG 32% -2

FF 26% NC

SF 18% +1

LP 6% +1

GP 2% NC

SOL/PBP 2% NC

SD 1% – 1

IND ALL 4% NC

IND 9% +1

No real change there from the last one. I supposed one can make the case that quite small movements in the polling do impact on smaller parties.

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