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An odd resonance with the past… January 31, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The Social Democrat’s deliberations this last weekend seem to have been interesting. The Irish Times and other media, whose coverage was fairly spare, were sceptical about significant progress for that party at this point and an interesting point was made about how they overlap not just with the LP, in some respects, but also the GP. Though also mentioned was an aversion to coalition on the part of the leadership. We shall see.

One significant danger (from the perspective of the SDs) is that they become a sort of attenuated Democratic Left – with many of the same problems, not least a party that is functionally arranged around individual TDs. There really is no future in that so it will be educative to see how they intend to avoid that pitfall.

That resonance?

There is provision for entering coalition in the new constitution. It would require 60 per cent of delegates to approve such a move.

Isn’t that more or less the figure that was needed to successfully negotiate the ‘reformation’ of the Workers’ Party all those years ago. A figure that wasn’t reached with the ensuing split in the party…

The unpopularity of Irexit in the ROI. January 31, 2018

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I can’t say I’m hugely surprised by this, polling from the IT/IpsosMRB that suggests:

Just one in 10 voters believe Ireland would be better off leaving the European Union if Brexit resulted in a hard border between North and South, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll finds.
Voters were asked: “If Brexit results in a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, would Ireland be better off leaving the EU or would Ireland be better off remaining in the EU?”
Granted this comes in advance of any such situation but it is suggestive that the broad trends we have seen in polling on Brexit, and on the idea that the RoI might follow the UK in an Irexit have continued. That is that Irish public opinion is strongly, almost overwhelmingly, in favour of membership of the EU.


More than three-quarters of voters (78 per cent) said Ireland would be better off remaining in the EU. Just 10 per cent said Ireland would be better off leaving, while 12 per cent offered no opinion.


Support for remaining in the EU was consistent across all demographics and geographic areas, and was highest in Dublin, among older voters and the better off. Among the political parties, pro-EU feeling was least strong amongst Sinn Féin voters, though even here two-thirds of the party’s supporters (67 per cent) said Ireland would be better off remaining in the EU even with a hard border.

If this were a rogue poll that would be one thing. But throughout the Brexit period public opinion has remained distinctly pro-EU with figures of up to 90% and more in favour of continued membership.

Even were all the DK’s to break to the Irexit side that would still leave near enough 8 in 10 voters in support of remaining in the bloc.

How though this plays out in the context of a very real possibility of a hard Brexit and a none too soft Border remains to be seen. And yet, my pessimistic side suspects that the partitionism we’ve long seen in the South would be the default mode, as it was during the 1970s and 80s.

What you want to say – 31st January, 2018 January 31, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

BLP & Tories – a cakeist alliance? January 30, 2018

Posted by Citizen of Nowhere in Uncategorized.

Well it’s all kicking off again on the Brexit front. Where are we now?

Firstly, phase one isn’t over. ‘Sufficient progress’ doesn’t mean ‘done and dusted.’ Certainly not the case of the border through the island of Ireland. Sufficient progress consisted only in progress in expressing good intentions to achieve the impossible, and declaring that sufficient.

The fundamentals haven’t changed.  Now that the DUP have vetoed special status for NI,  the only way to avoid a customs border is for the UK to remain in the European customs union.  And the only way to avoid an immigration border is for the UK to remain in the single market.  End of.

And the EU is making it clear that it wants legal certainty in a agreement rather than good intentions.  How inconvenient!  They’re kind of like that – annoyingly legalist.

Equally inconvenient is the mandate given to Barnier to finish the transition period by the end of 2020. This would give the UK under two years to try to negotiate a deal, during a period when the UK effectively becomes a EU vassal state. For real this time, not in Farage’s fevered imagination.

And furthermore, the EU is making clear that it can’t negotiate and end position because the UK government still will not say what it wants (apart from the impossible).  This goes for most of the many, many issues that need to be agreed. This is because May is unable to face down any of the factions in her party without being kicked out, but the Tory Brexiteer head-bangers won’t give her the heave just yet, because it suits them to run down the clock into a no-deal Brexit.

The EU side is utterly relaxed because they know they hold all the cards, the clock continues to tick down, and they’ve already factored in the worse outcome.

You’d think this was a time for the British Labour Party to capitalise on the disarray among the Tories by espousing a position that enough Tories could revolt around, and hopefully bring about the collapse of the government and fresh elections.

But not a bit of it.

Just as a large majority of Labour members, and a majority of potential Labour voters, and indeed voters overall, are in favour of a referendum on whatever deal is reached – Corbyn rules it out.

Then when a majority of Labour members favour staying in the single market and the customs union, Labour won’t put this forward as a long-term possibility.

Thereby, incidentally, washing their hands of a workable solution on the Irish border. (Unless, just possibly, Labour plans to stuff the DUP and move the customs and immigration border the the Scottish, Welsh and English mainland.)

The same goes for EFTA.

Instead all you get is Labour cakeism. A ‘jobs-first Brexit’ (whatever that is meant to mean), when the leaked civil service report makes it clear that all non-fairydust scenarios would mean a loss of GDP. But they’re just ‘experts’, I guess.

Like the Tories, Labour rule out the single market, the customs union and EFTA. Instead, somewhere in the mists of the future there hovers before their eyes an agreement that achieves Brexit without any of the disadvantages, while not sabotaging their social democratic agenda. An untutored eye might say that they stand shoulder in cakeism with the Tories.

Free speech and… January 30, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Michael Carley linked to this interesting piece here. I’ve a lot of sympathy for it – not least the sense of proportion. For all the supposed outrage over relatively peripheral and marginal events on some campuses – some great, some good, some a bit dodgy and some, as the piece notes ‘daft’ – in the greater scheme of things they’re no real threat to freedom of speech. And I would argue that where else is it possible to experiment in quite this way in a society. Some stuff will work, some won’t but to characterise it as the totality – as the right and the neo-right (such as Spiked etc, given a big mention in the piece) attempt to do, is simply incorrect.

But it is particularly intriguing when discussing the RCP and the following:

Meet the Revolutionary Communist Party. Not your father’s commies, the RCP was an offshoot of the Revolutionary Communist Group, which had itself split from the International Socialists in the 1970s. Always media savvy, throughout the 70s and 80s it was interested in moral panics like child pornography and the AIDS epidemic, finding ways to reframe ideas and events into hardened concepts and tropes.
By 1997 it was no longer cool to run a “party”, so it chose to propagate its ideas through a magazine called Living Marxism – a kind of Now! album collection of familiar frames to true believers – along with an exotic collection of front groups. The Manifesto Club. Parents with Attitude. Audacity.org. The Institute of Ideas.

So many fronts…

Motorway cities… January 30, 2018

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Newton Emerson had another interesting column in the IT which inadvertently points up the sheer lack of imagination and forward thinking of unionism in the 20th century. He writes about how infrastructural projects have a peculiar hold on the public imagination and how recently after the risible Channel Bridge proposal from one B. Johnson there was a half-serious idea of a Scotland/Northern Ireland bridge mooted. He points to how the DUP has long wanted some sort of link between the two, in 2015 going as far as to include an examination of such proposals in its manifesto. The union made manifest as it were.

But he also notes that internally the North was poorly served by infrastructure, famously so in a way:

Northern Ireland provides the negative illustration – it has never collectively inspired itself in concrete and steel. Its motorways and railways peter out at the river Bann, the new city of Craigavon had a divisive name and location and siting a new university at Coleraine was so controversial it inspired the formation of the SDLP and the Civil Rights Association.


Nationalists blame all this on sectarianism, past and present. Unionists can point to cast-iron economic arguments in their defence. There are few railways in the west of Northern Ireland for the same reason there are few in the west of the Republic – small towns and scattered populations cannot justify them. Coleraine was selected by a panel of English experts, brought in on the condition their decision would be binding.

It’s very difficult to believe that not linking the west and east of NI was cast-iron sense economically speaking. It makes no sense for a start unless one elides rail and road and while there was a push mid-20th century to do away with rail, the same cannot be said for road, indeed in the UK the idea was explicitly that road would take up the slack.

But even the point about Coleraine is telling because it underscores the indifference to the reality of nationalism within the North during that period. On paper it might make sense to have a university at Coleraine – though even that is a stretch. In the context of a hugely divided polity it made no sense at all. And look where it led.

And anyone familiar with that irritating and truncated motorway from Belfast to… yes… the river Bann (at least in the days before the ROI motorways swept all before them), will know that too was determined by thinly veiled sectarianism. Sometimes people wonder about the irruption of armed struggle in the late 1960s. But when the very structures, the roads and other aspects of the state were so determinedly and quite literally turned against nationalists and catholics it is difficult not to understand the heat and ferocity of what took place – even if hoping that it could have assumed a different form.

In fairness Emerson continues:

Yet unionists were far too happy to accept these dry arguments in the past and have done nothing to see beyond them in the present.
A motorway between Belfast and Derry might have a weak financial case but as a way to knit Northern Ireland together it would have been unsurpassed. Merely upgrading the existing single-track railway to an hourly service remains a 20-year unfinished saga. Thanks to the Letterkenny dual carriageway, the nationalist west could have a motorway to Dublin before it has one to Belfast – a prospect whose political significance is lost on nobody. Now it feels too late to bring east and west together. In every sense of the term, unionism has failed to build a nation.

That Letterkenny dual carriageway is vital – and it is certainly an intriguing point he makes, though as someone who makes that journey three or four times a year there is a reality that getting to Donegal is probably of equal importance to most making it.

That said I think he’s absolutely correct about a Derry/Belfast motorway. It makes good sense, it makes excellent sense indeed from an all-island perspective to diminish the sense of distance, both physical and otherwise, not in order to force unionists to be nationalists or whatever but simply to point up it’s a damn small island in the scheme of things and working together, even while retaining differences is better than not working at all.

Agreeing to disagree – FG and the Eighth January 30, 2018

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Interesting I thought the manner in which FG is going about its business in relation to the referendum on the Eighth, with a Cabinet decision to hold a referendum and Varadkar finally emerging with a line on the issue, the old Bill Clinton one of ‘safe, legal and rare’. It’s a stand and important that the Taoiseach makes it. However belatedly.

But what is also interesting is that there’s little hedging or even fuss over individual Ministers being concerned about the 12 weeks proposal, including Simon Coveney. Far be it for me to suggest these aren’t entirely sincere positions being taken, but they’re also rather expedient, because here we have the government party willing to bring forward a referendum and have disagreements and in contrast there’s FF which is, to judge from the IT yesterday and at the weekend, going through a tortuous process as some tranches of it realise that they’re not quite the ‘pro-life’ party they used to be (wasn’t it Dermot Ahern who said the other day at an FF PP meeting that he ‘thought FF was a pro-life party’. Whether the question was rhetorical or not it’s not quite that simple Dermot, not in 2017).

Which, one suspects, is no harm at all to FG.

Though how all this impacts on the referendum outcome. Well that’s a different story entirely.

Steady if unspectacular progress? January 30, 2018

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There’s a fascinating overview of Mary Lou McDonald as part of the Pillars of Society column in the current edition of the Phoenix. Of course like most such columns the topic is usually more broad based than the individual being analysed, and so it is that the piece considers SF’s prospects now that McDonald has taken the helm.

Still, got to say, I was intrigued by this analysis here:

Since [2009] then, steady if unspectacular progress has been made with the party’s Dáil numbers rising to 14 in 2011 [from 4] and 23 in the 105 election. But the Nordies are in a hurry and coalition government has brome a burning obsession, especially with the Stormont stalemate.

A near doubling of seats from the mid-teens to the mid-twenties is steady and unspectacular? Granted all this happened when the Irish political system part-fractured – but in any other context that would be remarkable progress for a party which five years before had all of four – count ‘em, four – seats.

In some ways the rise of SF (and its continuing consolidation, notably Adrian Kavanagh puts them just shy of 30 seats on current polls) is one of the most interesting and unusual aspects of Irish politics. The PDs who started out with 14 in 1987 (though in truth they had was it 5 TDs when they split from FF, including FG TD Michael Keating) saw their numbers drop to 6 at the next election, increase to 10 at the next, down to 4 at the next, then 8 in 2002, and a mere 2 in 2007. Clann na Poblachta likewise started out well, with 10 but never gained more than 3 subsequently.

Anyhow, the piece argues that SF’s plan is to ensure that it is ‘arithmetically impossible to keep the party out of coalition’. I guess that does depend upon whether FF and FG can manage to sustain confidence and supply arrangements, but yes, it is a plan. Though the longer term goal of ‘a coalition agreement depending on a programme that was progressive socially and economically and of course strong on the national question’ seems a bit wooly.

Some interesting stats, for example, ’13,000 of so SF members, two-thirds are now southern’. But also notable is the reality that the influx of new members has been a mixed blessing, not least in that some have had unrealistic expectations of advancement. The Phoenix argues that ‘older members react in disbelief when some of these then revolt to the [Indo] allegations of bullying’. No doubt there is some of the latter, but for those of us from parties with strong…erm… disciplined…erm… cultures, it’s curious to see these allegations. Of course that may speak of generational and attitudinal changes. One thing to be in the WP or SF or whoever in 1984, quite another in the 2010s when societally scepticism about hierarchies is more pronounced (as well as those disciplines borne in the fires of the 60s and 70s are now long past).

The piece concludes by noting that the next election is key. They need to get 30 odd seats for the plan to work, and to sustain morale. They’ve some gains, but, again for all that the polls are favourable it could be that FG and FF squeeze them sufficiently that they return with about 23 or even a little fewer. A lot hangs on McDonald’s leadership. The next twelve months are going to be interesting.

Poll projections January 29, 2018

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Enormously depressing reading these poll projections from Adrian Kavanagh. As always he couches them in caveats – poll projections cannot and do not account for every eventuality, but they do point to broader trends in terms of seat numbers. And although he hasn’t, at the time of writing this, factored in the SBP/RedC poll from the weekend, those broad trends suggest no favours to the left parties (bar SF who would see seat gains).

The key projections are:

The 25th January 2018 Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll estimates party support levels as follows: Fianna Fáil 25% (No Change relative to the previous Ipsos MRBI opinion poll), Fine Gael 34% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 19% (NC), Independents and Others 18% (up 2%) – including Solidarity-People Before Profit 2%, Social Democrats 1%, Green Party 3%, Independents 12% – Labour Party 4% (NC). 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 47, Fine Gael 70, Sinn Fein 30, Green Party 1, Independents 12. (Fianna Fail 47, Fine Gael 69, Sinn Fein 29, Green Party 1, Independents 12 for the old 158-Dáil seats constituency arrangement.)


The 21st January 2018 Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll estimates party support levels as follows: Fianna Fáil 26% (No Change relative to the previous Ipsos MRBI opinion poll), Fine Gael 32% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 18% (up 1%), Independents and Others 18% (NC) – including Solidarity-People Before Profit 2%, Social Democrats 1%, Green Party 2%, Independents 13% – Labour Party 6% (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 49, Fine Gael 65, Sinn Fein 29, Labour Party 3, Independents 14. (Fianna Fail 47, Fine Gael 66, Sinn Fein 28, Labour Party 3, Independents 14 for the old 158-Dáil seats constituency arrangement.)

Putting aside the individual projections what is most evident is how contingent all this is, that even very minor ticks upwards or downwards in the support of a party can result in quite markedly different outcomes. For example, the LP, were it to get 6-7% would come back with a significantly greater body of TDs than 5 or lower. And the same holds true of SOL/PBP, or the GP or the SDs or indeed the more amorphous independents, of whatever stripe.

I’ve noted before – the basic thrust of the polls at the moment are not good at all for the left. Perhaps I’m being pessimistic, I can’t help but wonder whether there’s any real prospect of them getting better this side of an election.

Dermot O’Connor in comments points to the intriguing possibilities as regards government formation.

A political absolution? Of sorts. January 29, 2018

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Is the thought that comes to mind reading this from Stephen Collins in the IT in relation to SF…

Sinn Féin and its new leader Mary Lou McDonald face a defining moment in the latest round of talks between the Northern parties which began on Wednesday. If the party can work out a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) it can realistically aspire to be in government in the Republic at some stage, and possibly even after the next election.
If it is not able to find a way of compromising in the North it will be a clear signal that the party is not capable of government on either side of the Border.

Hmmmmm… so absent Adams SF is fit for government, if it can find the way to govern. But hold on, wasn’t it in power sharing for the last x number of years in the North until last year? Am I missing something here?

In other ways it’s quite a piece – written as if from a parallel universe.

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