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Fish war February 28, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

From the IT…

The impounding of two Northern Ireland fishing boats by the Irish Navy has been condemned as “quite outrageous” by the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds.
The boats, the Amity and the Boy Joseph, were detained in Dundalk Bay on Wednesday for allegedly breaching fishing regulations. They were fishing for crabs, lobsters and whelks when they were arrested.

Then there’s this:

DUP MP for Strangford Jim Shannon said the boats clearly were British fishing vessels. “They were illegally seized in waters that are disputed, waters that belong to this great nation,” he said.

3 years ago this week… February 28, 2019

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…this happened.

It took until May for a government to be elected.

The other Independents… February 28, 2019

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Thought it interesting the reports during the week that one group in government at the present were not approached at all over the national children’s hospital controversy – those being the Independent Alliance Ministers.
And a curious point is noted by Fiach Kelly.

Insults and animosity flew between Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil. Halligan’s brief, jack-in-the-box contribution was the reminder that the Independents are still part of this government, too.
Hardly any Opposition figures felt it necessary to attack the Alliance, a change from standard practice on such occasions when the junior partner in government is targeted as the soft underbelly.

I suspect that the IA are regarded as effectively a wing, if not of Fine Gael, then of the government sitting in a slightly detached position. They’re not going to be prised away short of catastrophe so why would the opposition waste their ammunition on them. It would be the equivalent of targeting Simon Coveney in the hope that he would leave Fine Gael.

Kelly makes some other very sound points. Not least that while there are those on the Independent ranks (opposition!) who will never enter government, by contrast there are those who would be more than likely to answer the call since even sharing some measure of power with a Fine Gael government is congenial enough that former WP and Fine Gael members can stomach it.

I do though find the following entertaining:

Ministers of wildly different talent and application would have to be tolerated, and questionable policies – such as Ross’s plan to exempt pensioners from property tax, a proposal shamelessly aimed at his Dublin Rathdown electorate – paid lip service before being shelved. Risible policies and dud ministers, however, are not the exclusive preserve of Independents.

Gazing at the FF benches, or those of FG, I have to say having done so across the years I don’t think it entirely fair on the IA crew, however much their politics seems constrained by ambition, to argue that they contain greater variations in talent and application than their vastly larger partner. Say what one may about their Ministers but they are assiduous and hard-working.

And Kelly isn’t wrong in the following:

Above all, the Alliance has demonstrated that the once-exotic can remain bought. Their quiescence may, in time, be seen as a welcome indication that governments with a handful of Independents in senior positions can last the distance.”

Not so much a flood, not really a trickle…

First time as tragedy second time as farce February 28, 2019

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Hey, here’s no surprise. I find the TIG almost uniquely abysmal. One could I suppose admit that the SDP did have an ideological position, even if it was impossible for it to avoid the contradictions of that position when there was another left of the Tories, right of Labour Party already in situ in the British polity. And there was the particular tragedy that their approach was incredibly destructive in terms of blocking the Labour Party from power in the 1980s. Tellingly many of them made the journey back to the LP. Where else was there for them to go?

The TIG are a group with a programme so vague and insubstantial as to be worthless. They have said they won’t put forward a leader until late in the year. Why ever not one wonders. Perhaps because, and this has been seen in formations this side of the Irish Sea, to do so would generate (or deepen) fissures between what appears to be a remarkably egocentric crew.

As to the effect of the polling, read this and weep. They have already worked a malign magic on the rating of the BLP. One can only hope that as they move forward they demonstrate the vacuity of their project. The acceptance of a possible second referendum by the BLP (something I’m not sure is wise) is at least tactically not a bad move in terms of undercutting them, as IEL noted the other day. One can hope.

Concentrating minds on Brexit? February 28, 2019

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In between the reports of the impacts of a no-deal Brexit, some of which are truly concerning, there’s a few straws in the wind as to the likelihood of the May deal going through. Perhaps in the febrile churn of Westminster politics it is finally getting through that all the rhetoric, all the play-acting, does actually have consequences (and no worse play-acting than the TIG crew).

How to explain this from Denis Staunton in the Irish Times who notes the response to the Cooper amendment and some curious noises emanating from those adjacent to the ERG.

Senior figures in the ERG acknowledge privately that if the changes to the backstop satisfy the DUP, all but a handful of the Conservative Brexiteers will support May’s deal.

Is that enough? Or this, apparent moves by May to lure BLP MPs to vote for her deal. And he notes that on the Cooper amendment all but one of the DUP’s cohort abstained.

Speaking of new ‘parties’… February 27, 2019

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How very telling to read in the Guardian about the TIG that:

No further defections are anticipated imminently, although the group hopes that the forthcoming parliamentary battles over Brexit could see other MPs coming forward.

And here’s a fault-line…

But despite Lib Dem enthusiasm, TIG MPs said they wanted Lib Dem MPs to quit their party and join them. They argued that the Lib Dem brand has been tarnished by the period when the party under Nick Clegg went into coalition government with David Cameron’s Conservatives.

But wait, didn’t Anna Soubry say she still agreed with austerity?

And then there’s this about the leadership:

Over the weekend, Umunna sought to put himself forward, saying: “I’m clear I want to play the biggest role in this group.” It appears, however, that his immediate ambition has been rebuffed, at least temporarily.


…but friends of Heidi Allen, a former Conservative, have been pressing her to put her name forward when the election process begins.

Poll woe February 27, 2019

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Was talking to someone recently who thought that the Aontú polling came as a surprise to those involved in that organisation. As noted the other day the SBP/RedC poll indicated they were polling at less than 1%.

And yet the surprise is that this is a surprise. We’ve seen remarkably little momentum behind vehicles that place abortion front and centre. To expect in the wake of a referendum that was so comprehensively a majority for YES and seen as such nationwide and almost overwhelmingly accepted as a legitimate poll that somehow there’d be significant space for a party that tapped into those who voted NO was always an ask. Not least because there’s no clear path forward to over-turning that result. And surely that would be the centre of such politics, would it not? Because simply holding the views expressed by those flocking, or not, to Aontú is surely not enough and that is what would be the de facto situation from here on out.

Perhaps I do those involved a disservice, perhaps they do believe that the pushback begins with them. But again, there’s so little space for any optimism at all that matters would change in terms of public opinion in the near to medium term. And then one has to look at other polities where, at least in the modern period, over-turning provision is a work in progress even in seemingly more favourable (for them) political contexts.

And strip away that issue and what one sees is an essentially ‘centrist’ formation that could easily accommodate itself in Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

Add to all that something that has been noted before on this site that building a political formation is a massive task. Just look at the challenging histories of groups as diverse as RENUA and the SDs. Exciting meetings are one thing. The slog is another. It will be interesting to see how this goes.

What you want to say – 27 February 2019 February 27, 2019

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

Those Irish sustainable development goals February 26, 2019

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The Central Statistics Office this week published its report on the Regional SDGs Ireland 2017.

The infographic on the first (web) page of the report gives six headline statistics:

  • licence holders with penalty points,
  • households with broadband,
  • women in local government,
  • household waste collected in kerbside recycling,
  • use of turf, oil and natural gas, and
  • number of private cars per 1000 people.

The CSO’s press statement selects five points to highlight:

  • More than one in five (21.5%) drivers in Wexford had penalty points, the highest rate in Ireland
  • The lowest rate of drivers with penalty points was 12.9% in Donegal
  • Only 58% of households in Leitrim had broadband access compared to 86% in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown
  • Longford had the highest fertility rate at 2.25, well above the national average of 1.81
  • Nearly four out of ten (37.9%) households in Offaly use peat for central heating

 I’m puzzled by the CSO’s decision to include penalty points in its report. The Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020 doesn’t refer to penalty points. The National Implementation Plan does have a goal of reducing by half the number of deaths from road traffic accidents, but when you look at the SDGs in the round, highlighting penalty points seems odd.

Contradiction on contradiction… February 26, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This is a great though dispiriting essay in the Guardian about the career of an overt neo-Nazi in Slovakia and how he became a regional governor on a mix of anti-Gypsy prejudice mixed with a sort of sub-populist rhetoric as well as, and this is key, something not unknown to many of us – an engagement on the ground and in communities both urban and rural that had been left behind by development, modernisation and economic change. That that engagement didn’t see him reelected in the face of another more socially liberal challenger (though again tellingly an independent challenger) suggests that in many ways it was cosmetic. But that was all it needed to be for him to be elected. At the last Slovak election he won 14 seats and 8.0% of the vote (by the way check this out and ponder the incredible number of right-wing parties and the hold they have, and then consider how Smer, itself a sort of populist party, nominally social democrat (and former/current member of the PES?) but functionally right wing is a part of that).

There’s much to think about:

Polling showed that some of the most radical Kotleba fans were young Slovaks, most of whom consumed their news via Facebook. Among 18- to 21-year-olds, Kotleba’s party had got more votes than any other at the 2016 parliamentary elections. In one region, schools organised mock elections among students, and Kotleba won every time. “They poison the well of young people. If you start at age 11, then by 16 you can have a brainwashed Nazi. Without Facebook, Kotleba wouldn’t be in parliament,” claimed Vašecka, the sociologist.

And this:

Boris Kollár, a flamboyant businessman whose party, We Are Family, also made it into parliament in 2016 on a vague “family values” programme. Kotleba attracted a large proportion of angry provincial men, while Kollár attracted large numbers of disillusioned women from the regions, according to Slovak pollsters.
When I met Kollár in his parliamentary office recently, he was dressed in a sharp suit and characteristically loud tie. “Voters don’t read election programmes, voters decide based on emotions,” he told me as he chomped on expensive chocolates. Kollár has 10 children from nine different women, yet says he named his party We Are Family because his focus was on “traditional conservative values when it comes to the family”. Was it some kind of joke, I asked. “I have shown I can look after my children, it’s proof I can look after all the children,” he said, clarifying that his traditionalism was mainly focused on opposing the expansion of LGBT rights.

And then there’s this…

Before leaving Slovakia, I paid a visit to the presidential palace, a grand, gaudily renovated complex in central Bratislava, where I chatted with Rado Baťo, a political advisor to the president with a James Joyce quote tattooed on one arm and a sloth on the other. He said the focus groups his team had carried out showed a surprisingly large crossover between Kotleba voters and Kiska voters. Many of the same people who voted for a progressive liberal in favour of minority rights as president had backed a far-right extremist party in parliamentary elections. It suggested that actual policies mattered less than the perception of a willingness to shake up the system, he said. “Slovak politics is no longer divided between left and right. People don’t care if parties are leftwing or rightwing. They just want the government to get shit done.”

We know that there is right and left, we know the distinctions between same. We know that the approaches offered by them are distinctly different as are the outcomes. But here’s the problem. In contexts where there is a growing, even hegemonic, belief or perception that there are no differences, where people don’t care, it is small wonder that we see in our polity such fragmentation, and continual momentum towards the centre/right (as in a way is true of Slovakia). It’s not that the perception is right, but that functionally parties and formations have to contend with that perception. And in that context it explains how even a neo-Nazi can be elected, after all, if there’s no difference, what difference does it actually make?

And yet, for the left the very last line of the lsat quote above should be something of a comfort, even for those who are non-statist, or sceptical of statism. “People don’t care if parties are leftwing or rightwing. They just want the government to get shit done’

The idea of collective solutions to problems remains extant, even in contexts that are otherwise hostile.

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