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Le Gach Dea-Ghuí don Athbhliain December 31, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

…to everyone who comments, lurks, reads, helps or writes for the site. Somehow the site is entering its thirteenth year and that’s all your fault! Thanks a million – you know who you are and it’s always appreciated. Also many thanks to those sites that kept me sane this year, all mentioned last year at this time – and NFBs site too. And to Tomboktu, Irish Election Literature, YourCousin, Aonrud of the Left Archive and other contributors and moderators on the site – and those who send suggestions for pieces to write about.

Also, anyone who is interested in writing something for the site, throw us the idea and we’ll happily give it a look over. There’s a couple of very interesting posts being written by long-time commentors/contributors at the moment that we will post up in the New Year.

UK State Archives December 31, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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An intriguing comparison made in papers released between two different contexts. The UK considered ‘associate’ membership for Russia of NATO in 1995 as a means of binding it closer to other European states as well as providing a basis for stability in the post-Soviet space.

The Foreign Office was cautious. A treaty between Russia and Nato to develop a new relationship might well be needed but the “relationship must not be based on false Russian expectations that she will, one day, become a member of the [Nato] alliance.

“We must not repeat, in the Nato context, the position the EU has got itself into in relation to Turkey – of promising the prospect of entry which it has not intention of honouring. This could be profoundly destabilising.”

Indeed. There’s a lot more, including an idea of John Major’s to rename Heathrow, Churchill Airport. And John Major being told by John Bruton that:

“All governments are unpopular. Given the chance, people would vote against them in a referendum. Therefore avoid referendums. Therefore don’t raise questions which require them, such as the big versus the little states.”

And the peace process? Bumpy.

John Major was advised not to accompany Bill Clinton on the US president’s historic visit to Northern Ireland in 1995 over fears he would have to “hide behind potted plants” at an official reception to avoid shaking hands with Gerry Adams, documents show.

Anything strike people?

Varadkar no longer shortest-serving Taoiseach December 30, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This last week marked an interesting anniversary. As the IT noted:

Mr Varadkar, the country’s 14th leader, will on Wednesday have served 925 days as Taoiseach since taking office on June 14th, 2017. On Tuesday he equals Mr Bruton’s tenure as taoiseach in the Fine Gael-led rainbow coalition between December 1994 and June 1997.
The Fine Gael leader will have to serve as Taoiseach until April 15th and April 17th next year to pass Brian Cowen and Albert Reynolds, two former Fianna Fáil leaders, respectively as the next shortest-serving taoisigh.
Mr Cowen served as taoiseach for 1,036 days between May 2008 and March 2011, while Mr Reynolds served for 1,038 days between February 1992 and December 1994.

It seems such a minor thing but I wonder. On a personal level for individuals these things matter. Like Bruton Varadkar was not brought to power in an election, so to outlast him might be some sort of achievement. To be honest I’m surprised, in my memory the FG/LP/DL coalition lasted a longer time. But apparently not.

A question. If Fianna Fáil ‘win’ the next election, however that is defined, and do come to power what then for Varadkar. He’s still relatively young. Does he stay on as leader of FG to fight another election or is he replaced?

And just on his leadership, I wonder does he regret not going to the state in the initial flush of good polling that he and FG experienced? Or perhaps that was ephemeral and tested in an election it would have faded away.

Schadenfreude over the DUP? December 30, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Gerry Moriarty at the weekend was exercised by the supposed ‘schadenfreude’ exhibited towards the DUP’s plight. The odd thing is I’m hard-pressed to find a lot of examples of same – more resignation, weariness and so on, whereas with Moriarty, Collins, Harris and a number of others there’s no end of newspaper articles bemoaning this phenomenon (in fairness Moriarty is far from the worst in this respect). The problem being, and Moriarty’s piece is an excellent example, in outlining the twists and turns of the DUP’s approach to Brexit and politics in the North it is difficult not to… as he does, come to the conclusion that:

A return of Stormont would be a distraction from the disaster of Brexit. And there would be no election until 2022, which might allow people to moderate their fury over the mess the DUP got Northern Ireland into.
And it is a monumental mess. In June 2017, when Theresa May was re-elected as British prime minister and became dependent on the DUP’s 10 MPs, the future looked like a bright vista of sunlit uplands, but now it’s a swamp and the DUP are stuck in it.

But he continues:

The DUP’s natural supporters in Northern Ireland, the farmers and the business community, assertively told Foster and Nigel Dodds that they could live with the withdrawal agreement and the backstop because that was 10 times better than the alternative of no-deal, which could be economically disastrous.
Foster and Dodds wouldn’t listen. The backstop would mean checks on some goods coming into Northern Ireland and that could not be tolerated.

He doesn’t stop there:

So, they brought Boris Johnson over to their annual conference in November 2018 to declare “Junk the backstop” with Dodds joining in the chorus with his “Bin the backstop”.
Here, thought the delegates, was a likely successor to May who wouldn’t let the DUP down. Not half he wouldn’t.
After he got the premiership and as soon as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar opened the door for him with an alternative deal, Johnson greedily embraced it to his chest. Foster and Dodds protested that this would create a border down the Irish Sea.
But Johnson wasn’t listening to them any more; he was listening to Dominic Cummings.

And keeps going:

The DUP has been betrayed by Johnson and sidelined by his new government. The party has lost the prospect of gaining those extra billions that May offered. People at home are annoyed with them over Brexit, over the health crisis, over the absence of a functioning Northern Executive, and over much else besides.
Hardly surprising that the DUP was so badly punished at the election, losing deputy leader Dodds in North Belfast and also South Belfast and failing to take North Down, which looked like a given, and for the first time seeing more nationalist than unionist MPs elected.

After which he then writes:

What a mess indeed for the DUP, and for Northern Ireland. Schadenfreude may be hard to resist but the DUP’s misery won’t help Northern Ireland get off its knees. For that to happen, powersharing must resume and a chastened and humbled DUP must be at the centre of it.

Yet, as with others like those mentioned above, the odd suspicion comes to mind that that those who complain most about schadenfreude most loudly are, no doubt entirely inadvertently and coincidentally, the ones who are indulging in it to the greatest extent!

Left Archive: The Troops Must Go! Pamphlet – Socialist Workers, 1994 December 30, 2019

Posted by leftarchivist in Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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To download the above please click on the following link. troops-out-25-years-on.pdf

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

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

This document from the SWP from 1994 is a short but concise overview of their perspective on the the twenty fifth anniversary of the arrival of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland.

It notes:

At 5pm on August 14th, 1969, British troops were ordered onto the streets of Derry. The next day it was the turn of Belfast. A Whitehall spokesperson said they would be out by the weekend. A quarter of a century they are still there.

It examines the Civil Rights marches, the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland, Collusion and it has a section ‘The Army Against Workers’. It examines and criticises the role of the IRA – ‘after twenty years of armed struggle it is clear that the Provo’s campaign has won nothing for most Catholics’.

It continues to call for Troops Out and argues in its conclusion in favour of The Socialist Solution.

State Papers for 1989 December 29, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A bit better than I’d expected – some of the coverage of newly opened state papers. The IT had three pages, RTÉ this. But… swings and roundabouts, due to resource issues the range of documents released is limited.

As to the content, a different world in many many ways. Haughey and Thatcher appear to have got on, all things considered, famously. Hardly a surprise. The ROI decided not to allow military personnel train in the US at the gift of the US government. Assassination threats against Haughey and FitzGerald. Thatcher against German unity in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And more. Though this resonates today:

Housing Stock

A report from the National Economic and Social Council in 1989 criticised the government for selling off local authority housing stock. It also lambasted the Fianna Fáil-led government over what it described as a failure to provide protection for tenants in private rented accommodation.

In response the government said it did not accept any of the report’s recommendations, which it viewed as contrary to government policy.

As does this:

Pat Finucane was shot dead by the UDA in front of his family at his home in north Belfast in February 1989.

The publication of State Papers from that time reveal the scale of the disquiet felt within government in the hours following the murder.

A long road to the election earlier this month.

Christmas Holidays… December 29, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Cycling into work down North Strand on Friday before Christmas I arrived at the Five Lamps to find only two other cyclists there. Now usually there’d be ten, sometimes double that number, and on occasion two abreast. Going further into the city it was noticeable how few cyclists, actually how few people, were about.

And I figure part of that was schools closing, but another was due to people starting their holidays. I used to work in a place where – because it was linked to construction, it took the best part of a week and a half and a little more off at Christmas. There was no choice in the matter and what one gained at Christmas one lost the rest of the year.

Are some people taking longer holidays at Christmas? Anecdotally I’m hearing a lot of people I know who finished up yesterday. I know this isn’t true for everyone, having worked in retail that’s one area that goes on, particularly with sales and so on. And essential services and likewise. But I do like the idea of longer holidays in general, it’s part of a left programme, along with a four day week and a rebalancing of life and work. So is it sort of happening informally in some limited way, and if so how do we ensure every working person gets the same benefit?

Sunday and other Media Stupid Statements from this week… December 29, 2019

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

One shining example:

Once upon a time, back in 1998, the Irish people listened to its better angels and generously supported the Good Friday Agreement.
In spirit, the GFA said we would stop tormenting Northern Protestants about a united Ireland until they showed they wanted unity.

We? Tormenting? Speak for yourself…

Films for 2020 December 28, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Reading this list in the Irish Times of upcoming releases what was striking was the lowish number of superhero films – bar the likeable Wonder Woman 1984, Birds of Prey from DC as well and Black Widow . Actually, there will be a few more that didn’t make that list. No bad thing that. Quality, not quantity.

A few interesting ones in there – Christopher Nolan has his ups and downs but Tenet looks, interesting.

The Color out of Space, a take on HP Lovecraft’s story with Cage could be great or appalling. There’s a documentary about Phil Lynott in there, and Lynott a fascinating character deserves one.

A remake of Rebecca, no less, wending its way to us. Bond returns, with Daniel Craig’s last outing – some would say about time. Macbeth with Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington. Another Ghostbusters film albeit one that veers sharply away from the recent enough reimagining. And Bombshell which studies sexual harassment at Fox and has a stellar cast including Theron, Robbie and Kidman.

And some real superheroes. Bill and Ted are back. 30 odd years after their last appearance. Keeanu Reeves. How does he do it?

Any others catch people’s eyes?

Some unusual astronomical events in 2019 December 28, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

A couple of thought-provoking astronomical events – or perhaps more accurately, observations this year. Most recently, Tomboktu pointed me towards this story about Betelgeuse, the star, which is 600 light years away and is dimming. As National Geographic notes;

Normally, Betelgeuse is among the 10 brightest stars in the sky. However, the red giant began dimming in October, and by mid-December, the star had faded so much it wasn’t even in the top 20, Villanova University’s Edward Guinan reported in an Astronomer’s Telegram.

And this may be a precursor…

To be clear, dimming alone isn’t all that odd for a star like Betelgeuse. It’s what’s known as a variable star, and its shifts in brightness have been closely studied for decades. However, it is unusual for one of the sky’s most prominent points of light to fade so noticeably, prompting scientists to consider the possibility that something more exciting could be about to happen: Betelgeuse might explode and die, briefly blazing brighter than the full moon before vanishing from our night sky forever.

By the way, this is visible, with the constellation of Orion now ‘noticeably different’ due to the dimness of the star which is part it.

Interestingly this year came to the conclusion that the interstellar object Oumuamua which passed through the solar system two years back was of ‘purely natural origin’. Some had theorised that it might even be an artificial object.

Another object that was the cause of much interest a few years back, Tabby’s Star, or KIC 8462852, when it exhibited unusual light fluctuations, saw some reasonably definitive conclusions as to its likely provenance. As wiki notes:

In September 2019, astronomers reported that the observed dimmings of Tabby’s Star may have been produced by fragments resulting from the disruption of an orphaned exomoon.[22][23][24] An overall study of other similar stars has been presented.[25][26]

Another visitor to the Solar System is Comet2I/Borisov, the first identified comet from another star.

Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov discovered the comet on Aug. 30, 2019, and reported the position measurements to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working with the Minor Planet Center, computed an orbit for the comet, which shows that it came from elsewhere in our Milky Way galaxy, point of origin unknown.

Nevertheless, observations by numerous telescopes show that the comet’s chemical composition is similar to the comets found inside our solar system, providing evidence that comets also form around other stars. By the middle of 2020 the comet will have already zoomed past Jupiter’s distance of 500 million miles on its way back into the frozen abyss of interstellar space.

Then there’s this fascinating opinion column in Scientific American which suggests that we may have found life in the 1970s when Viking landed on Mars…

And from the same magazine one of the neatest solutions to the Fermi paradox, that being the question as to why if alien life is likely in the universe (quite an assumption in itself) we haven’t found any yet – it’s not online, but it’s entitled The Galactic Archipelago and it is written by Caleb Scharf, and this piece on wiki offers at least a part of the possible answer (as well as being intriguing in itself).

But as always with astronomy there are the big issues. The really big issues. As the Guardian noted last month:

Astronomers have reached a fundamental impasse in their understanding of the universe: they cannot agree how fast it is flying apart. And unless a reasonable explanation can be found for their differing estimates, they may be forced to completely rethink their ideas about time and space. Only new physics can now account for the cosmic conundrum they have uncovered, many believe.

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