jump to navigation

The Left Gardener – watching the TV and YouTube April 30, 2021

Posted by Tomboktu in Uncategorized.

The actual gardening has been relatively light for the last two weeks because the seeds, seedlings and young tomato plants (yay!) in their trays, modules and pots need little attention other than some lids on cold nights or a drop of water when the compost dries, so I’ve had time to do some gardening viewing.

I get to see BBC Gardener’s World by default. I visit my parents on a Friday evening and it’s put on for me. But I prefer the gardening programme made by BBC Scotland, called Beechgrove. It goes out on BBC Scotland’s service on a Thursday evening and is repeated on the main BBC 2 channel on a Sunday morning, but I catch what is probably a pirated download on Dailymotion (via a site called HDClump). When I thought about why I prefer it, I realised that it’s because it’s more democratic, with a relatively largish number of presenters, including a few who are not TV presenters but gardeners working in their ordinary allotments or gardens. Beechgrove does have a lead presenter — Carole Baxter — but the other core members of the presenting team get a far higher percentage of air time on Beechgrove than do Monty Don’s fellow presenters on his Gardener’s World. And the style is less show-offy. For example, if a segment on Gardener’s World is about growing for the annual show, the focus is probably on the achievement — the biggest cabbage or heaviest onion at the show this year with the gardener who raised it. But on Beechgrove, the show gardener tells and shows us how he sets up his growing station to grow what he hopes will be the longest carrot at this year’s show.

Beechgrove is normally based in a garden that the BBC has near Aberdeen, though last year’s season had to be made in the homes, gardens and allotments of the presenters. Their first episode this year has a lovely segment, six minutes long, reporting on what they found when they went back to Beechgrove in October 2020 after the lockdowns were lifted, including the discovery in a polytunnel of a “wheel barrow that time forgot”. You don’t have to be a gardener to feel the pain in every ‘oh dear’ the head gardener uttered in the first part of the segment.

But over the last few months as I’ve got back into growing some vegetables, I’ve needed more focused practical advice than the TV shows provide, and I’ve gorged on YouTube videos, particularly from Charles Dowding. He advocates ‘no-dig’ gardening, but I’ve watched videos he’s made for the advice in them on sowing, planting and harvesting the vegetables I’m trying to grow, and for his advice on how to plan for succession growing so that when, say, the peas come out, the ground doesn’t sit unproductive until next summer.

The gardening YouTuber is an interesting phenomenon. Over the years, I’d read about a culture on allotments in Britain where the old-timer would share his (invariably ‘his’) experience with the novice on the next plot. YouTube gardeners have taken that to the internet and share with the whole world. One of the more popular is a tad young to be an old-timer, but at 22, Huw Richards fits the profile of a YouTuber. He made his first video in his mid teens when he saw a classmate’s video about a video game and decided he’d give it a try with his area of interest. In the last nine months, 20 of his videos have had more than 100,000 views each, and three have had over 700,000 views. Richards is probably more useful to me than Dowding for some some details because his mid Wales climate is closer to my own than Dowding’s is. Through Richards, I’ve recently discovered Liz Zorab, also in Wales. I haven’t yet explored her videos fully, but I have found her series of “What to sow in…” for different months to be a useful source of ideas for planning ahead. She also branches out in interesting ways. Last month, she produced a video for International Women’s Day on Why Do Women Garden, and in 2018, she organised 19 gardening YouTubers to collaborate and each produced a video on their top three gardening books. I haven’t watched them, but it should be enough to keep the most ardent of gardeners occupied when it’s too wet to garden.

Signs of Hope – A continuing series April 30, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

Avoiding the issue April 30, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I was listening to Ben Lowry of the News Letter on RTÉ radio yesterday morning and he made a point that really resonated with me about the Foster resignation. First up – and I doubt this is news to any of us, he was clear that it wasn’t the gay conversion therapy abstention that ‘sunk Foster’ on its own, though that was a factor. Rather, and tellingly, this was a result of the disaster of the DUP and Foster’s approach to Brexit and in particular the Northern Ireland Protocol.

It’s been obvious to those of us who were following it for years where it was going, right from May’s backstop of 2017, it’s all very complicated, there’s lots of iterations but the principle that the land border had to be completley open meant that there was going to be some change in the Irish Sea – but no one understood it until this year, apart from experts and those of us who follow it closely, the man in the street didn’t understand it until January and the DUP initial approach at the end of last year where Foster was talking about a gateway of opportunity … that has been very significantly overtaken by events. No one in unionism is going to accept it.

And he noted that either the new leadership would have to toughen up their rhetoric on the issue or they’d face the same issue Foster faced.

But this is a problem that he himself notes explicitly when he says that there was never another solution apart from something similar to the Protocol to the problem Brexit brought into being with regard to Ireland. Anything other than a transparent land border is anathema to Britain and indeed the EU (and Ireland). The only way for a transparent land border is that some border like elements are transferred to the Irish Sea. Across literally years of negotiation the British flew numerous kites attempting to circumvent this problem only to see them crash to earth time and again. Logically this suggests that there is no alternative – though as I’ve noted before, some mild mitigation of certain elements of the protocol is likely to develop.

That being the case one has to look back at unionism, and the DUP and Foster in particular, and ask how could they have been so insular as to not realise this reality. Foster – as noted previously on this site, is said to be a decent person and is no fool, whatever about the brusque nature of her political interactions. And one has to presume those around her would be reasonably astute.

Potential answers that suggest themselves include the idea that they didn’t appreciate the problem, though this seems unlikely in the extreme. Perhaps they believed that the response would not be as severe as it has been within unionism (whipped up by members of her own party), though we’re not at Anglo-Irish Agreement levels of dissent (and notably Thatcher pushed that through regardless). Or perhaps they never believed that a Tory government would impose a sea border (perhaps on assurances from Downing Street). This being the case one can only wonder at their willingness to believe that particular source.

There’s something particularly troubling about a politics that doesn’t face up to reality. The reality staring the DUP in the face across months and years has been that the Brexit they supported, despite warnings that it would alter on some level the nature of the union, would entail messy and unpalatable compromises that would lead to checks on the Irish Sea. They did nothing to ally with those who argued for different approaches, indeed they were entirely neglectful of unrealistic expectations amongst those they nominally represent.

One cannot blame unionists and loyalist supporters, when their political representatives have pretended that all would be well, for being surprised and shocked at what has actually happened. One can most certainly blame those representatives for an abject failure in political leadership and representation.

And that leads to the next aspect of this which is that a changed leadership in the DUP is not going to have the political or other heft to alter the terms of the dispensation that has been arrived at between the UK and the EU. And worse, because of the nature of that political leadership the idea that it would ease the way of those mild mitigations mentioned above is implausible. They simply will not have the vision to do so if Foster et al were unwilling to in the past number of years.

And this isn’t just an issue over the protocol, though that’s the primary focus. It is about a brand of politics that will continue to see a degree of attrition around its margins as some voters switch to alternative political homes, including the UUP and TUV but also Alliance. So this is a dynamic that in a very real sense can be self-defeating.

There’s no satisfaction in stating this, there were alternative paths that would have allowed for the status quo ante to be preserved to a greater rather than lesser degree. But perhaps there is a fundamental reality that the DUP as presently constituted is not the vehicle for that project. The more depressing thought is that there is no vehicle at all for ‘mainstream’ unionism and so we see if not a fracturing, certainly the possibility of a bifurcation or more. So where does this go? A somewhat weakened DUP? An UUP that staggers along as is. A TUV that increases its vote share but is unable to convert that into political representatives to a significant extent – overall a unionism where no one voice can claim to be dominant (and note that the unionist or loyalist left is missing in action, as it sadly has been for quite some time now).

Listening to Lowry I couldn’t help but feel that so much of the seeming antipathy to Foster is not so much due to the fact she signally failed to rescind the protocol as that there was a realisation that there was no way to jettison it – but that, of course, is a truth that will not be aired. A pity. Because this is a structural problem that is not going to be as conveniently set aside as a political leader.

Submarine service April 29, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This is remarkable.

Trident could be forced to the US or possibly France if Scotland became independent because there is no alternative port immediately available elsewhere in the UK, according to a retired admiral responsible for Britain’s nuclear policy.

Unless Scotland were to agree to lease back the Faslane submarine base to the rest of the UK, continuing Trident would probably require the help of an allied country or the nuclear deterrent would have to be halted completely, the expert said.

Telling, this… 

British government officials were banned from doing any work on what to do with Trident if Scotland had voted to secede from the UK in September 2014, Gower said, because to do so was deemed by politicians to be an admission of defeat. The former admiral, now an independent analyst, left Whitehall at the end of the year.

At the time, some of the most comprehensive analysis was put together by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It said: “If an independent Scotland insisted that Trident must be removed then this would probably result in there being no nuclear weapons in Britain.

James Connolly Festival Returns with Announcement of 2021 Line-up April 29, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

James Connolly Festival Returns with Announcement of 2021 Line-up

featuring Lethal Dialect, Donal Fallon (Three Castles Burning), Senator Eileen Flynn, Emmet Kirwan, Bohemian FC COO Dan Lambert and more.

Temple Bar’s James Connolly Festival returns for its 7th year, May 3rd-9th 2021, bringing together working class arts, culture and politics. This year’s week-long virtual events, recorded at The New Theatre, will see lectures, panel discussions, roundtable talks, debate and performance, covering a wide variety of contemporary and historical topics and themes.

None more topical than the question of privatisation within football. The festival launches with a discussion hosted by Phibsborough’s Bang Bang Café, chaired by Bohemian FC’s Daniel Lambert, on football’s further commercialisation into the hands of corporate ownership, seen most recently with the proposal of a new European ‘Super League’, we examine the current state of play domestically and pose the question: Can member-owned clubs prosper?

The past number of years have seen a surge in far right politics and racism in Ireland. Most recently, these groups have seized upon the disastrous handling of Covid-19 by the government, as well as a number of high profile racist attacks by Gardaí and members of the public. We welcome speakers, including Sen Eileen Flynn and Gloria Nkencho, to discuss what shape these reactionary forces have taken and how we can combat them.

Similarly, the lockdown has given weight to the long-established link made between economic crises and gender-based violence. Day 3 will see a roundtable discussion between activists and trade unionists, bringing a socialist-feminist analysis to the question of gender-violence.

Two panel discussions will take place around the national question. In its centenary year, historians Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh & Liz Gillis will delve into the history of the northern state, recounting this seminal moment in Irish history. This will be followed by an event titled ‘Carson’s Crumbling Creation’. Looking at the future of the six county entity, Paul Stewart (Political Scientist) and Eugene McCartan (General Secretary, Communist Party of Ireland) will discuss partition, border polls and what shape a United Ireland could take. 

Friday night will see a discussion around ‘Working In The Arts Post-Covid’, hosted by the Trade Union Left Forum. They will look at an arts industry on its knees, fraught with precarious work and uncertainty. Immediately followed by a celebration of these artists with a music, spoken word and poetry session curated by panellist and artist Emmet Kirwan. Inimitable Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect will also take to the stage, followed by 2FM DJ Handsome Paddy who promises a unique set of “local artists’ music only, taking in soul, hip hop & electronic music, tipping the hat to the rich diversity present in the contemporary musical landscape of Ireland.”

Infiltrator April 29, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

The current edition of the Phoenix notes that “HEARINGS ONGOING at the Undercover Policing Inquiry in Britain continue to expose the methods of Special Branch in the period since 1968”. And it mentions in particular the infiltration of the Troops Out Movement in London by one police officer – who used the name Rick Gibson. He had a car and an ‘eagerness to get involved’ and that took him far. One disturbing aspect is noted:

Enthusiasm was not the only means used by police, however, as one witness now recounts that “he used sex as a way of consolidating his history and to cement his reputation. Using it to get closer to us as a group of activists [..] His sexual advances and use of sex was a way of ingratiating his way into the group as a whole.” The undercover officer is described as a “ladies man” by another witness and is now understood to have been sexually involved with at least four women during his infiltration of the TOM. 

He even contemplated visiting the North in 1975 as part of the organisation but perhaps sensibly that was vetoed by his superiors. 

The Guardian in 2017 covered parts of this particular case too. ‘Gibson’ ran into trouble when he attempted to infiltrate Big Flame. BF appear to have been more astute than TOM in examining someone who was ‘eager to get involved’. 

An account of what happened was recorded in 2002 by Richard Chessum, a leftwing activist whom Gibson had befriended during his undercover deployment.

It appears that activists in Big Flame were puzzled that Gibson had joined the Troops Out Movement even though he had none of the political past that its activists normally had. Nor did he have any of the usual connections to Ireland such as ancestry.

And so they did some digging:


The suspicious activists started to delve into his purported background and discovered that little of it checked out. For instance, the school he claimed to have attended had no record of him.

The most significant discovery, however, came from the official archives of birth and death certificates. They knew the date of birth that Gibson was claiming was his. They found a birth certificate that seemed to bear that out.


But the activists had also uncovered a death certificate that recorded that the individual that Gibson was purporting to be had died as a boy. The activists confronted Gibson and he disappeared soon afterwards.

Gibson apparently claimed he was hiding his true identity because he was on the run from the police. The confrontation was reported by the Guardian journalists Nick Davies and Ian Black in a 1984 series about state surveillance.

In a way the police suffered from a lack of imagination about BF et al:


What happened to Gibson exposes one of the main flaws in this piece of tradecraft. Activists investigating a suspected infiltrator could check their date of birth and find the birth certificate of what appears to be a real person. But the police spy would be in trouble if the activities continued trawling the archives and found a death certificate showing that the suspected infiltrator was supposed to have died as a young child.

It appears that police calculated that the activists would not take that next crucial step, either because they did not think of it, or because the search through the archives was too laborious.

But of course this approach on the part of the police has continued ever since. The Guardian suggests at least 144 officers involved in same.

Statement from Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland on inclusion of fascist leader in school mural April 28, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

From the Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland.

Ba chóir go mbainfeadh scoil Mhuineacháin anuas an comóradh náireach de dhuine faisisteach mór le rá. Cáineann FIBI glán amach leis an íomha  d’Eoin Ó Dufaigh (O’Duffy), ceannaire faisisteach na hÉireann, a raibh curtha san áireamh mar chuid de mhúrphictiúr i gColáiste Oiriall, Cnoc an Chonnaidh, Co. Muineachán. Bíodh is go bhfuil an píosa ealaíne iontach gan aon amhras, níl an íomha seo oiriúnach maidir lena chuid cur síos féin mar ‘scoil fhorásach agus bhríomhar a bhíonn ag obair ar na caighdeáin is airde san fhoghlaim agus sa teagasc’. Le bheith cruinn faoi, smál ar chlú na scoile sainchreidmheach atá sa mhúrphictiúr seo agus maslaíonn sé daoine eile a léirítear sa mhúrphictiúr fosta. Faisisteach míchlúiteach ab ea Ó Dufaigh a thacaigh leis na réimis cinedhíothaithe de chuid Hitler, Mussolini agus Franco. Mar gheall ar seo, tá sé riachtanach go gcuimhníonn muid é le drochmheas agus gan moladh ar bith a thabhairt dó. Tabhair tacaíocht dár n-éileamh le bhur dtoil, chuig príomhoide na scoile, Brendan Ó Dufaigh, chun an duine seo a bhaint den mhúrphictiúr gan mhoill.
Monaghan school must remove shameful celebration of Fascist icon
FIBI condemns unreservedly the inclusion of Irish Fascist leader Eoin O Dufaigh (O’Duffy) in a mural at Coláiste Oiriall, Knockaconny, Co Monaghan.
The inclusion, in what is an otherwise impressive piece of art, does not sit well with its own description as ‘a progressive and vibrant school working to the highest standards in teaching and learning’. In fact, it only taints the reputation of this multi-denominational school and demeans other individuals depicted on the mural.
O’Duffy was an infamous Fascist who supported the genocidal regimes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. Far from being lauded in this way, he deserves to be remembered with disdain.
Please support our call on the school principal, Brendan O Dufaigh, to remove this figure from the mural immediately.

Podcast -The National Party / Catholic Democrats April 28, 2021

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

The National Party were a Party with a Catholic Ethos led by Nora Bennis that contested the 1997 General Election, 1998 Limerick East by-election and 2002 General Election before renaming itself The Catholic Democrats and contesting the 2014 European and 2016 General Elections.

Reckless disregard April 28, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

This piece in the Guardian is harrowing, describing how Donna Coleman a member of teaching staff at Burnley College – an further education college, in the UK caught Covid and died in a context where it appears that there was a reckless disregard for the safety of students and staff.

Health restrictions were not adhered to (there’s some genuinely shocking references to promotional videos for the college where no social distancing or other precautions were taken), guidelines on quarantine for those in proximity to those who caught the virus were misinterpreted, and tellingly members of staff felt unable to query these issues because they were terrified of losing their jobs.

Moreover despite being represented by unions the College refused to meet union representatives from outside the staff.


Marie Monaghan, a regional support official for the UCU, which represents FE workers, had been raising the alarm with Burnley College for months – about social distancing and the college’s adherence to guidance around self-isolation for students and staff – and getting nowhere. “I get paid to look after people,” Monaghan says. “And I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to do my job properly and protect them.”



Monaghan’s efforts were not fruitful. Burnley College remained open with what she believed to be inadequate safety protocols in place. Waves of infection crashed through the college, which by the latter half of the autumn term was in a tier 3 area of England. The first Covid outbreak was in October. At least 22 individuals were required to isolate. At the end of November, there was another outbreak. At least four members of staff tested positive for Covid in the foundation and community studies (FACS) department, where Donna worked and where many students were teenagers with additional needs, such as learning difficulties.



On 6 October, Monaghan emailed Burnley College, asking for a meeting. It did not reply to this email. On 9 October, she followed up. “It’s my understanding that some staff aren’t being made aware of relevant positive cases and wrongly advised to not self-isolate when they would be classified as a close contact,” Monaghan wrote. Burnley College subsequently agreed to meet with local union officials, but refused to meet with Monaghan throughout the autumn term.


Monaghan filed complaints with the HSE, on 13 October and 30 October. She raised all her concerns: lack of social distancing on site, failure to make students wear masks, not telling staff they needed to self-isolate when they had been in contact with confirmed cases. The HSE did not take enforcement action.

And a blindingly obvious aspect of this – on foot of the UK government insistence on keeping education ‘open’:

Evidence has shown consistently that children and teenagers are at low risk of serious illness or death from Covid. But the same does not apply to the adults who work in educational settings. “Start from the basic principles,” says Prof Susan Michie of University College London, a member of Independent Sage and Sage sub-group SPI-B. “You increase risk [of contracting Covid] the more people you have contact with, over longer amounts of time, at close proximity, in indoor spaces, particularly if they are poorly ventilated and people aren’t wearing masks. Then ask yourself: what environment combines all those things together? The answer is schools. By definition, it’s unsafe.” Data from the DfE, published in January 2021, found that Covid infection rates were 1.9 times higher for primary and secondary school teachers than the general population and twice as high for special school teachers. (FE colleges were not studied in the dataset.)

In context where safety measures were not adhere to it is clear that the level of exposure to infection would be greater still. And tragically on the very day Donna Coleman died…

The government was unmoving. On 3 January, Johnson insisted that schools were “safe”. On 4 January, English primary schools reopened as planned. That evening, Johnson put the country into a third national lockdown and closed schools. It was an absurd farce. Within 24 hours, Johnson had gone from reassuring the public that schools were safe to admitting they may be “vectors for transmission”. The mass-testing capabilities that schools had built over the Christmas break, when they could have been putting their energy and resources into setting up remote learning packages, were mothballed.

Coleman is one of a number of teachers and educational professionals who have died – in 2020 there were 73 between March and December.

I’ve a specific interest in this area knowing people working in further education in this state. My sense, and this is obviously limited to a degree, is that matters have been taken much more seriously here than in the institution described above. Social distancing for those classes that are on site, zoom meetings where possible, double mask wearing at all times, and year groups broken into smaller groups for safety. The disparity in approaches is quite huge.

This throws into stark relief the disconnect between rhetoric and reality, between the safety of people, workers, and the measures supposedly in place but apparently disregarded. And it raises a question, if this is what it is like at – arguably, the worst of times, what is it like during more normal times?

What you want to say – 28th April 2021 April 28, 2021

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

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

%d bloggers like this: