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Time Flies …… October 27, 2016

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It was this day five years ago that we went to the polls to elect Michael D. Higgins (Campaign leaflets here) . What a Campaign it was and one of the dirtiest too. Did we ever think we’d see the day where Fianna Fail wouldn’t contest the Presidency? (officially at least!). I wonder did Mary Davis , Dana and David Norris relaise what they were letting themselves in for. The very late swing away from Sean Gallagher due to the final debate on RTE’s Frontline , which was one of the most amazing evenings television I’ve witnessed. This captures a part of the action..

The whole “entrepreneur” narrative from Gallagher that reflected where we were at the time. Here’s Sean Gallagher with hair from a 1984 Ogra FF booklet
Indeed I met him canvassing the night Rovers won the league out in Belfield and he kindly posted me a T-Shirt and Baseball cap and some other material from his campaign. I also met Mary Davis during the campaign where she sat in my section, seemed a very nice lady but ill suited to such an election campaign.
The total collapse in Gay Mitchell’s vote when he lost his deposit (and showed the hardcore FG vote to be 6.4%).
It really was a spectacle and I think we’re glad with the result we ultimately got.

His inability to speak in anything but hyperbole… October 27, 2016

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Fantastic point made on KCRW’s Left Right and Centre podcast – where one contributor noted the above about Donald Trump and how where issues of seriousness and substance simply can’t be addressed by him at all except in an overheated fashion. And how this doesn’t actually play as well with many conservatives as might be expected.

Little Britain October 27, 2016

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Thanks to the person who sent this article by Archon of the Southern Star

THE British Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, intends to force British employers to surrender to the government a list of all their foreign workers and EU citizens – including those from Ireland. It’s part of her plan to ‘prevent immigrants taking jobs that British people can do.’
For the 600,000 Irish-born immigrants in Britain the future is suddenly dark. They’re wondering if the place is returning to the bad old days when job hunters were met with signs declaring: ‘No Irish, no Blacks, no Dogs need apply’?

And it’s a feeling reinforced by an unpleasant speech Rudd gave at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham earlier this month. In her vision of a post-Brexit Little Britain, where racism and bigotry are barely concealed, non-EU workers will be the first to be booted out.
Then it will be the turn of EU citizens who do not have British citizenship – and this could include Irish academics, doctors, nurses, bus drivers, architects, office cleaners, builders, engineers, teachers, and highly educated graduates in finance and technology.
Rudd will publish the lists of names that she wants from employers, with the intention (presumably) of shaming businesses, universities, hospitals, factories, etc, that she considers are not doing enough to employ genuinely British people. Also for the chop are landlords who do not certify the immigration status of their tenants, taxi companies and those sinister Johnny Foreigners skulking within the banking and property area.

In there too will be pregnant women forced to hand over their passports and to produce proof of right to remain in Britain before they give birth at NHS hospitals. The response from civilised English people to the government plan has been one of horror and disbelief. Business leaders denounced the Tory shift to the extreme right as reckless, pointing out that immigrants benefitted the UK economy in a huge way.

Lord Bilimoria, the Indian-born chancellor of Birmingham University, said the proposal was ‘absolutely shocking.’ Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said the Conservative Party had sunk to a new low as it fanned the flames of xenophobia and hatred.
‘What next?’ asked MP Paul Monaghan of the Scottish National Party: ‘Make immigrants and EU citizens wear special badges and stop them owning anything?’
But, perhaps, it was the charismatic Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who best described the Tory line of thinking. ‘Theresa May and Amber Rudd’s picture of Brexit Britain is a deeply ugly one – a country where people are judged not by their ability or their contribution to the common good but by their birthplace or by their passport’.

Interesting too that, whereas the percentage of foreign-born people in Ireland amounts to 16.4%, in the United Kingdom it is 12.3% of the population. Yet xenophobic problems by and large have not been a serious feature of the Irish experience.

Not so in the UK where, after the Brexit vote, police registered a huge increase in hate crimes and complaints of racial abuse. Which raises this question: if intolerance is on the rise in Britain how long will it be before the Irish once again become the target of prejudice? Particularly within a scenario where the British media does little to calm the public’s nerves over immigration!
Of course, historically some of the finest British writers were not slow to take a jab at ‘inferior’ people. JB Priestly, for instance, was partial to the idea of a clearance of the Irish from the Clyde to Cardiff: ‘what a fine exit (that would be) of ignorance and dirt and drunkenness and disease,’ he said in a most refined and sophisticated way.
Indeed Paddy-bashing has a long tradition in Britain. The British essayist, Thomas Carlyle, famously said that Ireland was like a half starved rat that crosses the path of an elephant. ‘And what must the elephant do?’ he asked. ‘Squelch it – by heavens – squelch it!’

Certainly, the Tories are slow to explain the Brexit consequences should Britain definitively pull the plug. How, for instance, will they resolve the contradiction between expressing approval for free trade and at the same time opposing the free movement of people between Britain, Ireland, and Europe?

Such a conundrum didn’t bother two of the vilest newspapers in the world, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, as they recently launched a savage attack on anti-Brexit EU-Remain campaigners.In a front-page editorial, penned by Paul Dacre, the Mail screamed: ‘Damn the unpatriotic Bremoaners and their plot to subvert the will of the British people.’ He described Brexit critics as whingeing, contemptuous and unpatriotic.

This was the same newspaper that called for Irish people to be banned from UK sporting events because the IRA was disrupting public transport. On another occasion it stood accused of publishing ‘some of the most virulently anti-Irish journalism for decades,’ having sneeringly described Ireland as a land of pigs and potatoes.

Last week, the Daily Express hysterically ranted that it was time to ‘Silence EU Exit Whingers,’ which some commentators interpreted as dangerously provocative.
Indeed, the bigoted commentaries on Brexit were reminiscent of the first owner of the Daily Mail, Viscount Rothermere, who during the 1930s supported Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists when it was targeting British Jews.

In an interview in one of Rothermere’s newspapers, Mosley answered questions about Jews in Britain. The comments, if slightly altered, could apply just as easily to the current paranoia regarding emigrants, refugees, EU citizens and the Irish.

Here is what he said about Jews: ‘They must, like everyone else, put ‘Britain first’ or leave Britain.’ When asked if Jews would be persecuted under Fascism, Mosley replied: Bullying or persecution of any kind is foreign to the British character. But those who have been guilty of anti-British conduct would be deported.

He explained that what he meant by Jews or foreigners referred to people ‘who set their racial interests above the national interest and who had not proved themselves worthy citizens of Britain.’ In no circumstances would they be afforded the full rights of British citizenship.
Chilling stuff, if you substitute ‘emigrant’, ‘refugee’, Irish or ‘EU citizen’ for Jew or foreigner! The message then and now is simple: the repatriation or ‘removal’ of all non-white, non-Anglo-Saxons in the UK – and that’s the line the gutter press is now pushing.

Against such a background, for a British government in the 21st century to stir up sectarian antagonism is a measure incredibly beyond the norm, and a despicable course of action.
It’s doubly reprehensible when fuelled by the insane belief that race and cultural differences make some people morally, intellectually and socially superior to others –and yet that seems to be the basis on which the Conservative government is structuring its immigration policies.
Britain is on a slippery slope.

An Phoblacht…November edition out now. October 27, 2016

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In jpeg

Martin McGuinness to British Prime Minister – You Brexit, We Remain
Editorial – Stop Westminster Tories driving us off Brexit cliff
Gerry Adams – The ‘centre ground’ and the politics of Tweedledee and Tweedledum
SDLP, UUP and PBP rhetoric versus Sinn Féin delivery
Media Owners – Denis O’Brien’s News Agenda
Republican Women – Flames Not Flowers
Symbols of resistance – prison crafts
Mary Lou McDonald – A mental health lifeline 24/7
Sinn Féin Youth – Leading from the Front
Bochtaineacht tuaithe níos measa san Iarthar
Carrickmines & Travellers – A civil rights issue
Éigse na mBan – Drama, art and feminist politics
Windsor Park’s new dawn opens under a cloud
British spy cops given Garda licence to roam in Ireland – Lynn Boyaln MEP
Uncomfortable Conversations – Megan Fearon & Declan Kearney
TTIP & CETA – Matt Carthy
Irish support for the Spanish Republic
Dylan dilemma

Signs of Hope – A continuing series October 27, 2016

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Any contributions this week?

‘Ireland and the Wobbly World’ at NUI Galway, 11-12 November, organised by the ICHLC. October 27, 2016

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Interview with Eoghan Murphy TD October 26, 2016

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In the latest edition of Hot Press, conducted by Jason O’Toole. A very educative one too. Is Murphy, a remarkably youthful 34 and junior Finance Minister at that, positioning himself as a liberal alternative to potential rivals? Hard not to be believe it, given the concentration on social issues by him.

He’s against the Swedish model in relation to prostitution – that is arresting men who pay for sex and argues that:

We don’t have the resources to police prostitution. We don’t have the resources to police the women in prostitution. We definitely don’t have the resources to police the people who are purchasing, because it’s obviously a much larger number. I don’t see it as a solution.

He is pro-repeal of the 8th and pro-choice. And this is an interesting way to answer a comment in regard to transgender equality which offers – I guess, a rather liberal view of the world.

What are your thoughts on transgender equality?
It was a coffee shop that served alcohol – a daytime place. Frequenting a lady boy bar is how this might sound – and I’m afraid I’m just not cool or dangerous enough for that kind of life! To be totally honest, it’s not something (transgender) I understand a huge amount. I don’t have any transgender friends. But it’s important that everyone’s happy. That’s the most important thing – that people are happy and healthy, right? The government is there to support happiness and to make sure you’re able to be happy and be free, you know? One of the main responsibilities of the State is to protect the minority against the majority. [my italics – was] So, transgender people are definitely in the minority and we’ve got a responsibility to protect them and make sure that they have the same rights as everyone.

But what of politics (and by the way his own path into politics was an unusual one, it quite literally involved a chance meeting with one E. Kenny)?

Any regrets about the budget?
One of my regrets is that we didn’t increase the excise on cigarettes by more. I used to love a cigarette with a pint. I still crave for them sometimes. But they are just killers and the destruction they cause to people’s lives is terrible. We just need to tax them out of existence. Also, we should probably get rid of any VAT on condoms. They say the evidence doesn’t support the idea that this might lead to more condoms being used. I know education has a lot to do with it. Still, condoms would be free ideally, and available everywhere. Too many people are taking too many risks these days.

Hmmm… anything worries the Junior Minister about say any other policy?

As junior finance minister, you’ve an active role to play in the Apple tax controversy. What is your take on this €13-15 million tax demand? I don’t think it
should happen. It’s hard not to think that there’s a political motivation behind it – there’s politics in everything. But it’s a power grab by the (European) Commission to interfere with our domestic taxation affairs – and that’s wrong.
Is the fear that the EU is going to attempt to impinge on our tax policy generally?
No. The European Union can’t. I think this part of what the problem with the debate in the UK
was over Brexit – people were raising fears over the kind of powers the EU has, when it doesn’t have them.

And so it goes. He may be somewhat off message on the aforementioned social issues, but what is his position on the economics? He doesn’t say. One has the feeling that he is deliberately schooled not to.

It’s genuinely interesting both for what is said, and what isn’t.

By the way, this is great…

Are you an atheist?
I think I’m agnostic, but I don’t know.


Media ownership questions at the Independent group? Deploy the anti-SF/anti-socialist/anti-British/anti-liberal/anti-colonial card, quick sharp! October 26, 2016

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Fintan O’Toole’s article on the new report issued by Sinn Féin and compiled by an independent panel of lawyers on media ownership is pretty good. So good in fact that I’d recommend everyone read it.

But one thing it points up is the self-serving approach of Independent newspapers who will simultaneously play the anti-SF/anti-socialist/anti-British/anti-liberal/anti-colonial card (that’s quite some card – isn’t it?) in trying to rubbish anything that might cause them the slightest discomfort. As he notes, a subject worthy of a special feature in the SBP, articles in the IT, further articles in Guardan and the Sunday Times evinced nothing but minor comment in the SI. As O’Toole notes:

This is all perfectly legitimate opinionising, if not especially impressive reasoning. The essential point, however, is that the sum total of the information presented on this event in the Independent papers on Sunday and Monday was to the effect that Shinners, Brits, liberals and socialists (a range of targets for contempt to suit every taste) have produced a tiresome document that you, the reader, don’t need to know about.  

And what of the effects of this sort of stuff. Worth looking at the two comments below his piece (two by Tuesday lunchtime) to see the sort of sterile groupthink from some in regard to these issues. That whooshing sound we hear is the point going right over their heads.

The ties that bind… October 26, 2016

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This column by Ian Jack in the Guardian is thought-provoking. Jack has problems with English nationalism. Well, don’t we all? But he is himself originally from Scotland – or rather has a self-perception of himself as having a Scottish identity in part, and yet a penny seems to have dropped for him in the way of the Brexit referendum.

The tragedy of the first world war bred a distrust of nationalism among many of my parents’ generation, and increased the appeal of the internationalism offered by socialist groups such as the Independent Labour party. Enhancing that broad philosophy, in my parents’ particular case, was the experience of migrating from lowland Scotland to northern England, where they preferred to be seen as themselves – individuals who happened to be from Scotland – rather than as émigrés announcing a group identity with spectacular enthusiasms such as kilt-wearing and Highland dancing.


As to our own national identity, I suppose we thought of ourselves as British/Scottish, but the question hardly came up. By the time I was old enough to take an interest in such things we were living back in Scotland, not far from a Royal Navy dockyard. Sailors with English accents filled the dancehalls, the cinemas, the buses and the pubs. Still, nobody thought of them as “the English”: their accents didn’t make them different people to us, culturally and politically. It may even be that we saw them as a norm, the standard British issue, the straightforward types in British films where actors from Scotland, Ireland and Wales took the character parts.

That’s really interesting point isn’t it? Consider how that played out. Of course Englishness in Ireland was much more contested. Of course accents didn’t make differences,but actual political structures did.


Of course, to be British had once been a braggart identity. Some of that boastfulness, rekindled by the coronation, dimmed by Suez and kept alive by war films, survived into the 1960s. But then, in the century’s last decades, “British” as a self-description began to offer something else. With fewer connotations of blood and soil than the growing nationalisms of the United Kingdom’s constituent parts, it had room for newcomers from abroad and for people like me who found its capaciousness and slackness attractive. Here was a civic nationalism that meandered attractively like an old river, its dangerous force spent far upstream.


Constitutional devolution and the strength, in particular, of the Scottish independence movement provided serious threats, but in the Scottish referendum campaign of 2014 many people, including me, argued for the preservation of Britain as a state and British as an identity; and of the people who voted, 55% agreed.

But now:

I’m now much less sure. What Britishness went on concealing until very recently – like a host body with a very large grub inside, struggling to emerge – was Englishness. The England/Britain confusion has existed for centuries: all kinds of people, ranging from London dockers through foreign diplomats to writers such as George Orwell, imagined that the terms were coterminous and interchangeable. (Glasgow was “the centre of the intelligence of England” according to the Grand Duke Alexis, who attended the launch of his father Tsar Alexander II’s steam yacht there in 1880.)

I can’t help but feel there’s another aspect to this. Britishness was a badge that newer communities could assemble around. One striking figure from the Brexit referendum was how black and other communities were overwhelmingly in favour of Remain (along with the epitome of the new – the young). For them, for many others, it was detached from an Englishness that was in many of its outward manifestations backward looking, exclusivist, nativist. Where it had political expression it was a problematic one, at best.

The separatist movements of Scotland and Wales began to dent this idea in England, but the English response was slow. A competing English nationalism was at first confined to fringe meetings about the West Lothian question and a campaign for an English parliament. Then came the rise of Nigel Farage’s Ukip, the Tory strategy for dealing with it and that strategy’s failure in the EU referendum. We have come to where we are – which is to say that English nationalism has found its opportunity, and is taking us out of Europe.

Of course there’s a problem. The UK is an utterly imbalanced federation. Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland might well be constituent parts but their ability to exercise autonomy is – as Irish nationalism understood and attempted to push back against across centuries – utterly circumscribed by the sheer weight of numbers in England. Ironic, is it not, that ‘swamping’ actually exists but not in the form that those who most use that term would comprehend. Jack is on to something here too:

The prospects it offers are fantastical, outdoing anything the Scottish National party promised even in its most romantic period. English exceptionalism has flared up: we are a great country, there is nowhere else like us, we shall lead the world in free trade, we shall sell ginger snaps to the North Koreans. On Thursday night on the BBC I heard Conrad Black, the disgraced Canadian newspaper publisher, evoke “this sceptred isle” in a little speech that drew applause from his audience in Hartlepool.

The notion of Brexit as a popular victory is confined almost entirely to the English, albeit that its prominent cheerleaders include Liam Fox and (in the past) Michael Gove. Its ramifications are troubling for Scotland and particularly severe for Northern Ireland.

But then that’s the reality of “Britain”. It is impossible to conceive of a union where there isn’t this imbalance, this tilt (even were we to throw in the millions on this island it still wouldn’t alter matters). For all the lip service paid to said union in truth it is London and England that decides. Always has been.

As to the future?

I’m not sure I feel the same level of anger and alienation. Neither, of course, do I share the average east European migrant’s uncertainty over his or her future. But my sense of belonging is a little less, and I have a slight (and perhaps slightly embittering) feeling of betrayal – similar in kind though not in scale to those loyal communities in the old empire such as the Anglo-Indians, who came to believe in the end that they had hitched their fortunes to the wrong star. “A family with the wrong members in control – that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase,” wrote Orwell in 1941, and this autumn it has never seemed truer.

An English nationalism in full flower, even if still part concealed by the rhetoric of union, is a rather ugly thing. I say that as someone with an English heritage. But more importantly it is something that as history has told us is ultimately centrifugal in its political effects. Ireland, or part of it, is testament to that. Someday Scotland, then perhaps Wales.

That disunited Kingdom October 26, 2016

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Whatever one’s views on Brexit this surely must be of great concern, the reports back from the meeting the heads of the devolved government’s in the UK had with T. May.

Nicola Sturgeon:

“I don’t know any more now about the UK government’s approach to the EU negotiations than I did before I went in to the meeting,” she said. “At the moment, it doesn’t seem to me like there is a UK negotiating strategy, which is one of the sources of great frustration.”

Carwyn Jones:

“nothing concrete came out of the meeting and I am none the wiser as to what her proposals are”.
“The problem seems to be that they don’t know what to do next,” he said, adding that May had declined a direct opportunity to reassure him that businesses would continue to trade without tariffs with the rest of the EU.

Interestingly Martin McGuiness was focusing on the need to avoid a hard border on the island and Arlene Foster was a lot more positive in regard to the overall process.

This is class, from Sturgeon:

Earlier, the prime minister’s official spokeswoman said Ms May wanted a united negotiating position, with a single set of arrangements applying to all parts of the UK. And she warned the leaders of the devolved administrations against any actions which could undermine the UK’s negotiating position.
“I’m not seeking to undermine anyone, I don’t know what the UK’s negotiating position is, so there’s nothing there that I can see to undermine,” Ms Sturgeon said after the meeting.

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