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Sinn Féin and Arthur Griffith, 1905 and after February 26, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Interesting this, the text of Fine Gael TD, Dan Neville’s thoughts on that topic.

Many thanks to the person who forwarded the link.

Russia and Greece February 26, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Is it me or was there a certain tone in Anne McElvoy’s report in this Free Thinking piece here on Radio3 (scroll some way down to Thu, 5 Feb 15) in regard to Russia and Greece? I was a bit surprised when after Mary Dejevsky made the very reasonable point that in regard to flights by Russian military aircraft in international air space in Europe that one had to contextualise these with NATO military flights close to Russian territory. McElvoy asked, sounding almost disbelieving, ‘you’re not suggesting an equivalence between British armed forces and Russia?’. Erm… one doesn’t have to be much of a fan of the Russian’s, if at all, to feel that’s sort of missing the point, I’d have thought.

It was difficult to come away with any real sense of some noxious Syriza/Russian nationalist/fascist lash up, as was sought to be depicted by some of the international press over the past few weeks. The connections seemed paper thin, almost a case of saying that because a had met b that meant a commonality of interest and purpose.

One other point Dejevsky made: ‘it would be wrong to underestimate the sense of national revival in Russia… it was a victory for Russia as much as a defeat for communism that we’ve been looking at ever since 1991 (the fall of the USSR) and I tend to think that’s one the major things that almost anybody who has been dealing with Russia ever since particularly Western countries has got spectacularly wrong’.

Ructions in Dublin West February 26, 2015

Posted by doctorfive in Irish Politics.
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…the sort only a FF selection convention could provide.

David McGuinness is “doing a lot of soul searching” after the party selected someone else to run in the next general election. Cllr McGuinness has the distinction of losing three elections in three years – In 2011 his running mate Brian Lenihan was the only FF TD elected in Dublin. Lenihan scraping in behind Burton, Varadkar & Joe Higgins.

Shortly after, Lenihan died and Nulty took the seat from FF, who were still fairly bruised from the general election and the natural party of government were content to celebrate the “come back” of drawing dead second with the Socialist Party. After Nulty departed, McGuinness again fell short and the seat moved even further left to Coppinger.

So now the Mulhuddart native has been dropped in place of the contender from Castleknock. This is Varadkar’s patch and Lenihan’s too but perhaps also a move away from chasing what is one of the strongest left wing votes in the country. With potentially two party leaders from the incumbent parties, a safe Socialist(s?) and strong Sinn Féin, it is going to be some time out when the election comes.

According to McGuinness tonight “There’s no doubt about it. There’s a class divide in Fianna Fáil and I’m clearly on the wrong side of the tracks. That was clearly evident in Dublin West”

Joan Burton could be saying the same thing when votes come in..

An Phoblacht out now, including… February 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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Time to go Taoiseach

John Alderdice writes in Uncomfortable Conversations – Letting go of old ways of thinking

Michelle Gildernew and Fermanagh & South Tyrone– A special place, a special legacy

1916 centenary programme of events launched

Creating common ground ahead of Dáil election – Another View by Eoin Ó Broin

International Women’s Day: No peace without women, says Megan Fearon MLA

Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Mise agus mo Dhia

Belfast’s famous black taxis – ‘Hacked off’ and still fighting for equality

The DUP’s anti-LGBT ‘Conscience Clause’ – Rainbow Project Director John O’Doherty

Van Morrison and Belfast school days shared by Robert Allen

Put our money in our hands – Fiscal devolution for the North – Conor Murphy MP

Irish state reveals its contempt for Irish language rights

Identity and the north… February 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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Some intriguing thoughts in Jim Fitzpatrick’s latest piece in the SBP on the North. He argues that the GFA/BA has through the particular mechanism of politicians designating themselves as unionist or nationalist created a very specific impasse (in passing he is most complimentary of Eamonn McCann, and rightly so, in warning of the problems that lay ahead). And he reasonably enough argues implicitly that this is only a reflection or expression of the broader society. But he notes that:

It made sense to state the obvious – the vast majority of the population identified as “one or the other” – but it did not make sense to effectively tie the new constitution to this evermore.

Of course the reason for this was to overcome the dangers of majoritarianism, and that circle hasn’t been squared either. But it is reasonable to see it as exacerbating the issue of identity.

Now, almost 17 years on from that agreement, the identity battles continue to rage with equal bitterness and passion. They dominate all else and are having a deeply corrosive effect on society. Those that care not for these battles have opted out, because there is no place for them in an arena defined and managed on these terms.

Even the Alliance Party, which has been forced to downgrade its own political capital by joining neither camp and therefore having no say in key Assembly votes, is defined by simply being what the others aren’t. It’s almost the flipside of the same coin, needing the sectarian to be the non-sectarian alternative.
And, as the party has to admit, it’s a diminished alternative because – lacking that tribal clout which legislation provides – it cannot sway key votes.

I think that point about ‘needing the sectarian to be the non-sectarian alternative’ while perhaps slightly overstated is something that is well worth considering. It’s a basic issue, or problem where by defining against something the danger becomes that of being defined by the thing one is against. And it’s also a problem of almost ignoring or denying significant elements of the societal dispensation and their power and how they function. In other words, a dynamic can emerge where one entirely correctly seeks to do away with sectarianism and decry it in others without engaging sufficiently with what it is and what it isn’t and offering cogent means of transcending it.

I’m not sure what the answer is to all this. Fitzpatrick notes the following, which doesn’t exactly give great hope.

Unionists consistently fail to acknowledge that nationalist identity is legitimate. They insult and belittle Irish culture and the Irish language and insist that Northern Ireland is, to misquote Margaret Thatcher, as “British as Finchley”.
Nationalists and republicans, meanwhile, seem to treat unionism as an illness. A temporary state artificially preserved by British intervention. It’s temporary nature may have lasted several hundred years, but that doesn’t seem to sway the analysis.
They imagine a mythical United Ireland where these deluded souls will recant and accept their true Irish identity once the apron strings from Mother Britannia have been cut.

I think the false consciousness approach to unionism is very mistaken. And it is – of course – simply a reflection of the Unionist attitude to nationalism. Albeit that under Stormont (the first) there was almost an attitude of hoping/wishing that nationalists would somehow go away. But more than mistaken it’s pointless. Unionists are not going to stop being unionists in any realisable time frame, any more than nationalists are going to stop being nationalists. This odd parallel, as it were, is also intriguing.

With that thought in mind note that Fitzpatrick continues:

There’s a fact at the centre of all of this which the Good Friday Agreement implicitly states, but no one dares acknowledge. Nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland are stuck with each other. No one else wants them and there’s nowhere else to go.

If one views the GFA/BA as being a holding effort one can see how it is extremely convenient in fending off the competing nationalisms at the heart of it from their supposed sponsors. The British were clearly comfortable in diminishing their sovereignty somewhat in respect of the North (arguably that was true since Sunningdale, and the AIA was merely the first clear manifestation of same). The Irish government and polity were likewise happy enough to jettison the inconveniences of Articles 2 and 3. And the focus returned to Northern Ireland itself. No longer quite so close to the UK, and only slightly closer to the RoI.

Fitzpatrick argues that:

In reality, precious little could change in the event of a United Ireland. The unionist population would not recant or suddenly give up its British identity. So it’s highly likely that Northern Ireland in a new republic would not look significantly different to how it appears today.
Meanwhile, the nationalist population in the North – despite Martin McGuinness’s fondness for Queen Elizabeth – is not likely to start waving Union Jacks any time soon and will continue to enjoy celebrating Irish culture in different ways.

There’s a lot in that. I can’t see a united Ireland emerging without some sort of federal arrangement and one which just as the GFA/BA has allowed for a diminution of UK sovereignty would likewise require a diminution of RoI sovereignty allowing east west political and representational links perhaps in perpetuity. There’s just no way around it. In other words nationalism would have to become accustomed to the reality not just of Unionism but a unionism that was expressed with regular visits from the monarch, with political representation of some form in London, with the union flag flying across the North in tandem with the tricolour (or perhaps not depending on where), and so on and so forth. That’s the only way such a deal could be sold because national identity, like it or not, is not going to undergo a phase shift just because – say – 51 per cent of the population in the North supports a UI.

And that makes me wonder whether it wouldn’t be more sensible for nationalism to start working through that and getting together a package that would not so much offer that, but make it clear that it will as a minimum in any future dispensation seek to uphold national identity and cultural and political rights for Unionism even at the expense of full sovereignty.
But all that is blue sky thinking, really, given where we are today. The prospect of a significant change in the next decade or two seems remote.

So what is the solution? He proposes that:

A basic acceptance of that fundamental fact coupled with a little bit of respect for each identity and ultimately a change in the sectarian rules at Stormont might be too much to ask for. But it’s what is needed. And needed soon.

Respect is such a simple term. In some ways that’s always been at the heart of this. It was what Stormont from 1920 onwards could not gift, the societal pressures within Unionism being too great to do so. And yet had that been done it is just barely possible that the conflict might have been avoided. But even to phrase it this way is to wonder how feasible it is. The memory of the conflict is perhaps too raw, the sectarianism at this point too deeply embedded. And how would it manifest? An acceptance of all parades and flags? An acceptance of the Irish language? Would that be possible, and if possible enough, or nearly enough?

I’m not optimistic. I’d put good money on the status quo being the status quo for quite some time to come, staggering from one crisis to another, never getting as bad as it was, but never getting as good as it could be.

What you want to say – 25th February 2015 February 25, 2015

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

Fianna Fáil Four Years on from the 2011 General Election. February 25, 2015

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Politics.
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This day four years ago we voted Fianna Fáil out of Government. They returned with twenty seats, no female TD’s and just the one seat in Dublin (which was subsequently lost at the By-Election following the passing of Brian Lenihan). …. A few days after the election I drove with my Mother and a number of other relatives down to a funeral in Wexford. Aside from instructions as to where exactly the church was, a description of exactly who the deceased was…

“were you not at his wife’s funeral? I could have sworn you were” … there were a number of stories about the deceased and also a good bit of talk about Fianna Fáil.

“They’ll have to change their name” , “They are finished” and so on was the view of the cars occupants all bar myself , well over 70. It had been a shock to me, but Fianna Fáil had been the dominant party in every election since they were born. They idea that just 17% of the electorate would vote Fianna Fáil shocked them.

Fianna Fáil were in shock too. In opposition in the Dail , a position only a handful of their TD’s had been in before, vying with Sinn Féin to be the main opposition party.

Irish politics is in it’s most polarised state since the early 30’s. One the one side is The Government and lumped in with them in many peoples minds are Fianna Fáil. On the other side Sinn Fein, the Left and much of The Independents/ Others. In a strange way this polarisation will help Fianna Fáil win seats the next time out that it missed out on in 2011. (I’ll be doing an analysis of FFs electoral chances in the next day or so).

When Fine Gael asked voters to lend them their votes, many assumed that they would go back to Fianna Fáil after the election. Funnily enough they started to recover in the polls and this time two years ago were on 29% in a Millward Brown/Sunday Independent poll. Indeed in all the polls in 2013 they were between 21% and 29%. There were issues such as Wind Farms, Pylons, Septic Tanks and Garda Station Closures as well as the Penalty points issue which didn’t show Alan Shatter in a good light at all. These issues were issues which were in the main unconnected to the Economic Crash and allowed Fianna Fáil to go full pelt against these. Yet they have gone down in the polls since.
I think their main problem at the moment is that of the main issues for many people now, much of it is to do with Fianna Fáil’s time in Government. Also because of the crash they couldn’t be seen to be engaging in populist “Auction Politics” , so Sinn Féin are doing the populist scrap Property Tax, Scrap Water Charges and reverse various cuts which would have been Fianna Fáil’s natural territory when in opposition. In Effect over this Dail term Fianna Fáil have become a party of Government in opposition as they broadly supported the thrust of Fine Gael and Labour Policy, which was in the main a continuation of the previous Government’s policies.

There are no big issues at the moment which they can really differentiate themselves from the Government.

McNultygate should have boosted them but instead I think it hurt them as it reminded people of Fianna Fáil in it’s pomp in power.

They wanted to ‘postpone’ The Property Tax, a tax which they had signed up to with The Troika. I think had they a number of Dublin TD’s they would have put forward proper alternatives.

Again having signed up to charging for water…… they are in favour of Water Charges but not the entity that is “Irish Water”. I also think their lack of Dublin TDs has influenced their position as there are many in rural areas that already pay for water be it through their own wells and septic tanks, they are gambling that it’s ‘Irish Water’ rather than actually paying for water that is the issue. As an aside I’ve actually been impressed with Barry Cowen , which leads on to the problem they have of not a huge amount of decent media performers. Again their lack of Dublin TD’s means in general Fianna Fáil representatives on various radio and television shows are from the country.
The biggest elephant in the room of course is the Bank Guarantee, Bank Bailout and their economic management of the country that led to The IMF coming. It appears they were forced by the EU into bailing out the banks.

For a while the Leadership was an issue, or certainly there were elements within the party that weren’t happy with Micheál Martin. He mightn’t have the charisma of Bertie or Charlie but what he does have is an air of ‘decency’ and he is the best they have at the minute.

The ruling out of going into Coaltion with Fine Gael or Sinn Fein is of course to be taken with a pinch of salt and as we all know it will be the post election numbers that dictates the post election government options. However I do think its strange for a natural ‘Party of Government’ to rule out coalition with everyone but Labour and some Independents. I also think it plays into the narrative that Fine Gael are trying to push about the election, that it is going to be a Fine Gael led Government or a Sinn Féin led one.

As things stand I see Fianna Fáil getting 30 to 35 seats ….. with a detailed analysis of where in the next day or two…… Oh and we got home from The Funeral and I still can’t place exactly whose funeral I was at!

Not these old chestnuts again on marriage equality… February 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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The Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran is on a roll. At the Holy Trinity Church in Donaghmede it was one line after another on marriage equality and why marriage was opposite sex only…First up the uniquely insulting line that implies that marriage without children… well, just isn’t marriage.

“They are looking for a different kind of relationship which would be called marriage; a relationship which includes some elements of marriage, such as love and commitment, but excludes one of the two essential aspects of marriage, which is the openness of their sexual relationship to procreation.”

“This is only possible if we change the meaning of marriage and remove that aspect of openness to procreation”

And:

But, of course there is no legal obstacle to a person of homosexual orientation getting married, just as a heterosexual person can.

Yeah, but not to each other…

And so on…

Meanwhile I see Mattie McGrath has more or less announced he’s voting No in the referendum, though I’m intrigued by how he qualifies it to ‘probably’. Never a man to underestimate what way the wind is blowing perhaps reports on the fragility of a Yes vote are overstated. Perhaps.

The good news for the left… and troubling analysis as regards the referendum for marriage equality. February 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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In my last post I pointed up the mixed news for the left, that despite everything it remains remarkably marginal in terms of electoral support, with the far left likely to get up to ten or so seats, perhaps more but not many more, very possibly less. The social democratic left (and by the by the definition of same and the boundaries with the far left is a little permeable) is in ragged order but again can expect to return seven or eight TDs. Perhaps more. None of this terrible, far from it. To have that number of TDs after a long period where the ‘left’ was represented by Tony Gregory and Joe Higgins alone is excellent, but the problems are self-evident.

But what of the good news? As a bloc, in the RedC/SBP poll, smaller parties and others remain in rude good health in comparison to some years back. A good 1 in 3 of voters are tending that way. And Richard Colwell of RedC notes an even more important aspect of that:

Support has been relatively steady at this level since October last year, and before that had been on a relatively consistent upward trend.

That’s the key, the fact that support is consistent across a long period of time. This doesn’t mean that it won’t falter. Anything but. But it does mean that more of that vote is likely to be retained by the small parties and Independents than not. And that’s great news on the level of individual candidates.

In the same piece Colwell looks at the referendum. RedC carried out polling that looked not just at headline support for marriage equality but also asked people secondary questions as regards issues that might impinge directly or indirectly. Given the reality that these issues will be raised the exercise has some validity, even if it is irritating in the extreme that the central question is being diverted in this way.

…the reality is that over a third of those who had claimed they would support the referendum, still have reservations about gay couples adopting. It is entirely plausible to suggest that those with reservations around issues that will be used in the campaign are not sure to vote in favour of it, and as such only 48 per cent of voters can actually be described as “secure” Yes voters.

That is not bad. Colwell notes that the headline figure is even better… but…

While overall the great majority (77 per cent) agree that they will vote to support the change to the constitution, in line with most recent polls that ask about vote intention directly, actually only 59 per cent agree strongly that they will do so, with 18 per cent only agreeing more tentatively.

And:

This view was further emphasised when we raised the issue of whether voters – despite saying they would vote Yes in favour of the referendum – had any reservations about the idea of same sex marriage. An even higher proportion of voters (42 per cent) who had previously suggested they would vote Yes, claim to still have reservations with the basic concept of the referendum.

Colwell suggests that:

Once this analysis is taken into account, and as an extreme measure all those with reservations about same-sex marriage and gay adoption are taken out of the Yes camp, the proportion “certain” to vote Yes at the referendum collapses from the highs of 77 per cent to just 44 per cent of all voters.

This may be overly pessimistic, but it’s fairly clear there’s a sustained effort in the media to shape the narrative – and the recent Bill has seen considerable evidence of same. Certainly no room for complacency.

Re-election blues… February 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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Pat Leahy in the SBP puts his finger on an unpleasant and inconvenient truth for Fine Gael and Labour on foot of the most recent poll. Away from all the rhetoric this last weekend at the FG Ard Fheis, and the upcoming rhetoric we are bound to hear from Labour at their meet, the reality is that:

With Fine Gael stuck on 24 per cent, and Labour again slipping back to 7 per cent, the coalition is a lot closer to meltdown than it is to victory. For the government to be re-elected, Fine Gael probably needs to be on at least 30 per cent, Labour in the early teens. If that is not impossible, it is certainly, on the face of it, an unlikely prospect.

Think about it. The LP has to all but double its support. FG to gain another 6 per cent. And then think about the terrain upon which this has to be negotiated. For Fine Gael it’s less difficult, they can perhaps drawn in soft FF-inclined voters, or those not so keen on Lucinda Creighton or Shane Ross. Perhaps.

For Labour it’s a task of nightmare like proportions. Their base in constituencies amongst the working class has been eviscerated by the very policies they themselves stood over and implemented. And without that base, well, what do they have? Merely the same sort of chasing around after that elusive ‘middle Ireland’ vote that all the larger parties hope to gain some lock on. That’s all very fine, but the marketplace for same has become markedly more competitive over the years. Just, paradoxically, as the market place for the working class vote has likewise become more competitive. It is, as was noted here last week, a classic case of reaching out for a new constituency while forgetting that the one you have – even if only in part, is the one that requires continual attention.

And there’s the issue that all other things being equal there will be constant reminders in those working class areas from those rivals of Labours iniquities.

Leahy continues:

Yet it speaks to a basic truth about political campaigns in western democracies – the centrality of the economy as an issue in every election. It is also the basis of the government’s re-election bid; the coalition will not make itself loved, but it might get credit for a recovering economy. After a year of consistently strengthening economic news, with the last budget heralding the end of austerity and some minor tax cuts, the question around government is: why is it not the economy?

Well, one could easily contest some of those assertions, but as noted here before as well, is the template one of economic success providing electoral success? One could make an argument that the FG/LP/DL coalition of the 1990s albeit short-lived was reasonably successful and yet it was unceremoniously turfed out by the electorate and that during a time of increasing economic growth. Other examples, that of the BLP across the late 90s and 2000s are different because Britain was going through a time of growth itself. Whereas… any improvement is contingent and rather marginal in comparison to all the problems that remain – and as importantly the legacy, the cumulative legacy, of years of austerity that mean that the ‘end’ of austerity is no such thing.

Leahy makes another point that is worth considering:

The radical left, especially in the persons of Socialist Party TDs Paul Murphy and Ruth Coppinger, has achieved in recent months a massive media profile, yet there is almost no political payoff. Far left parties remain nationally negligible in the polls. They are highly effective critics of government, yet have little appeal in terms of a political alternative for most. Other potential political alternatives – in the shape of Lucinda Creighton’s new party or Shane Ross’s independent alliance – have yet to establish themselves.

This isn’t unimportant. Because simply put we’ve been through the most pronounced economic crisis within living member and the fact remains that the political dividends have been mixed. It could be that the water issue will wash a significant number of specific anti-water tax candidates into the Dáil – that remains to be seen, but even the most optimistic figures I’m hearing on the left suggest that the numbers would be less than ten, at the very very best. That’s far from bad, but look at SF, a racing certainty to have at the very least triple that number and more likely four times that. All this suggests that the work of decades remains for the left.

The same is true to an extent of the Creighton and Ross vehicles, though they are vastly dissimilar from political parties that campaign over long periods. One can see those projects not getting very far off the ground.

And while it is true, as Leahy alludes to, that there is a very large anti-austerity camp, that camp is fluid and currently remains represented in the main by SF.

Leahy’s conclusion?

The political picture remains fragmented and volatile, and the likely shape of the next government as unpredictable as ever.

It’s obvious, but it’s correct.

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