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Nato expansion March 23, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

And so Turkey lifts the veto on Finland’s application to join Nato and presumably sooner or later will come to terms with Sweden and consequently that organisation will have two new members in the near future. Just in geo-strategic terms this outcome points up the utter futility of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian government. Did no-one counsel the political leadership in Moscow that this was a possible, perhaps likely, almost inevitable, outcome of starting a war of aggression on its borders? Or perhaps more accurately continuing and expanding a war of aggression. Along with the self-immolation of Moscow’s energy export market for the foreseeable future this is a massive set-back.

But it goes further. Short of a successful decapitation of Kyiv, wasn’t it always likely that Ukraine would ultimately become a sort of de facto semi-detached protectorate of various states in Eastern Europe and the EU and, in a way, a Nato it cannot and likely will not join? I’m no fan of Nato, but work through the dynamics and processes and what one sees something that is almost a certainty – that states on the periphery of Russia/Europe would look to their own security.

So who was it that didn’t tell the Kremlin this? Or was it that they simply wouldn’t listen?

‘Free’ schoolbooks and free schoolbooks  March 23, 2023

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.

What a telling framing around the issue of free schoolbooks for primary school children in The Irish Times. 

This on foot of a report that:

Primary schools are to receive almost €100 per pupil to buy schoolbooks and copybooks which they may purchase from any bookshop under guidance due to issue to schools later this week.

It follows a Government announcement in Budget 2023 of a package of free schoolbooks for more than 500,000 primary school pupils from September 2023 at a cost of about €54 million.

Informed sources say a funding package of €96 per student will be paid to schools to cover schoolbooks, workbooks and copybooks.

Schools will also be advised not to seek voluntary contributions from parents for any book-related expenses on foot of the grants.

This is, I suspect, what many of us will consider a good thing. This is the investment in primary school education that is so often called for (though the corollary of that can be a scepticism about third level access being as inexpensive as possible or free). 

But consider the headlines the piece had at various times yesterday morning. 

First thing it was:

Primary schools to get €96 per pupil for ‘free’ schoolbooks

By 11 am it had changed to:

Free schoolbooks: Primary schools to get €96 per child and not to ask for parental contribution

That vote March 23, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

So the vote came in and the vote went out and the government is still standing. Despite noises there were more than sufficient votes to see the government was safe. That said the GP has lost a TD, for the moment anyhow.

In a way more interesting is why some Independents voted with the government.

Note how matters stood the day before yesterday:

Galway East TD Seán Canney published eight amendments that he said the Government had to accept in order to secure the Regional Independent Group’s support for lifting the eviction ban.

Mr O’Brien held talks with some of the group’s eight TDsand then clarified in the Dáil that he would accept their various amendments on rental policy.

RIG member Michael Lowry said yesterday evening that he was likely to vote in favour of the Government counter-motion, and a number of his colleagues are expected to follow suit.

First and foremost they are clearly are in no mood for an election. That’s not unimportant in itself. If they thought that not supporting the government would work to their advantage – or that the issue was likely to seriously damage them – they wouldn’t hesitate to go for an election. After all, what alternative would they have? So if they believe that they can weather the storm, that whatever mitigations the government has offered are sufficient, then they also must believe that come the election the issue will not be ‘live’ at that point. Of course they could also argue that were it still very prominent that they had fought for mitigations but the government had not delivered. 

Secondly they may believe that simply by flexing their muscles in this way they continue to demonstrate their relevance. That’s not unimportant either. Not much point in them sitting on the sidelines. 

Thirdly, is there any chance that they feel that aligning with Sinn Féin is a bad look for them? This makes sense in the context of Sinn Féin’s current level of support. By supporting a Sinn Féin vote does that diminish the independents? That has to be a factor in their thinking.

Then there are other factors. Given the Independents come from largely the same political home as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil it’s not exactly a surprise that they would share similar political and largely the same ideological approaches and be more likely to back those parties when push came to shove.

That said, you have to wonder. The proposals they sought from the government do nothing to alleviate the immediate crisis in relation to evictions. And with Hourigan gone the coalition is – on its own numbers on a knife edge and ever more dependent upon the Independents, those who will support it. A further point to throw into the mix is whether they can while flexing their muscles actually gain on issues in ways that make them politically more secure. That’s a question isn’t it? 

And RTÉ offers this analysis:

But even if the Dáil arithmetic on that day remains broadly similar to today’s result, the ultimate measure of all this will be another far more significant figure.

That is the number of people who find themselves without a home in the months ahead.

If that figure surges, then today’s Dáil victory will count for very little for Government.

In any event today the government remains safe in situ. Some of the Independents continue to provide support when even a government TD votes against the government. 

yet, there is little or nothing of the febrile atmosphere around the FF/GP coalition of the late 2000s. This isn’t the most stable coalition but there are groups of support it can call on when in trouble. And they continue to support it. 

All this points towards the next election being a good length of time away. Everyone mentioned above, bar those independents who voted against the government and broader opposition are invested in the government making it to the end of its term, or as close as makes no difference. Interesting to know that. 


29: The true Brexit believers March 22, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

She, Sunaks measure passes with 515 votes to 29. 22/23 of the 29 are Tories or continuity Tories. The rest? We know the rest.

And of the Tories? As the Guardian notes:

Among the Conservative rebels were Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, another former party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, and the former cabinet ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel and Simon Clarke.

48 Tories abstained or were absent and no need to depend on Labour to pass the measure. So Sunak may count this a good days work. What do people think?

Rejoining the EU?  March 22, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

William Keegan who I like a lot, given he writes in the mode of a traditional (that is pre-third way) social democrat of a type familiar to me from a short membership of the British Labour Party, makes a point that is both sensible but absolutely politically impossible in an article. Before he gets to that he offers this:

Now, the majority of the rightwing Tories who inflicted Brexit upon us consider themselves Thatcherites. They know that Thatcher enjoyed the huge support of her chief press officer, Bernard Ingham. Well, I have news for them: my brother Victor and I had a most interesting lunch with Bernard shortly before he died recently, at the ripe old age of 90.

Ingham himself was an unashamed Brexiter. But he, who knew Thatcher’s views as well as anyone, told us in no uncertain terms that his boss would have undoubtedly voted to remain in the European Union. She fought her – and our – corner in many an EU dispute, but she knew where our economic interests lay; and, of course, she was godmother to the single market.

Well. Perhaps. I suspect though that she would more likely have gone with the times had she survived. That said she was indeed one of the prime movers of the single market – so perhaps her inclination would have been to leave the European Union and remain within the SM/CU? Who knows, who can tell? 

Anyhow Keegan argues:

Talking of which, I should like to reiterate my wonder at the fact that Rishi Sunak, when arguing the case for the Northern Ireland deal – in which he was supported by Keir Starmer – emphasised that Northern Ireland could continue to enjoy the benefits of being part of the UK and the single market.

If that’s good for Northern Ireland, Mr Sunak and Sir Keir, what about the rest of us, who, in addition to the economic consequences of Brexit, have lost our freedom of movement within the single market we helped to set up? It is surely time that Sunak, whose Brexit position has been shown to be flawed by his own comments, demonstrated his reputation for pragmatism by owning up to the catastrophe.

All true. All irrelevant. It doesn’t seem remotely likely that a British government will lead the UK back into the EU in the next decade and likely much longer, perhaps never. I could see the UK joining EFTA, or some approximation of same, but again not for a decade at least. And I think there’s good reasons for this. From the moment the referendum result was in it was clear that – like it or not, it had and retains a democratic mandate. One can complain that it was advisory, that those who sought Leave were (at best) economical with the truth, that some on the opposing side were underpowered, that the results was finely balanced and all those points are true. But all that aside everyone had a chance to make their case, if the worst argue theirs too passionately and the… well, best isn’t the term, less worse perhaps is more applicable, were not exactly filled with energy, so be it. Thirty years of British politics led towards a referendum. There was a result and that has to be acknowledged. 

One can argue more forcefully with the aftermath. The absurdity of a Remain cohort who refused to recognise that the world had, literally changed around them. The duplicity of a Leave cohort who saw the opportunity to push for the hardest form of Brexit possible, one that has led to years of chaos on this island. So for me it would be fair to say Brexit was a mistake, and one that unfortunately British working people will be living with for many years to come, but what followed compounded and exacerbated that mistake. And arguably led to an extension of the Tory moment that arrived in 2010 and remains to this day. 

So while my sympathies are with Keegan I don’t think it’s achievable and worse it may be diversionary. Better by far to lay the ground towards the ejection of the Tories and a better relations both with individual EU states and with the EU as a whole. 

And all this before we get to the significant problems that the way in which the EU is structured needs to be addressed. 

Good point here from him:

Meanwhile we all await the ineffable Jacob Rees-Mogg’s list of the “benefits of Brexit”. Given the recent banking emergencies in the US and Switzerland, I greatly look forward to Rees-Mogg’s views on the putative benefits of a restoration of the light-touch regulation that brought us the financial crisis of 2008.

The DUP amassing evidence…to say No? March 22, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Alex Kane had a piece in the IT this week where he argued that the panel assembled by the DUP to assess the Windsor Framework was a tactic typical of that party.

What it usually means is that the key leadership players are amassing inside and outside evidence in favour of the more difficult choice before them: in this case, accepting it and rebooting the Assembly and Executive.


Flying in the face of a sovereign parliament is one thing, but there are always consequences. Not least of which is what you do next. If Donaldson decides to run with the framework then he needs to challenge his opponents on what follows if it is rejected.

And vice versa.

The only problem with this analysis is that already the DUP appears to have spoken, at least in relation to the votes this week. And that voice is in the negative. 

Perhaps that is positioning. A means of testing the water, seeing how many Tories are onside with them. Perhaps also as a means of delivering an exemplary effect by pointing up the forces arrayed against them – if the Tories prevail handsomely in the vote. 

Or perhaps simply delaying yet again to see if matters break more conveniently for them. 

The problem with that approach is that it is contingent. It paints Donaldson as someone without a clear set of principles in relation to the Windsor Framework  – that is accepting them as they are, or not accepting them at all. And in a sense I think Kane is absolutely correct. If the former then Donaldson needs to be out and making the case for them as quickly as possible. 

Because Kane points to a few basic realities on foot of not accepting them. 

He also needs to challenge them on what happens if devolution collapses entirely (an outcome some of them are actively seeking). The notion that there will be a unionist-benign form of direct rule is a fatuous one. Neither the Irish Government nor nationalism in Northern Ireland will be sidelined or ignored in those circumstances. That said, he also has to persuade unionists that the assembly — which has a long history of stop-start crises and failing to rise to the challenges of coherent, consensual governance — is actually worth preserving.


This next is intriguing:


I have no doubt that Donaldson favours the survival of devolution, even with its manifest faults. Cynics will ask why bother to save something which is likely to reach another crisis point within months: is it just because too many parties and governments still believe that the Belfast Agreement remains “too big, too important to fail”? I think it’s deeper than that. If we reach the point at which it is acknowledged that no form of devolution can work in Northern Ireland then it raises much more difficult questions about what happens next. And nobody has a clue.

I think he’s right. If devolution fails – and there’s no context for devolution outside the GFA/BA since neither Sinn Féin, nor likely the SDLP, would countenance it, then that presents an existential threat to the Union. It is not just that Dublin would have a greater role in the North given that the surrounding agreements of the GFA/BA make that clear. It raises the question of what Northern Ireland is for and how people who have very different views on that question can, for the foreseeable live and work together. 

Kane doesn’t mince words:

That’s why unionism has to be careful about any strategy which leads to the final collapse. That’s why Donaldson — and his opponents, too — must examine every key decision taken by unionism since March 1972 and measure their strategy against the consequences. The worst place to find yourself is somewhere where every loss is permanent and every victory pyrrhic. If the DUP opt for a reasonably soft yes and a few tentative steps into the Assembly and Executive — which I think it will — then it must be ruthlessly honest about why it has made that call.

Remind unionism too that Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom does not just depend on assorted Acts of parliament. It depends on having a majority when a Border poll comes: a majority is more likely if unionism seems calm rather than serially spooked.






What you want to say – 22nd March 2023  March 22, 2023

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.

Latest NI Poll March 22, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Quite a poll yesterday from the Irish News/University of Liverpool. The headline is ‘Stormont’s ‘big three’ consolidate dominance of the Assembly’. Assuming the Assembly was sitting perhaps. Still, the figures are striking, albeit the MOE is 3.1%. Sinn Féin out ahead on 30.6 +1.6%, DUP on 23.9% +2.6% and Alliance on 15.4% +1.9%.

The UUP on 11.3% +0.1%, SDLP on 6.7% – 2.4%, TUV on 4.8% – 2.8%, GP on 3.2% +1.3%, Aontú down 1.3% to 0.2%, PBP on 2.2% +1.1%, NI Conservatives up from 0.01% to 1.3% and others down 2.9% to 0.5%.

Still not an environment that one suspects the DUP would be all that keen to enter, politically, in the context of an election. TUV obviously losing support, Sinn Féin and Alliance reason to be happy. Dispiriting for the SDLP. UUP just about holding its own. Who knows what to make of the situation of smaller parties?

YouGov poll on Scottish independence March 21, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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46% Yes, 54% No. 

Look at the poll and one can see how the Truss period saw  spike upwards in support and how the Sunak period has seen a slump. Difficult to see much scope for a win in the near term. But surely this is a process not an event.

The world of workers: financial workers and unionisation March 21, 2023

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Meant to reference this way back, but Covid and other matters intervened. A piece in the SBP by John Walsh which noted that just before Christmas the head of the Financial Services Union was on RTÉ about the removal of the ban on bonuses for bankers. Now there’s a more recent postscript to this, so read on!

What was also interesting about O’Connell’s appearance on Morning Ireland is that it was the first time in a long time that the head of a union representing private sector employees was given airtime. Why? Because union representation in the private sector looked to be heading in the same direction as the telex machine and the DVD player.

According to the most recent labour force survey, roughly 25 per cent of the workforce are trade union members, down from 60 per cent in the late 1980s, and most of them are heavily concentrated in public sector unions.

But that could be about to change. The Covid pandemic has tilted the balance of power firmly in favour of workers. Legislation covering the living wage, pension and sick pay entitlements, as well as the right to request remote working, have all been introduced in the past couple of years.

Now you might think all this a good thing. But Walsh, he takes a somewhat different view. 

Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has probably done more for workers’ rights through his misguided $44 billion takeover of Twitter than any trade union ever has. His shabby treatment of the social media giant’s employees has been part of a broader wave of brutal redundancies across the tech sector which has been partly responsible for the recent surge in applications for union membership across north America.

Even in Ireland, President Michael D Higgins said it was important for employees to join a union because of the “regressive trends in the world of work”.

Even in Ireland. Even?

Last month, the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) High Level Group on Collective Bargaining issued its final report. The forum was convened by the government over a year ago and comprised representatives from trade unions, employers’ groups and employment experts.

The government still has to enact the LEEF recommendations, and it remains to be seen what the final legislation entails. But it seems inevitable that trade union representation across the private sector is going to get a significant boost.

As it stands, there is no legal obligation among employers to engage in collective bargaining. Under the LEEF recommendations, the rights to collective bargaining will be greatly enhanced.

Walsh notes that those in public sector employ, where union membership is concentrated have better conditions and protections. And then he offers this:

Trade unions did a lot of damage to the Irish economy when they were at their strongest in the 1970s and 1980s. It was an often cited statistic at the time, but there were more trade unions in CIE at one stage than there were in all of Germany. There was a backlash against unions because of the industrial strife they created.

Michael O’Leary created the largest airline in Europe through flexible working conditions and an implacable resistance to trade union recognition and collective bargaining. Most of the multinational sector in Ireland also depends on flexible working conditions.

Does that even begin to engage with the reality of the situation? Were the multiple crises economically of the 1970s and 1980s due to too much unionisation, let alone union activity – or was it more accurate to say that they were a reflection of broader issues in the economy – inflation from international crises, issues around taxation, lack of investment, an overvalued currency and so on? Walsh continues:

Now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and unions are once again seen as addressing problems caused by flexible working conditions. It has to be hoped that in a future era of collective bargaining and increased union membership, the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater…The corporate tax regime is facing a growing number of challenges. If working conditions become inflexible and too costly, then the economic hit could be quite significant.

Anyhow, this week what does one read in the same paper but:

A growing number of workers at the Dublin office of Citigroup are turning to a trade union as fears grow that the US investment bank may impose redundancies at its Irish unit.

The Financial Services Union (FSU) has had an increase in membership from staff at the lender over recent weeks, and has claimed that Citi workers are “becoming ever more fearful that redundancies may be part of the future strategy of the bank”.

The development comes after reports that Citi is planning to cut hundreds of jobs in its operations and technology organisation and its US mortgage-underwriting arm, with plans to lay off around 1 per cent of its 240,000-person workforce.

The FSU said the banking sector had been “shaken” by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last week, and said there was a “genuine fear” among some staff that their job security could be under threat.

The union is planning to write to Citi requesting an “immediate update” on whether it plans to cut job cuts at its Dublin office, where it employs around 2,800 people.

Looks like the workers are – rightly, organising, because whatever about the baby, they see they may well be thrown out with the bathwater!

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