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What you want to say – 13th December, 2017 December 13, 2017

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


Too clever by half… December 12, 2017

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…surely describes David Davis.

David Davis has scrambled to salvage relations with Brussels after he was accused of damaging trust in the Brexit talks by making inflammatory comments.

EU leaders have warned the British government against backtracking on promises made in Brussels after Davis suggested a Brexit breakthrough reached last week had no legal status.

Senior EU figures voiced irritation on Tuesday with Davis’s claim over the weekend that the UK’s concessions in an agreement struck last week to move talks on were merely a statement of intent without legal backing.

What is remarkable is that all this is so unnecessary – whatever one’s thoughts on the events of last Friday. But then, presumably, there’s the temptation to up the rhetoric, a temptation that he seemingly is unable to resist.

I’ve said it before. These guys are utterly inept.

Polls and polls and government formation December 12, 2017

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This is strange. In the latest IT poll FG is up and Adrian Kavanagh had the following projections:

The 7th December 2017 Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI opinion poll etimates party support levels as follows: Fianna Fail 25% (down 4% relative to the previous Ipsos MRBI opinion poll), Fine Gael 36% (up 5%), Sinn Fein 19% (NC), Independents and Others 16% (down 3%) – including Solidarity-People Before Profit 1%, Social Democrats 1%, Green Party 3%, Independents 9% – Labour Party 4% (NC). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 44, Fine Gael 70, Sinn Fein 28, Labour Party 2, Green Party 2, Social Democrats 1, Independents 11.    

How does one build a government from that? Fine Gael would still be ten seats short a bare majority. Where would it mine Ind/Others for those ten seats? It would be quite a task. Even if it managed to corral all of them, and that surely would be impossible.
Fianna Fáil would be at the races short of constructing a coalition with SF and others. Could happen I guess.
All very puzzling.

We don’t need a border at all! December 12, 2017

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Meanwhile the same Guardian podcast and the same economist saw some amazing stuff from him in relation to the Border. No need for a ‘hard border’ at all apparently according to Andrew Lilico. Tony Connolly of RTÉ on the same programme brought a bucket of cold puke to that party and noted that materials produced in NI outside of EU regulation will be the concern for the EU member states because if they come flooding in across that border they damage the integrity of the single market. Oddly this point hadn’t come up in discussions with Lilico. For Richard North’s view of AL I direct you here. Harsh. Very harsh.

All we lack is geographical proximity! December 12, 2017

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One of the more entertaining things I’ve heard in a while was from Andrew Lilico – a pro-Brexit economist – on the Guardian politics podcast who was interviewed a week or so back.

Anyhow, it so happened it was the week of the Trump neo-fascist Britain First retweet, and so the economist very rightly condemned said tweet. Later in the discussion he argued that he didn’t actually see Trump and the global instability engendered by his Presidency as too huge an issue in regard to Brexit since he saw the US as being significantly different to the UK whereas it would be

There are some people who imagined the US will be a new geopolitical partner in a new post-Brexit world . I’ve never thought that was a goer… I’ve thought the US isn’t that like us culturally or politically… we have to look elsewhere…

When asked where by an incredulous panel… he suggested that:

I think there would be a deal with the US… I think the natural partners for us are the people who we are more culturally and politically aligned namely the Canadians Australians and New Zealanders.

The sheer oddity of this didn’t seem to strike him, that these markets are far flung, smaller than that of the EU, that they already have links etc…

And there’s populations… the EU has about 510m people in it. Once the UK goes that will dip to just shy of 450m. Australia has 25m, Canada 35m and New Zealand just shy of 5m. These are all fine countries in their own way but does this make up for departure from the EU? It doesn’t appear to.

Still, check this out from last year… the far from loveable Andrew Roberts points to a CANZUK ‘union’ post-Brexit. Roberts is or was when the piece was written Chairman of the Advisory Board of the CANZUK Union Institutes. There seem to be a raft of CANZUK advocates. For example, there was the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation. Interestingly, and presumably because that old Commonwealth is somewhat inconveniently for some rather a bit larger than just Canada, Australia and New Zealand – perhaps though the cultures involved weren’t… er… well, moving swiftly onwards, it dumped the name and became the CANZUK International. And Lilico is himself a supporter of the CANZUK idea. Well natch!

Anyhow Roberts writes:

But this should be just the beginning. Now that Britain is free of the EU, she can pursue the dream of early 20th century giants such as Joseph Chamberlain – incidentally, Theresa May’s political hero – for an Anglospheric combination of free states that would project a strong and independent voice in the world.
The CANZUK Union of free trade and free movement should be the nucleus for the recreation of the dream of the English-speaking peoples that was shattered by Britain’s entry into the EU. We must pick up where we left off in 1973.

And there’s an unfortunate spelling error in the following:

We CANZUK countries together have far more of the potential for successful state-building than do any four member-states of the EU. A common head of state, a majority language, legal systems based on Magna Cara and the common law, Westminster parliamentary tradition, military structure, and a long history of working together including in the proudest voluntary military collaboration in human history, resisting Nazi aggression.

Though there’s a problem:

All we lack is geographical proximity, which is becoming less and less important in the modern world.

Hmmm. Yeah. Right.

The oddity in that argument is obvious, isn’t it? If any such ‘union’ were realistic it would have been in situ long long before the UK joined the EU. Because boil it down and for all that he may wave away a lack of geographical proximity that is key. And on the wiki page above one point made by a critic of CANZUK International notes:

Jeffrey Reitz from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs stated: “it’s unclear why Canada would pursue a proposal with New Zealand, Australia and U.K. instead of the U.S. and Mexico, countries that are already part of a free trade agreement.”[15]

It sure is!

Fine Gael’s Peace Process? December 11, 2017

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It’s difficult looking at the polls last week not to think that what we’re seeing is an inversion of the dynamic that was extant during the late 1990s and early to mid 2000s where Fianna Fáil’s poll numbers were buoyed up by a popular leader and their fingerprints all over the peace process. Now the first – well Varadkar is certainly reasonably popular, given how remarkably opaque his public persona is, so perhaps time will tell on that. But the second? How else to explain a Fine Gael getting a genuinely significant lead on Fianna Fáil other than this being a byproduct of the events of the last week.

And that being the case this may signal a significant change in regard to Fine Gael’s rating. I can’t be the only one to be struck by how emphatic both Varadkar and the Tánaiste have been in relation to the border, in relation to Ireland as an island, while – whatever the DUP says, being extremely careful not to portray this as a push to a united Ireland (indeed the DUP’s problem is that all Dublin is asking for is the status quo, nothing more – difficult to portray the latter as revanchists in that context). It’s been, well, unusual, to hear such doughty defences of the state and the island from that source.

But perhaps this generation of Fine Gael feel unencumbered by the past in the way that others were – Coveney’s comments to the Oireachtas Committee on the GFA/BA were measured, offered a parity of esteem between nationalism and unionism but were unapologetically championing the former. Not that they’re untouched by the past but expressing nationalist sentiment just isn’t the issue it was for previous Fine Gaelers. This may overstate matters, perhaps it is a function of the very peculiar circumstances of Brexit, but if the political effect is to give a lift to FG… well, isn’t that an unexpected outcome?

Last minute Christmas gifts for leftists December 11, 2017

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All and any suggestions welcome…

Aggressive? December 11, 2017

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Reading Noel Whelan in the IT he makes a good point here:

For decades those of us who profess an ambition for a united Ireland have been told to hold our whist for fear we might upset unionist sensitivities or threaten the ongoing peace process. This week that pattern was taken to a new level with the suggestion from the Democratic Unionist Party that for politicians in the Republic to dare to speak in support of a united Ireland is somehow an aggressive act.

And he notes that:

Last Tuesday when interviewing Arlene Foster RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman suggested to her that the Irish Government was not exploiting Brexit to push for a 32-county Ireland “by the back door”.
Foster replied: “You say it’s not about a united Ireland. Why then did Simon [Coveney] use this moment in time to talk about his aspiration for a united Ireland in his political lifetime?… I think that’s quite aggressive.”
Which as he says

The adjective aggressive is not one which pairs well with the name Simon Coveney. The Tánaiste is well able for the rough and tumble of political debate, but is if anything too calm in his overall political approach. He is even unfairly caricatured at times as subdued.


There is nothing aggressive about Coveney, and there was certainly nothing aggressive about his recent remarks about on a united Ireland.

And he notes that these comments were made in front of an Oireachtas committee – that charged with ‘Implementing the Good Friday Agreement’. And continues:

Coveney then said: “I am a constitutional nationalist, I am totally unapologetic about that, I would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime, if possible in my political lifetime.”
Importantly, Coveney went on to say: “But we need to do that in a way that learns the lessons of the past so that actually we don’t send a signal to unionists communities that in the future you will be the minority and you’ll suffer in the same way that many nationalist did in the past. It needs to be a much more generous approach than that, and that is what the Taoiseach was talking about.”

That is not revanchist, it is a sensible, and as Whelan notes there is a constitutional imperative about that. But here’s the thing. This works both ways, and perhaps Foster hasn’t thought this through.

It is perfectly legitimate for unionists to be unionist – and there’s no reason for them to be apologetic about it. But if it is not appropriate for Irish nationalists or republicans to be nationalist or republican then it cannot be appropriate for Unionists to be unionist – if adherence or expression to one is ‘aggressive’ in and of itself, then the other is.

Left Archive: Hunger Strike Bulletin No. 2 – Irish Republican Socialist Party, 1980 December 11, 2017

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To download the above please click on the following link. hsb2.pdf

Please click here to go the Left Archive.

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

This document issued during the 1980 Hunger Strikes includes messages from John Nixon, an history of hunger strikes and an outline of the response to the then current one.

The letter from Nixon is of particular interest outlining his involvement in the early stages of the conflict and his eventual move to the IRSP.

Other aspects of interest include a timeline under ‘Mass Resistance’ which details activities in October and November of that year in support of the hunger strikes.

Freeze December 10, 2017

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This is a neat way to retain and reshape the past. An Italian town that sought to deal with a fascist frieze.

Open to artists, architects, historians, and “anyone involved in the cultural sphere”, the bid explicitly stated that the intention was to “transform the bas-relief into a place of memory … so that it will no longer be visible directly, but accessible thoughtfully, within an appropriately explanatory context”.
Almost 500 proposals were submitted and evaluated by a jury composed of local civil society figures, including a history professor, a museum curator, an architect, an artist and a journalist. This jury recommended five proposals, voted upon by the municipal council. All the proposals and proceedings were documented online and open to public scrutiny.


The winning proposal is as powerful as it is simple. Superimposed upon the bas-relief is now an LED-illuminated inscription of a quote by the German Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt that reads “Nobody has the right to obey” in the three local languages: Italian, German and Ladin.
As the two artists who originally made the proposal, Arnold Holzknecht and Michele Bernardi, elucidate in their explanatory text, the “minimalism” of the intervention is explicitly meant to contrast the “grandiloquence” of the fascist-era style, whereas the content of the quotation is meant as a “direct answer” to the “invitation to blind obedience” contained in the fascist slogan.
What is most important, however, is that the original monument remains visible through the inscription. This is meant to emphasize that memory – and therefore history – is not a “blank slate” on which we can arbitrarily write whatever happens to be congenial to us in the present. Rather, it is a process of sedimentation, by which the past is never completely effaced, but constantly re-interpreted through the lens of the present.

This resonates with me. Wandering around Rome a decade or so ago I was struck by the aestheticism of Fascist era buildings. It’s hardly surprising, the architects came from the same ferment of radical experimentalism that gave us constructivism etc. Their radical instincts were diverted politically but their modernist underpinnings were evident and led to fine structures – albeit shaped to not so fine ends.

How does one disentangle that? Is it even possible? Does one extirpate or repurpose or what? And there’s a broader issue which is the existence of actual contemporary fascist strands. Does such art and structures lend legitimacy to those strands?

I tend to the view context is everything but with manifestations of problematic and on occasion much worse cultural and other artefacts a framing is useful where it is not possible to remove or replace them. I’m always reminded in these discussions of the tale of the statue of Queen Victoria which graced the grounds of Leinster House. During the first Inter-Party Government the statue was removed and placed in storage – understandably – the enthusiastic republicanism of Clann na Poblachta in part drove that removal. In the longer term it was sold to Sydney (in the 1980s) a solution that is kind of pleasing in its symmetry. Granted Victoria does not at this remove generate the passions that fascists do – though perhaps given the nature of the British Empire that is a testament to the fragility of memory and a lack of critical retrospection because it could be a very brutal empire indeed. But the key point is again that contextual aspects do come into play. Removal, reshaping, sometimes leaving alone, all come into played, don’t they?

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