Category Archives: Ireland

Don’t Get Too Excited. Sinn Féin Are Not Taking Their Seats At Westminster

Some of you may have seen reports in The S*n, The Daily Abscess and The Scotsman that Sinn Féin will be taking their seats in the Westminster parliament. It isn’t going to happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. Forget it. The party has a longstanding policy of abstention in the British parliament and that isn’t going to change.

In the 1918 General Election, sometimes called the ‘Coupon election’, Sinn Féin led by Eamonn De Valera, were the third party with 73 seats. They refused to take their seats and so, by default, Labour became the third largest party.  This would be the last time that Sinn Féin would contest a general election until 1983 when Gerry Adams was elected as MP.  Instead, Sinn Féin took its seats in the first Dáil (Irish parliament).  As for De Valera, he left Sinn Féin and formed Fianna Fáil in 1926 after the Civil War, and focussed his efforts on the nascent Irish Free State.

Sinn Féin’s reason for abstaining has something to do with the oath that all new MPs have to swear before taking their seats but that’s only part of the reason.

Sinn Féin sees itself as an Irish republican party that represents the Irish people. It is opposed to the British occupation of the Six Counties and as long as that continues, it will refuse to take its seats. Moreover, it has no interest in British affairs unless they impact on the island of Ireland.

Sinn Féin’s Danny Morrison writing on Eamonn Mallie’s blog, says:

Many arguments have been advanced in defence of abstentionism including that the oath or affirmation of allegiance to a foreign monarch and her heirs presents a difficulty and is inimical to one’s republicanism; or that one’s influence is miniscule and dwarfed by the major parties with few from the North able to demonstrate worthwhile achievements commensurate with their attendance.

These arguments, whilst valid, are not at the core of abstentionism. For example, the oath could be completely removed. Or, imagine Britain a republic. It might well be possible for some of the parties which take their seats to point to pieces of legislation that they have influenced or initiated. In the circumstances of a hung parliament it is undeniable that a tail might be able to wag the much bigger dog for a time.

Even if the oath was removed and I was an MP I would still not take my seat.

Even if Britain was a republic I would still not take my seat.

Even if I held the balance of power and could get through bits and pieces of legislation (while flattering myself as to the magnitude of my importance) I would still not take my seat.

For me, it is quite simple.

How can I object to Britain interfering in Irish affairs if I go over and interfere in theirs?

Once I took my seat, with or without an oath, I have lost the moral high ground on that question of Irish sovereignty. I have already conceded Britain’s right to govern on this shore – a claim that was demonstrably rejected in December 1918 by the majority of people in Ireland in a democratic election.

Even though for reasons of pragmatism I support Agreements which were passed into law in the House of Commons, this does not mean that I recognise Britain’s claim to rule over me as being legitimate.

You can read the rest of Morrison’s article here.

The British press has a terrible reputation for propagandizing  and stirring up trouble, and anything it says with regards to Ireland and Irish sovereignty should be taken with a ton of salt – especially if its in The S*n, a paper that lied about Hillsborough and hacked people’s phones.

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Filed under General Election 2017, Ireland, Northern Ireland

Getting Ireland working again?

This interesting article by donagh  from Dublin Opinion was posted on Irish Left Review. The Irish people vote on Friday to elect a new government but there are concerns that Fine Gael, who lead in the polls, will drag Ireland deeper into the mire. FG has been working closely with the Tories and this can be seen in their manifesto, which I commented on in this blog.

Don’t Believe the Jobs Hype: Fine Gael Will Increase Unemployment

One of the defining characteristics of the 2011 general election is the championing of “competence” over incompetence. Foolish decisions made by politicians, both during the our relatively short lived ‘boom’, and since the collapse in the economy, are condemned by those eager to stress that they are the kind of professional management team that this country needs to bring us back to prosperity. Team Fine Gael, with their five point plan, provides the perfect embodiment of this kind of managerialism, a platform of five good men and true capable of inspiring confidence. Last June, these hard-headed technocrats, bristling with professional qualifications and jaw-dropping being-on-top-of-their-brief-ness were involved in a management heave designed to replace their CEO, who was charged with not appearing to be on top of his brief. Now, in an election, there are no doubts, only strength, confidence, stability.

I think it is safe to suggest that anyone reading this site treats the Fine Gael election campaign with nothing but contempt. I do not need to stress, for example, that their plan to try and reduce the deficit to 3% by cutting a further 9bn out of the economy by 2014 while projecting a growth rate of 3% is a sham. It’s shoddiness was reinforced by Michael Noonan’s decision yesterday to cite Irish Times economics editor Dan O’Brien’s description of the claims as “bunkum” when responding to criticism. O’Brien’s debunking was superficial to say the least, claiming that the EU commission’s forecasts (3.1% for nominal GDP over 2011-2014, compared with FG’s 3.9%) were the most ‘pessimistic’ of the domestic institutions and the IMF.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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Filed under Fine Gael, Ireland

Fine Gael…

Kenny talking tough during the 5 way leadership debate

…has chosen “Time for a Change” as its campaign slogan on its boards.  Their manifesto bears the slogan “Let’s get Ireland working”. A quick scan of the manifesto reveals some similarities to the Tories in the UK. For instance,

Devolving Power to Citizens: Government is too centralised and unaccountable. Fine Gael believes that there must also be a real shift in power from the State to the citizen

The manifesto also talks about “streamlining government and cutting quangos”. This is a pretty clear indication that FG will reduce the size of the state. I always worry when parties talk about “empowerment” because it’s usually a way of selling cuts. Big Soc, anyone?

Oddly enough, the manifesto also talks about “ending cronyism”. Fat chance. FG are just as bad as Fianna Fáil when it comes to doling out favours to family members and golfing buddies.

One thing is for sure, if Ireland elects FG as the main party in a coalition (they won’t form a majority government), then it’s more of the same with bells on top.

Change? No change here, guv.

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Filed under General Election 2011, Ireland

Cowen: back me or sack me

Brian Cowen. He likes a drink.

Yesterday at a news conference, Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowan was defiant. He was going nowhere. Issuing his back me or sack me challenge, he dismissed any talk of resignation

“I do not believe it to be in the country’s interests nor do I believe it to be the settled collective view of my colleagues in the parliamentary party,”

Cowen is hanging on by his fingernails. His Foreign Minister, Micheál Martin has offered to resign so that he may challenge Cowen for the leadership. RTE says,

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has insisted that his offer to resign from the Cabinet still stands, despite the Taoiseach’s refusal to accept it.

Fianna Fail meet tomorrow to vote on Cowen’s confidence motion. Under the party’s  rules, only the parliamentary party may vote. Senators and MEPs have been excluded.

According to Reuters, Martin doesn’t have any support. Chief Whip, John Curran said “I haven’t heard of any other minister backing Micheal Martin at this time”.  Of course this could all be bluster but one thing is for certain, should Cowen survive the confidence vote, the writing is on the wall: FF are deeply unpopular and any attempt to paper over the cracks will only make things worse. The party is clearly not helped by Cowen’s lack of personality, poor communication skills and his stubbornness.

Back in September of last year, Cowen appeared on a radio programme. His performance led to some accusing him of being drunk on air.

A poll conducted for RTE on 7 January had Fine Gael 34%, Labour 21%, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein both 14%. Even if FF change leader, it is unlikely that they will win the General Election.

FG leader Enda Kenny has called for an immediate election. But then Kenny has also been accused of having no personality. a couple of weeks ago, he texted this message to his supporters

“When the people give us their trust, we will not let them down. Fine Gael will deliver for our people and the national interest,”

Should FG be elected to lead a coalition with Labour it will be business as usual. Plus ça change.

UPDATE: 1715

Corrected a sentence that didn’t make sense.

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Is the euro really to blame for Ireland’s financial crisis as the Europhobes tell us?

The journos of the Tory press have been practically tripping up over themselves to pass judgement on the causes for Ireland’s financial crisis. Most of them have blamed the crisis on the Euro. But how true is this?

In my mind, the real and immediate causes for the crisis lay with Ireland’s government and its desire to hang out with the big boys of the G20.  During the so-called Celtic Tiger years, Ireland’s banks offered cheap credit and generous tax breaks to foreign investors and the super rich. Add to this the hidden loans crisis of the Allied Irish Bank, the inherent corruption of Fianna Fáil, the inertia of mainstream Irish politics and the collapse of the property market (caused by over-speculation) and there you have it. It had nothing to do with the Euro as the Telegraph’s Europhobes like to tell us.

As  I write this the vultures from the EU and the IMF are circling around Brian Lenihan’s head.

The minister said the IMF, ECB and the European Commission were in Dublin to look at what shape a financial package might take.

Minister Lenihan said there was no question of loading an unspecified burden on the taxpayer.

As we all know there are strict conditions attached to IMF loans. Normally the country in question has to make swingeing public sector cuts. Those of us who are old enough to have been around in 1976 remember what those are like. Mind you, the coalition tell us that “cuts have to be made” even without the threat of an IMF loan hanging over us.

Johann Hari writing in The Independent says that Ireland has tried “Cameronomics” and failed.

Throughout the nineties and the noughties, Ireland was held up as a poster child by the right. People like John Redwood and (yes) David Cameron said its model of low taxes and almost-total deregulation showed the way forward for Britain. In fact it produced the most corrupt and over-extended banking sector outside Iceland. Just one bank – Anglo Irish – is now on course to receive a €30bn extended bailout, equivalent to every penny of tax collected in the country in 2009. The Celtic Tiger had its claws ripped out, and it’s shaking at the back of its cage.

But the Irish government has continued to cleave to Tory solutions. After the crash, its government rejected the case for a stimulus package, and insisted its “number one priority” was to “cut the deficit and get the public finances back in order”. It sawed deep into spending on teachers, pupils, the disabled, and childcare. Out of total annual spending of €60bn, they are en route to ditching €15bn. The government is paying off its debt as its first, second and third priority, just as Cameron demands.

So what happened? The economy has collapsed. As the economist Rob Brown writes in the latest issue of the New Statesman, the country is now embarked on “an astonishing 15 per cent shrinkage in the Irish economy overall – the sharpest contraction experienced by any advanced industrial nation in peacetime”. Unemployment has soared to 12.5 per cent: it would be even higher if so many young people hadn’t left the country. Only 14 per cent of Irish citizens are happy with the government’s performance.

Fianna Fáil has been in power, usually in coalition, for much of Ireland’s history. But it is a party with a tainted past.  Former Taoiseachs like Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern were implicated in financial scandals. Haughey was once tried for gunrunning. FF politicians always seem to have an air of shiftiness about them. This former FF councillor has just been remanded in custody for accepting money to vote for rezoning of lands in Carrickmines in Dublin in the 1990’s.   More FF councillors are also facing corruption charges.

With incompetents and crooks running  the country, it’s little wonder that the economy is tanking.

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Tebbit demands justice!

In the immediate aftermath of the Saville Report the Daily Telegraph’s bloggers were mysteriously quiet. Clearly, they hadn’t had time to formulate their twists on the findings. The Chingford Skinhead is already demanding a public inquiry to the Brighton Bombing in 1984. Tebbit says “The victims of Brighton are no less important than those of Londonderry. They should not be treated as second-class victims”. The “victims” in this case were members of the Conservative Party including Tebbit whose wife was left disabled by the blast. But his sense of apparent fair play is undermined by his mean-spiritedness. What Tebbit fails, or does not want, to understand is the fact that there are no secrets vis a vis the Grand Hotel bombing; the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility. Whereas the State, on the other hand, actively sought to hide the truth behind the Bloody Sunday killings.

Not one to respect or acknowledge difference, Tebbit excelled himself in 1990 with his infamous suggestion that one’s citizenship or, rather, dedication to a notion of national pride could be determined by which cricket team one supported (presumably he also meant the Scots by this, because they patently do not support English cricket). Perhaps it is also no surprise that Tebbit was (and possibly still is) a member of the notorious [Conservative] Monday Club who once firmly supported the idea of voluntary repatriation of ethnic minorities – something that they had in common with the National Front and the British National Party. By the way, the Monday Club is working flat out to return to the Tory fold after having their links with them severed in 2001 by The Quiet Man. If their website is to be believed, they appear to have softened their earlier ideas on ethnic minorities but this doesn’t represent a philosophical sea change; they are still as anti-immigration and reactionary as they’ve ever been. They also have a Facebook group with only 7 members. No sign of Tebbit though.

Tebbit finishes his article by whining, “Some victims, the peace process seems to imply, have superior rights to others”. That isn’t the feeling that I get; this is long-overdue justice.

Meanwhile Douglas Murray is as paranoid as ever, muttering gloomily about “handing propaganda victories to people who hate us“. I thought that was just the ‘Islamists’ who did that sort of thing, Dougie? Say, didn’t you go to a prestigious private Catholic School in Ealing? He singles out Martin McGuinness for special attention – as have the usual Unionist voices, focussing on allegations that he was toting a sub-machine gun on the day. McGuiness, of course, denies this but this single-minded interest in what McGuniness was or was not doing is, in my view, an attempt to besmirch findings of the Saville Report. The qualified acceptance of the Saville Report that we see here from Murray and others is not surprising because for all their talk of greater freedom and social ‘cohesion’, they still have a fundamental issue with the exact nature of human rights.

Ah, balance…don’t you just love it?

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It’s the same old Unionist story…

The Unionist/Loyalist response to the findings of the Saville Report have so far been characteristic. “It’s one-eyed”, one claimed. Another demanded, “What about the rest of the Troubles”? Jeffrey Donaldson was typical,

“The difficulty is that we have the truth on one side, but not the truth on the other.

“We don’t know the truth about what Martin McGuinness and the IRA were doing on that day.

“While we regret every death… we must not lose sight of the need for balance.”

Balance? What of it?

Has-been Reg Empey of the tired UUP had this to say

“In the days before Bloody Sunday, two RUC officers – Peter Gilgunn and David Montgomery – were shot dead in the Creggan area of the city. Their families have not received justice.”

Yes but these people were killed by agents of the State, not by armed guerillas. There’s a big, big difference.

Trimble twists,

It would be perverse if the events of Bloody Sunday were used to justify those unjustifiable events that PIRA launched in the 1970s.

Again, these were state-sponsored killings. By the way, what about all the names of supposed Republicans that were passed to Loyalist paramilitaries by the RUC?

Unionist splitter McAllister, on the other hand, paints a selectivised picture of history,

Thus today’s jamboree over the Saville report throws into very sharp relief the unacceptable and perverse hierarchy of victims which the preferential treatment of ‘Bloody Sunday’ has created.

Yes but what about civil rights? Weren’t the Catholic community entitled to these? What about the rampant gerrymandering that was typical of Unionist controlled municipal councils?

My question to all of these people would be “How many Unionists and Loyalists were shot to death by the British Army for simply protesting”? I’m willing to bet that I get no reply. Furthermore, why did the Army send in the Parachute Regiment, wasn’t that a little heavy-handed?

One-sided? It seems the Unionists don’t know the meaning of the word.

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