When’s false imprisonment not false imprisonment? When it’s in a good cause? Nope, says Gerard Howlin…

Like Trump, what the far Left here stand for is a dictatorship of the articulate. Among the many words that are most abused are “democracy” and “community”. There is now a newly empowered, self-appointed populism, a protectorate of the people, which in fact is the greatest threat to our democracy in decades. The words so freely bandied, uprooted from all meaning, except that malleable purpose proposed by their authors, are spectacular in their cynicism. In opposition to liberalism, deeply authoritarian, mirroring mirages of left and right have emerged which see actual people as fodder for causes, but not the cause itself.


Smart comment from World By Storm drawing on analysis in the latest edition of the Phoenix…

Personally, I think it all has less to do with hard numbers and more to do with what fits the narrative. Micheal Martin’s been careful to draw a line between his party’s boomtime past and a more recent crafting of what looks, smells and often tastes like a centre left agenda.

Numbers matter, of course. But how any one mid sized party leads in a fragmented Parliament is a bigger poser, particularly now Sinn Fein has replaced Labour as the largest potential partner against FG (although I disagree with the Phoenix’s conclusion in this regard: it’s a genuine non starter under either Martin or Adams). 

But the current set up allows them to continue to squeeze the independent vote (now most of them are inside a tent of some description, be it government, party or quasi party).
It also allows them to continue to squeeze SF, whose poll ratings are more in line with the last low end gain line election result than they were beforehand. Whether that’s just a return to reality or a cooling off, Fianna Fáil, with its continued pretension to representing the broad middle ground of Irish politics again, must fight a broad (and exacting) battle to make the modest shifts needed to regain pole position again.

There’s another reason FF won’t go to the county on poll numbers alone. It would re-embedding the old Haughey era impression of ‘party before country’. Whereas, I get the distinct impression Mr Martin has more of a conciliatory Jack Lynch profile in mind. It remains to be seen whether that includes ambitions for Northern Ireland. Some form of obliquity in that regard might help. 

Because the truth is that the offering you make to the public actually does matter a great deal more than we have, in our own cynical, post modern way come to think. And Fianna Fáil’s is as yet far from complete. 

Posted by: Mick Fealty | July 25, 2016

In a welcome development it seems Gerry Adams has finally got as far as reading Article 3 of the Irish Consititution… 

“It isn’t a matter of dragging them into a united Ireland but it is a matter of thinking about new relationships and they are thinking about new relationships.”

Mr Adams said he was not talking about a Border poll. “What is required is a consistent, strategic position that doesn’t have to be in your face.” The position should be carefully, thoughtfully arrived at and the Government should then ensure “it’s quietly pursued”.

It’s worth noting as an aside that Mr Adams is unaccustomed to doing things quietly, not least his call for an unconstitutional (in two jurisdictions) for all island poll on the matter. The headmasterly permission of the NI Secretary of State aside, a written constitution (and Supreme Court to fiercely safeguard it) can be a useful sanity check in the midst of the madness that is Irish politics.

For those not yet spotting it, the passage of play last week at the MacGill Summer School was less a case of the other party leaders catching up with SF so much as bringing SF into line with the more cautious mainstream southern line on unification and border polls.

Until, that is, it is next convenient for them not to be. The mission, as always, being to break the bastards. [Whomsoever they might happen to be? – Ed] Quite. 

All scepticism aside.

It’s fascinating how narrative works. It’s not just about storytelling (which the Greeks called diagesis), but the actions that give it substance and meaning, (or mimesis). It’s possible to understand stand most of the power plays in NI which often come over as puzzling cultural power plays in our local politics. 

So mimesis is Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus, or Peter Thatchell performing a citizen’s arrest of Robert Mugabe. In each case the action is used to underwrite a larger story or narrative.

Seen in these terms, politics is a struggle for narrative dominance. When one wins out over another it often banishes the previously dominant one. So it is with victims of the Troubles. In large parts of civil society the appeal to law is perfectly legitimate in respect to the actions of the state. 

The counter narrative is then forced underground, brooding and then occasionally bursting forth with great social and narrative force. (The #TakeControl strap line of the Leave campaign was a good example of this). 

In the context of Northern Irish politics of dealing with the past, the idea of using the Maze as a centre for peace and reconciliation has been popular with the liberal establishment but it’s counterpart, “the terrorist shrine” proved too much for then First Minister Peter Robinson to resist.

The thing about these narratives is how they resonate, and persist. So that even the idea of prayer of the site of the ‘shrine’ is capable of enflaming strong passions, this from a Protestant pastor puts the counter narrative to the idea that the vast majority of Troubles victims must be reconciled to what was done to them as the acceptable price of peace, whilst victims of state violence are proactively encouraged to do the opposite … 

This interplay of narrative and counter narrative is seemingly interminable in Northern Ireland and noticeably  rather more well developed in terms of repackaging the traumatic experiences of the past than building robust narrative bridges with the future. 

Posted by: Mick Fealty | July 5, 2016

Reservoir Tories, who’s next..?

Ah, looks like it’s Andrea Leadsom. Upon Stephen Crabb’s unexpected defection (followed now by Liam Fox) to Theresa May it looks like it may trigger a landslide for the present Home Secretary: leaving Leadsom (not yet sufficiently ‘one of us’) little chance of making it through to the Tory Membership. 

[Do you think the Tory party have been watching the Labour Party Panto – Ed]. I couldn’t possibly comment. We’ll have to wait to the bitter end to confirm. 

Posted by: Mick Fealty | July 4, 2016

And so you shall…

Nick Robinson fixes it for Labour’s (democratically elected) deputy leader to finally get in to see the Boss… 

Julian O’Neill’s  been doing some digging around the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation, where not much seems to be happening, at some considerable expense, courtesy of the masterly inactivity of the Office of the Executive…

The acting chief executive of the corporation has taken a £20,000 salary drop and gone to a four-day week.

Kyle Alexander is currently paid £83,000 a year, according to figures released to the BBC.

Staffing levels have also dropped from 14 to eight in order to make other savings.

None of which of course is the fault of the staff. Or the Board. Fresh start you say?

After a wonderful display of courageous and classy football from Wales last night, let’s not forget our own lads in Green. 

Great report here from Mark Simpson, showing what great impact both sets of Irish fans had on the French people… 

Posted by: Mick Fealty | June 24, 2016

Cameron’s going by October…

That letter from his rivals in government asking him to stay after defeat appears to be some class of punishment so that Mr C gets to go back and explain to the European leaders as to why their ‘deal’ is now tanking the European economy…

This diagram illustrates the reason I’m struggling to find any real meaning in the current Brexit debate. It’s worth too considering that Switzerland voted more than two years ago to renegotiate the deal it has with the EU to close the door on mass immigration. 

Thus far there has been little or no progress on the matter. You will notice there’s been a lot of shouting and a lot of demagogic simplification, but little careful examination of the nature of the alternative to full membership. 

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