Mí: Meán an tSamhraidh 2011

Know-Nothings – The American Right And The New Anti-Irishness

This week, under the thrilling headline question ‘Why Is Ireland Such a Bastion of Anti-Israel Feeling?’, long-standing Atlantic columnist (and former Iraqi War cheerleader) Jeffrey Goldberg highlights a piece by notorious Irish newspaper commentator Kevin Myers on the alleged anti-Semitism of the Irish people. The British-born Myers, a long time apologist for British violence in Ireland, historic or contemporary, complains that:

‘Israel – and its sole defender on the panel (is mise) – were then roundly attacked by members of the audience. But what was most striking about the audience’s contributions was the raw emotion: they seemed to loathe Israel.

But how can anyone possibly think that Gaza is the primary centre of injustice in the Middle East? According to Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the International Red Cross in Gaza, there is in fact no humanitarian crisis there at all. But by God, there is one in Syria, where possibly thousands have died in the past month.

However, I notice that none of the Irish do-gooders are sending an aid-ship to Latakia. Why? Is it because they know that the Syrians do not deal with dissenting vessels by lads with truncheons abseiling down from helicopters, but with belt-fed machine guns, right from the start?

What about a humanitarian ship to Libya? Surely no-one on the MV Saoirse could possible maintain that life under Gaddafi qualified it as a civilised state. Not merely did it murder opponents by the bucketload at home and abroad, it kept the IRA campaign going for 20 years, and it also – a minor point, this, I know – brought down the Pan Am flight at Lockerbie. Yet no Irish boat to Libya. Only the other way round.

And then there’s Iraq. Throughout the decades of Saddam Hussein, whose regime caused the deaths of well over a million people, there wasn’t a breath of liberal protest against him. Gassing the Kurds? Not a whimper. Invading Kuwait? Not one single angry placard-bearing European liberal outside an Iraqi embassy.’

This of course is the usual nonsense from Myers, overblown, verbose rhetoric with himself, as always, at the centre of the action. Next week he will be back to lecturing people on why Irish men and women with an Ó or Mac or in their surname are genetically different from everyone else on the island of Ireland and are part of a violence-prone, intellectually challenged race of Untermenschen, unlike those on the island whose descent is of a pure, unsullied British line (and who vote Fine Gael or UUP!). The usual quasi-racist drivel that has become his forte and only refuge from sanity.

Which naturally makes Goldberg’s uncritical quoting of the mad ramblings of Squire Myers all the more remarkable. He could have examined the claims against the facts of Irish-Israeli relations over the last few decades or the long (and successful) history of the Jewish-Irish community over the last century and a half. He could have looked at the historic links between Irish and Jewish revolutionaries dating back to the mid-1800s, when Fenian and Zionist militants rubbed shoulders in the radical circles of London, Paris, Berlin and Rome. There could have been mention of the many Jews in Ireland who dedicated themselves to the cause of Irish freedom and democracy (and language and culture too). Where are the names of the Jewish members of the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Féin who helped free the greater part of Ireland and the greater part of the Irish people from British rule?

No mention of Robert Briscoe, an officer of the IRA and elected Sinn Féin politician who fought in the Irish Revolution, served in Dáil Éireann for decades, became lord mayor of Dublin, brought Ze’ev Jabotinsky, leader of Irgun, to Ireland for training in guerrilla warfare tactics, and ran weapons and explosives to Israel during its War of Independence? What about Michael Noyk, leading Sinn Féin lawyer, or the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Isaac Herzog (the father of Chaim Herzog, President of Israel), a noted Irish language scholar who was dubbed the ‘Sinn Féin Rabbi’ by the British? Where is the mention of Éamon de Valera, an acknowledged friend of the nation of Israel who saw the similarities in the experiences of the Jewish people with those of the Irish, in the dispossession of our lands, their settlement by others and the great Diasporas that provided the road to nationhood once again?

Such simple facts could have been the beginning of an article destroying the fallacy of Ireland’s supposed anti-Semitism (amongst the American right wing) instead we get more of the same. For Goldberg’s Atlantic column then features a follow-up article featuring an email from one Andrew Exum, that apparently provides ‘some depth’ on the matter (try not to laugh while reading it):

‘There are a few explanations for why the Irish do not have a lot of love for Israel. Here are two:

1.  During the Troubles, Ulster Protestant politicians consciously identified with the Israeli side of the Israel-Palestine conflict, comparing their own struggles against Irish Catholic terrorism with those of Israel against Palestinian terrorism. Irish Catholics, especially in Ulster, often reciprocated by sympathizing with the plight of the Palestinians living under occupation. (The PIRA, quite separately, had close contacts with Palestinian militant groups such as the PFLP in the 1970s and 1980s.)

2.  A lot of Irish have served in southern Lebanon as part of UNIFIL. It is very difficult to serve in southern Lebanon as part of UNIFIL and come away with a positive view of the IDF and, by extension, Israel.  (Imagine spending six months in Baghdad in 2004 living with Iraqis and then drawing all of your conclusions about the United States and Americans from that experience.) It is a lot easier, by contrast, to strike up lasting relationships with the people of southern Lebanon. (There is a shop-keeper named “Rosie” in southern Lebanon who speaks English in the most incongruous and delightful County Cork accent as a result of decades of trading with Irish peacekeepers. She is a star of Irish radio – as a gag, they once put her on and had callers from all over Ireland guess where she was from by listening to her accent.)’

Seriously? ‘Irish Catholic terrorism’? Would that be like Islamic terrorism? Of course in Ireland we are very familiar with black-suited Roman Catholic terrorists blowing themselves up in Protestant churches while mumbling out a few decades of the Rosary or calling upon the congregation to follow the strictures of Vatican II in our ancient Gaelic tongue…

Jesus. Literally.

What Goldberg fails to mention before quoting from the email is that Exum is an ex-US military counter-insurgency and terrorism expert, a member of the Centre for a New American Security (‘Developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies’, a conservative Washington think-tank), a very well known blogger on Islamic militancy (initially behind an assumed non de plume) and has attended the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. So much for American journalism’s much vaunted boast of ‘full disclosure’.

And what Andrew Exum could have mentioned in his email is perhaps at least one reason for the antagonism towards the state of Israel held by a minority of Irish people, namely the co-operation between Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa to supply weapons, explosives, funds and training to British terrorist groups conducting a campaign of violence in Ireland. Such actions tend to make for enemies rather than friends.

The supposed anti-Israeli (for which read, anti-Jewish) feeling of the Irish has become the big myth of the American right wing – usually the lunatic right wing – but as can be seen by this alleged piece of journalism it can make it into the mainstream too. The Atlantic is a relatively influential online publication on the American centre-right, small ‘c’ conservative and well respected for its journalistic ethics. Yet even it can succumb to this modern version of anti-Irish bigotry.

And as Kevin Myers proves the Irish themselves are not immune to it – or at least an anachronistic version of the Irish that hates all things Irish and looks to Britain for – well, everything. This atavistic type of British ex-colonial in Ireland has embraced the anti-Semite myth wholesale. Largely to prove that we really were better off under dear old Blighty. As student non-radical (and non-sequitur) Bernard Mccabe writes over on The Commentator:

‘Where does all this hatred come from? Are my compatriots Nazi sympathisers? Has Ireland been taken over by a radical Islam that makes Ian Paisley look as harmless as Christine Bleakley? No, the truth is that anti-Semitism in Ireland has a long history.

In the old days, it came from (as it did across Europe) an extreme Catholicism. Latterly, anti-Semitism has found its provenance from Ireland’s consistently pro-Palestinian position. Ireland was of course for 800 years oppressed by the evil hand of British rule (that brought us roads, education, some form of civilisation), and the fight to ‘free’ her could take as many lives as possible.’

Ah. Well now we are getting somewhere. The British civilized the uncivilized Irish? Of course, we Irish did have roads, and education and an advanced civilization that sparked the Renaissance across western Europe long before the British, but hey, Bernie, don’t let facts get in the way of a good diatribe. Really, don’t.

And I suppose it is the fault of the Irish people, really, for all the deaths caused by the Irish people trying to free, er, the Irish people. And apparently rape victims, like, ask for it. It’s true, really.

Actually, now that I think of it you don’t think that the Jews were actually to blame for the Holocaust, do you? Like they brought it on themselves? Hmmm, maybe we should ask Kevo or Bernie? It sounds like the kind of logic those guys could get down with!

Of course I have had my own run-ins with the extremist fringe of the American Christian fundamentalist right, that some American-Jews and Israelis now (foolishly) make common ground with. One article was so extreme that I found myself forced to comment, which led to a dialogue of sorts with the author of the piece that rapidly descended into the mindless white noise that the American extreme right deafens itself with. The original can be found here, though you might want to hold your nose before clicking on the link.

One of the great failings of the American people is that they don’t do history: they simply don’t get it. Theirs is a nation that lives in the now, a nation of the essential moment, which though admirable in some ways is also their great Achilles Heel. The Palins and Bachmans of US politics revel in their ignorance of historical fact over a-historical myth. They sneer at those who try and present the truth when they know that the Hollywood simplicity of the myth is all the greater and more malleable. You can have your myth and eat it too.

The alleged anti-Semitism of the Irish is the new myth of the American right. It is the new wisdom of the old Know-Nothings. It does not matter a whit that there is little or no real substance to it or that any (even casual) study of Irish history shows it to be a manifest lie. American ignorance of their own history is so vast that I suppose one can hardly expect them to be aware of anyone else’s. But when that ignorance becomes dangerous, not in the educational or cultural worlds, but in the political one, where lives and jobs and money matter – then it is a far more serious thing. For the Atlantic enjoys an influential readership in the conservative business circles of the United States. Circles where the conspiracy theories of the fringe can be taken as real if given airtime in the mainstream.

The editorial team of the Atlantic should know better. The sad part is they probably don’t.

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Porcus ex grege diaboli (via Splintered Sunrise)

Splintered Sunrise is undoubtedly one of the most interesting, well informed, and at times enjoyably cynical Irish politics and current affairs blogs. Which makes it all the sadder that it is updated so rarely, for when it is…

Here is a new post on the scandal currently swamping the ‘golden boy’ of British, left wing journalism and commentary, Johann Hari. Enjoy!

Porcus ex grege diaboli Those who know me will be aware that I’ve been banging on for some considerable time about the likelihood of British journalism throwing up a Jayson Blair scandal. Moreover, I’ve always been clear about which hack in particular was the most likely candidate for the Blair role. Do I feel schadenfreude at Johann Hari’s sudden fall from grace? Very well then, I feel schadenfreude. Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap. But, as ever, there’s more to it tha … Read More

via Splintered Sunrise

Time For DotÉire?

News that the campaign in Scotland to obtain a new Top Level Domain (TLD) for Scottish online web addresses is stepping up. A TLD is the short code that comes at the end of a website name after the dot which forms part of its internet address. So we have generic addresses like .com, .net, .org, etc. But what the Scots want is a country-specific domain name (a country-code TLD or ccTLD), in this case .scot. This will give Scotland a national web-address similar to that of other nations such as .us (United States), .fr (France), .de (Germany), .uk (United Kingdom).

Which brings me to Ireland.

Our ccTLD is .ie (dot ireland, though some generous souls have erroneously interpreted it as dot ireland/eire). Variations of it are used by private and public bodies (the Government of Ireland uses gov.ie). While English was traditionally seen as the language of the internet, with the Western Latin/English alphabet as the only workable one and no ‘special’ characters as the norm, those days are long gone (the non-Latin alphabets are now widely used as technology – and the web – has moved on). There are now no practical reasons why the Irish name of Ireland, Éire, cannot be accommodated in a dot éire address (and there is always simply a dot eire one if required, e intead of é). Non-English speaking nations have used their own national languages for their national domain names since the beginning, i.e. Germany (.de), Spain (.esp), etc. so Ireland using .ie instead of .éire is something of an anomaly.

With the opening up of the domain name registration process (despite predictions of an internet ‘Wild West’ or ‘Gold Rush’) and the loosening of the rules over what can and cannot qualify as an internet address, now is the perfect time for the Irish Government to register the .éire address as our national ccTLD name. I’m not saying get rid of .ie if some feel an attachment to it or see some benefit by retaining its status as an alternative internet code for Ireland. But what better way is there to reflect a bilingual nation than having two internet domain addresses reflecting the two different languages of the nation? It is perfectly feasible (and financially viable) for websites in Ireland to have separate English and Irish language internet addresses: .ie for English and .éire for Irish.

That would get rid of the current practice of websites here going up in the English language first as a .ie address and the Irish language version being added as an extension, usually .ie/ga. If this wasn’t acceptable at the very least the .éire address is surely the one the Government of Ireland should be using as the national one for all state and semi-state agencies instead of the gov.ie and its variations (rialtas.éire?).

Of course this is not the first time that Ireland’s bilingual nature has sought expression in the official signage of the state. The campaign to have Irish vehicle number plates with an ÉIRE sign rather than or as an alternative to the present IRL version is long-standing one and has received mixed responses from our body politic (lots of the right noises, few if any of the right actions). The default setting of the English language for modern Ireland is no longer acceptable or tenable. The times have changed and so has the demographics of our population. With 42% of Irish citizens identifying themselves as Irish speakers, and the Constitution designating the Irish language as the national and first official language of the state, casual bias in favour of the monolingual English speaking population cannot be justified or defended.

With the liberalisation of domain name registration rules and qualifications it is time for Ireland, as a nation and a state, to claim its place on the World Wide Web – in both our official languages.

The Beast In The East

An interesting piece from journalist Henry McDonald in the Guardian on the recent attacks by Unionist paramilitaries on the beleaguered Nationalist enclave of the Short Strand:

‘…for the residents of the Short Strand, who were the main victims of the loyalist-originated violence, the assaults on their homes were terrifying and traumatic.

Once again, those living in this small Catholic/nationalist redoubt, surrounded by larger loyalist communities, found themselves vulnerable and in peril.

Many media commentators, some London-based… bought into the line that this latest conflagration was the result of spontaneous working class loyalist anger.

They argued that, because loyalist paramilitaries had no representation in the Stormont parliament or that because socioeconomic or educational attainment was low in poor Protestant areas around eastern Belfast, these communities suddenly erupted in anger.

In doing so, the commentators swallowed a fairy tale…’

He quotes the evidence of eye-witnesses to the assaults:

‘…all of those who attacked their homes were wearing surgical gloves, masks and combat uniforms, that they arrived with wheelie bins stuffed with bricks, bottles and other missiles, and that the entire attack appeared to be well organised.

The evidence from other Short Strand residents tells a similar tale, and suggests that the entire incursion was well planned and carefully executed. In addition, it is known that the Ulster Volunteer Force’s East Belfast battalion was behind the initial invasion of the Catholic area.’

And he then focuses on the well-known leader of the East Belfast UVF, the British terrorist organisation that organised and spearheaded the attacks, who the media has dubbed ‘the Beast in the East‘. Far from the public censure some claim has fallen on his head McDonald points out that:

‘Most of the locals on the Protestant/loyalist side of the loyalist were full of praise for the UVF’s actions…’

This is echoed by a report in the Irish Independent, which also refutes the claims that other leading ‘pro-peace’ UVF terrorist leaders had now turned their backs on the so-called Beast in the wake of the violence, after an earlier rift:

‘The UVF leader known as the ‘Beast of the East’, who is being blamed for the invasion of a nationalist enclave in east Belfast last week, has enhanced his standing within the terrorist organisation through his actions, sources in the unionist community say.

The 48-year-old gang leader has received public support from major UVF players…’

Indeed. Not to mention meetings with senior representatives of the DUP, the dominant political force of the British Unionist population in Ireland, and officials from the regional power-sharing administration in the North, which includes Sinn Féin.

Yet again, the British minority on the island of Ireland proves that it is violence, and the threat of violence, which gives it form and influence. At its crudest, for Irish politics it is British guns in British hands that carries the greatest weight – and gives the greatest rewards.

A lesson that is not lost on others.

An Cloigtheach Shord Cholm Cille

An Cloigtheach Shord Cholm Cille, Fine Gall, Laighean, Éire, Meitheamh 2011 (The Round Tower of Swords, Fingal, Leinster, Ireland, June 2011).

More here and here.


The C-Word Is… Collusion

Incredible news today that an official investigation into the Loughinisland Massacre has concluded that there was no collusion or co-operation between Unionist terrorists and the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC, the disbanded former paramilitary police force in the North of Ireland. The 1994 attack on a local, rural pub in County Down resulted in the murder of six Irish civilians, including an 87 year old man, by gunmen from the British terrorist group the UVF. Since the killings speculation has been rife that RUC officers in the area covered up for and protected the terrorists. It has also been suggested the some members of the RUC were aware of the imminent attack before hand and allowed it to go ahead.

The report by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has concluded that, though vital physical evidence related to the crime was mishandled or destroyed and that no proper investigation was made into related Unionist terrorist activities in the region, there was no act of ‘collusion’ between the RUC and the UVF.

From RTÉ:

‘A report by Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman into the RUC’s handling of the Loughinisland atrocity 17 years ago has found there were failings in the police investigation into the murders.

Failures include the unauthorised destruction of the killers’ get-away car and the failure to investigate properly the link between the Loughinisland shootings and other terrorist attacks.

Al Hutchinson’s report says the original police inquiry lacked ‘effective leadership and investigative diligence’.

However, it said there is ‘insufficient’ evidence of collusion between the group behind the attack and the security forces.’

The Irish Times points out some of the failures in the original RUC investigation highlighted in the report including:

‘Records were missing.

The car used by the UVF was improperly destroyed 10 months after the attack after lying outside a police station exposed to the elements.

Police failed to investigate properly the link between the Loughinisland shootings and other terrorist attacks.

Failures in the management of the murder incident room in the early stages and in the management of the computer system used by the investigation may also have resulted in the loss of evidential opportunities.’

That the Ombudsman’s can claim, in the context of the conflict in the North of Ireland and the notorious record of the RUC, that there was no collusion between the official and unofficial arms of Britain’s counter-insurgency war in Ireland is beyond belief.

British paramilitary police in Ireland co-operating with British paramilitary terrorists in Ireland? Same old story, same old conflict.

Is Plaid Cymru Behind The Curve?

Following on from my earlier post, calling for a more dynamic and self-confident political nationalism from the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, some related news. According to a report over on ClickOnWales:

‘A large majority of people who voted Yes in the March referendum on legislative powers for the National Assembly either wanted even more powers or independence for Wales. This was a major finding presented yesterday on extensive polling undertaken before and after the 3 March vote by YouGov for the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University and the Institute of Welsh Politics at Aberystwyth University.

The findings also show that a large majority back devolving tax and criminal justice powers to Wales.’

The report goes on to point at that the new survey confirms that there is,

‘…an appetite amongst Welsh voters for making progress on a wide-ranging constitutional agenda… Presenting the data at a seminar in Cardiff Bay Professor Roger Scully, of the Institute of Welsh Politics, emphasised that the wide gap between the relatively few Yes supporters in the survey who were against making further progress on more powers and the large majority who wanted to go further was unprecedented in findings of this kind. He said that in more than a decade of analysing such data he had never come across such a wide divergence.’

All of which raise some very important questions for Plaid Cymru and its new chief executive, Rhuanedd Richards. As I stated previously Plaid’s main problem is that is has,

‘…evolved over the last few deacdes into a very much small ‘n‘ nationalist party, less separatist than regionalist, with a focus on language rights and equality in Wales, followed by the devolving of powers from the UK parliament to a ‘home rule’ National Assembly in Cardiff. In this it has been far less ambitious than its nationalist counterparts in Scotland, where the SNP took the basic bones of devolution and ran with them turning the Scottish assembly into a parliament and a Scottish executive into a government.

Unlike Plaid Cymru, the SNP has never really moved away from the issue of independence, though at times the core objective has taken an expedient back place. In Wales expediency, in the face of a less than nationalist electorate, went too far in the wrong direction, and baby was thrown out with bath water. Trying to get a Plaid politician to use the ‘i’ word is like trying to get a nun to swear. It is possible but good luck with it.

While progressive nationalist politics is on the rise elsewhere in Europe (and beyond) Plaid Cymru seems stuck in a rut of its own making, neither fish nor fowl, and their electoral base will remain confined unless they can, like the SNP, create an opposition between Cardiff-based and London-based politics, and show that devolution is not only working but can be expanded to something greater. Alex Salmond’s example of ‘home rule’ representing a stepping stone to greater freedom (to borrow an Irish phrase) is one that has gone down well with Scottish voters – even if they haven’t come around to taking the final steps (yet).

Plaid needs to be more honest with the Welsh people, and more forceful in selling its vision of a new, self-confident Welsh nation. A more intellectually muscular Welsh political nationalism needs to be coupled with the highly successful language nationalism of the last two decades, and moved forward.’

Polls like this latest YouGov one seem to point to a significant nationalist-minded section of the Welsh electorate who in some respects may be ahead of the nationalist party that claims to represent them.

A New Plaid Cymru For A New Wales?

After woeful results in the latest Welsh assembly elections the Welsh Nationalist party Plaid Cymru is ready for a serious review of its structure and policies under its new chief executive Rhuanedd Richards. A former journalist, Richards hopes to expand the party’s appeal outside its core Welsh-speaking constituency and garner the support of English-speaking voters in Wales who have traditionally turned to the British Labour or Conservative parties. However even within the seizable Welsh language community (22% of the population of the nation) Plaid enjoys mixed support and has failed to challenge Labour’s long-standing domination of the political landscape of the country.

According to a report at WalesOnline Richards is adamant that Plaid Cymru must,

‘…win the trust of voters across all of Wales – regardless of whether or not they can speak Welsh.

Ms Richards’ conviction that Plaid can be a majority party is rooted in her own experiences growing up in Pontypridd with parents whose first-language was not Welsh.

Her father, Judge Philip Richards, stood for the party in Cynon Valley in the first Assembly election in 1999 and she speaks with passion of her desire for Plaid to overtake Labour.

But she argues that for this goal to become a reality the party must offer a more convincing vision of economic progress.

Her father and her social worker mother, Dot, gave her a vision of independence based not on separatism but a hope for a more confident and just Wales.’

That last sentence of Rhuanedd Richards perhaps sums up both the philosophy and perhaps the problem with Plaid. It has evolved over the last few deacdes into a very much small ‘n‘ nationalist party, less separatist than regionalist, with a focus on language rights and equality in Wales, followed by the devolving of powers from the UK parliament to a ‘home rule’ National Assembly in Cardiff. In this it has been far less ambitious than its nationalist counterparts in Scotland, where the SNP took the basic bones of devolution and ran with them turning the Scottish assembly into a parliament and a Scottish executive into a government.

Unlike Plaid Cymru, the SNP has never really moved away from the issue of independence, though at times the core objective has taken an expedient back place. In Wales expediency, in the face of a less than nationalist electorate, went too far in the wrong direction, and baby was thrown out with bath water. Trying to get a Plaid politician to use the ‘i’ word is like trying to get a nun to swear. It is possible but good luck with it.

While progressive nationalist politics is on the rise elsewhere in Europe (and beyond) Plaid Cymru seems stuck in a rut of its own making, neither fish nor fowl, and their electoral base will remain confined unless they can, like the SNP, create an opposition between Cardiff-based and London-based politics, and show that devolution is not only working but can be expanded to something greater. Alex Salmond’s example of ‘home rule’ representing a stepping stone to greater freedom (to borrow an Irish phrase) is one that has gone down well with Scottish voters – even if they haven’t come around to taking the final steps (yet).

Plaid needs to be more honest with the Welsh people, and more forceful in selling its vision of a new, self-confident Welsh nation. A more intellectually muscular Welsh political nationalism needs to be coupled with the highly successful language nationalism of the last two decades, and moved forward.

In the latter example at least, when it comes to the progressive nationalism of language rights and equality, Plaid Cymru has an enormous amount to show the political parties of the other Celtic nations, the SNP included.

British Labour: Scottish Nationalists Are Neo-Fascists

The outrage in Scotland following the outburst by the controversial Labour politician Ian Davidson, in which he characterised Scottish Nationalists as ‘neo-fascists’ in the British parliament, continues to grow with Davidson refusing to apologise for his remarks while Labour apparatchiks have lined up behind him in a show of support.

For those who haven’t seen the exchange in the house of commons which sparked the row, here is the details:

‘Ian Davidson (Lab): I notice that efforts are being made to shout me down. That is what has traditionally happened in Scotland when people have challenged the nationalists, and those of us who want to challenge the narrow neo-fascism of the nationalists have got to be prepared to have discussions—

Stewart Hosie (SNP): On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: I hope it is a point of order.

Stewart Hosie (SNP): The use of this neo-fascist description is absurd, offensive and wrong in every single regard. What powers, Sir, do you have to ensure that this nonsense is not said or repeated?

Mr Speaker: My powers do not extend to the refutation of nonsense.

Mr Davidson (Lab): Is it not neo-fascist to attempt to shout down speakers with whom one disagrees?’

Clearly Davidson is in need of a politics lesson if he thinks the definition of fascism is shouting down speakers with whom one disagrees, and access to a few history books wouldn’t go amiss either. The irony that this claim came from a member of the British Labour party, which under former leader and prime minister Tony Blair was notorious for its bully boy tactics towards opposition (internal and external), makes it all the harder to swallow.

With British Nationalists on the left and the right in a panic over the possibility of an independent Scotland in the next five years, more of this kind of dirty politics is to be expected.

Newsnet Scotland takes a closer look at the story.

New Hadrian’s Wall Exhibition

The Independent has news on a new exhibition of treasures from Hadrian’s Wall in the north of England,

‘The Roman Emperor Hadrian, who came to the throne AD117, claimed that the gods had instructed him to “keep intact the Empire”, so he planned a massive wall to defend its northern boundary against the unruly tribes beyond. Building was carried out by Roman legionaries; they began while he was visiting Britannia AD122, and finished within six years. Hadrian’s Wall is the largest Roman artefact anywhere; it runs a total of 73 miles from Bowness, near Carlisle, in the west to Newcastle in the east. There were turrets and milecastles for defence and signalling, and 16 full-sized forts, including Housesteads near the middle and Birdoswald (originally Banna) closer to Carlisle.

…the new Roman Frontier Gallery at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, which tells the story of the 400-year occupation of Birdoswald and other castles on the western end of Hadrian’s Wall. The new displays will give a sense of the massive scale of the Roman Empire and all the connections and networks that contributed to its efficient organisation. Many of the objects will be on display for the first time.’

The Guardian – Ready To Jump?

Big, if somewhat tardy news announced in the British Guardian newspaper:

‘The Guardian will make “significant” job cuts over the next two years in the transition to a “digital-first” strategy, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has confirmed.

Rusbridger said Guardian News & Media, which publishes the Guardian, Observer and the guardian.co.uk website network, which includes MediaGuardian.co.uk, would have to reduce its headcount as it aims to save £25m before 2016. GNM employs 1,500 staff across all departments, including 630 journalists.

GNM last week announced plans for a transition to a “digital-first” strategy, which aims to boost digital revenues from a forecast £47m in the current financial year to £91m by 2016.’

Roy Greenslade examines the move in the London Evening Standard:

‘Let’s begin by understanding that the announcement of the change of strategy is, in some ways, a message – to staff, to readers and to advertisers. Given the logic of the company’s moves over the past decade, it could have quietly and methodically moved to a digital future, eschewing any fanfare.

It has obviously gone public to change mind-sets and to generate a new sense of purpose within the company.

GMG is admitting it doesn’t have the digital knowledge to continue the papers’ development. It lacks the resources, talent and innovative expertise for the task. We should see this as an appeal for help in order to change its priorities as effectively as possible.’

He continues,

‘…some worried staff have raised questions about whether it might have been better to have charged its vast online audience for access to the paper’s website… Paywalls have always been anathema to the Guardian’s executives, and rightly so in my opinion.

What the Guardian is belatedly facing up to is the reality of a broken business model that looks unlikely ever to be restored. In many ways, it was the first to spot that problem, so there is an irony in its having waited so long to deal with it.

Clearly, the digital-first strategy is both linked to the publisher’s economic fortunes… positioning GMG for the future when the company believes publishing of newsprint will become untenable.

The big expense for newspapers is in printing and distribution, the moment they become digital-only outlets will transform their economic picture, and GMG’s ambition is to have built an audience and, most importantly, a secure advertising base.’

All very true. The future of what now constitutes print journalism, whether in news and current affairs or other niche markets, is online, with a smaller and smaller presence in the printed medium (a reverse of the present situation, a process already well under way). Handheld devices, of one sort or another, will be become the means of accessing our newspapers, magazines and journals in the future (though expect books to be the last printed form to succumb to the digital revolution).

For the loss-making Guardian, which has seen its online presence outstrip its physical one and with global reach (particularly in the United States), this move is long overdue.

Though one wonders if the announcement of the upcoming Huffington Post UK helped speed things along?

Nokia N9 – More A Case Of NoGo Than MeeGo

The PCWorld headline says it better than me:

‘Nokia N9: Why You Shouldn’t Buy this Device’

Nokia has announced its new MeeGo-operating mobile phone, the N9. In an iOS and Android world (should I mention the BlackBerry OS?) who on earth is this phone aimed at? And why? More NoGo than MeeGo.

Northern Conflict Requires Thoughtful Analysis Not Lazy Clichés


Journalist Fionola Meredith in the Guardian on some of the background to the UVF-led Unionist attacks on the Nationalist Short Strand enclave in East Belfast over the last two nights. In her opinion (echoed by others) the recent appearances of new Unionist paramiltary wall murals, banners and flags in parts of the city show that:

‘the skirmishes just down the road are not random or arbitrary outbreaks of inexplicable violence, as they may appear to outside observers, but the product of an increasingly visible loyalist rage. The appearance of tame-looking loyalist elder statesmen during Queen Elizabeth’s recent visit to the Republic gives no sense of the reality on the streets of inner east Belfast, where attacking their Catholic neighbours is a way for blood-hungry young loyalists to gain status and rank in the notoriously volatile command structure of paramilitary organisations.’


‘It’s true that there is a palpable sense of discontent in loyalist communities, a kind of resentful longing for the old days of pride and primacy.

Yet that’s rather too glib. It implies that mounting orchestrated and unprovoked attacks on Catholic neighbourhoods is in some way an inevitable outworking of loyalist victimhood – an argument that conveniently allows the perpetrators off the hook.’

As I pointed out here, there is far more to this story than the lazy, glib soundbites that some in the mainstream media in Ireland or beyond are trotting out. Reaching for the well-worn clichés of ‘sectarianism’ and ‘tribalism’ is to fundamentally misrepresent what has happened in Belfast and to obscure the underlying causes of the conflict in the first place. We are watching the final death spasms of Britain’s colonial adventures in Ireland and it is only by viewing the conflict in that light that one can begin to understand where we are now – and where we may be going.


PSNI Were Intended Target

The PSNI paramilitary police in the North of Ireland believe injuries suffered by the Press Association photographer Niall Carson, who was shot in the leg while covering the UVF attacks in Belfast last night, may have been the result of collateral fire, and that the intended target was PSNI officers.

According to the BBC:

‘Just before midnight, a number of shots were fired and a press photographer was shot in his right leg.

[Assistant Chief Constable] ACC Finlay said it would be a “very strange development” if people were targetting journalists and said it was “more likely” that someone was trying to target police.

“It would be odd to target a journalist in this particular way, but it would not be odd to target police officers and there were police resources round about where those journalists were standing.”

PSNI: The UVF Is Behind Belfast Riots

Sky News reports that the PSNI has laid the blame for the two nights of violence in Belfast on the UVF:

‘Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the loyalist paramilitary group started the trouble and there was no sense of it trying to bring it to an end.

Mr Finlay said there had been “serious, sustained violence” and insisted: “Their hands are upon this, whether by direction, by omission or commission.”

Two men were shot in the leg during fighting in the east of the city on Monday night. A third fractured his skull when he was hit by a concrete block.

Even more youths descended on the streets for a second night of mayhem on Tuesday.

A gunman appeared to be deliberately targeting the media and shot a press photographer in the leg.

The photographer was working for The Press Association and had been documenting the violence.’

Residents in the Nationalist enclave of the Short Strand are assessing damage to their homes and property after another night of sustained attacks from Unionist mobs, in far greater numbers than seen before and with greater organisation and planning.