Sasana (England)

The Forces Of Darkness Gather

George, sorry, Lord Robertson

George Islay MacNeill Robertson, Baron Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC, voices his, eh, unbiased opinions on his home nation

There is truly nothing more astonishing in this world than a British nationalist politician who is completely oblivious of his own nation’s history of imperial misdeeds and crimes around the globe. Or worse, actually believes that such things are worthy of veneration because they were committed by the nation of Britain and are therefore above approach (oh lucky slaves and occupied peoples who in lived in that part of the atlas coloured pink!). It’s like waking up in some bizarre parallel universe where the Third Reich won WWII and sixty years later its leaders look back with pride on those halcyon days or where Joseph Stalin had gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Peace (a not entirely inconceivable idea, admittedly, given the list of those who actually did win the honour). So we have the less than edifying spectacle of a former, nominally left-wing British government minister and NATO make-an’-shaker, nouveau aristo George Robertson, beating the war drums like a thing possessed in relation to Scotland’s upcoming referendum on independence. From the Guardian newspaper:

“Lord Robertson, the former defence secretary and Nato chief, has claimed that Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” effect on European and global stability by undermining the UK on the world stage.

A former secretary general of Nato, Robertson said the “loudest cheers” after a yes vote would come from the west’s enemies and other “forces of darkness”.

“What could possibly justify giving the dictators, the persecutors, the oppressors, the annexers, the aggressors and the adventurers across the planet the biggest pre-Christmas present of their lives by tearing the United Kingdom apart?” Robertson told the Brookings Institute on onday.”

The forces of darkness?! This is politics and democracy reduced to the level of Star Wars. British Unionism as an ideology has finally sunk to the level of  Tea Party-style insanity. And it’s showing.

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Welsh, A Foreign Language In Britain

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

Substitute “Ireland” for “Wales” and “Irish” for “Welsh” and the discrimination revealed below would be pretty much the same. From a report in the Daily Post newspaper:

“After receiving a form in English from National Savings and Investments, 72-year-old Arfon Rhys sent it back and requested either a Welsh or bilingual form.

The letter he then received from NS&I – a state-owned savings bank backed by the Treasury – said: “We have received correspondence from you in your own language. As we do not translate from your language into English, we can’t reply to your letter.

“I enclose your original document so that you can arrange for it to be translated into English and resent to us. We will then be able to deal with your request.”

In a handwritten comment, the reason for returning the letter to Mr Rhys was given as “letter in a foreign language (Welsh)”.

The letter was written on March 12, just days after a landmark ruling that NS&I acted unlawfully by ending Welsh language services.

On March 6, two High Court judges in Cardiff ordered NS&I to restore its customer services in Welsh. They ruled that the agency’s decision last year to scrap its Welsh-language brochures, telephone service, correspondence and website was unlawful.”

[ASF: With thanks to Marconatrix for the link]

Rising Poll Numbers For Yes Vote In Scotland

Alba Gu Brath - Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012

Alba Gu Brath – Scotland Forever. Thousands attend Scottish independence rally, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 (Photo: Wings Over Scotland)

Another poll, another rise in support for Scottish independence (and the SNP) with this year’s momentous referendum half-a-year away. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“SUPPORT for Scottish independence has reached its highest level for more than six months, according to a new opinion poll.

When asked how they would vote if the referendum was held today, 39.3 per cent of those surveyed said Yes, compared to 47.6 per cent who said No.

The remaining 13.1 per cent of those who were questioned were undecided according to the poll, by Survation for The Daily Record and Dundee University [ASF: here].

It is the highest support for independence since August last year, when a poll by Panelbase found 44 per cent of people backed Scotland leaving the UK.

Survation questioned 1,002 people aged 16 and over between March 6 and March 7, and also looked at how Scots could vote in the next Holyrood election.

That put the SNP ahead of Labour, with 44.6 per cent of people saying they would vote for Alex Salmond’s party in the constituency section of the ballot and 34 per cent planning on supporting Johann Lamont’s party.

Meanwhile the Tories had the backing of 13 per cent of those questioned, with 5 per cent saying they would be voting for the Liberal Democrats and 3.3 per cent planning on voting for other parties.”

Unsurprisingly most of the national (and nationalist) media in Britain are ignoring this poll. Just as they have ignored previous surveys where the official narrative promulgated by the London establishment has run up against the very different narrative in Scotland itself. With even less surprise I note the “rounding down” and “rounding up” of the percentages by those news outlets which have deigned to take note. The 39.3% Yes becomes “39%” and the 47.6% No becomes “48%”. It’s all about the optics you know.

The Peace Process Elicits Irish Pride But British Shame?

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army

An Active Service Unit of the Irish Republican Army sets up a vehicle-checkpoint, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1994 (Image: © Rory Nugent, used with permission)

So suddenly the news media around the globe have become aware of one the most widely-known secrets in Irish and British politics. As part of the Peace Process of the late 1990s and early 2000s dozens of former Volunteers of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army sought by the British authorities were recognised as having de facto immunity under UK law. The so-called “on-the runs” (OTRs) were guaranteed non-prosecution in very carefully phrased legal language by the government of Britain, language that allowed the folks in London to keep face by not publicly acknowledging that the past actions of the insurgents were political or military in nature while in private doing exactly that. In politics as in war obfuscation is king.

Given that pretty much everyone knew that such an agreement had been reached between the various parties, and over a period of some years, why all the excitement now? Perhaps it is due to the fact that politicians, the media and much of the general public in Britain are still unable to face up to the realities of a peace process in Ireland that they actively sought and participated in? After decades of denying the political nature of the insurgency aligned against them (while covertly communicating with it the whole time) the British agreed to negotiate in open with their Irish Republican opponents in a carefully orchestrated dance of give-and-take throughout the 1990s. Yes, there are many criticisms to be made of that period and from all sides. They are well rehearsed and there are those both in Ireland and Britain who cry loudly about “sell-out” and “betrayal”, albeit from diametrically opposed viewpoints. However the relative success of the era of talks and counter-talks cannot be denied, even if some regard it as no more than a generational breather in an ongoing struggle (and one with an inevitable endpoint).

One outcome of all this is that Irish popular culture views the Peace Process very differently from British popular culture. In Ireland the 1998 Belfast Agreement and other accords are regarded as historic compromises and are largely praised as such. They remain touchstones for speeches, rallies and point-scoring in the political world. In contrast in Britain the Belfast Agreement and the negotiations around it are barely mentioned at all, as if the people of Britain are collectively unable to accept that an end to the Long War came at the price of Sinn Féin in regional government in Belfast and ex-IRA Volunteers treated as statesmen. The British tabloid press still act and publish as if 2014 was 1974. It is this dualistic perception of the Peace Process, the Irish positive, the British negative, which ironically carries within it the seeds for future misunderstandings and conflict.

Update: the Daily Mail, Britain’s hugely popular right-wing newspaper, carries some traditional Fleet Street reporting on the farcical arrest, detention and trial of John Downey, including some old school racial profiling:

“John Downey has always denied involvement. Two months after the bombing, police issued an artist’s impression – thickly bearded, with dark hair and rugged, Celtic features…”

Celtic features? Bring back the 1970s and ’80s when the British press used to tell its readers to watch out for “labourer-types” with ruddy faces, red hair and beards!

Letter Bombs In Britain. A Failure Of Vision

Letter bombs to Britain - turning a noble cause ignoble

Letter bombs to Britain – turning a noble cause ignoble

This is not 1884 nor is it 1974. So what on earth is the military or revolutionary rationale for sending letter-bombs to local recruitment offices of the British Army in towns and cities across Britain? How does that in any way shape or form represent an act of military resistance to the continued British Occupation of the northern-eastern part of our island nation? What strategic goal is achieved by such tactics? What political or media gain is accrued from the use of force that is little different from the wild – and ultimately pointless – acts of would-be anarchist revolutionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries?

The prosecution of a war using the militant methods of long dead radicals reveals minds that are frozen in time, in ideology and in vision. It lowers the public perception of the Irish Republican cause to the same level as the nihilist objectives pursued by the Red Brigades in Italy or the Red Army Faction in Germany during the turbulent 1970s. It makes a mockery of the very real and very genuine justifications for previous actions in previous decades and centuries. Actions born out of desperation, violence born out of the infliction of violence. Colonial occupation and exploitation, sectarianism and racism, famine and exile gave birth to the Fenian movements of the mid-to-late 1800s. The young men (and women) who filled their ranks were the children of serfdom, poverty and hunger. They were the ones who saw their prematurely aged parents buried in mass graves, their siblings dying with bellies swollen and limbs shrunken through malnutrition and disease. They were the off-spring of the “coffin ships”. The children of the Irish holocaust.

What excuse, what justification, can there be in the 21st century for the tactics of the 19th? The British continue to claim colonial sovereignty over part of our nation and our people but the modern British are not the imperialist ogres of yesteryear. Yes, in historical terms they have hands dyed red with the blood of our race both in times near and times past. But at some point we Irish must take responsibility for our own bloodletting. I do not agree with military resistance to the British occupation at this time. I do not believe that the end to Ireland’s British troubles can come about through force given the circumstances that currently pertain. However I can, at least, understand the rationale of those who do believe so and wish to prosecute a war to finish what was begun in 1916 (or 1169). To finish the unfinished business.

Yet even those on the armed revolutionary wing of modern Irish Republicanism must see that the sending of letter bombs to locations in Britain simply reduces their struggle to that of the most base form of terrorism and erodes whatever support they hope to sustain or gain. By all means resist the medieval anachronism of British rule in modern Ireland. Resist it politically, linguistically, culturally and socially. Work day and night to extinguish the Northern Pale, to dispatch into the pages of history the last administrative remnants of the British colony on our island nation. But this ongoing campaign, in this form? That is revolutionary madness.

Update: G Ó Cáthasaigh presents another view on the efficacy of armed struggle in early 21st century Ireland over at the Pensive Quill [with thanks to Mary for the link].

Death Squad Killers In The Land Down Under

Maria McGurk murdered by British state-controlled terrorists at McGurk's Bar

12 year old Maria McGurk, murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in 1971 at McGurk’s Bar, Belfast, Ireland. Another victim of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland

An update on the revelations late last year by a BBC news documentary examining the murderous activities of the British Army’s covert Military Reaction Force (MRF) during the early days of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland. From 1971 to 1973 the unit carried out a series of terrorist attacks against the civilian population and suspected Irish Republican activists, largely confined to Belfast, as well as acting in concert with various British terror factions (notably in the atrocity known as the McGurk’s Bar Bombing which took the lives of fifteen men, women and children). Now reports are coming in from Australia of attempts to bring former gunmen of the MRF living under assumed identities in the country to justice. From an article in WAToday:

“A member of a violent and secretive unit which allegedly hunted IRA members in Northern Ireland in the 1970s is thought to have fled to Queensland.

Former sergeant Clive Williams was a member of the Military Reaction Force, a group of undercover soldiers, who were active mainly in nationalist west Belfast in 1972.

He is understood to now be living in Queensland under another name, and the Australian government is being urged to investigate.

The MRF carried out a series of drive-by shootings in which two civilians were killed and 12 others were injured – even though there was no evidence that any were armed, or IRA members.

They included Patrick McVeigh, a 44-year-old father of six and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney, who was shot on St James Road.

Some members of the unit told a recently broadcast BBC Panorama program they ‘‘were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

The MRF say they sometimes acted as bait, goading the IRA to come out and fight.

In the Panorama program, Mr Williams was confronted by reporter John Ware in Brisbane, but refused to answer questions.

In 1973, Mr Williams was put on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of attempted murder, for shooting four unarmed men on the Glen Road in west Belfast.

Mr Williams claimed they had fired at him first. No guns were found at the scene and forensic tests on all four proved negative. None were members of the IRA.

Mr Williams told detectives he had fired from a standard army issue gun, but when confronted with evidence of bullet casings he said he had used a Thompson sub machine gun – a weapon frequently used by the IRA at the time.

He was subsequently promoted, left the army with the rank of captain and a military medal for bravery.”

From the late 1960s onwards the former subject territories of the British Empire have served as a convenient bolthole for British soldiers, paramilitary police, spies, informers and civil servants who participated in some manner in Britain’s dirty war in Ireland. At the expense of British taxpayers new lives and new identities, frequently in some splendour, were provided for those who needed to be placed beyond the reach of the law or journalistic endeavour. While members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland invariably choose Canada, South Africa or New Zealand, those from Britain favoured Australia. One wonders how many other former death squad killers, official or unofficial, are living the good life in lands faraway from those they brought such pain and misery to?

England, Wales And Southern Scotland

The partition of Scotland the new Greater England

The partition of Scotland – and the new Greater England

Not so long ago I set a rather large cat loose amongst some red, white and blue pigeons when I drew attention to the whispering campaign being engaged in by some Unionist politicos favouring a “partition of Scotland” should this year’s referendum on Scottish independence go against the authorities in Britain. So far a number of former Tory grandees and political leaders from the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland have served as stalking horses for the suggestion that much of the Borders and Lowlands region of Scotland should be retained under London rule, up to and including parts of the city of Glasgow. Admittedly the idea is somewhat insane – but then the partition of the island nation of Ireland was equally insane yet Unionist leaders and their British allies went ahead with that (and we all know how well that worked out…).

So, given all the kerfuffle, it is somewhat strange to see Gordon Aikman, the Director of Research for the British Unionist “Better Together” grouping, heavily promoting a poll claiming that a majority of people in the “South of Scotland” (the Borders region) are opposed to Scottish independence. The very zone some British nationalists believe should be separated from an independent Scotland.

 

Scotland: Latest Poll Records Rising Yes Vote

Sign of Albain or Scotland

Alba – Albain – Scotland

For the last two years members of the SNP government in Edinburgh have been claiming that in the lead-up to the referendum on Scotland’s independence there would be a significant shift in polling as voters finally decided on their constitutional future – Scottish rule or British rule. Well it seems that they may have been right. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“SUPPORT for Scottish independence has risen for the first time in nearly a year, according to a new poll published last night, offering evidence that the contest is getting closer in the run-up to next autumn’s historic vote.

The Ipsos-Mori poll registered a rise in support of three percentage points, with a total of 34 per cent of those who are certain to vote choosing the Yes side.

Backing for Scotland remaining in the UK was still the most popular option, but support had dropped two points since September to 57 per cent. A further 10 per cent of those certain to vote had yet to decide.

…for the first time, there are more people in the most deprived parts of Scotland who support independence than there are who oppose it. Some 45 per cent back leaving the UK, with 42 per cent supporting the status quo.

That is in marked contrast to the country’s better-off areas, where the No side is ahead by 68 per cent to 26 per cent.”

SCOT goes POP has more analysis.

British Unionism In Ireland – Anyone But The Irish!

The partition of Scotland the new Greater England

The partition of Scotland – and the new Greater England

Lord Megabucks Kilclooney, also known as former Ulster Unionist Party bigwig John Taylor, has jumped once again feet first into the referendum on Scottish independence. Not content with suggesting last year that an independent Scotland should be “partitioned” with the Borders region up to and including parts of the city of Glasgow retained under London rule he has now revised the ideology of “Unionism” in Ireland. Apparently it is no longer concerned with maintaining British colonial rule over the north-east of this island-nation under the aegis of the so-called “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Oh no, the “Great Britain” part has nothing to do with it. From a letter to the Scotsman newspaper:

“AS AN Ulster Scot I am obviously anxious about the possible outcome of the independence ­referendum next year.

Should there be a Yes majority for Scottish independence then we in Northern Ireland, being closer in both distance and culture with Scotland, would have to decide whether to remain with England or remain with Scotland.

Lord Kilclooney”

Well there you go. “Ulster” Unionism. Or as we may more honestly term it “Anything But The White-Niggers” Unionism. I wouldn’t have one around the place y’know

More here.

Scottish Independence, 35% Yes, 43% No

Albain (Scotland)

Albain (Scotland)

The latest Panelbase poll from Wings Over Scotland, the headline figures say it all:

Should Scotland Be An Independent Country? 

35% Yes

43% No

20% Undecided

Closer and closer…

British Soldiers, Nazi Salutes – The Story We Had First

British soldiers in Afghanistan give the Neo-Nazi-Red-Hand salute of the British terror factions in Ireland

British soldiers in Afghanistan give the Neo-Nazi-Red-Hand salute of the British terror factions in Ireland

The newspapers in Britain are currently debating the significance of images from the conflict in Afghanistan showing serving British soldiers posing in front of the British national flag and the now discarded “Northern Ireland” banner while making stiff-armed Nazi salutes. The Mail on Sunday broke the story which has been taken up by the Guardian and the Express as well as Newsnet Scotland. Of course here at An Sionnach Fionn we posted these photos long ago, including in this article, and we also linked to the source of the images, a right-wing Unionist-supporting fan-club in England called Invicta Loyal, when challenged on the veracity of the photographs.

For more on the tangled relationship between militant British Unionism in Ireland and the Neo-Nazi movement in Britain see my post here.

British soldiers in Afghanistan display Orange Order emblems and British Unionist flags

British soldiers in Afghanistan display their racist and sectarian Orange Order emblems and British Unionist flags

Education In Britain – Cultural Conditioning?

The union of Scotland, England, Wales - another historical relic.

The union of Scotland, England, Wales – another historical relic.

In the 2011 census on the island of Britain large numbers of people living in Scotland, Wales and England rejected the nationality of “British”, a majority in all three countries preferring to describe themselves instead as solely Scottish (62.4%), Welsh (57.5%) or English (60.4%). Which makes the BBC News article claim that Britishness is “…an identity quite at home in the 21st Century” more than a little bizarre. Indeed the whole post is rather odd with some amazing fact-spinning not to mention this nugget of suggestive bias:

“In Wales, though, children and young people are less likely to describe themselves as British than their parents – about 16% compared to 18%. One possible explanation for this may be the introduction of compulsory Welsh language teaching in schools.”

Desperate man clutching at straws? The English language is also “compulsory” in schools in Wales and for 90% of the school day. Yet Welsh schools are not turning out legions of flag-waving EDL supporters. And 98% of the Scottish education system is through the medium of English with hardly any input from the Scottish language outside of a few Scottish Gaelic schools (for now). Yet the vast majority of young Scots also reject any sense of being British.

If the argument is that the provision of Welsh language education for Welsh students is decreasing the number of those identifying themselves as “British” in Wales, is that not merely underlining the purpose of English language education in Britain as a force of cultural colonialism?

21st Century British

British: the nationality that never was

British: the nationality that never was (Íomhá: Welsh Not British)

From the website “Welsh Not British” the 2011 census on the island of Britain summed up in one easy graph. Say’s it all really. Some more excellent analysis can be found on Syniadau examining the figures in Wales, Scotland and England.

A Return To London Rule Through A No Vote?

Albain - Alba (Scotland)

Albain – Alba (Scotland)

There is a general view abroad in Scotland that a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence would represent a political win-win situation for the country. Even if voters were to register a ballot-box rejection of full sovereignty many believe that the British government would still be obliged to yield more authority to the Scottish government, a constitutional arrangement known as “devo-max” (the maximum devolution of powers from London to Edinburgh short of independence).

However in recent weeks several cogent observers have pointed out that in such an outcome it is far more likely that the British establishment will take the exact opposite view and having narrowly escaped the dissolution of their nation-state they will likely impose severe legislative restrictions on the autonomous powers of the Scots (and Welsh). Indeed the probable scenario would also see the clawing back of some existing areas of responsibility from the “national” authorities in Edinburgh and Cardiff and a tightening of control from London.

This has already been foreshadowed in the very public questioning of devolutionary powers in Scotland by Margaret Curran, a senior Labour Party figure in the country, and by the words of Andrew Neil, a leading Scottish-born journalist and pro-Union media presence, who has pointed out that a No vote will inevitably lead to severely reduced devolutionary powers in Scotland.

A significant number of people in Scotland may well choose to vote against independence in 2014 but they should be aware that in doing so they may be also voting for the British government to re-assume many of its previously conceded powers over their nation. A vote against full Edinburgh rule could just turn out to be a vote for a return to full London rule.

The Guardian Enters GUBU Territory

English: GCHQ from just East of Cheltenham

The main GCHQ complex Cheltenham, Britain

From the Guardian newspaper:

“Guardian editors on Tuesday revealed why and how the newspaper destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the NSA and GCHQ secret files leaked by Edward Snowden.

The decision was taken after a threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped reporting on the extent of American and British government surveillance revealed by the documents.

It resulted in one of the stranger episodes in the history of digital-age journalism. On Saturday 20 July, in a deserted basement of the Guardian’s King’s Cross offices, a senior editor and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other household tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored.

As they worked, they were watched intently by technicians from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who took notes and photographs, but who left empty-handed.

The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had earlier informed government officials that other copies of the files existed outside the country and that the Guardian was neither the sole recipient nor steward of the files leaked by Snowden, a former NSA contractor. But the government insisted that the material be either destroyed or surrendered.

The British government has attempted to step up its pressure on journalists, with the detention in Heathrow on Sunday of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who has led the Guardian’s US reporting on the files.

Miranda was detained for nine hours under a section of a 2000 legislation aimed at terrorists. The use of this measure – which applies only to airports and ports – meant that the normal protection for suspects in the UK, including journalists,  did not apply.”

The British state and government up to no good? Sounds familiar. Then again the people at the Guardian are not the only journalists to experience some dubious treatment. David Sirota over on the Salon:

“This past Saturday, Time magazine’s senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald, told his 10,000-plus Twitter followers that he “can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” There is, to say the least, much to be gleaned by such a statement.

For instance, it is yet more proof of the growing ranks of Journalists Against Journalism Club. Yes, here we have a reporter expressing excitement at the prospect of the government executing the publisher of information that became the basis for some of the most important journalism in the last decade.

Likewise, it is yet more proof that the nonchalant blood lust that pervades the National Security State also exists inside the establishment media that is supposed to be objectively covering that National Security State. Indeed, even after deleting his tweet, Grunwald was unrepentant about such blood lust, saying that he wasn’t sorry for effectively endorsing extrajudicial assassination, but merely for the fact that his tweet “gives Assange supporters a nice safe persecution complex to hide in.”

But, then, journalists hating on journalism and political reporters worshiping state-sponsored violence is no big reveal anymore. In that sense, Grunwald’s morbid fantasy is notable primarily because it summarized such realities in such uncharacteristically clear terms.

What is more revelatory is what the context of the Grunwald episode says about the intensifying debate over who is and who is not a true “journalist,”  and whether it is opinion or ideology that really disqualifies one from the legal privileges that are supposed to come with that label.”