Archive for July, 2011

Swing While You’re Winning
July 20, 2011

Last Sunday evening, for the first time in over 3 weeks, I felt proud to come from the illegally occupied, undemocratic autonomous principality, partial province, temporary entity, basket case, six counties of Normal Island.

The reason for my swagger was, of course, the victory of our own (not ‘your’ Pedro) Darren Clarke at Golf’s British Open. But just how did we get to the point where a nation of under 2 million sectarian bigots can become such a major force in world Golf, outshining even our bog hopping, bank bailing, brown envelope bunging brudders below in the Republic of Free State Southern Cheese?

Simples! Sure weren’t we known as ‘The Land of Saints and Swingers’ for centuries? Didn’t Hugh Holland, the Hound of Ulster kill a giant dog-leg with a mighty drive from the third at Royal County Down using only a touch of fade, live on Setanta Sports? Didn’t William himself cross the Boyne using only a sand wedge? (Although rumours that he got a Birdie seem unlikely) And didn’t 100,000 Ulstermen find themselves in the same bunker during the European Open of 1914?

But what was it that resulted in the Northern Irishman’s stranglehold on Golf’s most prestigious prizes? Well, Scientists believe that 40 years of street rioting, primarily the throwing of missiles, has caused the Nordie to evolve his arm swing to almost perfection.

No surprise then that the north’s 3 Major winners should be from such working class, flashpoint interfaces as Portrush and Holywood. Neither is it a shock that the trio are of pure Gaelic stock, their families tied closely with the history of the island. Take Darren Clarke or Darren Ó Cléirigh as he prefers, a direct descendant of Brother Michael and Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, two of the authors of The Annals of the Fore Masters. Look also at Graeme McDowell (or McDowell) the Great Grandson of Eoin McNeill, the hero of 1916, author of ‘How to Ensure Your Rebellion Succeeds’ and all round Republican Icon. Not to be outdone, Rory McIlroy too is a direct descendant of the Irish Water Spaniel.

Rory McIlroy

Pretty impressive when you consider that the Republic’s recent double major Champion’s only claim to fame was that his ancestors invented a style of jacket! Sadly, not even having three winners is enough to bring the Open Championship to Royal Portrush, The Royal and Ancient Committee explaining that the town’s infrastructure is simply unsuitable. However, it’s not all bad news, in the absence of The Open coming here; moves are underway to instead bring violent summer street disturbances to coastal towns in Britain.

So there you have it, Normally Idle is full of ‘Swingers’ and ‘Doggers’ and that is why the world looks on enviously, wondering just how we do it. It’s easy really, years of practice with the arm, then just pop it in the hole!


5intheface 20.07.2011

Fortitude and Terrible Irish Beauty
July 18, 2011

‘There is but one philosophy- though there are a thousand schools- and its name is Fortitude. To bear is to conquer our fate!” (Notes to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s ‘Last Days of Pompeii’)

And well might a man of the 19th century who strolled effortlessly through the roles of politician, poet, playwright and author of hugely popular novels settle upon fortitude as his favoured philosophy.

This was a man who could turn down an appointment as Lord of the Admiralty, preferring it seems to give his thoughts over to penning such phrases as ‘the great unwashed’, ‘pursuit of the almighty dollar’, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ and the bane of many a stumped author with a first blank sheet staring up at him from the desk ‘It was a dark and stormy night’. Still, he did manage to fit in a role as Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1858 and 1859, an attention for which the colonies are presumed with the courtesy of elapsed time to have been duly grateful.

There was one colony, however, which flummoxed this elegant masthead of the English establishment. In 1827 he married Rosina Doyle Wheeler, daughter of a self-educated advocate of women’s rights and contraception Anna Doyle Wheeler of Tipperary (who finding herself penniless after a divorce from an abusive husband kept her family alive by translating the works of French novelists for an English audience). Moving the family including the future Mrs Bulwer Lytton to London determined to provide them with an education Rosina’s mother came into social contact with Jeremy Bentham among others of the philosophical set.

Horrified at the marriage Edward had made to the noted Irish beauty Rosina who was far from the society mother’s idea of a suitable marriage Edward found himself without an allowance and turned to writing in order to keep the wolf from the door. Adapting easily to the novel idea for a gentleman of his family he threw himself enthusiastically into repairing the financial damage with a stream of popular novels.

Rosina herself no shrinking violet and with a talent for public speaking possibly inherited from her mother (who later turned down an invitation to take part in the French revolution of 1848) consoled herself on the eventual breakup of her marriage by embarking on a literary career of her own with a thinly veiled attack on Bulwer-Lytton via her debut novel ‘Cheveley, or the Man of Honour’.

Rosina went on to publish a further 17 works but not before taking the time to turn up rather scandalously for the times in Hertfordshire to publicly berate her former husband for his character on the hustings in 1858.

Confined to an institution Rosina was released by public demand just three weeks later and continued her attacks upon her former husband’s character at her leisure and had the satisfaction of outliving him by nine years, dying in 1882.

There were two children of this most literary and Anglo-Irish of marriages composed of an English gentleman who would elect for fortitude as a favoured philosophy and the fiery daughter of a Tipperary revolutionary tyro. Son Robert, later Earl Lytton, was Viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880. Rather poignantly his initial implementation of British Government orders favouring the Empire over India resulted in a famine there which is estimated to have killed up to ten million people. Horrified he was later credited with applying himself assiduously in his remaining tenure to arrangements ensuring no such famine could happen again.

There are deep echoes somehow in this ill-fated marriage of national character and clash of attitudes, class, and national traits so obvious in the personal lives and half-forgotten stories of two writers of the 19th century. We began this historical note and musing with fortitude and end with terrible beauty. Perhaps a report from the Somerset County Gazette and West of England Advertiser, July 13th, 1858 would be appropriate to allow the famous Irish beauty the last word so as not to unduly disturb her spirit.

‘”Towards the close of the proceedings of the Hertfordshire election, just after Sir EDWARD had concluded his address with a fervent tribute of admiration to the womany beauty exhibited in the long line of open carriages, chaises and vans, drawn up in front of the hustings, there was an unwonted stir in the crowd, which parted to admit of the passage of a hired brougham from one of the town inns. Two ladies alighted–one an exceedingly handsome woman of about 45 years of age, with fresh complexion and eyes of dazzling beauty. Evidently labouring under sxcitement, she advanced through the crowd towards the hustings, and announced herself as the wife of Sir E. BULWER LYTTON. She had come according to promise to confront her husband and expose the wrongs described in her works and in a pamphlet. The appearance of the lady was not unexpected, as her coming had been announced in placards and bills; but some person had detained her while the election was proceeding in the vicinity. Recognised, as soon as observed, her voice was nearly drowned by the shouts of Sir EDWARD’S supporters: but Sir EDWARD’S eye caught hers, and his face paled. He looked like a man suddenly attacked by paralysis. Those near him say he trembled exceedingly. For a few moments he retained his position in front of the hustings, and turned his back on the unwelcome visitor. Then he suddenly disappeared below the hustings platform, while his wife cried out ‘COWARD,’ and he having hastily signed the usual declaration, escaped into the residence of the gentleman on whose grounds the election took place. Lady LYTTON continued to address the audience assembled for more than a quarter of an hour. Her ladyship subsequently made an application to the Mayor for the use of the Town Hall, for the purpose of making a public statement; but this being refused her, she left the town early in the afternoon. Lady LYTTON arrived in Hertford at three o’clock on the morning of the election, having posted from Taunton, where she resides. It is needless to say that the event has caused the greatest possible excitement in Hertfordshire.”

Captain Con O’Sullivan 18.07.2011

The ULA – Where are we heading ?
July 8, 2011

I’ve been asked to do a blogpost on where I think the United Left Alliance is going. It’s a valid question that everyone has been asking. However, I think the best way to look at it is not to see it as some alien, historicist glacier inching in one direction or another. The best lens to look upon the this new project of left unity is: where do we want it to go?

I’ve been involved in the project since I volunteered to canvass for Cllr Gino Kenny in Clondalkin in the most recent election. It was my first real foray into partisan political activism – and I haven’t looked back since. The announcement of the merger of the left was such an euphoric occasion, as an independent, which I’ll never forget. It’s that feeling of (dare I utter the “H” word..?) hope that inspires any involvement I have in this grouping. And all moves I’ve taken since has been to encourage others to do likewise. To get involved.

I can’t emphasise enough that this is the process of forming a brand new party. This belongs to everyone, not just the component-parties. Whatever policies or structures it implements will not drop down from the sky or magically appear out of a vacuum. And being a process, that obviously means that it will take time and the outcome is not predetermined.The interim-steering committee want nothing more than for the public to engage with it and drag it into existence. It can be what helps the alliance power on past component-party squabbles as to whether it goes this way or that way. It goes whatever way we, the grassroots, bring it. That’s what a grassroots movement is.

The most obvious clue that this is of the grassroots is in how they held an extensive nationwide townhall tour appealing to the locals to come out and get involved. Well that’s all the go-ahead we need. A wink is as good as a nod. There wasn’t even a meeting scheduled for my area, so I emailed them and we got TWO. Now we have, dare I say, one of the strongest and most vibrant branches in the country. That’s all there is to it. Having input shouldn’t be that much harder.

With regards to the specific ways we can have input into policy formation, we simply need to talk to each other – nationally. There is no sense in wasting this once in a generation opportunity to build something incredible just to sit in a corner and sulk that it isn’t going your way. The process of internal debate began elsewhere online and here on where we now have a fantastic United Left Alliance forum section. For the uninitiated, we have an archive of all official articles on the evolution of the party and healthy, robust debate on what the United Left Alliance should look like.

The next step we took was the WeAreRagbags initiative. It is beginning life as an internal newsletter between independents where we can keep each other abreast of party development. Pretty soon it will develop into a platform for said independents to broadcast nationally their views on the party, be they problems, solutions or merely opinions.

I see the next phase as being a United Left Alliance/Left Unity Blogging Network. I envisage an exclusively social media blog broadcasting network on facebook and twitter that posts ULA related posts as they come. This would deliver party debate fresh on party activists’ homepages. The only possible result of this is increased participation, debate and discussion between the rank and file members of the party. With this kind of internal culture blossoming, I have hopes that blogs devoted to discussing the United Left Alliance’s environmental policies, education policies and everything under the sun will spring up. This could potentially play a massive role in shaping where the party goes. What my own particular viewpoints are don’t matter a damn unless there is a platform in place for it to be considered. That is my priority.

And all we have to do is give our opinion. There’s nearly a thousand of us so far, if we all speak then the upper echelon will only be too delighted to try and keep up with us.



Unspecific715 ….. 8.7.2011

We’ve Had the Election…. What Now ?
July 7, 2011

Watching recent events in Greece, I have been wondering what are the prospects of Irish people responding in such a demonstrative manner to similar austerity measures which are surely just over the not too distant horizon.
Whatever one’s feelings about the prospect of teargas and baton charges in Irish cities, surely even the most conservative observer feels some sympathy for a people who are standing up and saying, very simply, “this is not fair”.
The outcome of our recent general election was a predictable and in many ways understandable protest vote. There was a catharsis felt by the majority of the people, in showing Fianna Fáil the sense of betrayal and anger at what has happened. It was the Irish people saying “this is not fair”. However, the question must now be asked, are the Irish electorate politically ignorant? Many enjoyed the look on disappointed FF faces, but what kind of protest vote elects a party who were always going to continue down the path of their ill-fated predecessors? This is an uncomfortable thought but when one considers the swing to Fine Gael, very much the other side of the same coin, something does not add up. One can blame FG for reneging on election promises but anybody with their eye on the political ball could not have expected a radical policy departure from those of the outgoing government.

Or perhaps this is too harsh on a people who have never been significantly divided on ideological lines. Perhaps the lack of competent alternatives is an issue.

The “Gilmore for Taoiseach” slogan was always ridiculous, considering Labour were never going to run enough candidates for this pipe-dream to be a possibility. Their underwhelming campaign, of course, would have put paid to the prospect in any case. The long-awaited policy drive could be generously described as an anti-climax. “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way” was an insult to the intelligence of the people and Joan Burton’s inexplicable behaviour on the Vincent Browne show must have had the pinkest of the pink turn (briefly) red. Yet they did reasonably well. Worryingly, future cuts and job losses endorsed by Labour could have the effect of turning potential voters for the left off the prospect. Labour, for some reason, are still classed by the media as a party of the left. The media, of course, is a matter for another discussion. A lengthy one, at that.

Sinn Fein were big winners of course. But again, there are questions here. Does the migration of Gerry Adams to these parts set them back somewhat? They talked the talk at times and in the final weeks of the last Dáil, Pearse Doherty was a breath of fresh air. I believe there are many who will not find it in themselves to vote SF while protagonists of the war remain prominent. Adams, to many, will be the man of many ambiguous words regarding violence (and the not so ambiguous “they haven’t gone away, you know”). Since Adams took the reigns of the party in the Dáil, he has been unimpressive. It cannot be lost on people either that SF are vocal in opposing cuts in the South while implementing appalling measures a few miles up the road.

The U.L.A. will need to figure out what they are. Are they a party? No they are not. Nor are their attempts to consolidate their alliance without major issues. Nonaligned members appear to be peripheral. Their candidates also showed a spectacular ignorance of economic issues during the election campaign. “Tax the rich”. “There is still plenty of money in this country” did not stand up to scrutiny and sounded little more than sloganeering. They will, of course, be prominent in anti-water campaigns, so may gain kudos, but not, I believe, many converts to Trotskyism.

My own crystal ball has been clouded by pessimism, so I’m loath to make any predictions as to where we are going to find ourselves in two, five or ten years.
But one thing is certain. Unless somebody or some group makes a connection with the people and shows proper leadership, things will not improve.

Griska 7.7.2011

%d bloggers like this: