Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Eastern Europe's favorite cat and mouse team"

I was a bit disappointed when I went to see ‘The Simpsons Movie’ a few weeks ago. Then yesterday I rediscovered this little gem that appeared during an episode in which Krusty the Clown (real name Herschel Pinkus Yerucham Krustofski) was going through some hard times.

The funny thing is Soviet era kids TV was actually worse than this. Much worse:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Goodbye Pat

As I continued to listen, Pat looked at me straight. “If you were open to it,” he said directly, “we could be talking about a merger of our two parties and not just cooperation. The Labour name, the Labour brand,” he went on, “has a historical validity and tradition which could never be replaced. We tried it in Democratic Left and it did not work. A merger is now possible with you as leader.”

‘Straight Left: A Journey in Politics’, Ruairi Quinn (2005), p.379

It seems every time I attempt to write a piece on the Labour Party something happens. Last month when I was in the midst of penning an entry on the Party’s attempts to organise in Northern Ireland an announcement was made by NEC member Mark Langhammer that plans were afoot for the organisation to start fighting elections here from 2009, thereby making my article out of date before I had even got around to giving a second reading. Yesterday, just as I was writing on the comments made by the Party leader earlier this summer regarding Labour’s future, Pat Rabbitte resigned from his post at the head of Ireland’s leading left wing force. Let’s just hope that what follows is still relevant by the time you get round to reading this.

So, Pat has gone. I had mixed feelings yesterday when I heard the news that the big man from Mayo was expected to make a resignation announcement at 3.30pm. At the risk of sounding trivial, Rabbitte was one of those people who looked liked a leader. He had a certain aura around him. He was eloquent. He was a fantastic parliamentarian.

For me, it was his performances in the Dail that made him stand out. Irish politics, north and south, has never had an abundance of great orators. In the north we have an Assembly packed with 108 individuals who would hardly be capable of making it onto a town council in England. Standards in Leinster House have always been a bit better, but not much. Most people considered Joe Higgins to be a great speaker in the chamber. I always found him a court jester, a clown who could deliver a few good one-liners. I assume that people in Dublin West finally discovered the true crackpot Trotskyist nature of the man’s politics (“a socialist Ireland as part of a free and voluntary socialist federation of England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland”), hence the loss of the Socialist Party’s only seat in the country. Pat Rabbitte on the other hand was an exemplary politician. Not only was he a formidable adversary of the Taoiseach (I often wish that it had been him staring straight across the floor at Bertie for the past five years instead of Enda Kenny) but a fine representative for his community. On RTE’s ‘Drivetime’ show with Derek Davis the people interviewed on the street in Dublin South West sounded to have a genuine liking for their Deputy, surely a rarity in the present day.

His legacy though will no doubt be the agreement that he struck with Enda Kenny in Westmeath a few years ago. The Mullingar Accord, an electoral pact with Fine Gael, was a brave move. I will be honest and admit I was never a friend of it though it was still nevertheless a brave more. Pat nailed his colours to the mast early on, stuck to them and even when the media suggested that he would jump into bed with Fianna Fail after this year’s General Election he still stuck by it. Principle remained more important than the ministerial Mercedes.

My problem with the Fine Gael pact was twofold. Firstly, after the Labour vote held up in 2002 and the FG vote had collapsed only ten seats separated the two main opposition parties. Historians may ponder what could have happened had Labour spent the past five years attacking Fine Gael as harsh as they attacked Fianna Fail and the PDs. Could we have had a left opposition for the first time since the twenties? Could that have been a left opposition capable of paving the way for a left-led government, the much-talked about goal at the time of the merger in 1998?

Secondly, Mullingar failed to inspire. In a bid to halt any cracks appearing in the pact Rabbitte and Kenny often appeared to find common cause on the most basic of issues. Of course, the main issue for the Mayo twosome was the one of ejecting Bertie and co from government but to do that they had to capture the imagination of the Irish electorate and, to be fair, the Mullingar Accord just did not provide enough inspiration for people to throw out what has - let’s face it - been a government that has overseen the most successful economic growth in the history of the state (and please note I am not downplaying the role of the 1994-1997 Rainbow Coalition in starting that growth). The following is a piece I wrote last year on the Mullingar Accord regarding some comments made by Michael McDowell:

During a speech at the launch of a new book by the McGill Summer School Mr McDowell remarked that the "recent opinion polls constitute a clear rejection of the Mullingar Accord and of the parties which make up that accord". He continued to describe the joint proposals put forward in recent years by Fine Gael and the Labour Party as "handcuffed mediocrity" and that the parties have an obsession with "glossy policy documents" and "glossy press launches", all of which possess "little or no content". Good lord. When Michael McDowell starts calling you boring you know you are in trouble.

And An Tánaiste continued:

"Where Fine Gael and Labour can agree, the result is mediocrity. Where either Fine Gael or Labour go it alone the result is usually something the other party will not wear. At best we are offered the paralysis of handcuffed mediocrity. At worst we are offered questionable proposals likely to be vetoed by the other party."

Mediocrity? Little or no content? I wouldn’t agree fully with McDowell but a genuine point lay within those comments. Hindsight is, however, a wonderful thing and it can also show us just why Rabbitte chose the option of an alliance with the Blueshirts. The go-it-alone option pursued by Ruairi Quinn in 2002 yielded an almost identical result to the Mullingar strategy. In Rabbitte’s own words, Labour’s vote has “flatlined”. Regardless of whether they agree a pre-election pact or not the result will be a return of no more or no less than 20 or so seats in Dail Eireann. Whoever the next leader of the Labour Party is they better have some original ideas.

Aside from his undoubted eloquence, electoral tactics and contempt for the PDs (the latter always a positive attribute in my book), I will remember Pat Rabbitte for taking a very small but very positive step towards changing the stale state of northern politics. In 2004 the Labour Party set up the Northern Ireland Labour Forum, marking the Party’s re-entry into politics in the six counties for the first time in several decades. I can already hear the ‘so whats’ being uttered. In the first meeting of the NILF at the Linenhall Library in Belfast Rabbitte declared that the Forum’s aim was to create the space for debate and allow the development of centre left politics in Northern Ireland. As I mentioned briefly at the beginning, in recent weeks the NILF has announced its intention to contest the local elections here in 2009. For the first time in my lifetime I may actually now have the chance to cast a vote for an authentic, non-sectarian brand of democratic socialism.

As Party spokesperson on the north he was also not afraid to speak about some of the more unsavoury elements of Ulster life, elements that most party leaders south of the border or in Britain would have preferred to ignore. In 2005 he highlighted the controversial topic of police collusion by using his Dail privilege to name Mark Haddock, a senior UVF commander in Belfast, as an RUC Special Branch agent who had been responsible for countless murders, attempted killings, assaults and general criminality.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to comment on a certain thing the outgoing leader said at the Jim Kemmy lecture in July. Pat maintained that affluence had changed people, that the Party was out of touch with the middle class and that there was a problem with the Labour “brand”. OK, the first point I’ll accept. Society has changed a lot during the Celtic Tiger era. The second point I couldn’t really answer. It raises more questions than I could possibly answer. Is Labour really out of touch with the middle class? Was Labour ever in touch with the middle class? Who the bloody hell are the middle class? It was the final point that gave me some cause for concern. The Labour “brand”. “Brand”. Uuurgh. As much as I admired Pat you just have to ask what in God’s name was going through his mind when he used that term. Had he been chatting to someone from an image consultancy business? Had that holiday he had in Kerry coupled with the bad weather this summer just made him so miserable that he suddenly metamorphosed into David Cameron? Is this the sign of things to come? Is the red rose about to be replaced by a green tree that resembles a childlike scribble?

I perhaps should point out that Rabbitte did actually say during the Kemmy lecture that there was nothing wrong with Labour’s policies, that the problem lay in its image. Even so, is the Party really in need of the drastic overhaul that some think is required? Olivia O’Leary yesterday questioned the relevance of the name ‘Labour Party’ in the modern day. I have no doubt that if the Party ‘brand’ suddenly becomes a topic for discussion it would be extremely naïve if we were to think that the Party’s core policies would not.

Let’s put things in perspective. Number one, the past two General Elections have been disappointing but there have been much worse ones for the Party. A calm head is needed at this stage. Drastic ideological changes are not necessary. A lurch to left is out of the question. If people want a hard left vote they can waste their time with the array of Shinners and Trots out there. A lurch to the right is utterly pointless. If people want to vote for centre or right wing parties they also have a wide choice of organisations. Going down the environmental route is out of the question - the Greens really have that area tied up. What Labour does need to do over the next five years is reassert its position as an independent party (something I feel it lost during the past few years of playing second fiddle to Fine Gael) and emphasise its social democratic credentials.

Number two, if an image change is needed those advocating the change need to a) provide hard facts in order to convince us that something is truly wrong with the current image being projected, and b) give us a clear alternative. Unlike some I do believe in the significance of history. The Labour Party, as Tommy Broughan has emphasised, should be proud of its history and the tradition from where it comes. Care must be taken in the coming weeks and months. Labour is not in the same state as its British counterpart was in 1983.

When I heard Pat Rabbitte use the term ‘brand’ last month I realised I had heard it somewhere before. I had. In his autobiography Ruairi Quinn recalled that that was the term used by the then Democratic Left TD at a meeting during which the idea of a merger between the two main left-wing parties in Irish politics was rolled (see the quote at the beginning). Rabbitte and his fellow comrades from the DL side of the merger have been through numerous name changes and splits. Sinn Fein. Official Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein - The Workers Party. The Workers Party. Democratic Left. And now of course the Labour Party. At the risk of sounding divisive, would it be right to say that what is needed now is someone truly from the Labour family, someone with a deep sense of history and someone who cares for the Party? Surely what is needed is not someone who is willing to give something a try for five or ten years and then if its not working to their liking try something different. In other words, perhaps what is needed now is someone who was not a member of Democratic Left.

With that I will end this piece about Pat. Pat the eloquent one. Pat the strategist. Pat the parliamentarian. Pat the image consultant. Pat who deserved better. And Pat who gave those of us on the northern left a little glimpse of light at the end of a long, dark sectarian tunnel. I have refrained from even once speculating on who the next Party leader will be. I wonder what odds you’d get though on them being a former Democratic Left member?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Would you like me to seduce you?

It seems that the morals of the great and good of the green and pleasant land to our east are coming under attack from that corrosive left-wing force we know as the British Broadcasting Corporation. I read in the ‘Daily Mail’ - where else? - that the BBC has received a number of complaints about the inappropriate dress worn by presenter Emily Maitlis on a recent trailer for the ten o’clock news. I’ll let Clemmie Moodie of Mail explain:

The glamorous presenter decided to liven up proceedings during a televised trailer for the BBC's 10pm news. Perched casually on the edge of her circular desk, her stilettos dangling above the studio floor, the 36-year-old blonde swung one toned leg over the other. Although she was wearing a relatively demure navy skirt-suit, Miss Maitlis's flash of shapely calf caused a stir among more conservative viewers who saw the 9pm trailer on Monday. By last night more than 30 complaints had been posted on the BBC's message boards by disgruntled licence fee-payers. Miss Maitlis's style of presenting was described as "indulgent" and "completely inappropriate". One viewer complained that she was "flashing her legs" while another added: "It is thoroughly unprofessional and obviously meant to be titillating. It is giving out all the wrong messages."

The situation within the BBC is now so serious that the ‘Daily Mail’ has opened up an online poll asking the question, “Did Emily flash too much leg on the 9 o’clock news?” But that’s not it. Oh, no. Not by a long shot. I see from the paper’s website that tomorrow’s ‘Daily Mail’ carries yet another story about those politically correct, liberal temptresses. The target today is Fiona Bruce (pictured, erm, above) in a story headlined ‘The night Crimewatch turned into Thighwatch’. You see, not to be outdone by Maitlis, Fiona has taken to sitting on tables wearing skirts equally as short as her Canadian-born fellow news presenter. One comment on the Mail’s website claims that all these skimpy dresses are part of the BBC’s left-wing, super liberal plans to “dumb down” (the middle classes love that term) British society.

Shocking, isn’t it? What next? Huw Edwards doing the one o’clock news with only a Welsh dragon flag for clothing? Bill Turnbull presenting ‘Breakfast’ topless covered in baby oil? Phwoar!

And just in case you are wondering about the result of that poll I mentioned I can tell you that 89% of people were fully supportive of Emily’s legs. How did I vote? Sorry. Can’t tell you. But I am more of a Kirsty Wark man myself.

Monday, August 20, 2007

An unhappy birthday

“When a country with 50 nuclear weapons and hundreds of thousands of jihadi fanatics is hissing and crackling towards collapse, it is time to pay attention. General Pervez Musharraf - the man who seized power illegally in Pakistan in 1999 - is rarely more than a month away from an assassination attempt, and they are inching closer every time. So far this year, he has seen a bodyguard standing next to him shot in the neck, and driven over a bridge that was blasted to pieces just minutes later. It will take just one bullet in this curdled old general's chest for a massive nuclear arsenal to be up for grabs.”

An important issue explored in an article by Johann Hari regarding the delicate state of Pakistan from ‘The Independent’ this week. While most have been reading items and watching documentaries about the country’s 60th birthday the fact remains that if Musharraf’s fragile dictatorship collapses the consequences for international security could be huge. A terrifying prospect. Have a look for yourself:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hamas says: Don't throw stones at the lions

As its Friday I thought it would be nice to give you something a bit more amusing than usual. Well, sort of.

Over the course of the past year a certain children's television programme has been receiving a lot of attention from the international media. However, the difference between this kid's show and 'Dick and Dom in da Bungalow' is that this not-so-innocent production appears on the Al-Aqsa TV station - the official television station of Hamas. Perhaps not surprisingly for a station run by the men that brought you such delights as the suicide bomber, a few months back Al-Aqsa TV caused controversy by blatantly nicking Disney's Mickey Mouse character, calling him Farfour and putting him (or rather a man in a Mickey Mouse suit) in front of a camera alongside young children to speak about the virtues of martyrdom.

Eventually even the people who run Islamic fundamentalist kids telly grow tired of persistent media interest and a decision was made to dispatch with the mouse. In a shock development Farfour was assassinated by an undercover member of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, something I'm sure Ziz and Zag never had to worry about. Just what would Palestinian children have to amuse themselves before they reached the age to blow themselves up on a bus in Tel Aviv?

Well, Farfour may be gone but it is now time for us all to say a big hello to a patriotic bumble bee called Nahoul. In the episode which I've included below Nahoul goes on a visit to Gaza Zoo. While there he kicks cats and swings them around by their tail as well as taking the time to throw some stones at a caged lion. The purpose? In order to teach children not to be cruel to animals. Suicide bombing is still OK though. It's just being unkind to little kittens. Bizarre:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Qahtaniya bombings: Not in My Name!

George Galloway on the Iraqi insurgency in an interview with 'The Guardian' in 2004:

"The Iraqi resistance will continue and intensify…The Americans are trapped: not able to withdraw and not able to go forward. We see that they control the heavens above Iraq but cannot control a single street in Falluja. America will not be able to withdraw to their bases, because the minute they leave the streets the Iraqi resistance will take over. The puppet security forces are no match for the resistance in terms of weaponry or morale…The Iraqi resistance have a right to defend their country against the occupying invader. They are exercising that right, with a considerable degree of success and I predict that they will continue to do that with ever greater success in the months and years ahead."

Now to this report from Channel 4 news which was posted on their website a few hours ago:

"Last night suicide bombers driving fuel tankers killed nearly 200 people just east of Mosul in northern Iraq. The Northwestern US command told Channel 4 News the death toll is expected to rise. Nineveh province is home to the Yazidi sect, a religious minority accused of devil worshipping by Islamic Extremists. The stoning of a Yazidi girl in May for converting to Islam captured on a mobile phone provoked the wrath of al-Qaida in Iraq on the community. They swore retribution and it's al-Qaida that the Americans are blaming for last nights attacks. But contrary to what the jihadi's are trumpeting, the US says it is evidence of an al-Qaida on the run. And with President Bush under pressure to show results - Iraq looks set to see even more bloodshed."

George Galloway's views on Iraq may be nauseating but for all his faults the man is not stupid. Why then does he insist on praising the actions of a so-called 'resistance' which seems more interested in slaughtering its fellow countrymen than American or British soldiers? How can Galloway and his followers claim the mantle of socialism when they are clearly giving their approval to a band of religious thugs that are bringing Iraqi society to its knees? Are they that stuck for genuine contemporary rebels in the 21st century that they will gladly throw their weight behind fanatical sectarian murderers that blow 200 innocent civilians to pieces because they claim that they are worshipping the devil?

Some of us on the secular democratic left have been accused of repeating ourselves on this subject but it is an argument worth repeating. We have a choice facing us: a democratic Iraq or an Islamic Iraq. Too many on the left are either intentionally or unconsciously paving the way for the latter. Although I may disagree with them, I have no animosity towards those who marched against the intervention in Iraq on February 15th 2003 under that bland and monotonous slogan 'Not in My Name'. What really troubles me is that so many of them may not apply the same slogan to what happened yesterday in Qahtaniya. They can still change their minds.

Finally, can you name the idiot that made the following statement?

"The Iraqi resistance does not target its own civilians. But the people that are being fought by the resistance in Iraq are the people that are working for the occupation."

It was George Galloway. Sort of obvious, wasn't it?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Who's in the house? Harris in the house.

You have got to hand it to Bertie Ahern, you really do. Even by the corrupt standards set in Irish politics the appointment of Eoghan Harris to the Seanad is surely setting new dubious precedents. Only weeks after his enthusiastic pre-election approval of the poor little man from Drumcondra on 'The Late Late Show', the former RTE guru now finds himself named as one of the eleven senators appointed to the upper house by the Taoiseach.

Love him or loath him (and most tend to gravitate towards the latter) Harris is a fascinating figure. During his appearance alongside Eamonn Dunphy and John Waters on that General Election chat with Pat Kenny he described himself as a lifelong Fine Gael supporter. Really Eoghan?

Born in Cork he started out life as a run-of-the-mill republican before helping to ideologically shape The Workers Party into the most potent force ever to emerge to the left of Labour. During this period Harris and a number of other Stickies were supposedly exercising a considerable degree of influence inside RTE. Harris and the Sticks parted company in 1989 after his pamphlet 'The Necessity of Social Democracy' was not well received by Garland, Goulding, MacGiolla and the rest of the WP politburo. After his pronouncement of the death of socialism he ended up chums with John Bruton and an advisor to the Fine Gael camp. Following his time with FG his advice was sought by David Trimble and the Ulster Unionist Party and in 2003 the one-time republican addressed a UUP conference in Belfast. Prior to the General Election earlier this year Harris announced that he would be voting Fianna Fail. His view on all of this? You can change your mind as many times as you want as long as you are committed to changing your mind! Fair point. He made the same point in a similar fashion again in this interview with 'The Irish Echo':

"When the facts change, I change…I am like someone changing their seat in the cinema. I will change my seat in the cinema continually but watching the same movie all the time, and it is called the Republic of Ireland. I'm watching the same movie, it's just that I change my seat to get a clear view of the picture, and I'm not finished moving yet."

Exactly who Eoghan Harris will be supporting this time next year, next month or even tomorrow is anyone's guess. My own personal view? Believe it or not I was actually pleased when I heard the news. Even if you aren't a fan of the man he does at least have that Hitchensesque quality of being able to provoke people. And let's face it, the Seanad needs someone to brighten up. Who knows. Maybe 'Oireachtas Report' will be worth staying up for in future after all.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Which side are we on boys?

Human beings often have a tendency to hold on to various objects and artefacts for a long period of time. Even once it is clear that certain things are no longer of any use there is still a reluctance to let them go. Perhaps it’s a toy we received in our childhood. Maybe it’s a Valentine's Day card we got from our first love. It could be a ticket stub from a concert that you went to (I have a few of those lying around). Regardless of what it actually happens to be, the one thing you are conscious of is that what you are holding onto is something which is no longer of any value to anyone except for yourself.

Irish neutrality is worthless. People in the Republic are well aware that their neutral status is entirely meaningless. They are not stupid. They are under no illusions that their international status does not represent some remarkable principled stand. However, for some unfathomable reason there is no real demand in the south for it to be abandoned. Far from it. There is an odd affection for it. It is fair game in public to observe the ridiculousness of Irish ‘neutrality’ in the modern age, but make sure to draw the line of your criticisms precisely at this point. Dare to criticise it or even suggest that it be dumped for good and you can expect to be condemned for a crime bordering on treason.

But why? I can understand the adult that retains the teddy bear which they took to bed every night as a child or the woman that keeps her wedding dress neatly tucked away to remind herself of the day she got married. All of us are sentimental about something. However, the public attachment to neutrality is, at least for me anyhow, difficult to comprehend.

The first thing you need to know about Irish neutrality is that it doesn’t exist. In fact it never really has. It exists today only in the imaginations of the nostalgic Fianna Fail grassroots to give a veneer of ideological integrity to a party and a state which long ago jettisoned such archaic beliefs in favour of more beneficial and down to earth practices, namely economic growth. A quick glance at neutrality’s history shows just how often it has been ignored in practice by successive administrations, even those that proclaimed their pride in a supposed official adherence to a policy that is not actually mentioned in the text of Bunreacht na hEireann.

The first big test of the neutral status came during World War II. The newly independent state was still remarkably young when the Emergency broke out. Just twenty years prior to Hitler’s troops annexing Poland many of the men who were now leading the fledging Irish state had been conducting a guerrilla war against the British.

Attitudes to World War II in Ireland were complex. It would be convenient to be able to state that Éire (as it was then called) and northern nationalists wanted to stay out of the conflict while the Protestant north was fully in support of the struggle against the Axis powers. De Valera’s stated desire was to “keep our nation out of war”. James Craig declared that the men of Ulster were the “King’s men” and that they were with their fellow countrymen all the way. In truth things are not quite as simple.

The Reform Movement, an organisation that exists today to keep alive British identity in the Republic, estimates that approximately 70,000 citizens of Éire enlisted in the British Army. 70,000 - the equivalent of the population of modern day Galway. If true it would actually mean that more people from the independent south fought in His Majesty’s Forces than people from Northern Ireland. Even if that number is horribly wrong and, for instance, only half of that figure actually fought in British uniform it would still be a remarkable figure of participation by the citizens of a nation officially not part of the war effort. Either way, a lot of southerners played their part in the fight against fascism.

Irish republicans 'played their part' (to paraphrase that bafflingly bland quote from Bobby Sands) though not as they might like you to think. Nowadays republicans like to boast about their participation in Spanish Civil War and pose as the staunchest defenders of neutrality. They had a very interesting policy though back in the thirties and early forties. They said no to neutrality and yes to Nazism. The IRA as we all know now cooperated closely with German intelligence, particularly the infamous Sean Russell. Amazingly even today Sinn Fein fails to be ashamed by the memory of a man who was content to collaborate with the architects of the Holocaust. As recently as 2003 Mary Lou McDonald spoke at a gathering in north Dublin where a statue of Russell still stands today. I wonder if Mary Lou's French, Italian and various other comrades from the proud resistance tradition in the European United Left received an invitation to this little rally.

Speaking of the left they too split (no surprises there) over the question of the war. The Communist Party, which had helped to organise Irish volunteers in the International Brigades to fight fascism in Spain just a few years earlier, suffered a schism and broke into the Irish Workers League and the Communist Party of Northern Ireland.

Southern involvement in World War II did not just take place merely on an individual basis or as a result of political allegiances. For all his posturing de Valera did at times provide signs of where his true loyalties lay. The examples in this area are well known. Allied airmen crash landing in the 26 counties were permitted to hop across the border into Northern Ireland to link up with their comrades and rejoin the fight. Members of the Luftwaffe unfortunate enough to suffer the same fate were interned. When Belfast came under air raid on Easter Tuesday 1941 the Dublin government ordered fire engines from Dublin and county Louth to cross the border to assist with the operation of rescuing the beleaguered city. Finally, the Nazi's potential allies in the event of any invasion were to feel the full force of de Valera's wrath. Thousands of republicans were rounded up, interned at the Curragh Camp in Kildare and, in certain cases, executed by firing squad. Despite this, the young Irish state never did get fully sucked into the war. Not even a rumoured offer by Winston Churchill of a reunified Ireland in peacetime in exchange for the use of the ports in Cork and Donegal could shift old Dev. For once it seemed that something was actually more important than the dreaded border - neutrality.

Following the brave refusal to take part in the war against Hitler, the government in the Republic decided in the aftermath not to take any sides in the Cold War either. Clearly Dublin administrations felt that there was little to choose between Stalinist Russia and their enemies in the West. Or maybe not. You see, the Irish government did at one stage suggest entering some form of separate agreement with the USA in this era but this was well and truly rebuffed. The decision to stay out of NATO was arrived at, primarily though not exclusively, because of the continuation of British rule in the north of Ireland. As was so often the case in Irish politics major decisions were arrived at based on how they affected the question of partition.

In recent years neutrality has been eroded even further to the point where today to even pretend it exists should be treated as a joke in itself. The Irish government in 1999 expressed its support for NATO's intervention in Kosovo. Two years later it expressed support again for the operation to remove the Taleban from power in Afghanistan. Even when it came to the now legendary UN Resolution 1441 on Iraq the Irish delegation in New York voted in favour of a measure which specifically referred to the use of force against the Baathist regime.

Are you a pilot in the US Air Force? If you are there is a fair chance that you’ll have dropped in to Shannon, the airport in county Clare where American warplanes have regularly refuelled (they did so in World War II and have continued to ever since). As Daniel Keohane of the Centre for European Reform noted a few years back, by giving the Americans the use of Shannon the Republic of Ireland was actually doing more to assist the United States in the war on terror than a lot of NATO members in Europe!

At the moment Fianna Fail, the Labour Party, Sinn Fein, the Greens and virtually all of the left are in favour of retaining neutrality. Fine Gael is in favour of "questioning" it or "having an open and honest debate on it". The latter sounds like a party that realises the concept is a sham but doesn't want to lose the votes that might accompany such a decision. But voices in favour of ending neutrality have always been voices in the wilderness and they have more often than not been FG voices. Only one TD ever advocated taking the Allied side in the war against fascism. His name was James Dillon, a Fine Gaeler and, ironically, a TD for the staunchly republican border constituency of Monaghan (so republican in fact that one of his successors in the constituency, FG's Billy Fox, was shot dead by the IRA near Clones in 1974).

For all my criticism of the Republic's neutral status it is still worth asking if neutrality could be used to good effect - 'positive' neutrality as some call it. There have been some suggestions that a small nation like Ireland, with no history of any conflict with another state in its time as an independent entity, could play an active role as an 'honest broker' in the resolution of conflicts in various hotspots around the world. Another suggestion has been that the Republic could play a central part in negotiations regarding Turkey's future membership of the European Union. So, what chances for active neutrality? In my humble opinion, none. I for one do not believe that the current coalition would ever agree to undertake anything as imaginative and, even if they did, it would still leave the state in the uncomfortable position of supporting democracy but not really willing to throw its full weight behind the fight to protect it.

Before I go I'll leave you with this succinct and revealing statement. If you want to know where Irish neutrality stands in this, the first decade of the 21st century, read this:

"Ireland is militarily neutral, but not politically neutral".

Short and snappy, isn't it? Who uttered such nonsense? It was none other than the Tánaiste Brian Cowen. Militarily neutral, but not politically neutral. Willing to enjoy freedom and liberty, not willing to fight for it. This is a cop out of the highest order that damages the integrity of one of the most dynamic countries in the EU, or indeed anywhere for that matter. At best the policy is slightly amusing; at worst it is a display of moral cowardice of the worst possible type.

I am not one for wondering long and hard on how the deceased would have acted when faced with a particular situation, though to do so is common in Ireland. Whereas some feel it is legitimate and helps to prove their point, I would be of the opinion that it only displays the weakness of ones argument and is tantamount to emotional blackmail. If you're from this part of the world you will be well aware of the questions. How would Tone have acted? What would Pearse have done? What would Connolly have thought of your actions? How would Collins have approached this or that? Allow me to drop my usual self imposed barring order on this form of polemic to engage it just this once.

So, what would Tone and Pearse and Connolly and Collins and the men of 1916 and the men of the War of Independence and the men of principles on both sides in the Civil War have made of neutrality? Whereabouts does this idea come from that neutrality is important to the Irish people, that it is part of them? At what part of history was it decided that non alignment would such a central feature of an Irish state. And why do so many of us on the left baulk at the thought of ditching a policy not mentioned in the constitution? Who do we honour more: the great anti-fascist fighters like Charlie Donnelly of Tyrone who gave their lives on the battlefields of Spain in the fight against dictatorship or the Irish government that, like the rest of the world at that time, stood by while General Franco crushed democracy on the Iberian peninsula? Shirking its responsibility in the face of the threat of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and the other forces of European fascism is a shameful episode in the history of the southern state. No amount of historical revision should change that or attempt to justify it.

Sitting on the fence is rarely admirable. Spinelessness is certainly never honourable. Neutrality is dead. Even if it were still alive it could no longer be viewed as principled. It is time for the Labour Party and others on the broad left of Irish politics to stop their unquestioning defence of this relic of the past. It is time for Ireland, as a very celebrated patriot once put it, to take its place among the nations of the earth.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The life and times of Derek Beackon

Do you remember Derek Beackon?

Derek was the first member of the British National Party to achieve success at the ballot box way back in 1993 in a local council election at Millwall. Derek didn't become a permanent fixture in British politics though. First of all he was an idiot and could just about string two sentences together. Secondly he had an unhealthy fascination with Nazi Germany (please note: if you want to pursue a career in politics it is probably best to abandon any respect you have for the Third Reich). In the wake of his victory pictures surfaced of him giving fascist salutes at a white power event. Which was surprising because didn't really a look like a fascist, did he? A paedophile perhaps, but not a fascist. Anyhow, as a result of his lack of intelligence and admiration for the Holocaust he lost his seat at the next election and the BNP went back to the drawing board, ditching neo-Nazi loons like Beackon and embracing a more 'respectable' form of right-wing politics.

I sometimes wondered what happened to Derek but I never expected to find out, which was reasonable enough to assume. Let's face it, when a magazine or a TV show does a 'where are they now' type feature you wouldn't really expect a man like Derek Beackon to feature highly. But the internet can be used for some of the most meaningless tasks and tracking the career of an eccentric neo-Nazi ex-councillor from Millwall is one of them.

My question as to the whereabouts of Herr Beackon was answered in an article from a publication of the London Psychogeographical Association (an organisation wonderfully described on Wikipedia as "largely fictitious"). The headline reads 'Nazi Occultists Seize Omphalos'. It appears that Derek Beackon is now a "dedicated Nazi occultist". Confused? You will be. The full article lies below. Enjoy:

The election of Derek Beackon as a Councillor on the Isle of dogs caused shocked outrage across the Establishment. Beackon is a dedicated Nazi occultist . He graduated to the British Nationalist Party after serving his apprenticeship in the British Movement. Beackon is an adept of Enochian magic. Devised in the sixteenth century by John Dee, it was this magical system which laid the basis for the conjuring up of the British Empire. Like every other form of nationalism, British nationalism is a psychic elemental which drains energy from living people in order to maintain itself as a sickly caricature of life.

From his home at Mallon House, Carr Street, Limehouse, Beackon was able to tap into the powerful leyline running through his front room. This leyline is readily visible from the Observatory at Greenwich. It goes through the macabre Queen Anne House, and guided by the symmetry of the Naval College it crosses the Isle of Dogs clipping the corner of Canary Wharf complex before exactly passing through the tower of St. Anne's Limehouse. Then it passes Through Beackon's lair before going onto Queen Mary and Westerfield College.

This leyline has been in the hands of the Establishment for years. They used the Greenwich section for astrological purposes. Time and space are measured from here. The British Establishment have now gained universal recognition for their hermetic system. Meanwhile, the other section at QMWC, has been the centre of sub-atomic research. Thus Greenwich accounts for the macrocosm, while the alchemical processes north of the river account for the microcosm.

Many people believe that Greenwich is in fact the Omphalos--or spiritual centre--of the British Empire. However those with a deeper understanding of Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of land divination,will recognise that the actual Omphalos must be on the Isle of Dogs, protected by water on all sides. Those who visit the Mudchute--a piece of park mystenously built as an exact replica of an ancient hill fort will find a special staircase leading to a cobbled circle. This is the Omphalos, Ihe spiritual centre, where the Magus John Dee conjured up the British Empire in the presence of Christopher Marlowe, four hundred years ago this year. However, using the leyline for such evil purposes necessitated the sacrifice of a human life. A psychic attack on Christopher Marlowe and his friends in a Deptford pub lead to a brawl in which the famous playwright died.

In more recent years the Canary Wharf tower was uilt very carefully. It is in fact a column supporting a pyramid at the top. This pyramid serves to represent a much larger pyramid which would be formed if the lines at each corner were stretched down to ground level. This greater 'virtual' pyramid lies with its South West comer upon the leyline. The use of such street names as Cabot and Chancellor, and Churchill clearly show the intention to make Canary Wharf a powerful totem to resist the revival of German imperialism .Wren's name is used in deference to the architect who organised the building of the Naval College, and supervised the erection of St. Anne's tower as a U-Wave conductor. The building of Canary Wharf involved several human sacrifices, passed off as 'accidents .

However the British establishment did not think that the pro-German British Natiollalist Party would challenge them on this power line. But the BNP knew what price they would have to pay. Having conducted his obscene rituals to gain electoral success, Beackon fled his home fearing the negative Karma which would result. The BNP cynically pretended that he was in hiding from some unspecified allti-racists. Richard Edmonds, another cowardly BNP occultist was so worried he arranged for some BNP moles in thepolice to keep him out of harm's way locked up in a cell. However the karmic law is remorseless. Having used the power of the leyline, a human life had to be sacrificed.

As the principal culprits had protected themselves from psychic attack, another top Nazi occultist would be the victim. It was lan Stuart, lead singer of the cult band Skrewdriver. The offcial story is that the car he was travelling crashed, and that the two passenger in the back escaped befone the car became a ball of fire However the truth is that the driver succumbed to demonic possession before spontaneously bursting into flames.

The BNP may feel safe now that their demonic master has sated its hunger. But the BNP are mere amateurs at occultism when compared to the top experts who run the British Establishment. The more they proceed with their occult nightmare of ritualistic sadism, they more they become victims of masonic mind control.

The British Establishment is now using them to conduct an expenment on the people of the Isle of Dogs. Using the Island as crucible of social engineering, they want to test what role race riots can be used to prop up the decadent masonic system. If the experiment goes wrong, the island can be sealed off and the inhabitants isolated. If it succeeds, the state will have a new weapon in its arsenal of terror.

Already the East London Advertiser is running a competition where readers are invited to ring different phone lines as to whether they think it was right that the BNP were elected. This is simply another wing of the establishment experimenting with the Nazi impetus. We cannot expect the press to expose the evil of which they are in fact a part, albeit a different depanment.The same goes for the rest of the establishment, whether the police, the church, or the political apparatus. We can only move forward by having nothing to do with any of these evil organisations"

Well? My particular favourite line: "From his home at Mallon House, Carr Street, Limehouse, Beackon was able to tap into the powerful leyline running through his front room." Fantastic.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Can Gerry McGeough save Civilisation?

I’m quite fond of Gerry McGeough. Not fond of him in the sense that I like the man but fond in the sense that he provides regular unintentional entertainment without posing any sort of real threat.

By this stage I don’t need to give him any introduction. His name has appeared on this website now a number of times. Ever since he ditched the IRA’s armed struggle and cut his ties with Sinn Fein’s immoral leftist politics to help save Ireland by means of his staunchly fundamentalist Catholic publication ‘The Hibernian Magazine’, Mr McGeough has provided us rational thinkers with some moments of Pythonesque merriment.

Last month the crusading former Provo’s rag carried an article suggesting that the Harry Potter series of children’s novels may in fact be the work of the Devil himself, though as far as I know all royalties from the said titles will still go to Ms J K Rowling. Purchase a copy of this month’s magazine (which, by the way, bears a striking similarity to that ever-present symbol of national backwardness ‘Ireland’s Own’) and you can read a special article on the pilgrimage to Lough Derg, described by McGeough as “a spiritual reality check”. Reality? Gerry McGeough really should not be giving lectures to anyone on reality.

In my most recent visit to ‘The Hibernian’ website I came across a story entitled - wait for it - ‘Could the Latin Mass save Western Civilisation?’, or something like that. For those of you not au fait with the ins and outs of the Latin Mass I’ve included a neat little picture of the bizarre ceremony at the top left of this article.

I have an odd habit of popping around to ‘The Hibernian’ website now and again to see what Gerry and his RC pals are up to. To tell you the truth I actually respect him in a way. At least he is true to his beliefs, unlike the lily livered a la carte Catholics that dominate modern day Ireland. And as he actually believes in Church teaching right down to the very letter he does give us a lot of great comedic material:

Oh, visit the site today and read Martina Caffrey’s article on Eternal Damnation. Woo!