Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mick Lally (1945 - 2010)

When I was a child I hated the sight of Mick Lally. Mick Lally meant Glenroe and Glenroe meant Sunday nights and Sunday nights meant I had to be back at school the next day. But Mick Lally was more than just a visual symbol of misery to a generation of Irish youngsters who had failed to do their homework over the weekend. As Michael D. Higgins pointed out this morning:

He was a consistent supporter of causes where rights were at stake, a native Irish speaker and he was at the forefront of development of the Irish language in an open and generous way. A supporter of socialist causes, he had courage and consistency in his idealism. Aisteoir de'n scoth. Fear lámhach ionraiciúil. Chara dílis. I ngach é de’s saoil is laoch atá caillte.

Lally was also an atheist who referred to religion as "codology", a word not used at any point in The God Delusion but which probably sums it all up better than Professor Dawkins ever did. Farewell, Mick. Tóg go bog é.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

There is a light that never goes out

OK, stop me if you think you've heard this one before: a yourfriendinthenorth blog post about establishing a Labour electoral force in Northern Ireland. Yes, I thought so. There he goes again, you say. Well, over the past four years the topic of the centre left (or lack of it) in the province has sort of become the raison d'être of this website and if you are by this stage sick to death of reading my increasingly frustrated tirades about the pathetic state of democratic socialism in this part of the world then it may be best you go elsewhere for some cheering up.

Kris Ballance's article earlier this month on the Labour Uncut blog provided a useful summary of the position the main contenders in the race for the party leadership hold in relation to contesting elections here in the oppressed and occupied six county statelet. Not surprisingly there isn't much to cheer about if you’re a supporter of the idea, save for the notable exception of one candidate:

Ed Miliband has said we need to be conscious not to disrupt the 'peace process', a term that hasn't been used in Northern Ireland for many years.

David Miliband's campaign feels we should discuss it with our 'sister' party the nationalist SDLP, who have no intention of ever being a cross community, non-sectarian party. Should this kind of group stop Labour progressing?

Andy Burnham has been the only candidate to come to Belfast and discuss this directly with members. He says he would trust us to make the decision ourselves on where/when to stand. The same approach as Scotland and Wales.

Only three there I know, but perhaps someone can email comrades Abbott and Balls to find out their views on the matter.

The longer the leadership campaign has gone on the less impressed I am with Ed Miliband. I would have much preferred him saying straight out that he did not support his party organizing in Northern Ireland rather than the pathetic excuse which he offered up. His reference to the 'peace process' is also telling. The peace process is over. There is no more of a peace process here than there is a peace process taking place in Scotland or Wales. How much time each week does Ed actually spend reading about the latest developments here? Well, I wonder. Not a lot would be my guess. The other thing which I found odd about his remarks was his belief that the 'peace process' could be derailed. How? Why? Because Labour candidates would be putting themselves forward for election? It is, to put it mildly, an utterly absurd idea to suggest that violence could escalate by the presence of Boyd Black or some such similar inoffensive individual's name on a ballot paper. Big brother David didn't do much better. He suggests talking to the nationalist SDLP about this issue, although quite what such talks would involve we can only guess at. What difference does it make whether or not an organization whose last socialist figures departed over thirty years ago wants to see a genuine left of centre party on their patch?

Fair play to that charming man Andy Burnham though. He has said that under his leadership he would leave the decision on the party taking part in northern elections to Labour members in this part of the UK. He also included Northern Ireland in his campaign, taking the time to hop on a plane and come over to speak with local trade unionists and members of LPNI about where he stood on the various issues of the day. His piece in last month's News Letter for the Union 2021 series was a worthwhile contribution, if only for the fact that he dismissed the significance being placed on the prospect of Sinn Fein First Minister by some of the more hysterical dinosaur elements of mainstream unionism. Regarding the party, he said that too often "we appeared dazzled by power, money and glamour" and that they "must get back on the side of ordinary people and focus on the bread-and-butter issues that face matter to them." No disagreement there. Out of the five contenders he comes across in interviews as the most genuine and down to earth; not as much of a programmed professional clone of a politician as David and the two Eds, not as crazy as Diane. And if his appearance on Desert Island Discs was anything to go by, he doesn’t have a bad taste in music either.

The downside to all of this is that it is highly likely the new Labour leader will be one of the Miliband clan. There is of course no reason at all to panic about such a prospect as I imagine both would be competent leaders. Indeed, if a political small fry like David Cameron can be Prime Minister (and an even more lightweight Nick Clegg his Deputy) then either of those two guys certainly can become top dog. The real loss will be to those members of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland who will more than likely face more years of being overlooked by London. The hope must now be that senior party figures in Britain, at a time when Labour needs every Westminster seat it can possibly lay its hands on, make the sensible move and launch a concerted campaign to win over eighteen constituencies which until now they have foolishly chosen to ignore.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not taking advantage when we should

A worthwhile read from this weekend's Irish Times. Paul Gillespie asks why in an era when capitalism is in such a mess that the left still cannot seem to get its shit together (though he doesn't use such obscene language obviously). Gillespie looks towards a place most others would prefer to look away from in the search for answers:

George Papandreou is an exceptional voice, coming from the inferno of Greek fiscal consolidation. Greek prime minister and chairman of the Socialist International, he called in an interview this week for a socialism that "above all ensures that democracy is never subordinated to markets" and a "fair, efficient system of economic governance that balances the need for sovereignty with the complex demands of monetary union in a globalised economy". That requires a new internationalism, another old value never more needed than in this uncertain global age.

While there is very little in the way of concrete proposals here it is still pleasing to see the 's' word back on the agenda after a couple of decades of 'Third Way' nonsense. In the past fifty years the people of Europe have been failed both by Stalinism and unrestrained free market capitalism. Democratic socialism has never made more sense than at the present time, but unfortunately right now democratic socialists remain in opposition in most major European nations. As long as that remains the case then all our talk of democracy and fairness and internationalism is of no worth. Tony Blair was correct when he said many years ago that there was no point in having principles if you didn't have power. Much of his era though was marked by maintaining power but not having much in the way of principles. The answer? Winning power while holding onto a firm set of socialist principles. It can't be that hard, can it?