Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ireland of the equals

Given that Robert Lewandowski only broke into a flat in the Tates Avenue area of Belfast that was unoccupied on Christmas Eve in order to avoid freezing to death in temperatures of -10°C, and given that the person who normally lives in the flat was actually sympathetic to the plight of the homeless 29 year old Pole who was recently made unemployed, one would have thought that perhaps he would have received softer treatment than would usually be the case. No. District Judge Ken Nixon, UTV informs us, said "his theft and wrongful entry was without justification" and he imposed concurrent six months jail terms for each of the two offences. And a happy new year to you too, Mr Nixon.

This is not, I should point out, an isolated incident. I know of one person who had his car broken into in roughly the same area of south Belfast at roughly the same time this month. After checking that nothing had been stolen and no damage had been done (they actually left an empty KFC box behind them) he decided not to report it to the PSNI. In fact, he felt a bit sorry for the poor shivering wrecks. At least there are still some people with a bit of decency in the race/religious hate capital of Europe.

Many will no doubt say that what Mr Lewandowski did was still illegal, which is of course true, but then this was not a burglary but an act of desperation to stay alive. Think of it as a 21st century equivalent of the theft of Charles Trevelyan's corn, though it is highly unlikely that Robert Lewandowski will have any such sickly sweet ballads penned for him at anytime in the near future. At least he wasn't sent to Australia.

That homelessness still exists in a fairly prosperous west European democracy like our own should in truth shame us. That it exists on an island which currently has somewhere in the region of 3,000 'ghost estates' with thousands of empty homes on them seems to me to be even more of an injustice. However, given that we live in a place that finds itself unable to keep the citizens of its main city supplied with running water, I wouldn't hold out much hope for a quick solution to the issue of homelessness anytime soon.

Its in the jeans

P. J. O'Rourke on the 'real' reason why Stalinism fell apart in eastern Europe:

The Soviet Union didn't collapse because of Reagan or Thatcher or missile bases or Star Wars: It collapsed because of Bulgarian blue jeans. The free market was trying to tell the Communists that Bulgarian blue jeans were ugly and didn’t fit, that people wouldn’t wear Bulgarian blue jeans — not, literally, to save their lives. But the Kremlin wasn’t listening, and the Berlin Wall came down.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Jessica Ennis woz robbed

I was going to write something about how Tony McCoy (I refuse to call him "A.P." in the same way that I refuse to accept Graeme McDowell has a Portrush accent) was an undeserving winner of the BBC Sport Personality of the Year award on Sunday night, not just because the man is totally devoid of a personality but also because he competes in something that can barely be called a 'sport' as well. Anyhow, Owen Polley has more or less said everything I was going to and has done so without swearing so its probably best that you read his little contribution to this subject.

Before you head off and read Mr Chekov's post I would ask you to mull over this: 293,152 people voted by phone for Tony McCoy. Overall that meant he took 41% of the public vote - almost as much as the rest of the field combined. I know plenty of punters who squander huge amounts of money each week on the horses yet even amongst them I know of no-one who would call themselves a 'Tony McCoy fan'. Neither do I know of anyone who has ever been particularly spellbound by the Moneyglass man's personality. So, just who were these 293,152 souls that reached for their phones and voted for Mr McCoy? If you were won of the near 300,000 that loved county Antrim's finest jockey enough to cast your vote for him in the SPOTY poll then please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section. I remain baffled.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

X is not Y

I don't believe I have ever before laughed at anything concerning the Communist Party of Ireland, however this piece below from the December issue of their newspaper Socialist Voice did make me chuckle. Still not as funny as Brezhnev's novels though:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Dunnes Stores Athletic Grounds?

Or how about the Easyjet.com Athletic Grounds (well, the colours are the same)? Either way, another little bit of what makes the Gaelic Athletic Association special has, for me at least, died with the news that the Armagh GAA County Board is to sell naming rights for the new Athletic Grounds in Armagh city. I suppose its not totally out of the question that in a few years we might start to see whole clubs sell their names, in which case I might just log on to the Paddy Power website and stick twenty quid on Red Bull Crossmaglen Rangers to win the 2020 All-Ireland final.

I never thought I'd laugh at someone's pension fund going tits up...

... but there's a first time for everything. I came across this little bit of information from Mick Fealty on Slugger this morning regarding the impact of the end of the Celtic Tiger era on Gerry and his mates:

The IRA had five companies completely ruined. They had built the companies up as pensions funds.
Those words were uttered in the House of Lords last month by Lord James of Blackheath, a Tory peer who said that he had been appointed by the Bank of England to deal with problems caused by the laundering of Provo money. Hard luck, lads. Good at bombing fish shops on the Shankill and shooting textile workers in south Armagh; not so good at running semi-legitimate businesses.

I wonder if photographs of these failed enterprises will make it onto the Republican Resistance Calendar for 2011?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Zionist sharks/Prods-only grit

Mohamed Abdul Fadil Shousha, the governor of South Sinai, has come up with a novel theory to explain the recent spate of shark attacks in the Sharm el-Sheikh resort. Are you strapped in? Yes, as you might have guessed, it's those pesky Jews again. The governor remarked that "what is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question." Igal Palmor of the Israeli foreign ministry responded by commenting that poor old Mohamed "must have seen Jaws one time too many, and confuses fact and fiction."

Well, Jaws was directed by Steven Spielberg. Steven Spielberg is Jewish. Spielberg has in the past defended Israel. Oh, let's see now. The shark in question killed a German tourist. You know, Germans, Nazis. All that stuff. And Egypt and Israel have had a few issues in the past. So, clearly the work of the Zionist devils.

On a separate note, I heard a more minor conspiracy theory developing on Stephen Nolan's Radio Ulster show yesterday morning. A couple of callers suggested that the roads in their areas were not being gritted in the current deluge of snow because, depending on what side of the fence they were on, they happened to be Catholic/Protestant areas.

Sectarianising grit. Politicising sharks. And, sadly, neither tale really surprises me.

The beast lives

Sarah Carey echoes thoughts similar to my own on why we should not be getting to excited by the recent opinion polls south of the border and how the FF monster could yet come back from the grave:

People give the populist answer to pollsters instead of the truth. The polling companies have to 'adjust' the results to account for 'understating'... Anyway, the 'adjustments' can never quite keep pace with the lies. Those swearing never to vote Fianna Fail again will make an exception for their local TD who is a grand fella. Or they’ll register their protest this time with Sinn Féin or the United Left Alliance (or the People's Front of Judea as broadsheet.ie labelled the motley crew). But they'll be back... They always come back – no matter how many times Fianna Fáil completely wrecks the country. And they do it once a generation.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

FAcking gutless

Had England succeeded in winning the right to host the 2018 World Cup we would probably now, or if not now fairly soon, be reading in the pages of certain British newspapers just how much staging the tournament would be costing the UK taxpayer (see numerous London 2012 articles for more information). However, things did not go England's way in Zurich last Thursday and ever since the whinging has taken the form of that which is normally heard from the British media in the wake of one of Royaume Uni's disastrous Eurovision performances; by that I mean nasty, bitter and just a wee bit xenophobic. Or as Sandwell's finest put it, "handwringing angst from a nation that just doesn't seem to know how to lose gracefully."

Now, don't get me wrong, I would have liked to have seen England stage the big tournament in eight years time. For a start, and from a purely selfish point of view, it would have been easy to get to for little old me. It's going to be a long time before I'll be able to reach a World Cup via a budget airline - unless Michael O'Leary opens Moscow, Rio or Doha routes out of Dublin pretty soon. For another reason, they probably would have deserved it. They have the stadia. They have the cash. They have the facilities. They have the biggest league in the world. They also have the tradition when it comes to the tournament itself (and since 1966, with the exception of Uruguay, all previous World Cup winners have staged the competition at least once).

But then one can't dismiss Russia as lightweights either. They undoubtedly have the cash to put on a decent show, they should have the facilities for it and they also have an outstanding history of their own in the sport. It was also something of a surprise to discover that, despite having hosted Olympic Games and European Cup finals and championships in just about every sport under the sun, the Russians have never staged the finals of a major international soccer tournament. Had England lost out to Qatar (who were absurdly selected to stage World Cup 2022) then a lot of the anger about the location of the competition would have been justified. However, they didn't.

What really grates on me is the attitude of the powers that be in English football to last week's big decision. I lost a lot of respect for the English FA (admittedly my level of respect for them was never all that high) for the way they handled the allegations of corruption in FIFA before and after the ceremony in Switzerland. The £230 Mulberry handbags handed out to the wives of FIFA executive-committee members last year I can overlook. Like the MPs expenses scandal, all that handbaggate proved was that when it comes to corruption the English have a lot of catching up to do with Berlusconi, Fianna Fail and the Burmese junta.

No, what disgusted me was Andy Anson's spineless description of the BBC as "unpatriotic" for broadcasting their Panorama show which highlighted corruption at the top of FIFA. Oddly enough, in the wake of Panorama and Thursday's decision, some in the FA were only too happy to talk about the need for reform in FIFA. Too late, lads. As far as I am concerned if you see an injustice but decide to ignore it in the hope that you might gain some short term benefit then you are as guilty as the perpetrators of the injustice. That is the position that the English FA find themselves in. When Andy Anson was letting the public know all about his disapproval of the BBC's decision to show their documentary on the eve of the bid announcement he lambasted them for dragging up information which had been in the public domain for ten years or more. Yes, a decade or more. In other words, before England even launched their bid. So, why did nobody speak up back then? This question was put to Anson by a caller to Radio 5 live's 6-0-6 phone-in show last Saturday evening. No clear answer was forthcoming.

Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror summed the whole fiasco up perfectly in the paper last Friday:

What cost us the tournament in the end was not that we said too much. It was that we didn't say enough. That is why all the people who criticised the British media for exposing corruption within Fifa should shuffle away into a corner this morning and hang their heads in shame. They should face the wall and stay there for a very long time – preferably until 2030, which is the next opportunity England has to stage the World Cup. Yesterday's decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively justified at a stroke everything that Panorama and the Sunday Times were trying to do. England did not lose the right to host the 2018 World Cup because of the British media. It lost it precisely because of the corruption the British media has been fighting against.

Well said, Oliver. A slightly less cerebral response from a slightly less cerebral element of the British media came from talkSPORT presenter Micky Quinn who suggested that Sepp Blatter have his head chopped off. As I said: nasty, bitter and a little sprinkling of, as it was referred to in Father Ted, the old racism.

If the FA and the media have any sense they should cut the "handwringing angst" that comrade Piper spoke of. Right now it is they that seem to occupy the moral high ground. Yet it should not be forgotten that senior members of the Football Association were for many years, as they admit themselves, well aware of just what was taking place in the higher echelons of world football's governing body. To that extent they must feel a little bit like people who voted for Fianna Fail in the Irish Republic over the past decade do at the present time; irate, but also well aware that they played a large part in getting shit on by those that they helped prop up. For ordinary working class Englishmen and women, those who live for and care about the game, the chance of seeing a World Cup in their country is gone for at least another generation. Perhaps they should have a word with the folks at Soho Square. Now may be the time to reform the International Federation of Association Football. It just remains to be seen whether anyone in the FA, or any of the other national associations for that matter, has the balls to speak up.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"Repatriate to Britain all of you who call it home"

John Winston Lennon. Dead 30 years today. Made some decent music with three other blokes in the latter half of the sixties. Never really cared much for their early stuff. An at best mediocre solo career. Held some nasty views on the political situation in my own part of the world. At least Ringo never wrote a song calling for the ethnic cleansing of Ireland's Protestants.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

You've probably heard this already but I'm posting it anyway

Given that the Culture Secretary is on record as saying that the Hillsborough disaster occurred as a result of football hooliganism, I'd find the use of the word 'cunt' a little bit on the soft side:

Monday, December 06, 2010

If I can shoot rabbits then I can hang Tariq

Had George Galloway been alive at the time of the Nuremburg trials one can only presume that he would have been one of the few people campaigning to save Göring, Ribbentrop and others like them from the hangman's noose. The reason I say this is because in an interview with The Scotsman newspaper, an article where he also describes the execution of Saddam Hussein as "an act of senseless barbarism", the former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow states his opposition to the death penalty issued against Tariq Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Ba'athist regime from 1979 until its fall in 2003.

According to GG, he is "very upset the Vatican hasn't done more" to save Aziz. When asked why Rome should go to the bother of trying to save such a high-ranking member of one of the 20th century's most vile dictatorships, the talkSPORT presenter stated: "Because it's un-Christian to execute someone. And because he is the most prominent Catholic in any Arab country." Un-Christian to execute someone? Really? What a pity Arnaud Amalric and Father Jozef Tiso, to name but two, were not made aware of this Christian detestation of murder. I also cannot quite understand Galloway's reasoning in how being a Catholic should let one of the primary public faces of a totalitarian regime guilty of genocide get off scott free.

Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu. Death to fascism, freedom to the people. The slogan of the Yugoslav partisans during their struggle against Nazi occupation in the forties. Clearly Mr Galloway has a problem with the first word of this slogan, though only it seems when its applied to fascists (when applied to Jews, as in the case of Hamas or Hezbollah, he does appear to relax his attitude a little). Aziz may yet escape execution. In one of those bizarre twists of fate that history throws up now and then, Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President and a Kurdish leader Aziz's comrades once wanted dead, is refusing to sign the former Deputy PM's execution order. Fair enough. Call me old fashioned, but I much prefer to see men of his ilk getting the Eichmann treatment. Death to fascism really should mean death to fascism.

Just when you think your opinion of Dundee's worst couldn't get any lower, he manages to outdo himself once again. One day he's speaking at a fundraiser for the antisemitic murder gang Hamas, the next he's appealing to Joseph Ratzinger to do more to save the life of a senior figure in Saddam Hussein's government. And to top it all off some people out there still consider George Galloway to be a socialist.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Some thoughts on the Donegal South West by-election

Congratulations Pearse Doherty. I never thought I would ever utter these words, but the Shinners really did deserve this one. Why? Well, firstly, Pearse Doherty was a likeable and eloquent candidate who came across well in interviews and appeared to have a genuinely sound grasp of economic issues, an important factor as this has been the area where Sinn Fein have stumbled whilst trying to make their big breakthrough south of the border. It also probably helped that the by-election came at the same time the IMF were arriving in Dublin. For years the Provos have been ridiculed by the mainstream parties as having an economic policy that would bankrupt the country; that argument is at the present time quite a weak one as, evidently, the country is well and truly bankrupt.

Secondly, and most importantly in my view, it was only Doherty and Sinn Fein who bothered their backsides standing up for the constitutional rights of the people of Donegal South West in going to the courts to force this election (not bad for a party that until quite recently didn't recognise Bunreacht na hÉireann and still refuses to refer to the state as a 'Republic'). So, good on ye, Pearse. I'll never vote Sinn Fein, but credit where its due.

Now, to the others. If I were a Fianna Fail member right now I would, to put it politely, be crapping my pants. This was one of their strongest constituencies in the state, so the fact that their candidate Brian Ó Domhnaill finished a dismal third could be a sign of things to come (alternatively, optimistic FFers could interpret attracting 21.3% of the vote in the worst week in their history as an indication that they aren't dead in the water just yet). Barry O'Neill of Fine Gael put in a fairly solid performance, though it is unlikely that Enda and co will be getting too excited by it. This was FG's first opportunity to see how the party had capitalised on the continuing car crash that is Fianna Fail. Unfortunately for them the result appeared to be more of a consolidation of their vote in DSW than a great leap forward. Of the independents, former Sinn Fein councillor Thomas Pringle recorded a very respectable 10% and 3,438 first preference votes. Sadly the same could not be said for Anne Sweeney and her oddball New Island Party outfit that only attracted a mere 133 votes. Bizarrely, Sweeney withdrew from the contest a few days before polling and called on her supporters to boycott the thing altogether. Strange girl. Finally, we come to the Labour Party. If I was asked to make a statement that sums up the Labour effort in Donegal South West it would probably be the following: oh dear.

I do not believe that the words to describe just how appalling a candidate Frank McBrearty was for Labour actually exist in the English language. He may actually be the worst candidate ever put forward for an election at any time, north or south (and, remember, this is the island that give us Mervyn Storey). Quite how an inarticulate, idiotic buffoon of his nature managed to be selected as a candidate in a parliamentary by-election for one of the big three parties in the Irish Republic leaves me scratching my head. However, that the organisation he was selected for was the Labour Party – my own comrades and the party now for the first time realistically in the running to potentially form the state's first left-led government after next year's general election – simply leaves me in despair. His last place finish should have come as no surprise.

One of the problems in Irish politics over the years is that the Dail has had far too many politicians who are not so much national parliamentarians as they are glorified county councillors. To describe McBrearty though as a glorified county councillor would be doing a great disservice to the many hard working and thoughtful individuals elected at local council level. His television and radio appearances were dreadful. All of them. One would have been forgiven for thinking the man was a character from Killinaskully. He had no ideas, no apparent knowledge of party policy, he was very often quite rude and at all times seemed like a man totally out of his depth. When questioned by interviewers he would run off some meaningless line like "I'm Eamon Gilmore's man in Donegal" or "the people of Donegal want Eamon Gilmore for Taoiseach" or "I'll fight for the people of Donegal like I fought for justice." Cringeworthy stuff. In one interview he appeared to think that a bond cost €8. In another he accused Pearse Doherty of being more concerned about people in Northern Ireland (a dig at Doherty's membership of a 32 county party as well as his refusal to appeal to people in the constituency not to do their shopping in Enniskillen). At times I found myself so embarrassed that I had to change channels on the telly or switch to another radio station once I heard him beginning to ramble. I once even sensed that poor old Pat Kenny was embaressed for him. It really was that bad. Next to Frank McBrearty, Jackie Healy-Rae would look almost Churchillian.

Had he been a failed candidate in a general election it would not have been so bad. In that case his pathetic figure would at least have been lost amongst battles going on in the 42 other southern constituencies. However, with the attention of the national media focussed on Donegal for several weeks, Frank McBrearty was, tragically, the face of the Labour Party in the Republic for much of November.

Perhaps the party should have stuck with the 73 year old election veteran Seamus Rodgers for just one more campaign. Seamus had in his time been a candidate in Donegal for Sinn Fein (pre-1969 split), Official Sinn Fein, SFWP, The Workers Party, Democratic Left and in more recent times the Labour Party. In his day Rodgers could pull in around 10% of the first preference vote in the constituency, roughly the same vote that McBrearty attracted. However, given that he would have been nowhere near as downright disastrous as Frank we can only guess at just how much better he would have fared. On the bright side, if one in ten people in Donegal South West are willing to vote Frank McBrearty number one then there is undoubtedly a good base there for a strong Labour challenge at some stage in the future – all they need now is a candidate capable of launching such a challenge.

In short, a good day for the Shinners. Everyone else will have a lot of thinking to do between now and the big election early in the new year.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010