Monday, April 30, 2007


Union falling apart as English want rid of the Scots

Oh dear, the Union is looking decidedly rocky right now.

Opinion polls at the minute have the Scottish Nationalist Party in the lead going into Thursday's Scottish election and, as if that wasn't bad enough for pro-Union types, a recent poll has shown support for Scottish independence to be much higher among the English than the Scots!

So it's not only in NI that pro-Union folks are failing miserably at promoting the benefits of the UK, but also in England and Scotland as well. Beautiful!

It may make for bleak reading for unionists but an ICM poll published in the News of the World showed 56% of the English surveyed believing it was now time to end the 300-year-old Union, compared to 41% among Scots.

The ICM poll revealed a majority of English oppose higher spending on Scottish households and votes for Scottish MPs on English-only issues. English voters are also unhappy with the constitutional right of Scottish lawmakers to continue to vote on English issues at Westminster, whilst their English counterparts have no say on policies in Scotland.

The SNP have promised a referendum on Scottish independence if they win the majority of seats in the 129-member devolved parliament in Edinburgh.

The BBC's Mark Davenport has written an interesting article on this issue and what it would mean for Ireland's north and it contains the thoughts of the DUP's Gregory Campbell. This bit in particular made me chuckle:

"Although he prefers maintaining the union, the DUP MP hints that, in the very long term, maybe an independent Ulster could take its place in a future Europe of small nations."

Hmm it's almost as if anti-Irishness is at the heart of Mr Campbell's beliefs rather than a commitment to the Union. Fancy that!

Davenport finishes up his piece with a worthwhile reflection:

"But the combination of Scottish nationalism on the march and the English beginning to assert their slumbering sense of identity means that, in the future, unionists may have to come to terms with some changing political realities across these isles."

Absolutely right, Mark. This changing political reality will involve a move away from the United Kingdom and a move towards a United Ireland.

I urge the Scots and the English to follow our lead and to put that pathetic political entity, built upon bloodshed, deceit and greed, out of its damn misery forever.


Election set for May 24th

Well by now I'm sure you've all heard the news that the General Election will take place on May 24th.

It's set to be the tightest election in years and will prove to be a defining moment for the country. So many questions are yet to be answered...

Can Fianna Fáil make it to the election without another scandal?

Will Michael McDowell make any more Nazi references?

How many drinks will Martin Ferris have over the next few weeks?

Are we really going to end up with a Taoiseach from Mayo?

Should make for an interesting couple of weeks.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Harry farce highlights British inequality

I must say I have found the talk of whether or not Britain's Prince Harry should serve in Iraq to be a pathetic matter of concern indeed.

In my mind the very fact that this is seen as an issue right now in Britain is indicative of the "They matter more" attitude so prevalent in British society.

There is absolutely NO good reason why Harry should be made exempt from serving in Iraq. He is a soldier and it is his job. End of story.

What message would it send out to the rest of the British troops in Iraq if this guy was allowed to avoid serving on the front line? Is royal blood more important than the blood of other Britons?

Christina Scott, whose son is serving in the RAF, made the same point:

"It's part and parcel of the job so why should he be any different?"

Exactly. If it's not acceptable for him to be there then it's not acceptable for any of them to be there. The arguments in favour of allowing Harry to avoid serving in Iraq have been weak. Take this one from Michael Portillo, former Conservative defence secretary:

"It's clear that he could be a target, either for murder or kidnapping and if that occurred it would be a disaster for Britain."

Newsflash Michael: All British troops are targets for murder or kidnapping. I repeat the point - why is his life deemed more valuable than that of his comrades?

In my opinion, this sorry mess highlights why it is far better to live in a republican society, as I do, than some Animal Farm-like system of equality where all are equal, but some are more equal than others...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Words on Wednesday...with Catherine Murphy TD

Welcome to another edition of Words on Wednesday here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Having already brought you interviews with Labour TD Tommy Broughan, Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan and Independent TD Tony Gregory, I now bring to you another interview with a sitting TD, this time Independent TD for Kildare North Catherine Murphy.

My thanks to Ms Murphy for agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said let's begin...

What initially attracted you to political life?

I always had an interest in history and decision making. My Grandparents have taken part in the 1916 Rising. My Grandfather was interned following the rising. My parents were both committed trade unionists so there was always some sort of political discussion going on at home.

You are an Independent TD for Kildare North. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

The one thing to say is there is no typical day. When I am working from my Dáil Office which I do when it is in session, I work around my speaking commitments. I belong to the Independent part of the Technical Group so we divide speaking time, priority questions etc. When legislation is at Report or Committee stages depending on the subject matter I may make contributions. I deal with constituency issues, I also have a diary of events I have to attend and I will attend to press matters. I am supported in the Dáil Office by a Parliamentary Assistant and in my Constituency Office by a Personal Assistant. When the Dáil is not in session I generally operate from my Constituency Office. Constituents call and between us we deal with the issues raised.

You were once a member of the Worker's Party and joined Democratic Left after the Worker's Party split. I've read you were unhappy at the merger of DL and the Labour Party in 1999 which resulted in you leaving the party. Tell us a bit about this period.

One of the driving forces for me in getting involved in politics was change. I joined the Workers Party during a campaign on water/refuse charges at a time when we had extremely high personal tax rates and I felt the ordinary worker was paying more than their fair share. There was, I felt, little point in complaining if I was not prepared to get involved myself.

The Workers Party and to a lesser degree Democratic Left were campaigning parties where politics with a small p mattered, empowering people was a component of the political practice. I had hoped the political practice of the Labour Party would change with an influx of people from that tradition. Everyone who joined the WP or DL did so out of conviction unlike the Labour Party which would have much more of a traditional background. I felt I was investing too much negative energy with the mechanics of politics within the Labour Party particularly in Kildare and am more interested in focusing on issues.

If you could change three things about Irish society what would you change and why?

I feel we have been too short-termist in how we approach problems and we need to plan. Physical planning is not enough we need to deal with resource and logistics planning in order that we both anticipate problems and deal with them before they reach a crisis, for example we have a school place crisis, transport planning needs to be a central part of our communities just to give a couple of examples. We need to stop the system of crisis management and start to anticipate and plan in the real sense of the word.

I would change the Health System. We have a unique public/private system that has resulted in Health Apartheid.

Would wish to build to get to a point where we build communities rather than just housing units.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

In an ideal world I would like to see a United Ireland, I believe it should only occur by way of consent by the people.

Do you think there will be progress in Northern Ireland now as a result of recent developments?

Yes I am very optimistic about the future of Northern Ireland. There is a desire by the people of Northern Ireland for normality and peace. I believe the people have been ahead of the politicians for some time. There is no doubt tough decisions have been taken by the North's politicians and I salute them for that.

You recently had words with Minister for the Environment Dick Roche over lack of funds available to Kildare county council in order to improve the quality of Kildare's roads. Tell us a bit about that.

I tend to take an evidence-based approach to politics and have done some comparisons on the funding of local government. Rapidly developing area's like Meath and Kildare are playing catch up. Funding of day to day Local Government services comes from two primary sources, commercial rates and the local government fund (motor taxation is ring fenced for this purpose however Kildare is the biggest net contributor). While the argument was about rural roads it could just as easily have been about the need for traffic calming outside schools or footpath improvements in towns and villages.

Last month there was outrage when a man convicted of raping mother-of-three Mary Shannon was given a 3-year suspended sentence. What were your thoughts on that and does it concern you that these days criminals seem to be getting away with such soft sentences?

There is a lack of consistency in sentencing. Mary Shannon deserves great credit for revealing her identity and the circumstances of the case. Very few rape victims pursue the matter through the Courts, the example above hardly encourages others to do so. Clearly there is a need for greater consistency and that the punishment fits the crime. There have been calls for minimum mandatory sentences which I have grave concerns about.

From talking to your constituents, what are you finding their biggest concerns to be?

- Health i.e. waiting lists, hospital bugs.
- Education, finding a school place and large class sizes.
- Quality of Life issues such as time spent in traffic jams - need for better public transport
-Childcare from the point of view of it being affordable and assessable.

There is an election on the horizon here in the Republic. On what issues in particular do you think the current Government has failed the people?

They are a hands off government. There is no commitment to build a good society, the main focus is on a strong economy. While its obviously important there are funds to spend, its essential that what they are spent on fits into a vision.

With regards to your own Kildare North constituency, in 2005 you took the seat previously held by Charlie McCreevy when you won the by-election there. Are you confident that you will retain your seat?

I am hopeful. There is an extra seat in the constituency however it will be competitive like all elections.

In your opinion, who will be in government after this summer's general election?

It is simply too close to call. That is why it's an interesting election.

I notice unlike a lot of your colleagues that you run a website which is very well maintained and is updated regularly. Do you think websites and blogs have a significant role to play in reaching out to the electorate?

In my constituency it's important I get a good bit of traffic. Issues I have been focusing on, for example Unfinished Housing Estates, Management Companies etc. are of major concern to people in the 25-40 age range. There are a lot of PC owners in my constituency. I simply see information as part of the service.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now in your opinion?

I would like to think it would be less chaotic but still optimistic. We have an ageing population, I expect grey power will be in evidence.

What would you say to anyone reading now who isn't sure who to vote for in the next General Election?

If they're in my constituency, needless I would be happy to canvass for their support. Otherwise I can recommend a number of very good Independents who are good community advocates. Increasingly people are looking for those who are prepared to work for their constituency which seems to be replacing the traditional party vote.

What does the future hold in store for you?

I have no idea, a lot depends on the electorate. The outcome of the next election for example, if I am returned and hold the balance of power who knows?

Best of luck to Catherine in her bid to retain her Kildare North seat.

Previous interviews can be read here.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Happy St George's Day

First off let me wish our English friends across the sea a very happy St George's Day. Many of you are probably not aware that today is St George's Day which is no great surprise really. It seems that of the nations which make up the UK, the English are the only ones who aren't allowed to celebrate their national identity.

There is a great deal of hostility towards Englishness emanating from the upper echelons of British society who appear fearful that pride in the English national identity will lead to a surge in English nationalism. These days, the national group most stifled by Britishness are in fact the English.

In England, St George's Day is not a public holiday and attempts to make it one have failed. Interestingly, the BBC's Mario Cacciottolo and Victoria Bone today compared and contrasted the differences between how England's patron saint is celebrated with how Ireland's patron saint is celebrated:

"Everyone wants to be Irish on St Patrick's Day. It could be the "craic" or the estimated 13m pints of Guinness drunk worldwide on 17 March.

"Revelry, and often excess drinking, is the order of the day wherever you are marking it.

"This year in London, 100,000 people watched the fifth annual St Patrick's Day parade.

"The biggest party was in Birmingham. Nine days of events were put on this year and close to 150,000 people turned out for the parade.

"The same numbers are not expected to take to the streets for St George.

"In Dublin the festivities lasted for five days and saw 4,000 performers and more than a million people take to the streets.

"The official St Patrick's festival (the "Day" was dropped when the festivities began to last the week) was established by the Irish government in 1995.

"Politicians take the day seriously too. It has become common for the entire government to be abroad, promoting the country around the world.

"It seems unlikely Westminster will be deserted on Monday for the same reasons.

"Americans take Paddy's Day very seriously. In 2005 the Chicago River was dyed green to celebrate.

"But New York takes the crown for the biggest parade in the world, with two million people turning out to watch. The lights on the Empire State Building turn green too.

"The lights are also changed to recognise St David's Day. St George's Day is not on the lighting rota.

"Elsewhere celebrations are varied and sometimes bizarre. In Tokyo there is an Irish sports day and in Sydney a bachelor of the year award.

"Unlikely places like Montserrat and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador have the day as a public holiday."

It's a shame that the English don't have a day where they can really show pride in being English. I think the British government would be uneasy at such celebrations because they know they would go down a storm. The BBC today have a host of emails from English people regarding the lack of celebrations for St George's Day. Most people want to be able to mark the day. Here is what Alison Louis from Hertfordshire had to say:

"I think that English people should make more of St Georges day. St Patrick's day is seen as a day of festivals and fun, yet many of the people celebrating St Patrick's day are not Irish. English people should have more pride in their country. There is no doubt in my mind that St George's day should be a national holiday!"

I agree with her. Why should the English allow their identity to play second fiddle to Britishness? I always felt Morrissey's song Irish Blood, English Heart summed the plight of the English up pretty well:

I will leave any readers from England with this thought. If being from England is seen as a source of shame in today's Britain, if celebrating England's patron saint is seen as a source of annoyance amongst the upper-class British stiffs, if 'Englishness' has become a dirty word amongst pro-Union elements within the UK, then ask yourselves it worth being in the UK at all?

I say wave your flags and to hell with the begrudgers.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Government losing steam says latest poll

I came across this amusing image on Fine Gael's Bebo page and from looking at the latest opinion poll released today, it seems there's a lot of Irish people who share these sentiments for the current shower in Government.

I reckon this will be a very interesting election indeed. Has time run out for Bertie and friends?


Unify taxation in Ireland

Well said, Sir I was pleased to hear respected figure Sir Anthony O'Reilly repeat his call for taxes to be unified across the island of Ireland in order to help economic growth in the North.

Sir Anthony, chief executive of Independent News & Media, which owns The Independent and the Belfast Telegraph, said that, with a new Assembly and Executive about to take power in Belfast on May 8th, NI had all the right ingredients to become a major growth market - "with the exception of tax". He added:

"The inflow of foreign investment has largely passed Northern Ireland by. I strongly believe that a reduction in corporation tax would go a long way to redress the balance and open new opportunities for the local economy."

Of course this is a view shared by most across the island and the idea of lowering the rate of corporation tax and the North's political parties are expected to press Gordon Brown for the lowering of the NI's tax rate.

I welcome this proposal wholeheartedly. The lowering of the corporation tax in the North will do a lot to stimulate growth across the entire island.

More importantly, the sooner we bring about economic unity in the island; the sooner we can bring about political unity in the island. Let's make it happen.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Nuts for sale!


So you come here and spend time reading and maybe even commenting on what you find? Admit it, you're a nut for UI and so you need a nut jar or two from United Irelander!

Well, I can announce that these are now IN STOCK and just awaiting YOU to place an order for them. When you visit here in the future, you'll be able to eat some nuts from your own UI nut jar as you pound that keyboard, putting the world to right! You nutjobs you!

Here's the deal: It's €20.50 for one, but only €40 for two! Yes you actually save a whole euro! All profits go to charity - just kidding, they go to UI site maintenance! (cough)

This is a strictly limited edition run so first come first served. Because I am environmentally conscious here on UI, these quality nut jars must not be handled by vagrants, old folks or Cork people. Just wash 'em in the sink! (the jars, not the vagrants) So you're even helping save the Planet AND averting further global warming! Go you! All prices are plus p&p.

Here's what to do - place a firm order with me - just email me your details via my new email - and I'll get a final price inc p&p for you. Then once you have done this simply send me your requests and you're ready to go!

This is a first for me, I really need drinking money assistance, so please consider buying a few nut jars from UI - it's a way to help fund this big ball of fun.

So then, go nuts!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Irish team ranked above NI - undeservedly

I've said for quite a while now that the FIFA World Rankings are a farce but the latest one out today really takes the biscuit.

The performances of the Irish team under Steve Staunton have been some of the worst displays I have ever seen as a fan and yet, somehow, the Irish team has risen twenty places to 31st in the rankings. What the hell?

In related news, NI have risen 14 places to 33rd.

I never thought I'd say this but based on current form the Irish team really ought to be below NI. They have had some exceptional results and have played really well whereas we have just squeezed out results against diabolical opposition.

Oh and if you thought that was bad, England - who have been truly woeful - have simply dropped two places to eighth in the world. Eighth? England? My arse they are the eighth best team in the world!

Sort it out FIFA, you donkeys.

Monday, April 16, 2007


More gun carnage in America

I was very saddened to learn of yet another gun tragedy in the United States, this time in Virginia, which according to the BBC has left 31 people dead and 10 injured.

It is the worst campus shooting in US history.

Police have said there were two separate shooting incidents - at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a student dormitory, and Norris Hall, an engineering building. The incidents were about two hours apart and the police believe there was one gunman and that he is dead.

The BBC have a host of emails from eyewitnesses at the campus. Here's one from an Irish student called Nicola:

"I'm from University College Dublin and now on exchange in Virginia Tech. A murderer on campus on our first day here is as bad as it could get, this is unbelievable. Find it hard to believe that 20 people can really be dead. Sitting in dorms right now, waiting for further news. People starting to be released, seems worst may be over."

It seems like we hear about incidents like this every year in the United States. Some nutcase with a chip on his shoulder decides to get a firearm, without any difficulty of course, and then proceeds to murder numerous people before either turning the gun on himself or getting shot. It's madness.

Can you imagine something like this happening on a campus here in Ireland? I can't. Why? Because over here we don't hand out guns as if they were toys. They're not. GUNS KILL PEOPLE.

It is now time for the American public to cop on and seriously reform their gun laws. It is high time they dismissed calls for tighter regulations as some "liberal agenda", "leftist BS" etc. Get some common sense and realise that if guns weren't so readily available, tragedies like this would not happen.

Update: Latest reports indicate that 33 people were killed and 15 others were wounded.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Point Barrow worth a punt

I'm not normally a gambling man but ever since I was a boy I've enjoyed sticking a few bob on the Grand National.

Alas it's been absolutely ages since I've correctly predicted the winner but I'm hopeful my fortunes will change this year! The race begins at 4:15 pm.

United Irelander's tip? Point Barrow.

I think Irish eyes will be smiling once more at Aintree and my money's on the Pat Hughes-trained Point Barrow to steal the show along with jockey Philip Carberry.

It's a 10-1 shot and I'd advise putting a few euros/pounds on it.

Update: My bloody horse fell at the second!

The winner was an Irish horse though, Silver Birch, a 33-1 shot. Anyone shrewd enough to put a few quid on that will be very pleased today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Sanchez abandons NI and their fans

I must say I was very surprised when I learned Fulham had sacked their manager Chris Coleman, but the fact that the man chosen to replace him is NI manager Lawrie Sanchez seems to have come out of nowhere.

I have long had my doubts about his commitment to the "wee" fans of NI and it seems I was right to be sceptical.

Of course we have the typical guff coming from the IFA and Sanchez himself trying to reassure NI fans that he "remains committed" but when one reads between the lines it's clear his heart is not in his current job. According to IFA chief executive Howard Wells...

"Dave McNally (managing director) of Fulham phoned me last night seeking permission to speak to Lawrie.

"Lawrie then spoke to me himself asking what our view was.

"It is a short-term appointment, he has given another commitment to me with regards to seeing out his contract with Northern Ireland."

But why did Lawrie Sanchez want to know Wells' view if he is committed to NI? Could it be that the lure of managing in the Premiership takes precedence over managing 'Norn Iron'? Obviously. Wells added:

"Fulham have also given me a commitment that this is an appointment until the end of the season.

"If circumstances change they will want to discuss things further with us."

In other words NI fans, you better pray Sanchez proves a flop at Fulham otherwise he's outta here!

Anyone who follows football knows how this sort of thing works. Sanchez will dip his toes into the waters of top-level management and will soon want to abandon the morass that is the NI set-up. And you NI fans thought things were going so well!

I think Chris Coleman was doing a good job at Fulham and that the club should have shown more faith in him. Yes the team has had a miserable run of late but I think they should have got behind him. Sanchez hasn't got much time to save Fulham and he is an unknown quantity in the Premiership.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out. NI fans though find themselves faced with a dilemma. Do they hope for Sanchez to fail at Fulham so he can remain their manager, or do they support him at Fulham knowing that a successful spell will mean the end of his tenure in Belfast?


The Blogger Code of Conduct? Get real

You a fan of conformity? All those rules and regulations? No? Well then you'll be as disturbed as I am at the dumb idea doing the rounds to implement a "Blogger code of conduct".

I'm not particularly interested in the reasoning behind all of this but I understand it stems from some blogger getting threats from someone on her site. Now as bad as that is, it seems some nerds have too much time on their hands as they think it would be a swell idea to bring about a code of conduct for bloggers to advise them on what comment policy they should have on their sites. Apparently this is aimed at the Forrest Gumps of the world who don't happen to possess a thing called "common sense", then again common sense seems to be sadly lacking in the loons who came up with this idea.

Blogs are private sites. It's up to the blogger to determine what is and what isn't acceptable. Blogs don't even have to have comments and that might suit people who dislike having to do the odd spot of moderating and dealing with the morons of the world.

What a genius idea!

Twenty Major has been covering the situation and he linked to some ideas put forward by a site called O'Reilly radar. I'm not sure what this site is about but some of the suggestions by Mr Tim O'Reilly make me laugh. There's 7 in all and I thought I'd highlight them and the thought-process (or lack thereof) behind all of them...

1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.

"We don't usually get inflammatory comments on Radar, but in the past, when they've occurred, we've tended not to delete them, lest we be accused of censorship. But in future, we're going to adopt a policy of deleting comments that are ad-hominem, insulting, or threatening to any individual. I'd like to see other bloggers do the same. "

Can you imagine if I deleted all ad hominem comments here on United Irelander? It would probably end up with me talking to myself. Nah, actually it would end up nobody talking full stop. Everyone engages in the odd bit of "ad hominem". Part of being a blogger is being a site moderator too. Telling people to take responsibility for comments is surely stating the obvious? If anyone acts the clown and detracts from an issue then sort it out. It's not rocket science.

2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments..

"Explicit labeling of "danger zones" is probably not going to take off (I can't imagine sites labeling themselves "flaming encouraged"), but the idea of sites posting their code of conduct might gain some traction given some easily deployed badges pointing to a common set of guidelines"

Badges? What is this, the Brownies? Here's a thought Tim - simply deal with the abusive comments.

3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments

"When people are anonymous, they will often let themselves say or do things that they would never do when they are identified. There are important contexts in which anonymity is important, for example, for political speech in repressive regimes. But in most contexts, accountability via identity changes how people behave."

The most recent case I had to deal with of someone acting a wally on UI was from a guy posting under his real name, so there goes that theory. If there's nothing wrong with an anonymous comment why delete it? Seems stupid.

4. Ignore the trolls

"Sometimes you need to stand up to bullies, but at other times, the best thing to do is to ignore them. As one person advised me long ago when I got in a public tussle with a blog bully, "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it."

Whoa, another great point Tim. And who would have thought wrestling with a pig would be a bad idea? I'm learning so much!

5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.

"Written comments in a public forum are a really terrible way to have an emotionally charged discussion!"

You should check out my site someday Tim! But take the conversation offline? Find an intermediary? Yeah I can really see that working. Tea and biscuits anyone?

6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.

Damn Tim, and I thought the previous ideas were stating the obvious. Here's a great quote though:

"if you know someone who has anonymously published comments that could be construed as a threat, you owe it to them, to their victim, and to yourself, not to remain silent. If there is no actual threat, you need to convince the perpetrator to apologize"

Apologize? Is this guy for real?

7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.

So I can't write 'LOL' anymore? But here's the quote of the century right here folks. Get a load of this bad boy...

"The next time you're tempted to vent your anger or frustration online, imagine you're talking to your mother."

Say what?! He seriously expects me to do that? I like to think I have a pretty good imagination but not even I can imagine my mother as a bloody unionist.

Best comment ever though comes from 'thickslab' on big Timmy's thread:

"Could this possibly be any fucking stupider? There are already things called laws that are supposed to prevent death threats and harassment. This is just more stupid navel-gazing by tech-obsessed nerds with little or no connection to the real world."

God help the day when wisdom as exemplified above becomes a bannable offence on blogs!

What do you guys reckon? Should I start a code of conduct here on United Irelander? What would that involve I wonder? I'd be curious to hear your suggestions.

My take on it? To paraphrase a notable sporting quote, blogging is a simple thing made complicated by stupid people.


Humanity sinks to new depths

I came across this video recently on Youtube, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, which highlights the annual massacre of dolphins that takes place in Japan.

It makes for difficult viewing but I'd urge you to watch it anyway...

I'm disgusted and outraged by this. It's obscene what we we humans are doing to this world.

May future generations forgive us...

Monday, April 09, 2007


Remember the brave...

First things first I hope you all had an enjoyable Easter Sunday.

Easter is a very important time for Christians but it is also of huge significance both historically and culturally to the people of Ireland.

For it was on Easter Monday, 91 years ago, that members of the Irish Volunteers (and IRB), as well as the Irish Citizen Army, stood up to the British imperial tyrant and struck a blow for Irish freedom.

The second city of empire was the scene for the reawakening of the Irish national spirit which had been left dormant for so long.

I have spoken before here on United Irelander of my pride and gratitude to the men and women of 1916, whose courage and self-sacrifice is responsible for people like me being Irish citizens today.

To me, the 1916 Rising epitomises Irishness in a way that no other event in history does because the Rising epitomises defiance. To think of the Rising as a singular event is to do it a disservice. One must take into account everything that went before it. The British invasions, Irish people being killed and having their land taken, the Penal Laws and the suppression of religious freedom, the erosion of Irish culture bit by bit, the Famine and the heartless response of the British, the demand for Home Rule which was denied for so long. Not forgetting the threat of partition. This was the real legacy of British rule in Ireland.

The Irish were looked upon as a joke. Depicted as animals in the British satirical magazine Punch, we were seen as an untrustworthy, filthy, backward race who lacked the ability to look after ourselves.

The Irish were depicted as apes

But not all Irish people accepted this as their fate. Attempts were made to safeguard and nurture Irish culture. The voices crying out for Irish freedom who had been silenced so many times were about to cry out one more time. They were about to cry out on Easter week in 1916. And the whole world would hear them.

The British of course highlighted how out of touch they were with Irish opinion by showing no mercy and executing the rebel leaders. Incidents like Joseph Plunkett marrying his fiancée Grace Gifford hours before he was to be killed, and the barbaric execution of James Connolly (who was carried in on a stretcher to a courtyard in the prison, strapped to a chair because he was too weak from his wounds to stand and then shot) caused outrage amongst the Irish people.

The 1916 Rising made the Irish people realise that Ireland needed to get away from the British. It was the point when the Irish people finally realised that Home Rule within the UK was not the answer to Ireland's woes. It was not enough.

From a military standpoint the revolt was a failure but its success stemmed from the imprint it left on the psyche of the Irish people. No more would the Irish people have to bend to the wishes of the Tories and their friends in the Ulster Volunteer Force. Now the Irish people were going to fight for their national rights. They were going to fight for self-determination. Patrick Pearse summed this up perfectly at his court-martial on the day before his execution:

"We seem to have lost. We have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past, and handed on a tradition to the future."

That tradition would continue to grow and was expressed in the 1918 General Election when the separatist Sinn Féin party effectively wiped out the Home Rulers and became the largest party in Ireland. Sadly, the British did not respect the result and British troops remained in Ireland. This led to the British occupying forces having to be removed by force.

It is clear that the Irish state owes its existence to the events of Easter week in 1916 and I would urge you all to reflect today on the heroics shown by those men and women 91 years ago.

Let us remember.

If you missed out on the Easter Rising theme on United Irelander for the 90th anniversary celebrations last year, you might enjoy taking a look back at this post which covers a lot of the key events.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Today in History - Flags and Emblems Act

It was on this day, 6th of April, 1954, that The Flags & Emblems Act, an act of the Northern Ireland parliament, was passed in NI which legislated against interference with the Union Jack and effectively prohibited the display of the Irish tricolour in the North.

The Act gave the sectarian Royal Ulster Constabulary the right to remove any flag or emblem which it deemed likely to cause a breach of the peace.

As it safeguarded the Union Jack, disputes erupted around the time of the British monarchy's coronation celebrations when British flags were erected in nationalist areas against the wishes of the inhabitants.

The reason why I think this is an important event to reflect upon is because today also happens to be the birthday of one Ian Paisley. In 1964, ten years on from the appearance of this act, it was Ian Paisley who was at the centre of the most notable event involving the enforcement of this act. Incensed that the Republican Billy McMillen had placed an Irish tricolour in his election office in the Lower Falls area, Paisley threatened the RUC warning them that if the flag was not removed, he and his supporters would march on the office and remove it themselves.

Unsurprisingly, the RUC, armed to the teeth with rifles, stun-guns, batons and crowbars, smashed down the doors of McMillen's election HQ and removed the tricolour. The following day the IRA replaced the flag in the window and police attacked a crowd of unarmed citizens who had gathered to support McMillen.

It's hard to believe that the man who was laughing and joking with the Taoiseach the other day was the same man who, in 1964,organised a riot purely because of a symbol that he did not support himself.

You've not got a flag around have ye?
Hide your flag Bertie!

The Irish tricolour's symbolism involves the white (representing peace) at the centre of the green (Catholics) and orange (Protestants) so you can just imagine the pathetic scenes as the RUC stormed into that election office to rip that piece of cloth from the people inside. One especially wonders what Paisley would have done to that flag had he got his hands on it. I bet he would have burned the thing.

You can picture him and his merry band of bigots cheering and applauding as the harmless bit of material disintegrated into a clump of ashes. Some of them would have stomped on the remains. Some perhaps would have spat on it. Totally clueless the lot of 'em.

What the bigots didn't realise then is that the flag itself is irrelevant. It's the message which is important. You can burn one flag, one hundred flags, one thousand flags, but the message contained in that flag's make-up is something that cannot ever be turned to ash and dust. That message is this - that Catholics and Protestants should live together as one.

That is why the tricolour returned to that office. That is why the British government in 1987 repealed the stupid, sectarian act. That is why tricolours continue to fly across the North - we the Irish people will not be suppressed. Not now, not then, not ever.

I'm sure 'Big Ian' will receive many fine presents on this day. Many grand gifts befitting a man of his stature. Some clothes. Some cards. Some cutlery. Maybe even some champagne. All fine gifts, all to his satisfaction I'm sure.

What would I give him though? I'd give him three things - a tricolour, a lighter and a note saying the following...

"Burn away Big Man. We've got plenty more where that came from."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Caption Time

Seems like the remarkable moments just keep on coming.

We're told that this picture taken today in Dublin marks the first time Ian Paisley and the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have ever shaken hands.

Can you come up with a caption to commemorate this historic event?


Words on Wednesday...with Tony Gregory TD

Welcome to this week's edition of Words on Wednesday here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Continuing the General Election theme here on UI, taking my questions this week is Independent TD for Dublin Central Tony Gregory.

My thanks to Mr Gregory for taking my questions at what must be a busy time for him. With that out of the way let's begin...

What initially attracted you to political life?

Social inequality in Ireland.

You are an Independent TD for Dublin Central. What would be a typical day in your life?

It really would take a couple of pages to answer this. Ask my secretary!

If you could change three things about Irish society what would you change and why?

The 2 tier system in (i) Education (ii) Health. The tax system to create greater equity.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

That it is now less achieveable in the short-term.

Crime seems to be much more of a problem now in Dublin than ever before. Should Michael McDowell be held accountable for this growth in criminal activity?

Successive governments should be held accountable including Mr. McDowell.

Another major issue in the country right now is the current health crisis. What do you think needs to be done to help matters?

End the 2 tier system. Access should be based on medical need alone.

With regards to the upcoming election here in the Republic, how significant do you think Independents like yourself will be in the shaping of the next government?

Politics is a numbers game so it depends on the way the numbers stack up. It's a crystal ball question.

Another important vote to be taken this year relates to the proposed referendum which will seek to put the rights of children into the Constitution. Your thoughts on that?

Will it contribute to cherishing all the children of the nation equally - I doubt it.

Back in the 1982 General Election you gained much attention through the so-called "Gregory Deal" in which you backed Fianna Fáil's Charles Haughey in return for funds for your constituency. What was going through your mind at that time?

How best to use the situation to reverse the neglect of decades in the north-inner city and other similarly disadvantaged areas.

How do you think history will judge Charles Haughey?

I'll leave that where it belongs - with the historians.

With regards to the North of Ireland, what needs to be done to improve the situation there?

Britain must declare its long-term/short-term intention to get out.

You yourself are a former secondary school teacher. What is your take on the way Irish should be taught in secondary schools?

Much greater emphasis on the spoken language and its cultural value.

To return once more to the forthcoming election, opinion polls seem to suggest that the Irish public aren't sure about the alternative offered by Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte. Do you feel this country would benefit from stronger opposition parties?

Labour and Fine Gael should amalgamate into a Social Democratic Party since that's what they both are. The left should form a new Party.

From talking to your constituents, what are you finding their biggest concerns to be?

Health, Crime, House Prices, Education - care of the elderly, environmental issues, youth facilities - the list is endless.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now?

Should be a united, more socially equal society - but unlikely.

Would you care to make a prediction on how the Election will go this summer?


What does the future hold in store for you?

That's in the hands of the people in Dublin Central.

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following:

Bertie Ahern - Chancer
Tony Blair - Phoney
Ian Paisley - Sack-cloth and ashes
Gerry Adams - Steak Knife
Michael McDowell - Failure
United Ireland - Disenchantment
Fianna Fáil - Chancers
Fine Gael - Anachronism
Hung Dáil - Independents
Tony Gregory - Independent

Best of luck to Tony in his bid to retain his Dublin Central seat.

Stay tuned to United Irelander for future interviews. Previous interviews can be found here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Britain marks retaining Las Malvinas

I've listened intently over the last few days to views expressed on the conflict which occurred in Las Malvinas exactly 25 years ago.

The Malvinas War (sometimes called the Falklands War) took place when the Argentinian dictatorship sought to reclaim what was, unquestionably, Argentinian land in an effort to divert attention away from the country's poor domestic record.

This gave Margaret Thatcher the chance to divert attention away from her own country's poor domestic record, and, flying the flag of political opportunism liberty, she was able to salvage her position in power when 'Britannia' emerged victorious after pulverising the smaller, weaker nation into insensibility.

I think every red-blooded Irishman can sympathise with the plight of the poor Argentinian people. Not having ownership of land which is undoubtedly theirs is something we here in Ireland can certainly relate to. A child can figure out that the Malvinas are the rightful property of the Argentinians and not some country half-way round the bloody globe.

It was somewhat encouraging earlier this week to hear British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett express "continuing regret" over the deaths on both sides in 1982, but then Mr Blair came out with some dubious claims to say the least on the conflict. Blair said Thatcher's decision to go to war took "political courage" and was "the right thing to do". I wouldn't say that at all, Tone.

I have the utmost sympathy with the Argentinian people on this complex matter. While much is spoken of the terrible actions of the military junta (rightfully so), no one seems to being up the conflict quite a bit before that - the British invasion of the islands in 1833 - when their greed drove them to seize the land for themselves. Nah, can't bring that up. Wouldn't want to complicate the simplistic representation of history where brave Britannia brings peace and happiness to those filthy savages elsewhere.

Most British people didn't even know where the Malvinas were located prior to the 1982 conflict, some probably still don't, and yet people had to lay down their lives so Britain's colonial record could be maintained. I feel sorry for the British and Argentinian personnel who had to die needlessly in the war. Don't just blame the Argentinian dictatorship for the fighting, blame Britain's colonial legacy which is steeped in the blood of a plethora of nations. Blame their refusal to negotiate a peaceful solution to the problem.

It's pretty revolting that the British see fit to cling tightly to these islands off the coast of Argentina and claim they are doing so as a matter of principle. Oh how noble!

This is British territory?

This seems to be standard British policy when it comes to colonies. Invade land, kill or drive out the occupants, fill it up with settlers and then block any attempts for the land to be reclaimed by the original owners by arguing that it's not what the locals want! Pure Machiavellian genius, don't you think?

Listening to Blair prattle on about the virtue of the whole stinking mess I had a right good chuckle at this particular piece from the British PM:

"I think there was a principle at stake which is that... a land shouldn't be annexed in that way and people shouldn't be put under a different rule in that way."

Wow. Hilarious on so many levels.

If one looks around the globe one sees the legacy of Britain's colonial history and the misery which has resulted from Britain annexing land in disgraceful fashion and putting people under a different rule. Ireland, Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan, Iraq, much of Africa, Gibraltar, to name but a few places. And yet they have the audacity to lecture Argentinians on their relationship with the islands? You couldn't make it up.

No one seems to want to listen to the Argentinian perspective which is a damn shame. Malvinas veteran Edgardo Esteban wrote about his experiences in a book 'Illuminated by Fire' which has been made into a film, shown in Argentina and Britain, and he gave his thoughts on the islands:

"When you talk about Argentina you talk about Eva Peron, Gardel, Maradona and tango.

"For us the Malvinas is part of that identity, it is a symbol, we learn about it at school from a very young age.

"There is no town, no matter how small, that hasn't got a monument, a street, a square or a school called Islas Malvinas, or Malvinas Argentinas."

And you can find a comment left here on United Irelander a few days ago by an Argentinian girl called Celeste offering another side of the story which is worth reading too. In her own words:

"The Malvinas are Argentinian, not only because it is officially known but also because of the geographical characteristics (as I studied them at school). I hope British once for all recognise our claim."

I also hope they recognise the claim and that they give the Argentinians a say in the running of the islands.

The Argentinians have been through enough and they deserve to finally have some happiness. The British should enter into talks with Argentina in an effort to solve the problem once and for all.

God only knows why a country would want to cling on to territory when it doesn't regard it as being part of its nation.

25 years on and that position is still a disgrace, whatever way you look at it.

Monday, April 02, 2007


SF wanted killers released to seal deal

I was very angry to learn, via the Sunday Independent, that Sinn Féin sought to make the release of the Provisional IRA killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe part of the negotiations which led to the power-sharing agreement reached last week.

Maeve Sheehan writes that informed political sources have said SF repeatedly sought to raise the killer's release with Irish Government officials to lobby for their early release. Their requests were refused.

Two years ago Sinn Féin promised to stop making their release a condition of advancing talks in NI due to the public outrage at the prospect of the killers gaining an early release. In fact, two years ago the four men convicted of Detective McCabe's manslaughter issued a statement apologising for the killing and claiming they did not want their release to be part of future negotiations.

So why are Sinn Féin chancing their arm now then? That's what I'd like to know. According to the Irish Government source:

"The bottom line is that Gerry Adams was applying massive pressure on the Irish Government to release the McCabe killers as part of the advancement of the situation in the North. The Irish Government not only would not agree but also refused to meet on that subject. They kept the pressure on and stood firm."

I'm not a bit surprised the Government dismissed the matter. To enter into negotiations on the release of these men with a General Election but a few months away would be very foolish indeed. Fine Gael and Labour would have had a field day. I'm pleased Fianna Fáil and the PDs told Sinn Féin where to go.

I have found myself warming up to Sinn Féin of late. It seemed like they were genuine about moving on from the dark days of the past. Yes their economic policies leave a lot to be desired but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it came to the peace process at least. However with this story coming to light it's apparent that the leopard hasn't changed its spots.

Sinn Féin know full well how the Irish public feels on this issue. They know full well that the Irish people want those men who killed a protector of the people to serve out a full sentence. And yet, despite all that, they were willing to utilise the precarious and fragile nature of the peace process to further their own ends.

They were willing to exploit the demand for devolution in order to protect their Provo chums. It's enough to make your stomach churn. You can just hear the BS they would have come up with to sell this to the electorate. "We're moving on from a conflict situation", "Let's be realistic - there's never been a better time to make this work", "We've all had to make sacrifices" etc. It would have been sickening. Bertie showed common sense here and I commend him for it.

I was unlikely to give Sinn Féin a vote in this summer's General Election but now I know I definitely won't be. I don't want people in Government who are willing to toy with the judicial process in order to help out their mates!

Sinn Féin have come a long way alright but they clearly need to go a long way too. The golden rule of politics is that the politicians are there to serve the people, not the other way around. I don't think Sinn Féin get that. And as a result they won't be getting my vote.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


'Irish team better than NI' - Healy

Well, well, well, it seems like some NI fans are going to have to dig in to some long overdue humble pie!

It turns out their golden boy David Healy actually has the same view on the team as myself, namely that the NI team are, despite what the world rankings say, still lagging way behind the Irish team in terms of skill and quality...

"No doubt we've come a long way in a short space of time but I think we all acknowledge that we've got some way to go before we can claim to be in the same league as the Republic's team for example."

Hear, hear! Finally some common sense from that lot for once! Here's hoping the NI fans, who have been happy to talk up their recent run of results of late, will reflect on David Healy's wise words. You're not as good as you think you are!

For more on the story see here.

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