Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photo of the Day

The snowy view from my window this morning

More Protest Pics

Below is a selection of pictures I took at last Saturday's Trade Union led demonstration in Dublin city center. It was the biggest most vocal demonstration I have seen in Dublin since the February 2003 march in opposition to the upcoming invasion of Iraq. 1% own 34% of the wealth. I dispute this figure, and I reject the claims of those on the extreme left who seem to think that the best way out of recession is to literally draw up a list of the 10,000 wealthiest people in the country and seize 50% of their wealth. I like this picture, it is taken from almost the exact spot from where the Free State Army shelled the Four Courts on the orders of Michael Collins in July 1922 instigating the Civil War.

A very clear and simple sentiment.

But just in case there was any confusion !

The iconic hapenny Bridge. A sign calls for a nationwide strike, something which I believe has caused division within the unions.

You can't beat a bit of political comedy. One poster which I didn't manage to take a picture of read, "We were supposed to get fiscal rectitude, instead we got rectal fistitude".

The new United Left Alliance is I believe a joining together of the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit alliance. Socialist Party MEP for West Dublin Joe Higgins is on the left of the picture. They intend to contest the general election in the spring as a unified political party

Trade Union leader Jack O'Connnor addresses crowds outside the General Post Office on O'Connell Street. O'Connor, as a main stream Trade Unionist was booed by many in the crowd during his speech because of his perceived weakness when negotiating with the government. It is typical union politics.

Most protests in Dublin culminate outside the GPO. As the headquarters of the 1916 Easter Rising it is a building with which the Irish people have a deep psychological connection. I took this picture from the top floor of Clerys Department Store on the East side of O'Connell street.

This image indicates the large crowd in attendance. The police estimated there were 50,000 in attendance, the organisers claimed it was 100,000. The truth was probably somewhere in between.

After the main speeched at the GPO, a minority of protesters held another demonstration a the O'Connell monument. A minority of these then went up to the Dail for a confrontation with the Gardai. A minority of these spat, insulted, threw bottles d fireworks at the Gardai. Here, masked men begin burning a picture of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The burning continues.

I shot this video below. The Gardai, in my opinion handled the situation exceptionally well. They resisted the temptation to respond despite the constant provocation. There were mounted and riot police in the back ground but they were kept at a distance. At one stage the dog unit was brought in but perhaps sensing that this intimidated the peaceful demonstrators, they were withdrawn quickly. However I was positive things were going to kick off Greek style as there were no signs of the militant minority calming down. I was fully expecting a riot to break out any moment. Then, when I least expected it, the regular Gardai rushed the crowd, split it in half, identified and arrested a handful of the troublemakers. A very tense situation was diffused.

Erin Go Bragh, My favourite picture from the Demonstration.

Monday, November 29, 2010

RIP Frank Drebin

The only man who truly knew how to stick it to the worlds worst terrorists and dictators is dead. Rest in Peace Leslie Nielson.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Erin Go Bragh

Erin Go Bragh, a very simple message meaning Ireland Forever.

I never intended for Gubu World to become a blog where domestic Irish issues would be debated. But with the reckless fiscal policies of the Fianna Fail government making international headlines and putting the future of the European project at risk, I thought it about time I addressed the issue. I attended yesterday's Trade Union led protest march in Dublin. Now personally I blame the Trade Unions as much as anyone for the crisis we are in. They were hardly putting the nation first all those years when they negotiated extortionate pay deals for their members from a government led by Bertie Aherne that was almost literally bribing the people (ie the massive public sector) for votes. In my opinion the union acted similarly to the banks, they did what was in their interests, not the national interest. It truly sickens me to hear them constantly invoke the name of James Connolly, a man who gave his life for the nation, the ultimate example of putting the country first. Leaving that bit of union bashing aside, I do of course share their anger and that of their members for the decimation of the public finances and the embarrassing and humiliating bail out all of which stem from a lazy government and Finance Department that did not monitor the banking system. News coming through tonight is that the terms of the bail out have been excepted. 85 billion with an interest rate of %5.6 is a colossal loan for a small country like ours. However I have faith in the entrepreneurial nature of the nation. The private sector will ultimately generate the growth to drag us out of this. If there is one conviction I am beginning to develop from all of this it is that government cannot run anything. Health, education, infrastructure, everything will be over budget and inefficient as long as gangs of solicitors, barristers and teachers who hold on to hereditary parliamentary seats continue to run this country with such spectacular incompetence.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Photo of the Day

A bronze statue in Swinford Co Mayo, commemorating the women and children from the are who were forced to stay at home while the men emigrated in search of work.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Korean Tensions

Well this is just what the world needs !

It seems clear to me that nuclear North Korea believes that it is now much less likely to be attacked due to its nukes. This explains their belligerent action this week with the shelling of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in addition to the sinking of a South Korean war ship in March. These attacks have really surprised me. I thought that North Korea which is the most oppressive country in the world was on the way out, the last Stalinist outpost in a capitalist world. But it appears I was wrong. I would imagine that the tension in Seoul right now cannot be under stated. The eight million citizens of the southern capital are a mere 30 miles distance from thousands of northern artillery batteries, not to mention the face that Kim Il Jong is now a member of the elite nuclear club. My fear is that some kind of internal power struggle in Pyongyang will result in a robotic character of some description ordering further attacks whilst he makes the case to his comrades that he should succeed Kim Il Jong. Because who knows where that might end ? I am beginning to fear that the situation on the Korean peninsula is not one which will naturally run its course as I previously though, but will in fact have to be confronted and dealt with. In other words, war !

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bailed Out but back off Myers !

It has been an exceptionally difficult week for my country. The economy has virtually collapsed. When the global recession erupted more than two years ago now we were more susceptible to it than most because of our property bubble. However we handled the crisis relatively responsibly by initiating spending cuts and down sizing the public sector. Unfortunately in September 2008 our Department of Finance made a catastrophic decision to offer a complete guarantee of the banking system. While we could handle our budget deficit, we could not handle the guarantee as the cost rose and rose into scores of billions. So this week we had to apply for assistance from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. This is a national humiliation ! Anyhoo, unlike the many loud mouthed punters on radio and TV I remain a proud Irishman. I love my country, as old fashioned as that sounds I love every corner of it. We will bounce back. I am convinced of this. The highly educated, motivated and entrepreneurial under 35's or "Celtic Tiger Pups" will drag us out of this over the next five to ten years. That's all I have to say for now on the economics of it all.

The main subject of this post is not actually the bail out but the circumstances surrounding the foundation of the Irish state. Given current events, many angry citizens have been ridiculing the nation and its history. Perhaps sensing an opportunity, controversial Irish Independent journalist Kevin Myers wrote the following piece during the week in which he attempts to de legitimize the foundation of the state in 1922. I like Kevin Myers. He is a gutzy journalist. He is famous primarily for three things. He was a fierce critic of the Provisional IRA campaign and remains hostile to contemporary Sinn Fein. He has lobbied intensely for the official recognition and participation of the Irish government and people in remembering and honouring Irelands dead from World War One. Thirdly and most controversially he is a historical revisionist who opposes the established version of events in Ireland from 1916 to 1923. I support Myers in the first two areas. I passionately disagree with him on the last issue and frankly, think his timing was tasteless. Below is the entire article.

GERARD Murphy's 'The Year Of Disappearances -- Political Killings In Cork 1921-22' is very properly causing a major stir. Even more than Peter Hart's account of the IRA in the county, this book is revealing the terrible horror that befell the Protestants of Cork.

Moreover, it finally destroys any claim that a non-sectarian Republic could have resulted from the violence of 1916 onwards. In a society as confessionally divided as Ireland then was, with the general Catholic-nationalist and Protestant-unionist divide, political violence would inevitably lead to sectarian war.

Yet not merely does this State still celebrate the 1916 Rising as if it were a fine and noble thing, it is planning a swaggering bonanza in 2016 -- just as the remains of this pathetic, broken Republic are divided up between German banks and Chinese property dealers.

I've been writing a dissenting narrative about this period for most of my life and the response has been for me to be largely ignored by Official Ireland.

No matter. I can truthfully say that I invented the entire subject of historical journalism for the period 1914-23. Yet despite my work on the Irish and the Great War, I was not (of course) invited to participate in Sean O Mordha's acclaimed television series 'Seven Ages'.

Indeed, my exclusion by the 'Irish Times' from its supplement to mark the 90th anniversary of the Rising was one of several reasons why I resigned from that newspaper.

I say all this to establish my credentials here. Despite my knowledge, I've been astounded by Gerard Murphy's revelations, which clearly show that the campaign in Cork against Protestants and non-republicans was on a truly vast scale.

Most Belfast nationalists know of the terrible things that befell Catholics in the city in 1922. What happened in Cork was actually worse because it was accompanied by almost no chaotic street violence. It was a planned assault on a unionist community and executed with abominable method.

This villainy has been matched by the supine silence of Irish historians, to match their previous silence on Ireland the Great War. For Irish historiography has long been the academic wing of party-political republicanism, even though the main villains in Cork -- Corry, O'Donoghue and O'Hegarty -- who are at the centre of Gerard Murphy's book, should be well known to historians of the period.

The most sobering revelations concern Martin Corry, Fianna Fail TD for 40 years, a cheery psychopath and much-loved killer. How much the people of Cork knew about this vile Leeside Robespierre I cannot say. Many men -- and it is impossible to say what number -- were shot and buried at Corry's farm after being imprisoned in a nearby vault in Kilquane graveyard, which Corry called Sing Sing. As TD in the 1930s, he even jeered at James Dillon TD in Dail Eireann: "Come down and I will show you. I will show you a lot of things you never saw before. I would nearly show you Sing Sing. I am sure the Deputy would have to be very fascinating before he'd get out of it."

On St Patrick's Night in 1922 -- ie after the Truce and before the Civil War -- six members of the Young Men's Christian Association in Cork were abducted and executed at Corry's farm. That same week, half a dozen loyalist farmers were similarly disappeared in west Cork.

OVERALL, from the summer of 1920 to the start of the Civil War, 33 Protestants were shot in Cork city proper, while another 40 were killed nearby -- a total of 73 Protestant victims from a small minority community. From around 1921, IRA units murdered or "disappeared" at least 85 civilians. Some 26 were killed after the Truce, thereby making a mockery of the date that this State now chooses to commemorate the dead of all our wars -- July 11. As chilling as anything has been the toxic legacy amongst middle-class Cork Catholics, who until recently thought it chic to make jibes about a Protestant community which has never properly recovered from these terrible days. What you might call An Interim Solution.

We might have learnt all this long ago. A farmer bought some of Corry's land in the 1960s and dug up several skeletons in a mass grave. These were handed over to the local gardai at Watergrasshill, after which they vanished without trace. What a surprise.

Look. You cannot use violence in a divided society without militarising politics, after which, society's psychos and zealots feel authorised to kill their political opponents. The fundamental issue is not the dead of Cork or west Belfast: it is the use of violence to achieve political ends. It doesn't work. It kills people, but it doesn't get you what you want.

Moreover, killing innocents is not some aberration that only occurs at the end of a prolonged period of violence. The first victims in the opening minutes of 1916 -- which this Republic is dementedly determined to pretend was a poetry festival and for which it is preparing another grisly jamboree in 2016 -- were all innocent unarmed Irish people, killed in their native city. But then why not? Killing Irish people in their native cities is, after all, what our "republicans" do best of all. Step forward, Cork, 1921-22.

I think this is an absurd article that is badly argued. I do not doubt for one second that there may have been a sectarian element in the IRA during the 1919 to 1921 war. Nor do I doubt that some IRA men wanted to kill loyalist protestant men so that they could steal their land. But I want to make five crucial points.

1. The 11 months after the truce with the British (July 1921) but before the outbreak of Civil War (June 1922) was an exceptionally difficult and unstable period where lawlessness was rampant and law and order broke down. It is important to note that these killings did not take place during the war with the British when the IRA was united and the GHQ in Dublin successfully controlled and disciplined IRA members.

2. Once the new Irish state came into being in January 1922 the government took quite extraordinary measures to control the IRA, restore law and order, and enforce the new non sectarian constitution.

3. The 1916 proclamation of the Republic and the 1922 Free State Constitution as well as the 1937 Republican Constitution (which is used today) all enshrined the rights of religious minorities. If there was sectarianism in Ireland post independence it was neither official nor institutional, or if it was, then it was illegal.

4. Protestants in the Republic of Ireland have been participating in politics and been successful in business and culture since the foundation of the state.

I took this picture earlier today in Frenchpark Co Roscommon. It is of a statue of the first President of Ireland under the Republican constitution of 1937, Douglas Hyde. Douglas Hyde was a Protestant from the Anglo Irish tradition. Fair enough, there have been many Protestant Republicans over the years. But Hyde was not a republican in the sense that he had no part in events from 1916 to 1923. He was a member of the Gaelic League who attempted to reinvent the Irish language. It is a small indication of the non sectarian nature of the Irish state.

5. My most crucial point and one which I am genuinely bitter over is as follows. How does all this compare to the Northern Irish state which from day one after its creation was institutionally sectarian to the core where "Catholic need not apply" or as its first Prime Minister Edward Carson described it as "a Protestant state for a Protestant people". My Grandparents raised my mother in co Derry during the 1950's and 60's. None of them could even vote. I want to know why does Kevin Myers give Northern Ireland a total pass ?

The circumstances surrounding the foundation of the Irish State were far from ideal. As Myers points out, there was mass murder of Catholics on the streets of Belfast. It appears the same happened to Protestants in West Cork. I don't understand his point that it was worse in Cork because it was organised. The men doing it may have been organised but they were not acting under a wider plot that was sanctioned by the Republican leadership. A street mob in Belfast is capable of being equally organised. In any case both what happened to Catholics in belfast and Protestants in Cork were outrages that should be fully confronted by both sides.

But the arguments of Myers are weak. Two new states were being created during this time. It was an unstable time. There was movement of peoples between borders as different sides tried to place themselves in the majority with their "kind". Some Catholics moved south, some Protestants moved north and some were forced to move as a result of violence. Sectarian deaths were relatively low. There is lots of similar historical precedent as new nations were formed and populations began to move, not least in India/Pakistan, the Balkans and the Middle East. In these cases the death tolls were enormous. To use this argument to completely de legitimize Ireland's independence movement in its entirety is lazy minded journalism and to do so during such a week when Ireland and its people are experiencing such a low point is in my opinion a low point in the career of an otherwise fine journalist. I am not afraid of historical revisionism. I welcome it. There is no debate that I am afraid of but this time Myers is 0ff, way off and in bad taste.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Photo of the Day

The Israeli Flag flies alongside the Union Jack and the Cross of St George in Northern Ireland.

I snapped this picture during the week somewhere near Enniskillin in Co Fermanagh. Obviously this is a loyalist area but my question is this. Why do some loyalists identify themselves with the Israeli cause. Perhaps it is a conservative Christian influence. Perhaps, but in truth I suspect it is some form of sectarian game where loyalists have decided to support Israel simply because many republicans sympathise with the Palestinians. Furthermore, many loyalist organisations have known connections with far right groups in Europe which brings with it a natural sympathy for their anti Semitic ideals. Defending Zion is hardly a cause they can be genuinely enthusiastic about. But in this case, I suppose I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Friday, November 19, 2010

90 Years Ago This Week

13th November

An IRA Flying Column in Inches Co Tipperary ambush an eight man RIC patrol killing four policemen.

In Dublin an 8 year old girl dies in a crossfire after a shoot out between British soldiers and the IRA.

14th November

In Galway, a Catholic priest known to be sympathetic to Republicans is abducted and killed by state forces, most likely Black N Tans.

15th November

In Ballina Co Mayo four suspected IRA men are abducted and murdered by the RIC.

16th November

At a meeting in Washington DC, President of the underground Irish Republic Eamon De Valera announces the formation of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR).

November 17th

Four IRA prisoners are taken by the Auxiliaries from their barracks in the Lakeside Hotel, Killaloe Co Clare, onto Killaloe Bridge where they are shot with their hands tied behind their backs.

One RIC man and three IRA men are killed in a gun fight in Cork City center.

November 19th

Four senior IRA men are captured in Cork by the RIC. The men are almost summarily executed by the RIC but for the intervention of Colonel Hudson of The King's Liverpool Regiment.

November 20th

Two Limerick IRA men who were acquitted for the murder of an RIC man in Limerick are stopped at a check point on return from their trial in Dublin. Both men are abducted and murdered by the RIC.

A Captain in the Manchester Regiment is abducted and shot by the IRA in Ballincollig Co Cork.

Sunday November 21st

This proves to be an exceptionally bloody day in the conflict.

An RIC man is shot and killed in Newry Co Down.

An RIC man is shot and killed in Leap Co Cork.

An RIC man is shot and killed in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford

November 1920 was a particularly bloody month for the RIC.

In Dublin, IRA Director of Intelligence Michael Collins orders his intelligence "Squad" to assassinate several British secret service and military intelligence agents. Fourteen are killed around Dublin.

In retaliation, the Black N Tans enter Croke Park during a Hurling match and open fire on the crowd and the players. Twelve civilians, including two children are killed.

That evening the Auxiliaries capture and kill three men in Dublin. They are Dick Mckee, a senior member of the IRA GHQ, Dublin IRA man Peader Clancy and innocent accomplice Conor Clune. The murder of Clune would prove particularly difficult for the British as he turned out to be a nephew of Reverend Patrick Clune, the Archbishop of Perth and personal friend of Loyd George who had been acting as an intermediary between the Irish leaders and the British government.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Middle East Peace Talks

I have recently begun writing a column for the local weekly newspaper Metro Eireann. This week I wrote the following article on the Middle East Peace Process.
With the recent renewal of peace talks between Israel and Palestine international attention has once again focused on the situation in the Holy Land. Unfortunately, the overriding feeling appears to be one of pessimism. Peace talks have failed over and over again, so why should it be any different this time ? I believe this sense of despair, while understandable is unwarranted. The Irish know better than anyone that intractable conflict can be overcome. The Northern Irish Process is generally regarded as the most successful Peace Process in the world. If nothing else, it should be a cause for optimism that several people who were intimately involved in peace making efforts in Ireland are now working on the Middle East Peace Process. These include former US Senator George Mitchell who was Bill Clinton's special envoy to Northern Ireland during the 90's and is now President Obama's envoy to the Middle East. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who was instrumental in implementing the Good Friday Agreement now represents the Quartet (EU, Russia, USA, UN) in the Middle East. Former Irish President Mary Robinson is a member of "The Elders", a group of experienced statesmen and women brought together by Nelson Mandela to push for peace in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton must also be mentioned in this context. The US Secretary of State and former First Lady's role in Northern Ireland focused mainly on bringing Catholic and Protestant women together in forums for dialogue. One would imagine the presence of so many prominent personalities would inspire confidence. Nobody would deny of course that there are massive obstacles, Jewish settlements, the rights of refugees to return, the status of Jerusalem and final borders, not to mention that if there is agreement on all these issues a settlement will only relate to the PLO in the West Bank as the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip remains outside the Peace Process. Having said that the Irish contribution to the process is and should always remain positive. Unfortunately this is not always the case as some left wing "anti war" groups tend to endorse radical positions that reject the peace process and the two state solution. The only thing this does is influence more hard line elements to reject any compromise. All Irish people should support the efforts of the people of the Middle East to replicate the successes of Northern Ireland. Peace talks are due to resume in the new year. It may turn out that 2011 will be the year the breakthrough is made.

My inspiration for writing the above article was an excellent book I have just read by Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former Chief of Staff. In his book, Great Hatred Little Room, Powell articulates just how painstaking the negotiations were and the quite unbelievable levels of unreasonableness that he had to deal with during the behind the scenes negotiations with opposing parties.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Photo of the Day

I spent last weekend in Co Cavan with my family. On Sunday morning I took this misty picture of the river Erne. In the distant field you can see several blood hounds engaged in a hunt. There were no horsemen so I can only assume that this was hunters practising with their hounds.

Two Bills

I like Bill O'Reilly and I like Bill Maher. Maybe it is because they are both Irish lads or maybe because they're extremely outspoken in their political beliefs. Obviously both men are miles apart on the political spectrum. Maher is probably the most left wing person on American TV where as O'Reilly is a conservative pundit, even if many of his followers have expressed disillusionment of late with him for apparently being too easy on Obama. Anyway, both men, despite their enormous differences appear to have a healthy respect for each other. I like this. I have lots of left wing friends whose company I enjoy and whom I love to debate with. And some of these are outright commies. Speaking of commies, I'm sure the editing staff at the O'Reilly Factor failed to pick up Mahers' sarcastic comment about President Eisenhower who he refers to jokingly as "that fucking commie". Listen carefully to the clip below and you will hear it. O'Reilly missed it during the interview but surprisingly, so did the folks at the factor, otherwise they wouldn't have allowed that line to be used in their summary of the interview. So let the two Bills be a lesson to us all on how civil dialogue between left and right should be the norm.

This reminds me, there used to be a political show on English TV called Bill & Ben. Long standing Left wing MP Tony Benn and Tory William Hague used to casually chat to each other about history and politics. I loved that show. What ever happened to it ?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Photo of the Day

The image that met me when I opened my curtains this morning. Note: it is not my cat.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jihad against Obama

Obama speaking last week to students in Mumbai

So, President Obama got into trouble at home for some comments he made during the Indian leg of his Asian trip. During a town hall style meeting with students in Mumbai he was asked what he thought of Jihad. His answer has led to a barrage of criticism from the right who claim the President is unable to identify the enemy and therefor an ineffective Commander in Chief. The theory being peddled is that if you do not know who your enemy is, then you cannot fight them. Lets have a listen to Obamas response and an example of the type of criticism he has received, in this case from conservative Fox News pundit Sean Hannity and former Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich.

Ok, let me first say that in a previous post I addressed the issue of terminology when it comes to confronting terrorism in a post entitled Violent Extremists or Islamic Terrorists . In the post I say

The general narrative from the right is that you cannot defeat something if you are unable to identify it. I would generally go along with that. However I have seen no indication in a practical sense that President Obama is unsure where the might of American military power should be directed. He has utterly decimated the Al Quaeda and Taliban leadership with UAV drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If he uses softer language in order to avoid unnecessarily angering the Muslim World then what possible harm can come from this. The only harm I can think of is that flag waving pundits like Crowley and Hannity are denied the use of soundbites which make them look tough.

The key phrase is Unnecessarily. Why would any supporter of the American campaign against global terrorism want to unnecessarily anger the Muslim World. There are times when it will be necessary to be blunt and this can't be helped but the pundits and politicians that seem to get some sort of Joy out of it or are attempting to score brownie points with sections of the public by subtly insulting the Islamic world should be put in their place.

I would use the above argument to counter the claims of Hannity, Gingrich and others who claim that the Presidents response to the Mumbai question was inappropriate and feeble. In fact, I don't think Obama was just being sensible when talking about Islam in a country with hundreds of millions of Muslims and where tension between the religions is often very high. I think he was actually right. I am a Catholic and while I am not a particularly religious man I do have an interest in all religions. One aspect of Islam I admire is the concept of the inner struggle. I personally believe that every human being has to wage a battle within themselves between good and bad, between doing the right thing and the wrong thing. This inner struggle is what most Muslims interpret the word Jihad to mean. Of course there are many other aspects of the Islamic faith that I believe are incompatible with democratic values but on the personal level, I like the concept of the inner Jihad. President Obama was right to note the different interpretations of Jihad.

Next Gingrich is a figure on the right of American politics that I particularly dislike. I dislike his opportunism and his persistent undermining of President Obama's foreign policy. Newts description of the President's view on global terrorism is way off.

This administration is in such total denial about whose trying to kill us and what their motives are that it is dangerous to the country and the President today in this particular performance was following up on this continuous denial. You cannot get this administration to understand who they are

Since his first week in office President Obama has aggressively taken the war to the Al Quaeda and Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the use of UAV drone strikes. He has initiated a troop surge in Afghanistan and successfully lobbied the Pakistani government to confront the Taliban dominated provinces of Western Pakistan. This is one of the reasons many of the Obama bashers do not like to mention Afghanistan. Simply because most objective commentators agree that he has pursued the war in an effective fashion. Newt Gingrich has some cheek saying that the President doesn't know who the enemy is particularly when many on the right wing of the republican party favored chasing Al Quaeda out of Iraq in 2003 when in fact Al Quaeda's presence in Iraq was probably less than that in every other Arab country. Of course, President Obamas domestic strategy is a different issue and I have no objection to the criticism he has been receiving in that regard. Whether I agree or not, it is legitimate criticism. But on the international front, I am prepared at this stage to declare myself a cautious supporter of his foreign policy. Those that continually criticise literally everything he says and does foreign policy wise, are no different than the Bush bashers who never gave the former President a chance.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Monaghan Bomb

A simple dignified plaque to the dead and injured.

I am still travelling around Ireland but normal daily blogging will resume on Monday. I took the following pictures in Monaghan town, just south of the border with Northern Ireland. In May 1974, just as a power sharing government between Catholics and Protestants was set up in Belfast, loyalist terrorists expressed their opposition to sharing power with catholics by slaughtering dozens (33 in total) of people in a series of coordinated bombs in Dublin and in monaghan.

This larger monument marks the spot where the Monaghan bomb detonated.

Photo of the Day

An image I snapped of a flood, somewhere between counties Meath and Cavan

Monday, November 8, 2010

Decision Points - updated

I am looking forward big time to reading Decision Points, George W Bush's political autobiography. I'll let the man himself tell us what we can expect.

Below is a comment and an abstract from the book. This from the blog The Cedar Lounge Revolution.

Bush recounts how he ordered the US to plan strikes against operations against specific targets in Iran and Syria (so much more than the usual plans that are locked in a drawer to invade pretty much anywhere), shifts the blame for the response to Katrina elsewhere, defends his various wars, praises Tony Blair, and defends the use of torture

Of Katrina, Bush writes

Five years later, I can barely write these words without feeling disgusted. I am deeply insulted by the suggestion that we allowed American citizens to suffer because they were black… The more I thought about it, the angrier I felt. I was raised to believe that racism was one of the greatest evils in society.

As a white Republican from Texas Bush was always going to be accused of racism here and there. Personally, while I was opposed to many Bush policies, I always got the impression that he was quite a compassionate man. I still think that.

Why are the Irish not more like the Greeks ?

This was the scene outside the Department of Finance last Thursday as members of Eirigi, the Republican Socialist Group tried to gain entry to the building after a 20,000 man student demonstration against educational cuts. Watch the clip before my discussion on why the Irish are different than the Greeks.

Why are the Irish not more like the Greeks or the French ? Why are we taking it lying down ? Why don't the people fight back, like the Greeks do ? These are questions that have been asked many times over past two years since the Irish economy went into free fall. And as the economic news gets worse and worse and as the country awaits the details of the most draconian budget in the history of the state this question is becoming increasingly more pertinent. In recent months we have seen riots in Greece and the French engage in mass protest so why, many are asking do the Irish appear so passive.

The answer is simple. Ireland is a centrist country. It has always been a centrist country. The Irish people have always rejected far left and far right wing politics. In the 1930’s any political movement that sympathised with fascist ideology was rejected by the Irish electorate. Likewise, far left parties in Ireland have never succeeded in gaining more than a handful of elected representatives. Compare this to lets say the Greeks. The Greeks have a long history of unrest between left and right. This has on occasion taken a violent form with military coups, left wing terrorism and even civil war. In this regard, I for one am glad we are not more like the Greeks. Similarly the French have a tradition of engaging in nation wide strikes that frequently appear to cripple the country and on one occasion in 1968 almost resulted in revolution. The Politically stable centrist model that we practise in Ireland is in my opinion superior to that in Greece or France.

I don’t think the Irish people have been “passive“. If anything I think that is an insult. The Irish people are rightly infuriated with the government whose bogus economic policies have crippled the nation. They will show their fury at the ballot box in the next general election when they eject this useless, incompetent administration. However, the type of violent protest that was seen at last week’s student demonstration will never impress the Irish people. Of course the 20,000 man march which climaxed outside the Department of Finance was an entirely worthy demonstration organised by the Union of Students in Ireland. The demonstration was unfortunately if predictably hijacked by the Socialist Workers Party and particularly Eirigi, the Socialist Republican Party whose only agenda was to cause a riot in the hope that it might trigger wider violence. But this will not happen. The political fault lines in Ireland are different than most European nations. The Greeks have a left right divide that stems from their post war Civil War. The Irish system, rightly or wrongly stems from the political split that followed our independence in 1922. That is not going to change anytime soon. So we are not like the Greeks or the French and I am glad. As a nation we are just going to have to get stuck in and chip away at our budget deficit from both sides and in the meantime, replace our government with one that promotes sustainable economic growth, not the boom or bust model of the Celtic Tiger Era.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cuchulainn, MacBride and Emmigration

I have been driving around Ireland for much of the last two weeks working with my fathers business. As always. I like to snap a few pictures to put up on Gubu World. Here are a collection of bronze statues I came across from around the country.

I came across this statue in Ardee Co Louth. It is of the Irish mythological figures CĂșchulainn and Ferdiad. Folklore has it that Cuchulainn was forced to Kill Ferdiad, his best friend, in a dispute over a woman after a three day duel between the two men at what is now known as "Ferdiad's Ford" or Ardee.

This statue is in Westport Co Mayo. It is of Major John MacBride, a native of Mayo who was executed by the British for his part in the easter 1916 rebellion. MacBribe was not an organiser of the rebellion, nor was he associated with the Irish Volunteers. In fact he only became aware of the rebellion the morning it began when on he offered his services to Thomas McDonagh, a signatory of the proclamation of the Republic. However, the British assumed because of his anti British history that he was a principal leader of the rebellion. MacBride had led an international brigade against the British in South Africa during the Boer War and had been an early member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Macbride is also famous among literary circles, as he was married to Maude Gonne, the love rival of William Butler Years. MacBride's son Sean would have a long career in Irish politics.

This statue in Kiltimagh Co Mayo is dedicated to all the people from the area who were forced to emigrate during the 1940's and 50's.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obama, bruised battered but not out !

I am not sure about President Obama. I like him but I am just not sure. He is the most exciting thing to happen US politics in my life time, of this there is no doubt.
Will he be a "two termer" ? Nobody knows because American voters are funny. George Bush Senior won a war but lost reelection on the economy. Jimmy Carter was a fiscal conservative yet he lost to Regan because he was perceived as weak. If you can get both of these things right,a strong economy and strong in the world, then I reckon you will have two terms, just as Clinton and Bush Jr did. Obama could yet fit into this category, particularly if the economy improves between now and November 2012. Personally, I don't accept that yesterday's election were a referendum on Obama, I think it was a referendum on many Democratic congressmen and women, several of whom come across as pathetic liberal dweebs.

The excellent blogger Juan Cole over at Infomred Comment gives some historical context as to why losing congress is not always fatal to a President.

It was November, 1942. A year earlier the Japanese Empire had struck at Pearl Harbor and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had finally entered World War II. Although in May of 1942 the US was kicked out of the Philippines by the Japanese, with Gen. MacArthur retreating to Australia, in June of 1942 the US wins a major battle against the Japanese at Midway. Still, in fall of 1942 the long, bloody battle for Guadalcanal in The South Pacific had not been decided. The economy had finally begun improving after the long years of Depression. The unemployment rate was reduced from 14.6 percent in 1940 to only 4.7 percent in 1942. Roosevelt faced midterm elections.

Would you really choose that moment to more or less return to power the party that had caused the Great Depression?

We might look back on these years of the “Greatest Generation” as heroic, and Roosevelt as unbeatable. But you know what? His Democrats lost the popular vote, losing big in the House of Representatives, and Republicans picked up 47 seats. Because of the way things were then districted, the Democrats did hold on to the House by a slim margin. But they were deprived of a comfortable majority (left with just a 13 seat margin). As the Los Angeles Times noted the day after the election, Roosevelt was left without a real majority, because he always faced defections on any vote. The paper breathlessly noted the dramatic fall of Democratic dominance from the party’s commanding position in 1936.

Remember, this is almost a year into World War II, troops are fighting and dying in the Pacific, and the economy is looking up. Roosevelt and his party should have benefited from his being a war president, and should have gotten some credit for having saved the country from the worst economic crisis of all time. Instead, the voters punished him.

Of course, the dynamics were very different than today, with the Afghanistan War even chancier than the then Pacific one, and with government intervening in the economy in different ways (bank bailouts, briefly taking over an auto company, stubbornly high unemployment closet to that of 1940 than that of 1942, health care reform).
An even more interesting story could be told about the 1946 midterms, when Democratic President Harry Truman, who had, like won World War II, saw the Republicans pick up an astonishing 55 seats and take control of the House. People were tired of long years of war and sacrifice and the Republicans promised prosperity through unleashing the free market.

But that’s American politics. Presidents often lose big in midterms, and especially when the public is nervous about foreign wars and domestic economic uncertainty. In a two party system and a corporate-dominated society, what else can one expect but a continual see-saw?

I am not an American so Obama's domestic agenda is not something I get passionate about. Unlike many Europeans I have never been one to express amazement at the lack of a social safety net in America. They have a different system, that's all. It has its merits, as does the European model. However I do think that Obama's health care bill was impressive, as long as it does what he claims and it doesn't become an unsustainable cost in the long term. My feelings are simple, while I admire the American tradition of hostility to government intrusion into the economy, I draw the line at health care. I do think it is a bad reflection on America that hard working law biding people go bankrupt in the event of an illness. Hopefully Obamacare has gone a long way to resolving this.

On Foreign Policy, Obama has already proved conclusively that he is not a Jimmy Carter. In a recent interview with President Carter I saw, the Georgia man expressed pleasure at never having taken any military action during his presidency. Obama on the other hand has been ordering UAV strikes since his first week in office. He has also expanded the war in Afghanistan and done something which the previous administration never seemed able to do, he successfully pressurised the Pakistani government into aggressively confronting the Taliban dominated provinces of Western Pakistan. This is one reason Republicans don't like to talk about the war in Afghanistan, simply because most objective commentators on the war acknowledge that Obama has been an effective commander in chief. As long as the US does not suffer a large scale terrorist attack I believe that President Obama will successfully counter any claims that he has been a weak leader.

A favourite claim of the American right is that Obama is another Jimmy Carter. I think this is a mistake !

I believe the Obama legacy all comes down to the deficit and whether he can get government spending under control. Even for a "European Socialist" like me, I find Obamas spending levels astonishing. He has two years to get it under control, otherwise he will join that lonely club of one term Presidents, who won't even get an Aircraft Carrier named after them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

90 Years Ago This Week,

Oct 25

Terence McSwiney (Lord Mayor of Cork and Commandant of the Cork No.1 Brigade IRA) dies on hunger strike in Brixton prison - he had been on hunger strike since 12th August – some 74 days. His funeral receives wide-spread publicity.

The IRA raid the RIC barracks at Tempo, Co. Fermanagh. It results in the death of one RIC man. It is only a partially successful raid as local loyalists come to the assistance of the police. Subsequently, a local Republican is shot and killed in his home.

At Moneygold in Co Sligo, the IRA ambush an nine-man RIC patrol, killing four and wounding two others

Oct 26
Two men, one a 15 year old youth are shot dead in Curraghduff Co Tipperary by what is believed to be off duty British soldiers.

Oct 27
Kevin Barry (pictured), an 18 year old IRA man arrested after an ambush of British soldiers in Dublin on September 20th in which three soldiers were killed, is informed that he will be hung the following Monday, 1st November. The Governor of Mountjoy Prison (Munro) receives an order from General Macready C-in-C of British Army in Ireland telling him to carry out the sentence.

Oct 28th
A Flying Column in South Tipperary ambush a lorry with soldiers at Thomastown. Three soldiers are killed and five wounded as is one IRA man. They were expecting an RIC tender but the soldiers (from the Northhamptonshire Regiment) came unexpectedly.

Oct 29th
In an address to the 'Civilised Nations' on the forthcoming hanging of Kevin Barry, Minister of Home Affairs in the underground Government, Arthur Griffith, points out that British forces captured by the IRA had been released (including 25 English soldiers captured during the Kings Inn raid on the 1st June in which Barry had taken part).

Oct 30th
A five-man RIC patrol is ambushed at Castledaly, Co. Galway resulting in the death of one policeman.

In his report on the Irish Situation Committee to the British Cabinet, commander of British forces in Ireland General Sir Cecil Frederick Nevil Macready deals with the MacSwiney funeral, the railway situation and the forthcoming Barry hanging. He says "It would be a good thing if some person in authority in England would explain publicly that this man [Barry] was conclusively proved to have shot a soldier with an expanding bullet"

RIC District/Inspector Philip Kelleher shot dead in the Greville Arms Hotel, Granard, Co Longford. This hotel is a famous landmark today. I have been in it many times.

Oct 31st
An RIC Sgt is shot outside his home in Henry St., Tullamore, Co. Offally - he dies the next day.

Two RIC men are shot dead at Hillville, Co. Kerry (outside Killorglin). Two other RIC men are reported missing. Posters appear in Tralee threatening reprisals if the two policemen are not returned. Rumors begin to spread that they were thrown alive into the furnace in Tralee Gas Works.

The North Kerry IRA attack the RIC barracks and a patrol in the village of Ballyduff, Co. Kerry. It results in the death of three RIC men.

Under-Secretary James McMahon requests the Viceroy, Lord French that Kevin Barry be reprieved. The following day, French declines.

Nov 1st
Kevin Barry hung in Mountjoy Jail.

An RIC man is killed in an ambush between Balinalee and Granard, Co Longford.

A young mother is shot through the stomach by an RIC man as she sits cradling her child by the roadside in Kiltartan, Co. Galway. A military inquiry would later find that the firing was “a precautionary measure”.

Formal announcement from British Government that a Special Constabulary was to be raised. Advertisements printed in local press calling on all law-abiding citizens between 21 and 45 to “assist the authorities in the maintenance of the order of the prevention of crime”. Selection committees were set up in each of the northern counties (not the rest of the country?) which were instructed to select “only men of unquestionable fidelity”. Enrollees had to swear to “well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King”.

An RIC lorry is attacked at Auburn Glasson, near Athlone, Co Westmeath resulting in the death of one RIC man and one IRA man.

The IRA, under Sean MacEoin, engage the RIC while the latter are attempting to burn down a business in Granard, Co. Longford in reprisal for the killing of DI Kelleher and Constable Cooney. The RIC retreat to the local barracks.

The events of the past week 90 years ago is seen as a watershep in the conflict. The deaths of Terrence MacSweeney and Kevin Barry in particular outraged public opinion in Ireland of focused international attention on the war. Many nations particularly the Vatican, the Soviet Union and the United States (how often to these all agree) were critical of British tactics.

Restoring Sanity Pictures

A friend of mine from my Trinity Days who now lives in Washington DC attended the "Jon Stewart rally to restore Sanity" last weekend. She posted the photos on Facebook. Here are a selection of what I think are the funniest pictures from the March.

I think this is my favourite.

This reminds me of a banner that I saw among some Irish fans at the 2002 World Cup in Japan that simply stated "We can't afford this"

I love the one on the right. On a serious note, by calling Bush or Obama a fascist or comparing them to Hitler, all you are really doing is illustrating to everybody that you do not know what a fascist is.

The Amish can be kinda creepy

A very valid observation

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Rosenberger

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mid Term Madness

Apologies for the absence. I have been dealing with a few computer issues. Its been an interesting week in the US. First there was Jon Stewart's (pictured here at the rally along with comedian Stephen Colbert) march to restore sanity in Washington DC. Then there was President Obama's appearance on Stewart's Daily Show. The mid term elections begin tomorrow. Is it me or is eccentricity in US politics at an all time high. Sometimes it seems like the Republicans are being led by right wing radio talk show hosts and the Democrats by comedians. In any case it seems that the Dems will likely lose control of the House of Representatives but keep the senate. But I do think we could see some shockers tomorrow on both sides. Long term Democratic senators like Harry Reid in Arizona and Barbara Boxer in California may very well lose their seats. However my prediction is that the Dems won't be hit as hard as most are predicting mainly due to the divisive impact that many Tea Party candidates appear to have on the electorate, and the Republican Party. We shall see very shortly !