Tuesday, May 31, 2011

70 Years Ago Today 31/5/41

Atlantic: The British Merchant Ship Gravelines was traveling in convoy from Canada to Britain when it was attacked by a U-Boat approximately 100 miles of the Donegal coast. 11 crew are lost, 25 are rescued.

Iraq: British troops crush a coup launched the previous month by pro German Iraqi Army officers. On this day 70 years ago British troops retake Baghdad and the Pro British Royal Family are returned to power.

Crete: The British and ANZAC evacuation of Crete comes to an end. Following the spectacular invasion of the Greek Island by German Paratroopers two weeks previously, British troops have been involved in ferocious fighting against elite German forces. Facing defeat, the Royal Navy evacuated over 20,000 troops. However on this day 70 years ago 5000 commonwealth troops were forced to surrender although over 500 took to the hills to join up with the Greek Resistance.

Dublin: World War Two comes to Ireland. Although Belfast was severely bombed in April resulting in nearly 1000 deaths the southern state had remained untouched. However in the early hours of the 31st of May 1941 several bombs fell on Dublin City. 28 people were killed, all in the North Strand.



The reason that the Luftwaffe bombed Dublin has long been the subject of speculation. Was it a warning from Berlin to stay out of the war. After Belfast was bombed Taoiseach Eamon De Valera condemned the raid strongly and sent the southern Fire Brigade north to help. After that raid Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken went to Washington and some believe that Ireland was on the verge of declaring war on Germany. Other theories include that the bombing was in retaliation for Ireland's assistance to Britain in providing regular weather reports or because allied prisoners that ended up in Ireland tended to find their way back to Britain where as German POW's were interned. I have also heard it argued that the lone Luftwaffe pilot was lost and actually thought he was bombing Liverpool. But it is the simplest explanation as always that is probably correct. A lone Luftwaffe bomber was likely being chased by an RAF plane. In order to get away faster he probably dropped his bombs to lighten his load.

When Jedward met the Obamas

Jedward meeting Barack and Michelle Obama, now that's a conversation I would like to have overheard. Watch as Gabriel Byrne describes this strange encounter.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When Kenny met Obama


President Barack Obama and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have met twice in recent months. The first occasion was on St Patrick's day when Kenny was invited to the White House upon which he held a one hour meeting with the President before attending several receptions in Washington DC. The second occasion was last Monday when President Obama came to Ireland. Obama spent less than twelve hours in Ireland where again he held a private meeting with Kenny before he departed for the UK. So I got to thinking, what do these two men have in common and could they possibly relate to each others job?

Barack Obama and Enda Kenny are both heads of government and political leaders of nations. But they are two very very different nations. America is a nation of over 300 million people. It is the biggest economy in the world and it has the most powerful military in history of which Barack Obama is the commander in chief. Ireland is a nation of 4 million people. Our economy reflects our size with a GDP of $200 billion. We are not a member of NATO and unlike other smaller US allies like Georgia or Israel, we are not of any geopolitical significance. I am not trying to be cynical here. I think the close relationship between Ireland and the US is entirely valid given the deep connections between the two nations through trade, immigration and the Northern Ireland peace process but I am trying to explore how the two men, despite having the same job live entirely different lives and are faces on a daily basis with choices of a completely different nature.


Let us compare the the 17th of March last when the two men met in Washington DC and see how that day was different for each of them. According to the official White House schedule at 10am on March the 17th President Obama received his daily briefing led by his Chief of Staff Bill Daley. At that particular briefing I suspect the issue of Libya would have dominated. President Obama would have received an update from his senior military advisers on the latest reports of Col Gaddafi's troop movements. On March 17th Col Gaddafi's troops had fought back against the uprising and were surrounding the Eastern city of Benghazi which was and still is the rebel headquarters. That morning President Obama was faced with a monumental decision. Should America back British and French calls for military intervention which would take the form of a no fly zone. Obama was naturally reluctant to involve the US in a third Middle Eastern war with all the dangers of mission creep that come with it. On the other hand if Obama were to fail to act the rebellion would be crushed, thousands would be murdered by a vengeful Gadaffi and the Arab Spring, seen my many as the most hopeful sign of democracy in the Arab Word ever would come to an end. That morning I posted my thoughts on the decision facing Obama. There is no question the President was faced with an enormous dillemma but a decision could not be made at the briefing because at 10:30am the President had to ask his advisers to leave the Oval Office so that he could meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The decision of whether or not to allow the Arab revolts to continue, a decision which could have lasting repercussions for the 21st century would have to wait. Obamas final comment of the briefing would no doubt have been, that in order to discuss the situation further, a meeting of the national security council should be convened for some time after lunch, when the President is finished dealing with the Irish.

As Enda Kenny and Barack Obama chatted in the Oval Office on St Patrick's Day, rebels in Benghazi were hours away from being slaughtered. President Obama had an immediate decision to make.

At 10:30 am Enda Kenny (who already had breakfast with Vice President Joe biden) entered the Oval Office for a half hour meeting with President Obama. The Global economic recovery was naturally the main topic of conversation, but Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Immigration reform and Obama coming to Ireland would also have been discussed. At 11:00 am the two men emerged from the Oval office and at 11:05 a joint press conference was held. Events in Libya at this stage were moving extremely quickly. I assume that in the few minutes after the meeting but before the press conference President Obama would have received an update, perhaps a subtle whisper in the ear from a senior military advisor, on the situation on the outskirts of Benghazi. However whn the cameras started rolling, the President had to put Libya out of his mind because for now it was all about Ireland. Watch below.



After the Press Conference the President no doubt returned to The Situation Room to view satellite images of just how precarious the situation was in East Libya. Then at midday it was off to meet with Enda Kenny again and other notable Irish and Irish Americans for the St Patricks day lunch, this time on Capitol Hill. This remarkable picture below shows President Obama and Enda Kenny descending the steps of Capitol Hill after their lunch, alongside newly elected Speaker of the House of representatives John Boehner (left) and Republican Congressman and Irish American Peter King. King is also the House chairman of the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees.



This photo is remarkable for a number of reasons, not least because Boehner and King are two of Obamas most relentless critics. During the Northern Irish troubles Peter King was an active and unapologetic supporter of the Provisional IRA. So much so that when in 1985 he was announced as the Grand Marshal of the St Patrick's Day Parade in New York, the then Taoiseach, the recently deceased Garret Fitzgerald, whom President Obama last week paid tribute to, refused to attend the parade upon invitation. Even weirder, King defended, and may even had knowledge of IRA attempts to import arms from Col Gadaffi's Libya due to his very close personal relationship with Michael McKevitt, the mastermind of the Libya arms deals, founder of the Real IRA and mass murderer of the citizens of Omagh. Surely, the irony could not have been lost on Obama, Kenny and King that they were chatting so casually on the very day that President Obama decided to take military action against Col Gadaffi, an event which will no doubt lead to his downfall in the very near future. Did the men even perhaps discuss the subject?

After the lunch Enda Kenny made his way to the Washington DC offices of the Bloomberg Business Channel where he was interviewed about the Irish economic situation. President Obama meanwhile returned to the White House to discuss the situation in Libya with his National Security Team, not before he made a statement on the Nuclear crisis in Japan which appeared to be worsening a mere six days after the devastating tsunami. It was at this meeting, which would have been attended by Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, CIA director Leon Penetta and National Security Advisor Tom Donilson that it was decided that Col Gadaffi's days are numbered, that it is US policy to continue to encourage the Arab Spring regardless of the instability it might create. While Kenny was off talking to Bloomberg attempting to assure international markets that Irish economy was stabilising, the White House was contemplating and acting upon events that may shape human history for centuries.

At seven PM, all returned to the White House for a shin dig. Glen Hansard sang, Eunice Kennedy read poems, Barack Obama talked, Joe Biden toasted and Enda Kenny philosophised. It lasted until the early hours. But there was one more significant event that day. Some time in the afternoon, perhaps during the NSC meeting, or perhaps even during the the St Patrick's day celebrations that night, President Obama slipped down to the Situation Room. He probably told the Taoiseach that he wouldn't be long. While in the situation room President Obama order an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator Drone to attack suspected Taliban militants who had gathered in a place called Datta Khel in North Waziristan (Pakistan) not far from the Afghan border. The strike killed 48 people and wounded another 50. It turned out to one of the more controversial UAV strikes in Pakistan not least because of the number killed but also because there were reports that a mediation was taking place between Pakistani police, tribal elders and the Taliban. It is known that Pakistani Policemen were killed in the strike. The Punjab Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the strike and demanded that the national government take a clearer stance on the issue of drone strikes. I don't know when exactly President Obama ordered the strike. But the feeling I get when I imagine the President chatting with Enda Kenny, or perhaps his wife Fionnula, before excusing himself to head off to the Situation room to authorise an air strike in Pakistan, is a mixture of awe and eeriness.

All in all, it was an eventful day for both Enda Kenny and President Obama. But where as for the Taoiseach it was one of the biggest days of his political life, for the President it was just another day at the office. And where as the Taoiseach was fighting for issues of vital national importance to me and my country, Kennys issues of concern seem minute and trivial compared to the issues faced by the leader of the Free World on a daily basis. Let us not forget also that between these two meetings on the 17th of March and 23 of May, President Obama had perhaps his greatest day in office. I am of course referring to the slaying of Bin Laden.

On May 23 President Obama visited Ireland. We all know what he did. We have all seen the pictures from the Phoenix Park, College Green and Moneygall. But it might surprise people to know that even while travelling abroad, even in a place like Moneygall, President Obama has the ability to exercise his role of Commander in Chief. While in Ireland President Obama authorised a UAV Drone Strike on Pakistan. Again the target was North Waziristan. This time seven suspected militants were killed. Once again I don't know when the order was given , but it could have been anytime. He could have done it from the "Beast", from "Marine One" or even from Ollie Hayes Bar in Moneygall. But as on the St Patrick's Day, the Obama experience was very different than the Kenny one. While Obama was shaking hands, kissing babies and wooing the Irish, there were many wider ideas on his mind.

While in Ireland, President Obama authorised a UAV Drone strike on Pakistan.

On the evening of the 23rd of March President Obamas team announced that he would not be spending the night in Ireland as planned. Air Force One would be flying to London that night in order to avoid any future delay that might arise because of the Icelandic ash cloud. Hmm... I don't think so. The night of the 23rd saw the heaviest bombing of Libya since the conflict began. I have no doubt that the real reason Obama left early was to oversee that nights work. It would have taken the form of a three way video conference over the Irish Sea between Air Force One, the Pentagon and NATO headquarters in Brussels. What other example could posibly compare in more stark terms the radically different nature of leading a neutral nation of Ireland to that of the United States of America.

This post is not about belittling Ireland, Enda Kenny or the office of the Taoiseach. But it is about perspective. Ireland got itself into this economic mess. We will have to get ourselves out of it. To those who say that Enda Kenny should have lectured President Obama on Timothy Geithner's apparent hostile stance toward the IMF/EU bail out I say, lets get real. Enda Kenny is responsible for the economic recovery of Ireland. Barack Obama is responsible for the security of the western world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garret Fitzgerald Funeral

I missed this last week so I thought I would post these lovely images from the Funeral of former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald. Look out for all former Taoisigh in attendance, as is former President Mary Robinson and her husband Nick, poet Seamus Heaney, Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuiness. It's good to see former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave is looking so well in his 91st year.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Drunken Heads of State

I am sick and tired of the Irish being betrayed as drunks and blagards, but I suppose, when in Rome, do as the Romanians.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hamas/Nabka/1967 Borders

There have been three major stories in recent weeks involving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I want to discuss them all in the one post. The first is the reconciliation of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority which occurred shortly after the Bin Laden raid resulting in less international coverage than you might expect. The second was the violence surrounding the Nabka anniversary which many feared would trigger a third intifada. And finally there was the Netenyahu Obama spat at AIPAC, a largely manufactured controversy in my opinion but I want to talk about it nonetheless.

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Most people have interpreted this development as a negative thing and a set back for the Peace Process. It is a reasonable conclusion as Hamas are a ruthless terrorist organisation that intentionally target Israeli civilians. However, since Israeli efforts to defeat the organisation have continually failed and in my opinion will continue to, I believe that some realities have to be faced. I can't help thinking back to Northern Ireland. The SDLP and the UUP (moderate nationalist and loyalist parties) could not make peace together. It took the hard line DUP and Sinn Fein to make it work because they carried everybody with them. One thing we can say about Hamas is that they are disciplined. If Hamas were ever to sign up to a deal you can be fairly sure they will be capable of enforcing it amongst its members. The key as I see it is for Hamas to be moderated, enough to recognise Israel and all previous agreements between the PA and Israel. I hope that all who are intimately involved in the Peace Process recognise the value of encouraging Hamas to moderate by showing them the benefits of recognising Israel and striving for a two state solution. Some will say that I am naive and that I am encouraging appeasement. No, because first of all I would never expect Israel to, and know it never will put itself in a more vulnerable position militarily while Hamas remain fanatically committed to the destruction of Israel, or as they might like to phrase it, the liberation of Tel Aviv. Secondly, the Irish experience has thought us, that talking to terrorists (while not giving into them) is worth while and I will not be interested in listening to anyone who says I am a terrorist sympathiser for saying this any more than John Hume should apologise for secretly having talks with the IRA. In my view the moderation of Hamas is I believe the only realistic objective assuming that a permanent state of conflict is not seen as a viable option for Israel.

President of the Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh have made up since the violent conflict between the two erupted in 2006.

Nabka
Nabka, the Palestinian word for catastrophe is commemorated in Palestine on May 15th every year in memory of those who were expelled from their homes in 1948. I have always avoided discussions about the demographics of the Holy Land prior to the foundation of Israel in 1948. Mainly because I don't know what they were and I don't trust any source to be objective. The Israelis say the area was dominated by Jews and that the Arabs left for the most part voluntarily where as the Palestinians claim the areas was heavily dominated by Arabs and that they were expelled by force during the 1948 war. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Generally I don't have a problem with Palestinians commemorating the event as it was a moment when many were killed and uprooted but on this occasion I was completely unconvinced. This year the event was I believe a stunt orchestrated by Hamas, Hezbollah but primarily Syria in order to distract attention from the mass murder being committed by the regime in Damascus against its own people. But more importantly it was an effort by Syria to associate the uprisings across the Arab World with the Palestinian cause. It failed, mainly because I see no evidence of a third intifada. And this is simply because the people of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Bahrain have been demonstrating on their streets, not against Israel but in favour of liberalisation of their authoritarian regimes. Playing the anti Israel card is the last desperate tactic of the despotic scoundrel in Damascus. But that is what Bashar Al Assad did and he is responsible for the 15 people who were killed in the clashes that followed.

Thousands of Arabs gather at the disputed Syrian border with Israel at the Golan Heights.

1967 Borders
President Obama said last week that in the event of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, Israel will have to withdraw to its previous border before it conquered the West Bank in 1967. This prompted those who have been claiming for years that Obama is a weak, liberal, anti Israeli and anti Semitic to go into overdrive. Obama said nothing that George Bush had not said, which is that for a two state solution to succeed Israel will have to give back territory. Below is his entire speech delivered to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last Saturday. It is an excellent speech in my view. The second half addresses the issue of the 1967 borders.



Obama clarifies in the above speech what every honest observer already knew to be true which was that that "1967 lines" involves land swaps as well. The pre 1967 border, in other words the original 1948 line cannot be the border in the event of a peace agreement. This is because Jewish settlements, too large to dismantle have been built on land conquered after 1967. If there is a settlement, Palestine will have to be allocated some land that was actually part of Israel after the 1948 armistice. The exact amount of land will be subject to negotiations. Furthermore the original line is no longer defensible given modern weaponry.It is quite simple really, Israel will never withdraw and rely on the good will of its neighbours not to attack it. They will withdraw when it is safe to do so. It is not safe when your neighbours remain committed to your destruction. If you have any doubt, watch this excellent video which illustrates the military situation that Israel is confronted with at its borders.

Bibi, borders and Obama



I missed this over the weekend as I was away in Portugal replacing most of my blood with alcohol. Anyway from what I gather Netenyahu and Obama both addressed AIPAC which led both the pro and anti Israeli camps to go all hyper sonic. I will analyse in detail and post on it before lunch time tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trapped Beast

David Letterman offers his top 10 guesses of what went through President Obamas head when his Limousine known as "The Beast" got stuck outside the American Embassy in Dublin. I highly recommend this.

RIP Garret Fitzgerald

Last Thursday morning as I drove out to Dublin Airport for my brief trip to Portugal I heard the sad news that former Taoiseach Gareth Fitzgerald had passed away. I was saddened more than you might expect on hearing that a 85 year old former head of government was dead. While he may have been elderly he was exceptionally active. I would often See him at the many debates on different issues that I regularly attend in Dublin. And while 85 is a grand old age, he was the type of man, a national treasure as many have been calling him, that you would have expected to have around for a good while longer, perhaps even to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, a rebellion in which both his mother and father fought.

I met Gareth Fitzgerald a couple of times. With the risk of sounding more connected to him than I was let me say that I actually found him adorable. His grandfatherly nature and comical demeanour made him very endearing. He was simply very very likable. And when compared along side Charlie Haughey, his corrupt and devious political nemesis throughout the 1980s he almost seems saintly. During his reign some Republicans tried to portray him as being too pro British. Populists favoured Haughey's charisma over Fitzgerald whle Christy Moore mocked him in song. Well we now know that Haughey's time in office was full of criminal antics where as Fitzgerald's honesty and integrity was utterly uncompromising.

The body of Garret Fitzgerald is carried by members of the Defence Forces after his funeral on Sunday.

Garret Fitzgerald served twice as Taoiseach. He had a small stint at the helm from June 1981 to March 1982 before serving a full term from December 1982 to March 1987. He will be remembered for confronting the Catholic Church and initiating a liberal crusade although in today's world to refer to legalising divorce and contraception as liberal seems a bit strange. His economic legacy is debatable as he was known a a big spender although in terms of education he modernised 3rd level institutions which contributed so much to the highly qualified work force that Ireland has today. However it will always be the Anglo Irish Agreement which he will be most famously remembered for, an agreement which led to peace on this island but one which lazy minded Republicans (most of whom make lousy historians) would claim was a sell out.

As I hinted at already, Republicans constantly portrayed Garret Fitzgerald as not being nationalist enough. But this is not true. He was a nationalist. He just unconditionally opposed IRA violence. He directed the Gardai and the Army to pursue the IRA relentlessly. Nevertheless he did have quite impeccable republican credentials. His Mother and Father both served in the GPO during Easter week. His Father Desmond Fitzgerald was a TD in the first Dail who served as Director of Publicity for the underground Irish Republic from 1919 to 1921. Fitzgerald senior backed the 1921 Anglo Irish Treaty (even though his wife opposed it) and became Minister for Foreign affairs in the controversial Free State government (1922-1932) thus beginning a long lasting family association with the Fine Gael Party.

The Anglo Irish Agreement and Thatchers' betrayal
The reason I make the point about his Republican credentials is that I believe in his own way he was a staunch one. If you ask many Ulster Unionists who they believed the greatest traitor in the history of unionism was, many would say Margaret Thatcher. This is because she signed a document in 1985 negotiated by Fitzgerald which stated that the Republic of Ireland was not just another nation and that Dublin was entitled to a role in deciding the future of Northern Ireland, and indeed in that future itself. This was quite a turn around from the woman who once stated that Northern Ireland was as British as Finchly (Thathcer's constituency).
Garret Fitzgerald and Margaret Thatcher sign the Anglo Irish Agreement.

The Agreement drove the Ulster Unionists wild with anger for the Thatcher sell out to Republicanism and Papism. And the ultimate political opportunist Charlie Haughey likewise rejected the Agreement as a sell out for the Republican cause because it watered down articles two and three of the Irish constitution which laid territorial claim to Northern Ireland. One Objective of the Anglo Irish Agreement was to improve relations between London and Dublin so that both governments could focus on resolving the conflict in the north instead of bickering with each other. Another objective, specifically from an Irish point of view was to keep the foot in the door for a United Ireland. This was done through the British acknowledgement of Dublin's right which would later take the form after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement of the North South ministerial councils which are body's from Dublin and Belfast that meet regularly to discuss island wide issue. If there ever is to be a United Ireland we will be able to say that it could not have happened without Garret Fitzgerald and the Anglo Irish Agreement.

Garrett Fitzgerald's most important legacy will always be the peace process. Unlike Haughey he was not interested in engaging in populist nationalist rhetoric. All he wanted to do was to help end the violence in the north. I was delighted that President Obama paid tribute to him in his speech in Dublin on Monday. Garret Fitzgerald will be missed by all the political anoraks in Dublin like me who were so used to his regular contributions on a range of issues. May he rest in Peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Obama Speech as I saw it

Below is a small clip I filmed of the opening of President Obamas speech in College Green yesterday.

Obama Speech

Below is Obamas College Green speech in full in case you missed it. The President really seemed to enjoy it. I was particularly impressed by his tribute o the late great former Taoiseach Gareth Fitzgerald.



Part 2 of this speech can be viewed here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3ppq4mTlnc

Obama in Dublin

My view of Enda kenny addressing the crowd in College Green with the Obamas behind him.


The Stars and Stripes flying over Dame Street.

Chatting to some Secret Service guys, "what's it like to travel on Air Force One" I asked, "I can't talk about that sir" was the response.


There was plenty of light hearted banter about the city.

And below is a video of my view of the Obama motorcade after the Presidents speech, filmed by my friend and occasional Gubu World commenter, Daniel O'Neil.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Photo of the Day - Air Force One

I think this has to be my best Photo of the Day. I took this photo this morning in Dublin airport on my return from Portugal. It was the worst flight of my life. I thought the pilot was a complete fool until I exited the plane and realised how incredibly windy it was. I can't stress that enough. It is so windy in Dublin today that they are not sure whether Marine One can fly the President to Moneygall. Ok, I'm off to the city to hear President Obamas speech. Follow me on twitter.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Queen-Portugal-Obama

I was impressed by the Queens Speech in Dublin Castle this evening. Below is a clip. Check out the many notable faces in the crowd.



Unfortunately I will be offline for a few days. I am flying to Portugal tomorrow to attend a friends wedding on Friday. I will miss the rest of the Queens visit. I am however flying back into Dublin at about 10 am on Monday morning, at about the same time Air Force One will be touching down in Dublin Airport. I really hope I get a close up glimpse of that magnificent aircraft. Either way I will be heading straight into the city center on Monday to see Barack Obama and listen to his outdoor address. I will of course take many pictures and videos and post them all. I really am very excited about the whole thing. I do have one or two posts scheduled to appear in the next few days but it is unlikely I will be able to respond to comments but feel free to chat among yourselves (I sound like a teacher). I will not be using Twitter either as its two expensive to use abroad from my phone and I'm a bit of a cheapskate. Chat soon all !

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Photo of the Day


The scene earlier today outside the GPO, just prior to the Queens motorcade drove down O'Connell Street, not the Garda (sniper I think) on the roof of the GPO.

Go on Mary you know you want to.
And I had to post this picture which has been circling the net since lunch time. It is of course a mock of that famous "Father Ted" episode where Ted has to kick Bishop Brennan up the arse.

The Crown and the Oath

The Queen arrives today on her historic trip to the Irish Republic. Most people assume the historic baggage between the two countries stem from the famine, the Rising, the War of Independence, or the troubles. Perhaps, but I believe the most striking indication of the sensitivity that comes with this trip can be seen by exploring the Irish Civil War, a conflict that was essentially fought over what role the crown would play in an independent Ireland. The 11 months war fought between the new Irish Free State and the forces of the underground Irish Republic (which claimed to still be in existence) is still a sensitive issue today. Historians say that it was a war between two factions of the IRA, one of whom accepted the Anglo Irish Treaty ending Ireland's war with Britain, the other which did not. The standard mantra is that partition, British retention of some southern ports and a settlement that was less than a Republic was what cause the Civil War. But in truth, all sides, even the hard liners had accepted these concessions. What they could not accept was that members of the southern parliament would have to take an oath of allegiance to the crown. It was this issue that caused the split. They tried to amend the wording to make it more acceptable to men and women who had been fighting crown forces. It nearly worked. To get a sense of how vital this terminology was, watch the clips below from the brilliant 1991 movie The Treaty which also illustrates the knife edge that the negotiations were on. Look out for Brendan Gleeson as Michael Collins, the late Ian Bannen as Loyd George and Tony Doyle (also deceased) as Arthur Griffith.







Monday, May 16, 2011

Queen Visit

Queen Elizabeth will arrive in the Republic of Ireland for the first time on Tuesday. The last ruling British monarch to journey to Ireland was King George V in 1911. Since those 100 years there has been a rebellion against British rule, a two and a half year war, an Irish Civil War fought over the issue of recognising the crown, an economic war, and the Northern Ireland troubles. It has been a difficult history. I of course welcome the visit of the Queen. I have long held the view that the most noble political aspiration any Irish person can have is to assist the the reconciliation of the two traditions on this island. Anything that brings the Ulster Protestant and the Irish Catholic closer together is a good thing. I hope this visit can contribute significantly to that goal. Gone are the days I hope when our northern Protestant neighbours viewed the Republic as a hostile entity.

I do want to say however that I am not exactly in the same camp as the "get over it" crowd. There is legitimate reason on both sides for apprehension. The murder of Lord Mountbatten for one, and the highly negative experience that many northern Catholics had with the British Military during the troubles. I agree with Gerry Adams who said recently that to say this visit shows Ireland is maturing is condescending. I thought former Taoiseach John Bruton made a lazy remark when he said that France and Germany have been through two far more brutal wars in the last century yet their Heads of State visit each other regularly. Perhaps, but where as Franco German relations have been on the mend since 1945, Ireland's relationship with Britain has not always had the space to improve. I doubt whether Germany and France would still have such cosy relations if the Germans were still occupying Alsace Lorraine.

As for the Queen herself. I hope she has a grand aul time. I don't have strong feelings about the monarchy one way or another. It's a British thing. But as a World War Two history fanatic, I do find her endurance astonishing. Sixty Six years ago last week she walked out on to the balcony of Buckingham Palace along with her Parents, sister and Prime Minster Winston Churchill to celebrate the allied victory over Nazi Germany. It was one of the most momentous moments in human history. You have to admire that so many years later she is still making history.

Queen Elizabeth, far left, celebrating VE day on the 8th of May 1945.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yom Hashoa

You must watch this extraordinary video from a Tel Aviv highway. It is from the 2nd of May, Yom Hashoa day, the day that the Israeli nation officially remembers the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their allies. Watch as the drivers stop and stand to attention during the haunting sound of the siren.


Enhanced Interrogation Techniques 2

In response to the video I posted recently where Marc Thiessen (former Bush speech writer) makes the case for EIT, I am now posting this speech by John McCain in the Senate where he forcefully rejects the claims by those who say that Enhanced Interrogation was what started the ball rolling in the Bin Laden Hunt. McCain, himself a victim of torture during his time as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, uses surprisingly strong language as he criticises "Bush apologists" and refers to water boarding as a "Mock Execution". The video below is about five minutes long. The longer video of the entire speech (about 22 minutes) is also available on youtube. I would recommend it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Photo of the Day

Three days before Queen Elizabeth is due to set foot in the Republic of Ireland for the first time the Gardai have already cordoned off the areas where she will be visiting. Here, the main thoroughfare junction of Parnell Street and North Fredrick Street, which contains the Garden of Remembrance is closed to all traffic.

Apologies

Blogger went down yesterday morning and three days worth of posts (for all blogger users) and comments disappeared. It was restored this morning but some comments were not recovered so apologies to Paul, Robert Avrech, Jenny, Gary Graybill and John (TSW) whose valuable contributions to recent posts were lost. Over the next week much of my posts will focus on the visits of Queen Elizabeth who quite unbelievably is making her first trip to the Republic of Ireland and Barack Obama who is making his first trip abroad since the slaying of Bin Laden. These visits (oh and David Cameron is coming too) have lead to the biggest security operation in the history of the state with 10,000 Gardai and army participating. Just for the record I am completely against these visits. Not for any ideological reason but because I live in Chapelizod, in an apartment literally about 300 meters away from the grounds of Farmleigh, where the Queen will be staying and about half a mile from the American embassy residence in the Phoenix Park where Obama will spend the night. My Parents and most of my friends live in Castleknock which is on the other corner of the Phoenix Park and I work in the city Center, which is at the far side of the Park. Since i travel into the city and to Castleknock several times daily I reckon there is no other person in the country likely to be more affected logistically by these visits than me. Ah well, on the plus side it will surely result in some fascinating photos for Gubu World.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Khalid Kelly Arrested

An Al Quaeda sympathiser was arrested in Dublin tonight "on suspicion of making threats to kill" in relation to the upcoming visit of Barack Obama to Ireland. I have it on good authority that the man arrested was radical Muslim convert Khalid Kelly. I previous blogged about Kelly in a post entitled Khalid Kelly Returns which was in relation to his return to Ireland from Afghanistan/Pakistan where we can make a fair guess of what he was up to. My main thought right now is, was there evidence of an organised plot or was he just mouthing off, as he is well known for.

Have a look at Kelly doing what he does best on a CNN report.

Lara Logan speaks of Cairo

Brilliant CNN foreign reporter Lara Logan has broken her silence regarding the horrific sexual attack which she was subjected to by a vicious mob while covering the anti government demonstrations which over thew Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak back in March. It is very disturbing to think that such attacks on female correspondents are not unique as she herself indicates because victims fear that their bosses will withdraw them from the field arguing that it is a job simply too dangerous for women. War reporting is an exceptionally dangerous job, one which I have been fascinated in for a long time and have read many books on. A war correspondent could of course be raped or murdered in any part of the world. But I have to say, it is not any part of the world where a female reporter could be subjected to such a monstrous sexual attack by a mob under the accusation of being a Jew. Viewer discretion advised.

I cannot display this video for some reason, to see it, copy and paste the following link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO12X1nhzzk

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Photo of the Day

There is a bit of a buzz around Dublin City at the moment with the upcoming visits of the Queen and Barack Obama. Maybe it is just because there are police everywhere. I wonder which visit the Gardai are more concerned about. Anyway, I noticed this very funny painting (through glass) in a shop window today, of Barack Obama having a pint with his long lost white, sun burnt, toothless, beer bellied Irish cousin.

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques??

I suspect that from this day until the Presidential election in November 2012 a debate will rage as to what role the CIA programme of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques contributed to the slaying of Bin Laden. In this clip below former Bush speech writer Marc Thiesen articulately makes the case for EIT explaining how they were used not to specifically get information but to bring about a change in attitude of the detainees.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Photo of the Day

I noticed this early this morning while walking through Dublin city center. I saw several Gardai (policemen) tinkering with manholes. It seems that in preparation for President Obamas visit to Dublin in two weeks, Gardai are sealing all the manholes in the area in which his motorcade is expected to pass. Standard procedure I'm sure. The manholes covered appear to be marked with a spanner like image sprayed on by yellow paint.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pakistan????

I just had a thought. Are we all being too hard on the Pakistanis? I ask this because I recently read The Squad, a book about the intelligence war between Michael Collins, his agents and the political division of the police and army in Dublin Castle. Collins famously operated under the nose of the castle. He cycled around the city, chatted to police and army at checkpoints and socialised in the same venues as them. So is it really that strange that the worlds most wanted man, managed to evade capture for ten years by living where nobody expected him to. Ok so the comparison has lots of flaws. Nobody knew what Collins looked like where as Bin Ladens face was a global brand. But the principles have similarities. In addition I can understand why the Pakistanis are upset. A breach of sovereignty is one thing. But the Pakistanis have suffered over 30,000 killed in Taliban attacks over the last number of years. Furthermore, the military suffered over 10,000 casualties (3000 killed) in the various offensives into Waziristan and Swat Valley in 2008/09. The American media in particular seem to be jockeying to out do each other in their belittling of Pakistan. I say, is it time we gave them a break?

Photo of the Day

I happened to find myself last week on the 5th floor of a city center building where I managed to snap this photograph. If I were looking at this exact view 95 yeas ago this week what I would have seen would be a ferocious firefight between the Irish Citizen Army (James Connolly's militant trade unionists who participated in the 1916 Rising) and the British Army. On the morning the Rising began, the ICA occupied City Hall, the building on the right of the picture with the green dome. They did not make a serious attempt to take Dublin Castle, the large building in the center. The rebels assumed the castle would be heavily guarded and since they were short of numbers due to the Risings last minute cancellation by Eoin MacNeil (it's a very long story) it was decided against attempting to seize Dublin Castle, the building which the British had administered Ireland from for 700 years. Unknown to the rebels however was the fact that on Easter morning 1916 there were only approximately ten armed men in the castle. Once the castle was reinforced by soldiers from the Royal Barracks (now Collins barracks) an intense battle began between the two positions which were close enough to each other to hurl grenades at. However with superior weaponry, particularly machine guns the British managed to clear city hall of rebels after about 36 hours of fighting. It was the first building occupied by the rebels to be taken by the British.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Bin Ladens Death Means


Osama Bin Laden is dead. His slaying is now the subject of intense politicisation. No matter what happens some people will take whatever they want from the whole episode. Obama supporters will see the Bin Laden killing as vindication of the anti Iraq War line that Afghanistan was always the right war and that pursuing Al Qaeda and Bin Laden in central Asia was the right way to go. These people will argue reasonably enough that the pursuit of the fundamentalists responsible for 9/11 and the termination of Bin Laden might have happened many years ago if the US had not been distracted in their confrontation with the secular dictator in Baghdad. On the other hand, Obamas opponents are arguing that Bin laden would not have been sent to meet his 72 virgins if it hadn't been for the Bush era enhanced interrogation techniques. A fair point although several media outlets are reporting that the information about the courier was obtained from a conventional interrogation. I'm sure the public do not know the truth on this yet but it won't stop conservatives and liberals claiming they know the exact moment the couriers name was first given up. I must say though that I am skeptical of Peter Kings claims, particularly after reading the George Bush memoirs that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave up the name of the courier while being water boarded. I'm not sure if it's even an important point because water boarding was rarely used under George Bush. My view is that such techniques should generally be banned because they are unreliable and morally wrong but that the President under extreme situations should have the authority to personally give the go ahead. The reason torture is wrong is because people will end up doing it, not to get information but because they hate the enemy and they want them to suffer. War is an orgy of hate and inflicting revenge on the enemy is an ugly but natural desire that soldiers have and that should be prevented by law in any civilised nation. But in the rare and extreme situation (like something from an episode of 24), I think people should get real and acknowledge that on the Presidents authorisation, enhanced interrogation should be permitted where saving lives and not getting pleasure from kicking someone you hate in the groin is the clear objective.



In the wake of the sensational news that Osama Bin Laden is brown bread (a Dublin saying) people have in my view largely failed to look at what it means for the Muslim World given that in recent months, two dictators have been overthrown, another refused to go and is now at war with NATO and several others are looking very shaky. So I ask, has Islamic fundamentalism failed? I ask this because the Jihadists have been taken completely by surprise by the Arab revolutions. This is particularly clear in Egypt where they Muslim Brotherhood have been very slow to capitalise on the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak who was their implacable enemy for three decades. The masses are rising up, and although it is early days there is little indication they are doing so to embrace the fundamentalist Sunni Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The Facebook and Twitter generation of the Middle East have been assembling online and engaging in dialogue with each other in an open and unprecedented manner. They have taken this new momentum to the streets and are sending their despots packing. I believe as George W Bush does, that people anywhere in the world if given the opportunity will seize the chance to live in a free society. Now I am not naive. I do not expect to see democratic governance flourish across the region. Political Islam is still excessively conservative and incompatible with the democratic way as we know it. But one thing is clear, they day of the mad Middle Eastern dictator that rules for decades is coming to an end. And with the passing of Bin Laden into the history books the Islamist alternative is beginning to look like a non runner. The west, the free world and President Obama have an unbelievable opportunity to promote democracy in the Middle East and in so doing, to change the direction of this century, from one that has in its first decade been full of war and international tension to one of peaceful cooperation and human development.

Photo of the Day


On the bus this morning I snapped a picture of someone reading a Robert Fisk article in the Independent entitled "Time for a reality check after Bin Laden execution". Hmmm...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Obama looking Strong

A Great pick from The Daily Dish


And this has to go down as the biggest gaffe of the event.


Much more to come tomorrow on the demise of Bin Laden.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some of OBL's victims

I thought it appropriate to re post this piece I wrote about some of the Irish nationals that were murdered by Osama Bin Laden.

Irish Killed on September 11th
There were approximately 20 Irish people killed on this day seven years ago in the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The victims that most Irish people will remember is that of the truly amazing story of Ruth and Juliana McCourt (pictured). On that day Ruth McCourt 44, originally from Ballintemple, County Cork, living in the US since 1973, boarded Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angelas. In her arms was her four year old daughter Juliana. Flight 175 crashed into the south tower at 9:02 am. Juliana McCourt was the second youngest victim on September 11th.

The story takes an unbelievable twist with the news that Ruth's brother Ron Clifford was scheduled for a meeting that morning in the South tower at 9:am. He arrived in the lobby of the south tower at 8:45. About half a minute later he heard the almighty roar and explosion of flight 11 crashing into the North tower. He ran outside to the scene of devastation. He came to the assistance of a woman that had been horribly burned by falling jet fuel. He was still cradling this woman fifteen minutes later when he looked up to see the plane carrying his sister and his niece slam into the south tower. He barely escaped the falling debris. Later that evening he arrived at his home in New Jersey from a day that he probably thought could not possibly be more horrific only to find out that his sister and niece had been killed. Such a tragic collection of coincidences nobody could have imagined.


Other Irish killed that day include Sean Canavan, a 38-year-old carpenter from Co Tyrone. He was finishing off a job on the 94th floor of the south tower when the attack happened. Sean was a first cousin of two time all Ireland winning Tyrone football star Peter Canavan.

DEAD



Picture the scene. I woke up this morning at 11:00am, on a boat (sorry, I should have informed my readers I would be offline for a few days while I attended the stag party of a friend of mine on the river Shannon) in the beautiful village of Shannon bridge on the Galway Offaly border. I was hung over to bits. I had slept in my clothes. I picked up my iphone and pulled a very contorted face as I read a Breaking News pop up message from Fox News that read Osama Bin Laden buried at sea. How long have I been on this boat was my first thought? What the hell did I miss? I investigated further (via iphone media applications) and read that 24 US Navy Seals had attacked a compound north of Islamabad and killed Osama Bin Laden. It is a great thing that the man who murdered so many, did not die of natural causes. Much more to come on this but for now, just enjoy this song, which I reckon the Navy Seals probably played in the helicopter as they flew back to their Afghan base.

Profanity Warning.