Bev survives, while the Blueshirts huff and puff


I’m not of an age to recall the Cumann na nGaedheal government in 1927 using the bankruptcy laws to deprive Jim Larkin of his Dáil seat, but it’s an integral part of the political folklore that forms my background. Maybe that’s why I find it difficult to be censorious in the case of Beverley Flynn, or maybe it’s just a sense of mischief. Then of course there’s the basic democratic principle that the people of Mayo have spoken, only a few short weeks ago, and if the people of Mayo want Bev to represent them, as they evidently do, then they’re entitled to have her.

As things stand, her settlement with RTÉ in respect of her failed libel action in 2001 means that, instead of being pressed for the full €2.8m, Bev will commit to paying considerably less than half of that, which is still a penalty not to be sneezed at. There is nothing odd or suspicious about RTÉ reaching a settlement in the interests of the licence-payers. Faced with a choice between a settlement that will bring in a million quid and change, and pressing a bankruptcy action that could have seen them struggling to recover anything, any accountant worth his salt would have said, Go for the settlement. It’s the same principle as a company settling a personal injury claim that they could have legitimately contested, because often paying off a plaintiff makes more sense than risking going before a jury.

What complicates this, of course, is Bertie’s statement of a little while back holding out the prospect of Bev recovering the Fianna Fáil whip, and even looking at junior ministerial office a little way down the road. Fine Gael are hailing this as evidence that the RTÉ Authority has been nobbled. Somehow I doubt that. Not only are the RTÉ Authority not renowned for being a panel of FF stooges, but it would be deeply uncharacteristic of Bertie to do anything so blatantly. Had Bertie really been twisting arms at RTÉ, he would have kept very very quiet on the Flynn case.

But the FG reaction speaks volumes. If I understand Electric Enda correctly, RTÉ settling with Bev is proof positive of political interference. One assumes that the non-political course of action would have been to have Bev declared bankrupt, trigger a by-election in Mayo that FG would almost certainly win, and play merry hell with the coalition arithmetic in Leinster House. It’s the authentic response of a party that believes that it rightfully owns the state, which is only being illegitimately squatted by Fianna Fáil. Yes, those old Cumann na nGaedheal instincts don’t lie far below the surface.

We’re all Devo!


While moseying about the Smithsonian, our Magnificent Seven ministers may like to bone up on their natural history. Darwinian evolution has a tough time of it here in Norn Iron, and not surprisingly, as the empirically minded can see evidence of Jocko Homo all around us.

Regular readers will recall the reverend who went on Talk Back to argue that the teaching of evolution in schools was to blame for a spate of suicide attempts on the Shankill Road. Such thinking has now resurfaced in our devolved assembly, whence news reaches us that North Antrim MLA, Mervyn Storey of the DUP, is demanding under the New Dispensation’s equality provisions that “Intelligent Design” be given equal time in our schools.

All together now: Are we not men?

Pádraig Mac Piarais and the poetic imagination


Pearse is a very unfashionable figure these days, indeed for decades past. Although there are plenty of people who would love to claim the banner of Connolly, sometimes by gutting his ideas and sometimes by ascribing to him an ultra-radicalism he didn’t have, Pearse would be nearly forgotten had he not got the station named after him. This reflects, I think, a deep ambivalence towards 1916, such a significant event that it still makes our political establishment uneasy 91 years later, but also in a basic lack of ambivalence in Pearse’s mode of expression. Connolly can be, and has been, reinvented as a Labourite, a Stickie, a Fianna Fáiler, a Provo, even someone close to the esoteric ideology of the Socialist Party, but Pearse is harder to bend to a foreign purpose. Possibly that’s why few people today bother to ask the question, what did Pearse think he was doing?

The great martyr has been particularly badly served by our historical revisionists, who like to write him off as a virtual madman, something you can get away with by throwing around cant terms like “atavism”. Often this is given a theological gloss by reference to mystical ideas of “blood sacrifice”, which shows a basic lack of knowledge of Catholic theology. It’s true that Irish Catholicism, and its colonial offshoot in Scotland, are deeply weird from the standpoint of Vatican orthodoxy, but they still don’t find much of a place for “blood sacrifice”. In any case, the man was not a mad Catholic theocrat in the Maria Duce mould, but basically a Rousseauist political thinker.

What sets Pearse apart, and renders him difficult for a lot of people to understand, is that he was not only a revolutionary but also a poet, a combination that used to be a lot more common than it is these days. Not only that, but he had an intimate knowledge of a Gaelic canon that is unfamiliar to most modern readers, not least because a big chunk of our society believe that having no Irish at all is the mark of a sophisticate. If you’ve even a passing acquaintance with the old literature, and even with my horrible Irish – like the Myles na gCopaleen character, I have no Gaelic only Ulster Gaelic, and not a fierce amount of that – I do my best, then what is obscure becomes clear.

It’s worth remembering the basic transformative element of the aisling genre, a patriotic verse form that Pearse was steeped in, whereby the cailleach (hag) becomes the spéirbhean (goddess or woman of great beauty). This is a very old theme in folklore, and a sanitised version appears in European fairy tales in which a girl kisses a frog, whereupon it magically transforms into a handsome prince. In the old Irish versions, not only are the gender roles reversed, but, as Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is fond of reminding us, the hero doesn’t get away with just demure kissing – no, he has to sleep with the hag. Damn, those old Gaels were a racy bunch. The aisling poems of later centuries tend to be more elevated in tone than the Old Irish texts, as befits their identification of the cailleach-spéirbhean transformation with the cause of national rebirth, but nonetheless they build on the original.

Let us then turn to Pearse’s most famous poem:

Mise Éire:
Sine mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra.
Mór mo ghlóir:
Mé a rug Cú Chulainn cróga.
Mór mo náire:
Mo chlann féin a dhíol a máthair.
Mór mo phian:
Bithnaimhde do mo shíorchiapadh.
Mór mo bhrón:
D’éag an dream inar chuireas dóchas.
Mise Éire:
Uaigní mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra.

Incidentally, Bernie McAliskey does a great recitation of “Mise Éire”, though she may prefer to sing some Leonard Cohen, as she did last time I was at a meeting with her. But to return to the point, what is Pearse saying here? It’s well known that he is lamenting the state of the nation, but what’s crucial here is the aisling convention – having identified Ireland with the Hag of Béarra, as night follows day, the cailleach must inevitably become the spéirbhean. But to accomplish that, one needs a heroic intervention.

So, in place of the blood sacrifice, do we then have 1916 as a symbolic act of sexual intercourse? That may strike the literalist reader as weirder still. But we are talking about allegory layered upon allegory: the sex is not sex, but symbolic of the self-sacrifice of the hero. Semiology, how are you. It’s a particularly difficult point for those whose cultural background is basically written rather than oral, as evidenced by the Austrian policemen in 1914 who laughed when the Sarajevo assassins described themselves as junaci (heroes). Had the Austrians known the nuanced meaning of junak in Serbian patriotic poetry, where the term equates pretty well to our fian, the assassins’ self-description might not have sounded so, well, incongruous.

Incongruous, of course, is how it appears to our soi-disant rationalists, who find it bizarre that anyone, outside of the wilder reaches of Islamic fundamentalism, could be inspired to drastic political action by poetic imagery. The power of the poetic archetype as a way of describing our current situation and pointing towards the future passes by those who see the flip soundbite as the mark of the great communicator. But this just goes to show that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the logical positivist mind.

Blair’s Chair


Some things really do defy commentary. It appears that, as Mr Tony Blair finally leaves office, he’s going to be appointed by the Quartet (a cabal of the big imperialist powers) as “peace envoy” to the Middle East. Yup, that’s right, the junior invader of Iraq is going to carry lots of credibility as an honest broker for peace. Are the Quartet taking the piss? I mean, why not appoint Rumsfeld?

Mr Tony’s first task will be to aid the cause of the Palestinians by supporting the Fatah coup and coordinating punishment of Hamas for the crime of, er, thinking the election results meant anything. This is a bit like the way, every time Serbia has an election, the EU sends in the diplomatic SWAT teams to ensure that the Radicals can’t form a government no matter how many votes they get. In the same way, the Palestinians have got a Henry Ford democracy where you can have any government you like, as long as it’s Fatah.

And, just to underline the great man’s peacemaking credentials, it is reported that Liverpool University’s Institute of Irish Studies is establishing a Mr Tony Blair Chair in his honour. The Institute, by the way, is run by one of our most prominent revisionist historians, Marianne Elliott, and the Blair Chair is being endowed by – guess who – the Dublin government. Nice one Bertie!

Harperson’s triumph


Another short post, as I don’t have much to chip in as regards El Gordo’s Albanian election, or the election of Harriet Harperson as deputy. I know that Harriet has gained a lot of support for striking poses on Trident and Iraq, and I also know that these can’t be taken at all seriously. She’ll be voting for Trident with both hands before you know it. Andy’s comments on this are well worth reading.

It’s heartening, though, that Cruddas did so well, and probably a good thing he didn’t win. Yes, of course Cruddas isn’t an ideological leftist, though I expect a huge chunk of his vote came from the left. He’s more interesting than that, and rather more interesting than McDonnell, who is a decent bloke but didn’t say much that he hasn’t been saying for 25 years, and didn’t appeal much to people outside the existing left. Cruddas is interesting not only in his background as a Blairite apparatchik, but in how he changed after going to Dagenham. He seems to have got the shock of his life in realising how decayed Labour was at the grassroots, and also, as a man who takes his anti-fascism seriously, from the challenge of the BNP in Dagenham. As a result of this he showed a lot more insight than most people on the left, and I’ll watch his future actions with interest.

It also puts a little smile on my face to see our beautifully groomed but seemingly not very popular proconsul not coming anywhere near the pace. This despite having little to do here, even less to do in his other non-job as viceroy of Wales, and therefore having had plenty of time on his hands to promote himself. Maybe it’s time for Peter to get the blazer off the hook and follow his real calling to be a Wimbledon umpire.

Gail Walker Watch


We’re being nice in the Watch this week, as Gail’s main piece, on local TV personality Jeannie Johnston’s experience of domestic abuse, is rather good and worth reading. Elsewhere, Gail bigs up Pope Benny for his upbraiding of Mr Tony, although she unaccountably doesn’t seem to have a problem with Benny’s opposition to the war in Iraq. By Gail standards, this would normally be enough to mark the Pope out as a trendy leftie. And, for the second week running, Gail’s strange fascination with Prince William’s hairline. Get over it, woman.

Rud eile: Also in today’s Telegraph, the Orange Order’s new corporate logo is unveiled. Well, it’s a bit easier on the eye than London 2012.

Benny to Mr Tony: Feck off!


It’s been gratifying to see Mr Tony Blair’s extended farewell tour come a cropper at its very climax, with the outgoing prime minister meeting Pope Benny in the Vatican. This had been spun as hugely significant, with Mr Tony widely expected to announce his conversion to Catholicism, and even speculation that he’d be fast-tracked to deaconhood. However, since the official diplomatic communiqué reported a “frank exchange of views” – code for a blazing row – it seems likely that the meeting went something like this:

Mr Tony: Your Holiness, I’d like to become a Catholic.

Pope Benny: Think on, matey.

It is further reported that Benny got stuck in over the Iraq war, abortion, stem cell research, gay adoption and generally Mr Tony leading the most anti-Catholic government since Victorian times.

Though I disagree with him about most things, I have a lot of time for Benny, who’s a top intellectual and one of the most interesting theologians of our time – if you haven’t read his new book on Jesus, it’s well worth a look. Mr Tony, on the other hand, is a brilliant salesman who has never given the impression of being very thoughtful. This is a problem for the potential convert. While Mrs Tony, as a cradle Catholic, has more latitude to get away with flouting Catholic doctrine, the prospective convert is expected to show some interest in said doctrine. And, while there have been acres of newsprint about Mr Tony’s intention to convert, nobody seems to know why, except for the convenience of his wife and kids, he might want to do so.

With that sort of woolly outlook, maybe it’s better if he stays in the C of E. And high fives all round to Benny.

Search of the week


Stealing this feature shamelessly from the good folks at Shiraz Socialist, I have been going through this week’s search engine terms, and it strikes me that watching Gail Walker is generating more showbiz-related traffic. It’s also remarkable that so many punters out there seem to have a newsreader fetish, if all these searches for Jane Hill’s big boobs are anything to go by. BBC News’s Jane must be pleased, or possibly alarmed, to know she has such an enthusiastic fan club. Just to confirm that half the people on the net are after girlie pictures, there continue to be hits from searches for saucy schoolgirls, TV’s Michelle Ryan and Amanda “Lethal Assets” Brunker. I’d love to know what the punters’ reaction is when they hit a political blog.

But this is, I’m relieved to say, outweighed by political search terms. Richard Boyd Barrett, Maria Duce, Brendan Clifford and Jim Gibney all turn up, Gibney on an almost daily basis. And I continue to be a major source for those seeking info on the DUP’s Simon Hamilton. Oh, and Chomskyan linguistics appears too – but the reader looking for Johann Hari sucks should be ashamed of himself.

So that’s the hon. mentions. To this week’s most striking searches:

In third place, continental philosophy bollocks. This is a depressing testimony to what our universities are teaching these days.

In second, Pat Rabbitte Stalinist. Someone with a long memory there.

And in first, Lower Falls tracksuit. Yes, it’s those pyjama-wearing women again. Oh dear.

Notes from the grimpen mire, part 4


Okay then, cup of tea at the ready. Aimee Mann playing. Magnolia soundtrack, if I’m not mistaken. Just what the doctor ordered. Now, where was I?

So, let’s return to aspects of Irish life that our Anglo left don’t get, and there are few better illustrations of this than corruption. You will recall last year’s controversy over Bertie’s mysterious dig-out, when at the height of the storm Fianna Fáil suddenly rocketed five points in the polls, and Irish Times editrix Geraldine Kennedy was heard to exclaim “What kind of country are we?” Meanwhile, the innocent Dublin pedestrian will have noticed small knots of revolutionary socialists bearing placards calling on the feds to arrest elected representatives, which may seem odd behaviour for people usually averse to policing.

Let your mind go back to the early 1990s, when Charlie was forced to resign and then Albert found himself under some pressure over his own dealings. At the time, the Irish left were very much taken with the concurrent Tangentopoli scandals in Italy, and the collapse of the Christian Democrats. It was confidently predicted – in particular by Swiss Toni – that Fianna Fáil would go the same way, blithely ignoring the significant differences between Italy and Ireland. The broad masses, in this scenario, would rise up and kick out FF, and the whole political scene would be thrown into turmoil.

Actually, it’s probably a good thing that Ireland isn’t Italy. The Italians dumped the Christian Democrats, and got Berlusconi (the structural analogue of Dr Sir Anthony O’Reilly becoming taoiseach) in coalition with the neo-fascists. Meanwhile, much to the consternation of both Geraldine Kennedy and Kieran Allen, the great unwashed have failed to be stirred by tales of FF corruption to rise up and cast off their oppressors. In fact, the dopey feckers keep re-electing FF.

Nevertheless, some of that old hope still lingers, which accounts for the reverence our liberals and leftists have for the tribunals. We open the papers and find some people who ought to know better hailing Judges Flood and Mahon as the Irish body politic’s answer to Batman and Robin – or, at the very least, Power Man and Iron Fist. Yet, as Vincent Browne points out in the current Village, the tribunal system is a scandal in its own right. Not least in the fact that the tribunals may be in breach of the Bunreacht, although one would need the gift of telepathy to guess how the Supreme Court will act.

Beyond that, consider that there have been multiple judicial tribunals running for as long as anyone can remember, with no end in sight. Nobody is going to jail. Nobody looks like going to jail. There are serious questions about leakage. There is a clear over-reliance on dodgy witnesses, not least Tom Gilmartin and my old friend Frank “The Canary” Dunlop. The overall costs of this judicial circus will be, at the very least, several hundreds of millions of euros, and may very well pass the billion mark. In essence, an enormous state subsidy to multimillionaire barristers, and such a blatant one that even the Law Library is getting restive. Those unionists who give off about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry don’t know they’re born.

There is a further, political aspect to this. The tribunal juggernaut is so clearly out of control that the only way it can justify its existence is by claiming the head of the Taoiseach. This is not lost on Fianna Fáil supporters, who take an understandably jaundiced view of the whole tribunal setup, and as this imperative becomes ever more obvious, the credibility gap grows.

One could argue that the tribunals served their purpose years ago. The law has been tightened up and public life is infinitely freer of backhanders than it was in the 1980s. Not least, the current media culture has sounded the death knell for the kind of “strokes” that used to be common – not many TDs nowadays would even attempt to square a constituent’s drink-driving charge. This is not to say that there isn’t a need for some kind of watchdog, nor that there aren’t scandals that need investigating. But it may be past time to conclude that the tribunals aren’t doing us any quantifiable good. And, Lord knows, if the purpose now is to arrive at a rational explanation of Bertie’s personal finances, they could be running till doomsday.

McDoughnut: the revenge


I was fully prepared to hate Sir Trevor McDonald’s new vehicle, News Knight, but much to my surprise – and against my better judgement – was soon roaring my leg off. Thankfully, Trev eschews any fancy-schmancy panel game stuff à la Have I Got News For You, and the show is quite simply Trev and his comedy panel quipping about events of the week, interspersed with amusing TV bloopers. The very basic and ramshackle nature of the show only adds to its charm, and is helped along no end by being hugely funny.

Some of this no doubt is due to timing. The satirical show has a habit of starting off with a bang and then declining. Readers old enough to recall Hall’s Pictorial Weekly will remember it reached its best-before date after not too many years, and so did Spitting Image. HIGNFY itself has been almost unbearably smug for years now, and this might explain why I’ve gone off Private Eye lately. Well, that and Wheen’s neocon editorialising, which threatens at times to spin out of control and turn the Eye into Democratiya with jokes.

So, back to Trev. The great man himself is possessed of a deadpan delivery coming from his thirty years of anchorman solemnity. Good performances too from his panel, regular sidekick Marcus Brigstocke and guests Clive Anderson and Reginald D Hunter (Reginald being quite hilarious). And remarkably un-PC humour by today’s standards. Don’t know if this can be sustained, but I’ll watch next week with anticipation rather than morbid curiosity.

Rud eile: In the spirit of being nice, I’ll just mention the appearance on Big Brother On The Couch by friend of this blog Johann Hari (age 13¾), whose psychological insights have been most entertaining. This leads me to think that Johann should scale down his “issues” journalism and do more personalities and pop culture. Anyway, ádh mór, Johann.

Rud eile fós: Another small joy of the weekend’s TV, watching John Simm’s Master pull off the crime of the century by comprehensively stealing Doctor Who. And it’s nice to see the Master finally get a close female companion.

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