Monthly Archives: July 2015

So, Was The IRA Defeated, Or Not?


For understandable reasons, Gerry Adams chose the 10th anniversary of the end of the IRA’s campaign against Britain – on July 28th, 2005 – to repeat a claim that the IRA was never defeated.

Adams was also responding, according to press reports, to recent remarks by British premier, David Cameron that, “British resolve saw off the IRA’s assaults on our way of life”, i.e that Britain defeated the IRA.

So, who is right?

In one sense, both men are right.

When a war ends with victory for one or other side, the event is usually marked by a formal surrender ceremony and the signing of a surrender document in which the defeated side concedes their military failure.

No such ceremony happened in 1994, 1997, 1998 or 2005. There is no piece of paper on which P O’Neill concedes with his or her signature the IRA’s defeat.

So, in that sense, Adams is correct.

But that doesn’t mean that Cameron is wrong either.

Defeat or victory at the end of a conflict is also measured in other ways.

For example, if one party to a conflict surrenders its weapons, that is, disarms itself at the insistence of its opponent while that opponent holds on to their weapons, then there is no doubt that the former lost and the latter won. IRA decommissioning happened at the insistence of the British and by agreeing to it signaled that it would no longer defy the British with force or arms. It may have taken a long time to happen but happen it did.

Then there is the question of war aims. The Provisional IRA set out to enforce the Irish people’s right to national self-determination, last expressed on an all-island basis in 1919 with a vote in favour of Sinn Fein, a party that advocated complete Irish independence. In other words the IRA’s war aim was to reverse and destroy the affront to this democratic principle inherent in the existence of Northern Ireland, an entity that came into being within two years of that vote in 1919.

In Unionist and British eyes, Northern Ireland existed and was a legitimate entity because the people of Northern Ireland had the right to consent, or not to consent to a united Ireland. The IRA disputed this right on the grounds that it offended the larger principle of national self-determination and through its war set out to overthrow this principle.

So, how did this pan out? Well not only did the IRA not succeed in overthrowing the principle of consent, its political leadership has accepted the principle and agreed to participate in political institutions based upon that principle and given its support to state institutions like the police force also created upon that basis.

It is rather as if the US and Europe ended up not only accepting the right of ISIS to exist but went on to embrace Islam as their state religion.

The other clue about how a war or conflict ended up can be seen in the treatment of the losing side’s leaders.

In May 2014, the PSNI arrested Gerry Adams and held him, like a common criminal suspect, in a holding centre for four days and questioned him repeatedly about his alleged part in a murder committed by the IRA during the course of its war against the British. It is clear that if they could have, the PSNI would have charged Mr Adams, put him on trial and see him sentenced to a jail term.

In the end, how one side treats the leader or leaders of the other side after a conflict has ended carries the real clue as to who won and who lost.

A Crucial Realization About Journalism Is Learned By Being its Subject

In the early 1990s, my father had an outlook-altering experience. A life-long South Florida accountant for individuals and small businesses, he had no involvement in politics and harbored a basic patriotic trust for American institutions, including its media – the type of uncritical faith we’re taught to have and easily adopt if we’re not paying close attention. But then one of his accounting clients, a manager of a Native American casino, ended up in a public business dispute with the tribe that owned it, and the local media extensively covered the dispute.

Because he had much first-hand knowledge of the controversy, he was able to see how many misleading claims and outright factual falsehoods were regularly stated as fact by the media covering that story. And he was both shocked and outraged by it. For the first time, he viscerally understood how easily and often false claims are circulated by respectable media outlets – whether due to laziness or gullibility or manipulation or malice or the difficulty of understanding complex events. And that personal realization made him much more skeptical in general about what media outlets told him and much more critical in how he assessed and processed it.

I was reminded of all this by a self-reflective, three-tweet observation from Hamilton Nolan of Gawker, which has been the subject of extensive media coverage over the last several weeks:

I can’t overstate how much I empathize with these sentiments. For the past decade, I’ve been writing critically about the American media, usually with a focus on the specific policy and legal topics I know best. So like most politically engaged people, I’ve long been rationally aware of how frequently deceitful and inaccurate claims are passed off by the most respected media outlets as fact, using highly authoritative tones. By itself, the Iraq War should have taught all of us that (though I regard the repeated attempt by ABC News to blame Iraq for the anthrax attack as a perhaps even more extreme example).

Still, nothing drives home that point viscerally like being personally involved in matters the media is reporting and thus having first-hand knowledge of what is being claimed. Over the past two years, there’s been extensive media coverage and public discussion of both the Snowden story and the building of First Look Media/The Intercept, in which I’ve been very personally involved. So much of what has been said and still gets said about those things – not just by random online commenters and conspiracy-mongers but by the largest and most influential media outlets – is just plainly wrong: not “wrong” in the sense of resting on unpersuasive opinions or even casting a misleading picture, but “wrong” in the sense of being factually, demonstrably false.

It’s so frequent, so common, that it’s impossible even to note all or even most of the falsehoods because one would never do anything else. And even if one devoted oneself to that task, many of the falsehoods would continue to thrive because of our reflexive assumption that what we read from respectable media outlets is true even if unaccompanied by evidence, and because most people lack the time and inclination to independently verify what they’re told about matters in which they have no personal stake.

But it’s a monumentally important experience for any journalist to have. It teaches a crucial lesson: it’s simultaneously humbling about the limits of one’s ability to fully understand complicated situations about which one has no first-hand knowledge, and illuminating about the inherent subjectivity with which we all view everything. After I briefly made this observation on Twitter in response to Nolan’s tweets, former Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger wrote this:

Indeed. But that realization is equally vital for consumers of journalism. Journalistic objectivity is a sham, a horribly misleading and self-flattering conceit. Don’t simply trust claims made in authoritative media tones – even if, perhaps especially if, they work for the most influential media outlets – unless they point to evidence that confirms or at least suggests its truth. And when consuming journalism products, always consciously realize that, even when malice or other forms of bad faith are nonexistent, so much of what is said and claimed by journalists is simply untrue. Again, that’s an easy and seemingly obvious proposition to embrace in the abstract – few people would say they disagree with this – but as Nolan’s tweets show, its visceral truth becomes most apparent from personal experience.

Jeremy Corbyn Garners British Labour’s Young Vote

I must confess to having mixed feelings about the British Labour Party. On the one hand I owe it an awful lot. Without the National Health Service, I probably would never have been able to walk or function like a normal human being. The horrors of the alternative, a class-based, wealth-biased system which still dominates America, Obamacare notwithstanding, tell me what life otherwise would have been like.

Nor would I have had the education I got, free from the year dot until I graduated from university. In fact better than free. Not only were all my fees paid but I got an annual grant to go to college. Unthinkable in this day and age!

In those days, the Labour Party paid more than lip service to the ideals of equality and the goal of social and economic justice. Where and when it all started to go wrong is a matter of debate but there’s no doubt in my mind that when Labour elected Blair as its leader and Mandelson as its guru – with the disgusting Frank Field, Thatcher’s best friend, crowing the background – then it was all over bar the crying.

I suppose the rock bottom was reached recently when Harriet Harman, acting Labour leader, voiced support for the Tories’ new, draconian welfare cuts of £12 billion, announced recently. As you can see in this article, those with disabilities are in the firing line; they may not suffer this time round but they sure as hell will soon. So it was a good thing I was born in the last century and not this.

There are, however, some tentative signs that the worm is turning, well maybe adjusting its rear view mirror might be more accurate. A substantial number of Labour MP’s voted against the Cameron welfare cuts when the House of Commons voted on it recently, while some contenders for the Labour leadership decided to abstain. That’s one pointer.

The other is the absolute panic surging through the ranks of the Blairite establishment at the groundswell of support in the Labour leadership polling for Jeremy Corbyn, the CP’ish left-winger from Islington. Corbyn is what people of my generation – which happens to be his – would recognise as a Tony Benn Labourite: pro the NHS, pro-nationalisation, pro-free education and so on.

What distinguishes him from the Blairites is that he actually believes in something while the Mandelson’s, Fields, Blairs and Browns see the Labour party almost entirely as a vehicle for personal enrichment and career fullfilment – in Blair’s case add a heavy dose of war-mongering.

The other aspect of Corbyn’s appeal is highlighted in this current piece from The New Statesman (an unlikely source, I know!). He is anti-austerity, and taps in to the zeitgeist (minus Tsipras!) current in Europe. Not surprisingly it is young members of the British Labour party who are his most ardent  supporters. Wouldn’t it be fun if he won? The howls of outrage from the Blairites would alone be worth it.



Who’s backing Jeremy Corbyn? The young

Perhaps it’s a form of the Streisand effect, but the more we hear about Jeremy Corbyn – and let’s be honest, most of it has been disparaging – the more people seem to like him. The commentators and politicians highlight his “outdated” socialist values, his flat cap, his supposed unelectability, and instead of turning away, many people (myself included) look at him and think: “yeah.” A YouGov poll for the Times has put Corbyn on course to win the leadership election, with a 17 point lead ahead of the other candidates.

The snobbery around Corbyn has been something to behold. And yet, the more the snobs and the political cardboard cut-outs, the Blairites and the Tories and the brown-nosers slag off and berate Corbynites (and in ways they would decry as “patronising” if they were directed towards shy Tory voters), the more Corbyn steadily gains support. In contrast to the other candidates, who have never taken him seriously and now appear to be panicking, Corbyn comes across as dignified, principled, unconcerned with personal advancement, and passionate about his politics.

Hearing Tristram Hunt on the Today programme yesterday, plumming off on one about how Corbyn supporters want to return to a “comfort zone of Labour politics” and how if Corbyn wins Labour will become little more than a “pressure group” because being an “anti-austerity populist party isn’t going to get us into government” didn’t make me “see sense” as Hunt probably intended. It just made me think, “screw you all, you don’t deserve to be in government.” From what other young new Labour recruits have been telling me, I’m not alone in thinking this.

It’s been reported that a significant portion of the support Corbyn is receiving is coming from new, young Labour members. People like me, who are too young to remember the unelectable eighties, or indeed what “a comfort zone of Labour politics” feels like. This certainly seemed to be the case at the Islington North meeting I attended last week, where people of all ages, but notably young people, stood up in support of Corbyn. And, despite what his opponents might say, it’s clear he has a support base outside of Islington.

Rebecca Chambers is 19 and from Southampton. She joined the Labour party this week to vote for Corbyn. “He is much more relatable than the ‘suits’ that you would ordinarily see in the forefront of a leadership vote like this,” she tells me, “which I think is more likely to win over voters (perhaps in a similar way to the ‘Everyman’ persona of Nigel Farage).” Joe Rivers, from Surrey, is nearly a decade older but feels similarly uninspired by the candidates: “I’m not sure Jeremy Corbyn would make a good PM and I’m not naive enough to think he’s going to lead Britain into some kind of socialist utopia,” he says, a standard disclaimer that is understandable in the face of the sneering Corbyn supporters are facing. Rivers has “zero trust” in MPs having voted Lib Dem in 2005 and 2010 and seen their U-turn on tuition fees. “It bothers me a lot that nobody in Westminster seems to have an ideology or stand for anything in particular,” he says. “In a political climate where everyone is so scared of losing votes that everything they say is endlessly caveated, no-one says anything at all. Jeremy Corbyn stands for something and, faced with the cruellest government since Thatcher, that counts for a lot.”

Owen Jones - young writer and political activist. Typical of Corbyn's youthful followers.....

Owen Jones – young writer and political activist. Typical of Corbyn’s youthful followers…..

And that is the crux of what Corbyn supporters in their teens and twenties are telling me again and again: that the current crop of candidates are so uninspiring that you can forget about winning a general election – they’d rather just have someone who represents their views about inequality, for once. Better a passionate and interesting opposition that has moral conviction than a bunch of identikit shysters who will jettison their values as soon as electoral victory looks likely, is how the way of thinking goes. Those of us who are inspired by Corbyn can expect to be called young and idealistic, or be told we need to “do our research”, but there it is. It’s obvious that, for some young people at least, Corbyn is scratching a persistent anti-Blairite, anti-establishment itch.

Some of Corbyn’s ideals, such as re-nationalisation of the railways and the need to protect a publicly funded NHS undoubtedly have national appeal. Others, like the abolition of tuition fees and his anti-austerity stance, are policies with the potential to appeal to young people across the country (particularly those in danger of losing their housing benefit). Hunt is not wrong to make comparisons with Syriza and Podemos; some of those I spoke to in their teens and twenties cited the left wing movements on mainland Europe as inspirational. There’s an untapped stream of young people in Britain who feel their politics are not being represented. You see them on the austerity marches, on social media, in the words of Charlotte Church and Owen Jones and Mhairi Black. But the surge in support for Corbyn isn’t just about young people re-engaging with left-wing politics, it’s also to do with the quality Zoe Williams identified earlier this week as being central to Corbyn’s campaign; it’s about hope.

Hope, in fact, is the exact word that many of the Corbyn supporters in their teens and twenties conjure when I ask them “why him?” They feel that we are at a crucial point when it comes to deciding, as a nation and as a society, what our values are, and that only Corbyn offers an optimistic vision for the future. Jamie Scott, 19, from Luton admires Corbyn’s desire to “invest in housing and infrastructure that the country actually needs yet no other candidate is willing to sign up to”.

“All of the successes of the post-war government were based around investing to create a better society rather than not trying to improve peoples lives with the aim to ‘get by’ which is what I see in the other candidates”, he says.

Corbyn’s background also appeals. “He doesn’t come from the Oxbridge, SpAd/Researcher background which all of the other candidates do, an elite which is massively over-represented in Parliament,” says Jamie. “The other three candidates can’t connect to me as they do not inspire hope of anything better, simply more of the same.”

Some of the people I spoke to came from traditionally Labour-supporting households and think Corbyn represents a return to those values. “I think that, being from the North, it’s the IDEA of the Labour Party that I like,” says Alex McBride, 24, from Manchester, “the idea that my grandparents, and parents voted for them; for ideas like decency, fairness, representation, respect, unity, hope – ideas that transcend the Watford Gap at least!”

Laura Fisher, 24, meanwhile, “used to be pretty Tory” before going to university and becoming interested in feminism and social justice. Then, during the election, she was saddened to see her historically Labour-voting family sway to the right. “My family all live in working class areas in the North (Middlesbrough and York) and many of them were saying they were going to vote for UKIP. These were life-long Labour voters or at least supporters of what I feel are (or definitely were) Labour’s values.”

Laura says she knew that her family were not going to feel “any more listened to” by any of the other candidates. “I felt that Labour were looking in all the wrong places for their support and trying to replicate 1997, which was a once in a generation thing,” she says.

These are young Labour supporters who know their politics and their history, and have a clear vision of the sort of society in which they would like to live. They state the importance of fairness and inclusivity. They feel passionately that the generations that came before them have failed to provide for them, or have betrayed them politically, especially over student fees. They also feel that their voices have long gone unheard.

Lucie Spadone, 17, joined the Labour party last September, when she was 16, and as well as being inspired by Corbyn’s anti-austerity stance, also thinks that he would “give young people a platform to air their views” because his views are in line with theirs. Abby Tomlinson, the 17 year old activist who founded #milifandom, agrees that he is a vocal supporter of her generation. “I think he represents a voice for change that a lot of young people want to hear,” she says. “A lot of young people feel angry at all of the measures the government seems to be taking to make the lives of young people harder. The contempt David Cameron has for young people I think means that a lot want an alternative who they know will support them, and for a lot of people that person is Jeremy Corbyn.”

There’s certainly an excitement around Corbyn that is notable on social media and at demonstrations. Whether or not, as some commentators suggest, his popularity ends up being merely a blip, a symptom of the silly season after which Labour members and supporters will abandon the underdog and resign themselves to the centre ground remains to be seen. But you can’t deny that there’s a contingent of people in their teens and twenties out there who think he’s brilliant while remaining underwhelmed, if not disgusted, by the others and their perceived support for austerity.


How To Explain That INLA Turnout At Peggy O’Hara’s Funeral……

I got a puzzled email in the last few days from one reader asking why so many INLA members turned out for Peggy O’Hara’s funeral in Derry when the INLA is on ceasefire and dissident, anti-process activity has almost ceased.

As you can see from the photos below the INLA turnout was impressive, as big or perhaps bigger than the group could muster when the bullets were flying:


funeral-of-peggy-ohara-inla-pay-tribute-to-derry-hunger-strikers-motherI think the answer is quite simple. One word: ceasefire.

The experience of republican groups during the Troubles was that when ceasefires were called, as they were for the Officials in 1972 and for the Provos between 1975-76, 1994-1996 and 1997 onwards, membership surged but as soon as it seemed that life might get hairy again, it dwindled like air escaping from a balloon – as it did for the Officials during several inter-republican feuds in the Seventies and the Provos in 1977 and 1997.

There was even a name for such people: ceasefire soldiers.

I suspect the same thing has happened with the INLA. Now that there is next to no risk attached to being a member, and while being one of the lads still carries some clout in the communities, the INLA has probably experienced a upsurge in recruitment. Expect that to reverse if the INLA resumes hostilities.

Being White In America – Riveting New Documentary

American Whites are like the Prods in the North. The Blacks and Hispanics are the Catholics. Well, almost. This new film by Jose Antonio Vargas takes a sometimes uncomfortable look at the White population. Does any of it strike a chord with you?

Sinn Fein Threaten Collapse of Assembly. Honestly!

SFA little bird told me that the following was the highlight of today’s exchange between Gerry Adams and David Cameron at 10 Downing Street:

GA: “We’re dead serious, prime minister! If we don’t get the budget we want, if you don’t soften your austerity policies then we’ll have no choice. The Assembly will collapse!”

DC: (Swirling his forefinger in a wide circle) “There are people in offices all around us, Gerry, who are laughing their legs off as they listen in to this conversation.”


NY Times Welcomes ISIS To An Exclusive Club – Say Hi To US, UK, EU, Australia, Israel, Etc, Etc…..


Gareth Robinson’s PR Website Went Live Only In January 2014 Just Weeks Before NAMA Deal

My thanks to The Catalunya Kid for researching this article.

By The Catalunya Kid

The website of Verbatim Communications, the public relations firm owned by Gareth Robinson, son of NI First Minister Peter Robinson, which has been linked to the NAMA property scandal recently highlighted in the Dail, was not active in its present form until January, 2014, according to an analysis of its internet timeline using the WayBackMachine Internet Archive tool.

Gareth & Peter Robinson

Gareth & Peter Robinson

This was two years after Verbatim was paid thousands of pounds to host an event at Queens University Belfast which was paid for by the law firm, Tughans, which also handled the purchase of the £1.3 billion NI property portfolio from NAMA, by Cereberus, the New York-based private equity firm.

The analysis shows that a very simple website was set up in February 2011 with just the company’s name, an email address and a phone number, which appears to be for a cell phone: 07788435708. This is a different number than the one displayed on the current website: 028 90312909, which was created after January 5th, 2014.

The new Verbatim website, which has a more professional look although lacking the detail usually present on a business website, was therefore created just two or three months before Cereberus bought the NI property portfolio.

Mystery surrounds the transfer during the NAMA transaction of some £7 million to an Isle of Man bank account which had reportedly been earmarked for a NI politician.

Readers can log on to the WayBackMachine website and go through the same steps themselves described in the document below:

“‘Go Set A Watchman’ Is A Better Book Than ‘Mockingbird'”

I haven’t yet read ‘Go Set A Watchman’ but this review from The New Statesman makes perfect sense to me:

Why Go Set a Watchman is a much better novel than To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s newly released novel may not win another Pulitzer, but it’s far more honest and mature about the complexity of racism in the South.

Copies of Go Set a Watchman. Photo: Getty

Go Set a Watchman turns out to be a hot mess of a book. The flashes of lyrical genius and ability to evoke the intensity of childhood play that come to fruition in To Kill a Mockingbird are in evidence, but so too are rather obscure discussions on constitutional law and the tenth amendment, an irritatingly pert main character, and a dull love interest. It’s nowhere near the novel Mockingbird is. It is much better than that.

In the days running up to Watchman’s release, Mockingbird fans – for there can be no other description, mere “readers” or “admirers” won’t suffice – set aside difficult ethical discussions of whether the 89-year-old Harper Lee was capable of really consenting to the publication of what many believed amounted to a rough first draft of her work.

Instead fans took to twitter with their wishlist of what they hoped for in the sequel. Some hoped Scout and Dill would be married. Some hoped Jem and Scout spent Christmases together, filling Maycomb County with the happy chatter of their adorable precocious children. Some hoped Boo Radley was out and about, perhaps working in telesales. Curiously though, no one seemed to be hoping that Atticus was a fully paid-up member of the White Citizen’s Council, bending his arthritis-addled hands to the fight against integration, and explaining to Scout: “The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people”.

Funny that no one saw that coming. Really, they should have. Because outside the white liberal fantasy that is To Kill a Mockingbird, the reality, the historical record shows us that (spoiler alert!) the vast majority of white Southerners were racist and didn’t want to sit next to black people in the theatre.

We did know that the so-called white trash Southerners, the KKK members, the Bob Ewells, the ignorant poor, didn’t want to sit next to black people. Mockingbird taught us that. What Watchman tells us, and tells us rather powerfully, is that racism is not confined to people who are so clearly not like us.

Some commentators on Watchman have suggested Atticus becomes racist as he gets older, as if some kind of dramatic ideological transformation has taken place in his worldview since Mockingbird.  It’s nonsense. He was racist in Mockingbird, but just politer about it. He thinks everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, and everyone should be able to access justice. He doesn’t want Tom Robinson to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. He thinks Tom Robinson is a good man. But he doesn’t want to sit next to him in a theatre.

Racism is not, and never has been, a yes/no question. Many white Southerners who risked considerable personal danger to challenge some forms of racial injustice were perfectly comfortable with other forms. The Committee on Interracial Co-operation, founded in 1919 in Atlanta in response to a wave of racial violence across the South, wanted to improve communication between white and black people in the South. But they didn’t want to end segregation. The Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, founded in 1930, sought to protect people like Tom Robinson from the horrors of the lynch mob. But they didn’t want to end segregation.

Politeness in the South has always masked the kinder, gentler racism practised by middle-class whites. Shocked by the Supreme Court’s determination to force Southern states to abandon segregation, men like Atticus Finch – the “men of substance and character, responsible men, good men”, the men Jean Louise sees at the White Citizen’s Council – stop being polite.

The mistake made by so many fans of Mockingbird was to assume that a passion for justice and the rule of law went alongside a commitment to racial equality, and a determination to overcome prejudice. Sometimes, it didn’t. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton has said that Watchman, “reflects the reality of finding out that a lot of those we thought were on our side harboured some different personal feelings”.

This is what makes Watchman better than Mockingbird. It’s not better written, I doubt it’s going to win another Pulitzer, and since its release the list of actors queueing up to play Atticus in Mockingbird 2 got a lot shorter. But Watchman is a lot more honest. It doesn’t feed white America the comforting version of civil rights history where the bad guys are easily identifiable ignorant hicks, the good guys are heroic and noble white men with impeccable manners, and the black people are all subservient, respectful and endlessly patient.

Mockingbird is a child’s book, told by a child. Watchman is for grown-ups. It asks serious questions about what racism is. And it comes at a time when American desperately needs a grown-up conversation about race.

The HIA Inquiry

who is this ‘prominent member of the community’? answers on a postcard to 121 ormeau road, belfast, bt7 ish…….


One of the enduring allegations of the last forty years has been that the state’s security agencies  have been complicit in the sexual abuse , and possibly the murder of children.  Kincora is the outstanding example  but maybe  not the only instance. In GB a  major inquiry is about to start. It will not deal with Kincora. So , what next? The inquiry in Banbridge, chaired by Tony Hart, has been lumbering on for months. If you think that it is going to cut a swathe through the state , think again. Allegations have already been made against “prominent members of the community” , his words, not mine. The result? Anonymity  orders. You are not allowed to know who these people are. This , despite social media naming one such person, an elected  public representative,  frequently. What is the point of these King Canute orders? “BP” , who says that…

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