Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

Irish reunification will land in our next Prime Minister’s in-tray

26/10/2017, 10:34:57 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Given the not inconsiderable amount of flak that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have both received for their views on Northern Ireland, it is perhaps not surprising that ne’er a pipsqueak has been uttered by either of them on the subject in recent times.

But the prospect of a Labour Government requires some hard thinking about how Labour will approach Northern Ireland. It is no longer enough to coast along issuing bromides about the Good Friday Agreement.

There will be no escaping Northern Ireland in the next parliament, particularly as its shifting demography means it’s now a racing certainty that its constitutional status will be brought into question.

An opinion poll this week asked 18-44 year olds whether they wanted to ‘leave’ and become part of a single Irish state or ‘remain’ in the UK.  Fifty-six per cent wanted to live in a united Ireland and just 34 per cent opted for the status quo. Irish reunification is a medium-term reality.

In response, Labour needs to do three things.

First, the party should do everything possible to help restore the devolved institutions. Government efforts at doing so, following the collapse of the executive back in January, have been faltering – to put it delicately. What has been a problem throughout 2017 is now metastasising into a full-blown crisis.

This follows revelations that Arlene Foster, in her previous role as enterprise minister back in 2012, botched the implemented of a renewable heating subsidy that is set to stack up a £500 million liability for the Northern Ireland Executive. A judge-led inquiry is currently investigating.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, the aptly-named James Brokenshire, lacks credibility and has struggled to set out a convincing way forward. He recently warned Northern Ireland was on a ‘glide path’ back to Direct Rule from Whitehall unless a breakthrough can be made. It’s an epithet that also sums up his dismal tenure in the role.

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Uncut Review: A United Ireland, why unification is inevitable and how it will come about, by Kevin Meagher

20/03/2017, 10:22:09 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Before there was a United Nations, before there was a United States, before there was a united anything, there was a United Kingdom.”

Bob Geldof delivered these rousing words to a rally in Trafalgar Square in 2014, organised to encourage Scotland to stay in the UK.

Will #indyref2 also see similar English outpourings of fraternal expression toward Scotland?

There must be more risk this time around that England shrugs its shoulders. Certainly, in the event of a referendum in Northern Ireland on its status within the UK, it is hard to imagine Unionist rallies springing up on mainland Britain.

“Where Scotland is seen to be an opportunity worth holding on to,” writes Kevin Meagher in A United Ireland, why unification is inevitable and how it will come about, “Northern Ireland is quietly regarded as a problem eventually worth jettisoning.”

Britain, as Meagher titles a chapter, is just not that into Northern Ireland. Whatever affinity the English retain for Scotland, it dwarfs Northern Ireland kinship – a place that feels faraway, with alien customs and obsessions.

Opinion in Northern Ireland itself, not on the mainland, will determine its future. Meagher assembles the economic evidence that it would be richer within the Republic of Ireland. And the stark divergence in social attitudes between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In spite of these economic and social drivers, there remains, of course, a majority community in Northern Ireland defined by loyalty to the UK.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day. As they say in Montserrat

17/03/2014, 09:34:16 AM

by Kevin Meagher

There are only two countries in the world where St. Patrick’s Day is a recognised public holiday, the Republic of Ireland (obviously enough) and Montserrat. Yes, that Montserrat, the tiny Caribbean island where, by the mid-1600s, Irish slaves made up two thirds of the island’s population.

Yes, you read that right: Irish slaves. The practice began in the first decades of the 17th Century with the ‘sale’ of 30,000 Irish political prisoners, in what would become a depressingly recurrent theme in Irish history. Between the start of the English Civil War and Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland, around 300,000 Irish were sold into slavery, men, women and children alike.

Men at arms went first, then their wives and children were sold separately never to be reunited again. A further half a million Irish were killed during this period, with the country’s population falling from 1.6 million in 1641 to just 600,000 by 1652. It’s hard to determine who were the less fortunate, the dead or the enslaved.

Irish children were stripped not only of their families and liberty, but also their faith and ethnic identity, with many having their names changed for good measure. During the 1650s, over 100,000 of them between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.

Many young girls were sold into what we would now term sex slavery. Plantation masters bred them with more expensive African slaves to save themselves the transit costs of importing new African slaves from greater distances. This heart-breaking and inhuman practice was eventually outlawed, but it’s fair to say this is a tale we’re not used to hearing.

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Why the government is PIG ignorant on economics

06/03/2012, 02:12:07 PM

by Stuart Rodger

The world is transfixed by the Greek Tragedy unfolding before our eyes. It is increasingly clear for those on the left that what is being foisted upon the Greek people by the IMF, EU, and ECB as we speak is nothing less than a form of economic ‘shock therapy’: the labour markets must be ‘liberalised’, large public assets are to be sold off (at rock bottom prices), and banks are to be re-capitalised but maintain their “managerial independence”.

The Golden Dawn – Greece’s equivalent of the BNP – is on the verge of winning representation. In a recent Newsnight report, one unemployed, professional Greek citizen spoke of “civil war”. The place where democracy was born is turning out to be the place where democracy goes to die.

But far from being an irrelevant calamity at the other end of Europe, the economic crisis unfolding may have some important lessons for us – David Cameron et al, after all, routinely bring up the examples of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece as warning signals for what could happen to Britain should it not cut its way out of its deficit, with the price of debt spiralling up and growth stalling.

But a cursory reading of the news made me wonder if austerity is in fact exacerbating their problems, and is in fact the root cause of their problems in the first place.

So I decided to dig into the statistics to see if my theory was true. So, is David Cameron’s government PIG-ignorant? (see what I did there?). The following fiscal and growth statistics are all from the Eurostat and World Bank websites respectively, unless otherwise stated (measures of inflation have also been taken from the World Bank).

P is for Portugal. This country is important because it has been held up by David Cameron as his response to the Labour Party’s proposals to halve the deficit over the course of this parliament, rather than try to eliminate it entirely.

What policy did they follow? Initially, they increased spending moderately and the result was a moderate recovery. But in May 2011 they announced cuts to public spending and then, six months later, Portugal was reduced to “junk” status, with Eurostat estimating moderate contraction in 2011.

The lesson from Portugal is that spending brought recovery, and cuts promptly killed it off, worsening their debt problems. Crucially – punishment by the bond-markets came post-austerity. By citing Portugal, Cameron cites an economic experiment which proves him wrong.

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