Lest we forget

Mr. Brendan Howlin leader of the Labour Party recently criticized Enda Kenny the Irish Prime Minister for visiting the American President Donald Trump. He claimed in his statement; I have some sympathy for Enda Kenny in grappling with this question. These are tough calls, but ultimately the decision must be based on which action you think will best represent the values of the Irish people, whom you are supposed to represent on such trips. Now considering what has been revealed in the past couple of weeks when the politicians, churchmen, medical profession and police force chose to ignore the perfidious practices of a certain order of nuns, I do not believe anyone in this country has the right to speak to another country on values.

The recent referendum to allow same sex marriage was very successful and the Irish people used every media outlet to proclaim to the world that we were a caring, libertarian and just society. Yet 43 years ago 700 to 800 single parents were not accorded any such care or justice from what seems the majority of the population. If ever a country was a victim of its own propaganda, then surely Ireland north and south is. We have the arrogant audacity to lecture others on how they should behave while forgetting there is a cupboard load of reasons we should keep quiet and work to shake our society into one that does respect rather than one that lectures others on the subject.

It is probably a symptomatic of our history where violence was always the result of debate, justified on the basis we were the most oppressed and religion our natural bolthole that we have developed as a nation that does not shock easily. We can verbally recount our disgust and horror post any atrocity but in no time the incident is too soon easily forgotten. Only to be followed by another. To put in context on the subject of single parent homes and other church and state abuses we have had the Ryan report, the Murphy report, the McAleese report, the Cloyne report, the Ferns report, the Raphoe report and now Tuam – you don’t get to pretend that you don’t know.

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All’s fair in love and divorce

Doesn’t Brexit bring out the best in us? A democratic country in a free and fair referendum chooses to leave the European Union and votes 52% against 48%. Clearly in democratic terms this is a victory, but no, immediately on hearing the result some European countries cried foul. Their main assertion being that the pro-Brexiteers lied to the electorate. Now where did we hear that before. In every election I have had to suffer as a voter all sides have claimed the other was lying and it would appear that those who told the best lies got the largest proportion of votes, so what’s new? Judging by some sections of the media there would appear to be gloating in some circles that the UK will suffer eternal damnation on exit followed by plague, pestilence and debt will stalk the land. In the meantime, Ireland (26 counties) the friend, trading partner and nearest neighbour demands that the UK ensure that there is no restriction to free trade between the two islands and that citizens of both countries enjoy freedom of movement and equal employment rights while at the same time trying, the Irish that is, to poach their jobs. There appears to be a double standard here whereas on the one hand the Irish parliament as a whole expects the UK to bend over backwards to protect the trade between the two countries and on the other they have no conscience in liberating jobs and repatriating them to our shores, after all, all is fair in love and war, Irish style.

While on the subject of Brexit it astounds me that the process is expected to take years! Surely it is simply a case of each side issuing their demands and then reaching a compromise. This bureaucratic malaise is the reason why the Brexiteers won?

With friends like these…..

To quote Ami Ayolon ex-head of Shin Beth; “Incremental tyranny is a process which means you live in a democracy and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more”. We have warlords like Trump who commit a gross act of aggression against another country, ignoring the fact that the war in Syria was instigated by the interference of the US and their allies. Once more we see that an attack by the US is backed by a call to Europe and in particular the UK to goad them into supporting additional attacks and ignore the collateral slaughter. Unfortunately, Europe and the UK are in some form of cerebral debt that leaves them with no alternative but to support America and its crimes against other countries. It doesn’t take an honours degree in international politics to realise that every, I repeat every, intervention by the US has so far failed miserably.

Let us briefly look at the history of the Syrian Conflict: Following the uprisings against rulers in Tunisia and Egypt during the 2011 Arab Spring, Syrians began to protest the Assad regime. Assad and his supporters cracked down on dissent violently and held on to power unlike leaders elsewhere. Hitherto peaceful protest then with outside help developed into an armed revolt. Rebels and deserters from the Syrian army formed the first of scores of rebel groups, the Free Syrian Army in 2011. The rest of Syria fell under the shifting control of rebel groups, criminal gangs and tribes all aided and abetted by America.

So, who is supporting whom: The U.S. claims it has conducted airstrikes against ISIS. How can we be sure? Because they have told us. Remember this is the country that can make clinical strikes against large tribal wedding parties, while maintaining its opposition to Assad. Unfortunately, the Daughter of Doom, Hillary Clinton, is now encouraging Trump to escalate his intervention. What a toxic mix!

Israel – is a supporter of those opposing the regime and conducts covert training for the Kurds while encouraging Christian militias from Lebanon to support the “rebels”. It has also attacked targets in its own interest which could mean anything.

The Kurds — Syrian Kurds have received support from Kurds in Iraq, Turkey and the Kurdish diaspora.

Turkey — Turkey has been a major supporter of anti-Assad groups. The country was initially reluctant to confront ISIS themselves to the point of allowing them free and unrestricted access to Syria through its territory.  Coincidentally it was Turkey that supposedly confirmed the Sarin gas attack.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar — Both countries support anti-Assad groups and have conducted airstrikes against ISIS, alongside other Arab nations such as Jordan.

A more detailed study shows the Syrian regime is pretty straightforward. Russia has supported them in various forms even before protests began. Iraq has facilitated Iranian supply flights through its territory and  placed elite shia militias  under the command of the Qods force (i.e., international wing) of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Iran, seeking to protect the Shia’s has been sending troops from its Revolutionary Guards and from its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah while also training Shia militias from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere

Oddly Assad has allowed Kurdish fighters to take over areas in the north, to weaken his Sunni enemies. But some Kurds have chosen to fight the Syrian Arab Army alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) formally joined the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC). Kurdish fighters affiliated with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), meanwhile, have spent much of their time recently fighting al Qaeda fighters and other Islamic rebels in the north of the country.

When al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) overran FSA rebels in  the town of Azaz near the Turkish border, Kurdish fighters fought ISIS with the ousted rebels.  (Jahbat-al-Nusra) is considered a separate al-Qaeda affiliate within Syria). Many in the opposition believe that the Syrian regime have helped bolster al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria to counter the less radical rebels.

In the recent past most of the largest Islamist factions recently denounced the SNC and  formed Jaish al-Islam  (“the Army of Islam”) with  the blessing of Saudi Arabia . The SNC-affiliated Free Syrian Army was dealt a significant blow by the formation of the Army of Islam but still works with the Army of Islam. Gulf states, led by Qatar and the Saudi’s, have been supporting Islamic factions since at least early last year. Private donors in Kuwait also contribute. Some rebel groups, most notably  Ahrar alSham , also benefit from Gulf donors (primarily via Qatar and Kuwait) and work with other rebel factions.

The SNC is supposedly the only viable political opposition, but almost no one on the ground supports the coalition. Furthermore, the SNC  recently rejected peace talks  while the Assad’s regime doesn’t recognize  its legitimacy anyway, so a political solution is not an option at this juncture.

And so, the American President launches 60 Tomahawk missiles believing that will make an impact and win him sympathy?

 

 

Nationalism or racism?

Sadiq Khan (the Lord Mayor of London) in a recent article was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance – the same can be applied to Irish nationalism – at least, not entirely. Someone had to say it: the parallels are clear. There is an obvious overlap between nationalism and racism: both mentalities are defined by a politics of us and them. Equating racism with nationalism is a massive false equivalence, yet both perspectives are reliant on a clear distinction being made between those who belong and those who are rejected on the basis of difference.

In Ireland Sinn Fein (the political wing of the Provisional IRA) is constantly talking about a fairer Six Counties (Northern Ireland) playing on their official propaganda that Nationalists are by nature more egalitarian then Unionists. In order to validate the Six Counties, to present it as some sort of progressive movement, nationalists must emphasise the difference between themselves and their next door Unionist neighbours. The myth of nationalists as a friendly, compassionate people is maintained with fervour – like any other fairy-story, it needs heroes and villains. And the idea of a nationalist six counties as a land of tolerance – is a fairy-story. It is what allows the nationalists hold England and the Unionists accountable for all the wrongs past and present.

Irish nationalism, or at least the stated principle of its political wing in its present form rests on a fundamental contradiction: seeking separation from the United Kingdom, the reunification with the 26 counties and unity within the European Union. If a referendum is held, as Sinn Fein constantly moots, it must address how the six counties aims to integrate and build new political ties while actively dismantling their longest and somewhat fractious relationship with another country. There is a contradictory streak to Irish nationalism, small and inward-looking despite Sinn Fein’s talk of a global united Ireland. This showed this week when Martina Anderson ranted to an empty European Parliament .“What British armoured cars and tanks and guns couldn’t do in Ireland, 27 member states will not be able to do. “So Theresa (the UK Prime Minister I assume), your idea of a border – hard or soft – stick it where the sun doesn’t shine because you’re not putting it in Ireland.” Some commentators replied that this demonstrated the respect that Sinn Fein have been “preaching about” in recent weeks. They said: “It shows that although Sinn Fein use the language of equality and respect, when it actually comes down to it they never actually practice it themselves. It highlights once again how duplicitous Sinn Fein are. Now it seems that Sinn Fein’s enemies are not just the UK but all of Europe and the rest of the world.

Commenting on Khan’s article there was a lot of “How dare you call us racist?” and very little reflection on the possibility that nationalism could actually contain racism. As is often the case, talking about racism became more controversial than racism in itself. Indeed, many nationalists are so deeply invested in the narrative of Irish exceptionalism that they are unwilling to have a frank conversation about racism in Irish society.

Nationalists are quick to comment that they have many followers & friends and have never heard or read a racist comment from any of them! This approach brings to mind the “tree falling in a forest” – if intolerance occurs and another person isn’t around to hear it, has intolerance still occurred? Comments such as this only make it harder for people of differing politics to come forward about the discrimination they face, increasing the risk of them being disbelieved if they do speak out.

Khan judged it appropriate to draw a comparison between nationalism and prejudice in order to highlight the risk carried by the politics of division. For that he cannot be condemned, just as we cannot condemn those people of who criticise him. Zeal for national identity invariably raises questions of who belongs and who is an outsider – even “civic-minded” nationalism needs a “them” to create a cohesive idea of “us”.

Tuam Babies

Nice piece of blatant hypocrisy from the parity of esteem party this week. The Shinners were quick to jump to the microphone when the report on the Tuam mother and babies home was issued. Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Children, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire uttered “This is a deeply shocking and sad revelation. It is a cause of national shame. The babies and children were unceremoniously buried here, without anything to identify them, without any recognition, buried, essentially in a septic tank. Now if I’m not mistaken the armed wing of Sinn Fein were not amiss in unceremoniously burying those they considered their enemies, without anything to identify them or without any recognition. Pot and kettle springs to mind but then, we are a forgetful nation and Sinn Fein are only too well aware of that.