Tag Archives: Ireland

How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?

Abortion Rights ScotlandScotland is a pro-choice country.

About four-fifths of the population of Scotland would agree – this crosses gender-lines, voting-intention, religious belief, class/wealth, or locale – that abortion in Scotland should remain freely available on the NHS.

Only a minority think that pregnant patients who need access to abortion should have that access decreased. That minority can be loud and can be unkind – the ones who think it’s a good idea picketing clinics to hand anti-abortion leaflets to patients are particularly cruel – but they are, everywhere, only a minority.

Abortion Act 1967 - Happy 51st BirthdayOn 28th April this year in Edinburgh we held our annual celebration of the day the 1967 Abortion Act became law. (On the other side of the road are the sad people who think abortion in the UK should have remained illegal and dangerous.)

We asked people who stopped by our stall to have cake and sign our open letter:

“We stand with the people of Ireland who will be voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment on 25th May 2018: for healthcare in pregnancy to be freely and fully available for all patients. Abortion denial is lethal.”

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Ireland and Brexit, four ways forward

In December last year, I started writing a post on Ireland and Brexit, which I never published because it seemed to have been overtaken by events: on 8th December, just barely in time for the EU mid-December summit, Theresa May agreed to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and the transparent border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. She had no choice: Donald Tusk had made clear in early December that EU-27 would be standing together and would collectively support the Irish government’s defence of Irish interests in preserving peace and a transparent border.

On 28th February, the EU Commissioners produced a draft agreement based on the outline Theresa May had agreed to in December. The UK did not produce its own draft agreement. Theresa May simply rejected it, claiming that no UK Prime Minister could possibly agree to the deal she had in fact agreed to in December.

But: if there’s going to be a deal for the UK at all before Brexit, it has to be set down in a form 27 EU governments can vote on and agree to, by 30th September this year. And that’s cutting it very, very fine and assuming that the agreement is something all 27 EU countries can vote Yes to.

And yesterday, Donald Tusk reaffirmed the EU position: the UK must provide a solution which includes a transparent border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, or EU talks will not continue.

As I see it, the UK government has four choices ahead of it:
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Ireland and Brexit

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Barnier and Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Davis attend a meeting in BrusselsThe UK’s Brexit negotiation team has been so fecklessly incompetent that their EU-27 counterparts thought this was a pretence and must be a trap.

The July photograph of the British team (on the right) sitting at the negotiation table without any briefing papers in front of them, while the EU team (on the left) all have a stack of paperwork, looks emblematic of the UK government’s lack of preparation. (According to British diplomats, David Davis’s papers were still in his bag at the time the photo was taken.)

The recent confirmation that the UK government will be paying the EU fifty billion or so, pretty much what the EU initially said the UK would have to pay to finalise the UK’s liabilities before Brexit, had Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith and Nigel Farage squealing loudly that this was too much, that Theresa May and David Davis should have taken a harder line and refused to pay anything.

But with regard to the fifty billion bill, the only difference between a competent team of Brexit negotiators and the current crowd, is that a competent team would have realised last year that the UK had no choice about discharging our liabilities to the EU if the Brexit date was set before the end of the 2014-2020 budget period: would have taken that into consideration when deciding just when to invoke Article 50: and would have come to the table in Brussels prepared to dicker over exact amounts, not wasting time arguing that nothing at all should be paid. As far as we can tell, Theresa May and David Davis did none of these things.

Of course, a competent Prime Minister with a solid if small majority, wouldn’t have called a General Election after invoking Article 50, thus wasting three months of negotiation time – and losing her majority to be dependent on the DUP.

As a reminder: after June 2017, the Tories have 315 seats and are the largest single party: because Sinn Féin (7 seats) don’t sit in the Commons, and the Speaker doesn’t vote, an effective majority for the government is 322 and a formal majority is 325: the DUP have 10 seats. If all MPs of all other parties vote together, they muster 311 votes. So the DUP, the unionist and Brexiteer party in Northern Ireland, literally hold the balance of power in Parliament.

The issue about paying the EU billions to discharge the UK’s budget liabilities wasn’t even worth arguing about: the UK’s only leverage was to refuse to pay it and suffer hard Brexit, which would be catastrophic for the UK but only moderately damaging for EU-27.

Hugh Orde, former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, on the Irish Border and BrexitThough some news reports described the problem of the Irish border as “unexpected”, the Irish border and the end of the Good Friday Agreement, was always going to be hugely difficult, and with the DUP in a confidence-and-supply arrangement to prop up the Tories, has probably become unresolvable by the current government.

I had initially here written a few hundred words summarising the history of Ireland in relationship to Britain, but Waterford Whispers points out that the UK public would most likely only believe it if it was written on the side of a bus. That’s probably true.

So, while it’s tempting to outline how the government of Confederate Ireland (1642-1649) was bloodily smashed by Oliver Cromwell and estates owned by Irish Catholics were then confiscated and redistributed to Protestant incomers, how the Penal Laws, enacted by the Protestant-dominated Parliament of Ireland that resulted from the land confiscations, ensured that Irish Catholics should become poor, be uneducated, banned from public office, and denied the right to serve in the army (a potential career path for even the poorest/most uneducated of men), and how “Irish jokes” which portray Irish people as stupid and ignorant, arise from the need of the English and the Irish Protestants to believe that it was okay to keep Irish Catholics poor and uneducated because they were naturally stupid: how after the Parliaments of Ireland and Britain were merged in 1801, while people in Ireland were starving during the Great Famine (1845-1852) in Westminster MPs debated on whether it would be right to provide food to the starving. But that would make this a very long blog post.

Even dealing with the 20th century only, there is the rebellion put down in 1916, two wars immediately after WWI ended and Sinn Féin won the general election in Ireland by a landslide and proclaimed the Irish Declaration of Independence in January 1919: the treaty accepted by the majority of the Dáil for the Partition of Ireland: and the formation of the Irish Free State, later the Republic of Ireland, and the separation of the six counties of Northern Ireland, which in 1922 and thereafter is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although the Troubles are dated in British history as beginning 5th October 1968, the cause was systematic gerrymandering for decades to ensure that Catholics in Northern Ireland were cooped ip in slums so that in local authority areas where Catholics were numerically in the majority, Protestants had a majority on the local government councils.

Thank you for your attention: let us move on to the present day.
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Brexit: the four directions, part 1

There are four ways the UK can go from here with regard to Brexit, and all of them are bad.

First: hard Brexit, or no deal.

On 29th March 2019, the UK leaves the EU. If no deal has been agreed to, on 30th March 2019 the UK becomes a “third country”, in EU parlance – outside the EU, not part of the customs union, no access to EU agencies or EU funding, a hard land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – and between Spain and Gibraltar.

The inevitable and foreseeable consequences of this aren’t pretty. While Brexiteers have tried to argue with me that the countries of EU-27 won’t “let” this happen because hard Brexit will damage them too, they ignore two key points:
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Sex work and Amnesty

Amnesty International: In Solidarity, Uphold Human RightsOne of the commonest distortions of the resolution Amnesty International voted on this August is that Amnesty want to make sex work a human right.

What Amnesty International resolved to do

develop a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

I’d say this distortion from “protect the human rights of sex workers” to “sex work is a human right” was bizarre, except that I have seen similar distortions before, when Amnesty finally agreed that in a very limited set of circumstances (such as pregnancy caused by rape, especially in a war zone) they would treat access to abortion as a human right, and that they would treat healthcare – medical support of a girl or a woman who’s had an illegal abortion and needs treatment – as a human right. That got distorted too.

So, Amnesty International are taking the position that sex work should be decriminalised, in order to protect the human rights of sex workers.
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The deaths at Tuam: a voiceless testimony

Tuam Babies unmarked graveThere is an unmarked mass grave in Galway which has become briefly famous by the work of historian Catherine Corless, who spent years tracing the death records of each child whose remains may have been buried there. (You can hear her being interviewed about her work on the mass grave here.)

Timothy Stanley, a Telegraph blogger who converted to Catholicism from the Anglican church, argues that the mass grave is “a human tragedy, not a Catholic one”. At more length, Caroline Farrow, a spokesperson for Catholic Voice, explains that first of all, this wasn’t really so bad, and anyway, everyone except the Catholic Church is probably lying. (I note for the record: the sheer quantity of misinformation and distortion provided by both Stanley and Farrow is quite astonishing.)
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Prolife Ireland talking bollocks

Yesterday in Ireland 25,000 people [or 15,000] gathered to support the important ethical principle that when a woman in Ireland needs an abortion, she should have to go overseas. (Rumours that Ryanair was one of the major donors to “Vigil4Life” unconfirmed.)

This well-funded “vigil” was in response to the Irish government’s announcement that they would legislate for legal abortion in Ireland where the woman would otherwise die. Savita Halappanavar’s parents have said they would welcome the law that would have saved their daughter’s life to be named after her.

The prolifers in Dublin were so confident of the ethical case for outsourcing all abortions overseas at the patient’s expense that they did not stoop to lying about it:

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