August 3, 2015

United Ireland may not be as remote as it seems

Posted in Sunday Business Post · 116 comments ·

It’s the long weekend, which allows us time to kick back and maybe entertain some thoughts on where this economy of ours is going. Largely on the back of the strength of our two major trading partners, the US and Britain, our economy is growing.

As long as the euro remains weak and interest rates in the eurozone are at depressed crisis levels, the natural tendency of an economy to recover and grow should remain intact.

Most economists call this propensity for an economy to ebb and flow, the business cycle – I prefer to term it “human nature”.

We humans are not the rational creatures depicted in economics textbooks. On the contrary, we are highly irrational animals, susceptible to swings from optimism to pessimism. We are unbelievably influenced by our neighbours and prone to excitability as well as depression.

As a result when we become giddy, we become giddy together; and when we become pessimistic, this pessimism is infectious and we all become gloomy together.

This very human cycle between collective optimism and pessimism is the business cycle.

However, there are moments in an economy’s lifetime when big strategic decisions are taken which are influenced – but not determined – by the business cycle. These are big decisions which have enormous economic consequences. We are about to celebrate the anniversary of one next year, 1916.

The funny thing about these big events is the fact that most of them were unexpected. It is the job of historians to give them context, give them a plausible cause and give us a narrative, which makes sense of historical events.

The underlying reason for this is that we always want to feel that we are somewhat in control and we are in some way bounded by probability rather than improbability.

That’s also human nature. We humans, though irrational, like to equip ourselves with stories that have beginnings, middles and ends. These stories deem that big events are the “inevitable consequences” of something else.

But that’s actually not how the world works. For example, if this column was being written in August 1915 and it suggested that Russia – the least industrial big powerful country in Europe – was going to be overthrown and replaced by the thoroughly urban communists, you’d think this mad.

Had I said that the Austrian and Turkish Empires would disappear, you’d think me extreme. Or if I had suggested that an ultimately victorious Britain would, by 1921, lose more of its land mass than a defeated Germany, you’d have laughed at me.

Had I told you in 1915, when the Home Rule party was the only real mainstream nationalist party in Ireland, that by 1918 they’d only have one MP in the whole country, you’d have me committed.

But all this happened. And now we think it was all inevitable, but it wasn’t.

Strange things do happen.

Armed with that idea, let’s look out now from the vantage point of 2016 and ask whether we might have a united Ireland before any of us thought possible or (maybe even) desirable. Might we stumble into a united Ireland in the same way we stumbled, quite unexpectedly, out of the United Kingdom?

Before we head up the M1 to Belfast, consider first our relations with Brussels.

Over the past few months, in fact since the onset of the eurozone crisis, it appears incontrovertible that the EU has changed.

What has been dressed up as an economic conflict between debtors and creditors could also easily be seen as a cultural battle between the north and the south.

Certainly, that’s the way the popular press paints it and, in truth, most European citizens see it this way too.

Vastly different economic realities have pitted the north against the south, with France not too sure which way to go. Germany has indicated that it has had enough and intends to lead Europe in a more Germanic direction – which is fine for Germany.

However, one of the implicit promises of the European Union was an economic promise that if countries joined, they’d get rich.

Remember all the slogans in Ireland during referendums about the Holy Trinity of “growth, jobs and Europe”. The same promises were made all over Europe to electorates that bought that line. The understanding for poor countries was that the EU stood for prosperity and by definition therefore, national sovereignty stood for poverty.

Once you make these types of promises, even implicitly, you have to deliver. In recent years, the EU hasn’t and that’s one reason for today’s problems.

My hunch is that we will have recurring debt crises in the eurozone and we will see the core countries around Germany pulling away on their own. Simply put: not everyone can keep up with Germany. Those that can will stay with Berlin, and those that can’t will go elsewhere.

The EU could well split between a core zone around Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, the Benelux and France, with a second Mediterranean group headed up by Italy and the Iberian countries.

We also have the small problem of Europe’s south-eastern corner from Athens to Ljubljana, including Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslavian countries. What is going to happen there?

These economies are faltering; economic inequality is terrible and the EU promise remains as distant as ever. Can Germany carry these countries if it can’t carry Greece? What do you think?

This brings me to the semi-detached arc of these islands and Scandinavia. By not joining the euro, Britain, Sweden and Denmark have all signalled that they are happy to be semi-detached.

These are all rich trading countries and, with Norway, they constitute an independent bloc of sovereigns that seem less than enamoured with giving more to Europe. Could they form a looser free-trading bloc that actually doesn’t need German hegemony to give them hope?

Closer to home, if Britain has a referendum on the EU and the No side wins, it will trigger a series of events, leading to a federal Britain, not least because the SNP-driven Scots will not want to be in the present British structure outside the EU.

They will have two options: either go for a federal Britain or full independence rather than be dominated by England without Europe. However, if Europe is changing dramatically, riven by fractures and crises, joining a putative Atlantic/North Sea trading alliance with the Scandis might make sense.

Now what about us in this scenario?

As I write, I am looking at demographics in Northern Ireland from the 2011 census. The most interesting statistic shows the proportion of Catholic vs Protestant in various age groups. Of the over-90 population in the North, 64 per cent are Protestant and 25 per cent Catholic. A total of 9 per cent had no declared religion.

This reflects the religious status quo when these people were born in the 1920s and more or less reflects the realities of the Treaty.

Now look at the same figure for the under-4s, those children and babies born since 2008. This corresponding figure is 44 per cent Catholic and 31 per cent Protestant. In one (admittedly long) lifetime, the Catholic population in the youngest cohort has almost doubled, while the Protestant one has more than halved.

Even given the fact that 23 per cent of parents of infants declared themselves as having no religion, we seem to be en route to a united Ireland.

It may happen much quicker than you think in the context of a wider EU and UK realignment. If the UK, as we know it, were to break up, the willingness of England without Scotland to prop up the North may well change. And according to the Belfast Agreement, if they want a United Ireland, we can’t stop them.

Now wouldn’t that be something for the 1916 heroes to digest? A Northern Ireland that wanted reunification and a Republic that is petrified by the prospect?

  1. McCawber

    The first question I’d ask is why would you want a united Ireland.
    The attitude of the NI politicians to governmental budgeting, particularly the SFs is to tell the British government to sod off with their nonsense of living within their means.
    They’d expect us to pay for all their unearned goodies.
    The 1916 heroes are welcome to them.
    With hindsight that partition deal is looking better as each day passes.

    • yadayada

      Those figures are very far from convincing.

      It’s well known that the evangelical element of Ulster Protestants have a high life expectancy due to avoiding fags and whiskey, therefore more of them make their nineties.

      Didn’t the proportion of those declaring no religion rise impressively? Now who are they? They may well all be unionists.

      Emigration? Catholics tend to leave in numbers much greater than the Protestants.

      Given the recent decline in the nationalist vote in the uk election, who knows?

      I’d say the prods are sticking it pretty well.

      • Deco

        Well, there is also another aspect.

        Many Northern Catholics in previous decades, could not get work, or were in menial, labour intensive jobs. The types of jobs that cut life short, especially for men. With physicality being a lot of the work. Like construction, for example.

        It would be interesting to see how the percentages of the male population over 80 in NI.

        Also living in a society where you keep your head down and shut up, and where there is a lot of aggression, leads to a lot of unhealthy people, over a period of decades. That is worse in working class areas than in middle class areas. That means more Catholics liable to get heart attacks, strokes etc…

        • yadayada

          Another myth I’m afraid. The prods worked in labouring jobs in big numbers as well as in building, and suffered more in the troubles.
          Having grown up there, I was a beneficiary of all the post 1945 socialism – free health care, school meals, milk. It was very generous to all.
          I was just reminiscing yesterday about school day milk drinking contests. Speed and volume both, thanks to harold Wilson.

          • coldblow

            These statistics don’t back up your claim about Protestants suffering more in the Troubles:


            I agree with Deco that it is more stressful to be out of work than to be in more secure employment, at Harland and Wolfe for example.

          • yadayada

            All right, looks like you’re right. Seems the ira killed more Catholics than any other group, which of course was well recognised at the time, but less so since, apart from the recent “disappeared”cases.

            As for the shipyard, it must have been a significant factor in reducing overall life expectancy, given the amount of asbestosis, lung cancer and silicosis it caused, as well as an appalling accidental death rate.

          • yadayada

            Any figures on wounded/disabled? Presumably pretty high amongst the Catholics if Ira kneecappings are included.

      • DB4545


        Frighting predictions. Disenfranchised uneducated protestants don’t help to create a stable society any more than their catholic counterparts did. It’s a dangerous demographic and one that the UK with much better resources was barely able to contain. Maybe people should be made fully aware of the cost of “Re-unification”. A huge diversion of resources to fund a standing army of 50,000 troops, conscription, a “protestant” IRA at large for decades creating political and economic instability. I hope such a scenario never comes to pass.


    • irish pete

      Sorry did I just read that rubbish? Are you a unionist? Your knowledge is pretty poor, have you been to Northern Ireland? It’s a beautiful place, clearly for a United Ireland’s a deal would have to be struck by Europe and the goodies your talking about must be something something you imagined while you were smoking your crack pipe, in the South the dole is probably 4 times more than in the north, not to mention the free housing and child allowance being much higher in the south than north, who’s they? By the way? Do you speak about polish or Spanish That way? But you find it ok to speak about your fellow Irish man that way? before you say it there is over 450 thousand people in the north with Irish passports, same at yours ( that’s if your actually Irish)

      • DB4545

        irish pete

        That’s the deal irish pete. While I may not agree with every comment on the site I believe people have the absolute right to make any comment they want and then argue their point. It’s called freedom of speech. That’s how you get to some sort of agreed truth or consensus. You’re right it is a beautiful place but so is Zimbabwe and I’m not looking to join a federation with it either.

        “A deal would have to be struck by Europe”. No it wouldn’t, it would have to be struck by the people who would have to pay the bill for the party. I’m suggesting that the South is paying enough bills at the moment.This is the delusional and fantasy mindset of some people on both sides of the spectrum in the North. Outline what the North has to offer either to the rest of the UK (which it’s a part of by consent) or to the Republic of Ireland? Tell me what you have to contribute?

        Like I’ve said at other points in this blog the North is a crazy girlfriend. It has political schizophrenia. It thinks its loved and desired by both the UK and the Republic. The UK would love to leg it and the Republic is glad it’s not paying the bills.I don’t care if 450 thousand people or for that matter 1.5 million in the North have Irish passports.

        I care about how they’ll contribute or cost me money. We have enough wasters doing that already at the moment at all price points on the welfare spectrum. And don’t lecture me about being Irish, I’m Irish in the only way that counts, living here, paying my bills and taxes and trying to earn a living.


        • TracyD

          ” It thinks its loved and desired by both the UK and the Republic.”

          …No – it doesn’t, and how you could think so is frankly baffling. Most of us up here are well aware that we are not wanted by the UK or the Republic; you seem to naively confuse the government with the populace, the latter being unable in many cases to vote more progressive politicians in due to non-partisan parties not standing in all constituencies, pacts in others, emotional manipulation and stirring up of feeling by some of our worst political parties.

          “I don’t care if 450 thousand people or for that matter 1.5 million in the North have Irish passports.” – telling.

    • tadhgy

      You sir, are an arsehole

      • tadhgy

        I meant this for the comment directly under this article btw, how anyone could turn their back on their fellow Irish men for reasons to do with money, of any sort, is disgraceful….

      • McCawber

        Nobody said anything about turning their backs on anyone.
        I’m a realist, I don’t vote on the basis of some patriotic nonsense.
        I’d vote NO to a United Ireland were there a referendum on it today.
        Cost is a huge factor btw whether you like it or not.
        Other areas of our economy (that can ill afford any more cuts) would be starved of finance to pay for a UI.
        Get a grip, think rather just reacting.

  2. NeilW

    You’re not going to have a united anything. Much less a united Europe.

    What you will see, I think, over the next several decades is fragmentation into currency areas, and people pulling out of large blocs and rejoining the biggest bloc of all – the rest of the world.

    The young have a much more international outlook and simply don’t want to be limited to a silly geriatric geographically restricted project that sells them all down the river.

    Ireland would be better joining the constituent parts of the UK in a trade commonwealth with our old international partners and all those new ones that will reject the neo-liberal consensus of turning governments into talking shops and handing the keys to power over to large corporations.

    The United Ireland will happen when both Ireland and the UK reunites with the rest of the world.

    • Sounds good, interesting post NeilW. Now to read David’s article…

      • Antaine

        Subscribe :-) really wish the format of this blog was changed.

        • Me too, it’s diabolical.

          • Antaine

            Do we need to do a whip around for David to improve it?
            (I forgot to hit ‘notify me of email comments’ in my last worthless contribution to the blog above :-)

          • sravrannies

            Hi Adam, you should be able to subscribe to comments by selecting the Feed icon on the left – under David’s mugshot between the Twitter and Mail logos. Selecting the Comments RSS Feed should enable you to receive all comments for a particualr post but, it does not appear to be working and showing htmel code. Should not take too much to fix. I have emailed ‘webmaster’ to take a look.Will let you know.


      • McCawber

        Having as you suggested read the article I think they can indeed vote Yes to a United Ireland but David neglected to add that we can vote No to a United Ireland.

  3. sravrannies

    I’ve lived in the North for 5 years now and still can’t get my head round the complexities of the religion/politics. Our protestant friends vote SDLP – to prevent SF getting in – and while many Catholics are open to the idea of a ‘united’ Irland, they balk at the idea of it being led by the likes of Kenny/Noonan. And don’t forget; at the last Census 21% declared their nationality to be “Northern Irish” rather than Irish of British. I just can’t see it happening in my time.

    But perhaps that is what David is getting at. Like the contrarian view, these things have a habit of happening just when you least expect it.


  4. DB4545

    A North Atlantic trading zone sounds like a winner to me David. That’s where our cultural and economic identities converge. The present EU political and democratic deficits don’t serve our interests. Why not adapt to changing realities and prepare for those realities? We have to make ourselves attractive to other members of such a trading zone. The north also has to make itself attractive to potential suitors.

    Let me set out my stall. I wouldn’t want unification with the North as it operates today. It’s an economic basket case and elements of both communities are absolutely delusional about their “attractiveness” to potential suitors. The rest of the UK realise that they’re hitched to a crazy girlfriend who has few attractive features but who continues to empty their wallet and offers nothing in return. Many in the South (myself included) quietly hold the view that “f**k it” you wanted her so badly you’re welcome to the crazy b**ch. We’re just grateful that she’s not emptying our wallets.

    We’re not without our own faults. We want Nordic living standards but our political system operates on Sicilian ethical standards. We need to clean up our act to make ourselves attractive. The good news is that most people want clean government and we’re heading in that direction. The educational achievements of the upcoming generation will nudge change in that direction just as it did in Scandinavia in the 1930s. We need to prepare for change by considering a Federal republic with four provinces. The UK are pragmatists and have to consider a Federal solution to their political quagmire. The north will have to get into rehab fast in order to make itself attractive to any potential Federation. It was never beautiful but even beauty is a time stamped visa and the expiry date is fast approaching.


    • jaysus

      Federal Ireland is a really good idea, would welcome a united Ireland unlike most of the freestate misers in here.

  5. Grzegorz Kolodziej

    Of, the elephant in the room is what to do with the loyalist community in the united Ireland should they wish to draw inspiration from the Donetsk People’s Republic. But perhaps they will behave or it will more be like the Velvet Revolution. It would be interesting though if Sinn Féin and the loyalists groups switched the roles and the loyalists started to play the role of the oppressed minority refused the right to self-determination. I only hope that the Irish Army is prepared for that and it won’t be surprised by potential separatists movement like Dublin City Council is always surprised when it snows (a propos City Council, I remember that in 2010 or thereabouts they had been offered some sand by the bankrupt developers in case it snows but they refused because it never does). I’ll be voting for the united Ireland in case anyone doubts, but I wonder if that would turn Ireland into Ukraine…

    “We also have the small problem of Europe’s south-eastern corner from Athens to Ljubljana, including Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslavian countries.” – and that is a very good question indeed, considering that Germany preferred to start the war in Yugoslavia by encouraging Croatia to proclaim their independence and being the first country to recognize it, which torpedoed further strengthening of the so called Hexagonale (is anyone on this blog or you David familiar with that geopolitical concept?) – a group of countries (Hungary, Austria, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia) trying to prevent Germany to rehash and enforce their own plan of Mitteleuropa (the current President of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister, Mr. Donald Tusk, was writing in the 1990′s for the quarterly “Przeglad Polityczny” (“Political Review”), financed by the German Embassy in Poland, which promoted the said concept of Mitteleuropa (I even have that particular issue fully dedicated to that concept). For those of you not familiar with the concept (this video is too short, but there is not much about in the English speaking world):

    In order to implement the (slightly modified) plan of Mitteleuropa, Germany had to drag Eastern Europe into the future European Union. Things might have gone very differently had the Hexagonale group not fallen apart; Poland for example was offered membership in NAFTA by President George Bush senior and Polish parliamentarians (most of them either on German, French or Russian payrolls this way or the other) ensured that the proposal was not discussed in the Polish Parliament. Had Poles have a choice between the EU (which anyone familiar with the EU law knows did not exist as a legal entity until the Lisbon Treaty) and NAFTA, I think they would have chosen NAFTA at that time and perhaps they would have chosen NAFTA even now or, as David put it, “an independent bloc of sovereigns that seem less than enamoured with giving more to Europe” (Poland is now the second most Eurosceptic society after the UK according to the Eurostat barometer, with other northern Eastern and Northern European countries closely behind).

    Interesting case in that geopolitical puzzle is Romania, where in 2012 the US tried to restore the coalition government of liberals and ex-communists (Romania is the only post-communist country with secret services were not trained in Moscow), but this attempt was blocked by Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, whose efforts were supported by Russia. Germany used this opportunity to install the ethnic German President Iohannis in Romania, with an ethnic German in charge of Romanian secret services, thus outfoxing both Russia and the US. This restored the implementation of their Mitteleuropa plan, shortly derailed in the US.

    Poland, having already a pro-UK president, is on a course to elect the pro-UK government in October, but I doubt this would be enough to change the course of Polish politics substantially – Germany invested too much in Polish politicians, media; their supermarkets enjoy preferential treatment in Poland compared to indigenous shops and now they are on a course to take over Polish coal mining industry having eliminated the Polish shipyard industry by breaking the EU law on subsidies – Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer, but seemingly not ein EU law – Ordnung muss sein.

    The one million dollar question is: what political force in Ireland would be able to win enough votes (not necessarily in 2016) to facilitate Ireland joining an independent bloc of countries led by the UK and followed by Scandinavia, though it may derail Mitteleuropa for a while)? Will Sinn Féin change the course of the Irish geopolitics and blow up the Irish-German alliance? I doubt it; even though Mr. Adams has always been deadly on the hot air front – not because he was in the IRA (because he wasn’t), but because being anti-British he was at the same time getting his money from the Queen (why don’t you follow Marco Rubio’s example, Gerry; a US libertarian governor who refused the Federal subsidy?); I doubt it because coming up with a proposal to join Commonwealth would ridicule Sinn Féin leaders in the eyes of their electorate (which admittedly has a very shprt memory, forgetting that Sinn Féin tried to convince the Nazis to invade Ireland and they voted for the bank guarantee).

    So maybe you, David, will lead us into Commonwealth?

    Hot potato – catch it, Dave :-)

  6. Deco

    Not all Catholics in the North want unity with the Dublin centred state. And not all Protestants are happy with their standing in the UK.

    In addition, NI will be a different place, if they learn to spend less time fighting with each other.

    And then there is the rest of Ireland perspective. The strange thing is that in Munster, most people think a united Ireland is the best possible outcome. But in the middle stretch of the country, south of a line between Drogheda and Sligo, there is a woeful antipathy towards Northerners – as a psychological construct. This is particularly evident on Dublin’s northside, and the Midlands. It can best be summed up with received wisdom along the lines of NI needs to grow up, NI is nuts, and NI is full of gobshytes. Now this is a very serious issue in a part of the country containing a large contingent of Eastern Europeans who are never at the receiving end of such an appraisal.

    Basically, a lot of people in the middle portion of the island are firmly of the view that NI is a dysfunctional place, filled with immature, pride obsessed, arrogant, boasting, fools. This is never in the political narrative. But it is part of the human narrative.

    I know that I am going to outrage some people here. In fact there will be people who will read this and be indignant with rage. And they will get very personal in response.

    But from what I have seen it is a perfectly reasonable perspective. And it is entirely psychological. There are deep issues in NI society, because it has never been a normal society in 80 years. There has been a lot of emotional repression. There has been a lot of emphasis on “show”, “bravado”, macho culture, and superficiality. NI is also highly infected with social snobbery. In fact NI is more dysfunctional with regard to social class issues than London, or Sussex, or Kent.

    As observed in the borrowing “boom” madness, there are deep issues in Leinster, amongst a sizeable proportion of the populace with respect to consumerist excess, loneliness, and general purposelessness.

    But these are mild compared to the issues that exist in a post conflict based society, that still has not matured past social status obsession, and “keeping up appearances”.

    What if nobody wanted to get any closer to NI ?

    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      Correct me if I am wrong, but when I had a short romance with a Derry bogside girl (10 years ago), I remember quoting in a heated pub discussion with her (her family was even against the Good Friday Agreement) some opinion poll from that time whereby as much as 25% of the Northern Irish population asked if they would prefer a united Ireland, NI as a part of the UK or NI as an independent state chose the last option. But I cannot remember if the figure was 20 or 25% (I remember that 20 figure). Has anyone done since an opinion poll with that option?

      • Deco

        I presume that they have “de-escalated” their level of tension since then. The past it seems is always to close, to allow people to become free of it.

        And just in case people drift away from it, there are annual rituals of King Billy etc… so that there will be no lapse that might enable people to forget. Unreservedly militaristic, aggressive, and often antagonistic rituals.

        None of which helps. And yet if there is ever a discussion about discontinuing such nonsense, then you get told that it is “culture”. The community that calls this culture has a serious crisis within. An intellectual crisis, and a deeper societal crisis also.

        Unfortunately, few in positions of leadership in NI are able to declare that there is a problem with their own side, and clean the rot from within.

    • DB4545


      I think that’s a fair and reasonable analysis Deco. I don’t think there’s anything strange about Munster having that viewpoint. It’s the viewpoint that people have about a party when they won’t be paying the bill. The broadly Leinster region that you described would be picking up the bill for that little party. I think the Leinster region (and possibly most of the UK)would be happy if the North was towed up towards Iceland and left there for a few hundred years.

      It’s possibly the view that Unionists held pre-partition. They had industry, jobs, access to the markets of empire why the f**k would a United Ireland be of any interest to them? Dublin and Leinster is a commercial and business centre with access to global markets. What exactly would the North be bringing to the party except freeloaders?

      We have our own brand of social snobbery so we’re no different to the North in that respect. The Malone Road and South Dublin aren’t exactly worlds apart. The Northerners have a fondness for personalised registration plates which isn’t that different from our crowd who think it’s social death if they haven’t got a 152 plate under their ar*e.

      At the other end of the social spectrum we may in the past have observed the sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme. Their great grandchildren however are doing their marching with Columbian marching powder and other pharmaceutical products. Pockets of the North have serious social deprivation and a drug problem that’s exploding just like parts of Dublin did in the 1980s. All things being equal I don’t think we have the capacity or the desire to deal with the Pandora’s box of insanity that is Northern Ireland.


      • yadayada

        Well is that true or did you just like the sound of it, which admittedly was vaguely amusing. I’m up there pretty often and I’ve never heard of cocaine. Perhaps I’m mixing with the wrong sort.

        The only crack I heard about drugs was that a recent killing of a well known ra man was related to his involvement in the heroin trade, which seems to be developing in Gerry’s old stomping ground. All unproven and anecdotal of course.

        • DB4545


          All true I’m sad to report. The “troubles” delayed the development of drug culture which hit most European cities hard just after the Iranian revolution. Iranians fleeing the revolution converted their wealth into heroin (rather than gold Tony Brogan). The source has changed but it’s hitting the North hard now just as it has hit other European cities. The latest trend is premix. Cannabis premixed with heroin/benzodiazipines. Kids think they’re “just” smoking weed until drug tests show positive for opiates/benzo use. They’ve been introduced to hard drugs unknowingly.The INLA have long been regarded as the pharmaceutical division of the Republican groups and act as taxing agents on drug dealers. Their counterparts on the other side of the fence haven’t been slow to move into the drugs trade either.

          I meet a lot of interesting characters in the course of my(completely legal)work. The drugs trade is an equal opportunity employer and hits disadvantaged sections of both communities equally hard. Paramilitary groups of all persuasions are up to their necks in it and that is a cold hard fact. Astonishing how the great-grandchildren of pious catholics and dour protestants have moved so far and so quickly from the core values of their ancestors.


          • yadayada

            Well I do smell the old Mary jane when I’m out wandering around now and then, but anything heavier seems to be associated with Portuguese immigrants round dungannon. As I say, I’ve never heard of cocaine.

      • coldblow

        About signing up for World War a friend of mine last year emailed me a couple of articles which purported to show that a bigger proportion of Catholic Ireland joined the British armed forces than Protestant Ulstermen. I think it was unemployment that drove them and the chance for young me to escape from a cramped society (and possibly police reocrds for petty offences) and see the world.

      • coldblow

        Also, let’s not forget the unique history of Ulster. It was the earliest, most comprehensive example of a phenomenon that was very rare in the history of colonialism – going beyond the usual practice in developed agricultural societies (as opposed to undeveloped hunter gatherers in the New World) of seizing the commanding heights of administration and leaving the economic structure beneath largely intact, farmers from the metropolitan power took over land from the indigenous population. This happened in parts of South Africa, in Aleria in the 19th C with the French, in the Kenyan highlands after WW1 and, it seems, in Palestine. (I might have missed one out.) In the Ulster cse, to make it all the worse, the original owners of the land were often taken on as paid labourers.

        • yadayada

          You missed one example that springs to mind – the Germans moved into Prussia in the Middle Ages and exterminated the locals, a fair bit before James I got going. Bet you don’t find that hard to believe.

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            It is never enough reminding (for so few people know about it) that original Prussians were neither Slavic nor Germanic:


          • coldblow

            I didn’t explain myself well there. I was trying to type while listening to herself telling me how her day went. I got this from Crotty. Palestine would of course not be an example of capitalist colonialism as Israel were not a colonial power, but the end result does look somewhat similar. The example I missed out was Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. In three of the five cases the expropriated land has been regained. The Teutonic Knights were before the modern age of colonialism of course. What I am talking about (from Crotty) is the imposition of an alien (capitalist system) together with its institutions (especially land as private property with the rights protected by a particular legal system) on top of an existing developed agricultural society, as happened all over the world, but where in five cases existing tenants of the land were exprpropriated. The Teutonic Knights would have come before this modern colonialism. In all cases it was possible to tell the colonized and the colonizing apart by their skin colour. In Ireland religion had to play that vital role (so Crotty argued).

          • coldblow

            Just to add (before my computer times me out again) quickly that in S. Africa most of the land was taken from hunter gatherers but some land was also seized from Bantu agriculturalists. Crotty believed that, but for the Conquest, Ireland would have probably reverted to a fully pastoral, non-urban society over time. The only reason Ireland didn’t develop along capitalist lines like the rest of Europe was because our damp, mild climate did not require the accumulation of ploughing stock and the rest that went along with capitalist *agriculture* including the drive to invest rather than consume immediately (unique to Western Europe) and the potentional limitless production this enabled when Europe finally ‘took off’ about five centuries ago.

        • yadayada

          Applies to North america. Agriculture was the mainstay of most indigenous populations there. I’m not sure what your point is. There’s been a to and fro movement across the north channel fro millennia. Remember St Columba in Argyll? Where do you think Scots Gaelic came from?

          • coldblow

            Raymond Crotty considered the North American Indians as hunter gatherers and he would have known as much about these things as anyone. Your point had occurred to me too, though, so I did a quick internet trawl (if you can call one site a trawl) and it confirmed his view that, while agriculture was practised in some parts, especially s.w. and s.e., on the whole they were hunger gatherers. They were certainly not highly developed and organized, albeit non-capitalist, agricultural societies such as India, South-East Asia or North Africa and it was possible to push them off their land relatively easily.

            From Ireland In Crisis: ‘At all times, up to the nineteenth century, European colonialism, as with all earlier colonizing, resulted in the extermination of indigenous hunter gatherers. The last of the indigenes of Tasmania perished in 1876 and the last battle of extermination of the North American Indians was fought at Wounded Knee in 1890.’ In contrast, the enormous cost of the Elizabethan campaign to subdue Ireland was the single greatest factor in setting crown and parliament against each other.

            Crotty’s point is that European colonialism from the 16th C was different to earlier expansions in that it imposed capitalist institutions on societies that were organized on very different principles (Ireland for example was pastoralist). This, he argued, condemned the future ex-colonies to economic chaos and Ireland, by virtue of the length and thorough-going nature of its colonizing, should be at the top of the list of the failed states, only that this was masked by a number of factors, including its geographical location in Europe and the emigration safety valve.

            I drew this up because I believe that his analysis gives the best insight into ‘why we are where we are’ and to put recent events in the North into their proper perspective.

      • Deco

        “the Pandora’s box of insanity that is NI” is a good description. We have enough problems to fix as things stand. I am thinking about a dithering minister and an escalating crime problem in Dublin in particular.

        You are also correct concerning the car culture obsession. Grown ups comparing their toys. Mostly men it must be said.

        NI is in an intellectual bind.

        • DB4545


          I may have been a little harsh on our Northern friends but there’s one area that they’ve excelled with and that’s the PSNI. It’s a professional operation and largely de-politicised compared with the Gardai/ old RUC and a lot of regional UK police services. Even old school hard core republicans that I’ve spoken to will tell you that it’s a clean operation. In contrast I’m told that promotion above certain ranks in this neck of the woods can depend on politics/influence rather than competence. That’s a dangerous road and one which certainly doesn’t serve the public interest.

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            Also, contrary to what most people think, you are more likely to have your phone tapped by Garda than by PSNI as the rules of phone tapping are much more arbitrary than in the UK (the annual report on that is a f…g joke: the commissioner just signs it with a one sentence comment that he got familiar with the report). Though this is still not near as bad as phone tapping in Poland under the Tusk regime: over 100 ( hundred!) times more Poles per capita get their phones tapped than Germans (who can process that amount of information anyway?!); and the saddest thing? That information is then intercepted by the intelligence of other countries and then we have shocking leaks from conversations of top politicians and businessmen that would shame even Edward Snowden as Poland is a paradise for foreign secret services (Stasi was given free hand to operate during the martial law!). Out of all foreign intelligence penetrating Poland the CIA is by far not the most efficient despite their biggest budget – well, Snowden’s example shows how easy to penetrate they are and their inability to rescue their officers from Iraq during the first war (they had to ask the Polish intelligence) shows how inefficient they are.

            I’d say Ireland is much more a sovereign country than Poland, despite its puny army and close cooperation of G2 and MI6; yet more than half people I spoke with – and often good-willing people – would like to cut more off whatever is left from that sovereignty and be more European, Scandinavian, etc (but when someone like David or one FG TD proposes joining the Commonwealth the same people who bend under the German-French dictatorship suddenly get jazzed up and scream that 800 years and what not.
            Though it would be much more sovereign if only the voters wanted to (like Iceland maybe?) and there was someone to vote for.

          • DB4545


            I think we’re a bit more laid back about policing in general here and to be fair that’s the way people like it. The rules may be arbitrary on phone tapping but I reckon so are the odds of anyone bothering their a**e listening to any of it. I may get irritated sometimes with a lack of professionalism but I think they’re a lot more approachable that most Countries and that soft power has its value. I still fail to understand why the Stasi (and others) waste so much resources spying on the population. It did them no good in the end. When people people have had enough nothing will save you.


          • DB4545


            A related note on intelligence services that sprung to mind. The US intelligence services had the information on file largely from open sources of the time (newspapers etc.) outlining that Pearl Harbor was a high risk target two years before the attack took place. History repeated itself with the 9/11 attacks. You may remember pilots in Florida looking for training in take offs but not landings (alarm bells anyone). Most useful intelligence is gleaned from open source analysis rather than the clandestine world. With hindsight you can argue about incompetence but that’s not the case. No government on the planet has the resources including human resources to digest and make sense of all the information it can access. If the US & Russia don’t have the budgets for it you can safely bet we don’t either.


          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            While I have to agree with you that
            “When people people have had enough nothing will save you” (and on the vast majority of what you say in general), I would not fully agree that “I still fail to understand why the Stasi (and others) waste so much resources spying on the population. It did them no good in the end.”
            The aim of all that spying that went on was to gather compromising material against politicians which can be then use to change the fate of certain bill proposals, etc (that is done both by external and internal forces – particularly in countries stuck in the middle like Poland where I could many examples how secret services of all kinds control politicians rather the other way round and my opinion on that is not all extreme).
            Just to examples:
            1. Helmuth Kohl arrives in Poland. Margaret Thatcher makes her agreement on Germany’s re-unification from signing a peace treaty with Poland and waiving all claims to property on ex-German lands (I made a larger post on that subject in the past). Kohl refuses. Polish Foreign Minister Skubiszewski insists, but then changes his mind. Then it turns out he is being blackmailed by BND which inherited his file from STASI. Mr. Skubiszewski is publicly accused of acting against Polish raison d’état due to BND’s blackmail and challenged to sue the politician who accused him if that is not true (German Foreign Minister who spoke to Skubiszewski had a Nazi past, so that zested it even more). Skubiszewski did not sue.
            2. MP Janusz Korwin-Mikke finds out that most politicians are invited to the party in Israeli embassy and knowing he will have enough votes, he originates (late at night) the vetting resolution on 28 May 1992, which obliged the Minister of Internal Affairs to disclose the names of all politicians who had been communist secret police agents. The disclosed list contained numerous prominent politicians of most political factions, including President Lech Walesa (who many years later confirms that, but he says he was an informer only in 1970′s – what is the truth we do not know). This leads to a secret nocturnal meeting in the parliament on which most prominent politicians are present (including Lech Walesa, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Bronislaw Geremek – member of Grand Orient – and Donald Tusk, as well as the representative of the Russian intelligence; this is being secretly filmed and then leaked and publicly released; a person who released it aired it gets sacked and we still do not know which secret service recorded it). As a result, there government is overthrown on 4 June 1992 by the opposition and the President Lech Walesa. 4 June 1992, along with 4 June 1989, are the two most important dates in Polish collective memory since 13 December 1981 and most of political divisions in Poland are organized around that date.

            I am not being Polonocentric that i keep bringing examples from Polish politics, it’s just that this is the area where I have very reliable information.
            As to Ireland, I guess you made a good point and again I have to agree with you when you write:

            “I think we’re a bit more laid back about policing in general here and to be fair that’s the way people like it. The rules may be arbitrary on phone tapping but I reckon so are the odds of anyone bothering their a**e listening to any of it. I may get irritated sometimes with a lack of professionalism but I think they’re a lot more approachable that most Countries and that soft power has its value.”

            Mind you, I left Poland a long, long time ago (and I could have stayed in the slightly better organized UK, but I did not), so there must be something good in that laid-backed attitude after all? :-)

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej


            “If the US & Russia don’t have the budgets for it you can safely bet we don’t either.”
            It’s not necessarily about the budget. Remember that press conference in the 90s in Paris by an ex-CIA officer who accused CIA of growing incompetence due to politically correct recruitment key? He said that CIA has certain quota, such as that there has to be as many Blacks, Hispanic, women, gay, etc. – but not necessarily people speaking Arabic, Polish, etc (I wonder if anyone in CIA speaks Irish).
            If you look at the budgets of secret services around the world and compare it with their ratings, you’ll notice that the most efficient intelligence is year by year Mossad; yet they do not have the biggest (that is still CIA) or even the 5th biggest budget…
            Also, how come the rich CIA was not able to get their officers out of Iraq and Polish intelligence was?:


          • DB4545


            Who knows Grzegorz. They may have been trying to conceal other assets that could have become exposed if they had become directly involved. They may also have been trying to develop and test the capabilities of the Polish Intelligence community. It’s a dark world that I know little about.


          • It’s like I told you Grzegorz a few weeks ago, you Polish have a different experience and mentality than us Irish – the Russians can fly over as much of Ireland, for as long as they want – we can’t do anything about it, that’s 50% of the story but as DB says, the other 50% of it is that we couldn’t be arsed doing anything about it, even if we had the capability.

            Mind you, it’s not just the Irish – I read ‘The Great War for Civilzation’ a few years ago and Robert Fisk recounts how the Iranians employed students over 8 years (or some similar time period – forgive me if I don’t recall the exact details/timescale) to piece together shredded fragments of confidential documents that had been left in the US embassy in Tehran, I think (or somewhere similar), which yielded much valuable information.

            But when the Yanks were presented with some kind of comparable opportunity (again, can’t remember the exact scenario) apparently they didn’t follow through as it was ‘too much trouble to go to’.

            Anecdotal stuff I know, but interesting nonetheless.

          • No one in the CIA speaks Irish haha, I’d bet my house on it (if I had one).

          • “that soft power has its value.”

            Definitely, the Irish do have their talents, you know, I CAN be positive about this place.

            Lots of potential here as a place and a people, it’s just a pity that it’s been hijacked by charlatans for the first 100 years.

            Better times may lie ahead though.

    • yadayada

      What if a fair few of the Catholics are actually polish, Czech, Lithuanian, as indeed they are? What if the whole nonsense is yesterday’s row?

      • Grzegorz Kolodziej

        If we were to measure how Catholic the society is by the number of vocations in a given year than the last time I looked for for data for Ireland (because someone had asked me) there were not any. All talk about Catholicism and Protestantism is of course only cultural and here there are differences between countries…

  7. Deco

    To be honest as things stand, we have not run the RoI properly in decades. There is a serious malaise in the state system here.

    Compare the current Irish Water mess, to the manner in which the ESB and Bord na Mona was set up in the 1940s.

    There is a serious rot in Irish society at it’s core. And no amount of spin, and patting ourselves on the back over nothing, will change that.

  8. Deco

    I was in pharmacy once along the border. I went to get non-prescription medicine, which happens to be cheaper in the North, thanks to market rigging here.

    So of course, I asked how much is that. And then I asked if there was a reduction on a large quantity.

    So anyway, I indicated that I would buy it. It was about 50% cheaper. And the assistant in the counter asked me if I was entitled to it for free. Now I don’t have a northern accent, so this left me baffled.

    So I stated that I was not entitled to if for free.

    I said, no, it was alright. That I knew enough to know that somebody somewhere was paying for it.

    And she then said, but I bet y’ad prufer to have it fur free. At this point in time, I found her behaviour ridiculous.

    No, madam – I am happy to pay for it, and to have a job that I can pay for it. The people who made it and delivered it deserve a wage. Besides, I am content to have myself free :)

    • yadayada

      They have free prescriptions there. Even the rich. The english pay for it. After all, they deserve it – it’s a post conflict society. Where isn’t? Antarctica?

    • yadayada

      And since you were looking for a reduction, what’s a better bargain than free?

  9. Grzegorz Kolodziej

    Changing into a totally different field, is any of the readers a geneticist by profession or education and can give me an opinion and on that article which has caught my eye today:

  10. When I won the All Ireland Heavyweight title (amateur) in 1964 it was just that. The All Ireland Title. That year I recall that 7 of the ten weight classes were taken by Ulster men. Everyone got along fine in those days and the border between North and South was wide open and only staffed during “office hours”. I drove through several times with nobody in attendance in the small hours of the morning.

    If unification is desired or desirable then just open the borders and let the people mix and meet!!!!

    There is the anecdote of the First World War Christmas Day singsong in 1914 on the front line. All protagonists together in fun and friendship for a few hours but shooting each other the day before and the day after. Madness. Politics. Madness. Power. Madness. Money madness.

    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      “There is the anecdote of the First World War Christmas Day singsong in 1914 on the front line.”

      I red in some book – I don’t remember which one now – that the Brits made fun of the Germans on Christmas Day responding to their “Gott mit uns” with their banner “We’ve got mittens too”. Also, the Russian tsar awarded with medals some… captured Japanese admirals who distinguished themselves in a sea battle. That kind of attitude would be completely incomprehensible for the contemporaries; it is no longer sufficient to defeat the enemy, one also has to humiliate him. Some call it modernity, I call it barbarism.

      But not everything changes for worse. The Derry-Bogside girl emigrated to Australia, came completely changed and is now living in Belfast with a loyalist guy. As to what her family thinks of the Good Friday Agreement now I do not know – most brothers were (are?) in the Provisional IRA (maybe she is not in touch with them?!).

      It’s amazing and sometimes sad to reflect on those episodes in our life which seem to define its meaning when they unfold and then they lose any intensity like the last’s year Champions League final… :-(

      “Were I to meet you again for the first time,
      But in a different orchard, in a different wood—
      Perhaps for us the trees would sigh differently,
      Extended into infinity under a misty hood…

      Perhaps among the furrowed green you’d reach your hands
      For other flowers, trembling as they were birds—
      Perhaps from your undiscerning, unknowing lips
      Would fall some other words—some other words…

      Perhaps into a cascade of flaming roses
      The sun would force our souls to burst for good,
      Were I to meet you again for the first time,
      But in a different orchard, in a different wood…”

      Boleslaw Lesmian,
      “Were I To Meet You Again For The First Time”

  11. yadayada

    The tsar and the Japanese – could well be true since they were in the same side. After all her maj gave overweight bad driver ted Kennedy a knighthood for all the love and affection he’d bestowed on us over the years.

  12. Mike Lucey

    Most folks that I know in the ROI just want peace in NI/6C as bombs and bullets are bad for the ROI tourist business.

  13. DB4545

    Mike Lucey

    Abso-fu**king-lutely. Game of Thrones which has very violent content has done more for Northern Ireland and ROI tourism than the real violence and mayhem which screwed up the place. It took them a long time to realise that people generally don’t like to visit war zones unless they’re news media living on expense accounts out of the Europa hotel.

  14. As one ponders ones own personal problems the world economy is contracting all around.

    “With each passing day, the evidence pointing to an imminent, comprehensive collapse in not only global economic activity, but the aforementioned, worthless fiat currencies underlying it, becomes increasingly obvious – to the point that there’s no way of pretending otherwise, which is why it’s so obvious that guys like Barry Rithholtz have an agenda, in publishing nonsensical statements like “the U.S. economy is improving, as are those of many other countries.” I mean geez, we are unquestionably at the singular low point of global economic activity of at least the past century – with the “only difference between late 2008 and today,” for instance, being the aforementioned, maniacal market manipulations, utilizing unprecedented “weapons of mass financial destruction” like derivatives and high frequency algorithms.”

    “Such as, for instance (in no particular order), this weekend’s Puerto Rican default, putting in question how much of its astronomic $72 billion of debt – much of it, “quasi-backed” by the U.S. government – will go down in flames. Or China’s manufacturing PMI collapsing to its lowest level in two years, taking the Shanghai stock exchange still lower, despite blatant PBOC support. Or shipping freight rates on the world’s busiest trade route – from Asia to Northern Europe – plunging an astonishing 23% last week alone, following declines in 22 of the previous 27 weeks. Or horrifying images of the “war zone” the hyper-inflating Venezuelan economy has become (but don’t worry, the Caracas exchange is at an all-time high). Or the increasingly understood realization that Greece will default on a €3.2 billion payment to the ECB on August 20th – as quite obviously, not only is no “bailout” deal in place, but never was even considered. Which is probably why, upon finally re-opening after more than a month’s closure this morning, the Greek stock market plunged nearly 20%; with what I have long deemed the “world’s most important stock” – and “most insolvent entity” – the National Bank of Greece, collapsing to an all-time low, en-route to certain bankruptcy. And by the way, isn’t it funny how the root of the work bankruptcy is “bank?”

    “That said, the aforementioned laundry list of global economic horrors are but symptoms of the “great deformation” caused by four-plus decades of history’s largest, broadest fiat currency Ponzi scheme – which is why historically oversupplied commodities are destined to plunge far lower than most can imagine; other than, of course, the “anti-bubbles” in manipulated gold and silver, which will inevitably yield (and in some cases, are already), unprecedented supply shortages.”

  15. Grzegorz Kolodziej,

    So was Walesa a good man, or a bad man?

    Or is it not as simple at that? What’s your opinion on him?



  16. A suggestion for Greece may suit All Ireland

    Alan Leishman Greece should join the Swiss Confederation 04.08.2015

    Greece should join the Swiss Confederation?
    This week Canton Valais in SW Switzerland celebrates its Bicentenary of joining Switzerland as a new Canton in 1815.

    Prior to this happy and stabilising event, the Valais had been for several centuries an unstable geo political battle ground in a power struggle that ebbed and flowed between the Duchy of Savoy, the Dukes of Burgundy, and the Bishops of Sion, (capital of the Valais).

    In the wake of the French Revolution, Napoleon invaded the Valais, but a few years later, following his defeat at Waterloo, the Valais then became a Republic and a new Canton of the Swiss Confederation under the Treaty of Versailles in 1815.

    Switzerland has grown since the formation of the first 3 Cantons in 1291 and is now a stable and prosperous Confederation of 26 Cantons, despite its mountainous terrain separating 4 different cultures with 4 official languages.

    The Swiss Constitution, Direct Democracy, and devolution of power to Cantonal and Communal government are some of the keys to this success story. For example Mining Law in Switzerland is Cantonal (Valais 1856) except in Canton Graubunden, (Communal).

    Turning to the problems of Greece, it occurred to me that one solution for the Greek government could be to apply to join the Swiss Confederation. Of course, to have any prospect of success, certain essential steps would have to be undertaken in more or less the following sequence:

    Greece holds a referendum on whether to apply for joining the Swiss Confederation.

    Greece grexits the EU and the Euro if the referendum succeeds and the Swiss also accept.

    Greece defaults on all its unsustainable debts

    Greece nationalises its Banks, ( for an indefinite period until economic stability is regained)

    From the Swiss point of view a referendum would also be necessary to see whether the Swiss accept Greece as the 27 th Canton.

    If both popular votes were positive, Greece would adopt the Swiss Franc in place of the Euro, confidence would be restored gradually and capital controls removed when the economy had recovered sufficiently. At I Euro = 1.06 CHF the currency transition would be relatively smooth and capital would return from safe havens to Greece.

    At first sight this proposal seems radical and irrational, but when one examines it more closely there are some synergies and precedents that are not immediately obvious. France has several territories “outre mer” , Guadaloupe, Reunion, etc. which function in a similar structure. Greece is historically the home of western philosophy, democracy, mathematics, classic history and literature.

    Greece is arguably the first, but not the only victim, of the failed EU project, and is now being asset stripped by the unelected TROIKOGARCHS from Brussels. If Greece was an isolated case one could leave them to their deserved fate, but most of the club med countries are in the same precarious state awaiting the EU Damocles sword to descend on them soon. ERGO: Greece and their club med colleagues are not to blame, it is the EU system that is tragically, systematically destroying all its members one after the other.

    Another aspect is that Sardinia is also considering an application to join the Swiss Confederation, so the concept of Greece applying would not be a precedent.

    “In Switzerland, the proposal has been met with cheerful bewilderment. An online poll of 4,000 people asking, in German, “should we accept Sardinia?” produced a 93% yes vote. A Swiss television crew was in Cagliari last week asking the same question.”END

    Of course, in the real world where the Main Stream Media still influence elections and referendums, despite the freedom of thought and the trend setting social media on the internet, there is perhaps very little chance of either the Greeks or the Swiss voting Yes in a popular vote.

    Hence the real purpose of this essay is to expand the debate on the future of Greece and the EU. Radical solutions are necessary. One cannot solve the club med’s unsustainable debt problems by bail outs with increased debt, followed by Bail-ins. This is not only irrational, but unethical, immoral, and should be made illegal by elected lawmakers one day.

    It is time to put the unelected EU TROIKOGARCHS back into PANDORA’s box and lock the lid carefully.

    The future of Europe should be devolution into smaller nations with Cantonal, communal governments, direct democracy and a very limited amount of central government all based on the Swiss Confederate system, with local variations and amendments as necessary.

    To avoid repetitions of the EU Greek crisis, reforms of both Commercial and Central Banks will be necessary, alongside a return to Gold in some limited form in order to place limits on fiat money creation.

    Central Banks should not behave like leveraged hedge funds, and Commercial Banks should separate their customers deposits from any investment activity. Bail-ins should be illegal.

    But political reform to restore stable debt free governments should be carried out first before the banking reforms. Otherwise the banking system will very quickly revert to serial abuse of its customers as it is now.

    I hope Mr.Tsirpas and Mr.Varoufakis get the opportunity to read this short essay?

    Posted at

    • McCawber

      The only thing I knew about Valais before your post was that the canton’s goats cheese is to die for.
      something to do with the grass.
      So Valais had some attractions (I’m sure cheese was the only one) what has Greece got to offer?
      Bearing in mind that the mind set that ran up all the debt will still remain.

  17. Grzegorz Kolodziej

    Such a heavy question with Walesa and it is sooooo late… If I were to say it in one sentence, I’d say it’s not as simple as that, but the more we find out about Lech Walesa, the more iffy we become on him…

    And I am sorry I am unable to explain more without outlining the whole historical context and the latest historical research on Walesa…
    We know for sure that he was cooperating with the communist regime in the early 70s; he claims that he signed some papers or words to that effect, but his meteoric rise in the “Solidarnosc” movement in 1980 is puzzling to say the least, considering that he was not actually the founder or even the main person in “Solidarnosc” (Krzysztof Wyszkowski was the founder; the same Wyszkowski who accused Minister Skubiszewski of treason no less, while negotiating the legal status of ex-German western Polish territories; Wyszkowski was chased and sued many times by Lech Walesa; eventually Walesa lost and the court held that Wyszkowski was telling the truth and Walesa was lying…; other prominent figures in Solidarnosc were Andrzej Gwiazda – sidelined, Anna Walentynowicz – sidelined, died in Smolensk crash, Adam Michnik and Jacek Kuron – supported by Trotskyite movements in France (Kuron was a Stalinist up to the early 1950s); Bronislaw Geremek – member of the French Grant Orient lodge, wrote a PhD on French prostitutes in Middle Ages, a Stalinist in the 1950s; Stefan Kisielewski – composer and columnist, one of 3 non-communist MPs in Poland’s People Republic, attacked by Gomulka thugs for calling the First Secretary’s regime “dictatorship of the dimwits”, who kicked all his teeth out and Janusz Korwin-Mikke, arrested and imprisoned in the 1980s; those two did not join “Solidarnosc” because their views were too libertarian to join a trade union however noble it was and they founded the first libertarian party in Poland).

    On the other hand it is possible that Walesa was trying to outfox the communists and free himself from their web. One think he did was gas: he made President Yeltsin drunk and made him to sign Russia’s agreement on Poland joining NATO (though a really sovereign country should not ask any other country for an agreement, but Poland had Russian army bases until 1993).

    Sometimes such the story with national heroes. I was once listening to an hour and half long lecture on James Larkin and it followed from it that after WWI for sure and maybe before WWI too, Larkin was basically selling his ass to everyone who would pay him: the Germans, the Soviets… Sometimes is better to leave the national heroes resting in peace. The Polish hero, the winner of the Bolshevik 1920 war, Jozef Pilsudski (of Irish descent, from the house Butler), was an agent of 3 countries and he killed the general who was the real author of Polish victory over Soviet Union in 1920 lest the latter would prevent Pilsudski’s rise to power.
    Hence my national heroes are scientists and artists: Copernicus, Chopin, Szymanowski, Jan Lukasiewicz (3-value logic; a Minister for Education before WWII; he emigrated to Ireland after WWII and I know a retired Trinity College Professor so old that he met him), Alfred Tarski (model theory), Stefan Banach (Banach-Tarski Paradox and Banach spaces), Tadeusz Kantor (creator of the theatre of death, his “Dead Class” was deemed by Newsweek the best theatre play in the world in 1976). From 20 century politicians maybe only Roman Dmowski and the pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski who represented Poland in Versailles and dwarfed the baleful influence of Lloyd George who wanted to give the entire Silesia to the Germans rather than having a referendum.
    Other than that, Stanislaw Zolkiewski – a military commander of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; victorious was against combined Russian and Swedish forces at the battle of Klushino in 1610, in the aftermath of which the Poles seized and occupied Moscow as the only nation in world’s history. For it’s better to worship noble winners than noble losers.

    Lech Walesa? Probably like Gerry Adams. Prominent? Yes. Historical figure? Yes. Famous? Yes. Hero? Not in Maria Cahill’s book…

    Perhaps this will throw a light at President Walesa (the said historian visited Dublin this year):

    P.S. I have found out this (and Nurofen) works very good for me for working late:

    Having said that, it’s time to call it a day. I do not want to fall asleep thinking of Lech Walesa!

    Goodnight Adam :-)

    • McCawber

      I think with a few exceptions of course, that a lot of the worlds leaders would have been deemed great leaders had they not led.
      It seems Ireland and Poland have a lot in common, DeValera, playing the Pilsudski role with Michael Collins as the General.
      I don’t think anyone would accuse DeValera of having been a great leader btw.

      • Grzegorz Kolodziej

        The similarities between Dev/Pilsudski and Collins/Rozwadowski are so striking that come to think of it, it borders on being spooky. What a tragedy for Ireland it was not Michael Collins. The more I read on Dev the less I appreciate him. That facade of a cocky and uncompromising leader beneath which the dim coward was hidden. That hope of his foreign ministry that when it comes to worse, the Brits will defend Ireland while extending his condolences to the German ambassador that Adolf Hitler died (as the only head of state in the world). The night when Dev almost shitted himself from fear when his driver told him that there is a telegram from Winston Churchill (Dev thought Churchill was going to oust him from power). I have a great admiration for Michael Collins as a military commander – Michael Collins combined two features which normally do not go along – while being more courageous and straightforward, he had more understanding of geopolitics than beef-witted Dev. Emulating the Soviet Union in the economy while being verbally anti-communist is another thing which amazes me. What an overrated leader he was. Edmund Burke, who showed how you can benefit from the British Empire while being a staunch Irish nationalist (i.e. pro Irish language) would vomit if he saw that little man Dev. Admittedly, the alternative was the Nazi whore Sean Russell, so Ireland was fortunate that it was left alone because it might have been much worse…

        I think that the figure of the real victor of the Battle of Warsaw gen. Rozwadowski (which saved Europe from Bolshevism) is worth reminding:

        Another great hero of that time who was also killed by heirs of Pilsudski (many people in Poland still worship Pilsudski, but that’s only because the communists hated him plus books who tell the truth about Pilsudski are not published in large volumes) was Wojciech Korfanty:

        The whole crony government that Pilsudski have created ended up escaping from Poland in 1939 (and it is not certain that Pilsudski would have not escaped from Poland had he been alive in 1939 – he escaped from the 1920, Battle of Warsaw, seeking consolation in his mistress’s bed) , leaving their people behind and taking all the gold of the Polish Central Bank (which was more than England now has) as their entry ticket to the UK and the US (who also made billions in today’s money on being able to borrow against that gold).

        Come to think of that, I wonder if Enda Kenny would stay…

        • coldblow

          I don’t recall Dev being a coward in the Easter Rising. You would need to be careful who you get your information from in Ireland (ie most sources!). Dev’s famous, and much derided ‘Dream Speech’, turns out to have been largely fabricated. Comely maidens dancing at the crossroads – John Waters exploded that myth.

        • coldblow

          Another myth is that Ireland beat Germany the last time they were in the World Cup. I had to explain to many that the goal was actually a very late equalizer.

          • Good one coldblow!

            I was in Gatwick on May 16th – very early for a flight, me and my mate went upstairs to that bar/restaurnt – English John Bull style place and had a meal and 2 pints.

            Afterwards, I counted how much sterling change I had in my pocket, it was £5.48 I think and a pint was £5.50, so I said to my mate Derek, I’ll see if they’ll give me a pint for that – 2 pence short.

            The young girl on the till was only about 16, she said her Mum was from Ireland – I said ‘what part?’ She said… errr the Republic? She couldn’t be more specific that than and had never visited Ireland (or seemed likely to).

            Anyway, she said she’d ask the manageress, who was all smiles earlier on, if she could give me the pint for £5.48 (they surely had 2 pence lying around on the floor or counter to balance the till?!) – the manageress said no way and that was that haha.

            I’ll never go back to that place if I’m in Gatwick again! Actually to be honest, now that I think of it, I might, if there’s nowhere else – the food and drinks were good. Not a great decision by the manageress though if you ask me.

          • Yeah and I love the myth about Thierry Henry robbing us of ‘our place’ in World Cup 2010 – the tie was a draw on aggregate when the handball goal went in.

            Entitlement culture.

            Entitled to €5 million in ‘compensation’? I think not.


          • coldblow

            Another thing about English pubs, when I lived there, was that the landlord or the barman would rather kill themselves than bring the pint over to your table The customer is there as a supplicant. In France you are stuck in your chair waiting to be served, waiting for the bill – that’s even worse. Then there’s that great scene from the Jack Nicholson film where the surly waitress refuses to give him what he wants to order – can’t remember the name of it, and I didn’t watch much of it.

        • coldblow

          From what you have been telling us, Grzegorz, I wouldn’t reject the claim out of hand. Here’s a contrary view I just found.

          “When asked about his research, Turi did not cite even one piece of information to support his contention that de Valera was an English spy, much less ‘England’s greatest spy.’”

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            I would not break my lance for Turi as I am not an expert on De Valera and you have probably red more on him than me. However, one weakness I would like to point out for both Turi and Dwyer’s reasoning is that they do not seem to entertain a hypothesis that De Valera might have been a stitch around 1916 but not in the 30s (if we assume that, then the whole line of Dwyer’s counterarguments such as “If he were a British spy, why would Churchill try to help the United States in ensuring that de Valera was discredited in American eyes in order to undermine his influence in there?” would collapse (precisely for that reason: as an ex-spy he would be dangerous with his knowledge)).

            History abounds in examples of people who were tools in hands of intelligence and then turned against their lords; Lenin, who was brought in a train by a German military to organize the Bolshevik revolution which took Russia out of the war is the best example; then there is Pilsudski, and we do not know when exactly Lech Walesa stopped collaborating with the regime. I forgot to mention that most of ideas which germinated in the empty head of Trotsky were also seeded there by the German intelligence (a certain Parvus).

            Like I said I would not argue about this or the other. All I can say is that to think that De Valera saved Ireland from anything would probably be mistaken; he just was incredibly, incredibly lucky that Ireland was not invaded either from Britain (by the way, the fact De Valera facilitated German bombing of Belfast b not ordering blackout caused more Irishmen killed than the paramilitary organisations plus the British Army did during the entire history of Troubles, so wise he was not) or by Germany (Sinn Féin wanted Germany to invade Ireland and Sean Russell spent a long time with Goebbels discussing it – he even died on a German U-boat, but eventually the Wehrmacht concluded that the IRA is too shit of an army to facilitate that invasion).

            Like I said, whoever wants to believe in greatness of De Valera, Walesa, Pilsudski, J.F.K, it’s probably best to leave them believe that, because after all we all need some heroes to believe in since Plutarch stopped being a compulsory reading at schools.

            For example, we can look at the collapse of communism as people of good will holding hands and lighting candles until the good Gorbachev takes pity on his people and the Berlin Wall collapses or we can take somewhat more realistic view and conclude that the military intelligence provokes civil unrest in Gdansk using their people like Lech Walesa, but that operation gets out of control and strikes spread all over Poland; Walesa now is forced to go along the strike lest he is found out to be a communist agent, the military intelligence stage a coup in Poland and arrest the First Secretary Edward Gierek and all his ministers; Jaruzelski takes power and proclaims the Martial Law; the military intelligence takes over the Party apparatus, but the Party retaliates by using their civil intelligence to murder priest Popieluszko in order to provoke outrage home and abroad and oust Jaruzelski out of power; eventually Jaruzelski defeats the civil intelligence by dismissing gen. Miroslaw Milewski as interior minister in May 1985;, this tryimph of the military intelligence over civil intelligence does not last long because in 1988 Adam Michnik is invited to Moscow with an official visit over the head of Jaruzelski and Gorbachev tells him Michnik that the Soviets will not intervene military in Poland; Jaruzelski is scared that the civil intelligence will arrest him and maybe even whack him like he ordered his military intelligence to arrest Gierek and his people and he asks “Solidarnosc” for Round Table talks, making sure no communist apparatchik, whether civil or military, will ever be persecuted in free Poland and they will all retain financial privileges such as pensions 10 times higher than the lowest pension.

            So if we look at it that way, suddenly the whole Polish history looks different. Why could a similar story not happen with De Valera, Civil War, the anti-Treaty stance, the Anglo-Irish financial war and the British intelligence (usually if a country wants to invade or otherwise influence another country, they use their spies to provoke that invasion; likewise, most commi spies in Solidarnosc were most provocative and even recently the minisiter of interior Sienkiewicz ordered his secret service to set a booth in the Russian embassy on fire in order to blame the opposition, which we know thanks to tape leaks scandal, again, God knows by what secret service recorded and then released to Polish media – but why?)?

            So I am a bit surprised none of that would have occurred to Dwyer.

            As to David Gray, prof. Paul Bew writes in his “A Yankee in De Valera’s Ireland” that “Gray himself appears to have been ignorant of the degree of genuine co-operation” and concludes that the British were reluctant to take Gray into their confidenc and that Sir John Maffey, the British representative in Dublin, was under instructions not to inform Gray about certain matters.

      • Grzegorz Kolodziej

        When I reflected on the similarities between Polish and Irish history, that great quote from Winston Churchill (his opinion on Poles) came to my mind:

        “The bravest of the brave, too often led by the vilest of the vile!”

        I often found out that discerning foreigners (i.e. Norman Davies) could tell me more interesting things on the national character than the indigenous historians.

    • Thanks Grzegorz, appreciate the answer.

  18. coldblow

    The test I have devised for working out whether a country is laid back or not is to get €50.01 (or similar round number) of petrol in a petrol station and to offer a €50 note in payment. In the England I grew up in the cashier might think about it and decide to let you off the penny, or not. In Ireland they would think it strange that you even considered it and further proof that it takes all kinds to make a world. On the continent they would, I think, ask for the full amount. I have to say that haven’t ever actually performed the experiment as one does forget such things when on holiday and, even if one does not, it takes a certain amount of cold bloodedness to execute. I have however performed it as a thought experiment on numerous occasions and the results were conclusive.

    I tie this into Crotty’s theory of the (agricultural) origins of capitalism, although I am suspicious when other people make sweeping generalizations.

    Does anyone here remember the young Norwegian economist who used to post here? She once admitted to ‘a strange joy’ in following rules and regulations. See? I even remember the actual words she used as I have treasured it in my heart.

    • McCawber

      Taken to the extreme admittedly but without Rules and Regulations and a sufficient % of the population following them you have chaos.
      The Water Charges issue is a small indication of this.
      Water is not FREE, somebody, somewhere, somehow has to pay for it and it’s the unwillingness of people to accept that fact that is what is really unfair.
      Imagine if the taxpayers decided. Right eff you and your free this, that and the other we’re not paying any more tax until you pay your water charges.

      • A circulating email. I do not know if it is valid!

        A maverick mayor,
        elected after promising to slash council spending, clear
        the streets of yobs
        and ditch politically correct services, is the
        torchbearer for how towns
        should be run.

        On his first morning as Mayor of Doncaster in South Yorkshire
        , Peter Davies
        cut his salary from £73,000 to £30,000 then closed the
        council’s newspaper
        for “peddling politics on the rates”.

        Now three weeks
        into his job, Mr Davies is pressing ahead with plans he
        hopes will see the
        number of town councillors cut from 63 to just 21, saving
        taxpayers £800,000.
        Mr Davies said: “If 100 senators can run the United
        States of America , I
        can’t see how 63 councillors are needed to run
        Doncaster “.

        He has
        withdrawn Doncaster from the Local Government Association and the
        Government Information Unit, saving another £200,000. Mr Davies said,
        are just talking shops”.

        ” Doncaster is in for some serious untwining. We
        are twinned with probably
        nine other cities around the world and they are just
        for people to fly off
        and have a binge at the council’s expense”.

        mayor’s chauffeur-driven car has also been axed by Mr Davies and the
        given another job. Mr Davies, born and bred in Doncaster, swept to
        power in
        the May election with 24,244 votes as a candidate for the English
        Democrats, a
        party that wants tight immigration curbs, an English Parliament
        and a law
        forcing every public building to fly the flag of St. George.

        He has promised
        to end council funding for Doncaster ’s International Women’s
        Day, Black
        History Month and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
        History Month.
        He said, “Politicians have got completely out of touch with
        what people

        “We need to cut costs. I want to pass on some savings I make in
        taxes and use the rest for things that we really need, like improved

        children’s services”.

        Mr Davies has received messages from well wishers
        across the country and
        abroad as news of his no-nonsense approach

        Now it’s your chance to spread this most sensible way to run a town

        council…..pass it on

        • DB4545

          Tony Brogan

          It needs a bit of thought Tony. I’m not in favour of discriminating against minority groups in any way.But I’m certainly not in favour of taxpayers funding freeloading wasters. There’s a lot of fat in the system and it needs removal either by diet or under the knife.

          • It’s a funny thing , discrimination.

            I was told many times as a kid not to associate with this or that kid. “They are a bad lot and will lead you into trouble” sort of mantra.

            It was accompanied by the admonition,”The trouble with you is you have no discrimination”.

            To be discriminatory was a positive asset. Today not.

            Everyone is too politically correct and afraid to have an opinion. They lack, completely, any discrimination at all.

  19. DB4545


    My measure of a laid back Country is road manners:

    1.People will let you out from a side road in most situations if they can.
    2.People thank you by flashing hazard lights if they’ve just overtaken you.
    3.People flash you with full beams if there’s a speed trap ahead.

    I’d love the whole Country to withhold tax and see exactly how failed politicians cope with no pensions when the ATM doesn’t spit out 50′s in Marbella or welfare wasters have no money for Dutch Gold. They’re both examples of long term unemployed just at different benefit rates. In relation to water my objection isn’t about paying for it, it’s paying for it several times over. I’m already paying for it through general taxation.

    But back to the North the one thing Nationalists and Loyalists seem to agree on is that other people are somehow responsible for subsidising their lifestyles. When they’re willing and able to fund their existing standard of living without subvention from any external source then might be a good time to sit down and talk. Until then I don’t think we’ve anything worthwhile to talk about.


  20. [...] changes in NI mean there will be no sentimental loyalty to an increasingly remote and detached UK United Ireland may not be as remote as it seems | David McWilliams McWilliams also points out that when change happens, it happens all at once. Co-incidentally, the [...]

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