The IRA and whether they have or have not gone away.

Northern Ireland 28 August 2015 Tell me what you think

When did the IRA say it was going away?  When did the ‘Ra announce it was dissolving and disappearing and not being a thing anymore?  I couldn’t remember, but surely the DUP must remember it happening, otherwise why would it appear to be surprised that the IRA continues to exist in its Veterans Club guise?

To be surprised that the IRA still exists, you would have to be oblivious to the statement made by the IRA in2005 and helpfully posted by Sinn Féin (as a matter of passing interest, I guess) on their website.  They speak of standing down but not disbanding.  In recent months and years they’ve had tshirts printed as an ‘undefeated army’.  It’s simply not possible to have even a mild curiosity for NI politics and not know that the IRA itself had continued to exist.

As I have argued before, the Provisional IRA needs to continue to exist as a form of demobbed legion, in order to ensure that the former volunteers are able to be kept informed and mollified by Sinn Féin. Only this way can they not be discouraged by the uneasy peace and slow progress toward democracy we have in Northern Ireland.

I don’t like the existence of the IRA any more than I like the existence of the UVF and UDA and others of their ilk.  I don’t like their petty criminality and vicious fascistic control over ‘their’ communities (again, I hate that construct). I despise the fact that, despite a statement in 2005 confirming that ‘all’ of their arms had been put beyond use, they appear to be able to shoot people.  I don’t like having to refer to a group of murderers who killed more of ‘their own’ community than all their ‘enemy’ forces put together as an ‘army’, because it clearly was not.

I say give credit where it’s due – the IRA is on a permanent cessation of the violence it had hoped would bring about a united Ireland, and it understands that the political route is the only one in town. Its members, however, appear to be involved in criminality and murder – and that’s as incompatible with ‘purely peaceful means’ as the idea that Sinn Féin and the IRA are not two sides of the one coin.

The idea of ‘peace at any cost’ doesn’t apply here – for the families of the murdered, both in the conflict (which I accept ended for the IRA in 2005) or in its aftermath, there is no peace.

The query I have is simpler than the ‘does the IRA exist?’ question posed by the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and NI’s politicians.  I want to know if the UK government, the DUP and others think it’s okay for the second party in the power sharing executive to be so closely associated with the crime of murder – and whether there are questions to be answered on the same basis by the DUP and UUP for their associations with loyalist paramilitaries.

In 1998, we wanted an end to this shit and we voted for it. A whole generation of voters will have been born and brought up since we did. Time to put the past to bed.


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Ulster Unionists and Opposition

Northern Ireland 26 August 2015 Tell me what you think

The decision of the Ulster Unionist Party to seek to withdraw from the piss-weak simulacrum of government in Northern Ireland is not an indication of a party having finally rediscovered its moral and political purpose – or if it is, it’s an indication of a party finding its purpose by accident. Nevertheless, better late than never.

The sham of a political settlement in Northern Ireland has been apparent for any student of politics for the last eight years.  A system which entrenches the sectarian headcount, which encases the problems of the society in a sickly aspic and which demands that everybody ‘just wait’ for democracy is not worthy of the western world, let alone worthy of the speck of land between the UK and Ireland.  Being forced into the coalition of the unwilling-to-govern was a poor hand to be dealt to the UUP, and it’s interesting that the timing has allowed for this catharsis now.

The issue of whether the IRA exists or not is, as far as the issue of democracy is concerned, a canard; a non-issue.  The provisional republican movement stopped trying to bomb the UK out of Northern Ireland and moved to the much more effective and legitimate political process to seek change. That’s a recognised fact and we’re all glad of it.

That they have a structure still in place to engage with former paramilitaries is entirely logical – better for them to have a direct line to the politicos than to be left hanging in the wind to be gobbled up by dissidents.  But when identifiable members of that structure begin murdering inside the community (let’s stop calling it ‘their’ community, for we all live in this shared society), there is a legitimate cause for concern – but it’s a policing concern, or ought to be, rather than a reason to bring down Stormont.

Even if the IRA had disbanded and distanced itself from its past, the fetid failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin to actually progress government in Northern Ireland would have continued.  They just aren’t up to the job – the thing that should have brought down Stormont should have been the observation that 108 politicians, their SPADs and their woefully unimaginative politics managed to do no better and frequently worse than Direct Rule.

The departure of the UUP should not bring down Stormont, but it should trigger D’Hondt again – and allow the SDLP and Alliance to consider whether, in the interests of democracy, a proper parliament with a proper opposition might achieve more for Northern Ireland than the current circle-jerk of whataboutery and abject failure.

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Fiona Institute Chair criticises Jesus for ‘love thy neighbour’

Ireland 22 May 2015 Tell me what you think

The chairperson of the Fiona Institute, Professor Adrian O’Hanrohanrohan, last night lashed out at Jesus Christ for his ‘pro gay’ message of peace, love and understanding, ahead of today’s marriage equality referendum.

O’Hanrohanrohan expressed ‘astonishment and bewilderment’ at the position adopted by the Prince of Peace, who, quoted in Luke 10:25, appeared to agree with a scholar when he said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself”, and went on to tell the story of a Samaritan who came to the aid of an injured traveller.

“That doesn’t sound like the Bible I read”, said O’Hanrohanrohan.  “The Jesus I know is deeply and fiercely judgemental and delights in the pain and suffering of anyone who falls beneath the standards he has arbitrarily determined.  Also, as far as I can tell, God asked us to judge and avenge any and all breaches of His law here on Earth, particularly in Leviticus. In this ‘love thy neighbour stuff, Christ appears to not even be considering whether our neighbour is a Christian – they could even be a homsexual and a lapsed Methodist!”

O’Hanrohanrohan went on to outline how he was particularly interested in literal application of some parts of the bible and torturous interpretation of other parts.  “God wanted us to have grape juice, not wine, which is just a whimsical turn of phrase – and also he wants us literally to stone people who wear clothing made of more than one type of cloth.  That seems entirely reasonable.  But this Jesus fella?  Where does he get off telling us in James 5:9 not to judge lest we be judged?   Good luck judging me, I’m a Christian!”


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Review: Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Featured,gadgets,technology 17 May 2015 Tell me what you think

I know the Surface Pro 3 was released last year.  I also know that it’s due to be replaced with the Surface Pro 4.  I don’t particularly care, since I know that between now and the launch of the successor model, people will want to know how this device stacks up in usability and effectiveness.  The answer in general is ‘very well’ and the answer to the ‘Should I Buy One’ question is pretty much ‘Yes, but have a look at the Surface 3′.


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Don’t worry about the Government

Election 2015,politics 10 May 2015 Tell me what you think

Some observations on the most interesting election since Sophia of Hanover.

We didn’t call the election this way, no matter how many ‘prescient after the fact’ comments you read in media and online. People, like me, who put a small amount of money on a tory majority were doing it because some of us like to put our money where our heart is. Some of us aren’t natural gamblers.

That having been said, on Thursday 29th April, I am pleased that in the Conservatives Online Facebook group, I said:

“Like many in this group, I feel there’s a tide turning – people are beginning to see the risks and dangers associated with a Lab-SNP coalition and to see the road down which David Cameron wants to take the UK. Labour supporters in Scotland must be livid with a leader in London prepared to sacrifice Scottish Labour for a mess of potage.

I think we can do this. I think we can push to a majority in England, form a government and develop a respectful working relationship with the SNP in the interests of everyone in the UK.

Faugh a Ballagh!”

Jim Messina, for his part, had the confidence in the strategy to call a majority a few weeks ago.  He had more than a small bet riding on the result – his reputation in storming elections is further improved.

‘Now that’s a fucking exit poll’

Anyway, we all clustered round TVs at 10pm to see what the BBC exit poll would come up with.  When it predicted Conservatives as largest party, we all heaved a collective sigh of relief, because, the previous week’s polls had told us, that meant we would have the first roll of the dice in the messy game of cobbling together a coalition with the religious fundamentalist nutters in the DUP and the Lib Dems, whom we hoped would hang on to at least 20 of their seats to shoehorn David Cameron into negotiations.

When they clarified that the poll showed a conservative party with 316 seats, after the first picosecond of elation, everyone dismissed it with a sigh and prepared to see the first returns.

When Sunderland’s seats began to report in, half the twitterati opined that an increased vote for Miliband pointed to a surge for Labour – but other, calmer heads, asked only one thing:  does it fit in with the exit poll premise?

Of course, in the restrospect that only hundreds of thousands of pieces of data can give us, we know it fit exactly.  Miliband consolidated the left vote, stacked up majorities in red constituencies and abandoned the middle ground, which shat itself about marauding Scots and Russell Brand and voted Conservative.  End of post.

LOL j/k.


Who voted Labour?

Electoral politics seems to me to come down to two things; people reflect themselves, their fears and aspirations in the ballot box, and they decide on the sort of leadership they want for the future.

It’s crass to argue, as some on the left seem to want to, that people voted Tory because of some meanness or some perfidiousness on the part of the English electorate.  People voted for economic growth, more jobs, investment and the possibility that in five years, they might be better off and live in a safer, more contented society than they do today. They took the view, on the basis of track record and political pledges, that the Conservative approach was more likely to deliver those things.  They bought the argument that the type of ‘fairness’ propounded by the left, was less likely to improve the society than the type of ‘fairness’ proposed by Conservatives.

The reality of elections is that very few seats change hands; most people think of themselves as ‘belonging’ in a very weak sense to a party, and those who float only exceed the numbers of belongers in times of big change, political boredom, or in seats where no party or candidate has made a recent impression.  Thus, there are tory seats and there are labour seats, and there are some really hard core Lib Dem seats, where whole wards consider themselves one or t’other.

Northern Ireland

To my shame (sorta) I don’t pay any attention to Northern Ireland politics, because they’re depressing – or they were until Friday morning.  Ulster Unionists are back – and they displaced the singing fundamentalist Rev. William McCrea (in effect regaining the seat) in Antrim South with the thoroughly likeable Danny Kinahan – which is a great achievement. Completing the revival of the party was Tom Elliott’s eviction of Sinn Féin’s absentee former MP Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.  Other than that, disappointment in South Belfast as a good old-fashioned unionist circular firing-squad saw the execrable Alastair McDonnell keep his seat. There’s a quip about Danny de Burgh Kinahan wooing back the ‘Lady in Red’ Sylvia Hermon back to the Ulster Unionists somewhere.


Wales is often thought of as Labour through and through, but the principality is not blind in its voting patterns; people there weren’t convinced, just like in England, that Ed Miliband could deliver on the programme they had planned; they were even less convinced that it was desirable; Labour’s much vaunted love for the NHS in England is as wasted a flyer in Wales as it is in Staffordshire.


Scotland has, of course, had a time of very great political change; the referendum did some marvellous things for the SNP, and it’s not hard to see how the setup there made a nationalist surge all but inevitable.

In a referendum, a simple binary decision pits YES against NO. The only way to fight Thursday’s election in the light of such political activation, would have been to pit single ‘unionist’ candidates against SNP – but in a divided field, there was absolutely no doubt that the SNP would do all they needed to do – get more votes in the constituency than any of the individual candidates opposed to nationalism.

They walked into the election with 35% support all but guaranteed in every seat, with the contact details of tens of thousands of activated and excited voters who understood clearly that one big push would turn Scotland yellow.  It was, in some ways, one of the simplest political operations in modern political history, but they did it exceptionally well.  They present a formidable force in Scotland, which will continue to be unbeatable without unionist consolidation in the country.


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You don’t need an Apple Watch

gadgets,technology 10 March 2015 1 lonely comment

You don’t need an Apple Watch, and this quick guide will show you why.

The internet is basically made up of people being annoyed you disagree with them.  In that fashion, please allow me to present the best arguments I can think of for not giving Apple even more of your money to spend.  Haters to the left in an orderly queue, please.


Apple has not revolutionised the watch.

The Apple Watch is a very wealthy and popular large company’s version of a small computer which can be worn. Jony Ive (pbuH) has not created a new paradigm for telling the time and they have not made a magical new way to do anything.  They have put a small computer on people’s wrists which satisfies the basic principle that people are happier when they buy more stuff- that’s it.

There will be two types of Apple Watch users.

The ‘Hey, look at all the stuff it can do, hey, look at Mickey tapping his feet, hey, look at the calories I’ve burned, hey look at my heartbeat, hey, look at the picture I took with my iPhone on this tiny little screen, hey, lets only stay at the hotel chain where my phone acts as the door key’ people, and the people who buy them because people will think they look cool. Imagine being stuck in a lift with one of each – without phone reception.

You don’t need instant notifications on your wrist

You really don’t – you have them on your phone, which is never out of your hand.  Are you going to put the phone away, now you have an Apple Watch?  Does it really take long enough to get a weather forecast on your phone that you’re prepared to spend $$$ to get it on your wrist?

You shouldn’t have instant notifications on your wrist

That embarrassing co-worker you sorta flirted with at the Xmas party and who now won’t stop sending you messages?  Now they and their notification is tapping your wrist at every business meeting.

But I can turn off notifications!

Yeah. That’s the whole point of the watch, right there.

You don’t need apps on your wrist

Again – your phone has power out the wazoo, and anything serious or magnificent will tend on average to be designed for a screen with which it is easy and convenient to interact. We know we said that about touch screens, but the issue is scale.  Touch screens got bigger to facilitate more real estate for interaction. This is a tiny little screen.

You are now really tethered to a power supply.

With an actual watch, we go a year or so without replacing a battery, and it tells the time in between battery changes. Now, you get all the fun of taking off your watch of an evening and plugging it in. So now you just have your iPhone, your iPad and your watch to plug in together.  Invest in power splitter companies today.

Every time Swatch brings out a new model, I don’t desperately need to own one.

Good luck not upgrading your watch every year from now on in.

It’s an expensive accessory

As a basic rule of thumb, an accessory shouldn’t cost more than the phone.  For most UK and Ireland phone shoppers, we pick up a phone on Bill Pay with a serious phone subsidy.


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Who Governs? An askance view of the UK General Election

podcast,politics 9 March 2015 1 lonely comment

A supplementary Who Governs podcast – covering the phoney war in the UK General Election.  Me being snide about politicians, primarily.  6mins.

Music is

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Who Governs Podcast now on iTunes

podcast,politics,the interwebs 22 February 2015 Tell me what you think


The nábídána podcast is now an actual thing.  We’ll be doing a lot more in the coming months, but for now, if you are the sort of person who listens to podcasts, you’ll find it now on

The schedule will be based on one ‘Who Governs’ a month and a ‘What’s going on? Focused on a particular country’ as soon as they’re done.

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Who Governs? February 2015

podcast 15 February 2015 3 incisive, intellectually engaged comments

I am reviving my sometimes-amusing, always-informative Who Governs podcast, monthly.  If you are the sort of person who likes both podcasts and the sound of my voice, you are going to be delighted with this.

It is a coverage of what’s happening in actual government around the world. Main sources are The Economist and my incessant web browsing.

In this fabulous edition:

  • Greece
  • The UK
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Venezuela
  • Haiti
  • Australia
  • India
  • Russia (peripherally)
  • Ukraine (not at all. Unfortunately.)

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Labour Party Model Town ‘not working fast enough’ for Front Bench Team

Labour Leadership,unstupidity 6 February 2015 Tell me what you think

Labour Party officials are concerned that their new campaigning training aid ‘Anytown’, a model town built in rural Yorkshire, is not quickly enough improving the campaign skills of the party’s front bench.

Anytown, funded through union donations, offers a sandbox environment, staffed by 8,000 Labour volunteers, where party spokespeople and high potential candidates can interact with other people, in order to develop their personal skills.

The model town comprises a 1980’s style concrete town centre with pound shops, cafes and pubs where senior party members can seek to perfect their human skills and their campaign patter.

Catriona Arrowsmith, who works with Lucy Powell as co-ordinator of the party’s ‘The Hand We’ve Been Dealt’ drive to make candidates more electable in the upcoming general election, says the facility is performing less well than anticipated.

“Ed Balls instantly forgets the name of any businessman he meets, Chuka Umunna refuses to drink in the pub. Meawhile, Tristram Hunt keeps shouting at anyone he perceives to be not working hard enough. Douglas Alexander keeps on daubing grafitti on things and telling anyone who asks him a question that he doesn’t accept the premise of it.”

Powell, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, doesn’t entirely agree that the model town is failing.

“In fact, just as Ed Miliband has said, eveything is running perfectly. When we got Andy Burnham to stop his 24 hour surveillance watch to ensure no tories came in to sell anything off, he began to sit tetchily in the corner of rooms, repeating the same thing over and over and demanding not to be interrupted – which is exactly how we intend to fight this election.”

Labour Party observers are preparing for party leader Ed Miliband to visit for his fourth session in the town. Arrowsmith is hopeful it’ll be fourth time lucky for Miliband.

“He is an excellent campaigner, when he stops just blankly staring at people. Well, when I say excellent campaigner, obviously I mean he’s our leader and I’m comfortable with that.  Really comfortable.”


Concept stolen from The Onion

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