Green Party Pop Up Shop…Dublin

The Green Party  have a “pop up” shop at Great Georges Street in Dublin. Lots of trendy stuff for trendy politicos. The Greens have been staging a mini-revival in Dublin although they fully deserved the kicking they got from the Irish electorate in 2011.


There is a Green Party Constituency office nearby in Suffolk Street but unfortunately the photograph I took did not turn out well.

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Who Is David McCann?

I cant help notice that David McCann has posted a piece on Slugger O’Toole entitled “Who Is Colum Eastwood?”

Colum is SDLP MLA for Foyle and a few years ago, he was the Mayor of the City of Derry when he was only 27 years old. He is now challenging Alasdair McDonnell MP for Leadership of the Party.

But who is David McCann. Well he is Deputy Editor of Slugger O’Toole. Two years ago, he told us that Claire Hanna would probably defeat Fearghal McKinney to be co-opted as SDLP MLA for South Belfast. That was the day before Fearghal won by 113 votes to 69 votes.

David also facilitated the East Belfast “selective” hustings featuring just two candidates, Naomi Long (Alliance) and Gavin Robinson (DUP). He also reads out loud …reviewing the local newspapers, every so often on UTV.

SDLP members will be familiar with David mooching about with a laptop at most SDLP events. He should not be confused with me…as I also mooch about at SDLP events….but I use an ipad.

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Constituency Offices…#26 David Ford MLA

Carnmoney Road, Glengormley and just a few metres from the SDLP South Antrim Constituency Office…the office of Alliance Party Leader, David Ford MLA for South Antrim and gerrymandered Minister for (In)Justice in the Executive.

It is on the boundary of North Belfast and South Antrim and until a few years ago, Glengormley Village was all in South Antrim.

image I have to say that I was expecting something a little more grand as Ford always strikes me as being a bit pompous. I have failed to find an Alliance office in Antrim Town…apparently it closed a few years ago.

So this Glengormley office can effectively double as an office for South Antrim and North Belfast (Alliance dont have a MLA in North Belfast).

Yet I am surprised that Alliance dont have another office in South Antrim. Alliance did actually gain votes in North Belfast in 2014 and 2015…yet lost a seat in Mid Antrim Council…high profile Alan Lawther.

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Constituency Offices…#25 SDLP South Antrim


SDLP opened an office in Glengormley yesterday. Due to the annual Famine Commemoration in Newry, I was unable to attend.
This is a welcome development from a SDLP perspective as it will benefit both North Belfast and South Antrim. It is the designated office for South Antrim but is on the border line of the two constituencies.
Until a few years ago all of the “village” of Glengormley was in South Antrim. Now the village is divided with Hightown Road the line.
SDLP lost their South Antrim seat, held by Tommy Burns from Crumlin in 2011 but are in a good position to take it back in 2016.
The signs are good. In 2014, SDLP took a seat from Sinn Féin in the Antrim Town area and actually have one more seat than Sinn Féin four to three on the Mid Antrim Council. Alliance also lost a seat (high profile Alan Lawther).
At Westminster 2015, Danny Kinahan (UUP) unseated Rev William McCrea (DUP), probably with the help of tactical voting by nationalists and letsgetalongerists.
SDLP are basing their Assembly hopes on the increasing profile of Roisín Lynch, the Party Vice-Chair. She took a council seat in 2014 and was the Westminster candidate in 2015.
Certainly with safe council seats in all four local DEAs …and high visibility people like Tommy Burns, Brian Duffin and Noreen McClelland, there are reasonable grounds for optimism.
Visibility is the key. Especially in a “new town” like Newtownabbey ….commuter town where a lot of people do not have a long history.
Certainly on its second day of business, the office had some “footfall” from passers-by. Some people dropping by just to wish the new venture well. One woman particuarly glad to see it.
The office hosts a coffee morning tomorrow in aid of the McMillan Cancer Charity.

My thanks to Noreen McClelland, who makes a very good cup of tea.

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Constituency Offices…#24 Dominic Bradley MLA

image Dominic Bradley, SDLP MLA for Newry-Armagh has an office (previously featured) in Armagh and this one at Trevor Hill in Newry. This is comparatively new, the office ised to be near The Quays Shopping Centre.
Dominic is one of the most high profile Irish language speakers in the Assembly. Note the signage.
It is always good when a politician is supportive of causes beyond narrow party politics and Dominic Bradley is ,well known for his work on behalf of parents whos children are autistic.
A lot of optimism around SDLP in this constituency. Justin McNulty made Sinn Féin’s Mickey Brady at the Westminster election, earlier this year and the contest would have been a lot closer if Sinn Féin had not relied on the threat of Danny Kennedy of UUP winning the seat on the basis of a “split” nationalist vote.
This makes the upcoming Assembly election very interesting.
Thanks to Sarah for the welcome.

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Rugby World Cup 2015

In many ways the Rugby World Cup is still a transitional event. Each year Rugby Union gets further away from its traditional roots….as a sport played in English private schools, universities, by professional men such as lawyers and doctors and exported by the English to the colonies.

In its own lore, Rugby was invented at a private boarding school in Rugby, Warwickshire, when a young man lifted a ball during a football game and ran the length of the field to acore with the ball in his hands. All very mid-19th century (like Football-Soccer, Baseball and competitive sports). Thus the Webb-Ellis Trophy, to be awarded in six weeks time commemorates this event.

But there are other Rugby traditions, notably an amateur code, which preserved its poshness and exclusivity. Indeed when miners and ordinary folks started receiving expenses in the North of England, their Association was expelled and two rival codes emerged…Rugby Union remained amateur and 15 man and Rugby League went professional and 13 man.

Any good Rugby Union player who was tempted to go professional in League was banned for life from the amateur game. While the League game had a heartland in the North of England, Union was the establishment game and was played in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France in the northern hemisphere and New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the southern hemisphere.

The Five Nations (effectively a European Championship) and occasional tours from the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks was effectively the Rugby Union season, supplemented by club games which were sparsely attended.

But in the 1980s the posh classes…Margaret Thatcher was running Britain…and posh people discovered that money was as important as class and it can be no councidence that Union players were tempted by commercialism and cash. Professionalism was born. The smaller rugby nations, Ireland, Scotland, Wales had worried it would destroy their domestic game but the careful structuring of better club rugby around Europe…rather than England…actually improved standards.

The northern Five Nations Championship was expanded to the “Six Nations” bringing in Italy. But at heart the Rugby World is still dominated by the Big Eight…with Italy, Argentina and some others capable of the odd surprise result.

Even in 2015,it is likely that the quarter finals will feature seven of the Top Eight. While the four pools of five teams will have some interesting and competitive matches, the seeding means that the real action will begin at the quarter final stage. And the priority in the early stage is for the big teams not to slip up and get the best draw possible in the next stage.

The competition started last night. England beat Fiji in Pool A. This is the Pool in which one of the Big Eight will go out.

Pool A: England. Australia. Wales. Fiji. Uruguay. …..the biggest game in the Pool stages is likely to be England versus Wales. Wales are certainly capable of beating England but with home town advantage and their posh and unlikable supporters, I feel England will get thru with Australia.

Pool B: South Africa. Scotland. Samoa. Japan. United States……South Africa should make it without any problem. Scotland, will be hoping for no surprises against the less traditional nations.

The Winners in Pool A will play the Runners Up in Pool B. The Winners in Pool B will play the Runners Up in Pool A.

Pool C: New Zealand. Argentina. Tonga. Georgia. Namibia….New Zealand certain to go thru. And Argentina most likely to make it. But Georgia have surprisingly just beaten Tonga.

Pool D: France. Ireland. Italy. Canada. Romania……Ireland have never got past the Quarter Finals in any World Cup and should make it to the Quarter Final stage again. The big game in the Pool is France versus Ireland. It should determine who wins the Pool. Winning the Pool means avoiding the Winners of Pool C (most likely New Zealand) in the Quarter Final stage.

Notwithstanding Georgia just beating Tonga, the World Cup seems more about merchandising and money. While the TV commentators are jubilant at a surprise, they and the sponsors and kit manufacturers dont really want major surprises that would reduce revenue from sales of sports gear, beer, pizza or make the TV viewers switch channels.

Seven of the Big Eight will make the Quarter Finals. And while it would be nice, if Wales and Ireland got to the Semi Final stage….lets wait and see.


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Sometimes Failure Is A Success…Jeremy Corbyn

The Right-Wing Press is going to town on Jeremy Corbyn, the new Leader of the British Labour Party.

But first things first…Corbyn won that Leadership election with 59% of the votes cast. His opponents got 19% (Andy Burnham), 17% (Yvette Cooper) and 5% (Liz Kendall nee Liz Somebody). This, despite that only twenty  “left wing” MPs backed Corbyn. The other candidates who had two hundred MPs backing them were so pisspoor that the ordinary Labour membership clearly hold them in near-contempt.

Frankly, concentrating on Corbyns past should perhaps direct more minds to the dubious past of David Cameron. It is not all Bullingdon Club.

The strange thing is that British politics is conducted on such a narrow base that Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott, Skinner are actually held to be beyond the pale and they are actually squeezed out of conventional politics. I use the word “conventional” deliberately because so much of British politics is about “convention”…unwritten rules designed to enforce a bogus form of Stability, Continuity and Legitimacy.

To get to sit on the benches in the House of Commons, it is necessary to take an oath or affirm loyalty to Elizabeth Windsor. It does of course discomfort nationalists from Scotland, Wales and Norn Iron…but it also discomforts republicans on the Labour benches. Even Peter Bottomly, a Tory MP, thinks it is unecessary. For the record, I am completely indifferent to the oath as a line in the sand. From 1993 to 2009, I voted Sinn Féin knowing that they would not take their Commons seats because of this great principle…and from 1970 (Gerry Fitt Republican Labour) to 1993 I voted SDLP on the understanding that they would take seats. Likewise after 2009. I just dont think its important except that it makes me uncomfortable.

Senior Opposition figures like senior Government Minister become members of the “Her Majestys Privy Council”. In 2015, of course, it has little to do with Elizabeth Windsor. It is really the point at which a MP becomes entitled to the address “The Right Honourable….” But its real meaning is that a Government Minister can brief his Opposition Shadow on “privy council terms” (ie privacy). Yet this obviously sensible and civilised understanding is rendered daft by the so-called royal mystique…the ritual sham …of the induction. At some point soon, Jeremy Corbyn will bend his knee to kiss the gloved hand of Elizabeth Windsor.

There is also ritualistic nonsense around the “Queens Speech” a document written by the Government of the day and delivered by Elizabeth Windsor on her throne in the “House of Lords”. The ritual is that a flunkey called Black Rod goes to the House of Commons and the door is slammed in his face, before he is allowed in and tells the MPs that the Queen wants them to go to the Lords. This tradition dates from the 17th century but there is a much more modern tradition where Dennis Skinner, the most left wing of Labour MPs makes a joke about the Monarchy….and the MPs led by Prime Minister who wrote the damned speech and the Opposition Leader, duly file into the Lords….but only as far as the bar of the House. The elected representatives of the People are not good enough to be in the same room as their unelected betters. Of course nationalists dont act on the whim of a so-called foreign monarch….and nor do republican Labourites like Dennis Skinner, John McDonnell and …..Jeremy Corbyn. They sit sullenly in the Commons until their obsequious colleagues return.

Given that Corbyn and McDonnell have already affirmed their loyalty to Elizabeth Windsor….and its a necessary compromise/humiliation to better serve the people who voted for them…..then Corbyn and McDonnell will have to compromise/humiliate themselves to provide a Leadership role.

Some might say it is Tradition. Some might say it is Legitimacy. But really all this crap should be rejected by anyone born after the Age of Enlightenment.

The thing is that nobody on the Left has really been strong enough to stand up and say “This is rubbish and we wont co-operate in it”. Successive Labour leaderships…..Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson, Callaghan, Kinnock, Smith, B Liar, Brown, Miliband….have all gone along with the farce.

But…it is not just about Party politicians. When one is compromised …all are. Therefore the Media can lampoon Corbyn as “left wing Labour leader” but cannot bring themselves to say that David Cameron is a “right wing Prime Minister”.

This is the same media that hacks your phone and relied on their friends in Parliament to undermine proposals made by Leveson Committee to deal with the abuses.

It is all very cosy. Because the Media…speaking truth to power ….are reliant on the politicians …and vice versa. The Journalists and politicians talk to each other on “lobby terms”, not that different from the “privy council terms”. The confidentiality is not that much different. While a Privy Councillor is only required to kiss the gloved hand of Elizabeth Windsor…lobby journalists and Westminster politicians are required to kiss each others arses.


So anything that breaks that cosy relationship is a good thing. But I suspect John McDonnell will be a lightening rod for media criticism. Likewise Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader and scourge of the Murdoch media. They wont forget.

So if McDonnell makes a light-hearted remark that he would (like to have gone back in time) to have assassinated Margaret Thatcher, there is a certain over-reaction. But those who have not laughed at that or who are otherwise without sin, may cast the first stone.

Likewise McDonnell is vilified in the press for seeming to praise the IRA. In fact, in 2003, when McDonnell was saying this openly and in context, successive Labour Secretary of States and assorted spooks in the Norn Iron Office were building up Sinn Féin-IRA.

Of course there have always been people off-message at the left of the Labour Party. They abhor patronage and shun any offers of advancement. They keep the Labour front bench honest. Old men like me can remember the 1970s….Eric Heffer, the Liverpool lefty and devout member of the Church of England, Ian Mikardo from East End of London and the House of Commons “bookie” and the wonderful Joan Maynard from Sheffield….Stalins Granny but she was one of the few Labour MPs to understand agricultural workers.

The Beast of Bolsover…Dennis Skinner (83) was a young man then. Yet heis the bridge between that era and the 21st century and Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

I doubt if one third of approx Labour MPs are women and Corbyn fulfilled his promise that his Shadow Cabinet would have a gender balance….and he kept that promise, 16 women and 15 men. And yet he is criticised because none of the “Great Offices of State” (Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Exchequer) have gone to women. Isnt it obvious that two defeated Leadership contenders, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall might well be in those roles if they had not publicly declared that they would not serve under Corbyn? Is it not as equally obvious that Rachel Reeves and Caroline Flint would have been included if they had not publicly stated they would not serve?

And for those who have any doubts about people (men AND women) being promoted beyond their ability….can I just mention two people who served in these “Great Offices of State” under Tony B Liar….Jaqui Smith (Home Secretary) and Margaret Beckett (Foreign Secretary). That would be the same Margaret Beckett who nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Leadership to open up debate …and then publicly announced she would not vote for him. Clearly she is useless.

But every action and inaction of Jeremy Corbyn will be condemned in the newspapers. Pointedly he did not sing the British National Anthem at a Church Service for the British Air Force. Well lest we forget, the man is not a Christian and he is a republican. “God Save The Queen” would have choked him. But lest we also forget this is a Tory Government who has let its soldiers and ex-soldiers down…any progress with the Chilcott Report? Yet Jeremys dignified silence was at least as respectful as Defence Minister Michael Fallon who was animatedly singing …for the TV cameras.

Make no mistake. Nobody expected Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour Leader. Certainly Jeremy Corbyn did not expect it. Yet his victory is a fitting rebuke to the useless careerists who have blustered and bluffed their way to the top of the Labour Party…..Liz Kendall, Chukka Umanna, Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves, Caroline Flint….

Of course these useless posers will be back….they will be plotting already.

Corbyn will not be Leader for long. The Tories, the Press, the Spooks, the Royal Courtiers, the disgruntled majority of his own Party WILL get him. The only problem for them is keeping the blood off their hands because tens of thousands of ordinary Labour Party members will be unforgiving.

Maybe there will be a re-allignment on the left because I cant see any way that Labour can ever form a majority government in “United Kingdom” or in the “DisUnited Kingdom”. It just does not look possible…and in any normal usage of the word the Corbyn Leadership will be a failure. It will collapse sooner rather than later.

But sometimes short term failure means long term success….and the redeeming feature will be that Corbyn and McDonnell will implode the entire House of Cards and show what British Politics and Media really is.

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