Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | January 25, 2010

‘Rape’ is a loaded word, but Cullen should not be shot

I truly hope reports on the extent of Google’s data retention of web searches are exaggerated, otherwise I may one day be embarrassed by having had to search ‘Cullen rape’ for this little piece.

Over the last few days, there has been a small furore regarding Martin Cullen’s use of the word rape to describe the ordeal suffered by himself and his family due to the accusations that he was having an affair with Monica Lynch, accusations which proved to be false. The exact text of his speech can be found here, and I strongly advise anyone seeking to comment on this issue to read what he actually said before doing so.

Mr. Cullen made it clear during his speech that he was aware that the words he was using were inflammatory, but the Minister obviously felt that they were appropriate to the feelings of violation that he felt during that period, at the abuse of his family such as the bullying his children suffered, and the rumours that floated around his local area.

Mr. Cullen did not have to make that speech and make those comments. In fact, considering that the Irish media and public have long since moved on from this issue, and any PR representative worth their salt would have nixed the idea of reviving it, one can only assume that this what it appears to be: the bitter rant of a hurt man. There is no real reason to doubt Mr. Cullen’s sincerity when he made his remarks as they were planned, give him no discernable political advantage, and were made in a forum comprised mostly of journalists, who would have been very hostile to the Minister’s support for any proposed Privacy Bill (and thus the Minister), and would doubtless be unsympathetic to his frustration.

It’s clear from the context of the Minister’s comments that he was using the word rape not as a physical description, but as a way of expressing his feelings of violation at the intrusion and disruption of his life, the decimation of his personal privacy, and the suffering caused to his family.

In short: It’s clear what he meant; he was using the word ‘rape’ in a common enough usage; he was making a point which should be heard: that untruths printed in the media about public figures cause genuine harm to those people and their families.  Everyone needs to move on from this – there are far more offensive and inappropriate ways to use the word rape, and the Minister’s usage was at worst a little dramatic. It is certainly not a resigning matter.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | January 7, 2010

Bertie Ahern’s autobiography granted tax-free status

Bertie Ahern has just become a registered artist, and has been granted tax-free status on the earning from his new autobiography.

I sent in a letter to the Irish Times regarding this issue, which was published today. It reads as follows:

Madam, – I was deeply disappointed, but unsurprised, to learn that former Taoiseach Patrick “Bertie” Ahern has managed to get on to the list of tax-exempt artists, meaning he can earn up to €125,000 on his new book without having to pay tax. This is on top of the very generous salary and pensions he receives from the public purse.

While there can be no doubt Mr Ahern is entitled to claim this tax break, he is by no means obliged to.

It would have been a welcome sign if he had chosen to forego this tax break, and instead contributed more to the empty State coffers.

It is regrettable that, with the country on its knees, and a huge chasm between the amount coming into the State and the amount being spent, that a former minister and Taoiseach, already in receipt of vast sums of State money, would begrudge his country such a comparatively small amount.

I hope Mr Ahern reverses his decision to claim this tax deduction, the purpose of which is to support and reward struggling artists, not politicians. – Yours, etc,

It is surprising that this issue has not received more attention in the mainstream media, especially when it is considered that most blogs and bulletin boards have picked up on this story, and there has been a huge amount of interest in it. There have been (so far) no editorials on the matter, and while I understand that the issue was briefly discussed on radio, there has been very little print space dedicated to a truly shocking story.

To put it plainly: The former Taoiseach, who is still in the Dáil, has decided that, as well as taking a lot of time off to do a book tour, he will, at a time when the country is struggling financially, claim a very generous tax-break on the first €125,000 that he will earn from his book. This will cover only part of his advance for the book (rumoured to be over 400k), and will be on top of his Dáil salary.  As well as that, Mr Ahern claimed over €111,000 as part of his pension in 2008.

A former leader of this country claiming this tax break at a time when the country’s coffers are being scraped for every cent, especially when one considers the large amount of money received by Mr Ahern from the state, shows an appalling dearth of patriotism.

The purpose of the Artists Exemption is to encourage struggling artists to contribute to the strong artistic credentials of this country, not to allow politicians writing once-off autobiographies to keep a larger percentage of their advance.

I was disappointed to note that prominent Labour politician and former Minister for Finance Ruari Quinn is also present on the list. Mr Quinn claimed tax-exempt status for his autobiography “Straight Left – A journey in Irish Politics” which was published in 2005. As the earning cap was only introduced in 2006, it is likely that Mr. Quinn may have actually received more money tax-free than Mr. Ahern. While Mr. Quinn is not a former Taoiseach, and he claimed the money during the boom years, it is still disappointing that he did so, especially when one considers that he has been drawing a ministerial pension, that in 2008, paid him over €40,000 on top of his Dáil salary.

Mr. Ahern should do the honorable thing and pay his taxes, setting an example for the rest of the country.

The fact that a prominant politician paying his taxes constitutes an example in this country is beyond sad.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | November 27, 2009

Newest appointment to the Senate a missed opportunity.

James Carroll has been appointed to the Senate.

If you don’t know who that is, then let me direct you to his profile. As well as representing Ireland internationally in Pitch and Putt, he is a sitting councilor in Louth, and was previously the President of UCD Students Union as well as Chairperson of the UCD branch of Fianna Fail.

While this CV is not unimpressive, it could be argued that it is wholly insufficient to warrant a seat in the Seanad, one of the branches of government. However, the CV of a Senator is largely immaterial, and it is the contribution of the Senator to debate within the House, and amendments to the legislation passing through it that matters. The Senate, more so than the Dail, allows a talented individual to make an impact to a greater extent, enabling them to raise issues and proffer amendments that would otherwise be untouched by the timid hands of the Irish Politician. It is the seat of higher thinking in Irish politics, often producing debates of far higher quality than those of the lower house.

It is a pity therefore that in a time of national crisis, when the people are tired and jaded towards the political system, that instead of choosing from among Ireland’s intellectual elite, be it a business person, an economist, a journalist, a social analyst, or just someone very intelligent and well-read, the government chose a councillor with  a chance of future election. The appointment of a person of unusual calibre could have sent a signal that the government is serious about political reform, both of the Seanad and of the Dail, and that it is focused only on repairing this country. Instead, an insider was appointed, yet another example of how the political parties have used and abused the Seanad, and stopped it filling it’s original function.

If the Constitution is read, it quickly becomes clear that the original, intended function of the Seanad was as a body of experts supervising the Dail. It was to provide an intellectual oversight of Dail decisions, removed from the petty realms of politics. The bulk of the appointments were intended to be from panels of experts, with several Senators elected from the Universities, and the remainder hand-picked by the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach’s Senators were intended to  prevent a situation were the Dail and the Seanad would find themselves in conflict, and limit the Senate to an advisory role. I have no doubt that if the Senate had been operated in this manner, the nation would currently be in a far better state of repair. Instead of an intellectual elite critically examining and advising the Dail, the Senate is now home to a mass of politicians ranging from the possibly (some day) electable to the hopelessly unelectable to the outright rejected. The newest appointments to the Senate are a continuation of that failed policy.

What is particularly galling about the appointment of Mr. Carroll, is the comments that have accompanied his appointment. When congratulating Mr. Carroll on his election the Taoiseach stated “I know that he will work hard for the people of South Louth and I look forward to welcoming him to Oireachtas Éireann”. Mr. Carroll said ” I will be able to provide the people of Drogheda and South Louth with strong and energetic leadership”. There is no such thing as a local senator. A Senator is a national appointment – there is no Senator for Louth. The main justification for the existance of the Senate is that it is one step removed from the parish pump politics that contaminate the Dail; for a newly appointed Senator to make no bones about the fact that he sees his Senate seat primarily as a way to gain advantage for his future constituency, is a tragedy.

The Senate should not spend time fixing potholes, mowing grass or circumventing the planning laws. It should be focused on the national arc of public policy, on ensuring that all legislation passed is appropriately thought out, on commenting on national issues at a remove from local politics, or the politics of hysteria. The Senate should be the calming, mature voice in Ireland, the voice that cries “Stop!” when permanent legislation is hastily proposed to address a temporary crisis, or when knee-jerk reactionaries may be advocating a destructive course. It is the House of debate, of consideration, where issues should be aired that in the Dail would be verboten.

The Senate is supposed to be the counterweight to the overly local focus of politics in Ireland, but the appointment of an unashamedly local Senator once again shows that it is not fulfilling its role.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | November 20, 2009

Undoing the ‘Hand of Frog’

Firstly, let me apologise for the racism in the title, and assure you that it has a purpose.

Secondly, let me note how amazed I am that you are reading a post that I have written about any sport, let alone soccer. I do not follow the sport, nor enjoy watching it, and very often have no clue as to what teams are facing each other on any given day. That said, I share in the national anger that has accompanied the tarnished French victory. I feel sorry for my friends and family who are enraged and jaded by the successful cheating of the French, and I cannot help but feel that enjoying some World Cup success, even for a short while, would have done this battered country much good.

This is why I feel that the match must be replayed. If we lose, then people will still complain, blaming the handball for robbing us of our original victory, but at least we will have experienced a fair game. Should we win, then I do believe Ireland will experience a temporary vigour, and be allowed to place its difficulties to one side, for however short a time. Unfortunately, we appear to be sabotaging even the slim chance we have of being granted a rematch.

Before I address the issue of how we might obtain a rematch, let me say that I am putting aside right and wrong here. We are in the right; we have been wronged. However, “would’ve and should’ve don’t build a bridge”, or alternatively “I didn’t make the world, I just try to live in it”.  No-one, anywhere, denies that we have been wronged, but that does not mean that this will be remedied. If we wish to take advantage of our small chance of a second chance, then we need to discard our emotions and think of how we can maximise the chances of a rematch being granted.

The first thing to acknowledge is that FIFA do not want to grant a rematch. Were they a neutral body, they would be strongly inclined against the uncertainty that would arise from matches being replayed due to cheating. As hard as it is to admit, most matches involve cheating, and while the outcome of very few turn so obviously on that cheating, if a tradition was set that matches were replayed where cheating may have affected the outcome of the match (in terms of points or in terms of who won or lost), then the tournament would rapidly decline to a farce. Unfortunately, FIFA are not neutral. They have a strong preference, powered by self-interest, towards French participation in the cup. The far greater population of France, accompanied by its larger market for goods, and better economic climate, make it a far more profitable country than Ireland, from the perspective of the organisation. There is also a perception that more people outside France would be interested in seeing a country as large as France play, than in seeing Ireland play.

If the above is accepted, then it is obvious that persuading FIFA to change their mind will be difficult, and the chances of success are slim. It is more likely they will admonish the French team, and call for a small punishment to be applied to Thierry. This will be a futile and empty gesture. However, it is possible that they may be persuaded to allow a rematch.

Economically, we have no leverage in this situation. Any boycott of French goods will be temporary and pointless at best, and any boycott of FIFA will dissolve as soon as England play a match. Even should either be successfully organised (the former for the duration of the cup – an open-ended boycott would be laughable), neither would lead to success, as an loss suffered would be a trifle compared to that which would be lost if Ireland progressed through the cup, and France lost out.

Politically, despite the fighting words of many of our TDs, we have little or no leverage. It is highly likely that the board of FIFA were forced to Google/Wiki Brian Cowen and Dermot Ahern when they first became aware of them, and it is most unlikely that they were impressed once they had. Indeed, it is possible that too-bitter words from our elected representatives, each vying for air-time on this rare issue of national unity, may damage the cause, should they force FIFA into a corner, or create a conflict between the politicians of Ireland and the politicians of France. Already, the French Prime Minister has warned the Taoiseach to not interfere with FIFA, and the matter was discussed between Cowen and Sarkozy. Once again, the larger size and power of France means that we cannot bring certain types of force to bear in regards to this issue, we cannot win a contest based on these powers.

In short, we cannot really force FIFA to order a rematch. Although there is precedent, FIFA’s interests are too strong, and our influence too weak, to force their hand. We have only one real advantage, and it is shrinking rapidly.

At this moment in time, world sympathy is with us. In America, in Canada, in Britain, even in France itself, there is a universal recognition that what occurred when Mr. Thierry slapped the ball was wrong and unfair.  Philippe de Villiers’ comment that “Raymond Domenech should express his public regrets and make a gesture of dignity towards Ireland,” are among the gentlest comments that French politicians have made regarding the French team’s ‘victory’. Universally, it is acknowledged that what happened was wrong, particularly by the French, whose politicians and commentators have rushed to condemn it.

However, the response that this country has produced threatens our chances of ever having this issue rectified.

The only weapon we have is the universal, worldwide sympathy that we currently enjoy: the wave of global popular opinion which we now ride. This is being slowly eroded by the ugly, whining and racist comments that are coming from some quarters. Already, the Times (the English one) has featured several snide remarks about the Irish wallowing in self-pity, and these will only  increase in number as shrill press releases are shot off by TDs looking for press coverage, and the government attempt to take hold of the issue, trying to show leadership. The vox-pops that have occurred over the past few hours have all featured racist slurs against the French, from the cheeky joke in the title, to the humourous “cheese-eating surrender-monkeys”, to the downright nasty “dirty frogs”.

This is an understandable reaction. However, it must be recognised that comments that lower us in the eyes of the world do not help our cause, but instead hinder it. There is no shame in showing outrage at what occurred during the match – it is only right that we do so. Unfortunately, we must temper our reactions, while still highlighting this unfairness (I refuse to use the word injustice), so as to maximise and utilise the literally world-wide sympathy that we now experience, and turn that into support. The message must be sent that what occurred during the match, the victory by blatant and unashamed cheating, undermines soccer, and particularly FIFA, bringing the organisation and more importantly the Cup, into disrepute, not just in Ireland, but around the world. It must be underlined that the confidence of the public is lost when such pivotal cheating is detected, and allowed to succeed. Even if Thierry is punished, it was still a win for France, unless a rematch is granted. The only acceptable remedy is a rematch, allowing both teams to once again test their skills, and compete for their place.

It should be noted, that this will still be unfair on Ireland, who will have to risk the place which they (in honour) already won, and will benefit France, who will have gained by their cheating, a second chance. An offer of a rematch will not be a fair remedy, nor will it undo the harm that was suffered, but it the best possible remedy available. The fact that those who cheated still benefitted from their actions, is not something that can be fixed.

In short and in summary, if we truly want this decision to be overturned, as opposed to just have a good ‘auld rant, we need to capitalise the goodwill of the world, and keep our own hands as clean as possible. It is only by the pressure of the supporters around the world, and the threat of discredidation, that FIFA can be persuaded to grant a rematch.


Update: FIFA have refused to allow a rematch, as was expected. Move along everyone, nothing to see here.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | November 5, 2009

Maine, gay marriage and the schools

The people of Maine chose to vote against gay marriage yesterday, becoming, apparently, the 31st state in a row to refuse to expand LGBT frights by way of popular vote. This is a strong blow to the gay marriage movement in the US and abroad, as while the judiciary and the legislature in several states have been willing to acknowledge gay marriages (there is nothing stopping a gay couple ratifying a marriage contract, they merely are not acknowledged by the state), every time the people have been asked in a referendum, the most authoritative decision-making tool in any democratic state, they have refused to recognise homosexual marriages as being equal to their own.

This creates a crisis of legitimacy in states which do legalise same-sex marriage by way of the courts or the legislature, as there is always the strong possibility that if those same issues were put to a vote of the people, the response would be the polar-opposite. For instance, in Massachusetts, there is currently a campaign underway to have a referendum on the states’ same-sex marriage recognition. Although gay activists claim that any initiative to reverse these laws would fail, they still strongly oppose the holding of a referendum on the issue, and have done their best to block any moves to hold one, as they fear that even in the most liberal state in the US, homosexual marriage might not be upheld and affirmed by a popular vote.

This gives rise to the common argument that “civil rights should not be down to the popular vote”, and there is some truth to this, leaving aside the unfortunate parallels that the statement draws between the black search for civil rights and the search for recognition of same-sex marriage. However, the problem with this argument is that in any democracy the people are sovereign; the authority of the state flows from the will of the people. The state owes its existence to the people and their acceptance of it.

No body in the state can overrule the opinion of the people, excepting another vote of the people – this is the very test of a democracy. We have seen in the Nuremberg trials that there is a limit to this principle; there is a natural law which overrules the laws of man and makes certain acts illegal regardless of any constitution, legislature or court. To question this is to question the Nuremberg convictions, and the subsequent punishment of those who engaged in domestically legal acts. However, no honest man can say with a straight face that the right to gay marriage, assuming it exists, meets this test. No aspect of any assumed right to gay marriage comes close to justifying ignoring the will of the people, and any attempt to legalise same-sex marriage in Maine, by any other method than another referendum, would show a gross contempt for the informed will of the people.

This does not, as some opponents of gay marriage have tried to claim, mean that there can never be another referendum on gay marriage in Maine. Indeed, there hopefully will be another referendum soon, in which, after having reflected on the consequences of their choice, the citizens of Maine can choose to uphold their previous decision or change their minds. Notwithstanding that, once there has been another referendum, if the result is once again a no to same-sex marriage, that should be it for a period of time, so long as the referendum was conducted in a legal manner, and there is no pressing reason why the populace would have changed their decision (“they are wrong” is not an acceptable reason). It is not right to continually ask a people the same question over and over, because they keep giving the ‘wrong’ answer. There is no problem with rerunning an issue again after a period of time and social change (the divorce referendums in Ireland) or if there are pressing reasons why the first decision was flawed, for example if people were lied to as to the effects of the amendment, or if the concerns of the people have been addressed (the Lisbon/Nice referendums in Ireland).

It is often argued that while the people may be sovereign, those who legislate are not elected to represent the opinions of their electorate specifically on any one issue, but to promote a broadly similar platform on which they sought election, and to legislate in the best interests of the State, regardless of the current opinions of the people. They argue that a modern democracy is too complex and varied to be governed by the will of the people, and that representatives are elected to govern as best they can, and then must answer to the people after their term in office. This is a tempting point of view, and one that I broadly agree with. It is an impossibility to ask that legislators remain in lock-step with those who elected them, as the variety of opinion in even the smallest portion of any society is simply staggering. Furthermore the complexity of a modern democracy means that the average person, not having the many hours necessary to come to grips with the infinitesimal details of many of the critical issues involved in running a country, could not, if called upon, give a coherant opinion on many of the most pressing matters of state. The referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and the shoddy public debate surrounding it is a harsh illustration of this.

All of the above is true, but if taken to it’s logical conclusion, means that there is no point in having any democracy, and a dictatorship is the answer, as an elite of legislators could do the best job of running a country, without reference to the will of the people. I do not claim that supporters of gay marriage desire this, I am just pointing out that if arguments relying on the unfit nature of people to assist in their own governance are taken to their extreme, an absurdity is reached. The answer which most states seem to have arrived at, albeit not explicitly, is that the broad moral issues are decided on the opinion of the electorate, and the more intricate minutia of the daily running of a country are left to the legislature. In Ireland, this can be seen by the fact that items such as the budget, criminal laws, and taxation measures are never put to the vote, but in recent decades votes have been held on subjects such as divorce, abortion and citizenship. If a modern, democratic and free state was to be imagined as a ship, the legislature and the judiciary would be the crew, hauling on the sails, keeping the bilges clean, keeping her in good repair, while the people would be have their hands on the steering wheel, determining the ship’s direction and focus. The modern republic is a complex apparatus run and maintained by elected representatives, with the broad will of the people, the principles and policies which they wish the state to uphold, used as the guiding light. It is precisely the role of the people to vote and determine the moral issues in which the state involves itself, regardless of how the author, as a Liberal, may view their choice. The recognition of same-sex marriage, and the extention of tax breaks, welfare benefits, pension benefits to those unions, is not a passive, permissive action in which the state declines to get involved, but is an active apportioning of tax money and governmental sanction, which means that the opinions of the people are relevant, and if expressed in a referendum, sacrosanct.


On a slightly separate note, I wish to address the issue of same-sex marriage in schools. It was stridently asserted in both the California and Maine campaigns that same-sex marriage would be taught in schools, which was denied with equal vigour by those in favour of same-sex marriage. It seems odd that considering the Supreme Court in Massachusetts chose in Parker v. Hurley to deny parents the right to not have their children taught that same-sex marriage was acceptable, the proponents of gay marriage would try and claim that the introduction of gay marriage would have no effect on teaching in schools. It seems laughable to suggest that once gay marriage is introduced, and more and more children are being raised in these unions, that there will not be a push for recognition of these parental units in classrooms. Indeed, it would be remiss of the teachers involved to mention only one kind of parental unit, in the full knowledge that children from a different type of unit were present. It is fundamentally dishonest to try and separate the two issues, as the recognition of same-sex marriage will inevitable lead to a campaign to include positive mention of these unions in the school curriculum, which the legally recognised status of SSM will give great weight to. In the next referendum, it would be far more honest if supporters of gay marriage admitted that they would hope to see acknowledgement of their relationships in the public school system (as they will be entitled to if SSM is legalised), and then continue on to explain why this is not something to be feared, and why this will be in effect a small change.

It is futile to ask people to believe that SSM will have no effect on teaching in schools, when voters can see the effects it has had in other states.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | November 3, 2009

The new Pat Kenny

I watched The Frontline tonight, and was absolutely delighted to witness Pat Kenny challenge Jack O’Connor on his position on public sector pay. He tore through Mr. O’Connor’s carefully prepared sound bites and left the most powerful trade unionist in the country stammering and, more importantly, contradicting himself.

It is hard to recall Pat Kenny ever giving a guest on The Late Late Show such a hard time, even when many watching would have liked a firmer hand. In fact, Mr. Kenny had been given the nickname ‘Pat the Plank’ by many young fans who missed Gay Byrne (It should be noted however, that Mr. Kenny’s replacement by Ryan Tubridy has led to several “Bring back Pat, all is forgiven” Facebook campaigns, so any dislike may have more to do with nostalgia than any deficiency on the behalf of Mr Kenny), in part due to his perceived timidity when it came to confronting guests.

Of course, Mr Kenny’s radio show has always been more probing then his Late Late Show, and shows a greater willing to confront guests, but even this has been eclipsed by his recent performances on his new show. The strength and tenacity that Mr. Kenny showed in tonight’s episode can be seen as a culmination of changes that have taken place over the last few weeks, as Mr. Kenny has shown an increased willingness to take people head on, and call them on any inconsistencies, pursuing any evasive answers with a new vigour.

The highlight of tonight’s performance was without doubt Mr. Kenny’s refusal to take a sly dig from Mr. O’Connor.  The look on Mr. Kenny’s face in the last second of the video show a steel that was never really seen in any of Mr. Kenny’s earlier shows, and his use of the word ‘crap’ without a decidedly apologetic tone is undoubtedly a first.

Mr. Kenny has always been known for his sharp intellect and excellent broad knowledge base (in one of the last episodes of the Late Late, which focused on the Seanad, Mr Kenny was very obviously the only participant who had actually read the Constitution, and thought about what it’s original goal was), but he has very rarely used these to challenge his guests. It would be a very welcome development if the national broadcaster finally had a show where the movers and shakers were not allowed to get away with glib one-liners and pre-prepare sound-bites.

If national issues are to discussed in the media, then the media need to be willing to cut through the scripted replies and challenge any evasions that public figures may attempt to present. While the demise of Questions and Answers is to be lamented, if The Frontline continues on it’s current path, then Irish politics can only benefit.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | October 23, 2009

Nick Griffin on Question Time – A victory for the BNP

On the 22nd of October 2009, Nick Griffin, the new leader of the British National Party appeared on BBC’s Question Time. At this moment the show is available online.

Throughout the show, Mr. Griffin was attacked from all sides. The show was approximately an hour long; only ten minutes of the show were not used to directly savage the BNP, which were instead used to discuss the Moir article about the death of Stephen Gately – a topic designed to highlight the homophobia of the BNP. The audience, the panelists, and the chair all spent the entire programme quoting Mr. Griffin’s past statements, and emphasising those aspects of the party which the BNP has sought to play down in recent months: racism, homophobia, and the desire for nonviolent ethic cleansing.

Since the show has ended, the general feeling seems to be that the BNP were given a bloody nose, and were beaten. Certainly the closing comments of Jack Straw seem to reflect that view, which has been mirrored in the general gloating online. Indeed, it is hard to deny that the BNP were hit hard on every question, and Nick Griffin was very much embarrassed by his previous soundbites.

However, to be satisfied with this misses a fundamental point.

The BNP were always going to be roundly attacked, vilified and discredited on their first major national appearance; no other outcome was even remotely possible. The problem is that the BNP can merely utilise the same tactics as Sinn Fein, in order to become a valid part of the political system.

Sinn Fein stood (and in the eyes of many still stand) for murder and terrorism. In many debates this was used against them, and any time they took a moral stance, their own record was thrust in their faces. Even today, this is still done, but when it is done it is seen as tired, and as a cheap shot. By repeatedly going on the air and meeting these accusations head on, without flinching, or offering excuses, they became effectively immune to them.

Nothing changed about Sinn Fein, it did not repudiate its earlier endorsement of criminal activities, it has undergone no major ideological sift. The disbandment of the IRA helped significantly in making Sinn Fein more acceptable, but what has really enabled Sinn Fein to move closer to power in the Republic is that bringing up their IRA links is now cringeworthy, and seen as a cop-out. Without ever actually adequately rebutting a single one of the accusations levelled at it, a situation has been created whereby Sinn Fein can participate in an open and public discussion on national issues without the party’s links to criminality being brought up. What was once the pariah of Irish politics is moving closer (although it has suffered some set backs in the latest elections) to the day it can assume a role in the mainstream political life of the Dail.

A similar process can and will work for the BNP. Today’s Question Time was a historic occasion, as the BNP had never before been invited, which led to protests outside, and most of the questions being loaded against the BNP. The question remains, the next time the BNP are invited (and they will be), will those same crowds be there? Will every member of the audience and the panel gang up on the BNP? If so, will the same occur the time after that? And the time after?

Eventually, discussion will not focus on the BNP (though of course barbs will be continually thrown in) and the BNP will begin to take part in media discussions on their own terms. They shall do so on Question Time and on other media programmes. The attention and focus of the debate will move from the inherent characteristics of the BNP, and will begin to focus on the issues of the day. The BNP will adopt some form of populist rhetoric, and other participants will be faced with the choice of hurling insults at the BNP, and looking as if they are attempting to distract from themselves, or meet the BNP argument for argument and accept them as participants in politics.

That was the true reason Nick Griffin never stopped smiling, even when he was insulted in ways that would drive most men to fury. It is the reason he did his best to laugh heartily at even the most abusive comments made against him. He knows that all he must do is smile, laugh, and ignore every attack as best he can, in order to gain political validity (I doubt they dare yet to hope to enter the political mainstream). Once the initial wave of disgust has abated, he must treat these attacks as an attempt by the political establishment to divert attention from the problems the BNP is highlighting, in doing so he discourages the attacks without having to counter them, and if most of his opponants’s time is spent making attacks on him which are irrelevant to the subject at hand, then he has the added bonus of having the most time to articulate his views. After a few debates where the BNP sound rational and moderate, and their opposition have only offered vitriolic attacks, the other parties will be forced to debate with them on the issues, allowing the BNP to improve its standing further.

Once the BNP is accepted as an acceptable debating opponent, albeit a distasteful one, the core ideas of the BNP, of race and racism, of them and us, of multiple Britains, will begin to be debated once more in the public sphere. The mere existence of the BNP, their mere fact, combined with a continued willingness to articulate those ideas, will ensure that those ideas, concepts and attitudes will become part of the dialogue of the country, which should allow the BNP to increase their support further.

The BNP suffered no loss tonight, and no setback. They have taken their first step to becoming a true force in British politics. In the coming months and years they will seek every media appearance they can, and they will be ridiculed repeatedly, but they will continue a slow march upwards.

Posted by: ErrorPositiveInfinity | October 23, 2009

Welcome, one and all.

I have been considering beginning a blog for some time (several years in truth), but I have always procrastinated and avoided setting one up, for the simple reason that I didn’t want to have a blank space with nothing to fill. It’s bad enough when you are trying to write a particular short story and the words just won’t come, but it is far worse if you are trying to share your thoughts on life and politics, and find that you don’t have any that have not already been articulated.

There will be long periods when I don’t post on this blog, and periods when I make multiple posts in a short space of time. I have set no goals, I have no target of one per week or ten per month; I will write when I feel like it and have something to say which I feel comfortable sharing publicly.

Thank you for reading this blog, and I hope that you agree with me on most points, and are respectful when you disagree with me on others.

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