Thursday, June 30, 2005 

The 'Freedom Institute' needs to grow up do some Indymedia people. Seriously, guys, neither one of you has a monopoly on idiotic positions.

There's normal give-and-take ribbing, and justification in occasional schadenfreude if/when you're right. However, a degeneration into flame-wars makes no-one look good, does it?

Some recent FI posts:

"My own observation and our recent experience with Indymedia, both there and in the comments threads on this blog has convinced me that they are by-and-large completely independent - of reality.

[snip by EWI]

I queried their describing Richard Delevan as a "fascist". How original, not to say accurate and insightful - and "so-called 'professional' journalist" - when she can't be bothered in basic details herself (does anyone here ever read the "Evening Herlad", which is one of at least six spelling mistakes in 430 words). My pointing this out as well as saying that by this stage not even the Chinese would suspect Griffith College is a proper institution probably contributed to my comments being deleted entirely. Contrary to the discussion on this posting, we're not getting money, guns or baseball caps from the CIA.

[snip by EWI]
posted by Peter Nolan"

(Note: as of 7.44pm, there are no comments allowed by the FI on the above)

"Commenting Guidelines
Update 13 April: Removed number seven as redundant
Update 29 June: Added a new guidelines numbers seven and eight

If you're going to comment here, and in general everybody is very welcome to do so, take a moment to consider some suggestions that will allow us all to get along nicely. Responding to comments on postings is perhaps the most enjoyable thing about reading blogs.

However, so that we can get along, we ask you to respect the following guidelines. Otherwise, your comments may be edited or even deleted. This is private property, after all.

[snip by EWI]

7. If you're not a member of the FI, your influence on our approach to running the blog will necessarily be limited. This is private property, so we make the rules governing behaviour here based on our own judgement of what is right and proper.

8. Trotsky supposedly once quipped, "Everyone has the right to be stupid, but Comrade Macdonald abuses the privilege." Don't overuse this right in your comments. We reserve the right to edit or delete them if you haven't taken the trouble to write in plain and coherent English or if they demonstrate nothing apart your lack of intellectual capacity."

And Indymedia:

"Fascist Freedom Institute and "rivers of immigrants"
by fiwatch - afa Wednesday, Mar 2 2005, 2:42pm
national / migration / other press

Fascist Freedom Institute play the race card.
Ireland's "freedom institute" published an article today on "rivers of immigrants". Using emotive words like "floodgates" and "national interest" they are clearly trying to fuel racism in this country.

Pass on the warning. "

Need I say more? So, come on. "Give peace a chance..."


Modern Irish Life

Hugh Green, in the course of an interesting piece on the alienation characteristic to modern society, says:

"I think that one of the reasons for this failure to intervene may be down to the fact that most labour in urban areas these days is done in front of a computer screen. The most physically strenuous part of most people’s days is to carry home the laptop or the shopping. This leaves many of us alienated from our own bodily strength and robustness. What we need to do is send off for a Charles Atlas magazine, and perhaps lose the fear of taking a punch in the face."

I think Hugh has hit upon at least part of the truth. But I would point as well to the effects of television as the major disruptor to the fabric of society. Let's face it - people watch too much TV, and it acts as an insulator against real human contact outside the home. I'm no psychologist, but I can see how lack of social ties leads to a certain detachment (as well as the timidity Hugh notes) from intervening in situations like those he notes.

In the evenings you pass dwelling after dwelling with that glow coming from the front room (apart from those of recent non-Anglo immigrants). Banning television won't work (ask the Iranians) but is there anything else which could act as a counterweight, such as the creation of comfortable urban spaces for after-hours activities?

Or has the the extent of suburban blight (made worse by corruption) doomed such efforts already?


Corruption Watch

First the local authority railroaded the Eyre Square monstrosity through in the face of fierce local opposition, and now the contractors have walked off without explanation. Babbleogue provides coverage.

Also, Gavin is keeping an eye on the long-running Aquatic Centre scandal. Seeing Bertie mutter at his feet in the Dáil yesterday evening about "the wind" being to blame for the collapse doesn't inspire confidence, it must be said. (More from RTÉ)

And, Martin Cullen is still a disgrace, but unfortunately he fits in too well with certain of his ministerial colleagues.

That the Carrickmines Castle problem arose from rampant planning corruption is obvious. That his presumed 'cure' (continuing on in the same vein as the shafting of Dúchas) will only exacerbate the problem is an unfortunate coincidence.


Microsoft discovers the Gaelic language


Users of Microsoft Windows and Office can now install an Irish Gaelic version of the software, as part of Microsoft's initiative to boost minority languages.

The Gaelic Language Interface Pack (LIP) can be downloaded from Microsoft's site or, free of charge. The packs are supported by Microsoft and Foras na Gaeilge, an agency responsible for fostering the use of Gaelic among the population in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Microsoft and Foras na Gaeilge developed the interface, localising over 600,000 terms across both products. The interface also benefited from extensive consultation with Gaelic speakers and community groups, who helped with vocabulary selection and testing processes. The software was launched by Eamon O Cuiv, the Republic of Ireland's minister for community, rural and Gaeltacht affairs [...] The initiative is part of Microsoft's Local Language Programme, which aims to increase access to technology to all by enabling people to work through their native language.

The Irish Gaelic version is not a full localisation. Users install the local language version on top of an English-language version of Windows XP and Office and approximately 85 percent of the programmes are translated.

This comes as the latest addition to Microsoft's recent discovery of lesser-spoken languages like Welsh. Why the sudden Redmond interest? We can, perhaps, hazard some guesses.

More competition, please! In that vein, it is important to note the importance of keeping US-style software patents out of Europe, in order to protect start-ups (both commercial and open-source/Free). This is an issue which may seem obscure now, but has very real consequences for innovation and competition.

p.s. kudos to Aehso, who seems to have been covering this issue for a while.

Monday, June 27, 2005 

Irish Corruption blog

As no doubt most seeing this post already know, Gavin Sheridan of Gavin's blog has started a new weblog, Irish Corruption to document coverage of scandals in the Republic.

Both the Irish Times and Phoenix magazine charge for access to their archives (and Vincent Browne's Village magazine has only a minimal Web presence) so this effort is very much welcome within the Irish blogosphere (such as it is). I would wish him well, and recommend others to blogroll this important initiative.

p.s. Eamonn Fitzgerald has been posting an interesting transcript of an interview with Gavin about this project. Catch it here, here and here.

Friday, June 24, 2005 

An American Speaks Out

I know that when I started this blog it was with the stated intention of focussing on Irish issues, but sometimes there's good reason to break the rules. One such is the recent disgusting comments (since repeated by other US Republicans) by Bush chief-of-staff Karl Rove about the US Democratic party, which should earn the condemnation of all decent people.

Patriotboy over at the Jesus' General satirical blog has come out of character to speak out against this ghastly new smear campaign by the Republicans. I leave you with his words for the weekend:

"When you're the father of two beautiful daughters, your house becomes a gathering place for young men. That was certainly the case when my daughters were in high school. We were lucky, most of them were good kids. I spent quite a bit of time with them and got to know them very well.

Now they're coming home from war. The all American boy with a heart of gold talks of his hate for "hajis" and wishes we could nuke the place. The class clown sits in his room all day staring at the Cartoon Channel while self medicating with pot and booze. The nice liberal Jewish boy who melted my wife's yenta heart tells us in a dispassionate, far-away monotone that "killing those animals was like stepping on ants." Our "son" screams at night.

My heart breaks for these boys we adopted in their teenage years. They've lost their souls. And for what?"

Thursday, June 23, 2005 

The Freedom Institute weigh in on Morris

Finally the folks at the FI have chosen to speak on the ever-worsening scandal in Donegal. However, they appear to have lost some of the characteristic forthrightness which they bring to their often-controversial viewpoints.

En masse the FI bloggers are cautioning us all to restraint in dealing with this situation. It may perhaps be guessed at as to what they might see as being hasty. From Bastiat:

"Commentators have called for a Garda ombudsman to be created immediately. We in the FI would endorse those calls, but would caution against any knee-jerk reaction to this issue. I believe that we need to look at what other countries have done in this area, so that Ireland has a system that is what is considered to be international best practice."

And in comments, Richard Waghorne says:

"No, I'd be very slow indeed to draw that conclusion. Numerically, they are a small fraction of a percentage of gardai as a whole. Taking all corruption cases together, that remains the case. Irish gardai have traditionally scored very well in international comparisons on public confidence and probity."

I will agree without hesitation with Richard that the Gardaí compare favourably with any other police force in the world (on many levels). However, this is not per se about the "few bad apples" in Donegal, much as the GRA and the Garda HQ mouth-pieces in the media would have us believe.

Rather, the point of setting up the Ombudsman is to counter the culture of unaccountability which has taken hold in the Gardaí - extending to the highest levels of the force - as evidenced by the scandals of recent years. We already have some indication that the worst has yet to come out in the Morris Tribunal (and that's just the public part, never mind the secret sections).

The GRA and Garda HQ will no doubt kick and scream, and we will be told how the Ombudsman must become a panel (the opportunities for hobbling the office in this scenario are obvious). But we must do something meaningfulj to restore public confidence in the force, not just the usual re-arranging of the deck-chairs.

The cost to our society of allowing the Gardaí to undermine their own authority is too high.

Friday, June 10, 2005 


Well, I'm off to Cracow, Poland to visit with friends for a while, armed with my small, trusty stock of phrases and several days' worth of teabags stuffed in the rucksack... but I digress.

It looks like McDowell is giving a "ringing apology" (Realplayer) to the McBrearty's and other families affected by the scandalous actions of corrupt and out of control Gardaí in Donegal.

The McBrearty case has been bubbling away for about eight years now, since clear evidence came to light that all was not well. Where has the Irish media been on this? I can think of only a handful who were brave enough to carry the topic. What happened to the rest of the Serious Media who daily define our perceptions of events in this country?

In the low-level war against the IRA, did the Guards - like the British security services - become a law unto themselves, unaccountable for any abuses of their privileged position in society? Did they become above the law of the land? Are they still above the law? Will the defanged Garda ombudsman we have been alloted be enough to restore public confidence? Isn't it the basis of the Gardaí that:

"The Garda Síochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people"

If the Guards lose their moral authority, what are we left with?

For a long time, the hacks otherwise known as "crime" and "security" correspondants (and even certain opinion columnists) have fed us misleading information and even outright falsehoods. Many of these names will readily occur to anyone who has been paying attention over the years - for those who haven't, there are always Goldhawk's back-issues.

Outside the pages of Old Magill, the Sunday Business Post and the Phoenix, none of our press did their job. If the McBrearty scandal isn't a clarion-call to arms for a blogosphere to hold the Irish media to account, then I don't know what is.

Ahhh, as our Paper of Record says today - but look over there - café bars! *

(* Today's Irish Times (09/06/05) headline: "Taoiseach insists cafe bars are still only proposals". The McBrearty scandal is not even referenced on the News Digest on the front page, and buried on Page 9)

Thursday, June 09, 2005 

Aid to African dictatorships

Apropos of the strident denunciations (by several prominent right-wing Irish bloggers) of Ireland giving aid to Africa, I have a few comments to make. I hope they will be taken as common-sense.

A good first step would be to stop giving aid (other than emergency relief) to oppressive, corrupt regimes - I agree. A second would be to stop banks and large corporations doing business with these self-same regimes - do the Freedom Institute and others agree? And a third to stop selling these people arms - still with me on this?

Further, the problem with installing "democracy" in Africa is that a lot of these states are just bits of various tribal areas, artificially shoved together by the rapacious European empires of years gone by. There is an answer to this tribal conundrum which should spring to mind - federation like the EU - but that's up to the Africans themselves to push towards, with some encouragement from outside.

Contrary to the thinly-veiled racist remarks of some, that's the problem in establishing Democracy in Africa and so many places around the world (some very close to home indeed). In too many cases, there's no reasonably functional, homogenous civic society (in the classical European sense) to buttress it. Even in Europe itself, we can see this in places like the former Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland.

We still continue to pay the price of the aftermath of the evils of colonialism and empire, long after they've crumbled to dust (and enough time has passed for the public memory to grow dim and revisionist efforts be born to rehabiliate them)

Postscript: Jim at Our word is our weapon has some thoughts on the Globalization Institute's part in this chorus-line.


Curious goings-on in the DFA

In today's Irish Times, via Back Seat Drivers:

"Ambassador Padraic MacKernan has resisted terminating the contract of the embassy's Maitre d'Hotel, Eduardo Ramos. But the department and the incoming Paris ambassador, Anne Anderson, are insisting that Mr Ramos's employment should end now that Mr MacKernan is leaving Paris. [...] Ms Anderson, who has been Ireland's permanent representative to the EU in Brussels, has argued that for personal reasons she would prefer to have a woman in the post occupied by Mr Ramos.

The row is the second time Mr Ramos's and Ms Anderson's paths have crossed in this way; in 2001 she did not want him to continue in a similar post at the Irish mission in Brussels, saying her preference was for a woman in the house manager role. That difficulty was overcome at the time, when Mr MacKernan offered Mr Ramos the Paris position.

[...] In a letter to Ambassador MacKernan last month, Ms Anderson wrote: "Being on my own. . . as Head of Mission over the last 10 years, I have always had a woman housekeeper/house manager.

"Given the range of tasks involved, this has always seemed to me an easier and more relaxed situation and one that I would like to continue." She said she wanted Mr Ramos treated with consideration, and if he were informed of the position right away, he would have three-and-a-half months' notice to find new accommodation."

Link here.

It seems more than a little unfortunate that twice now, the same person has tried to get rid of Mr. Ramos (her diplomatic wording aside - pun unintended - that's exactly what she's doing). The DFA may claim that such employment is short-term, tied to each Ambassador, but the fact that Mr. Ramos has served the DFA for seventeen continuous years suggests that custom is different in at least some cases.

As well, here's something which the article didn't say, but which occurred to me as I read the article: is there a particular individual whom Ms Anderson is bringing on from Brussels to be her "housekeeper/house manager" in Paris as well? If so, Mr Ramos would appear to have a strong case.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 

Suggestions for Mac blogging tool?

Blogger's web interface is pretty good, but I'd like the ability to compose posts offline as well.

Does anyone have suggestions on a good blog compositional tool for use on a Mac?


Getting away with it?

From Spudnik:

"Superintendent Joseph Shelly and Detective Superintendent John McGinley, senior officers who were heavily criticised in the findings, will resign at the end of next month.
McBrearty commented: "That's not good enough. Those two gardai should be sacked. The person who is making them retire - [Garda Commissioner] Noel Conroy - should go along with them."

"I'm calling on the Government to set up an international taskforce to come in and investigate all these cases where false statements of confession were taken over the last 30 years.""

This is entirely right - those responsible are going to swan off with State pensions, instead of being held properly to account for what happened. Where is Michael McDowell, the great moral crusader, on this? An apology isn't enough - a proper Ombudsman is required to restore public confidence now.

Slugger is also covering this, as is Progressive Ireland. There was a great deal of bluster in some quarters a few weeks ago over the "kebabs" remark - where are the Big Media types of the "Freedom Institute" now?

For some, is the notion of criticising Minister McDowell and the Guards a step too far outside the party line?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005 

Lusk, the Morris Report and Dogs that aren't barking

Irish people will no doubt be familiar with the events surrounding the Lusk post-office raid last week, where the Garda ERU shot dead two raiders, only one of whom was carrying a gun. This is far from the first time that armed Dirty Harrys have run amok, as with Abbeylara (an ill man shot in questionable circumstances) and Athy (a Guard shot by one of his own gung-ho colleagues) .

American ex-pat Richard Delevan (who I don't agree with on a great many other things) succintly echoes my own opinions on this here. Of course, as Auds at realitycheck(dot)ie demonstrates, there is a natural temptation for those of us affected by the actions of thugs to want revenge. I understand the impulse to (violent) retribution, but it is something that we should always consciously reject, as it inevitably leads to unintended, horrific consequences.

Yes, most Gardaí are decent, upright people who are a credit to the force. A lot of us have friends and relatives in the Guards. But when the Guards become corrupt or otherwise get out of control, the lack of effective oversight, the network of conspiratorial "crime correspondants" and the virtual code of silence within the ranks means that matters can get out of hand very quickly. With Lusk, we were treated again to a steady, carefully measured drip of information doled out to favoured reporters who could be counted on not to ask the wrong questions.

Such happened in Donegal, where a large portion of the local Gardaí became a law unto themselves. A criminal conspiracy of Guards with RUC men across the Border gave rise to bogus, planted weapons finds. An innocent man was accused of murder by the local Guards, then fitted up and his family placed under a reign of intense harassment for a number of years, only coming to an end when certain members of the Oireachtas took a courageous stand.

The McBreartys deserve the full support of the Irish public in holding those who conspired or turned a blind eye fully to account, lest it happen again to other unfortunate citizens. That this scandal travels up the Garda chain of command right to HQ has been clearly articulated by Vincent Browne, Phoenix magazine and other media outside the cosy little back-scrubbing arrangement between Garda 'sources' and their stenographers in the press.

And what of the almighty political blogs? Where are the crusades we might expect, such as were promised when Lenihan uttered his "kebabs" remark? Nowhere to be found, apparently. An American puts us all to shame. Even the pompously-entitled 'Freedom Institute', who boldly claim they "will never shy away from expressing its view on any issue" apparently have no comment at all to make even a week later (in spite of having no fewer than seven bloggers on their site) apart from a particularly weak excuse. (Though they do, apparently, have the spare time to post about how "Woman Mistakes Piranahs For Goldfish" - and no, they're not talking metaphors).

Postscript: well, Gavin has posted some worthy thoughts on this topic tonight:

"The document itself, though long, is easy reading and has little legal language. But it only deals with very specific terms of reference, not taking into account the actions of the Department of Justice, the AG or the Minister for Justice. One has to ask the question, what do these people have to fear?

This issue will resurface again in the future in a different form. Perhaps an undercover operation, akin to the Nursing Home Prime Time program on RTE. An undercover journo recruited into the Gardai will unveil behaviour that may shock the nation into action. For now the State seems quite happy to say “We accept the report”, but feck all will be done in relation to its recommendations.

As a PS, a dedicated weblog would serve as a very good base from which to work, an anti-corruption blog if you will. It would help keep stories alive that the mainstream media have let slide, and serve as a forum for concerns about corruption. Anonymous weblog detailing stories of corruption anyone?"

I entirely agree. The problem is, that there are few individuals both brave enough and credible enough to do such a thing. We very badly need a Nuala O'Loan-type Police Ombudsman south of the Border - if Michael McDowell is prepared to match rhetoric with action, we might finally get one.


Seán Doherty RIP

From RTÉ, former Fianna Fáil government minister Seán Doherty has just died after suffering a brain haemorrhage on Saturday night.

Doherty will be remembered as the Minister of Justice who tapped the phones of two journalists back in 1982. His claim (on a late-night RTÉ program in 1992) that Charles J. Haughey had known of the phone-taps led to Haughey's resignation shortly thereafter. (Some believe that Doherty was acting as a stalking-horse for Albert Reynolds within FF, though Reynolds tonight denied this on the main evening news)

In later years, Doherty was a distinguished member of the Oireachtas and served on the Public Accounts Committee.

In a week notable for the revealing in the US of the identity of the man who brought down another crooked leader, it behooves us to remember a man who did our own State some service.

Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.

Monday, June 06, 2005 

Dell suffering from Apple Envy?

Maybe not news if you've been following Michael Dell's jealousy of Jobs' well... panache on As The Apple Turns over the years, but the Irish Times' Karlin Lillington writes on her blog:

"One thing that has struck me is how many of the Dell style and design innovations at this week's event are actually Apple innovations put into PCs a few years on. Not that that is suprising or even embarrassing to Dell, a company that is straightforward in acknowledging that it takes ideas that are now proven to be winners with consumers and then implements them."

This doesn't really come as a surprise from Dell (Dell's former sideways 'easy opening' plastic desktops were a clear G4 PowerMac rip-off, and their laptops quickly mimic the latest PowerBook designs), who are now even touting a future luxury PC range, perhaps looking to the success of the G5 iMac.

And it's not just confined to Dell, either. Sony does it with their VAIOs as do HP and any other number of companies. This is something which really started being noticeable once Apple brought out the original G3 iMac which inspired a rash of imitators.

Why? Well, it's down to that 'vision thing', I would guess. Apple have got it - courtesy of Jobs' perfectionist sense of aesthetics, the others haven't as they're run by besuited MBA's. Who may be very well able to sell beige boxes to businesses, but haven't really got a clue as to how to push the industry forward as regards real improvement of the user experience. That these others wouldn't hesitate for a moment to rip off Apple (rather than making a serious attempt at innovating themselves) shouldn't come as a surprise.

With Apple's approach to making computers, they were consciously going for quality over quantity. And I think that many people, sick to death of virus-ridden Dells which are used just for Web, games and word processing can realise that "Mac & Sony PlayStation" (or Nintendo or even XBox) beats "Windows PC" any day.

The introduction of the Mini may mark the beginning of Apple hitting the sweet spot of compromise between purse and a more user-friendly kind of computing experience (what I would term Apple's "Appliance Model" in the Macintosh) - time will tell.

p.s. in a curious aside on the whole Apple-Intel business today, see here.


Apple Media Centre device coming today?

Apropos of the growing certainty that Apple will today announce a major new partnership with Intel at the WWDC - some suspect that this is tied to Apple's obvious long-term ambitions to beat Microsoft to the punch in creating the killer convergence platform.

Everyone knows the iPod and the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), and some people will have heard of the Motorola-Apple collaboration to produce the imminent, long-fabled iPhone. But what of video? In a little-heralded move, Apple have recently begun to sell music videos through the iTMS as well, suggesting that (along with the seeming inevitability of a video-enabled iPod being not far away, if not already here as the iPod Photo) Something is Clearly Up.

So, what's missing? Well, the MPAA may have learned some of the lessons (as they would see it) of the RIAA's too-blithely letting Apple establish the digital downloads music industry as their own little DRM fiefdom. More to the point, the Hollywood types will likely take a much tougher stance against people exercising fair use committing piracy. Intel's future chips, of course, are going to implement DRM lockdown. Is Intel Inside(tm) the final piece needed for the long-awaited Apple Home Media Center for your living-room?

Could it work? We already have two of the major pieces (iPod and iTunes) in place. That the iPod crushes the opposition is made clear when even Microsoft start touting (claimed) iPod compatibility as a 'feature' of the XBox 360, and Real spend most of their days trying to crack Apple's FairPlay DRM.

The Apple-Motorola iPhone (Motorola's upcoming RAZR) will surely extend this dominance of the public mindspace to the mobile market. A sitting-room media centre box to tie it all together - audio, video, Web, TV - well, that there's the Holy Grail (one conspicuously flubbed by Microsoft so far). Today's Apple-Intel announcement could be about this mythical iHome box, perhaps a big brother to the delightful Mac Mini.

In which case, I'll take two, please, Steve.

p.s. Meanwhile, in what I hope was meant as a joke, Jonathan Schwartz at Sun writes:

"So I'd like to personally invite you to adopt Solaris 10 as the underpinning of the next generation Mac. We both respect Unix, both respect innovation*, and both clearly see volume opportunities in extending choice to developers. We'd love to work together [...] Have a great keynote! You know where to reach us.


Jonathan, I think in Steve Jobs's case we can safely assume it'll be "don't call us, we'll call you..."

UPDATE: Oops, spoke too soon (via TUAW)


Hezbollah and Sinn Féin

From RTÉ, Hezbollah have (along with Amal) taken all the seats up for grabs in South Lebanon's part of the Lebanese general elections.

It remains to be seen in which direction both these pro-Syrian movements will evolve, now that their Damascan sponsors are gone. Continue as subversives? Devolve into gangsterism? Become run-of-the-mill political parties? The SLA collapsed once the IDF was gone, but they were to a very large extent a puppet of the Israelis (in a manner much like the Americans and the ARVN of decades earlier). RTÉ's anonymous reporter further writes:

"Many in the Shi'ite Muslim heartland see a vote for Hizbollah as a vote for the group to retain its arms as a defence against neighbouring Israel, which occupied the south for 22 years until its 2000 pullout."

I am not sure that this is entirely the case. Hezbollah have (as any UNIFIL vet will tell you) established a peerless network of charity and services among the Shi'ite community in South Lebanon, undoubtedly mostly from Iranian money. Absent the war as a lever to power within their own community, it is hard to escape the conclusion that (as with the Shinners in the ROI, at least away from the Border areas) it is their community work, not their armed revolutionary credentials, which cause their continued appeal.

This brings us to a useful insight into SF's electoral gains south of the Border. The likes of Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Mary Lou McDonald don't give off the "whiff of sulphur" so blithely ascribed to Sinn Féin's successes in the South: to paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the constituency work, stupid". Rather, like Hezbollah it is the exhaustive community work, well-funded and carried out by committed, disciplined activists.

Who could stop SF? Not the Progressive Democrats or the Greens or even poor Fine Gael. Their constituencies are the elites within the business, professional, legal and land-owning classes. They are not populists in the real sense, and arguably never truly were. Their electoral bases are not SF hunting grounds south of the Border.

That leaves Fianna Fáil and Labour. But Labour have become a latté-drinking, big-business friendly mirror of how British Labour was gutted (how many of their recent leaders could reasonably still be termed Socialists? how many could be said to really give a damn about blue-collar workers?) Fianna Fáil may still have the populist touch from their revolutionary beginnings, but the corruption which has bedevilled sections of the party from the late-60s onward has made a mockery of any remaining pretensions to Republican idealism.

If Sinn Féin are to be combatted on the ground, in the hearts and minds of the non-Irish Times readership of this State, then Labour and Fianna Fáil need to rediscover their ideals, the very things they were created to pursue. One place to start would be in a bold reaching across the Border to merge with and strengthen the floundering SDLP. Labour are hampered in taking such a step by the ideologies of their new Stickie masters, that "most useful" of parties to the British; will FF grasp the nettle, as De Valera and his fellow Republican Party founders might once have done?

Sunday, June 05, 2005 

McCreevey: EU needs more Sex to reconnect to voters

From the Sunday Business Post (link), Irish EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevey:

"McCreevy said that governing elites in Brussels and in member states must “reconnect with the thinking of the ordinary citizen'‘. “I am talking about the great majority of people for whom transatlantic dialogues, inter-institutional committees, gender institutes and the like hold little interest. They are people who just want to earn a decent living, be able to afford a few pints, go to a game of football and have a bit of sex."

Now that's a European project I (and most young Irish people) can heartily agree with!


The return of the phantom WMD!

John McGuirk at the "Freedom Institute" (among others elsewhere) perhaps gets just a little bit over-excited:

UN Inspectors: WMD removed from Iraq
The Associated Press reports:
UN satellite imagery experts have determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed from 109 sites in Iraq, UN weapons inspectors said in a report obtained Thursday.
So the UN itself thinks that there were at least 109 places in Iraq where Saddam Hussein could have had weapons of mass destruction, or had the ability to develop them.
And there I was, thinking that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had lied to me.

Now, I'll perhaps excuse John getting a misleading impression from the Irish Pennants post, but surely he could have read the original AP article for himself?

The actual AP goes on to say:
"U.N. inspectors have been blocked from returning to Iraq since the U.S.-led war in 2003 so they have been using satellite photos to see what happened to the sites that were subject to U.N. monitoring because their equipment had both civilian and military uses.
In the report to the U.N. Security Council, acting chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos said he's reached no conclusions about who removed the items or where they went. He said it could have been moved elsewhere in Iraq, sold as scrap, melted down or purchased.

He said the missing material can be used for legitimate purposes. "However, they can also be utilized for prohibited purposes if in a good state of repair.""

So, these were sites with dual-use facilities, which were being carefully monitored by the UN pre-invasion. Post-invasion, the UN inspectors (blocked from returning by Bush & Co.) now report that someone has looted those sites.

So, to recap: no WMD found after all (surprise, surprise), but potential materiél to make such weapons has now evaporated thanks to GWB and the incompetence of his administration. But, I guess that's just us in the Reality-Based Community being nit-pickers.
(Note: edited for clarity)


Apple to become Intel Inside(tm)?

Hell (once more) freezes over:

Following weeks of speculation, a new report on CNET suggests that will Apple use next week's World Wide Developers Conference to announce a transition to Intel-based Macs.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs will announce a phased transition to Intel-based microprocessors after what has been an increasingly rocky relationship with IBM.

According to the report, Apple plans to move lower-end computers such as the Mac Mini to Intel chips in mid-2006 and higher-end models such as the Power Mac in mid-2007.

Well, that's a bit of a surprise, no doubt about it. Reaction has ranged from incredulity to speculation (probably unrealistic) that Intel will produce PowerPC chips specifically for Apple.

I guess that the recent announcement that IBM can find the time to design CELLs for Sony and PowerPC's for both Microsoft and Nintendo at significantly higher clock-speeds than G5's put the final nail in the Apple-IBM relationship. 3GHz G5's were due last (2004) summer - we're still waiting, at 2.7GHz.

Consequences? If they _are_ going to x86, then Mac OS X itself will make the transition pretty easily, while the OS X applications will need to be re-compiled and optimised for the new architecture. Microsoft's response will bear watching, especially if the x86-compatible OS X isn't locked not to run on IBM clones.

Interesting times ahead: that's for sure.


Recognising fallen UN veterans

Richard Waghorne comments on the recent unveiling of a memorial by Minister O'Dea to Irish casualties of UN service, especially the following paragraph:

"The Irish military, though much restricted by public opinion and the insistence of our political elite on the conditions for deployment of the triple lock, does enjoy good standing in the world for the professionalism of its service, something that the UN is struggling to defend after the scandals of its units in the Congo. Funding for our armed forces is simply insufficient for the jobs we ask them to undertake, let alone those we should pursue but do not, as we have discussed in the past. But resourcing rows are for another day. Let's remember the men and women of our military, and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the Republic. "

Most of this is comprised of sentiments (which I share) on how the Irish Army has brought credit on this country abroad through faithful UN service, bringing protection to the people of South Lebanon and others. The Defence Forces were for a long time scandalously neglected, with the Air Corps and Naval Service suffering in particular, being ill-equipped even for the ATCP tasks given them by politicians. Happily, those times have now mostly ended. The DF are still not well-equipped with war-fighting equipment, but then they really don't need to be. Who believes that we will need to invade the North, or resist a British invasion?

But, on the rest of what Richard says...

The triple lock isn't something imposed by the political elites but rather a (popular) guarantee against badly thought-out, militaristic adventurism of the type exemplified by the Bush administration in Iraq. Our so-called 'neutrality' (in reality, deliberate isolationism) was a natural expression of our strengthening sovereignty from the British (ironically enough, Collins was proven right in his "freedom to achieve freedom" by De Valera, of all people).

The tasking of the Defence Forces abroad has been shifting somewhat in the past decade, with the mission to Bosnia under SFOR and others where the lines are beginning to blur. The Congo deployment in the 1960s, while a hard-fought peace-enforcement (as opposed to peace-keeping) mission was still unambiguously under UN control so can't really be compared to modern developments.

The proposed EU battle-groups to be set up will test the now-traditional limits further: the checks and balances on the deployment of these groups of course reflect the reality of the EU, with the larger countries able to railroad or stall based in many cases on the left-over, grubby interests of former colonial times. How long will national politicians, even in Fianna Fáil, hold the line of our neutrality? We were bought out by the EC a long time ago.

And, on a final note, how will national sentiment adjust to our (likely) ending up in a British battle-group? With Irish troops serving under a British general, eventually even the sight of British troops (other than the Gurkhas who've visited here in recent times) back on sovereign Irish soil? We know that the usual suspects in Fine Gael, the Sunday Independent and elsewhere will rub their hands with glee at such a development, but how about the ordinary Irish citizenry? I can't imagine English squaddies going down well while on the tear in a town like Kildare, guests of the Irish Government.

The contortions of rhetoric needed to cover for this will be interesting: perhaps Tony Blair can be prevailed on for another UK national apology to ease the way...


The Free Stater Manifesto

"To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils and to assert the independence of my country- these were my objectives. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter - these were my means."

- Theobald Wolfe Tone

"Ireland, as distinct from her people, is nothing to me; and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for "Ireland," and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and the suffering, shame and degradation wrought upon the people of Ireland—yea, wrought by Irishmen upon Irish men and women, without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland."

- James Connolly

“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”

- The 1916 Proclamation

Welcome to the Free Stater, an Irish blog intended to provide some common-sense commentary on matters which catch my eye, particularly as they relate to Ireland.

Who am I? An Irish person in his twenties, with a third-level education and in gainful employment, living and working in Dublin. I am Republican without ever having been a Provisional Sinn Féin supporter; socialist-leaning without being dogmatic; anti-Bush without being anti-American.

Having been familiar with the US blog 'scene' for some years now, I recently turned my attention to the Irish version of same. It appears to me that the Irish blogosphere could do with a little more representative range of voices, and especially more Irish ones.

This is my humble little effort in putting my money where my mouth is, instead of haunting comments sections. Good ideas and insights are welcome here: blind partisanship or ideology isn't. So please, enjoy and contribute!

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)


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