Category Archives: Irish Times

How socially-prejudiced is that?

Yesterday our local political discourse was enhanced by an otherwise-unremarkable Tory back-bencher [*]

A Conservative MP has been suspended from the party after it emerged she used a racist expression during a public discussion about Brexit.

Anne Marie Morris, the MP for Newton Abbot, used the phrase at an event in London to describe the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

She told the BBC: “The comment was totally unintentional. I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.”

The Conservative Party later confirmed she had had the whip withdrawn.

Announcing the suspension, Theresa May said she was “shocked” by the “completely unacceptable” language.

“I immediately asked the chief whip to suspend the party whip,” she said in a statement.

I was much taken by Stephen Bush (of the New Statesman) instantly producing a 26-point check-list, notably this bit:

10. How on earth do you become an MP while being so stupid as to use the N-word at a public event?
11. I mean, surely, even if you are an honest-to-God, white sheet-wearing KKK racist, your basic self-preservation instinct kicks in and goes “Hmm. Wait a second. I wonder if this might possibly backfire?”
12. I mean, come on, aren’t these the same people who go on about political correctness gone mad?
13. Anne Marie Morris presumably had to defeat at least one other person to be selected as the Conservative candidate.
14.Imagine how rubbish you must be to lose to someone who uses the word “n****r” at a meeting in 2017.
15. Anne Marie Morris is 60.

Some of the follow-ups have come close to that. There was Paul Waugh’s Waugh Zone for HuffPo, which deserves repetition:

Given the damage done, it’s hard to see how Morris can regain the Tory whip, no matter what the ‘investigation’ by Tory campaigns HQ concludes. Which raises the issue of whether she will be booted out for good, and whether she would quit to trigger a by-election. Her majority in her west country seat is 17,000.  But as this year has taught everyone, electoral norms can be upended.

Morris had already been forced to distance herself from her electoral agent and partner Roger Kendrick last month, after he claimed “that the crisis in education was due entirely to non-British born immigrants and their high birth rates’.” Kemi Badenoch, the Tory MP for Saffron Walden, told the Telegraph she spoke to the Chief Whip “to express my dismay, and I am pleased that decisive action has been taken”. Maidstone MP Helen Grant said she was “so ashamed” that a fellow Tory could use the phrase without knowing its history (and it’s an awful history) or impact.

[*] Lest we forget, Matt Chorley, for The Times Red Box categorised the lady:

Anne Marie Morris – who until this point was best known in the Commons for waving a sling around while wearing Deirdre Barlow’s glasses – used the n-word yesterday at a public meeting.

All of which stirred the Redfellow Hippocampus to two thoughts:

1. How far we have come in my lifetime.

I became politically active in the 1960s — by which I mean I discarded the political attitudes I inherited, and adopted an alternative set. Whether that also means I “started to think for myself” is more debatable.

What did shock was what happened in the 1964 General Election for the Smethwick constituency. It wasn’t that the Tory — against the national swing — took the previously Labour seat. It was how it was achieved. There have been any number of re-drafts of that bit of unpleasantness. At the time it was generally accepted that

  • there was effectively a colour-bar being operated for social housing in the borough, in pubs, youth clubs and social centres;
  • that, officially or not, the Tory campaign was sustained by propaganda such as the leaflet (right) — note that it comes without the “imprint” required by electoral law;
  • that Harold Wilson was entirely justified in declaring the elected Tory a parliamentary leper. Many Tories were deeply uncomfortable about the elected MP as a fellow: even Enoch Powell (whose “rivers of blood” speech came two years later) refused to campaign with him.
  • that the local Trade Union branches and whatever were not beyond reproach.

In our innocence, we — and I include myself explicitly — believed such horrors had gone away. As if …

2. Just how racist is our language?

Put the woodpile (above) aside.

We could quibble about “nitty-gritty” (and many have done). Indeed, almost any use of “black” and “white” could be construed as a racist offence, if one was so determined.

And then there is (sharp intake of breath) “calling a spade a spade”. However that one dates from 1542, and Nicholas Udall translating Erasmus Apophthegmes ii. f. 167:

Philippus aunswered, yt the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade.

Erasmus, in turn, was translating Plutarch’s Greek into Latin, and hesitated over a literal rendering of to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough, which some ascribe to Aristophanes. His hesitation might plausibly because “fig”, as the Oxford English Dictionary has as the second meaning:

Obs.
A contemptuous gesture which consisted in thrusting the thumb between two of the closed fingers or into the mouth. Also, fig of Spain, and to give (a person) the fig.

Which Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Pistol (Henry V, Act III, scene vi):

Pistol: Die and be damn’d! and figo for thy friendship!
Fluellen: It is well.
Pistol: The fig of Spain!
Exit

Preferring the epicene, Udall goes for the horticultural reference. The racial slur dates only from the 1920s, and apparently from New York, and specifically Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem (1927).

And one more to finish

What about “beyond the Pale”?

Note the capital “P’. Any delineated space could be a “pale”. In Ireland it had a specific connotation:

The area of Ireland under English jurisdiction (varying in extent at different times between the late 12th and 16th centuries, but including parts of modern Dublin, Louth, Meath, and Kildare).

By implication, anything “beyond the Pale” would be among the wild Irish. As one who has frequently been called a “West Brit”, I know we have our archipelagic variant of Crow Jim.  Now consider all those places with a district “Irishtown” or even “Irish Street”. Without exception, they will be less favoured, and more down-market. In medieval Dublin, Irishtown was the bit outside the city walls, down to the slob-lands of the River Dodder. Only last week, the Irish Times had this:

A plague of flies of “biblical proportions” has descended upon the Dublin 4 suburbs of Sandymount, Ringsend and Irishtown, according to residents and local businesspeople.

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys said he had received “hundreds” of complaints from locals in recent days over the fly infestation, which has forced people to keep their windows shut and resulted in the closure of some businesses.

Tony “Deke” McDonald, who runs Deke’s Diner at the Sean Moore Road roundabout in Ringsend, said the infestation was the worst he had ever seen.

“It started around four or five days ago with a swarm of biblical proportions. People would be used to flies in the summer, but I’ve been running the diner 17 years next week, and I’m 30 odd years in the area, and I’ve never seen the like of it. There [were] hundreds of them.”

It didn’t take more than moments for Dublin wit to crack in, saying Ringsend and Irishtown deserved all they got, for social-climbing and pretension to post-code D4.

Then there’s Louis MacNeice describing:

…. Smoky Carrick in County Antrim
Where the bottle-neck harbour collects the mud which jams

The little boats beneath the Norman castle,
   The pier shining with lumps of crystal salt;
The Scots Quarter was a line of residential houses
   But the Irish Quarter was a slum for the blind and halt. […]

I was the rector’s son, born to the anglican order,
   Banned for ever from the candles of the Irish poor;
The Chichesters knelt in marble at the end of a transept
   With ruffs about their necks, their portion sure.

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Filed under Belfast, bigotry, Britain, Conservative family values, culture, Dublin., Ireland, Irish Times, New Statesman, Northern Ireland, Paul Waugh, politics, prejudice, Quotations, Racists, Tories., underclass

My post-box is green

I’m trying to manipulate Famous Seamus‘s second most-famous quote:

Be advised my passport’s green.
No glass of ours was ever raised. to toast the Queen.

The prompt was the piece Leo Benedictus did for The Guardian, over the weekend:

Last week, Hong Kong said goodbye to one of the last vestiges of imperialism by covering up the royal insignia on its green post boxes. But is there ever a point when this kind of history is worth preserving?

Perhaps you know that things are healing when, after centuries of violent tyranny and pillage, the British empire comes down to arguing over postboxes. In Hong Kong, where 59 of the old colonial postboxes remain, the postal service has announced that it plans to cover the royal insignias with a metal plaque – in order to avoid “confusion”. (The boxes have already been painted green and had the Hong Kong Post’s logo added to them, so you would have to be very confused indeed not to realise what they’re for.) Hong Kong postbox fanciers say that the insignias are “part of Hong Kong’s heritage and daily life”, and plan to protest on Saturday.

So are they right? At what point does a bitter colonial history stop needing to be expunged and become, well, just history, that needs actual preservation? Look around the world and you’ll find few clear answers.

VR boxThat is illustrated nowhere better than by standing on the bridge at Belleek. You can see where the tarmac subtly changes colour and texture between the jurisdiction of the County Fermanagh and that of the County Donegal. Behind is the 30 mph sign, ahead is one for 80 km/hr.

Leave the A47, and head down the N5 for Ballyshannon, and it’s not far before you spot one of the relics of imperialism: a post-box with Queen Victoria’s monogram and crown, painted green. There’s even a precious few of the classic Penfolds around (one was — perhaps still is — in Clonakilty, county Cork).

I once bought a Donegal tweed hat in Belleek — it was indeed my “End of Empire hat” (which I eventually lost in the Grand Hotel, Scarborough). I was invited to do the transaction in euros. It’s called “peaceful co-existence”: something that the two administrations, the two cultures of the island of Ireland, especially the Unionists of the North, are still stretching to achieve. It’s a characteristic in much of Andy Pollack’s writings, not least the piece he had on his blog-site in AugustThe Republic is now a warm place for Protestants, which has finally made it to the print-copy of the Irish Times.

When David Cameron announced:

“The general election will be held on May 7 and until that day I will be going to all four corners of all four nations of our United Kingdom with one message — together we are turning the country around”,

I was sure that would no more likely embrace Belleek than Muckle Flugga. I was not disappointed.

But a pity: had he gone, he might have learned something.

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Filed under Ireland, Irish politics, Irish Times, Northern Ireland, travel

V for victory for a fine journalist

The first rough draft of history

That journalist’s credo has more than a bit of history in itself: for the truly dedicated, it is detailed by wikiquote. My favourite is by George Helgesen Fitch (another decent lefty), and from 1914, in the Lincoln [Nebraska] Daily Star:

A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.

He could be describing the old Irish Times newsroom, up the stairs, just off D’Olier Street, and convenient for the Palace Bar in Fleet Street.

Which brings me to 8th May 1945:

IT 8 May1945

Dramatis personae

Every good story needs an antagonist, against whom the protagonist contends. I’m going to make R.M. “Bertie” Smyllie, for twenty years the editor of the Irish Times, my protagonist hero here. So for the hissable villain of the piece I need a conflation of Joseph Walshe (de Valera’s reliable go-fer at External Affairs), Thomas Coyne (a big-wig in the Department of Justice, licensed to implement wartime censorship) and Michael Knightly (chief press censor).

Walshe was a man on a mission — not just to serve assiduously his political master — to elevate Ireland as the Christian state that would take a very real part in bringing about a cessation of hostilities. The idea was to mobilise the other small European states, and the Vatican in particular. Good stuff, Joe! (provided we overlook that meant cuddling up to Pius XII Pacelli, Salazar’s Portugal and even Franco’s Spain).

Of course, Ireland had a head-start in censorship: The Irish Press was the Fianna Fáil party organ (proprietor: de Valera and family); Radio Éireann was a state monopoly; 1,700 books had been banned in the previous decade; films and newsreels were cut (or totally banned), seemingly at whim; in short order, 200 censors (all hand-culled) were working in Exchequer Street to scrutinise personal mail. Walshe could use all this, and wanted more, to promote his neutralism:

Public opinion must be built up on a neutral basis, a neutral-mindedness must be created. A list of the states which are neutral should be frequently and prominently displayed in the Press. The advantages of being neutral should be stressed. The losses and sufferings of all kinds, including famine and poverty, which come upon countries at was should be expressed.

Walshe’s remit was wide, but he demanded more. His particular bête noire was The Irish Times, which featured strongly in his report to de Valera:

The greatest danger, in my opinion, to our neutrality, and conceivably to our continued existence as a State, is the subtle propaganda of an ascendance clique which will undoubtedly use this occasion to promote their dearest wish which is to bring the British back. When a certain paper says, for instance, that the irishmen who joined the British Army in 1914 were the real Irish patriots and the cream of our people, it is essentially a principle completely opposed to the continued existence of an Irish State. Such views should be ruthlessly suppressed.

[Both Walshe quotes are taken from Brian Girvin, The Emergency, pages 85-6]

Our protagonist

“Bertie” Smyllie had evolved the Irish Times from being the mouthpiece of imperial Dublin Castle into a true, small-l liberal paper of record (to the angst of many Colonel O’Blimps), and one with an international perspective unique in Irish journalism. That had to stop, and Michael Knightly was the man for the task.

Smyllie and Knightly waged a day-by-day, hand-to-hand from September 1939 to the following January. Only then, under threat of infinite suspension, did Smyllie concede. After that all matter had to be pre-submitted to Knightly’s office. Apart from the crackles and pops of BBC transmissions, Ireland had become a one-voice media operation. Already, when the Farmers Federation went on a dairy-products strike, it was kept out of the papers for three days (Dubliners knew the cause: that came down the supply chain very effectively) — and the Offences against the State Act was invoked.

Beware the fury of a patient man, wrote John Dryden. Smyllie’s revenge came at D’Olier Street, late Monday evening, 7th May, 1945. Peter Murtagh tells it like this:

… a framed original of Smyllie’s famous VE Day front page from May 8th, 1945. At the time, the newspaper was subject to government censorship, the blue pencil scoring out any hint of partisanship. But with the censor gone home for the night, Smyllie tore up the approved front page and remade one that included seven small photographs – showing King George, President Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, General Eisenhower, and Field Marshals Alexander and Montgomery – arranged in a giant V (for victory) shape across the page.

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Filed under History, Ireland, Irish Times, World War 2

The “not-so-good and not-so-great” revisited

Well, to be honest, I’ve lost count on this irregular series. Yet, today I need a peg to hang a hat on:

IT_Leonard

I see, on the shelf behind me, three of Anne Leonard’s oeuvres, in grander company than they deserve:

IMG_0244

In either incarnation, as myself or as pseudonym, I do not appear in any. My circle at TCD in the early 1960s was as active, as interesting, as complex, as talented (if not more so) as that exclusive world of ex-pat, West Brit jeunesse dorée she celebrates. Where she, and her set, mentally resided (mainly in Kensington and the English Home Counties, with the odd baronial pad), we were merely the spear-carriers, the walk-on parts, who flitted across the screen to add texture.

No, Ms Leonard, MBE; no, Colin Smythe (writing that Irish Times puff-piece), yours is not the Trinity I remember:

Trinity was more like an Oxbridge college than a university: you could know “everyone”. And this is what Anne Leonard has shown us in her three volumes, the most recent, Portrait of an Era, a superb visual record of what Trinity was like in the 1960s, with essays and photos by students of students, of scholars, of staff, of President de Valera, of events, cars, fashion, Players, Trinity Week, Dublin pubs, sport, porters in their archaic uniforms, a time when all male students dressed in jacket and tie, and women only wore dresses, men living in college having to attend Commons in their black gowns every weeknight, and when roll calls preceded each lecture and all students had to attend six sevenths of those given in each seven-week term.

The reason for that is my Trinity was definitively in Dublin, in Ireland, and not semi-adjacent to the Kings’s Road. We were not wholly taken by cars, fashion, Players, Trinity Week. Actually, one year we had our own anti-Ball party, which (as I recall) involved drinking bottled beer in the Dublin mountains and watching the sun-rise over Dun Laoghaire. I admit I had a tie, and wore it occasionally — though my “jacket” may have been a donkey-jacket.

Far more TCD students at that time were Irish and Northern Irish than Ms Leonard, MBE, cares to recognise. Our concerns and interests were not exclusively English.

Most of us could not afford the rents of rooms in College: mine was a cold-water flat in a Ballsbridge basement (sanitary arrangements irregular, but hat-tip to the Edwardian bath-house off Botany Bay). We used bars which were not the Bailey or the International: mine was the corner bar of O’Neill’s in Suffolk Street. We ate at joints like the Universal Chinese restaurant in Wicklow Street, when we could afford to — and bread-and-processed cheese when we couldn’t. We travelled by Dublin Corporation bus. We swilled endless quantities of Maxwell House instant coffee. We argued incessantly about things that mattered: Cuba, Irish membership of the EEC, CND, the Black North under the Brookelborough mal-administration.

While Ms Leonard, MBE, and her associates and supporting Players, everyone der biedere Mann, reckoned Max Frisch and The Fire Raisers were the last word on world politics, the TCD Fabians were involved in the Universities Branch of the (Irish) Labour Party, and even reaching out to the assorted odd-balls of Queen’s Labour Group.

Ms Leonard, MBE, writes about her little self-anointed élite: they were, and as these books show, more effete.

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Filed under Dublin., History, Irish Labour, Irish politics, Irish Times, Trinity College Dublin

The homosexual flag came out of the closet…

Ever since Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board GCE English Language A made us explain “what is wrong in the following sentences?”,  I’m a fan of weird misplaced modifiers.

  • There’s a man at the door with a wooden leg called Phil. [What’s his other leg called?]
  • The antique dealer put her large chest at the front of the shop.
  • The statue’s erection completed the town’s square. [Those two guaranteed to raise a laugh in any classroom.]

Not to mention the “half-Shropshire chicken” on a local pub’s lunch menu. [What’s the other half of its ancestry?]

An all-time favourite, from an actual examination script:

  • Henry VIII wanted a divorce because his wife wouldn’t give him a son. So he asked the Pope, who wouldn’t give him one either.

But this one had me totally pole-axed, for more reasons than one:

Gay flag

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Filed under Irish Times, politics.ie, prejudice, schools

The Europa thing

My starter for ten:

In the 1975 European Referendum campaign I started out as a convinced anti. I had read the arguments by the Labour opponents and found them solid. I spoke from platforms on that basis. As the date of the poll, 5th June, came closer, so my convictions weakened to the point when — for the first and only time in my enfranchised adult life — I couldn’t bring myself even to visit the polling station. Since when I have accepted that — at least for those of us who live and work in the southern UK — the European link goes with the climate. London, after all, as close to Brussels as it is to this fine city of (old) York). And now less than a couple of hours journey from the Euston Road.

Yesterday, with morning coffee and sponge cake …

It was grey and wet, and I spent over an hour watching passing trade from the windows of Belfast’s Europa Hotel. In that time I dissected the Guardian, the Times and the Irish Times. Two opinion pieces stood out:

and

Both attempted to put their topic in an historical context — Ridley, who was essentially plucking books from his guilt-pile, opened with:

In almost every nation, if you go back far enough, government began as a group of thugs who, as Pope Gregory VII put it in 1081, “raised themselves up above their fellows by pride, plunder, treachery, murder — in short by every kind of crime”.

Was Canute, or William the Conqueror, or Oliver Cromwell really much different from the Islamic State? They got to the top by violence and then violently dealt with anybody who rebelled. The American writer Albert Jay Nock in 1939 observed: “The idea that the state originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation — that is to say, in crime . . . No state known to history originated in any other manner, or for any other purpose.”

Heinrich_4_gBy the way, that quotation (which may be via R.W.Dyson) from Pope Gregory comes from a letter to Bishop Hermann of Metz, in March 1081, at the time when the Papacy was “having issues” over lay investiture with Heinrich IV — which may amount to control of the “single market” of its day.

Government as “violent gangs”?

Ridley’s sub-heading is pertinent:

The threat of force is implicit in law and order but a modern state should recoil at the armour on show in Missouri.

Where that leads to is the edge of terror:

The Republican senator Rand Paul commented in Time magazine that the federal government had incentivised the militarisation of local police, funding municipal governments to “build what are essentially small armies”. Evan Bernick, of the Heritage Foundation, warned last year that “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armoured vehicles, guns, armour, aircraft”. The Pentagon actually donates military equipment to the police, including tanks.

We have not yet gone so far in this country. Ofsted and the Met Office — as far as I know — do not yet arm their inspectors and forecasters. But the days when the state’s monopoly on violence was merely hinted at by a policeman’s uniform are long gone. You see police with sub-machineguns everywhere, and the Met is about to purchase water cannon to keep us in order. I hope that in combating violent gangs, our governments do not themselves turn back into violent gangs.

“A swift and minor change”

Ah, yes! Boris Johnson’s illegal (because Theresa May — bless her cotton socks and leopard kitten-heels — has made clear their use is not “authorised”) water-cannon. Appropriate that Ridley drops that into a Monday when Boris Johnson was arguing for English law to adopt presumption of guilt:

At present the police are finding it very difficult to stop people from simply flying out via Germany, crossing the border, doing their ghastly jihadi tourism, and coming back. The police can and do interview the returnees, but it is hard to press charges without evidence. The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.

A different perspective

Yet it is Kennedy’s account of things European that grabbed me.

His thesis depends from the 1957 Treaty of Rome, in which the original six nations:

Determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe

He emphasises that was explicitly accepted by Britain:

not just since 1973, but effectively since Macmillan’s Conservative government first applied for membership in 1961.

Moreover:

Some argue the “ever closer union” was merely a vague aspiration, committing the member states to nothing more than increased co-operation. But there was little vague about the objectives set at the Paris summit of October 1972 by the six founding members and the three new members – the UK, Ireland and Denmark.

All nine endorsed a transition from a common market to full economic and monetary union by the end of 1980, including, possibly, a single currency. The heads of government also committed to transforming, before the end of 1980, “the whole complex of the relations of member states into a European Union”.

Even the Iron Lady, despite her later apostasy, accepted the notion:

Global economic crises and differences among the member states meant the 1980 deadline was missed, but it was replaced in the mid-1980s by the 1992 deadline for the completion of the single (or internal) market, based on a detailed schedule of European legislation to guarantee free movement of goods, services, capital and people within the EU – a project warmly endorsed by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. [My emphasis]

“It’s for real.”

Allow me to go beyond Kennedy’s account, to recall just how Thatcher — as late as 1988 — gushed with enthusiasm for the Single Market:

We must get this right. Too often in the past Britain has missed opportunities.

How we meet the challenge of the Single Market will be a major factor, possibly the major factor, in our competitive position in European and world markets into the twenty-first century. Getting it right needs a partnership between government and business.

The task of government is two-fold: — to negotiate in Brussels so as to get the possible results for Britain; —and then to make you, the business community, aware of the opportunities, so that you can make the most of them.

It’s your job, the job of business, to gear yourselves up to take the opportunities which a single market of nearly 320 million people will offer.

Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people.

Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it.

It’s not a dream. It’s not a vision. It’s not some bureaucrat’s plan. It’s for real. And it’s only five years away.

Quite what she meant by Action to get rid of the barriers if not a pragmatic ever closer union defeats me.

Yet this is what the contemporary, revanchist Tories want to reverse. And, now, Cameron — who has been playing footsie for so long — finally concedes to his frothing Eurosceptics:

I do not oppose further integration within the eurozone: I think it is inevitable. Eurozone members must make those decisions. But I know the British people want no part of it, want to avoid deeper integration, and want our country properly protected from the impacts on the single market of any further integration that the eurozone undertakes.

This is not the speech of a “thinker”: it is subjective (note the proliferation of first-person singulars here, as in all Cameron speeches) and visceral. But it is not visceral conviction: it is the gut-wrenching fear of being outflanked by the UKIPpers and eurosceptics of his own party. And, as Kennedy suggests, it is dangerous nonsense:

… is the UK debate … a domestic squabble fuelled by fear of Ukip and the reluctance of the major parties to challenge Euroscepticism? Is it a dangerous bluff to frighten EU partners into concessions? If so, it could be a serious miscalculation.

“Miscalculation”?

This could be Cameron’s political epitaph.

  • After five years of spatchcocked coalition,
  • with austerity,
  • over the Scottish referendum,
  • with growing social division exacerbated by gross mishandling of welfare,
  • over indecisive foreign policy,
  • with repressive tendencies and cleavages growing in his own party, and now
  • with Europe —

“The great miscalculator”.

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Filed under Britain, broken society, civil rights, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., crime, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Europe, Guardian, History, Ireland, Irish Times, Northern Ireland, politics, Theresa May, Times, Tories.

Lost, but never forgotten

Catching der Geist seiner Zeit (that’s yer proper Georg Hegel, that is — we give full value here at Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service), the BBC website has a quick potted history of commercial aircraft downed by “enemy action”.

6795151803_431d50a227_z

In addition to the on-going crisis over MH17, the piece cites just five other examples since 1954.

May I suggest a sixth?

Aer Lingus Viscount EI-AOM, St Phelim, which crashed into the sea off the Tuskar Rock, on 24th March 1968. All 61 on board — 57 passengers and four crew — were killed.

The official report concluded:

There is not enough evidence available on which to reach a conclusion of reasonable probability as to the initial cause of this accident. 
The probable cause of the final impact with the sea was impairment of the controllability of the aircraft in the fore and aft (pitching) plane.

For thirty-odd years there was speculation that the missile research base at Aberporth was just too conveniently nearby, and a rogue missile may have been involved — not necessarily as a direct hit, but close enough to upset control of the Viscount.

Oddly enough, as late as 1999 the Aberporth records were recovered, to show (what a surprise!) no test firings that day. We should not speculate on how some British government records may be helpfully unearthed, while others — less convenient — remain missing.

Then in 2007 came this:

A retired British air force flying instructor claims that the 1968 Tuskar Rock Aer Lingus Viscount plane crash was caused by a collision with a French-built military aircraft which was training with the Air Corps.

The aircraft struck each other accidentally while the Fouga Magister trainer was responding to a request to check the Viscount’s undercarriage, RAF Squadron Leader Eric Evers maintains.

All 61 people, including the four crew, on board the Aer Lingus Viscount Cork-London Heathrow flight died in the subsequent crash off Tuskar Rock, but the two pilots in the trainer survived by ejecting and parachuting to safety, he claims. Both the French and Irish authorities colluded in a subsequent cover-up, he says, and the Fouga Magister wreckage may still be on the seabed off Co Wexford.

“Curiouser and curiouser” cried Alice, though here re-enacted by Lorna Siggins of The Irish Times. For, as you may or may not see:

A Defence Forces spokesman described the claims as “spurious” and said there was no evidence that an Air Corps plane was in the vicinity at the time.

The spokesman said that Fouga Magisters did not “come into service” with the Air Corps until 1976. He could not comment on why a Fouga Magister was listed as one of the Air Corps aircraft in service in 1968, as stated in appendix 5.2.g of the 2002 report.

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