Category Archives: Sinn Fein

Not seen, but getting heard

 has bragging rights to open threads on Slugger O’Toole, and kicked off a good one:

Ruth Taillon chaired a panel with Dawn Purvis, Martina Devlin and Bernadette McAliskey for a session entitled And where were the women when history was made? at the John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh.

Note the names already in the frame there.

So I had to have my two cents’ worth, and here for the record it comes:

For a few examples from Easter Week:

  • Mollie Adrian, on her bicycle, shuttled orders and reports between Pearse in the GPO and the Fingal Battalion, so that Thomas Ashe would get the credit.
  • Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh was in command of the Cumann na mBan at Jacob’s factory, from where she had an excellent view of the pounding the GPO was getting.
  • The Cumann na mBan had to be ordered out of the GPO — it took Seán McDermott backing up Pearse before they would agree — late on the Friday morning of Easter week. The first shell arrived soon after their departure.
  • At the Department of Agriculture farm at Athenry, Mellows had about 500 men armed with a total of 35 rifles and 350 shotguns. The women of the Cumann had the local bullocks slaughtered, and made the stew to feed them all — which was about the most positive aspect of Mellows’ “campaign`”.
  • The Kilkenny Cumann were (later) more than tart in their comments about how the menfolk sat around debating, but not actually getting stuck in.
  • Marie Perolz of Inghinidhe na Éireann, on her motor-bike, all the way from Dublin to the brigade in Cork, brought MacCurtain and MacSwiney the orders for the Rising (how the other eight orders got through, I’m not sure).
  • Rose McManners of the Inghinidhe was in the Jameson distillery to observe how clueless MacDonagh was when it came to leadership. When the garrison of 44 men at the South Dublin Union surrendered, and dumped arms, Rose and the other twenty Cumann picked up the weapons and brazenly carted them into the Richmond Street barracks. They got away with it, because the British Army had no women searchers to hand.
  • Kathleen Lynn took command at City Hall after Seán Connolly was killed, and negotiated the surrender of the ICA garrison.
  • Elizabeth O’Farrell, nurse and midwife, of the Cumann na mBan, under fire took the white flag from the GPO to Moore Street, to open the surrender negotiations.

Then, of course, as Kathleen Clarke never stopped complaining, the women of 1916 were largely elided from the record. It’s not they weren’t there, but as Jessica Rabiit said, “I’m just drawn that way”.


As I was posting that, it came to my mind that once — around 1960 — I shook hands with Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh.

She was

  • a Sinn Féin TD in the Second Dáil (and spoke against the Treaty in the Great Debate),
  • was on the receiving end of attention (first from the British, then from the Free Staters),
  • was a Fianna Fáil TD for Mid Dublin in the Fifth Dáil, then in the Seanad,
  • then on Dublin Corporation — including being the first woman to be Lord Mayor.
  • To her credit, she was one of the women who despaired of de Valera after the 1937 Constitution re-defined the role of women, and then continued her shift to the left (or, rather, maintained her stand as Fianna Fáil became corporatist and shifted to the right).
  • So, in 1948 she was a candidate for Clann na Poblachta.

By the time I met her, she was definitely out in the leftist fringes. A Great Lady.



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Odd man out

Unlike every pollster, snake-oil salesman, journalist, bean-counter and Uncle Tom Cobbley, I haven’t a clue what transpires after Thursday’s General Election.

I somehow suspect Sinn Féin will cling on in West Belfast, Labour in Liverpool, Walton, and the Tories in Richmond, Yorkshire. I like to think North Down kept Lady Sylvia as their elected Member. Beyond that, all is speculative.

What I do know is that stuff like this is wind-and-piss:


There are two precedents here.

The first was 1945.

The result then came through during the Potsdam Conference. Attlee, as the new Prime Minister, and his equally-new Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin (not, as generally expected, Hugh Dalton — and there are several stories in that), flew into Berlin prontissimo. Only a handful of senior Cabinet posts had been filled; and Attlee instructed the pro-tem Tory ministers, occupying the lesser posts (including some of Cabinet rank) to stay put, and carry on. It comes as a small shock to find that, as the War in Europe wound down, as the atomic age began, as hostilities continued in the Far East, the Commons did not meet between 15th June and 1st August, 1945.

The British Civil Service, at its best, ensured continuity.

Then, the most recent, 2010

By the dawn of 7th May, 2010, we all knew the Labour Government of Gordon Brown looked unlikely to survive. The BBC finally wrung its withers and declared, at breakfast time, we had a hung parliament.

Then the fun began.

The Cabinet Secretary became the ring-master, and in effect ordered Gordon Brown to stay put. Brown did so until the evening of 11th May, formally went to the Palace, tendered his resignation, and advised the Monarch to send for David Cameron.

That weekend there was a quite-extraordinary, and duplicitous campaign against Brown by the Tory press. Th Cabinet Office had briefed all and sundry on the state-of-play, and why it was a constitutional obligation for Brown to rest in his place. That didn’t quell the shrieks that Brown was a “squatter in Number 10”:


 Can’t Ya Lova Plurabumma


A way a lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to

another arm of Murdoch’s grasping media- octopus, and today’s Times first leader:

Occupy Downing Street

If Ed Miliband tries to oust David Cameron from No 10 with SNP supportthe public will cry foul. The prime minister is right to warn he will stay put

David Cameron is defying Ed Miliband to book removal vans. That is the logistical significance of Conservative signals at the weekend that Mr Cameron plans to stay in No 10 even if he has no overall majority. The political significance is that he is staking an advance claim on legitimacy, because that is what the post-election battle will be about.

And the only response is any thinking Gofer’s:

‘Up to a point, Lord Copper”

The point being when the parliamentary arithmetic is >323, Cameron (or Ed Miliband) has lost it. However, any party leader able to mobilise those 323 votes is legitimate. But until then. over a long-drawn out political argy-bargy, whether the Tory Press like it or not, public opinion wouldn’t wear it. If Cameron tries to sit it out, all the way to a defeat over a Queen’s Speech at the end of the month, he will discover the painful truth:

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The Genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.

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A Sticky business

150px-Workers_Party_of_Ireland_logoPaul Goodman, Head Lar of the ConHome web-site, has this:

In today’s Sun (£), Robert Halfon publishes his own prospectus, urging that the Tories rename themselves the Workers’ Party, offer free membership to trade unionists, value public sector workers, cut taxes for lower earners, and so on.

For the record, some believe The Sun is a newspaper.

Robert Halfon is the MP for Harlow, which is a natural “swing” seat. His majority is less than 5,000. He puts himself about quite a bit. There may be a connection between those previous three sentences.

Exeter University, presumably on the basis of some intellectual evidence, awarded Halfon a B.A. in Politics and a M.A. in Russian and East European politics.

Meanwhile …

Back in  1982 the “Sticky” wing of Sinn Féin adopted the name, so Páirtí na nOibrithe has a lien on the name “Workers Party”. Clearly nobody pointed this salient detail out to Halfon, or his political studies did not extend to the island next-door. This is not irrelevant: though the apostrophe seems to come-and-go from one occasion to the next, John Lowry and others operate under the name within the UK jurisdiction.

Using the name might be deemed “passing off“:

… a common law tort which can be used to enforce unregistered trademark rights. The tort of passing off protects the goodwill of a trader from a misrepresentation.

The law of passing off prevents one trader from misrepresenting goods or services as being the goods and services of another, and also prevents a trader from holding out his or her goods or services as having some association or connection with another when this is not true.

Does this qualify as further evidence of the “Stupid Party”?

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Filed under Irish politics, Murdoch, Northern Ireland, Northern Irish politics, Sinn Fein, Times, Tories.

Trigger hacked-off: help from on high at hand?

“Trigger” Mulcaire may have scored Wimbledon’s first, ever, but more recently it’s been all own goals.

Let us then celebrate that the Supreme Court (it had to go that far!) has told him to cough on who was his News International puppet master.

Mulcaire received as much as £850,000 from the News of the Screws for his dutiful services, hacking upwards of 5,795 people (as of the November 2011 count). We may safely assume it wasn’t out of petty cash. The obvious name in the frame is Greg Miskiw, the News of the Screws Assistant Editor, That’s assistant to Andy Coulson. Now — conveniently  — Miskiw is a resident of Palm Beach, Florida.

A further reasonably assumption is this went all the way to the top, even beyond Miskiw, particularly because Max Clifford waived his claim for compensation after he met with Rebekah Brooks (but before Mulcaire’s conviction) and agreed a fee of a cool million for Clifford’s slimy future services.

The Orange card

Miskiw may have a 28-pounder shell, primed and ready, in his ammunition locker, because nobody, but nobody will be too keen on developing the Northern Irish dimension. Once again we are back to Stakeknife.

Miskiw was buddies with Alex Marunchuk, once the Screws crime reporter, then Irish editor. Marunchuk was a partner with Jonathan Rees in Pure Energy. Miskiw and Rees were partners in Abbeycover, which itself was an adjust of Southern Investigations, which takes us to ex-copper and child-pornographer Sid Fillery. The Rees-Marunchuk link takes us into trojan emails and computer hacking (and so to the police Operation Tuleta). Then there’s Operation Kalmyk, which is focused on Rees hacking Ian Hurst (a.k.a. Martin Ingram) — which is the Stakeknife connection.

As Malcolm was noting a year back, by that stage we are into the viscera of the beast, the notorious Force Research Unit, at Thiepval Barracks, in Lisburn.


No, no, a thousand times no. This is not paranoia.

The Smithwick Tribunal in Dublin is looking at the IRA murders of Chief Sup Harry Breen and Super Bob Buchanan of the RUC at Jonesborough in the South Armagh/County Louth border country, apparently returning from a covert meeting with the Irish security service in Dundalk. Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP MP, has alleged that the IRA were tipped off by Garda DS Owen Corrigan. Corrigan’s IRA “handler” is alleged to be the (equally alleged) double-agent Freddie “Stakeknife” Scappaticci. Scappaticci, along with the late John Joe Magee of Dundalk are (even more alleged) to have been the key members of the IRA “nutting squad”. One further “alleged” is that Scappaticci was second only to the OC IRA Northern Command, a certain Máirtín Mag Aonghusa, MP, MLA.

Ian Hurst, after extensive going-and-froing was induced to give evidence to Smithwick: that was redacted for public consumption. The RTÉ reports, especially that of 26th April, should be required reading.

And you thought it was all about Milly Dowler’s phone?

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Shlock! Horror! Shinners running second!

At least two of the candidates for the Irish Presidency are on record, suggesting that Ireland might join the Commonwealth. For the record, “join” is historically  correct. “Re-join” is plain wrong. Were such an unlikely event to transpire, the revised Irish flag might look something akin to the above.

On with the motley!

Following up yesterday’s (predictable) Presidential beauty parade, the Irish Times had IPSOS do a swimsuit round for the party leaders — and, apparently as an after-thought, check out the party standings/

The leader thing went like this:

All that really, really says is that Fianna Fáil are still in the pits, and their appeal as “the republican party” is shuffling off elsewhere. Read on and we find:

When people were asked who they would vote for if a general election were to be held tomorrow, the figures for party support – when undecided voters are excluded – compared with the last Irish Times  poll on July 20th were: Fine Gael, 35 per cent (down three points); Labour, 17 per cent (down one point); Fianna Fáil, 16 per cent (down two points); Sinn Féin, 18 per cent (up eight points); Green Party, 2 per cent (no change); and Independents/Others, 12 per cent (down two points).

On the +/- 3% of error, with the one obvious exception, that amounts to a stand-still.

Still, The Irish Times had paid good money for the poll, and had to milk it for all it was worth. So that’s where the editorial cat slurped the cream:

The finding has the potential to reshape the political landscape once again and demonstrates that those shifts in allegiance that marked the general election campaign remain active. The sudden surge in support for Sinn Féin is almost certainly linked to the presidential election campaign and the high-profile candidature of Martin McGuinness. But the party’s consistent emphasis on unemployment, falling living standards and cuts in services are likely to have played a significant role too.

Where Malcolm feels the opinionating goes adrift, is any assumption that this is Big Stuff.

In the bourns where Malcolm gets his hollingsworths of feed-back, the general drift is that Sinn Féin are very much the Marmite of Irish politics:

So putting it into customer-friendly, squeezy pots may add a bit to the sales dynamics, but — as sure as Malcolm’s taste is thick-cut marmalade — that opinion of SF is pretty binary, or manichean (Malcolm’s word-of-the-week, y’know). All the packaging expertise won’t greatly help in shifting the second- and third-round transfer.

And that’s where Irish STV elections get settled.

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Terms of endearment

There was that little Liberal Conspiracy spat yesterday over the RMT and its dispute with LUL — which may or may not be orchestrated by County Hall, and therefore part of the Policy Exchange campaign for Blasted Boris’s re-election. In the course of the dialogue Sunny Hundal lost the run of himself, and lashed out at his critics as sneering “Trots”.

This glorious knickerbocker tangle was topped with a nice cherry from (crazy name, crazy guy!) buddyhell @ 12:21 pm:

Bob Crow is not a Trot. He’s a Tankie. Get it right.

That raised in Malcolm’s recollection all those terms which can be applied to political factions and cells.

The oldest in British politics are probably:

  • Whigs

This one is usually explained as a short-form of whiggamore, without much further explanation. It may be a derivation from whig (a collateral form of whey, as in soured milk or buttermilk. Certainly by the sixteenth century a “whig” implies a country-bumpkin.

Then, around 1648, it has become particularly applied to the “Kirk Party”, the Covenanters who marched on Edinburgh in the “Whiggamore Raid” (allegedly because the participants urged on their horses by calling “whiggam”) and supplanted the “Engagers”.

  • Tories

Once there are Whigs, can Tories be far behind?

The anglicizing of a good Irish word  tóraidhe.

The plantations of the seventeenth century dispossessed many native Irish, who took to the hills and went outlaw. Such were also termed “bog-trotters” and raparees (from the Irish again — rápaire, a small rapier). From there it was a short step to any papist being a “Tory”; and by association, any Jacobite.

The political usage can be precisely dated. In 1679-80 a Bill was proposed to exclude the Duke of York (the later James II) from the succession, on the grounds of his Catholic faith. The opponents of the Bill were denounced first as “bog-trotters”, then as Tantivys (because they were riding pell-mell to Rome) and finally as Tories, “the most despicable Savages among the Wild Irish”.

The tradition of naming one’s opponents offensively is part-and-parcel of Irish politics, north and south, to this day. In the respectable, even naice, world of the Irish Times, this is perpetuated by Miriam Lord in her Dáil sketches and Saturday political column. Ah, a fine figure of a gel is our Miriam.

No week is complete without her run-round ould Leinster House. There one might encounter strange folk, indeed:

  • Fianna Fáil are, in translation, “the soldiers of destiny“. On occasion (though rarely so these degenerate days) the rank-and-file of the Party can be Balubas. And thereby hangs a tale.

The Baluba are a tribal group of Shaba Province in what is now the Democratic republic of the Congo.  Ireland sent a detachment of troops to assist in the Congalese peace-keeping operation. On 8th November 1960, a patrol was ambushed and nine Irish soldiers killed (one body was recovered only a year later). The state funeral shut down Dublin. It took a very wry sense of humour to translate that into the flak the foot-soldiers of Destiny to direct at the leadership.

  • Fine Gael are, without fail, “Blueshirts“.

The Army Comrades Association (ACA) was originally a benevolent assocation set up in February 1932 for the benefit of ex-Free State army men. It soon became more political, and provided the muscle at Cumann na nGaedheal meetings, and adopted the blue shirt as a uniform. The Cumann crashed at the 1933 election, and a procress of redefinition and reorganisation ensued. De Valera sacked general Eoin O’Duffy as Police Commissioner, and O’Duffy took on the ACA and recast it as the National Guard. De Valera had the National Guard proscribed. A further reorganisation brought together the Cumann, the nascent Centre Party and the National Guard as the United Ireland Party, or Fine Gael, with O’Duffy as the extra-parliamentary leader.

The one thing in Irish politics on which everybody agrees: north and south — no “West Britons”. It’s an accentual and attitudinal thing. Hence “end-of-file” for any involvement in Irish affairs to which young Malcolm aspired.

Wander over that bloody Border (very bloody, too, in some parts) and it’s even more complicated. And, in Malcolm’s view, far more fun.

First of all there’s the denominational split. “Prods” and “Micks” is easy. Then it gets a bit more complex.

Out of interest, Malcolm attended the opening of an Orange Hall, west of the Bann (which is as profound a divide as the Rubicon, and a lot wider). David Trimble was one of the platform speakers. Behind Malcolm two fine Ulster women were dismissive:

“What’s he, now?”

“Ach: he’s Church of Ireland.” [Not true: Trimble is a Presbyterian.]

“Church of Ireland! They’re half-way to Rome!”

Any hoo: somewhere in that is the essential tectonics. The essential term, either way, is them uns who cause all the grief.

  • Among the Prods one can be a doop [DUP] or a yoop [UUP]. Only if you have a hankering to shop at Waitrose are you oh-no-non-denominational-it-hurts Alliance (i.e. you exchange the odd air-kiss with at least one Cartholick acquaintance). And live, or yearn to live, on Belfast’s Malone Road. To be fair, there, and in parts of North Down — especially within reach of Crawfordsburn — you are allowed to be West British and drink very dry sherry. Alliance is so herbivorous it’s quite difficult to be offensive about them: fret not, their LibDem moment may yet come.

On the other side, the essential problem is Shinner or Stoop. At which point Kremlinology and particle physics are but crude tools.

  • The Sinn Féiner has an infinite number of appellations. Most are not fit for a family audience.
  • At one time, before the worst of the “Troubles”, it was easy: Stickie (official SF) or Pinnie, which only later became Provo (provisional).

Nobody believes Malcolm, but the distinction was which kind of Easter Lily lapel-emblem did each side sell. The Stickies had modern, state-of-the-art self-adhesive: the Pinnies used a traditional pin. In Dublin the distinction became geographic: Gardiner Place or Kevin Street. Even the participants were not always sure which side they were on (Máirtín Mag Aonghusa being a case in point).

  •  As soon as a Provo (sometimes “Provie”) got as much as a speeding ticket, he qualified as a “terrorist” — at least in Prod terms. Similarly for a “loyalist” in the view of the other lot.
Nobody escaped the stereotyping-by-moniker: Peter Robinson (before everybody in his presence deliberately or accidentally hummed the Simon and Garfunkel classic) was Peter Punt. In August 1986, to protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Robinson led a bunch of loyalists into Clontibret, County Monaghan, did a bit of graffiti, ragged a couple of Garda. The Garda took offence, arrived and fired a couple of rounds in the air. Robbo, however, didn’t run. He was arrested and incarcerated. At Drogheda he pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly (which Malcolm believes may be an ironic hang-over in Irish statutes from the days of the Union) and was fined IR£17,500. Which he paid in Irish punts.
What has Malcolm left out there? Ah … yes:
  • Stoop.
The SDLP is the  “stoop down low party” among hard-line republicans. The trouble is also that the SDLP strength is mainly in (wait for it!) South Down and Londonderry.  Geddit?
Meanwhile, back in the ol’ UK (which Malcolm today discovers has the longest official name of any state on the globe), let’s have a last blast with those Trots and Tankies.
  • Trots
The essential problem with Trots is that (in pig-Latin): Quot Trots, tot sententiae. Except, as Malcolm sees it, there is no evidence that most Trots are actually sentiate beings.
An early and unpublished draft of J-J Rousseau’s maxim anticipated the Trot problem: Men are born free, but everywhere disengage their brains. As proof positive thereof:  How many Fourth Internationals?let me count the ways (and Malcolm reckons seven is a fair count).
Let’s move swiftly on.
That only leaves Malcolm, at this moment, with:
  • Tankies
Here Malcolm goes dewy-eyed and nostalgic.
Once upon a time, o best beloved, there was King Street, where the Communist Party of Great Britain had its dusty lair. In all truth, most CPGB members were either employed by MI5 or feeding information to MI5 and Special Branch for pints in one or other of the Covent Garden boozers.
After 1956 it was never glad confident morning again, and the CPGB went into the glimmer of twilight.

However, anyone with strong enough digestion to stomach the Prague Spring, and accept the Brezhnev Doctrine was, by definition, a “tankie“.

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Our friends in the North

It’s yet another Ulster Unionist conclave: like buses you wait forever, then two come along in convoy. The UUP, at the last one, elected themselves a new leader: Tom Elliott, who is to inspiring oratory as a donkey is to the Derby. We are no further forward in the Great Issue of precisely what the UUP is: Cameroonism writ small and provincial (as in the failed UCUNF experiment)? the last refuge of the Malone Road, golf-club and garden-centre unionists? a respectable shine on the shoes and a buffing of the bowler-hat while the initiative passes to the DUP?

Meanwhile, the SDLP, the other older, scorned sibling of its community, has not wholly-dissimilar considerations. The SDLP’s problems increase as the baton passes to the post-Troubles generation and its squeaky-clean-skins among Sinn Féin. And what would the SDLP or SF in the Six Counties give for a production-line of Pearse Dohertys? The problem, of course, is also there for the old men of the unionist parties: how long can the “sins-of-their-fathers” work in a more secular age?

Consider, for a moment, the recent Red-C poll in the Republic: Labour on 24%, SF on 16% and the independents on 11%. Together that’s a 51% majority; and the Political Studies Association of Ireland reckons that gives 48 Labour TDs, 24 Shinners, and 15 independents. Do the math, and remember it takes just 83 votes to elect a Taoiseach and form a government (and independents don’t vote for the uncertainty of fresh elections any more than turkeys vote for Christmas). Those independents will include Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party and Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit, along with other lefties. Above all, with that level of representation, Sinn Féin are no longer outcasts, beyond the Pale, below the salt.

Were the next Dublin administration to have that complexion, suddenly the SDLP is marooned, high-and-dry.

In short, fifteen years on from the end of the Troubles, half-a-decade on from the St Andrews Agreement, we are little forward in climbing out of the denominational, sectarian slime. When one asks why, the answer comes as a variant on Mao Tse-Tung’s comment on the French Revolution: it’s too early, too soon, too precipitant … It’s as if both sides are so wedded to the not-quite-recent past they cannot, dare not move on. Better to have a simmering squabble about some sub-section of a lower paragraph about policing than to have regard to finance and the economy, to jobs (except that persistent double-jobbing among the political class), to infra-structure, to education, to anything that is actually relevant to the way people in Northern Ireland really live. Meanwhile the decay, the inertia, the miasma of error and corruption that lies over the Twenty-Six Counties drifts north and east: expectations drift ever lower with the values of houses.

What strikes Malcolm is the poverty of any “leadership” in Northern Ireland.

He would see a distinction between what persists in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the rapidly-disUniting Kingdom, between the positions of the various parties and their “leaders” (for want of a better word) in the four Assemblies/parliaments.

In three of them there are elections imminent. Now, his subjective impression is that in Scotland and Wales there are credible leaders and policies being crystalised.

The amazing self-basting Alex Salmond of the SNP and Labour’s Iain Grey (the latter after a slowish start) are credible alternatives. Both have some perspective of what Scotland needs; and seem to have a will to generate it. Even the much-criticised, even by her fellow-Tories, Annabel Goldie has an impressive and waspish “Jean Brodie removed to Renfrewshire” waspish sting to her. Scotland in the election will be a fight to the death.

In Wales, Carwyn Jones has an enviable support (the recent BBC/ICM gave him a 53/14% margin of positive approval) and goes into the Assembly election with 44% support and a united Labour Party. Similarly, only a fool would underestimate the Plaid’s team: any party image-maker would do a Dr Faustus, and sell a soul, for the photogenic face-on-the-posters (and a mind like a rat-trap) of the PC’s Director of Policy, Nerys Evans.

Beyond the personality politics, both Scotland and Wales are building themselves life beyond the Union. This may vex the Daily Mail no end, but the hand-wringings and rendings-of-raiment by the likes of Stephen Glover will seem as further endorsement by any decent politico outside the London loop.

By contrast, in NI, we survey only extinct volcanoes and aching vacuums.

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