Category Archives: Slugger O’Toole

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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Filed under Dublin., Ireland, politics, Republicanism, Sinn Fein, Slugger O'Toole

A dream of fair women

HazelTo be subtitled: the female of the species is more persuasive than the male.

Had to like Tom Gallagher’s thread, which may be — and ought to be developing on Slugger O’Toole

I took it wholly seriously until this:

Somebody with a knowledge of his country’s turbulent modern history observed that Irish republicans negotiating with British leaders – Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera in 1921 and their present day counterparts Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – were never as confrontational as Alex Salmond is right now.

At which point, I had one of those flushing-red, blood-up-the-neck flashbacks.

A little learning is a dang’rous thing

As a TCD undergrad I had to write the occasional essay.

Those were the early 1960s. Times obviously moved quicker for Philip Larkin in Hull than they did for us in Dublin. Many of us were definitely behind the times:

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

Olivia_ShakespearAnyway: there am I in a Ballsbridge cold-water flat. It would be the early hours of a Monday morning. I’m looking for inspiration for an essay due that day by 9 a.m.

On the basis of a casual remark, lobbed across the Fabian’s corner in O’Neill’s in Suffolk Street, which was a lot more daicent and less touristy than it is now, I generated  a couple of thousand words.

My conceit on what was wrong with W.B.Yeats’s poetry and philosophy amounted to Yeats being virginal until his fifties.


O.K. I know. Olivia Shakespeare and others.

We all know that now.

They just didn’t feature in the texts available to TCD undergrads of my era.

Perversely my essay was graded as a “First”.

Obviously the lecturer had taken leave of his senses, or been taken in by my dexterous use of partial quotation, or was half-stoned himself . Or couldn’t be arsed.Edith

The Big Fella

Now — ho-hum — in this context,  that cognomen raises a question in itself.

One of those great Irish patriots (and it certainly was not the sainted and uxorious spouse of Sinéad Bean de Valera, who in any case stayed well away from the London political action) earned himself something of a reputation around London during the treaty negotiations of October to December 1921. Hence my thought on where the “Better Together” campaign may have missed a “trick”.

There wasn’t a Moya Llewelyn Davies or a Hazel Lavery or a Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart (a.k.a, Lady Londonderry) to do the softening-up — or lying-down.

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Filed under Dublin., Hazel Lavery, History, Ireland, Scotland, Slugger O'Toole, Trinity College Dublin


I have a lot of affection and regard for the Slugger O’Toole site, and its Onlie True Begetter, Mick Fealty. Quite frankly, if you want All Northern Irish Life, that’s as good as any.

With all due respect, then, I was somewhat taken aback that the Man Himself took time out to argue  the significance of Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories to UKIP.  Let’s be honest: the only real surprise was the “who”. We knew the wind off the German Ocean was blowing chill for the Tories: witness, for just two obvious examples, the standing-down of Mark Simmonds at Boston and Skegness and Laura Sandys in South Thanet.

Mick Fealty’s argument was:

Carswell defection will bolster UKIP’s bid to become a ‘serious’ Westminster player.

Really! Really?

Did the election, in a full General Election, — not defection — of Caroline Lucas in Brighton, Pavilion, against four Party opposition, and against “Leo Atrides” (I still can’t take that one seriously) make the Green Party a ‘serious’ Westminster player?

Even in the specific Northern Irish context, did Naomi Long in East Belfast or Sylvia Hermon in North Down made either of them‘serious’ Westminster players?

This is the politics of froth.

Even were the Kippers to take (at the top end of every prediction) three seats — not half of one percent of Commons membership — at next May’s General Election, what rights of audience, let alone power, does that give them?

No: the issue is first and foremost that the Tory Party is suffering the political equivalent of a tectonic split. This time the widening divide is over the EU.

Such an event hasn’t been hasn’t been seen among Tories since 27th January 1846. That was when Peel announced he intended the repeal of the Corn Laws. The consequence was the amalgamation of the Peelite Tories and the Whigs to form the “Liberal Party”. It also kept that lot out of government for a decade — and even then, under Disraeli (who could turn his coat as soon as anyone), the traditional Tory presumption of land-owner interest was never restored.

And that, Mr Fealty, is far more important than any War of Carswell’s dubious “Loyalty”.

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Filed under History, Slugger O'Toole, Tories., UKIP

The word from

I have enough of my past (and an enduring bit of my present) invested in the Aul’ Sod to frequent regularly the Irish and Northern Irish chat-rooms. That means and Slugger O’Toole can be dropped down from the menu bar.

This morning the thread on UKIP, neatly headlined Herding cats, had run into the sand. It evidenced considerable, if naïve acceptance that UKIP was a continuing, coming force.

I have severe doubts; so it set me to thinking, which is done mainly through this keyboard.

This is what came out:

The usual political forums have quite serious discussions of what UKIP is, is not, what it means in the middle-term, and where it and the UK electorate are going. Despite a valiant attempt in Sync‘s headline piece (just a trifle too jokey and whataboutery, perhaps — but I doubt I could do better), this thread hasn’t reached the standard required.

imagesFirst of all, if UKIP didn’t exist, it would have to be invented. It is the epitome of anti-politics politicking. With the demise of LibDems as the dust-bin of frustrated votes, dissident Little Englanders needed a substitute. In a time when “austerity” sado-monetarism is cutting into living standards (except for the protected and privileged few), many are thrashing around for an Aunt Sally at which to chuck ordure — the EU being just the distant, easily-misrepresented target-woozle required.

And yet … and yet …

Perhaps the Kipper phenomenon has peaked. Or perhaps there is no pattern at all, at all. Let’s have a few facts — and I would never want local council by-elections to cloud the Big Event: they are totally unpredictable. and a few dozen votes swinging either way do not make a Big Story.

There have been six by-elections in this parliament:

  • 29 Nov 2012 Rotherham, Denis McShane’s Labour seat, and the by-election a fall-out from the expenses scandal. On a 33% turn-out, Labour achieved a slight vote up-tick (>2%) but their majority down by 3%. The beneficiary was UKIP, whose vote surged by nearly 16% to come second with nearly 22% of the valid vote.
  • 29 Nov 2012 (same day) Middlesbrough. Vacancy caused by death of Sir Stuart Bell, long-serving — and notoriously absentee — Labour MP. Good heave for Labour vote (up nearly 15% to a plurality of 60%+), UKIP second with not-quite 12%.
  • 29 Nov 2012 (same day) Croydon North. Vacancy caused by death of Malcolm Wicks, who had been the Labour MP since 1992. Another plurality for Labour (nearly 65%, up by nearly 9%), Tories second (down 7%), UKIP third with less than 6%.

In all three cases, the ConDem vote fell sharply — particularly so for the LibDems. And so we come to:

  • 5 Feb 2013 Eastleigh. This was the Biggie. Chris Huhne resigned, as he changed his lying-about-speeding-ticket plea to guilty. This ought to be a cast-iron LibDem patch: they hold every single council seat, and have squeezed the natural 20-25% Labour vote to extinction (and that wasn’t going to alter). Only the Tories could have a hope. Farage had been tarting-his-mutton locally for years — at the last, he turned chicken, and the Kippers put up a carpet-bagging incomer. The Tories put up their defeated (about 7% behind Huhne) General Election candidate: under greater media scrutiny she showed to be a very flakey candidate indeed. Since this is a constituency any London journo can visit on a day-return ticket, much raking over was done. Between them the Daily Mail and Murdoch press sponsored half-a-dozen opinion samplings — which showed a persistent seepage of Tory voters going Kipper. In the outcome, UKIP squeaked second (but up 24% to a very creditable 28%) ahead of a dismal 25% (down 14%) for the Tory. Result: LibDem hold, but still badly down (by —14%)

Eastleigh was the Kipper high-water mark. Then, on the same day as the English local elections, we had:

  • 2 May 2013 Soth Shields. An iffy one for Labour, caused by David Miliband huffing, upping and offing. Labour, wisely, put up a local woman councillor (though there were behind-the-scenes shenanigans when the ‘natural’ succession was withdrawn late on in the selection) — and Labour held its bare plurality (down about 1½%). The Tories faded badly (— 10%) and the LibDems evaporated to come 6th. From nowhere UKIP took 24% of the vote, as the only repository for non-labour votes.

Which brings us to last night, and as I was thinking the morning sparrows were still … clearing their throats:

  • 13 Feb 2014 Wythenshawe and Sale East. Despite “Lord” Ashcroft’s poll, Labour achieved a natural 55%, and the Tories slumped to 14½%. That’s the predictable 11% swing back from 2010 — not spectacular, but not to be sneezed at. The story was supposed to be the UKIP onwards-and-upwards: not quite 18% isn’t that. Which is why Farage is screeching about “dirty tricks” (though, on the ground, the complaints were going the opposite way).

And there’s more:

These numbers are the best we have to go on.

I’d not get hung up on opinion polling, at least in the UK context. There’s simply no real “quality check” outside the few days before a General Election. Not for nothing was one pollster satirised as “What d’ya Want, Gov?”

The US seems even dodgier, as we saw in the last Presidential: samples of 800-1000 across an electorate that size have margins of error of 3% (i.e. anything between 97 and 103 = 100).

All that said, and much more unsaid, where is there concrete evidence the Labour lead is narrowing? On the contrary, has the 6-8% lead that persisted throughout the previous 15 months, reappeared in the last few days? Since there is little likelihood of “trickle-down” improving living standards by 2015, what chance of selling the Great Osborne Economic Wonder? Or, by implication, that the position will narrow to the point of a 4-5% Tory lead, to give Cameron a majority in May 2015?

We have to recognise that, thanks to the LibDems taking revenge for the AV-vote by denying the reduction of the size of parliament and a heavy redistribution, if Labour polls 35-36% in 2015, that is almost certainly a majority.

Which is where the other factors become very, very interesting:

  • What about the Scottish factor? If #Indyref goes one way, there would likely be no Scottish seats in the next parliament. If it goes the other, is the SNP — at least in the world outside Holyrood — dished for a generation; and does that restore the two-parties Old Firm Derby?
  • Has the LibDem vote imploded? Despite what the Tory blog-artist and commentator, Iain Dale, was asserting, I’d hesitate to suggest there would be 30-35 LibDem MPs next time round. The student vote has gone AWOL over the fees betrayal. The Iraq stuff (where, especially in places like North London, the LibDem propaganda was undistinguishable from the Socialist Workers) no longer works. In suburbia, why vote middle-man LibDem when the wholesaler Tory has the next-door stall? The bottom line: what is the LibDems’ “Unique Selling Point”?
  • Just what will the Kipper vote be in May 2015? All the bean-counters suggest, up to around 20%, it cuts disproportionately into the Tory vote. That was the experience at Eastleigh. Until we get a by-election in a natural Tory seat, that remains merely theoretical.

To conclude:

If you’ve already had that earful, courtesy of, my apologies. I’d guess you didn’t persist this far along.

Remember, too, the (non-UK, but politically aware) audience to which this was pitched. The cutting-edge of political perspicacity this is not — but in STV-Ireland, one should never underestimate the “cuteness” available.

I post it here, more as a memorandum than Great Thoughts.

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Filed under Irish politics, politics, polls, Slugger O'Toole, UKIP

The lute continues

Orpheus with his lute made treesFair enough: bad translation and, if you didn’t get it (La lutte continue!), a despicably worse pun.

Anyway, (right) there’s Orpheus and his lute, charming the birds and the bees.

That’s the way we are going.

The other lutte, on Slugger O’Toole (see previous post) had an after-shock. The powers-that-be (i.e. Mick Fealty, the boss himself) were less than convinced by Malcolm’s midnight matinee on the topic of Larry Humphrey and his nolle timere.

So Malcolm tried another, and — he feels — all-conquering sally.

But first …

Anglican night-shirts and neckwear

Malcolm fully appreciates that unreconstructed Romanists (you know who you are!) fail to appreciate the theological implications of Anglian clerical dress. Nor recognise it is a symbolic matter down to the present day.

High or Low Church, the storm warnings are all in the clobber:

  • Pay particular attention to the pectoral cross: its absence is an awful premonition and warning of guitars and dancing in the aisle.
  • Don’t expect a decent bash at the 1662 Prayer Book if the M&S shirt replaces the decent stock.
  • Style 728X Clergy Latin Single Breasted cassock is a sure-fire guarantee that none of that awkward hand-shaking and “sharing of the peace” has to be endured.

Then, more politically, did you not observe, along with Mr Andrew Marr’s Sabbath return, Archbishop Sentamu missing dog-collar (and, as of the last few weeks, Malcolm’s Yorkie Metropolitan)?


Do you not appreciate why?

Now for the Classical bit, with added buttons

Similarly with the serious grammatical matter of nolle+ following infinitive. Despite the trivial protests of Rory Carr at Slugger O’Toole (see 3 September 2013 at 11:23 am), this is an accepted Latin construction, particularly so with poets needing to fill a tum-titty, tum-titty hexameter line.

More to the point, it is one with which Heaney was familiar. Let Malcolm direct all comers to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book ten, lines 38-39:

Quod si fata negant veniam pro coniuge, certum est
Nolle redire mihi: leto caudate duorum.

Orpheus1858[1]Non-Latinists and the less-classically attuned should still recognise the story of Orpheus and Euridice, nobly celebrated by Herr Gluck. Then, in a degenerated later age, it was bouffe(d) by M. Offenbach in a deplorably leg-show manner).

 [If you clicked that last hotlink, and your speaker cones blew out around 1:25, don’t blame Malcolm. The poster — as right — should have provided as ample a warning as the previously-noted down-market gear of the Evangelical minister.]

If your Latin isn’t up to Ovid, try Dryden’s version (who never fails for Malcolm):

But if the destinies refuse my vow,
And no remission of her doom allow;
Know, I’m determin’d to return no more;
So both retain, or both to life restore.

The drafts of Heaney’s rendering of that Ovid episode are lodged at the National University of Ireland. If you still don’t get the implications, recall that Heaney celebrated Marie’s and his honeymoon (in London) in The Underground:

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, mooning around, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

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Filed under London, Northern Ireland, Quotations, reading, Religious division, Seamus Heaney, Slugger O'Toole

Timor mortis conturbat me?


Scottish Chaucerians didn’t loom large, if at all, on Malcolm’s High School reading. So he came late to William Dunbar:

I that in heill was and gladnèss
Am trublit now with great sickness
And feblit with infirmity: —
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance here is all vain glory, 
This fals world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Feynd is slee: —
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary, 
Now dansand mirry, now like to die: —
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

No state in Erd here standis sicker;
As with the wynd wavis the wicker
So wannis this world’s vanity: — 
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

lament copy

Dunbar then goes on, ticking off all his dead fellow poets, from Chaucer through to Henrysoun (with others, including himself, queuing at the exit door). The consolation is the creative artist leaves a legacy.

Consolatio Philosophiae

Yes, those who know their Great Detective stories of former years will recognise Michael Innes’s 1938 Appleby novel Lament for a Maker

Death, its imminence and its consequence play long in the late Medieval period — especially among the dour Scots.

A century later, and southwards things get more cheerfully sanguine:

Cowards die many times before their deaths; 
The valiant never taste of death but once. 
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard
It seems to me most strange that men should fear; 
Seeing that death, a necessary end, 
Will come when it will come.

Even then [Julius Caesar, Act II, scene ii], the eponymous central character self-revealingly follows with:

[Re-enterosses every social and denominational divide for one of theswr Servant] 
What say the augurers?

Now to Heaney

They didn’t hang about getting the ol’ soul under six feet of Derry earth. Anyway, all Four Provinces of Ireland know how to do a good funeral. The Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook got two bites of the cherry: the Removal on Sunday and the obsequies proper on the following day. Then it was the home-coming. Rural Ireland crosses every social and denominational divide for one of these:

Spade. Rake. Shovel. They stood under the ash and sycamore trees, beside the plot Heaney had chosen for himself. These were the kind of tools Heaney celebrated in his poems, particularly in Digging, the first poem in his first book, Death of a Naturalist.

“They dug it deep enough anyway,” one Bellaghy man observed in the early afternoon of yesterday, looking down into the open grave with an approving, critical eye. It was the remark of one who recognised the skill in the most basic and yet most meaningful job of digging a man ever has to do.

Solitary piper

At 5pm exactly, a solitary piper stepped out on to the main street of Bellaghy village, leading the funeral cortege of three cars – and the hundreds of people who followed. They were of every age. They came on foot, in buggies and on crutches. As the cortege came to the corner of Castle Street, the PSNI officer controlling traffic saluted sharply.

It was the most public of burials for the most private of men. Even in death, Seamus Heaney chose to be generous; his burial in St Mary’s Church was shared by his family with the thousands of others who lined the route from the village and silently filled the churchyard.

When Heaney won the Nobel Prize in 1995, the Farmers’ Journalheadline was a marvel of understatement: “Bellaghy celebrates as farmer’s son wins top literary award.” Yesterday, Bellaghy was in mourning for its famous farmer’s son: the Nobel laureate who chose to come home to be buried with his people. In months and years and generations to come, people not yet born will seek out this small village to the east of Lough Neagh, with the sole purpose of visiting Heaney’s grave.

Rosita Boland giving due measure for the Irish Times.

Meanwhile, in the shrubbery something rustles …

There has been, inevitably, an extended thread on Slugger O’Toole. We’d all said our bits, and the thing was Petering out (thus: it had been instigated by Pete Baker) until the matter of Heaney’s final cyber-utterance emerged, and the usually-reliable and politically-admirable Rory Carr intervened with:

I read today that Séamus Heaney’s final message to his wife was a ‘phone text that read simply, “Nolle timere“. I suspect that Heaney, who was pretty familiar with his Latin is more likely to have written, “Noli timere” which correctly translates as, “Be not afraid,” when addressing a single person, as he was in this instance, (or “Nolite timere when addressing more than one person) and that the reporters got it wrong. In Latin poetry we sometimes find the construction, “Ne Time (singular) or Ne timete” (plural”).

Sound enough, but bound to cause the like of Malcolm to niggle. Sure enough, he did. And this is a version of what ensued:

Nolle timere!

This is going to smell of the lamp, for indeed it took a bit of midnight study. It is, possibly relevant to nolle timere. Eventually.

HumphreyLet us start with the curious character, Laurence Humphrey (c.1525-1589) — Elizabethan scholar, divine and university administrator (as seen, right, on his memorial at Magdalen College, Oxford). He was a protagonist in the evolving nature of the reformed Church of England — particularly over such matters as the wearing of ecclesiastical robes.

By 1561 Humphrey was president of Magdalen and the leading theological doctor of the university. Magdalen was a hotbed of religious controversy, with the robing issue being the hot topic. Humphrey had already been arraigned before Archbishop Parker at Lambeth Palace, and obliged to conform to Parker’s demand that vestments were of no consequence, and could be a matter of official edict — Humphrey (along with Dean Thomas Sampson of Christchurch, Oxford, the main dissenters) cryptically agreed to sign Parker’s agreement, both adding that, if “all things were lawful, all things were not expedient”.

Queen Elizabeth (25 Jan 1565) then ordered that the rites and dignities of her church (including vestments) be maintained. Parker, properly suspicious, sent a commission to Magdalen to be assured of the proper wearing of vestments. On 26 February 1565 we find most of the fellows of Magdalen in full revolt, complaining that only the Bishop of Winchester had jurisdiction, and refusing to wear vestments. The dispute rumbled on for the next year or so — Sampson was removed from his position at Christchurch, and Humphrey survived, but only through the support of Dudley, the newly-coined Earl of Leicester, and the Duke of Norfolk.

Elizabeth herself took enough interest in the doings to make a royal progress to Oxford in August 1566. She pointedly commended Humphrey on how he was suited by his doctoral gown. More to the point, since Humphrey was now a family man, he needed the income and slithered into line — becoming vice-chancellor (again through the Leicester’s intervention) of the University in 1571.

So on 11 Sep 1575, Vice-chancellor Humphrey is preaching before the Queen at Woodstock, and in honour of the occasion, knocks off a few lines of verse, happily preserved by Google books. See page 585 for this:

Hactenus afflavit Zephyrus, fuit aura secunda,
Spes est: mox portum, qui bene solvit, habet.
At mare fluctisonum est, Syrtes, Pirata, Charybdis,
Saxa latent, scopulos nolle timere, furor.

How all that might (or more likely might not) be a relevant analogy for the Big-enders and Little-enders of Irish politics and religious disputation, Malcolm would hesitate to pursue.

However, allow him an essay at rendering into English:

So far the West Wind has blown, and a breeze followed, there is hope: then there’s a port (to enter), which suits well [that bit seems arsy-versy]. Yet the sea roars with waves — sandbanks, corsairs, Charybdis, rocks lurk, fear not the reefs, the storm.

4poetsAt which ‘Hold on’, cries he!

This is going right back to Heaney’s beginning, and Hobsbaum’s Belfast Group.

Try Storm on the Island, and its enigmatic final line:

But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat
Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo,
We are bombarded with the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

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Filed under Detective fiction, Dublin, fiction, High School, History, Ireland, Irish politics, Irish Times, Literature, Quotations, reading, Religious division, Scotland, Seamus Heaney, Shakespeare, Slugger O'Toole

Nice one, Mister Ed!

mr_edThe weekly corrida de toros (always a lot of bull, but today a bit of horse) of Dave and Ed was a nice one today. Only the true die-hard thought Cameron did the business. Even the ranks of ConHome could scarce forbear to fleer:

[Miliband] probably won the exchanges on points, despite Cameron having the better of the arguments.  The Prime Minister all but used the “R” word, alluding to consulting the public and gaining the “full-hearted consent of the British people”.  His insistence that a Conservative Government would want to take powers back from Brussels, and that a Labour Government would give more away, was right.  But my sense is that to the lay voter hinting that you want a referendum in future while arguing that you don’t want one now looks muddled.

That’s Paul Goodman who, despite Malcolm’s partisan sniping is good — and getting better:

Downing Street must be anxious about women’s votes.  From the Tory backbenches, John Glen raised the gain which the Government’s proposed pension reforms will bring to some women, and Mary Macleod plugged childcare: I may be wrong, but both questions had the smell of the Whips’ Office about them. Laura Sandys asked about the great horsemeat scandal.  Cue the Rebekah Brooks jokes.

boucherie-chevalineEdible equines

That’s another chewy matter, currently being digested across the media, including Slugger O’Toole, where Pete Baker has opened his Boucherie Chevaline. Not surprisingly, it’s a bizarre goulash of serious concern and dismal punning:

    • One of the few, very, very, few, successful native industries Ireland could boast of was its meat industry, specifically beef. Following the Irish economic collapse it was about the only economic success story Ireland could point to. This will absolutely devastate it.
    • I was just checking my burgers in the fridge there……Aaaannnnd they’re off!!!

For different reasons, Malcolm likes both of those … and had to participate, in part recollecting an earlier post here:

I know two things about a horse
And one of them is rather coarse.

Even so, the presence of real meat (beef, horse, or whatever) in burgers is the least of his worries. It’s not the meat that concerns him: like the 99.9% of known germs slaughtered by household cleaners … the problem lies with the other and unknown bits.

One small wrinkle: the Irish tests which revealed the horse DNA date from two months since. What’s been happening since? Why does it become public only now?

Back to the bear pit

Miliband’s smirk at PMQs must have registered all the way to Brighton: he was winning, and he knew it.

Inevitably the Tory (and other) commentators are getting antsy. Hence the demands for a definitive statement of the Labour position, usually expressed in the whinge: Miliband must commit NOW! To which must go the answer: No chance!

Simon Jenkins (in the Guardian) tried, rather tortuously, to reel in his sprat:

From the moment in 2003 that Gordon Brown stopped Tony Blair joining the euro, Cameron’s speech was waiting to happen. The evolving euro would sooner or later need a tight political corset to enforce fiscal, budgetary and monetary union. Britain and other states would not join this, and would therefore need to negotiate their relationship with this euro-specific regime. Labour’s Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, both party to Brown’s victory over Blair, know this well. There need be no disagreement.

No disagreement? Come, come: that’s not the nature of British adversarial politics.

James Forsyth, Speccie-lating away, would like to see a Tory ploy in the whole thing:

Those close to Cameron are arguing that Miliband has now shut the door to Labour offering a referendum, putting Labour on the wrong side of public opinion. They believe that once Cameron has actually delivered his speech, the atmosphere will change and Miliband will have to say what he would do.

Oddly enough, Benedict Brogan got the message:

On a succession of vital topics raised in the interview, Mr Miliband said he couldn’t answer because we are too far out from an election: we will have to wait for the manifesto.

One has to read the rest of that, in the context of the tormented Torygraph, fully to realise Brogan’s frustrated pain that Miliband is not to be hooked. The full beef is hoarsely delivered by David Hughes:

Labour is marching on the spot, going nowhere fast. While the party’s policy review is churning away, Miliband appears to think that he and his front bench can confine themselves to lobbing bricks at the Tories and leaving it at that.

Is that wise? At the last general election Labour won just 8.6 million votes – that’s just a smidgen more than Michael Foot got when facing Margaret Thatcher in 1983 in what is generally regarded as Labour’s most abject post-war electoral performance. That suggests there’s a big job of work to do rebuilding the party, thrashing out a credible post-Blairite position. Instead, Ed Miliband seems content to coast, apparently seduced by Labour’s opinion poll lead into believing the next election is in the bag.

Big mistake.

Which amounts to a genteel version of those pointless and repetitive demonstrators’ chants:

— Wha’ d’we want?
— A target to hit!
— When d’we wan’ it?
— Now!

A problem made in and by the Tory party to eviscerate itself

The bottom line has to be there is no European crisis. Thanks to a steady steer from Angela Merkel, the worst of the €-mess seems to be passed. Ireland is selling bonds again. The appalling Berlusconi is polling at 20-25% and won’t be coming back. Greece and Spain are bleeding; but still only walking wounded. François Hollande has opened his second front (albeit in Mali); and dragged Cameron part-way into the mire: nice one, Frankie!

Only Cameron’s Britain seems to have conniptions; and so — after six months of dither — we may be able to read Cameron’s lips. As Miliband summed it:

The biggest change that we need in Europe is a move from austerity to growth and jobs, but the Prime Minister has absolutely nothing to say about that. This is the reality: the reason the Prime Minister is changing his mind has nothing to do with the national interest. It is because he has lost control of his party. He thinks that his problems on Europe will end on Friday, but they are only just beginning.

The Cameron speech, now on Friday, is:

  • not about Britain — though it may include a “shopping list” of unrealisable aims,
  • not about a referendum — though Cameron will do his best to imply just that,
  • not about Europe, for Cameron and his government have rendered themselves impotent side-liners.

No: it is essentially about:

  • brighton-destination-rock-on-beachfabricating some semblance of Tory unity until the 2015 election (any hopes for the Euro elections of 2014 must already be written off);
  • fending off UKIP and Tory back-benchers’ night-stalkers — if Tory policy on Europe came as a stick of seaside rock, the six letters through the stick would read F-A-R-A-G-E;
  • The referendum, which Cameron flinched away from before, has now become the last hope: that (not 10% or whatever in the polls) is a measure of how successful UKIP has been.

Bated breath?

Last Monday Nick Robinson, the BBC Political Editor, gave a bald assessment of just how desperate Cameron’s position is:

… he has set out how we might get that referendum on Europe after the next election, but there is a series of ifs:

  • If he wins the next election alone (in other words doesn’t have to get this past Nick Clegg)
  • If he can persuade other European countries, particularly Germany that they need and want treaty change
  • If Britain can then get what it wants in negotiations
  • If he thinks he can then win a referendum

If all that happens, well then, yes, there will be a referendum which he thinks will approve a new better settlement for Europe.

But his difficulty in giving that big speech on Europe in about a week’s time is what if he’s wrong on any one of those ifs?

There’s as much chance of all that coming to pass as Mrs Brooks’s ex-policehorse, Raisa, doing a Lazarus out of the Tesco’s chiller.

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