Two truths are still to be told

I attended closely to the YouTube feed of the “debate” between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith over the leadership of the Labour Party.

It seemed to me that two strong issues went AWOL, by both parties (and — let’s be honest here — there really are two tribes inhabiting the Labour reservation).

So these two essential questions:

What should the Party be doing to improve the lot of left-behind workers?

That is essentially the same question as “What went wrong in the #Brexit campaign?”, or “How to counteract the attraction of UKIP?”, and many others which go back to alienation of the working-class vote.

The answer is quite simple, and comes in different forms of essentially the same thing:

  • Re-activate the employees’ working rights.
  • Do what Citrine and Feather did for the German employees under deNazification.
  • Strengthen the power of trades unions in the work places.

It isn’t enough (though both Corbyn and Smith seem to argue so) to rely on central government racking up “minimum wage” levels.

What that achieves, instantly, is to erode differentials. Indeed it often means that the next wage-tier above minimum is absorbed into a lumpen-proletarian base. It also negates any pressure on the employer to innovate to improve productivity: after all, the combine has a quiescent work-force, which can be refreshed by adding under-25s or “adult apprentices”, who come cheaper than minimum. Or, of course, by using zero-hours contracts. Cue Dilbert from 1993:


There are “costs” to beefing up the unions.

Labour becomes more expensive.

Which means, in the short term, unemployment may rise.

It also means there is more cash floating round the system. That may be “inflationary”, but it also means there is an increase in demand — and both services and manufacturing should benefit. Meanwhile, in the present context, #Brexit has ensured that imports are more expensive, and domestic production should be more competitive. Which should create a demand for skilled employment.

Why did Labour lose the 2015 General Election?

Because of the Big Lie and the Big Bribe.

The Big Lie was that the previous Labour Government’s investment in public services broke the economy and caused the 2007 Crash.

Pause for breath on that one. It wasn’t the collapse of one US over-levered operation after another, until Lehman Brothers were made to walk the plank. It wasn’t the reckless lending of uncontrolled fringe bankers. It wasn’t the Stock Markets taking flight. No: it was because Labour had civilised public education and public health care. No more outdoor school toilets. No lying on hospital trolleys for hours. So: the Tory remedy was to bring back public squalor (Psst: try private health care and schooling!)

The Big Bribe was to pay off those who vote at the expense of those who don’t.

So the seniors get their “triple lock” of guaranteed public pension pay-offs, to be paid for by austerity pay-freezes for those at the bottom of the heap. Oh, and if you’re got money in pension-funds, rush off and invest in a Ferrari or a Spanish time-share. You know you really, really need to. If you’re paying cooperation tax, here’s a let-off.

But to pursue either of those, would involve a real “debate”.


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Filed under Britain, British Left, broken society, Labour Party, politics, Trade unions

Dahn ter da Smoke and a Sicilian Vesper

Country-people when going to the Metropolis say they are on their way to the Smoke. [JC Hotten, 186o]

Tomorrow it’s hit the A64 for the A1. It’ll be the first time in quite a while that we’ve done it by road. Since our point of interest in Norf Lunnun is right beside the 91 bus route, and there are excellent trains (Virgin Rail permitting) from York to Kings Cross, that’s been the norm.

360_d21cd0280364a3b5cd55ce2f4a5ea346This time, though, we’re bringing back a Habitat chair and sofa, and it’s the rational way.

The real reason for doing so is this was the first major purchase we made, when we first married. That means the things are almost through their fifth decade — which counts as half-way to official antique status. When — perhaps that should be “if” — we get them home here, some restoration is needed.

Note I said “first major purchase”. The very first acquisition was a revolving bookcase, and that cost (as I recall) all of about six pounds. The Pert Young Piece has that.

On the trip I want to catch the revival of O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars at the Lyttelton. This will be my first viewing since one in Dublin. The reviews suggest the National Theatre production might, just might be a bit more polished than last time.

Then there are two promising exhibitions at the British Museum.

One is based on the discoveries of two drowned cities — Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus — at the mouth of the River Nile. For the last twenty years an underwater team, led by Franck Goddio, have been exploring these sites. What adds interest (at least for me) is one of the cities, Thonis-Heracleion, was a trading port, while the other, Canopus, was more of a religious site. As I understand, the main focus isn’t the Egypt of the ancient Pharoahs: it’s much more getting towards the “Hellenistic period”. In terms of Egyptian history that means it runs from the conquests of Alexander the Great into the Ptolomaic dynasty. For any passing ignoramus, after Alexander’s death, one of his generals (Ptolomy) declared himself Pharaoh; and his descendants ruled until the Romans took over in 30BC — the last of that lot was Cleopatra. Got that? Cleo was a Greek, not Shakespeare’s gipsy or Antony’s serpent of old Nile.

There’s another exhibition at the BM on Sicily, due to close in a week or so time, which I like to catch. What I know of Sicilian history comes essentially from John Julius Norwich.

iuPause there for a moment.

There’s a nicety about how that book is differentially sold. In the American market the sub-title is An Island at the Crossroads of History. That reflects the layer upon layer of different cultures over the millennia: Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, the Byzantines of the Eastern Roman Empire, Arabs from North Africa, and the Normans of Robert Guiscard (that cognomen being a distortion of the Latin for weasel). So there’s layer upon layer of different cultures. Meanwhile, for the British book-trade, John Julius is subtitled A Short History from the Ancient Greeks to Cosa Nostra.

One needs to read John Julius with close attention. For example (page 77 of my paperback):

King Roger II of Sicily — there was no King Roger I — was duly crowned on Christmas Day, in Palermo Cathedral.

Absolutely correct. Roger I was merely the Great Count of Sicily, brother and understrapper of the Weasel, and the subject of John Julius’s preceding half-dozen pages.

Let joy be unconfined

Beyond all that, the chief delight of a few days in London is access to a wide choice of book-sellers.

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Filed under History, London, reading, Theatre

A strong whiff of smoked kipper

In the absence of further flesh-rending among the comrades, and it all being remarkably quiet among the May-bellines, silly-season attention turns to the political equivalent of Johnstone’s Paint Trophy

For UKIP are electing a new Führer


As might be expected, this is a spat between Arthur Daley wannabes and similar assorted also-rans.

To save the rest of us the bother, Ian Dunt at gives us a run down of the names in the frame. Stay awake at the back!

He is ambiguous about the One Who Is Blocked: since I’m one serially “blocked” by any Twittering Kipper, I know how it feels.

This is Stephen Woolfe MEP, who — it seems — is to the outgoing Leader as Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was to his prototype.

Yet Woolfie has credibility issues

For a start he “forgot” his conviction for drunken driving, both when he stood as Police and Crime Commissioner and in his electoral campaign for the European Parliament. In the former of those cases the conviction would be an instant disqualifier — and the application/nomination process is adamant on the issue.

Tim Fenton, of zelo-street (“the Crewe end of the telescope”) is close enough to Woolfie’s stamping ground in Chester to peer under the stones, and argues that the claim to be a barrister is … err … not quite kosher:

… he has given the impression that he is a barrister, when he is not. Nor has he explained how he came to cease being a barrister. Indeed, the Sun’s take on him, claiming “The barrister wants the party to fill the space left by Jeremy Corbyn and his warring factions” is still live.
That story goes on “The 48-year-old barrister is favourite to take over from Nigel Farage in a leadership race which starts in earnest today”. But the Barristers’ Register of the Bar Standards Board cannot locate anyone called Steven Woolfe. The BBC has hinted at his no longer practising, telling “Steven qualified initially as a barrister but moved into financial services and is presently legal adviser to a company whose clients include hedge funds”.
And The Week describes him as “The former barrister hoping to lead Ukip”. Yet Woolfe has not yet moved to explain why this should be. Why did Woolfe cease to be a practising barrister? Did some event occur that caused the BSB to take action? Was it merely a personal choice? And why is he waiting for the questions to be asked before getting the information out there? There’s another one for the party’s vetting procedures.

What a tangled web we weave

There’s a running battle going at wikipedia about Woolfe’s entry: at least a dozen attempts at correction in just the last week, some a couple of dozen more over the last month.

When first we practise to…

Stop it right there, Sir Walter! We are in the presence of lawyers!

I took a look at Mr Woolfe’s Linked-In page, I detected a distinct odour of the Leadsoms. Consider:

  • LL.B., Aberystwyth, 1990.
  • Inns of Court Law School, 1991-2 (this would presumably be the “conversion course”). I might have expected to be told here in which of the Inns was Mr Woolfe “called to the Bar”.
  • “Barrister practising In London Chambers in commercial, criminal and common law”, 1992-6. That’s a pretty loose description. Usually a particular Chambers, especially were it one with prestige, would be named.
  • UBS, Equity Derivatives and Wealth Management Compliance Analyst, 1996-7.
  • Counsel, DLA Piper, 1999-2000.
  • Standard Bank, Deputy Head of Compliance, 2003-4.
    — those three latter posts all being no more than a year each. Why?
  • Aurelius Compliance Consultants, “Senior Compliance Consultant & Partner”, 2000-2007. There a further puzzle here: this firm was dissolved 20th September 2005, as on the same day was Marcus Woolfe Ltd, operating out of Flat 15A, Clapham Manor Street, SW4. A “Company Check” leads us to Mr Steven Marcus Woolfe.
  • Boyer Allan Investment Management LLP, 2006-2012. Should we detect a a further oddity here: according to Mr Woolfe’s claimed employment history, there’s an apparent — and impossible, in the light of the firm being dissolved — at least twelve month overlap between those two posts. Is this another of Mr Woolfe’s lapses of recollection?
  • MercuryJove Advisers (I tried to find it, but —search me!), General Counsel Consultant 2012-2014. Again we have two missing months between these last two appointments — “Gardening leave”?

In the days when I sat on appointment panels, there would have been enough meat on such bare bones to put an applicant though the mincer.

I kicked off with Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, which was sponsored by “a paint to be proud of“. Modern paints go far beyond simple whitewash,  but that seems to be adequate in this case.



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Filed under blogging, fiction, politics, UKIP, Walter Scott

Be sure your s(k)in will find you out

Those years sitting as a boy-chorister in the stalls of St Nicholas, Wells-next-the-Sea, laid their marks upon me. For one example, I know this is from the Book of Numbers. Admittedly, I had to check to find the precise reference:

Then Moses said to them: “If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war, and all your armed men cross over the Jordan before the Lord until He has driven out His enemies from before Him,  and the land is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you may return and be blameless before the Lord and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LordBut if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. Build cities for your little ones and folds for your sheep, and do what has proceeded out of your mouth.” [Numbers, 32, 20-24]

There’s some decent guidance there for a modern political campaign:

  • don’t go in too early, but choose your time;
  • but do strike when the opportunity is timely;
  • and then get on with exploiting your expected victory and building the new society.

Now let’s consider the current state of Trumpery

My, my: the man has some problems —

Conceivably, by the end of another day he will have added more to the charge sheet.

Meanwhile Hillary seems to have jumped at least five opinion-poll points, and even her “unfavourable” numbers aren’t significantly worsening. While Trump’s could and should well be.


Last Sunday’s Observer had a piece by Gaby Hinsliff, Twitter Wars. It includes this:

The chilling thing about Trump isn’t just the casual racism and sexism, the breathtaking indifference to whatever is stirred up. It’s the niggling worry that he’s lighting fires under American life not because he can’t stop himself, but as a coldly calculated means to an end. Lacking an established political machine behind him or a war chest for TV advertising, Trump has been reliant on saying ever more incendiary things to keep his name in the news – which may be why the real jaw droppers have a knack of surfacing when he most needs free publicity.

“The norms have completely gone,” says a US strategist who has worked on the last three Democrat campaigns. “I remember in 2012 we’d try and call Mitt Romney a liar for basically telling lies and David Axelrod [Barack Obama’s chief strategist] would say: ‘Change that to falsehood.’ Trump doesn’t have any of those rules whatsoever. I mean, ‘Delete your account’ was pretty much outside the limits of what Hillary would have done four years ago, but you can’t even compare that to someone who’s retweeting white supremacists and Nazi memes.

“To get free media, he has to say stuff that’s reportable, and the level of extreme language is directly linked back to that. They took a conscious decision to make a remark about Mexicans being rapists for his launch to throw a spanner in the works of the other launches. I suspect he doesn’t even particularly have a worldview; it’s driven by a need to feed this publicity machine.”

All true and good. But I note in that the even more “chilling thing”. The Trump campaign has gone beyond pushing the acceptable limits of political discourse out of “indifference”. There is a “coldly calculated” intent to coarsen the debate, in the same way an aerial bombing campaign deliberately demolishes, degenerates and dislocates enemy infrastructure before the land-based assault. If Trump can reduce the political dialogue to his gutter level, he has won.

News management

Tim Fenton, the Guru of zero-street, was yesterday puzzling over the last item of that above bulleted list: why has Melinda Trump’s “modelling” career come to the attention of the New York Post at this precise moment? Except Tim sees it in a broader perspective:

Has Murdoch Abandoned Trump?
Trump still has one formidable backer in the shape of Rupert Murdoch, who has stood by while Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) has been The Donald’s main cheerleader, with hosts such as professional loudmouth Sean Hannity falling over themselves in their efforts to grovel before The Great Man. Then came the forced resignation of Fox News head man Roger Ailes. And that may have changed things.
That Rupe may be experiencing buyer’s remorse is hinted at as the New York Post, a Murdoch tabloid with the same subtlety level as the Sun, splashed an old photo of Trump’s current wife Melania on its front page yesterday. She used to be a nude model. The caption could have come from Kelvin McFilth himself: “THE OGLE OFFICE … Exclusive Photos … You’ve never seen a potential First Lady like this!” Yeah, phwoar, eh?!?!?
One argument the other way is: that was then, this is now. After all, wannabe UK royal princesses can now be papped in degrees of déshabillé and the world keeps turning. The ubiquitous camera/mobile phone ensures that no public embarrassment, no “wardrobe malfunction” can escape the likes of a Daily Mail‘s “sidebar of shame”.
In the matter of Mrs Trump I noticed that, as the New York Post were unveiling the object of the Donald’s affection, the man himself was going all coy and demure. Betsy Woodruff made her play for The Daily Beast:
Playboy Cover Model Donald Trump Pivots On Porn, Signs Pledgetrump-playboy

Businessman Donald Trump posed on the cover of Playboy. GOP nominee Trump has a very different take on porn. 

A day after his team praised the nude photos of his wife that the New York Postpublished, Donald Trump promised to be tough on internet pornography.

The mogul signed a document called the Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge, bemoaning “unfettered internet access by youth.” In signing the pledge, Trump also promised to “[g]ive serious consideration to appointing a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture and the prevention of the sexual exploitation of children in the digital age.”

Wheels within wheels?

I find myself deploying a nano-second, factoring in the “other who and why”.

Who and why pointed the NY Post in this direction? After all, the Post — especially at week-ends — is not an obvious reserve of investigatory journalism.

So something very odd going on.

After the plagiarised speech, there was the sudden taking-off (there’s a lot of it going on, in this context) of the claim from the lady’s own web-site that she had a degree in design and architecture, earned in Slovenia. This claim appeared in the Republican National Convention program.

Whoops! On 19th July CBS demolished this, and asserted that Melania Knav (afterwards, that became “Knauss”) had dropped out after just one year of the course. The soft-core backstreet snappers of Milan and getting-her-kit-off offered a quicker a better, quicker deal for “Melania K”.

For a summary, I defer to Martha Ross,, and this — please note — in the “Local Sports” section:

Trump’s sanguine response raises more questions: notably, whether he or someone in his campaign helped make sure the photos were published.

After all, the photos were published in a newspaper that has endorsed him and might be inclined to gain some P.R. leverage.

And, what would Trump himself have to gain?

Gawker and the Huffington Post have some theories. A.M. Mitchell with the Huffington Post believes the publication of the photos was timed by Trump or his people to “plant a red herring into our political news cycle.”

Mitchell drills down on the timing. The photos went online after the Republicans had a pretty disastrous convention the week before and after Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination on Thursday … And after Trump this past week incited outrage over his various comments about NATO, Russian hackers sabotaging Clinton, Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine … And after he launched his controversial and lacerating criticism of the Muslim-American parents of a slain army captain.

What’s disturbing, Mitchell said, is that by publishing the photos, “Donald Trump and the Post are hanging Melania out to dry in a culture which is still, at its core, puritanical. … They are counting on her being retributively shamed by liberals who are hungry to avenge sexist slights against Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton in order to gain what? A couple of points in the polls?”

She continues: “Donald Trump is complicit in allowing a publication which has endorsed him to victimize his own wife. If there is any story worth talking about here, that is it.”

Trump’s sanguine response raises more questions: notably, whether he or someone in his campaign helped make sure the photos were published.

After all, the photos were published in a newspaper that has endorsed him and might be inclined to gain some P.R. leverage.

And, what would Trump himself have to gain?

Gawker and the Huffington Post have some theories. A.M. Mitchell with the Huffington Post believes the publication of the photos was timed by Trump or his people to “plant a red herring into our political news cycle.”

Mitchell drills down on the timing. The photos went online after the Republicans had a pretty disastrous convention the week before and after Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination on Thursday … And after Trump this past week incited outrage over his various comments about NATO, Russian hackers sabotaging Clinton, Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine … And after he launched his controversial and lacerating criticism of the Muslim-American parents of a slain army captain.

What’s disturbing, Mitchell said, is that by publishing the photos, “Donald Trump and the Post are hanging Melania out to dry in a culture which is still, at its core, puritanical. … They are counting on her being retributively shamed by liberals who are hungry to avenge sexist slights against Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton in order to gain what? A couple of points in the polls?”

She continues: “Donald Trump is complicit in allowing a publication which has endorsed him to victimize his own wife. If there is any story worth talking about here, that is it.”

Cue Mrs Merton:

You know what comes next:

Let’s imagine the aftermath of the Trump/Knauss encounter at the Kit Kat Club, 124 W 43rd StNew YorkNY 10036,  (no relation), in 1998:

  • “So, the Donald, what first attracted you to the pneumatic (and subsequently enhanced) Miss K?”
  • “So, Melinda, who first attracted you to a billionaire, a quarter of a century older than yourself?”

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Filed under New York City, sleaze., smut peddlers, US Elections, US politics

Persistent mondegreen

I had to check on the term’s origin. Sylvia Wright in Harper’s, November 1954, gets the credit (this by courtesy of the OED):

When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And Lady Mondegreen.

If you can’t get past the pay-wall for that, you’ll find it’s also related — very wittily — by  in a back-copy of the New Yorker. She notes that “mondegreen” is itself a recursive mondegreen.

Her definition continues:

Hearing is a two-step process. First, there is the auditory perception itself: the physics of sound waves making their way through your ear and into the auditory cortex of your brain. And then there is the meaning-making: the part where your brain takes the noise and imbues it with significance. That was a car alarm. That’s a bird. Mondegreens occur when, somewhere between the sound and the meaning, communication breaks down. You hear the same acoustic information as everyone else, but your brain doesn’t interpret it the same way. What’s less immediately clear is why, precisely, that happens.

The simplest cases occur when we just mishear something: it’s noisy, and we lack the visual cues to help us out (this can happen on the phone, on the radio, across cubicles—basically anytime we can’t see the mouth of the speaker). One of the reasons we often mishear song lyrics is that there’s a lot of noise to get through, and we usually can’t see the musicians’ faces. Other times, the misperceptions come from the nature of the speech itself, for example when someone speaks in an unfamiliar accent or when the usual structure of stresses and inflections changes, as it does in a poem or a song. What should be clear becomes ambiguous, and our brain must do its best to resolve the ambiguity.

I find that good stuff. My attempt would be a mondegreen is the acoustic equivalent of the way we bewilder ourselves with optical illusions:


The difference, of course, is that such images are deliberate, whereas the true, the blushful mondegreen is self-inflicted and unwitting embarrassment.

What prompted this today was — as so often — iTunes in the background. And I found myself grunting along and, five years later, doing it again.

My Irish Leaving Certificate French, barest Pass, and already a couple of years ossified, only ever parsed that lyric from AM radio or off the Dansette. So, back in days of starry-eyed romanticism, I sang along with Françoise Madeleine Hardy:

 Tous les garcons et les filles d’ Montmartre …

Only later (as a previous blog-post confessed), aided by modern technology and now a decent pair of AKGs, does the full truth re-emerge:

Tous les garcons et les filles de mon age
Se promenent dans la rue deux par deux.
Tous les garcons et les filles de mon age
Savent bien ce que c’est d’etre heureux,
Et les yeux dans les yeux,
Et la main dans la main —
Ils s’en vont amoureux.

What has got me —

(in a way that Salvador Dalí would understand, as a persistence of mistaken memory)


— is I’m still mumbling along with the mondegreen.

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Filed under Music, New Yorker, Oxford English Dictionary

Cato-tonic economic sabotage

There are different ways to lose one’s head.

Shortly after 9/11 the Washington Post published a piece by Richard W. Rahn of the Cato Institute.

Sorry: did that sets off every fruitcake-warning klaxon? Cato describes itself as:

dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. 

One of its main thrusts is to brief the Supreme Court on its view of what the Founding Fathers would have made of any modern dilemma. The Cato Institute doesn’t blush too deeply when identified as “libertarian” (which worries me none too much), but is a renaming of the erstwhile Charles Koch Foundation, which ought to re-charge and re-energise all those klaxons.

Joseph_Addison_by_Sir_Godfrey_Kneller,_Bt_cleanedMore positively, by the name-change the Foundation/Institute was wrapping itself in the toga of Joseph Addison, the supreme Whig essayist of the early eighteenth century.

When I was a student, working towards the Irish Department of Education Leaving Certificate, the essays of Addison, and his mate Richard Steele, were prescribed to us as models for comment, criticism and imitation. That was doubtless derived from the opinion of Doctor Samuel Johnson:

Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the study of Addison.

There’s the “Kit-Kat” portrait of the man himself, by Godfrey Kneller, to the right here.

Addison’s five-act drama, eponymously on Cato the Younger, was the West End hit of 1713 — and went on to even greater success and longer-lasting fame in the American Colonies. So much so, it became a fave of George Washington, who had it performed for the delectation of his troops at Valley Forge, and serially cited it in his orations.

To the main point, Redfellow!

Much of Kahn’s argument could flow as easily from the Taxpayers’ Alliance (which are a styrofoam assemblage, merely right-wing fellow-travellers, without the intellect or clout of the Cato Institute). Let me focus, though, on Kahn’s punchline for that 2011 essay. It was:

Economic saboteurs can only succeed when the public is kept ignorant of their actions by a compliant press and timid foes. It is important that good people be as steadfast in defeating the economic saboteurs as they are with the terrorists.

The economic saboteurs of #Brexit were (and are) the ignoramuses of the Out! campaign who propagated arrant nonsense and deliberate untruths — none more grotesque than the “£50 million a week for the NHS”. That was so blatantly a lie its sponsors were denying it even as the votes were being counted. Beyond the BoJos, the Goves, the Farridges (English: rectè), it took the self-interests of the press lords and lords-in-waiting to perpetrate a stupendous, xenophobic fraud on the general populace. And they all got away with it.

By the way — no: I’m not suggesting the other side were without sin. However, the Remainers were singularly “timid” (Kahn’s word) in answering the excesses lobbed across by the Outers. Even the BBC, in the misguided pursuit of “balance” were reticent in calling the lies for what they objectively were — and are. To describe the Leader of the Opposition as “supine” is a slur on any horizontal human.

In the 1950s, East Germany (then under the jackboot of another ideological cadre) introduced the crime of “economic sabotage”, with the ultimate capital punishment of beheading. Just saying.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, economy, EU referendum, High School, History, Literature, Tories., Washington Post

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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