No this is NOT a return to Blogging. It is a review of the year 2017 and an acknowledgement that “Keeping An Eye On The Czar of Russia” is still well read despite no entries from June this year.
This Blog is on the British Library’s list of Blogs worth reading and also recommended reading at some universities.
So this is really my annual Message to the World….Urbi et Orbi as the Pope says.
Oddly, this is the year I stopped caring.
Let’s start with Brexit. I am thoroughly enjoying the Chaos. In 2016 I voted to leave the European Union. To be honest, I never liked it (“rich mans club” as we lefties said in the 1970s) and I never liked the stealth used to diminish national sovereignty in favour of European Union. I never liked any manifestation, Common Market. EEC, EEU, EU or simply “Europe”. I can understand people loving France, Germany, Poland….and even Belgium….but who actually loves Europe more? Have you ever cheered Spain to beat El Salvador in a football match? Have you ever cheered on England to beat Australia at cricket?
The great thing about BREXIT is that my single vote was counted twice. It was a losing vote as Norn Iron voted to remain and was a winning vote as the “UK” voted to leave. Hooray and a second Hooray. Having spent a lifetime trying to weaken the concept of a “United Kingdom”, the Referendum Result was good news. England basically put a gun to its own head and pulled the trigger.
As any 12 year old at a Catholic grammar school in Norn Iron was taught in 1964….England’s problem is Ireland’s opportunity. Spanish Armada, English Civil War, Napoleon Bonaparte, First World War……..BREXIT.
And watching Teresa May, Boris Johnson, David Davies and the rest…..well I feel even better.
Even more amusing is Victoria Coren-Mitchell rejoice at making up the word “REMAIN” in an episode of “8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown”. Or her hubby David Mitchell rant about post-BREXIT Britain on “The Big Fat Quiz of The Year”. Poor Victoria. Poor David…..I suspect that they wont need to scavenge in dumpsters and sleep in doorways. Appearances on “Countdown”, “Upstart Crow”, “Only Connect”, “Have I Got News For You”, “Would I Lie To You”, “Question Time”, “The Peep Show” should keep the post-BREXIT wolf from the door. It will of course be different for the people in Middlesbrough, Stoke and Sunderland….the poor and disconnected who voted for BREXIT will suffer. But isn’t it clear that the liberals who despise the poor and stupid who voted to leave have actually more in common with conservatives in the City of London who voted to remain.
The working class in rust belts in England cant look to liberal comedians. There is a disconnect. Likewise the working class in rust belt USA rejected Hillary Clinton and Meryl Streep.
And yet the year has been a roller-coaster. A Norn Iron election that weakened DUP and strengthened Sinn Féin and SDLP. And a Westminster election that put three nails into the coffin of SDLP (I am not sure they can ever recover).
Losing all three Westminster seats and three powerful voices was a disaster. The constant in-fighting and the impotency after the Good Friday Agreement…yes aided and abetted by back-stabbing by the two governments finally took a toll.
Really it is the small stuff that SDLP cannot handle. A member defects to Fianna Fáil. Three Belfast councillors ….socially conservative perhaps….are expelled in an abortion-related issue. And Abortion has the capacity to damage the SDLP (a “pro-life” Party with members who support choice) so if and when in 2018, younger SDLP members rush off to Dublin to wave “Repeal the Eighth Amendment” placards, the reaction by Party HQ will be interesting. Their next move as always will be self-destructive…hopefully nobody will accept a peerage and a place in the House of Lords.
The good thing about SDLP is that they have their hearts in the right place…on their sleeves. The bad thing is that they are hopeless. Oh yes I will vote SDLP time and again because Fergus, Donal and Declan are guys like me. And Mrs FJH will vote SDLP because Ciara, Sarah and Noreen are women like her.
Sinn Féin…well they have an air of invincibility but are just as hopeless as SDLP. They can win elections, even occasionally be in government but never actually in power. And of course they are a bunch of chancers. This seems under-scored by the fact that I have seen too much of them in the past six months.
Don’t be fooled by the appearance of unity. They are a strange coalition. Felons and Féilons. The Felons are the old foot-soldiers from the 1970s and 1980s who THINK that being on first name terms with the SF leadership and sauntering along the Falls Road, wearing (one size too small) Antrim GAA track suits, means they have any real influence.
The cultural types with their bodhráns and tin whistles in An Cultúrlann and movers and shakers at An Féile (the West Belfast Festival) are the other side of the SF coalition.
The Hairy Arsed and the Half Arsed. The Jailic speakers and the Gaelic speakers…but ultimately useless.
Sinn Féin have invested too much in Demographics. Yes there are more nationalists than ever in Norn Iron but the other side of that coin is that there are fewer in the Republic of Ireland. Around 10% of the population (and 15% of the workers) in the Republic were born outside Ireland.
Using my over65 Senior Smart pass to travel around Ireland, I see no evidence that the Slovakian girls in Burger King are nationalists. Nor are the lycra wearing cycling yuppies knocking me down in the Financial District interested in Irish unity. Nor are those yuppies at Google Headquarters at the Grand Canal interested in anything so passé. Yes maybe if I get the 122 bus to Cabra or the DART to Kilbarrack or the LUAS to Drimnagh….yes I will see blue and black Dublin GAA bunting. And I guess they are nationalists.
But increasingly as I travel in Ireland, tourists ask me for directions and it feels like I am a stranger here myself.
So still no government in Norn Ireland. I hope Stormont is not abolished. There are a lot of problems here…housing, health and the rest and to their immense credit, the staff in constituency offices do a lot to mitigate a lot of suffering. Closing them down and sacking MLAs is an easy populist option favoured by shock jocks posing as journalists on Radio Ulster…but it gives a free pass to British Conservative ministers and the higher ranks of the Civil Service.
As always the old and poor are vulnerable. Prescription charges, rates……free transport for people over 60 (you can take my free travel pass from my cold dead hand!!!) and the rest.
The Norn Iron Office have probably got a list of wannabe Vichy-lite collaborators …and certainly some of our great and good would love to serve on a 10-person advisory board…the ultimate quango. Lets be honest I could write down the names of ten people who have been loitering with intent of a quango for years……….and I would be right about seven of them. And most of the people reading this would be able to name a few. Whatever happened all those Platform for Change folks?
Still …on the bright side, there is Donald Trump. Another failure for liberal elites. Really …whether its David Mitchell in England or Meryl Streep in USA or any “letsgetalongerist” in Norn Iron, they just don’t get it.