That occurred to me again tonight walking home and listening to The World Tonight report on the emergency budget in Dublin. Everyone is demanding an immediate election (although I’m sure Fianna Fail, who have even less to lose than they have to gain, will drag their heels on that one, knowing full well that each and every one of them will be out on his or her arse by the time the polls close.) After Brian Lenihan had presented the budget, the Opposition got up and, as is tradition, condemned it out of hand. It was then I remember thinking that Fine Gael, who accepted wisdom would assume would regain many seats and be a senior partner in any future coalition government, might also perhaps not be looking forward to an election quite as much as one might assume. And then it occurred to me the Gerry
Adams, who is nothing if not wily (and rather wistful in my picture), realised that Sinn Fein’s time might finally have come to score at the ballot box rather better than it has so far.
I’ll repeat that I know less about Irish politics than I do about nuclear physics and what I write is simple conjecture. But it would also make sense. In Britain, the Tweedledum/Tweedledee nature of our system has meant that first Labour would form the government, then it would be the Tories turn, then Labour again, for many years ad nauseam. That has all changed now that the Conservatives were obliged to form a coalition with the Lib Dems. Could the Republic also be facing a its own realignment in its politics? After all, the Irish might reason that one lot is as bad as the other, they’ve both screwed things up and allowed the bubble to blow up before it burst, and that the time has come to give Sinn Fein a chance. It already has many local politicians.
Adams, who is not getting any younger (is any of us?) decided some time ago that real progress towards a fully independent Ireland was more likely by democratic means, and standing for election as TD for Louth, believing that the voters are mightily fed up with the usual suspects might well be part of his game plan.
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Why is Adams routinely referred to as a ‘barman’ or a ‘former barman’? Yes, I know that working as a barman was the only full-time job he had held down until he was elected to the the Commons ond the NI Assembly, but anyone who knows even very little about him will know that describing him as a ‘barman’ and implying that he sort of kind of, kind of sort of drifted into politics is complete bollocks. I suspect when he is described as a barman, it is done, when it is done, as a subtle – or even not so subtle – means of putting him in his place, of implying that he, and thus the ideas he stood and stands for, are rather jumped up and not worth taking seriously even for a moment. In the great British scheme of things, the job of 'barman' is not rated very highly. 'Oh, Blair, was a barman, but that was when he was a student in Paris, old boy, not the same thing at all.'
On the matter of the IRA, I must be a little careful. My dad could be moved to fury in a matter of seconds by any talk of what he and others referred to as ‘sneaking regarders’, so out of respect for my father I shall try very hard to avoid being seen as a ‘sneaking regarder’.
However, I can’t deny that what Adams, McGuinness and others were doing was not in essence different to what Menachem Begin did in the Forties, and what Hereward the Wake did many centuries ago. The problem I have with both the Republican and the Loyalist groups was that all too often too many of them were, whatever their political activities, also heavily involved in outright crime – drugs, robbery, prostitution.
To put my comments into perspective, I am obliged also to add that growing up in Berlin between the ages 9/10 and 13, the son of a German mother and attending German schools for four years, and then, when I came back to live in England, returned to the rather dismal life of a British public school (heating wasn’t turned on until November 1 however cold it got, and even then it was never enough. And the food was awful), I have never actually felt very British.
So the conviction that the provinces of Northern Ireland must forever be a part of Great Britain has never take root in my soul. (My brother Mark once told me of the old Soviet notion of its Jews as ‘rootless cosmopolitans’. Hmm, I remember thinking, I would mind being one of those, and, to be honest, it is a description which gets quite close to how I feel. The only drawback is that it might seem a tad conceited to describe oneself as a ‘cosmopolitan’, especially as this ‘rootless coosmopolitan’ now lives next to a farm in the depths of North Cornwall with nothing but cattle and mud for neighbours. But all this is way of the track.)
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As of earlier today Wikileak’s Julian Assange is banged up in some jail or other in London ready to face a court hearing as to whether he should be extradited to Sweden to face criminal charges. Those charges relate to one-night stands he had with two women in August, and both are now claiming that he is guilty of ‘raping’ them as ‘rape’ has most recently been defined in Swedish law. From what I have read, the sex he had was consensual with both women, that one of the woman more or less pursued him after seeing him on television, and the other woman is claiming that he purposely split a condom. That same women is also on record as urging her sisters to give the bastard men in their lives hell if they step just one inch out of line, or what the sisters regard as being the line. All in all the developments in the Assange/Wikileaks affair are as murky as murky can get.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. various excitable politicians (and, I don’t doubt, a great many rabble-rousing radio shock jocks) are agitating for Assange to be extradited to face ‘spying’charges. Some are even calling for him to be ‘executed’. This is all rather ridiculous, but also rather worrying.
I wasn’t particularly impressed by all the leaking of embassy cables and don’t think it achieved anything, except some light amusement at the embarrassment of assorted politicians. All the claims that it was the democratic empowerment of the people blah-blah, is, as far as I am concerned 24 carat bullshit. (Note to pedants: yes, I know bullshit can't be 24 carat, but you know what I mean.) The Americans looked particularly stupid given how unbelievably lax their security was, and they have obviously taken very badly being made to look very silly in the eyes of the rest of the world.
The revelation of the locations and details of various installations considered ‘vital’ be the U.S. was admittedly pretty bloody pointless, and if I had to sum up the whole affair in one word it would be ‘bollocks’. But having said that, I really don’t like seeing Assange well and truly stitched up. And that is what is happening.
He is now too high-profile to be grabbed in broad daylight by the CIA and flown off somewhere on one of those infamous ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights – so much for all the ‘freedom loving’ bullshit we get far too much of from the U.S. – and doing so would be impossible. But the rape allegations in Sweden, though they appear to have come about independently, will be manna from heaven for the U.S., and I don’t doubt its embassy in Stockholm will be squeezing Swedish government’s nuts without mercy to ensure Assange is extradited from the UK to Sweden so that the U.S. can then extradite him themselves.
I suggested earlier that had Assange been made Russia or China looks stupid, they would have had no compulsion at all of getting rid of him. The only difference with the U.S. is that it feels obliged to cover its arse and make itself out to be doing things correctly. But be in no doubt, it will not rest until Assange has been banged up somewhere for 99 years without parole. No one makes Uncle Same look stupid and is allowed to get away with it.
The BBC is reporting that he was refused bail. That, too, is odd, as there is surely little chance he will skip the country. But then he didn’t just make the Yanks look very silly. The Brits also looked pretty daft. I suspect pressure has also been exerted on Switzerland, which has reportedly frozen Wikileaks accounts.