Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Sinn Fein and plum jobs for 'Irish' speakers

Given Sinn Fein's tendency to use populist leftist rhetoric when it suits, it is nice to see them forced into showing their true, right-wing, lumpen-nationalist colours now and again. This time it is about Immigration Minister Conor Lenihan making modest noises about opening up the civil service to Ireland's new arrivals.

Shinner TD Aengus O Snodaigh, in an An Phoblacht article with the absurd headline of "Government Assault on Irish Language Continues" was forced to break cover in this regard, on what he sees as Lenihan's plans "for the removal of Irish language requirements for civil servants", to encourage foreign nationals to join.

Apparently Aengus and the Shinners think it's perfectly OK to exclude foreigners from the civil service because they - along with the vast majority of Irish people - do not speak 'Irish'. It is well-known that the Shinners are notoriously slow learners - but even they should be able to see that the State's policies of making 'Irish' compulsory in schools has not worked, and that excluding people (Irish and foreign) from State employment because they don't share the Shinner enthusiasm for "de language", and reserving plum jobs for 'Irish speakers' is not only wrong - it's counter-productive because of the resentment it builds up.

But then again, this is a party that chose to introduce its election manifesto 'as Gaeilge' rather than in the vernacular. Nice to see that they accordingly got the spanking they deserved in the southern elections. Could have been worse, could have been a kneecapping.

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Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Irish Drivers

In a country where you can drive to the testing centre on a provisional licence, fail, and drive off into the traffic again, it's not surprising that the standard of roadcraft often leaves a lot to be desired. Steve Lane (!), of Dunboyne sums it up well in today's Metro, with his Commandments for Motoring Muppets:

1. Thou shalt have a reg plate in italics.
2. Thou shalt display a "Baby on Board" sticker.
3. When learning to drive, thou shalt display an L-plate in an inverted position.
4. Thou shalt obscure the rear view with cuddly toys on the parcel shelf.
5. Thou shalt remain in the overtaking lane of the motorway on the basis that "I'm traveling at the speed limit, so no one should be overtaking me".
6. Thou shalt inexplicably indicate 'right' at a roundabout when you are going to go straight through.
7. Thou shalt slow to 50 kph at the bottom of the on-ramp before attempting to merge with motorway traffic.
8. Thou shalt accelerate through the amber light at busy pedestrian crossings.
9. Though shalt fail to acknowledge drivers who make space to let you out from side roads.
10. Thou shalt drive in semi-darkness without headlights 'to save fuel'.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Roma and discrimination

Recently, there was a great media hoo-ha over a group of Roma families who encamped on a roundabout in north Dublin.

Subsequently, an Ireland.com head-2-head poll (published 6/8/2007) asked the question:

"Do the Roma face discrimination?".

62% of respondents believed the answer was "no".

Most rational people would accept that the Roma suffer, and have suffered, widespread discrimination in their own countries of origin and abroad. There is also the minor fact that between 220,000 to 500,000 Roma are thought to have been murdered by the Nazis when their countries were invaded during the Second World War.

So, for visitors to the Irish Times website to issue a blanket denial on the issue of discrimination - on foot of a minor occupation of a north Dublin roundabout - really is quite puzzling.

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Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Was Pearse a proto-fascist?

Umberto Eco attempted to define the characteristics of proto-fascism as the "cult of tradition, a rejection of modernism, the cult of action for action's sake, life lived for struggle, and a fear of difference".

The Nazis sprang out of the aftermath of the First World War, and harked back to the rampant nationalism of that time. Their ideas of nationhood were classically proto-fascist, based as they were on notions of race, land, ancient myth and what they saw as a mystical association of the German Volk with the soil of Germany - including those parts ceded by the Treaty of Versailles - which they called "Blut und Boden" (blood and soil).

They rejected modernity - embodied, for them, in the admittedly disastrous form of the penally constrained Weimar Republic - pining instead for aspects of the old, militaristic, Imperial, pre-war past. Their 'philosophy' was also deeply entrenched in myth and an idealised, insular, folk-based past.

It could be alleged that the ideas of Pearse were not very far removed from the type of thinking that spawned Nazism, based as they were on notions of a homogenous Gaelic past, which excluded all other influences:

"For Pearse, the idea of a blood sacrifice had additional appeal. Even as a child, he had unusual fantasies of self-sacrifice for his country, derived from Celtic myths and religious writings." - Source, BBC website/history/Easter Rising.

Pearse's penchant for the idea of 'blood sacrifice' is further illustrated by the following quotes:

"Bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing" - 1913


"The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed by the red wind of the battlefield' - 1915

Admittedly, such strange ideas were not unique to Pearse at that time - many extreme nationalists throughout Europe had similarly rabid beliefs - but the interesting thing is that these ideas were rejected for the nonsense they were after the slaughter of the First World War. Indeed it was only the fascists, with their reactionary outlook and rejection of democracy and progress, who clung to them - with the terrible consequences of further war and mass genocide.

While it is true that not all those that took part in the Easter Rising shared the same outlook as Pearse - Connolly, for instance, had a socialist agenda - it is telling that Pearse is still viewed with such an uncritical eye by Irish nationalists today, and is held in general high esteem by the wider public.

Indeed, it might be argued that we can only consider ourselves a mature pluralistic republic when we can see Padraig Pearse for the proto-fascist reactionary he really was.

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