Irish showing a strange fascination with British royalty

IF THE Queen’s Christmas Day speech is just a public relations exercise for the medieval superstition that monarchs are superior to the rest of us, her new year’s honours are a more hands-on attempt to keep us in the Dark Ages.

Oh dear, you say, that is hardly in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. You have a point, but the concept of monarchy and a secret system of social patronage hardly fit in with the meaning of Christmas either. Yet both have come to symbolise the traditional British Christmas, with a growing Irish interest in all things royal.

If Christmas is meant to be a time of caring for society’s disadvantaged, how have its most advantaged come to shape it in their own interests? Last Tuesday, for example, the queen sat in one of her 775 rooms in Buckingham Palace and told us (under the Good Friday Agreement we are her subjects) about her wonderful family.(Like the 21 other residences, the palace is not subject to the bedroom tax, which cuts housing benefit for those with a spare bedroom.

Sinn Féin pledged it would never come to the north, but it will fully apply here from March 2020.)

While an estimated one million British people use food banks, the head of an extended family of millionaires, all of them unelected and supported by the public purse, was given a prime television slot to explain that she is busy with royal weddings. Britain has progressed little from the time of James I (died 1625) who believed the kings were selected by God. (In overseeing the Ulster Plantation, James was presumably doing God’s will, a view which appears to survive in some parts of the DUP and the Tory party.)

On Monday the queen will reveal those secretly selected for a class-based hierarchy of awards. (These comments offer a critique of the honours system, not a view on individuals who have received or are about to receive an award.) It all began when kings rewarded soldiers with titles for killing loads of people. Titles included the Order of the Garter (don’t ask) and the Order of the Bath, which apparently symbolised the purification of newly created knights, but which was probably an attempt to divert attention from the garter episode. In 1611, James I (yes, him again) introduced, baronetcies to found his

There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of honours. An Order of Britain award would be fine, if it were based on an open and a transparent system of merit, with one category for all

Plantation troops here -the first example of cash for honours. (You do not know what a baronetcy is? Have you no shame? A baronet is a hereditary title, which allows the holder to be addressed as ‘Sir’. No, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is not a baronet, he is a Knight Bachelor. Even if I knew what it meant, it would take too long to explain.)

George V reinvented the honours system in 1917, by introducing the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, just as the empire was about to collapse. Today we have titles based on that now defunct British Empire (BE), including commander (CBE), officer (OBE) and member (MBE) in a declining scale of social status, all based on a heady combination of self delusion and historical amnesia. The awards are generally for services to (whatever that means) agriculture, industry, education and the like.

At the bottom of the pile is the British Empire Medal (BEM), known as the “working class gong”, which is awarded for services to subservience or something. The honours system serves three purposes. It reinforces the mystique of the royalty by magically enhancing someone’s social status. It therefore reinforces Britain’s class system with a rich person more likely to get a CBE or higher honour. Finally, by awarding honours to personalities from sport, entertainment and television, the queen becomes popular by association. There is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of honours. An Order of Britain award would be fine, if it were based on an open and a transparent system of merit, with one category for all.

The Irish are not far behind the British in their fascination with royalty. Led by Sinn Féin, there has been a royal revival in Ireland in recent years (a sort of reverse 19th Century Gaelic revival). No, you say, Ireland is not obsessed, just curious about royalty. You would have a point but for the fact that in the preparation for the visit of Prince Charles, to (rebel?) Cork earlier this year, the city Council spent £4,500 on polishing door handles. I am not sure about you, but that sounds like an obsession to me. However, if anyone receives an award for services to handle polishing on Monday, we will know why.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Patrick Murphy for the original story.

Almost 2,400 people declared ‘fit to work’ were dead within TWO WEEKS

Varadkar recklessly disregards poll, claims McDonald

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald said that a no-deal Brexit would necessitate an immediate referendum on partition
Mary Lou McDonald said that a no-deal Brexit would necessitate an immediate referendum on partition

Mary Lou McDonald has accused the taoiseach of being “reckless” and of failing to adequately prepare for a border poll.

Almost half of voters in Northern Ireland would support a united Ireland if Britain left the EU under the withdrawal agreement that has been reached, according to a poll commissioned by The Times this week.

The Sinn Féin leader said that a no-deal Brexit would necessitate an immediate referendum on partition and she said she had told Theresa May this.

“If there is a hard Brexit and no deal then the immediacy of a border poll is self-evident,” Ms McDonald said. “You couldn’t possibly have a no-deal Brexit, resulting in the hardening of the border and suggest people would simply have to live with that.

“I have made that clear to the British prime minister and said it would have to be done very quickly in those circumstances. Beyond that I want us to have one as soon as possible but I also want us to win and I want us to win it well.”

She criticised Leo Varadkar and said that the government should be planning for the economic and social implications of reunification. “The government should be leading from the front on this. All of the polling data on this tells us categorically that the conversation has started and the genie is out of the bottle,” Ms McDonald said.

“The taoiseach needs to catch up. As head of government he needs to tell us how the conversation on unity will be structured. It is reckless for him to sit back and wish this away or pretend it is not happening.”

She said the main task for politicians was to maximise consensus but that the needs of those who were against leaving the United Kingdom would also have to be considered. “We understand we need an all-of-society conversation on what would be fundamental change. We are very conscious of the fact that people who do not support a united Ireland would have to be part of the conversation too. We would have to discover their red lines. There is a lot of work to be done,” Ms McDonald said.

Another part of the poll suggested that one in four unionists think the DUP would be wrong to reject Mrs May’s withdrawal deal. Almost four in ten unionists also disagreed or strongly disagreed that the DUP’s tactics in refusing to back it were correct.

Ms McDonald said she was not surprised Ms Foster’s party appeared to be out of step with some of its own voters. “I believe the DUP adopted a position on the Brexit referendum, never dreaming that Brexit would actually happen, and I don’t think they have had the political pragmatism or the political sense of responsibility to step back from that,” she said.

“Brexit is bad for Ireland and it’s particularly bad for the North and I think people are onto that. I’m not one bit surprised that people across the community, including those who would always vote for the union, look at Brexit and see nothing, only danger and jeopardy and they are wondering what Arlene Foster and the DUP are up to.”

Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, will urge both communities today to rally support for the deal in an open letter to voters. “It protects all the things we value,” Ms Bradley will say.

The so-called meaningful vote in the British parliament is scheduled for Tuesday, when MPs will have their say on the withdrawal deal. Mrs May’s deal is expected to be rejected.

With many thanks to the: Times Sunday Times for the original story.

First woman MP Markievicz to be honoured in Parliament

Constance Markievicz died in 1927 aged 59, nine years after refusing to take her seat in Westminster.

One hundred years after winning a seat in the House of Commons, the first woman MP is finally to grace the corridors of Westminster.

It was a seat that Constance Markievicz never took – in line with Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy.

Remarkably, she fought the 1918 election for the constituency of Dublin St Patrick’s from a cell in Holloway prison – and out of 18 women candidates, she was the only one to win a seat.

Her portrait, donated by the Irish parliament, is to be received later on Wednesday by Speaker John Bercow on behalf of the House of Commons.

Ready to die for Ireland
Born in 1868, Constance Gore-Booth was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, but developed an allegiance to an Irish Republic.

WB Yeats immortalised Constance Gore-Both left, with her sister Eva, as “two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle”

She spent her childhood at Lissadell House in County Sligo, but was eager to travel and studied art in London and Paris.

It was at the Académie Julian in Paris that she met Casimir Markievicz; the pair married in London in 1900.

Commonly known as Count and Countess Markievicz, her family and some historians have raised questions about the provenance of the title.

Campaigned against Churchill
Constance Markievicz – or Madame de Markievicz, as she was known – was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, and she was the first woman elected to the First Dáil.



Constance Gore-Booth, pictured here as a debutante in 1884, soon became involved in the suffragist movement

Lauren Arrington, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Irish Studies at Liverpool University, said Markievicz was exposed to alternative political opinions while she was in the French capital.

“She was at the centre of an avant-garde culture in Paris and she encountered ideals that were sensible to her – that women should be equal to men,” said Ms Arrington.

Constance joined her sister, Eva, in Manchester in 1908: As key players in the Barmaids’ Political Defence League, they successfully campaigned against the re-election of Winston Churchill in the Manchester North West by-election.

Hearing executions from her cell
But while Markievicz was an anti-imperialist, the 1913 Dublin lockout was a pivotal moment for her.

“It’s the lockout and the formation of the Irish Citizen Army which brings her to republicanism,” said Ms Arrington.

Constance Markievicz was hailed as a hero when she returned to Dublin from prison in 1917

Constance Markievicz took part in the Easter Rising of 1916 and fought against British crown forces under socialist rebel Michael Mallin at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.


The rising was unsuccessful and the ringleaders, including Markievicz, were sentenced to death.

At her court martial, Markievicz declared she was “ready to die for Ireland one way or another”.

However, Markievicz’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison because she was a woman.

This greatly frustrated her, according to Ms Arrington.

“It annoyed her as she felt that she shouldn’t get off purely because she was a woman, and she also felt some responsibility for the jailed rebels she knew from Na Fianna Éireann – a nationalist youth organisation Markievicz co-founded with Bulmer Hobson,” explained Ms Arrington.

“In the first few days after the Rising she was in prison in Kilmainham Gaol, and she could hear the other executions happening from her cell.

“That was torturous for her.”

Proud Irish patriot
Although Constance Markievicz was released from prison in 1917 under a general amnesty, she was detained again by 1918.

The British government feared a repeat of the 1916 Easter Rising and arrested most of the Sinn Féin leadership charging them with entering into treasonable communication with the German enemy.

“The charges were trumped-up”, explains Ms Arrington adding that “the government underestimated the extent to which the imprisonment would be a rallying-cry and actually increase Sinn Fein’s political power”.

Later that year, Prime Minister David Lloyd George called a general election immediately after Armistice Day.

Campaigning from a cell in London’s Holloway prison, Markievicz combined her suffragist ideals with her anti-imperialism.

“Her platform was for a republic in which men and woman would be equal, and Ireland would be free to pursue its own destiny,” said Lauren Arrington.

Rather than take her seat in the House of Commons, Madame de Markievicz – along with 72 other Sinn Féin MPs – refused to acknowledge the authority of the British government, and instead helped establish the First Dáil at Dublin’s Mansion House in January 1919.

Markievicz died in 1927 aged 59, in a public ward in Dublin’s Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital.

Her funeral was attended by the great and the good of Irish society, including Prime Minister Éamon de Valera.

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Éamon de Valera leads mourners at the grave of Countess Constance Markievicz who died 1927

Aristocrat, abstentionist, anti-imperialist, suffragette, feminist, and Irish revolutionary, Constance Markievicz enters the House of Commons honoured for her role in Anglo-Irish history.

Her portrait will form part of the UK Parliament’s Voice and Vote exhibition until 6 October, when it will be transferred to nearby Portcullis House to go on public display.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story.




New Shame Féin Belfast Lord Mayor to consider attending Rememberance Sunday event

Dairdre Hargey said she was mayor for all – a traitor to the republican cause and should hang her head in shame

Sinn Fein’s new Belfast mayor has said she is willing to consider attending this year’s historic Remembrance Sunday commemoration in the city.

Deirdre Hargey said she wanted to be a mayor for all citizens and would reach out to the Royal British Legion and locally-based Somme Association to discuss ways to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Previous Belfast Sinn Fein mayors have laid laurel wreaths in July to commemorate the Battle of the Somme and at the short ceremony at 11am on November 11, the time of the Armistice in 1918.

But they have yet to attend the fuller Remembrance Sunday event, citing concerns over British military trappings.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald attended a Remembrance Sunday church service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin last year.

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“I am mayor for all, that’s for the unionist community, the nationalist community, new communities that have set up home in Belfast, and I want to reflect that in my year in office,” said Ms Hargey.

“I think Belfast City Council have done good work around the Decade of Centenaries programme and I attended many events which wouldn’t have been from my own background per se.”

She added: “I do think it’s important that we use these events to reach out and to build cohesion within the community, that we learn from them.

“There are political narratives and different narratives on what happened in our past and I think that all of those narratives need to be respected.

“What I hope to do is use the learning of that past in building a cohesive and integrated and shared future in the time ahead.

“I will follow suit with other Sinn Fein mayors in the past in terms of the Somme commemoration in July and I would do the same process in terms of paying my respects to that.

“Other commemorations I want to look at – I will look at all of those in detail.

“I will want to pay my respects to all of those who lost their lives in the wars and indeed other conflicts and indeed the political conflict that happened here in Ireland.

“I will address all of those with sensitivity and also in a way of reaching out across the community and representing the community and I will look at those individual issues.

“I am also keen to engage with the likes of the Somme Association, the Royal British Legion, to see if there are events that we can do collectively, that recognises that we do have a political past with different narratives to that past but with a recognition that we need to move forward together and that’s what I aim to do.”

Asked would she consider attending Remembrance Sunday in November, she said: “I will consider all requests that come into the office, yes.”

Ms Hargey, 38, said she wanted to use her year in office to advance rights issues.

She said she hoped she could play a role in delivering abortion reform, same-sex marriage and protections for Irish language speakers.

“I would like to see my year as the mayor for Belfast to enhance those rights, campaign for those rights and be the mayor for equality and rights in Belfast,” she said.

The Sinn Fein councillor said she did not believe the promotion of issues that were the source of political contention in Northern Ireland undermined a commitment to be mayor for all.

“I am the first citizen for all in Belfast and I do think it’s important to reflect all views in the city,” she said.

“That said, I think issues around rights are non-negotiable and I do think as the first citizen I need to stand with those people who are demanding their basic human rights and as the first citizen I will certainly do that.

“There has been a sea change right across this island and people want a rights-based society, so I do hope over my year in office there will be advancement for Irish language rights, for marriage equality rights and for increased healthcare rights for women in terms of access in abortion.

“I do see there are fundamental human rights that as a society we have a duty to implement and push ahead on.

“I will stand with those citizens.”

With many thanks to: UTV Live for the origional story.

Irish Border Stance Is Driving Libreal And Hardline Unionists Together


EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dundalk

In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result, there was shock and dismay across Irish nationalism, which feared the return of a hard border and a more nationalistic UK moving further from the rest of Europe.

That feeling lingers, although it appears to have been somewhat lessened by the Irish Government’s robust stance in the Brexit negotiations, and the willingness of the EU to endorse that stance, putting the issue of the Irish border at or near the top of the talks process.

In the referendum, unionism voted largely to leave the EU, but there was sizable pro-remain unionist vote. But, just as there is a unity across nationalism to Brexit, so there is emerging a unified unionist front in opposition to the ‘backstop’ option which Mr Barnier articulated again yesterday.

That option – which only comes into play if the UK and the EU cannot agree on other solutions to avoiding a hard border, such as the use of technology or the entire UK remaining in a customs union – would involve regulatory alignment across the island of Ireland and customs checks between Northern Ireland and GB.

Last week DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds characterised such a stance as “almost the annexation of Northern Ireland”.

Although there are unionists who are fervently pro-EU, almost none of them have come out to support of the EU’s suggestion of an Irish Sea goods border.

Unionism increasingly united against EU stance

Yesterday the liberal UUP MLA Steve Aiken, who backed the remain side, used the same word as he denounced the EU’s stance.

Two months ago Lord Empey, one of David Trimble’s key negotiators during the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement, wrote to Mr Barnier to express “deep concerns” about an EU approach which he said “undermines the Belfast Agreement and the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland”.

In a pan-European negotiation about trade, security and constitutional principle, Northern Ireland is in some ways an insignificant area.

But with the Irish border an issue of emblematic significance to both sides, it has become critical to the talks.

Unionist unease will not stop Brussels endorsing the stance of one of its members, Ireland.

But the fierce unionist-nationalist split in Northern Ireland means that the EU stance is in effect almost indistinguishable with the stance of Irish nationalism – from the Irish Government to Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

That is undsurprising, given that Mr Barnier is representing Dublin, and the other EU members, in these talks.

But in adopting a stance which is that of one side of the political divide in Northern Ireland, it makes it more difficult for the EU to present its solution as a neutral attempt to save the Good Friday Agreement or even peace itself.

With many thanks to: E News for the origional story.

Unionists accuse SF of ‘hypocrisy’ following Syria bombing protest

Sinn Féin MEP’s Martina Anderson, Liadh Ní Riada and Lynn Boylan hold a protest in the European Parliament in Strassbourg.

A Sinn Fein protest over Theresa May’s decision to join air strikes in Syria has been branded “utter hypocrisy” by unionists.

Martina Anderson MEP, a convicted IRA bomber, staged a protest in the European Parliament over the recent bombing of Syria.

Ms Anderson, along with fellow Sinn Fein MEPs Liadh Ní Riada and Lynn Boylan, held up signs calling for an end to the bombing and an end to the war in Syria.

“What we need to see is a humanitarian response to the ongoing crisis in Syria, not a military response which will only add to the pain and suffering,” she added.

The UK, US and France launched joint strikes on three Syrian government sites near Damascus and Homs on Saturday. The western allies said they were targeting chemical weapons facilities.

But UUP MLA Doug Beattie said, given her “unashamed IRA past”, Ms Anderson’s words “ring hollow”.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell also labelled the SF MEP’s remarks as “double standards and utter hypocrisy”.

As a member of the Provisional IRA, Ms Anderson was convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions. She was in jail for 13 years before she was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Since then, she has played a leading role in Sinn Fein and took over as MEP from Bairbre de Brun in 2012.

Ulster Unionist MLA Mr Beattie told the News Letter: “Every time one of these former terrorists from Sinn Fein say how terrible bombings are I cannot help but roll my eyes at the hypocrisy.

“Until Sinn Fein is willing to condemn and apologise for its campaign of bombings and violence, then these sorts of remarks ring hollow.

“While I can find some common ground with those people who have reservations about the military action in Syria, I can find no common ground with a one-time bomber like Martina Anderson, who remains brazen and unashamed of her actions as a member of the IRA.”

East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell added: “Martina Anderson takes hypocrisy to a new level. In fact she recently retweeted a comment which said ‘military violence does not solve problems’. That is the ultimate irony coming from someone like her, who is unrepentant of her terrorist past.”

Responding to Mr Beattie and Mr Campbell’s comments, a Sinn Fein spokesperson told the News Letter: “Sinn Féin will take no lectures from political unionism which has been a cheerleader for British imperialist wars of aggression which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, men, women and children in the last two decades alone.”

Mr Beattie, who served with the Royal Irish Regiment in war zones including Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, said the prime minister had “every right” to join military action in Syria.

Speaking about Mrs May’s decision to carry out joint air strikes without consulting parliament, Mr Beattie added: “She may have been acting on intelligence which meant she had to act swiftly.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegrpagh for the origional story