Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Bristol Announces Education Report about the Contribution of Different Communities to City

January 19, 2022

Yesterday a couple of bods from Bristol city council appeared on the news to announce the imminent public of two reports, both dealing with race and community issues. At lunchtime it was reported that there was a report coming out about how the city should educate people about city’s history as a major centre of the slave trade. Then on the 6.30 local news, deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Craig appeared to tell viewers about another report coming out about another education initiative, this time about the contribution different communities had made to the city. She thought it might perhaps form the basis for a new museum. The report was hailed as bringing communities together.

Bristol’s a port city and so people of different races and nationalities have been living in the city since the Middle Ages. It had a Jewish community, complete with a miqveh or ritual bath, on Jacob’s Wells Road before Edward I’s expulsion of them from England. it also had strong links with Ireland, and it’s possible that there was a community of Bristol merchants in Dublin before Henry IIs invasion of 1169. It also had strong links to Wales, and so there’s always been people from Ireland and Wales here in the city. There were a few Icelandic merchants resident in Bristol in the 15th century. As the city also traded in wine from France and Spain, I’m fairly certain there were also French people and Spaniards here. There were also Black people in Bristol from the 16th century onwards following the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. However, the bulk of the modern Black population probably really only dates from the Windrush migration. Other immigrants to Bristol include Poles, Russians – there’s a Russian Orthodox church on University Road by the museum in Clifton, Chinese and peeps from India and Pakistan. A few years ago a book was published about Bristol’s diverse immigrant population.

But I don’t think this is primarily about all of the city’s various ethnic communities. I think it’s really an attempt to promote Bristol’s Black community. Last year, when I contacted Craig criticising her for some of her comments about the city’s involvement in the slave trade, her reply talked about the ‘One Bristol’ educational project. This would promote Blacks, and be ‘diverse and inclusive’, which didn’t always happen with White men. I don’t know if that last comment is a deliberate sneer or putdown.

It’s fair to say that the majority Black areas of the Bristol have the same problems and reputation of inner cities elsewhere – drugs, crime, prostitution and violence. When I was growing up people from outside the area drove along Stapleton Road in St. Paul’s with their windows up and the door firmly locked. Nearly two decades ago in 2004 there were a series of murders in the area and it was reported on the news that there was a gun-related incident everyday. I can remember going along the road on the bus to a lecture at UWE and seeing armed policemen on the street. I’ve heard from friends that there are local people in the community collecting and blogging about the area and Bristol’s black history as way of combating the alienation and marginalisation many Black Bristolians feel. From Craig’s reply to me, it looks like the ‘One Bristol’ education project is intended to do something similar by giving a more positive image of the community.

As for educating Bristolians about the city’s role in the slave trade, I’ve grown up knowing about it although there is still the strong belief among some Blacks, repeated by Craig in her interview on Radio 4 last year, that the city authorities have covered it up. In the 1990s the City Museum and Art Gallery staged an exhibition about the city and the slave trade, ‘A Respectable Trade’, named after the costume drama then showing on the Beeb, adapted from a book by Philippa Gregory. The M Shed museum on the city docks also has a gallery about Bristol and the slave trade. There are articles about the city’s involvement in the slave trade on the museum’s website, a slave walk in Clifton and a plaque on one of the warehouses down by the M Shed commemorating the victims who were enslaved and sold by Bristol merchants. The official name for the very bizarre looking ‘horned bridge’ across the dock’s is Pero’s Bridge, after one of the few named slaves who was brought to Bristol itself.

I have to say I’m a bit sensitive about some of the demands for the proper commemoration of the slave trade in the city. It sometimes seems to me that’s it’s being used by angry members of the Black community to attack White Bristol because of the poverty and marginalisation that still plagues their community. Back in the 1990s, for example, when the city celebrated the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, various Black spokesmen declared that it was a celebration of slavery. This followed American Blacks’ condemnation of the celebration of Columbus’ discovery of America a few years earlier. Indigenous Americans also attacked it as a celebration of their genocide. It wasn’t, of course, meant to be a celebration of slavery, but they had a point. Following Columbus discovery of the New World, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean were enslaved and worked, tortured and massacred until they died out. The Spanish then turned to Black African slaves to replace them. I don’t believe that the discovery of Newfoundland had any direct connection with slavery. That seems to have started in 1619 when Spanish merchants brought a consignment of them to Jamestown, and it seems that initially the English settlers didn’t know what to do with them. However, slavery and all the horrendous methods of repression soon followed. A Black artist produced a picture showing his feelings about the celebration of Cabot’s discovery. It shows the Matthew sailing up the Avon Gorge. watched by cameras from the Evening Post and the local news, while shadowy figures rampage across the suspension bridge. The painting’s now on display in the slavery gallery in the M Shed. To me it demonstrates a bitter mentality that automatically assumes any celebration like it must somehow be about the persecution or exploitation of Blacks, and it seems to me that a similar deep bitterness is driving the demands for proper education about the city’s slavery history. On the other hand, there have been a large influx of newcomers to the city from London and elsewhere, and it’s possible that, not being Bristolians, they really know little about the city and the slave trade. The education initiative could therefore be a response to them requiring to know more.

Points West stated that the report about educating Bristolians about the contributions of Bristol’s multiracial communities will make five recommendations, while the one about slavery will make fifteen. It’ll be interesting to see what they are.

Vandal Attacks BBC Statue Because of Colston Verdict

January 12, 2022

This evening, a man climbed up to a ledge on the front of Broadcasting House, the Beeb’s HQ, and started to attack the statue of Ariel by Eric Gill. Someone took film of him smashing the statue’s feet with a hammer, and it’s been widely posted and reposted by right-wingers over YouTube. The man was David Chick, and there’s a phone call from him on the channel of someone rejoicing in the monicker ‘Tyrant Finder UK’. Chick and the Tyrant Finder are both men, who can’t utter a sentence without using the F-bomb nor other foul language, but in the phone call Chick makes it clear that he’s attacking the statue because Gill was a paedophile. Indeed he was. During his life he professed to be the model of Roman Catholic piety as a tertiary Franciscan. After his death it was discovered that not only did he rape his two daughters but also the family dog. But Chick also seems to have done it out of anger for the acquittal of the Colston Four. And he’s being applauded by people, who similarly believe, or seem to believe, that the BBC is promoting child abuse with the statue and who are also angry at the Bristol verdict. The attitude seems to be that if the woke can tear down statues, then so can they.

Mad right-wing Youtuber Alex Belfield was one of those who put up an approving video of the attack earlier this evening. He has his own grievances against the Corporation. He claims he was forced out of the Beeb because he’s a poor White kid from a pit estate and not one of the middle class, Guardian reading, university educated Naga Manchushy types, as he calls them. He also has some kind of personal feud with various broadcasters, like Jeremy Vine. He frequently rants against the Beeb demanding its privatisation and the Eric Gill statue is one of the weapon he uses in the attacks. He criticises the Corporation for keeping the statue on its facade, which he seems to claim shows the indifference to child abuse which allowed Jimmy Savile to carry on with his predations unstopped.

Gill certainly was a vile human being, and some of his art does pose a genuine moral problem. A few years ago Victoria Coren discussed him in her documentary, How to Be a Bohemian, which traced the history of bohemianism from 19th century Paris and the Romantics to Britain, the Bloomsbury Group, the Bright Young Things and today’s London and its drag queens. Gill was one of the Bohemians she discussed. She was particularly upset at a bas relief Gill had made of a nude girl. I can’t remember what the sculpture’s official title was, but Gill called it ‘F*cking’. The girl in it was his 15 year old daughter, whom he was abusing at the time. Victoria Coren was talking to a female art expert about the sculpture and the unsettling questions it raised. The expert denied that this was a problem with a comparison to W.B. Yeats and his poetry. Nobody, she declared, objects to Yeats’ poetry because he was a Fascist. Coren replied that they did, and she was particularly unhappy about it. As her father, Alan Coren, was Jewish, it’s very easy to understand why Victoria Coren would have deep misgivings about the poet. It must be said, though, that Yeats was only a Fascist for a short time. If I remember correctly, this was c.1919. He later left them and was very critical about them.

I’m sure most people would be unhappy at Gill’s sculpture of his nude daughter, and would have very strong moral questions against its display. But it isn’t the Ariel statue. And there is still a need to separate the artist from the art. Many of the greatest figures in the arts, literature and science were vile people, or had loathsome views, like Dickens, for example. He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest writers in the English language, but he fully supported General Eyre and his brutal suppression of the Morant Bay rebellion by former slaves on Jamaica. But that in no way invalidates his work, in the same way that Orwell pointed out that Hamlet isn’t diminished by the fact that Shakespeare left his wife his second best bed. I also don’t think you can quite compare the Ariel statue to that of Edward Colston. The Ariel statue is of a character from Shakespeare, used as a kind of mascot by the Corporation. It is not a monument to someone who was a slaver, even if he did give most of his money away in charity.

Those defending and applauding the attacker are wrong on another point. They seem to believe that Colston’s Four’s acquittal has somehow become a precedent, which they can use to defend their attacks. But this isn’t the case. Jury trials, according to Adam Wagner, a lawyer on the Net, don’t set precedents, so Chick could still find it difficult to defend himself if he’s arrested.

I’m deeply unhappy about cultural vandalism regardless of who’s doing it. The attack on Colston’s statue is understandable given that it’s been a subject of controversy and demands for its removal for decades. And now it seems the right have also decided that they are entitled to attack any statues they find offensive, and I’m afraid that this will kick off more vandalism rather than reduce it.

I don’t deny that there’s a good case for taking some statues down, but I don’t support violent attacks on public art, regardless of whether it comes from the right or left. And I think Belfield’s attacks on the Beeb’s statue largely come from his own personal feud with the corporation and the Conservative’s demands for the Beeb’s privatisation and its replacement by a private broadcaster. This hostility partly comes from the Tories’ deep ideological objection to nationalised industries, their loyalty to Rupert Murdoch and his shoddy empire and their hatred of the Beeb because, once upon a time, it used to hold them to account. Some of us can still remember the time Michael Heseltine stormed off Newsnight, tossing his mane after a grilling by Paxman.

Britain’s statues are now threatened not just by the woke left, but by a vengeful, intolerant Conservative right using the outrage it has generated against the offending statue as part of its campaign to silence its critics.

History Debunked Questions Johnson’s Britishness

January 12, 2022

Oh ho! This is very amusing. The Tory party has always positioned itself, at least since the 19th century, as the party of Britishness. If you listen to its supporters and propaganda, it’s the party of the British constitution and the union, protecting our ancient liberties and defending our great nation from plots and attacks by evil foreigners. Historically this largely meant the French, but today means the EU and Scots Nationalists. Under Maggie Thatcher this nationalism became particularly shrill. The 1987 Tory election broadcast showed Spitfires zooming about the sky while an excited voice told us that ‘We were born free. It’s our fundamental right’ and ended with ‘It’s great, to be great again!’ Political theorists who’ve read, or at least heard of Rousseau could correct the first statement. At the beginning of his book, The Social Contract, which became one of the founding texts of the French Revolution, Rousseau said: ‘Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ Which is probably not something Thatcher wanted said about her government. As for being ‘great again’, this was the period when Thatcher was selling our state industries off to foreign investors, destroying trade unions, cutting unemployment and other welfare benefits and trying to find ways to get people to take out private medical insurance instead of relying on the NHS. She would have liked to have privatised that, but was prevented by a massive cabinet rebellion. At the same time she was using her ‘strong state’ against striking miners and anyone else she thought was an evil Commie subversive while at the same time propping up truly evil Fascist dictators abroad. Like the brute General Pinochet, responsible for the murder and torture of 30,000 people in his native Chile. The country’s present grinding poverty and crumbling infrastructure are all a result of her policies. The identification of the Conservative party with Britishness was so loud and crass that, reviewing the election broadcast on Radio 4’s The News Quiz, the late, much-missed humourist Alan Coren referred to the planes as ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’. I also remember one of the Observer’s columnists referring to the Tories as ‘the patriotic party’.

But now aspersions have been cast on the Britishness of the Tories’ leader and current head of the country, Boris Johnson. Simon Webb of the History Debunked YouTube channel put up a piece yesterday asking ‘How British Is Boris Johnson?’ This speculated that Johnson carries on the way does because, quite simply, he isn’t really British. He was born in New York, and is of mixed Turkish and American ancestry. He is also part Jewish, which is one reason why I’m not going to put the video up here. One of the elements of the genuine anti-Semitic conspiracies is the allegation that Jews aren’t really patriotic citizens because of their international connections and foreign ancestry and relatives. They have frequently been accused of being ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ with no real connection or loyalty to the gentile peoples among which they settle. It’s a poisonous allegation that has resulted in the murder of countless innocents and encouraged the formation and growth of Fascist organisations and parties like the Nazis. The vast majority of British Jews are as British as everyone else. And before the Second World War, the vast majority of Jews wished to remain in the countries of their birth, to be accepted as patriotic fellow citizens by their gentile countrymen. It’s why the leaders of the British Jewish community during the First World War actually opposed the Balfour Declaration. They did not want the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine nor anywhere else, as it could lead to the accusation that their loyalties were divided. And they weren’t. They were, and wanted to be seen as, patriotic Brits.

But there is a kind of irony in Boris Johnson, a pukka old Etonian, and true-blue Tory being accused of not being British enough.

And I think Webb has a point, though not in the sense he means. At the heart of the right-wing ranting and suspicion about the ‘globalists’, supposedly plotting to create an evil, Satanic one-world Communist state, there’s an element of truth. Regardless of their nationality or ancestry, it appears to me that the global superrich really are forming a separate international class whose loyalty is primarily to themselves and not to the people below them, even if these people are of the same nationality. You can see that in the way the Tory grandees and those like them move their capital around the world, investing in countries on the other side of the world while making pay and conditions worse over here and cutting benefits. As far as I know, Jacob Rees-Mogg is thoroughly British in his ancestry. He also projects a caricatured, right-wing image of Britishness very much like his nickname of ‘Lord Snooty’. He also backed Brexit, which was supposed to be another patriotic gesture in which Britain took back her sovereignty.

In fact Brexit has wreaked massive harm to our economy, disastrously cutting British firms off from continental markets and suppliers. The deals we’ve made, or are trying to make, with the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are to our disadvantage, whatever the Tory mouthpieces say to the contrary. And the response of Rees-Mogg and the superrich like him amply demonstrate where their loyalties lie. Even before Brexit, Mogg had invested in companies in the far east. And when he was urging everyone to vote to leave the EU, he was moving his own financial interests to Eire. This was to pick up on all the EU business he would otherwise have lost if they’d remained centred in Britain. Which is, to me, another example of Tory hypocrisy.

Back in the 19th century Disraeli declared in his books Coningsby and Sybil that Britain was divided into two nations, the rich and poor, who had no knowledge or connection with each other, and demanded that this should be remedied. They’ve been talking about ‘One Nation’ Toryism every since. This is done by leaders like John Major, Michael Howard, David Cameron and so on, and is supposed to show that they are from that branch of the party that still has some paternalistic regard for those below them. The same people talk, or used to talk, about ‘caring Conservativism’. This is all the while doing what Tories always do – cut benefits, wages, and employment conditions and make it easier to sack people. All while manipulating the stats to persuade people that this is actually working and that they’re somehow better off.

Tony Benn in one of his books said something about the British ruling class regarding the lower orders as indeed like a foreign nation. Thinking about the Britannia Unchained mob, he had a point. This was the book written by a group of Tory MPs, including the smirking insult to decency, Priti Patel, that said that for Britain to compete in the global market, British workers must endure the same terrible conditions and wages as those elsewhere in the world, like India. A similar view was put forward by a former Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset. I’ve forgotten who he was, but I do remember his appearance on the local news. Introducing him, the interviewer stated that he came from a family of colonial administrators and governors. This strongly suggests to me that, deep down, he regarded British people of all colours in the same way his family had regarded the Africans and other indigenous peoples they governed.

And going back back to the 1920s, George Bernard Shaw attacked the Tory claim that they and the rich represented Britain and her interests in his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism by pointing out that the rich spent much of their time and money abroad, and preferred to invest in firms in the colonies using cheap indigenous labour. And this still remains absolutely true. One of the problems with Britain’s banking system is that its investment banks are geared to putting money into commonwealth rather than domestic industries.

At a fundamental level, Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tory elite really don’t have any connection to the Brits below them. It’s not because of their ancestry. In my view, they’re the same whether they’re completely British by descent. It’s because they are part, and see themselves as part of an international industrial and political class, who move their businesses and investments from one country to another without concern for how this affects their fellow countrymen. All the while trying to deceive the rest of us by yelling about their Britishness and British values.

Johnson and the Tories aren’t British patriots, except at the crude level of repeating nationalist slogan and anti-immigrant attitudes. Ordinary Brits are foreigners to them, like the low-waged workers in other countries they also seek to exploit.

Nigel Farage Interviews Iraq War Army Officer about Blair’s War Crimes

January 8, 2022

Oh Heaven help me! I’ve just agreed with something arch-Brexiteer, former Kipperfuhrer and founder of the Brexit party, Nigel Farage, has said on right-wing satellite/cable broadcaster GB News. The Fuhrage was criticising the recent award of a knighthood to Tony Blair. Blair has not been forgiven by very many ordinary Brits, both on the right and left, for taking this country into an illegal war and occupation of Iraq. Three quarters of a million people, according to Farage, have now signed a petition against the honour. Farage points out that every prime minister automatically becomes a member of the Order of the Garter with which comes either a knighthood or an earldom. In this video from his show on GB News, posted on the 5th of January, not only does Farage himself criticise its award to Blair, asking if he is a fit and proper person to receive it, but he talks over the phone to one of the veterans who served in the war. This is Colonel Tim Collins, OBE, who led the Royal Irish Regiment.

Farage begins with the news that one of Blair’s former cabinet ministers, Jeff Hoon, is writing a book that claims that Blair’s chief of staff, Tony Powell, burnt a document of legal advice concerning legality of gong to war provided by the Attorney General Lord Geoffrey Goldsmith. The newspapers report that the story came out in 2015, but Farage states that he has never, ever seen it before to his recollection. He states that Blair had the backing of parliament to go to war, and asks Col. Collins if there are really legitimate reasons for refusing him the Order of the Garter. Collins replies by going even further, contradicting the story that it was Blair who was responsible for the peace settlement in Northern Ireland. Not so. According to Collins, it was largely the work of John Major and the Irish government. Blair took over the process, but added celebrity spin, which had the effect of watering the agreement down, hence producing the conditions for the mess Ulster is in now. The colonel then goes on to remind the viewers that Blair took us into the war on the dodgy dossier. We acted as bit-part players, not pulling our weight and giving the coalition good advice. He recalls that the crucial piece of advice he saw when he was a member of Special Forces at their HQ before he joined the RIR was that we needed to retain the Iraqi army to hold Iraq together until a democratic replacement for Saddam Hussein could be found. The disbandment of the Iraqi army unleashed a form of terror that cost many lives, both Iraqi and British. Farage responds by stating that down the centuries British prime ministers in crisis have made both good and bad decisions. This decision was very bad, but should it disqualify Blair from getting the accolade all other prime minsters have received? Collins response to this question is to point out that it’s ironic that the honour is in the gift of the monarch, whom Blair did so much to undermine. He describes how she was used as a prop for Blair, Cherie and New Labour at the millennium celebrations. He now has to come cap in hand to Her Maj and say ‘You are right.’ And Farage fully agrees.

Farage goes on to ask the colonel, as a veteran of the Iraq war, whether he and his colleagues feel bitter about being sold that war on a falsehood. Collins replies that he feels sorry for the people of Iraq, who have been pushed into their unfriendly neighbours, Iran. He believes they will rise again, but it will take a long time. There are thousands of people dead, who didn’t need to die, including our own people. Farage then asks him if he’s saying that Tony Blair shouldn’t get the knighthood. Collins replies that he should got to the Queen and tell her that he cannot accept it, because he is not a fit and proper person to receive it from the monarchy he has done so much to demean.

I think the colonel is rather more concerned about Blair’s undermining of the monarchy as much as, if not more, than British troops being sent into Iraq to fight and lose life and limb, and destroy an entire country on the basis of a lie. Blair did indeed appear to use to Queen as a prop for his own self-promotion during his tenure of 10 Downing Street. He was widely criticised by the right-wing press for his ‘presidential’ party political election film. He’s not the only one, however. Thatcher seemed to being her best on many occasions to upstage Her Maj while at the same time trying to bathe in the monarchy’s reflected glory.

The colonel’s statement about the Northern Ireland peace process being largely the work of Major and the Irish government is subject to doubt, but I can well believe it. Thatcher had begun secret talks with Sinn Fein and the IRA years before, while at the same time showing her massive hypocrisy by loudly denouncing the Labour party as traitors and supporters of terrorism for openly saying that it was precisely what we should do. Going further back to the beginning of the Troubles in the ’70s, Ted Heath had also opened talks with them, only to have them collapse because of the intransigence of the Loyalists.

The colonel also has a good point when he states that they shouldn’t have disbanded the Iraqi army. Bush and Blair had no real idea what to do after they’d won. Bush was taken in by the lies of Ahmed Chalabi, a fantasist who claimed to be the massively popular hero of resistance movement. He would take over the government of the country, and the coalition forces would be met as liberators by a grateful Iraqi people. None of which was true. What is also true is that Iranian influence has expanded into Iraq despite the hostilities of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Iran is a Shia country, and there is a sizable Shia minority in Iraq for whom Iran is, no doubt, a liberator and protector.

What the Colonel and Farage don’t mention is the real, geopolitical and economic reasons we invaded Iraq. The American-Saudi oil companies wanted to get their hands on Iraq’s state oil industry and its reserves, American multinationals wanted to acquire the country’s other state enterprises. And the Neo-Cons had the fantasy of turning the country into some kind of free trade, free market utopia, with disastrous consequences for the country’s economy.

Native Iraqi firms couldn’t compete with the goods dumped on them by foreign countries. Businesses went bankrupt, unemployment soared to 60 per cent. The country’s relatively progressive, secular government and welfare state collapsed. Sectarian violence erupted between Sunni and Shia, complete with death squads under the command of senior coalition officers. Women lost their ability to find careers outside the home. And the mercenaries hired to keep the peace ran prostitution rings, sold drugs and shot ordinary Iraqis for sport.

This is what you’re not being told on the mainstream news. The people reporting it are journalists like former Guardian hack Greg Palast in his book Armed Madhouse and alternative media outlets like Democracy Now! and The Empire Files on TeleSur. And there is plenty of evidence that Blair is a war criminal because of the war.

I’m well aware that some of the great commenters on this blog will object to my giving a platform to Farage and GB News. But I do feel that Farage is actually performing a valid service here questioning a senior army officer and veteran of the war about the issue of Blair’s knighthood. Even if his criticisms come from him as a man of the right.

There has been controversy about the New Years Honours system for a long time because so many have been awarded to very questionable people. Especially as the Tories have used it as a way of rewarding their donors.

But the destruction of an entire nation and the killing and displacement of millions of citizens for a lie made on behalf of further enriching the multinational elite is surely excellent reason for denying any honour to Blair.

Study Finds Gaelic-Speaking Ulster Protestant Soldiers in First World War

January 7, 2022

After the fuss over Colston’s statue, with the right claiming the acquittal of the four chiefly responsible is a terrible travesty of justice that threatens British history, here’s a story about Ulster history which I hope is far more positive. A few weeks ago one of the left-wing papers – I think it may have been the Independent – reported that researchers had gone through the records of soldiers from Protestant west Belfast, who had volunteered for service before the First World War. They found that 70+ of the men were Gaelgheoir, Gaelic-speaking. The claim was made by Turas, a group set up to encourage Protestants to learn the Erse language.

This is truly amazing, if true. Irish Gaelic is a beautiful language with a long and great literature. This includes the great myths and legends of the Irish Gaels, like the Lebor Gabala, the ‘Book of Conquests’ and its stories about the ancient Celtic gods, the Tuatha de Danaan, or tribes of the earth goddess Danu. This was one of the sources 2000AD writer and creator Pat Mills drew on when for the Celtic warrior strip, ‘Slaine’, he created with his then-wife Angela, now Angela Kincaid, a successful children’s illustrator. But because of its association with Irish nationalism, there’s considerable hostility to it amongst the Ulster loyalist community. There was bitter opposition a few years ago amongst Loyalist politicos to a move by Sinn Fein to have Gaelic taught in Ulster schools. Long before that, at the time of the nationalist agitation before World War I, speaking Gaelic to a policeman could get you arrested. This opposition also led to hilarious mistakes. A little while ago Private Eye reported some Ulster politicos raised a furore against the slogan on a bus. This was in Gaelic, they claimed, as so was part of some nationalist attack on Protestant Ulster identity. In fact it was a tourist bus and the language was French.

The British did try to ban the Gaelic language along with the rest of the Gaelic culture in Ireland in the 16th and 17th century onwards as part of the long-running centuries of conflict between the Anglo-Normans and Irish. But I was taught when studying the history of European contacts with the outside world, that there was a period in the 16th and 17th century when Britain was careful not include religion as a uniform cause for hostility to the Gaels because some of the clans were Protestant. I’d be very interested indeed if any examples of Protestant literature in Gaelic has survived.

Hopefully this discovery may bring Protestants and Roman Catholics, Loyalists and Nationalists to an understanding that Irish identity and history is far more complex than generally realised. Historians and archaeologists of medieval Ireland have pointed out that Gaelic speech could extend far into the territories of the English Pale. Anglo-Norman lords often spoke Gaelic themselves, and one Gaelic bard spoke openly about is own mercenary attitude to the two ethnicities. He stated quite clearly he played and composed poems for both Gaels and Normans so long as they paid him. If he was performing for a Gaelic chieftain, he’d sing about how the Irish would ultimately be victorious and push the Anglo-Norman foreigner back into the sea. If he was performing for a Norman lord, he’d sing about how the Anglo-Normans would ultimately sweep the Gaels into the sea.

I hope this discovery will bring the people of Northern Ireland closer together, create greater respect between the two communities and show that Ulster can also be a multilingual community, speaking both English and Erse, regardless of religious affiliation.

For further information on medieval Ireland and English colonisation in the Middle Ages, see the chapters on Ireland in Medieval Frontier Societies, edited by Robert Bartlett and Angus Mackay (Oxford: Clarendon 1989).

Petition to Strip Blair of His Knighthood Gets Over Half A Million Signatures

January 5, 2022

You can say one thing for Tony Blair and his inclusion on this New Year’s Honours list, it’s united the British people in a way that’s rarely been done. Right across the political spectrum, from Corbynist left to Tory right, people despise him as a warmonger. The petition on Change.org to have him stripped of his knighthood has reached 650,000 signatures. Which I think means that it has to be debated in parliament. Unfortunately, as the mad right-wing internet broadcaster Alex Belfield has said in one his videos, there’s little chance of the politicos taking notice of it or doing what nearly three-quarters of a million people want.

Mike has pointed out that the people want him denied the honour because he took the country into an illegal war with the Iraq. The charitable interpretation of this is that Blair believed the fake information that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But rather than wait for a UN resolution authorising military action, Blair put pressure on his advisers to state that he could launch an invasion,, and then went ahead and acted according to the advice he’d decided he should be given. Nearly a million people have died as a result of the war that followed.

Less charitable individuals might follow instead the information in Greg Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse, which showed that the real reason behind the invasion was economic. The Neo-Cons wanted Hussein out the way because he occasionally sent aid and support to the Palestinians. The American and Saudi oil industry wanted to loot Iraq’s state oil industry and oil reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia. Western multinationals also wanted to get their mitts on the country’s state enterprises. And the Neo-Cons also had a plan to turn Iraq into the kind of free trade state with precious few tariff barriers against imports they wanted for America. The result was that Iraq’s oil is now in the hands of foreign countries, a situation authorised by the new constitution written for the country. Many Iraqi businesses went bust as a result of the lowering of tariff barriers, as the world dumped their surplus goods on the country at cheap prices. The country’s own businesses couldn’t compete and went out of business. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 60 per cent.

The country had been relatively secular with a welfare state and, I believe, free healthcare for its citizens. This has vanished. Women were also safe on the streets and could follow a career outside the home. That vanished too. One of his Hillary Clinton’s female officials tried telling a crowd that things were actually better for Iraqi women during a diplomatic tour of Turkey. She was very definitely told the contrary by a group of annoyed Iraqi ladies. And domestically the country collapsed into bloody chaos. In Baghdad, peace walls had to be erected between Sunni and Shia Muslim areas. Sectarian death squads roamed the country looking for the wrong kind of Muslims to kill, with the cooperation of the American military authorities. The mercenary companies also employed as peacekeepers were also out of control. They ran drugs and prostitution rings, and their soldiers shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. One American diplomat to Iraq was so shocked that he came back to the Land of the Free to the tell the media all about it, including the Nazi regalia sported by some US squaddies.

Over 2 million severely normal Brits marched against the Iraq invasion. One of the priests at my local church was one of them. They were ignored. Just as Blair’s successor, Keef Stalin, is also keen that the government or Her Maj not rescind Blair’s knighthood. Apparently he gave some kind of speech listing all the good things that Blair had done, like winning three elections. Blair’s administration was responsible for some good policies. He would have liked to have privatised the health service, but under him it was still properly funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. But he was also responsible for the Work Capability Tests that have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people wrongly judged fit to to work, and thrown off the state support they desperately need. All too many have died of starvation and neglect as a result.

And that still doesn’t remove the fact that Blair launched an illegal war and on that account is viewed as a war criminal by many. I bought a book a while ago, written by a lawyer, which made that very case. It went through the relevant international legislation and showed through repeated examples how Blair and Bush had violated it. There were even attempts by Canadian and Greek human rights activists to have the two arrested and tried for their crimes against humanity. This failed as it was successfully blocked by politicians and other officials.

The war also further destabilised the Middle East, setting up the conditions for the expansion of Iranian power into the Iraq, while at the same time radicalising parts of the country so they were taken over by Daesh. Who then went on to smash the monuments and sacred buildings of Christians, Shia and other religions they didn’t tolerate, and destroy priceless antiquities going back to ancient Babylon. This, along with the civil war in Syria, has also fuelled the refugee crisis. I’ve no doubt many of the channel migrants, or ‘dinghy divers’ as they’ve been dubbed by anti-immigrant right-wingers like Belfield, are people fleeing the chaos in Iraq. I am definitely no fan of Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter. But she made a good point at a Corbynite Labour meeting last year when she said that Britain should admit these refugees because of our responsibility for the wars that forced them to leave their homes.

I’ve also heard the other side of the argument, that Blair should have got the knighthood after leaving office, as was customary for all prime ministers. He wasn’t. This has also caused a further problem, in that apparently they have to be granted to prime ministers in order. This has meant that Cameron hasn’t got one either and Tweezer hasn’t been made a dame or given some equivalent honour. The insult, on this view, is that it already has taken so long to grant Blair his honour.

Well, I still don’t think he deserves one. Just as I don’t think Cameron and Tweezer deserve honours either. Cameron held the vote on Brexit thinking it would fail and he’d defeat the Eurosceptics in the Tories. It didn’t. It narrowly won. However, it divided Britain. England largely supported it, while the Welsh, Scots and northern Irish rejected it. It’s breaking up the union and has particularly betrayed the people of Ulster. Both Loyalists and Nationalists wanted the border with Eire to remain open. The loyalists, as you might expect, also didn’t want a tariff barrier separating the Six Counties and the rest of the UK. An open border with Eire was one of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the war in Northern Ireland. With Britain leaving the EU and the imposition of a hard border, instability and sectarian violence have returned. Speaking on the BBC comedy show, Room 101, Jeremy Paxman nominated Cameron to be sent into the room containing all the most horrible stuff in the world. Cameron was, declared the former bane of politicians on Newsnight, the worst prime minister we’d had since Lord North. He was the PM who lost us the American colonies.

My guess is that Blair will still get his knighthood. But millions of severely normal Brits will still hate him as a warmonger, the man who lied to us to get the illegal war he wanted, and sent Britain’s courageous young servicemen and -women to fight and die in decades of pointless war. I think Blair will still get the honour, but millions will still remember him as war criminal, and further resent the honours system that has rewarded him.

Bush and Blair were subjects of satire and ridicule when they started the war. Someone on the Net cut footage of various speeches and press gatherings by the duo to show them singing Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’. Which has the fitting lines ‘Let’s start a war. I want to start a nuclear war’. Let’s hope Blair and the world’s other politicians never do.

Labour Peer Baroness Kennedy Calls Rees-Mogg, Farage and Johnson ‘Spoilt Brats’

December 15, 2021

Maximilien Robespierre is a left-wing YouTuber, who makes savage criticisms of the Tories in his gentle Irish brogue. And in the video below he skewers Jacob Rees-Mogg, the so-called ‘Minister for the 18th century’, who deserves every bit of criticism and more. Robespierre had previously put up a video showing Mogg’s reply to a Labour MP’s inquiry on how Brexit has turned out. In fact Brexit has been absolutely terrible for Britain. It’s been terrible for our manufacturing industry, for our farmers and our fishermen, all of whom were lied to about the prospective benefits by Mogg, Farage and Johnson himself. But Mogg refuses to admit it. He replied by saying that the House should begin with prayers for Brexit’s success, and they should sing ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ in celebration of it and the benefits it’s brought. And then he lied about how the money from Brexit had been spent on the NHS, as the infamously mendacious advert on buses said it would. The extra money for the NHS hasn’t come from Brexit. It’s come from raising an additional levy on ordinary people’s pay.

The video is about a brief incident during a debate on one of the news shows. The subject is whether there should be more celebration of Brexit. The Labour peer, Baroness Kennedy, says it shouldn’t. And while she doesn’t hate all Tories – and here she says she likes and gets on with Ed Vasey – Rees-Mogg, Farage and Johnson belong to a class of rich, spoilt brats. Absolutely. Robespierre goes on to describe just how duplicitous Mogg has been over Brexit. At the same time he, Farage and Johnson were telling the British people that everything would be well, that it wouldn’t require extra paperwork, wouldn’t harm our industry and agriculture, and that the expats in Spain wouldn’t be touched by the Spanish government, Mogg himself was moving his business out of the country to Dublin. Robespierre laments the fact that, despite the lies to the manufacturers, farmers and fishing people, Rees-Mogg will not himself suffer personally. He should lose his seat, but he won’t, because it’s a safe Tory constituency. And despite the lies and failure of Brexit and the Tories, some people will continue voting for them.

Mogg is indeed a grotesque liar and hypocrite, but he won’t suffer under Brexit. He makes his money from finance and investment, and left-wing bloggers a few years ago noted that he had moved his investments overseas and so wouldn’t be affected by Brexit’s failure. I think the same can be said for Farage as a former City banker. They represent that part of the elite, which is able to dodge the consequences through globalisation and the ability to move money around from one country or continent to another. Mogg and Johnson deserve to lose their seats and, with Farage, their fortunes for the lies they’ve told about Brexit, and what it’s cost the British public. But they won’t because, even if they didn’t have safe seats – and I realise Farage isn’t an MP, so hasn’t one to lose – there are still people who would vote for them despite the lies.

Mrmenno Videos Parodying Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Tweezer

December 3, 2021

Mrmenno is a gay Youtuber who specialises in producing musical parodies of great songs to satirise the government and various political and social movements he considers are harming the good people of this country. He’s gender critical and a fierce and commitment opponent of the trans ideology. Many of his videos are therefore directed against that. I’m not going to post them, because I’m aware that some of the great commenters on this blog are pro-Trans. I’ve made it very clear that I oppose the trans ideology, but not transpeople and have posted videos from others laying out the reasons for doing so. However, I think posting his videos about the issue would simply cause unnecessary offence.

But here’s a selection of his videos that I think all the great readers and commenters on this blog can get behind. In these he attacks Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock for their refusal to act swiftly to impose the lockdown, leaving thousands to die of Covid; He skewers Dominic Cummings for breaking the lockdown rules and driving up to Barnard Castle; and lampoons Tweezer for shafting the people of Northern Ireland with Brexit and the nonsense about the Irish backstop.

The Chicago video called the ‘Corona Clown Tango’ and based on that musical’s ‘Cell Block Tango’, satirising Johnson comes, says Mrmenno, from a place of anger and rage at the buffoon’s initial refusal to impose a lockdown. It contains clips of Johnson saying that we should let the disease pass through the population infecting people and that ‘people should take it on the chin’. He would, he states, go on greeting people as usual. He did, and duly came down with it. As did Matt Hancock. He, however, was not infected because he was one of the front-line staff who risked and lost their lives caring for the disease’s victims.

The next video attacks Dominic Cumming’s trip to Barnard Castle when he had the disease. It’s too the tune of Edith Piaf’s ‘No Regrets’ song, and has Mrmenno wearing a cardboard cut-out on his head to make it more like Cumming’s weird bonce. At one point he begins to shake and a female voice asks him what’s wrong. He replies that he thinks there’s something wrong with his eyesight, so he’ll have to drive to Barnard Castle. The video ends with him looking at green gunge on his hand. ‘What’s wrong, Mr Cummings?’ the female voice asks again. ‘Gonarrhea’, replies Cummings, ‘Ill have to go dogging.’ Intercut with all this jollity is clips of people protesting against Cummings in real life and on social media, complaining it’s one rule for the elite and another for us plebs.

And in this video, Mrmenno dresses up as Tweezer to attack for her for the Irish backstop Brexit nonsense that has cause such harm to Northern Ireland and has threatened to plunge Ulster once more into paramilitary violence. He makes the point that Tweezer, despite her claims to the contrary, really had no ‘Plan B’. He’s frightening convincing as Tweezer, so viewers, rest assured. It’s only makeup. Don’t have nightmares.

*****

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The Global Campaign, Volume 1

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For a Worker’s Chamber

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Privatisation: Killing the NHS

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Cartoonist Kayfabe on Trashman, 60s Underground Comix Anti-Hero

November 30, 2021

Here’s another video from YouTube comics creators and YouTubers, Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor, in which the two discuss one of ‘Spain’ Rodriguez’s best-known and most notorious characters, Trashman. Rodriguez was one of the major talents in ’60s underground comics. The two state he was first published by Evo and the East Village Other, and was part of a group of underground comix artists and creators called the Berkeley Tribe. Spain was fully part of the ’60s counterculture and Trashman was an explicit expression of that decade’s political radicalism and youth revolt. The Kayfabers remark that stylistically Spain appears influenced by mainstream comic artists, like the legendary Jack Kirby and John Romita at Marvel, he’s far removed from them in politics and content. Because Trashman was an agent of the ‘6th International’, gunning down the enemies of the people. The comic, The Collected Trashman, has the date ‘1969’ on it, but this doesn’t mean it was actually published them. Even so, it deals with the decade’s topics of distrust of the government, Vietnam, drugs, free love and hippies. There’s a lot of sex in it, so be careful about watching it at work. The two also compare Trashman to later heroes like Mad Max and Judge Dredd. Trashman careers about an urban environment in a souped-up car, to which armour and a set of tank tracks have been added, rather like one of the bizarre, demented vehicles in Mad Max: Fury Road. It might also be because of the mixture of automotive mayhem, extreme violence and urban dystopia that’s behind the Kayfaber’s comparison to Judge Dredd.

Rather more problematic to contemporary readers is Spain’s highly sexualised view of women. A number of underground comix creators were accused of sexism and misogyny, such as Robert Crumb, and I think Rodriguez may have been another one. But the Kayfabers argue that Rodriguez was doing it when feminism was emerging, and so was probably trying to get more publicity through notoriety.

It’s an interesting look at one of the best-known and remembered of the decade’s underground heroes. I don’t know if such a comic would be possible now. Certainly the decades of terrorism that followed the 60s from groups like the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the various radical terrorist groups running amok in Italy, and the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland would probably make such a character deeply unappealing to large sections of the public, quite apart from the Fall of Communism. Trashman was going to be controversial even in the 1960s, with the rise of terrorist groups like the Weathermen and the violence at the Democratic National Convention. There’s even a story in the comic in which Trashman shoots that up.

Nevertheless, there are still students sticking posters of Che Guevara on their walls and the rise of Black Lives Matter and strong initial support for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US shows that a sizable section of the British and American electorate want far more radical change than the right-wing cliques that have seized control of the Labour party in Britain and Democrats in the US are prepared to give them. Not that either Corbyn or Sanders ever remotely endorsed terrorism and violence, despite the vilification of the former by the British political and media establishment.

One of the complaints among some comics creators and fans is that Marvel and DC, the two main comics companies in the US, have moved too far leftward. Instead of producing good, enjoyable stories with strong plots and characters, the two are instead concentrating on explicit statements about social issues and promoting characters based solely on their gender, race or sexuality. This is putting readers off, and as a result American comics are in decline as people turn instead to Japanese manga, which eschews these issues. This is the view of Ethan van Sciver and the Comicsgaters. I can see their point of view, although the Guardian pointed out in an article a few years ago that comics have always dealt with political and social issues. That’s quite true. One episode of the Superman radio series in the 1940s was applauded by NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League as the Man of Steel had gone after the Klan. In the 1970s both Marvel and DC dealt with racism and the collapse of American self-esteem following Watergate. There were several issues of Captain America in which the Captain forswore his patriotic identity to call himself ‘Nomad’ following his own, brief loss of faith in his country. There were also a number of Hulk stories which showed a very strong critical attitude to the military, doubtless influenced by the unpopularity of the Vietnam War. However, Stan Lee, the man responsible with artists like Kirby and Ditko, for so many of Marvel’s most iconic heroes, also said in an interview that he was careful not to let the political content alienate those readers who didn’t agree with it.

The Kayfaber’s state that Trashman is a product of its times, though it can also be seen as a period piece set in that decade because of its timeless quality. Back in the 1990s the Heil went berserk at a similar radical, underground comic on sale in the shops. This was an anarchist version of Tintin, in which the boy detective was shown joining the struggle against the cops and the state. Of course, the book had absolutely no connection to anything Herge actually wrote or did. However, the rise of the internet has provided would-be comics creators with an opportunity for launching their own comics without the hindrance of the mainstream comics publishing industry. It’s therefore possible that as Thatcherite neoliberalism continues to collapse and show itself corrupt and bankrupt, underground comix heroes like Trashman may rise to stick it to oppressive capitalist authority once again. And especially if less radical ways of changing the system or expressing dissatisfaction are suppressed by Blairites and Thatcherite Labour leaders like Keir Starmer.

Right-Winger Belfield Takes Corbyn’s Side against Tory Councillor’s Libel

November 25, 2021

Here’s a turn-up for the books – mad right-wing internet radio Alex Belfield has posted this video taking Jeremy Corbyn’s side against the Tory councillor who libelled him. The Tory had posted a meme showing Corbyn about to lay a wreath on the burning car left by the vile suicide bomber when he tried to blow himself up outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital. It was a truly despicable act, although the Syrian immigrant who did so had planned on detonating it in Liverpool Cathedral during the Remembrance Day Service. He had gained the trust of the local Anglican clergy and community through feigning conversion to Christianity, but had been noticed attending mosque during Ramadan. And he had clearly not been short of cash, as he was somehow able to rent a second house which he used as his wretched bomb factory. Fortunately, this vile scumbag succeeded in only destroying himself. The detonator exploded, but not main explosives, and the taxi driver was able to escape with only a burst eardrum.

Despite the vile smears of the media, Corbyn has never, ever been a supporter of terrorism. Far from it. He stood for the British government talking to the Republicans in Northern Ireland, but was also respected by the Loyalists for his even-handedness. And at the same Thatcher and the Tories were loudly denouncing the Labour party for advocating talks with Sinn Fein, she herself was doing exactly the same. But quietly, of course, in case it might damage her image as the patriotic Iron Lady refusing to surrender to the IRA.

But such lies and fake history don’t mean anything to the right-wing establishment, and so this Tory councillor published his libellous meme. Corbyn consulted m’learned friends, and the councillor has now settled out of court. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind, as Sergeant Major Windsor Davies used to say. What is astonishing is that someone as right-wing as Belfield has taken the side of the man demonised by the right as a communist, anti-Semite and supporter of terrorism.

It’s because Belfield himself feels, or alleges, that he’s also been libelled. He has claimed that he is the victim of false accusations, vexatious prosecutions and malicious investigations by his former colleagues at the Beeb and Nottinghamshire police, and has fought to defend himself in the courts. Hence he states in the video that he still stands up for free speech, but you still have to be careful what you say. Just because he’s standing talking doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening on his behalf. He clearly draws a comparison between his own treatment and that of the former Labour leader. And that’s what’s behind his surprising show of support for Corbyn.

This is quite amusing, as it’s caused the heads of some of his supporters to explode. The comments section for that video are full of people moaning about how Corbyn is still evil, not a true man of the people and so on, and that the meme was still true. Or couldn’t be libellous, because it was a meme. Which shows the mentality of some of his supporters. And some of the great commenters on this site have suggested that Belfield himself has a few questions to answer, like what, pray, has he done with all the donations people have sent him? Belfield has been able to fight his court cases through appealing to his viewers for donations. However, it’s unclear what he’s done with them. It’s quite an issue, as Belfield has also loudly denounced the Beeb and other charities for squandering their donors’ money on high salaries for their directors and staff, particularly in the case of Children in Need.

But in the meantime, I’m just enjoying the spectacle of a right-wing Tory like Belfield taking the side of Jeremy Corbyn.