Posts Tagged ‘Ulster’

The Lotus Eaters Read Out Detransitioners’ Harrowing Stories of Pain and Regret

June 14, 2022

Readers and followers of this blog know very well how I feel about Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters. He and they are arch-Conservative reactionaries, fully in support of the Brexit that has wrecked British trade and the agreement that has so far kept the fragile peace in Ulster. They’re fully behind privatisation, but refuse to believe that the Tories are selling off the NHS – even though it’s right under their noses – because they don’t see how anyone would want to buy it. They’re also strongly anti-feminist, believing in traditional sex roles and that a woman’s place is in the home. Sargon himself did much to destroy UKIP, simply by joining it under Gerald Batten’s fuhrership. When he did so, a number of local UKIP parties either disaffiliated from the national party or simply dissolved, and a large proportion of their membership, who weren’t racists, walked away. When this happened, I put up an angry video from one such Kipper who was absolutely livid about Sargon and other figures on the populist right, like Count Dankula and Paul Joseph Watson joining. I also utterly despise their attitude. I find them smug, complacent, and resent the way they continue to push the smear that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semites. Corbyn wasn’t, and we’re not. Especially not the Jewish brothers and sisters who have been abused, smeared and purged simply because the fanatically pro-Israel right hates them condemning Israel’s decades-long ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. As for the Lotus Eaters’ libertarianism, all their arguments in favour of this daft ideology were answer over a century ago by writers like T.H. Green, who supported the New Liberalism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But I have to give Carl Benjamin and his mates credit where credit’s due. On some issues, such as the transgender debate, I think they’re right, or mostly so. Now I shall repeat: I do not support discrimination against, abuse, violence or persecution of people simply because of their sexuality or gender presentation. But there are very serious issues regarding trans ideology, the Queer Theory that informs it, and the medical-industrial complex that supports it. Quite apart from the dangers it poses to women’s sport, dignity and safety. Such as the danger to women in prisons when they are jailed with biological men, often brutal sex criminals, simply because the man identifies as a woman.

And one of the major issues is that there are powerful commercial and ideological incentives to push young people who feel dissatisfied or alienated from their birth gender towards transition. I believe that some people genuinely suffer from these issues, and have benefited from transition. My problem is not with that. My problem is with the attitude that has now emerged among gay and transgender activists that such problems are automatically a reflection of a permanent sexual identity among those suffering them. An identity which it is forbidden to question or to treat with anything but support and affirmation. According to academic research, 60%-85% of teens suffering from gender dysphoria grow out of it. The majority of them becoming gay men or women, but otherwise happy and secure in their sexual identity. And the process of transition itself also carries serious health risks. As has been admitted, puberty blockers like Lupron are not reversible, and their long term effects are unknown. The cross-gender hormones given to those making the transition can damage the heart and other organs, as well as reduce bone density. And the sex-change surgery itself may create complications that require additional surgery to correct.

Medical transition can be immensely profitable for the doctors, surgeons and clinics performing it. In Britain, I believe, there are only a small number of NHS clinics performing such treatment and so there have sprung up a number of private clinics to take over the slack. And private healthcare is all about profit. Decades ago the Beeb broadcast a documentary about the American private healthcare system, revealing the immense number of unnecessary operations that were carried out, simply because they made money for the private hospitals and surgeons. Something like this may be going on here as well.

There is a small but growing number of ‘detransitioners’. These are transpeople, who bitterly regret their decision, and are seeking as far as possible to return to their birth sex. I say small, but that’s in comparison to the people now deciding that they want to transition to the opposite gender. The online detransitioner community numbers about 20,000. Which to me is a lot.

Here Sargon and his co-host read out their stories of deep regret, and as Sargon himself says, it’s harrowing stuff. Most of the stories come from women who transitioned to men, though there is one from a man, who transitioned to a woman. They were all very young when they started to transition, some about 18 and 20 years old. One former woman says that she was 16. All the detransitioners are repelled by their new bodies and regret the loss of their natural, biological gender. One detrans woman says that she is in mourning for it. And at least one of them has serious health issues, including having to sleep for 14 hours a day, because of the treatment.

Transitioning has worked for some, but not these. This is why I strongly believe that when it comes to such radical and life-changing treatment and surgery, the greatest care should be taken to ensure that this is genuinely and absolutely appropriate for the patient.

This is why I strongly oppose the affirmation model and the attempts by trans activists to outlaw conversion therapy for trans people. Because there is the real danger that it is an attempt to ban really appropriate psychiatric treatment for people, who will be harmed, not helped, by transitioning.

A History of Racism in the Islamic Middle East

May 27, 2022

Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: OUP 1990).

Bernard Lewis is a veteran scholar of Islam, and this book is an examination of the emergence and development of predominantly Muslim Arab racism in the Middle East. The book is a reworking of two previous studies from the 1970s, one of which was first published in French. It started off as part of an academic examination of intolerance, concentrating on religious bigotry. Lewis, however, believed that issue had been solved and so moved on to racial intolerance. Unfortunately, as the past fifty years have unfortunately shown, religious hatred and bigotry has certainly not died out, as shown here in Britain with the sectarian violence in Ulster.

Arab Ethnic Identity Before Colour Prejudice

Islam is viewed as an anti-racist religion, and the Qur’an states categorically that Blacks and Whites are both equal and should be treated as such. This admirable attitude was maintained by its theologians and jurists. However, with the emergence and expansion of the Islamic empires this began to change and prejudice and racism, based initially in ethnic differences and then on skin colour, emerged. The book argues that the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabs, like the other nations around them, had a strong sense of their own superiority against those of the surrounding peoples. This was based on ethnicity, not colour. A variety of colours were used to describe the variations in human complexion, and were used in relative rather than absolute terms. Thus the Arabs saw themselves as black compared to the ‘red’ Persians, but white compared to the Black peoples of Africa. As the new Arab ruling class intermarried with the peoples they had conquered, so there developed an attitude which saw Arabs of mixed descent as inferior, leading to dynastic conflicts between those of pure and mixed race. Muslim Arabs also saw themselves as superior to converts to Islam from the indigenous peoples of the Islamic empire, and a set of rules developed to enforce the converts’ inferior social status. At the same time, the Arabs formed various explanations based on the environment for the ethnic differences they observed among different peoples. An Iraqi writer believed that Whites had been undercooked in the womb due to the coldness of the environment they occupied. Blacks, on the other hand, were overcooked. The Iraqi people, however, were brown and mentally and physically superior to the other two races.

Development of Anti-Black Prejudice

As Islam expanded into sub-Saharan Africa anti-Black racism developed. This did not initially exist, not least because Ethiopia had been one of the major superpowers in the Arabian peninsula with a superior culture. Muslims also respected the Abyssinians for giving sanctuary to many of Mohammed’s followers during their persecution by the Meccan pagans. Over time, however, an attitude of contempt and racial superiority emerged towards Blacks. This racism even extended towards highly regarded Black Arabic poets and the governors of provinces, who were reproached and vilified for their colour by their enemies. Here Arab racist views of Blacks is nearly identical to those of White European racists. They were seen as lazy, ugly, stupid and lustful. The prurient view of Black women as boiling with sexual desire mirrors the racist attitude towards Jewish women amongst western anti-Semites. On the other hand, Blacks were also seen as strong, loyal, generous and merry. They also had excellent rhythm. Although both Whites and Blacks were enslaved, White slaves had a higher status and different terms were used to describe them. White slaves were mawlana, literally, ‘owned’. Only Black slaves were described as slaves, abid, a term that is still used to mean Black people in parts of the Arab world today.

The expansion of the European states and empires effectively cut off or severely diminished the supply of White slaves, and as a consequence the value of Black slaves began to rise. Unable to afford White slaves and concubines from Europe and the Caucasus, the peoples of the Middle East turned instead to Abyssinians and the Zanj, Black Africans from further south. Abyssinians in particular were prized for their beauty and other qualities, and its from this period that the Arab taste for the beauty of Black Africans rather than Whites developed. And as anti-Black racism developed, so Muslims scholars and authors wrote pieces defending Blacks from racism, not least because many of Mohammed’s Companions had been Black and the emergence of powerful Muslim kingdoms in Africa.

Islamic Slavery and Slave Armies

Islamic slavery was comparatively milder and more enlightened than western slavery. Although technically slaves could not own property and were disbarred from giving evidence in court, there was limitations on the punishments that could be inflicted on them. Muslims were urged to treat their slaves humanely and manumission was praised as a noble act. It was particularly recommended for the expiation of particular sins. At the same time Islam permitted contracts to be made between master and slave allowing the slave to save enough money to purchase his freedom at an agreed date. There were stories of particular Muslims who freed their slaves even in circumstances where punishment would have been expected. One master freed a female slave after she asked him why he was still alive, as she had been trying to poison him for a year. Slaves could rise to high office. The viziers and other chief dignitaries of the Ottoman empire were slaves. Slaves were used to staff Muslim armies, and there were separate regiments for White and Blacks slaves. Sometimes this resulted in battles between the two, as during the dynastic battles where one side used Black soldiers and the other White. The mamlukes, the Egyptian warriors who ruled Egypt and who expelled the Crusaders and stopped the Mongols conquering the Middle East, were White slaves. They were freed after completing their military training and their leaders preferred to purchase other slaves for training as their successors rather than pass on their position to their own children.

Islam’s acceptance and regulation of slavery, like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, as well as the views of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, also meant that there was opposition to its abolition. Muslim defenders of slavery produced the same arguments as their Christian counterparts, including the argument that Blacks and other infidels were better off enslaved as it introduced them to a superior civilisation. When a 19th century British consul inquired of the king of Morocco what steps he was taking regarding slavery and the slave trade, he was politely informed that all the legislation was based on the Qur’an and sharia and that there was no intention of banning slavery as it was permitted by Islam. Indeed, the Ottoman province of the Hijaz, the area around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was exempt from the Ottoman ban on slavery and the slave trade after the ulema and nobles declared it to be an attack on Islam, along with legislation allowing women to go in public without the veil. The Turks were declared to be apostates, who could be killed and their children enslaved. Many of the pilgrims to Mecca came with a number of slaves, who acted as living sources of funding. When the pilgrim needed more money, he sold one or two of them.

The Myth of Muslim Non-Racism

In the last two chapters, Lewis discusses the emergence of the view of Islam as completely non-racist and that its slavery was benign. He argues that this was largely the creation of western scholars reacting to the horrors of New World slavery during the American Civil War. Christian missionaries also contributed to this myth. They attempted to explain their failure to make converts by arguing that it was due to Black African revulsion against harsh western slavery. In fact it was due to differences of colour. Islam spread because it was promoted by Black African preachers, rather than White westerners. Particularly influential in the creation of this myth was Edward Blydon, a Black West Indian who was educated in Liberia by the missionaries. He became convinced that Islam was more suited to the needs of Black people, and his books also stressed White guilt, contrasting it with Muslim tolerance. Lewis also believes that the myth is also due to a widespread feeling of guilt among western Whites, which he sees as the modern counterpart to Kipling’s White man’s burden.

Along with the text of the book itself are extensive notes and a documentary appendix containing texts including a Muslim discussion on national character, the rights of slaves and diplomatic correspondence and observations on the 19th century slave trade.

Race and Slavery Compared with Brown’s Slavery & Islam

This book should ideally be read alongside Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam, as the two present contrasting views of slavery and racism in Islam. Brown is a White, American academic and convert to Islam. While he condemns slavery totally, his book presents a much more positive view of Islamic slavery compared with western servitude and even the conditions endured by 19th century free European workers. He also extensively discusses Islamic abolition and the voices for it, while Lewis lays more stress on Muslim opposition. Brown recognises the existence of racism in the Islamic world, but also emphasises Muslim anti-racist texts like The Excellence of the Negroes. But as Lewis points out, these texts also show the opposite, that there was racism and bigotry in the Muslim world.

Lewis also recognises that Muslim slaves generally enjoyed good conditions and were treated well. However, the real brutality was inflicted on them during the journey from their place of capture to the Islamic heartlands. He also suggests that this relatively benign image may be due to bias in the information available. Most Muslim slaves were domestic servants, unlike the mass of slave labouring on the plantations in America. There were gangs of slaves working cotton plantations and employed in mining and public works, and these laboured in appalling conditions. It may also be that there were more slaves working in agriculture than recognised, because the majority of the information available comes from the towns, and so ignore what may have been the harsher treatment in the countryside.

He also discusses the absence of descendants of the Black slaves, except for a few pockets, in the modern Middle East. David Starkey in an interview for GB News claimed it was because the Muslim slave masters killed any babies born by their slaves. I don’t know where he got this idea. Lewis doesn’t mention such atrocities. He instead suggests that it may have been due to the castration of large numbers of boys to serve as eunuchs in the harems. The other slaves were forbidden to marry and have sex, except for female slaves purchased for that purpose. Slaves were also particularly vulnerable to disease, and so an epidemic lasting five years could carry off an entire generation.

Importance of the Book for an Examination of Contemporary Racial Politics

I was interested in reading this book because of the comparative lack of information on slavery and racism in Islam, despite the existence of books like Islam’s Black Slaves. Lewis in his introduction states that researching the issue may be difficult and dangerous, as it can be interpreted as hostility rather than a genuinely disinterested investigation. I think there needs to be more awareness of the history of Muslim slavery and Islam. For one reason, it explains the emergence of the slave markets in that part of Libya now occupied by the Islamists. It also needs to be more widely known because, I believe, the emphasis on western historic slavery and racism can present a distorted image in which the west is held to be uniquely responsible for these evils.

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.

Irish Docker Is Buried Alive in a Fairy Fort to Prove There Are No Fairies

June 7, 2021

I found this remarkable piece of news film on the channel CR’s Video Vaults on YouTube. It’s from 1966, and is about a dock worker, Tim Hayes, from Wexford, who spent 101 hours underground in a fairy fort to disprove the existence of the wee folk. His stunt was to open the village fete at Ballymore, but the other villagers didn’t want to dig his grave. The video begins with an old man telling the interviewer that he would definitely not wish to dig into or disturb a fairy fort, and he would be greatly upset if anyone else were to do so, or disturb the field in which it’s situated.

Then it goes to the docker himself at his work place, who explains he’s determined to show that there are no such things as fairies. He describes as ‘a yarn’ a letter he received from a woman in Douglas, who said she saw a fairy 30 years ago and hasn’t had any luck since. He was buried underground in a coffin with a ventilation tube to allow him to breathe, as well as telephone to speak to people outside. He also took a couple of books down there to read, one of which was Dracula. He also tells the interviewer that he’s spent much of his time thinking about people who’ve died – well, you would, wouldn’t you? – and when asked about toilet facilities, states that there’s no problem at all in that department. The film also shows him being dug up, and the men rescuing him putting warm woollies on to protect him from the colder air above ground.

His mother is one of the onlookers. When asked how she feels about her son, she tells the interviewer that she’s ‘died a thousand deaths since he went into the ground’ but that ‘he’s marvelous’ and she’s very proud of him.

When asked if he’s worried about others trying to outdo him, he has the attitude that they can try and last 100 hours underground and that he’ll come back and do it again.

I think this comes from a time when these kinds of endurance feats were all the rage. There have been Indian yogis, who’ve had themselves buried alive. I think one lasted for two weeks underground – an impressive feat, if true. Back in the late 1970s-early 80s the Fortean Times reported crowds gathering in one of the African countries after the return of an African holy man from a sojourn buried alive. He did so to prove the truth of indigenous African religion, and the crowd believed he had actually returned from the dead. More recently, in calls to mind the antics of David Blaine in the 90s, which was sent up on Jonathan Creek. In that episode, Klaus, Creek’s slimey partner, has himself buried alive. But there’s a passage down to a glass plate in the coffin so that people can see him. Unfortunately, Klaus has to be dug up and face the beak because the vibrations from the underground trains cause him to judder and twitch himself. Two women visitors saw him do this, and have accused him of, er, pleasuring himself.

Belief in the fairies always has been strong amongst the Irish and the other Celtic peoples. A century ago the American anthropologist and Theosophist, Evans-Wentz, wrote his classic study, The Fairy Faith in the Celtic Countries. Although Ireland is now as rationalist and secular as any other western country, or almost so, the fairy faith still remains strong amongst some Irish people. Way back in the 1980s, when DeLorean wanted to open a car factory in Northern Ireland, they wanted to pull down a fairy tree growing on the site. The workers refused and threatened to go on strike if the tree or bush was disturbed. The company had to back down.

A decade later in the 1990s one of the British papers – I think it must have been the Daily Heil – reported that a Sinn Fein councillor in one of the Ulster villages had asked an archaeologist if he could investigate the local fairy fort, as some of his constituents had seen things.

I read years ago that the fairy forts are in reality early medieval Danish forts left over from the period of the Viking invasions. However, the word rath means an ancient enclosed farmstead. These commonly consist of a circular raised bank, which have held a fence or palisade, inside which were the houses and other buildings of the occupier. They can date from as far back as the Bronze Age, but most date from the early Christian period 300 AD to 1100. They’re not scheduled, as there are about 30 – 40,000 of them in the island of Ireland.

I do wonder how delicately the archaeologist phrased his reply. Archaeology as a science can’t prove the supernatural, though I don’t believe it’s within its competence to disprove it either. All it can do is uncover the remains of past ritual and religious belief, which may include magical objects and practises. See books such as The Materiality of Magic, edited by Ceri Houlbrook and Natalie Armitage (Oxford: Oxbow 2015). I wonder how the archaeologist told the good councillor that if he did excavate – which could be illegal if it was scheduled ancient monument – all he would be able to say was that it was a monument of a particular type, probably dating from such and such a period, and that he probably wouldn’t find any trace of the Little People.

It also struck me that if this had happened over this side of the Irish Sea, it would have been excellent material for the type of comedies Ealing was pumping out at the time. These were about small communities faced with some kind of bizarre threat or other event, frequently at odds with modernity. Or later in the 1980s with the great Scots film, Local Hero. Perhaps here’s a suitable subject for the Irish film industry. It would make a break from all the episodes over here of Mrs Brown’s Boys.

Clannad: Caisleain Oir

May 28, 2021

Here’s another bit of folk music I really like. Back in the 1990s I was into the Irish folk/folk rock group Clannad. They come from Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) in Donegal in Eire. They first came to prominence over this side of the Irish Sea in the 1980s with the haunting theme for the ITV drama, Harry’s Game, about a British secret agent who infiltrates the IRA in Ulster. They then followed this up with the theme and incidental music for another ITV series, Robin of Sherwood. This was a pagan reworking of the Robin Hood legend, with Robin and his outlaws worshipping an ancient woodland spirit, Herne the Hunter. The programme starred Michael Praed and then Jason Connery as Robin, and was hit Saturday evening TV. Even now, nearly 40 years later, I think it’s better than the later versions that came after it, even if it did mess with the legend by introducing the pagan mysticism.

The song’s in a mixture of English and Gaelic, and apparently the band have also sung in Latin and Mohican. Despite trying to teach myself the language back in the 1990s, I can’t speak Gaelic at all and really don’t know what the Gaelic lyrics means. I just like it because it’s a beautiful, haunting piece of music. ITV or Channel 4 also made a documentary about them back in the 1990s. This revealed that they’d got the nickname ‘the Gaeltacht hippies’, which sort of boggles the mind. Surely, hippiedom can’t be that unique in Irish Gaelic culture!

I found the video over on An Ghaoth Anair’s channel on YouTube, who also provides a bit more information about the band.

Disgusted at Tory Simon Hoare Abstaining on Internal Markets Bill and Threat to Peace in Ulster

September 29, 2020

I’ve got no new information to add to this. Mike and the peeps on Twitter have said it all very eloquently and cogently. But I felt I had to add my voice to theirs condemning Simon Hoare, the Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee and his disgusting announcement that he is going to abstain on the government’s Internal Market Bill. This is the piece of legislation that will break international law by contradicting our treaties and agreements with the EU. And it’s a real threat to peace in Northern Ireland because it imposes a hard border between the Six Counties and the Republic. But it was an essential part of the Good Friday Agreement that the border would remain open.

The Americans have already warned the Tories that if th20 years e Bill gets passed, any future agreement with Britain is gone. That means that all Johnson’s rubbish and guff about getting a good deal with America is just null and void, bluff, bluster, propaganda and lies.

But the real harm could be to the people of Ulster. Those of us of a certain age can remember the horrors of the twenty years or so of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the IRA’s bombing campaign on the mainland. I don’t know how many people were killed, maimed and injured. I do remember the day the IRA bombed Magg’s department store in Bristol. Fortunately no-one was hurt. It wasn’t just the IRA – Loyalist paramilitaries also carried out their atrocities, and there is more than ample evidence that British armed forces, which were originally sent into Ulster to keep the peace impartially, actively colluded with them, as well as the infamous Bloody Sunday Massacre.

The Daily Heil has been fiercely critical of the NI peace agreement, claiming that contrary to all the publicity the paramilitaries are still active. Well, I think one of its editors, David English, was a member of the Loyal Orange Order. Their anti-Catholic activities resulted in a concerned British government launching an investigation into them in the late 19th century, as I found out while working in the archives of the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. I dare say they are. But the violence seems to be very, very much less than I remember and there does seem to be, or at least was, a real atmosphere of positivity and optimism. The great people of Ulster really did seem at last able to live in peace with the hope that tomorrow would be better. Ordinary, innocent people didn’t have to live in the fear that they were going to be shot or bombed in their homes, pubs or work.

Too many people from both the Nationalist and Loyalist communities and politicians of goodwill from Britain, Ulster and Eire and worked too hard and risked and sacrificed too much for this fragile peace to be put in jeopardy. I know personally people from both communities in Northern Ireland, who hate the bigotry and violence.

No-one should die or live in fear simply because Boris and the Brexiteers – surely the name of a really grotty pop band – want to stick two fingers up to the European Union. Abstention isn’t an option: this is just Pilate washing his hands at Christ’s crucifixion again. Hoare might have eased his conscience, but it’s a weak gesture simply so that he hangs on to his job.

You can’t abstain. Not when people’s lives and the political stability of an entire province hangs in the balance. He should do the decent thing and vote against.

Just as Starmer had no business ordering the Labour Party to abstain but not to vote against more Tory legislation granting British forces immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

This could all blow back in Tories’ faces. A majority of Ulster Protestants also want to keep the border open. The province voted to remain in the EU, and some political commenters have argued that this leaves the way open for Eire winning them over and so creating a united Ireland. I think this is far too optimistic, but who knows? If all the people of Ulster want to join Eire rather than have their trade and personal contacts disrupted by a harder border, than there honestly can be no argument. Not if it was the result of a genuinely democratic campaign free of intimidation from the men of violence.

There’d be a united Ireland, and Cameron and Boris would have succeeded in breaking the Union of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And when Blair made peace in partnership with Eire and the Americans, some people claimed that he had betrayed his people.

No: he and his partners gave them peace. A peace that Boris is set to destroy and Hoare is doing nothing to preserve.

The Tories are a disgrace. A murderous disgrace. The people of Ireland and Britain deserve better. And the Tories deserve nothing but our hatred and contempt for their willingness to risk more violence.

As I said, disgusted.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/29/tory-hoare-branded-a-coward-for-plan-to-abstain-on-bill-that-threatens-peace-in-northern-ireland/