If you had to choose between Nazism and Marxism, which would you choose?


Marxism at its most basic is founded on the principle of sharing – a skill so valuable to society that we teach it to our infants, before reading, arithmetic, or using the potty. In practice, its influence can be seen in the benign social democracy practised in much of Europe, to oppressive oligarchies that are effectively state capitalism.

Nazism is founded on the ideology of racial purity and ‘otherness’. It was the anti-democratic one-party totalitarian dictatorship practised in Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s. Barring time-travel, it would not be possible to live under Nazism.

As a European, I can attest that Marxist-influenced social democracy is quite a pleasant system to live under. As a (formerly) healthy and fit blonde female who is not maternal, has a Jewish name and a tendency towards thinking, I would have lived on a knife edge of terror in Nazi Germany.



What was Bernadette Devlin’s role in the troubles?

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey didn’t really ‘fit’ with the Troubles, although she was a shooting star at the very start.

From a working class Catholic background, she was a socialist, and became involved while at university in the Civil Rights Movement which was hijacked by the Troubles. As such, she had perhaps more in common with the US civil rights activists and other student activists of the late 1960s than she did with Irish nationalism. She always claimed that, despite her sympathies for the republican movement in Northern Ireland, she was essentially non-sectarian and wanted to work for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Until Mhairi Black of the SNP became a Member of Parliament, McAliskey was the youngest woman to take a seat in Westminster, at only 22, as a republican-aligned Unity politician. Her maiden speech (for, unlike other nationalist MPs, she did not practice abstention) was considered one of the best since Disraeli’s in the 1830s. In it, she tried to explain the difficulties that Northern Irish Catholics faced. Interviewed recently, she said the speech came from her political naivety: “I didn’t think the government was bad. I genuinely thought they just didn’t know and if I just went to London to tell them, people would say, ‘Do you hear that young woman there? We need to do something about that.’ But then I realised: the bastards, they do know and not only do they know, they don’t see anything wrong with it.”

She later served a prison sentence for her part in organising the working class residents of Derry in the Battle of the Bogside, and witnessed the events of Bloody Sunday in the city. Then an independent socialist MP, she gained notoriety by slapping a fellow MP, Reginald Maudling, for comments he made about Bloody Sunday.

She gave birth to a daughter, Róisín, in 1971. This was a considerable scandal as she was unmarried, and it cost her some political support amongst Catholics.

By 1974, her public political life was over. She lost her seat in parliament in the general election, and has never held political office since, despite running for election to a number of bodies.

Later that year, she helped found the Irish Republican Socialist Party, a splinter group from Official Sinn Féin, but left after a failed attempt to co-opt the Irish Nationalist Liberation Army terrorist group. I’m not sure of the details – did she leave because the attempt failed, or because the attempt was made in the first place (given her claimed non-sectarian stance, it’s interesting that the INLA had some Protestant members). However, she later supported the blanket protest and the dirty protest, and was the main spokesperson for the Smash H-Blocks Campaign, which supported the republican prisoners’ hunger strike, all of which involved INLA prisoners.

In 1981, she and her husband were shot in their home by members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters.

Currently, she runs the South Tyrone Empowerment Project, which advocates for migrants.

Should the British government apologise for running Northern Ireland as a discriminatory state for 50 years?

As an Irish citizen, I think apologies from Britain for past treatment of Ireland are pointless. In fact, apologies from any country to another for past mistreatment are pointless.

Apologies only serve to make the apologiser feel better about their behaviour. Confession is good for the (collective) soul. Words are given for lives taken, wealth stolen, culture lost. There’s no restitution and no retribution possible. The people who suffered are past caring, and those who inflicted the suffering aren’t sorry in their graves.

I actually roared with laughter when Tony Blair apologised for the Irish Famine. Why? Because Tony Blair’s mother was Irish: Hazel Corscadden, from Co Donegal – one of the worst affected regions during the Famine. Ridiculous.

Is an independent Northern Ireland within the EU preferable to joining Ireland or staying in the UK?

Northern Ireland will be leaving the EU, along with the rest of the UK. Let’s just get that out of the way at the start.

Unification might happen in the long term, but is not an immediate prospect. According to an RTÉ poll in 2015, 43% of the population of Northern Ireland want to remain in the UK; 30% want a united Ireland; and 27% are undecided. The EU referendum result might have shifted these numbers a little, but it’s hard to say in which direction. Suffice it to say there is currently no indication of a will to Irish unification.

As part of the UK, Northern Ireland will lose its agricultural subsidies when the UK leaves the EU, and all the other subsidies, grants, and development funds, including those from the ‘peace dividend’. In theory, Westminster should re-direct the same amount of money to Northern Ireland out of the funds heretofore given to the EU, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. It is entirely conceivable that the UK will need this money to offset the economic impact of Brexit, and there simply may not be enough left over to replace EU funding.

An independent Northern Ireland would be in a parlous economic state. The Troubles, together with Westminster’s neglect of the regions (including Scotland, Wales, and northern and south-western England), have left Northern Ireland with little industry beyond agriculture and, recently, tourism. Services and the public sector (education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc.) account for much of Northern Ireland’s economy, but these are largely dependent upon the link with the UK. Moreover, as independence necessarily breaks the connection with the UK, we can probably infer that independence would be at least as unpalatable as Irish unification to the people of Northern Ireland. The economic uncertainty alone would render independence unthinkable.

Meanwhile, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, and Donald Tusk, the European Council president, have both said that the EU does not want a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland, and that the EU will do its best to preserve the peace settlement. In addition, there have been calls for Northern Ireland to have special status within the EU. The UK parliament, by comparison, voted against an amendment to Article 50 which would have protected the peace settlement[1], and seems determined to crash out of the EU with no deal in place – which effectively means breaking the peace agreement. On top of that, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has ruled out special status for Northern Ireland, as it undermines Northern Ireland’s position within the UK, and it wouldn’t be fair on the rest of the UK.

It’s pretty clear, from the preceding paragraph, which institution has any concern for a post-Brexit Northern Ireland. However, the EU cannot help Northern Ireland directly after Brexit, unless Northern Ireland joins the Republic, or applies to join the EU as an independent statelet. There’s no stomach for the former, and no real possibility of the latter.

Special status would probably be the best outcome economically. Despite the rhetoric of the politicians, most people on the “mainland” would be quite happy to get rid of Northern Ireland and the billions it costs them every year. It would have to be presented to unionists as a transitional period of unlimited duration between membership of the UK and Irish unification – essentially a continuation of the status quo, with their rights as British subjects respected for as long as they wish. The Republic wouldn’t have an expensive province with enraged loyalists dumped in their lap before they’re ready. Northern Ireland nationalists might not be too happy about the lack of a timescale, but may accept as it’s a step towards unification.

It all depends on the negotiations. I suspect the British government could be persuaded to part with Northern Ireland in return for a suitable inducement – maybe free trade?


[1] http://Sorry, it’s Twitter. Beca…

Why do some people promote a sectarian organization like the Orange Order? Are they not keeping the sectarian divide alive in Northern Ireland?

Just a niggle: I don’t think anyone promotes the Orange Order, any more than anyone promotes the Masons or any other secret society. They’re perfectly capable of gathering the people they want without publicity.

Other than that, well… The Orange Order in Northern Ireland (or parts of it) are a bit of an embarrassment for the Orange Order worldwide.

Some reading for the interested; if not interested, you can just scroll down and note the bolded portions:

The Qualifications of an Orangeman

An Orangeman should have a sincere love and veneration for his Heavenly Father, a humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, believing in Him as the only Mediator between God and man.

He should cultivate truth and justice, brotherly kindness and charity, devotion and piety, concord and unity, and obedience to the laws; his deportment should be gentle and compassionate, kind and courteous; he should seek the society of the virtuous, and avoid that of the evil;

He should honour and diligently study the Holy Scriptures, and make them the rule of his faith and practice;

He should love, uphold, and defend the Protestant religion, and sincerely desire and endeavour to propagate its doctrines and precepts;

He should strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome and other Non-Reformed faiths, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Roman Catholic or other non-Reformed Worship; he should, by all lawful means, resist the ascendancy, encroachments, and the extension of their power, ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments towards all those who do not practice the Reformed and Christian Faith;

He should remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day, and attend the public worship of God, and diligently train up his offspring, and all under his control, in the fear of God, and in the Protestant faith;

He should never take the name of God in vain, but abstain from all cursing and profane language, and use every opportunity of discouraging those, and all other sinful practices, in others;

His conduct should be guided by wisdom and prudence, and marked by honesty, temperance, and sobriety, the glory of God and the welfare of man, the honour of his Sovereign, and the good of his country, should be the motives of his actions.

In short:

  • Be nice
  • Even to people you don’t agree with
  • Be a good example.

Nothing too objectionable there, is there?

But you can understand how the drunken rabble-rousers one sees playing “The Sash” or worse outside Catholic churches on the 12th of July are a bit of an embarrassment to Orangeism worldwide. They’re not acting like Christians should, they’re not being nice – and especially not to Catholics – and they’re not setting a good example.

I was born in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal, which hosts the largest 12th of July parade in the Republic of Ireland. The land on which the religious service (at the end of the parade) takes place is loaned to the Orange Order by the nearby Franciscan Friary (Catholic monks). Many of the friars attend the service. The only return the friary expects is that the local Orange lodge cleans up the site afterwards. Many local Catholic-owned businesses make their first profit of the year by running stalls, burger and ice cream vans, etc., at the venue. The hotel at the beach is fully manned, providing meals for the dignitaries attending. The local policemen volunteer for traffic duty on the day – rumours of hair-pulling and slapping to get the prized duty are as yet unconfirmed.

It’s as unlike the Northern parades as you could get. But this is how Orange parades are anywhere other than Northern Ireland.

The Northern Irish Orange Order is an aberration, a reflection of the tensions in Northern Ireland rather than a cause. This is not to excuse their actions, or their various refusals to re-route parades – parades have been re-routed ever since the Orange Order came into being, and very few have any claim to a ‘traditional’ route.