Mike Vickers' Blog

March 18, 2019

DUP, Brexit and The Good Friday Agreement

Filed under: Good Friday Agreement, Ireland, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 11:58 am

Following on from my Blog: Derry Girls, Bloody Sunday and the Border

I consider it a deplorable situation where a party in Northern Ireland, the DUP, is determining whether the whole UK is leaving or remining in the EU. The DUP, although the major party in Northern Ireland, JUST, has no formal political power in that country as the Northern Ireland Parliament has not met for 2 years over an issue that was at least in part due to the First Minister’s (Arlene Foster) dealings on electricity.

I state straight away that I feel that the UK leaving the EU is a disaster and am biased. During the last 50 years, Europe has been war free; not being an historian I don’t know when this occurred before, but I suspect it is quite long ago.

Oddly, some 20 years ago, I was on a plane back from Germany and I spent the whole fight defending Ian Paisley and the feeling that the protectants in Northern Ireland felt uncomfortable with the dominant catholic population in Southern Ireland next door.

So, I was elated when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, and I can still remember the photo of the Chuckle Brothers: Ian Paisley (DUP) and Martin McGuiness (Sinn Fein), (see in the article below)

Not only is the DUP now threatening the UK that they may only support Theresa May’s EU Deal if they are doled out more cash, they are, in practice at least, threatening the Good Friday Agreement itself.

For a more substantive argument than mine on the DUP’s intransigence see Patrick Cockburn’s article in today’s Independent.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/brexit-latest-northern-ireland-backstop-vote-a8822836.html

Incidentally while Tony Blair has been much criticized since leaving office, he did, as Cockburn’s article states. reach agreement with Southern Irelands Prime Minister on the Good Friday Agreement.

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March 17, 2019

Derry Girls, Bloody Sunday, Brexit and the Border

Filed under: Brexit, Ireland — derryvickers @ 10:39 pm

You may enjoy the Derry Girls on Channel Four and there’s a good article in the Guardian at:

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2019/mar/17/saoirse-monica-jackson-derry-girls-interview-series-two

But there are two sides to Derry and Londonderry, which are the same place.

Ireland North and South are at the centre of the Brexit ‘debate’ and the border which currently separates them. Of course, this was always going to be so and how Cameron ignored it (or apparently ignored it) when choosing to hold the Brexit Referendum only he can answer. The ‘Troubles’ were with us for thirty years only ending with The Good Friday Agreement. Since then the North and the South have started to work together and the physical border between them has largely been removed; but there remains simmering at the community level; a journey across the North would reveal Union Jacks fluttering on the lampposts in the North.

So Brexit, even though there was a majority vote in Northern Ireland to remain, was going to be ‘a cause of concern’ .  Wolud the border be reesatblished and what would the effect beon the separation North and South; would te catholicts in the North want to be united with the South. Only last week the Bloody Sunday enquiry recommended that only on solder be prosecuted for the shooting in Londonderry in 1972.

For a good exposition on the collision between Brexit and Ireland read Patrick Cockburn in this week’s Independent.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-bloody-sunday-boris-johnson-dup-theresa-may-northern-ireland-a8825286.html#comments

Cockburn is scathing of the interference by such fools as Boris Johnson leading to the possibility of further Bloody Sunday’s in the future.

The casual reader may thing this is a ‘local’ matter within the UK and possibly Southern Ireland (Eire) but the Bloody Sunday report this week has been taken up by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

March 16, 2019

The worry of Social Media – Should Social Media Companies be forced to act

Filed under: Communications, Jo Cox, Journalism, Politics, Social Media — derryvickers @ 8:30 pm

From the Editor of “I”

Act againt Social Media companies.

“The problem is wider than this disgusting video: it is not hard to find far-right propanganda spreading violent ideologies notably on YouTube and there is little political pressure to remove it.”

Just perhaps Sajid Javid will act?
“Internet companies who allow the distribution of banned content “should be prepared to face the full force of the law”, Sajid Javid has said, as he called on people to stop watching and sharing the livestream broadcast by a gunman””

March 13, 2019

No Deal – well let’s hope so

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 11:23 pm

This evenings vote on ‘No Deal’ is too close for comfort and getting closer.
There is much manoeuvring in the Tory / DUP ranks.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian is also sanguine on the situation: he believes May is not dead yet. If no delay and now no No Deal then a third time May may succeed.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/13/theresa-may-deal-vote-mps-brexit

He considers that Hammond did a Bismarck this evening

“Nevertheless, Hammond seized his chance, giving a foretaste of the power shift inside the government that was to come in the evening votes. Chancellors get only two moments in the limelight during the year. Hammond knows he may not still be in the job by the autumn. So, he was not going to let this one slip. Brexit dominated the beginning, middle and end of his statement. Just before he sat down, Hammond summoned up his inner Bismarck. It was time, he said, “to start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus across this house for a deal we collectively support to exit the EU in an orderly way”.

“This may not sound ringing stuff. Yet in terms of the conventions of cabinet collective responsibility on central issues of policy, it was practically a call to storm the Winter Palace.”

We shall see what the vote is tomorrow.
There is also a touch of the New Testament in Kettle’s article:

‘Before the cock crow thou shall deny me thrice.’

Brother can you spare a dime

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Immigration, Italian, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 4:49 pm

Marina Hyde earlier today in the Guardian: 13 March 2019

“Fairly sure the world has got the message by now. They are “up to speed” and “across the detail” of the sort of country the UK is. The question of whether Brexit represented a midlife crisis or the descent into senility appears to have been answered. The land that likes to picture itself as a David Niven world war two movie is in fact a look-away episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show. On close inspection, the “beacon of democracy” turns out to be a bin fire.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/13/theresa-may-deal-europe-eu-mps

I used to find it reassuring that the MPs in Westminster were coming around to my view. But I find Marina Hyde’s article now infinitely depressing.
“Once we had an Empire, now it’s gone, brother can you spare a dime”.

March 10, 2019

Continental Drift with the Scottish Ensemble

Filed under: 'Moot' Local Decision Making, Brexit, Europe, Music, Scottish Ensemble, Uncategorized — derryvickers @ 9:57 pm

An Across Continents Concert this afternoon.

The Scottish Ensemble joined forces with three Europeans playing instruments new to us: a santoor from India, a stringed percussion instrument; a zarb, a kind of drum from Persia; a baglama, a stringed instrument from Turkey; a lyra, a very small cello from Greece and frame drums.

Santoor

Baglama

Zarb

Lyra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The European music spanned from Hildegard von Bingen in the 12th century through Purcell to Bartok in the 20th but the programme included music from the eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and India. The players playing the frame drums used just their fingers to achieve a remarkable sustained rhythm.

Frame Drum

 

 

 

All the players joined in to all pieces. An exciting sound experience

 

 

 

 

The concert was entitled Continental Drift and we could see why. I can only hope that these European players with their novel instruments will still be allowed into Scotland post Brexit.

March 8, 2019

This Day – 8 March 2019

Filed under: Brexit, economics, Europe, Ireland, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:07 pm

I have just watched a programme  on BBC 4 on Hadrian’s Wall and its ultimate Failure to protect England at the End of Empire.

The Roman Empire imploded and England with it, for 750 years.

Is there an analogy here on 8 March 2019 to England imploding on itself following Brexit?

From the Guardian Website.  Very little to celebrate.

 

 

Political Ineptitude at its worst

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Italian, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 7:20 pm

One may laugh at The Derry Girls

But I despair of the politicians elevated to Northern Ireland Secretary.

Karen Bradleys must qualify as the worst so far:

“Every clanger from a British politician – Karen Bradley’s offensive and ignorant statement exonerating British soldiers for their crimes in Northern Ireland; the border mess, exacerbated by the Conservative government’s tactical alliance with the DUP; the clueless remarks emanating from the House of Commons – has not just confirmed, but elevated our suspicions that English (and Brexit was always about Englishness, not Britishness, nor the oxymoron that is now the “United” Kingdom) apathy, ignorance and entitlement towards Ireland is as dominant as ever. The tactic of trying to undermine Ireland in a game of chicken with the European Union has also led to an existential fear that the EU will sell Ireland out, and a fury about the corner we are being put in.”

Read the full article in the The Irish Times by in today’s Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/08/england-ireland-brexit-political-ignorance?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0Jlc3RPZkd1YXJkaWFuT3BpbmlvblVLLTE5MDMwOA%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=BestOfGuardianOpinionUK&CMP=opinionuk_email

Wiki: “”The fewer than 10% [of killings] that were at the hands of the military and police were not crimes, they were people acting under orders and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way.”[ A Nuremburg Defence.

One might have thought that all politicians who have had at least One Month’s training on Irish History but apparently not so of Karen Bradlay.

See also The UK and Scotland post Brexit  – Gus O’Donnald on his concern of the impact of Brexit on Ireland.

March 7, 2019

Red Note at the RCS

Filed under: Brexit, Immigration, Music, Red Note, Royal Scottish Conservatoire — derryvickers @ 11:57 pm

Red Note performs the established classics of contemporary music, commissions new music, develops the work of new and emerging composers and performers from Scotland and around the world and finds new spaces and new ways of performing contemporary music to attract new audiences”. So says the blurb on the programme for tonight’s concert at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire, Glasgow (RCS).

They did all of that tonight, working with MusicLab; “MusicLab is the RCS’s student ensemble dedicated to performing music of the twentieth and twenty first centuries”; also, from the blurb.

Six RCS student pieces: Coachman Chronos, Snapdragon, Daethletics, Nikuda, Turbulences and Die Stucke der Windrose.

The pieces were played by a combination of Red Notes and MusicLab players. We know, Robert Irvine, cello, the principal player of Red Note having met him at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel; he fished while we walked. But this was the first time, from our view point, that Maximiliano Martin, clarinet, from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra joined the group.

The music was great, and I can only hope that the composers will go far, as will the MusicLab players. RCS takes students from across the world and I hope that this is not affected by Brexit. To me, one of the best ways for Scotland to be in the forefront of the world, is by attracting students to Scotland; they will go home knowing one other good country as well as their own.

Public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

Filed under: 'Moot' Local Decision Making, Europe, Personal, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 10:34 pm

Towards Local Decisions

I have copied below an article forwarded to me almost verbatim by Malcolm Fraser entitled Bring Back the Moot

You can find his full article at https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13930/malcolm-fraser-bring-back-moot

Malcolm Fraser, architect and head of the 2013 Scottish Government town centre review, posited his “Town Centre First Principle”. [He believes that] Many authorities are doing good work in understanding and applying this principle, though he still reads horror stories of Councils moving colleges or “community campuses” out of town to lonely, disconnected places by the motorway.

He is now proposing four big measures within his underlying principle:

  1. Tax: buildings are an old-fashioned, easy to see and target source of taxation. They carry the burden of retail while digital sales get off extremely lightly, including dodging tax by moving sales offshore into low-tax havens. A simple change to a sales or consumption tax, adjusted to apply less to small retailers, would even out the burden between our high street and digital sales as well as ensuring tax was paid at the point of sale, not transferred offshore.
  2. Transport: the Labour Party proposed a five-point plan of which [he] particularly liked the idea of free public transport for the under 25s. Accessible, easily useable public transport is a key answer to a huge number of our contemporary challenges, including climate change and inclusive accessibility to the public services centres.
  3. Vacant Property: there’s great groups doing sterling work in revitalising their towns, including the pioneering West Kilbride Craft Town and the current work of the Stove Network in Dumfries, who are not only addressing the vacant shops in the town but the empty, former flats above. There is, apparently, so much need in Scotland for cheap space for artists and craftspeople, that vast old offices and industrial buildings are filled-up in our cities. We need to take the Craft/Stove model and set out how all our communities can apply it to their own towns, spreading their crafts entrepreneurs along our High Streets, into our vacant shops. And while there’s been great efforts to apply the Empty Homes initiatives to our housing crisis we should extend them: it might only cost £20,000 to bring back an empty town centre flat into use, whose occupier will support town centre shops and facilities, instead of maybe £100,000 for a green field new build. And we might note that, whereas there are upwards of 34,000 long-term empty homes in …., there are countless more above high street shops which are registered now as retail, ‘’’’.
  4. Local Democracy: finally, the lack of care in the health of our communities must be inextricably wound up with the lack of a functioning, empowered local democracy in Britain as a whole. Compared to our healthy European neighbours we, as citizens, are very remote from our politicians. We need to reintroduce a measure of power, and some funding, to Parish, Community or whatever-we-might-call-them Councils, and co-locate them with post offices, nurseries and other local services in parish churches, or old buildings revitalised by Community Asset Transfers, or devolved initiatives planned by local authorities. Medieval Scotland was full of public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

I am happy with all 4 measures but the one that appeals to me most is 4. on Local Democracy.  Local Democracy is sadly lacking in Scotland, even more than in England, and the UK as a whole is the most undemocratic in Europe.  I believe the people of towns and country need to have a real say in how they are governed; a cry of the heart I set out in a recent blob ‘Towards Local decisions’.

The best definition I have found of ‘moot’ is
“an assembly held for debate, especially in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times.”

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