Beware puppetmaster Martin Selmayr, who is now pulling the strings of Europe
'Faceless bureaucrats" is a frequent insult levelled at our rulers in Brussels but, latterly, we're getting to know them better. What with his tendency...
'Faceless bureaucrats" is a frequent insult levelled at our rulers in Brussels but, latterly, we're getting to know them better. What with his tendency...
Last week an article of mine in The Daily Telegraph sparked off a big row between Brexiteers and Remainers over the Irish dimension. With the headline 'The collapse of power-sharing in...
In normal political parties almost everyone wants to be leader. But how many senior people in Sinn Fein truly envy Mary Lou McDonald as - in theory at least - she takes control of the morass that is...
"Last Tango in The Balmoral," began a tweet from Gerry Adams on Friday, attaching his most recent blog, which appears weekly in Sinn Fein's remaining Pravda (An Phoblact is now on-line only) - the...
As well as the kerfuffle about embarrassing comments from anti-IRA clergy in newly released State papers, there was a row last week about the T-shirt for sale by the Sinn Fein online bookshop bearing the legend 'IRA UNDEFEATED ARMY' and illustrated with images of dashing young chaps in balaclavas carrying Kalashnikovs.
I'm having my annual post-Christmas bilious attack, caused by having been lectured and sung at everywhere for weeks about peace and goodwill and loving your fellow man. The only cure for the consequent nausea is a cleansing purge. Of people.
As a one-time civil servant, I still often identify with the poor wretches who have to draft ministerial letters with which they fundamentally disagree. So having read that weird 'Open Letter to the Taoiseach' from 200 or so "Irish citizens living in the North of Ireland" who are in a right old state about Brexit, and having read his brief response tersely saying restoring devolution should be the priority, I felt the urge to draft the letter I'd really have liked him to write.
Why did anyone think that Gerry Adams was heading off into the sunset to his Donegal retreat, his dog Snowy prancing by his side and his long-time faithful Man Friday Richard McAuley a few steps behind carrying the bags containing Adams's closest companions - his teddy bears (Ted and Tom, named after his uncuddly long-time associates Ted Howell and Tom Hartley) and his convoy of rubber ducks?
Since the recent symposium in Trinity in honour of Conor Cruise O'Brien, I've been thinking about his role as what nowadays is called a "public intellectual". He was - as Frank Callanan described him in this newspaper after his death in 2008 - "this most brilliant" of the sons of modern Ireland, to which he had "rendered signal service".
Micheal Martin certainly trampled on some politicians' presidential dreams this Ard Fheis weekend. The chief casualty, Bertie Ahern, is not expected to survive. Gerry Adams has been badly bruised and President Higgins received a blow to the head that may be terminal.
So what was the Taoiseach playing at when he said in the Dail last week that Mary Lou McDonald reminded him of Marine Le Pen in her addiction to a script? Actually, though I'm no fan of her politics, I think Ms Le Pen should complain about being mentioned in the same breath as Mary Lou McDonald. After all, Le Pen showed commendable independence by standing up to her father; by contrast "I-believe-Gerry" McDonald is notoriously slavish towards her father figure/scriptwriter.
While there were no fatalities from the crude bomb in a tube train at West London's Parsons Green underground station, 30 people were injured, the threat level in the UK has been raised from...
Clay rattles down on the coffin. Grief embraces, with its grip of pain.
Gerry Adams is exhausted, he told us in his blog last week. He was "too tired" for the first time since its foundation in 1988 even to attend Feile an Phobail, the West Belfast Festival, what with: "Martin's death. Two elections. Two USA trips in July. Constituency duties in the Dail and in Louth. Talks or what passed for talks at Stormont. It all takes time and effort."
Knowing the bloody, cruel and counter-productive IRA campaign that their political wing still retrospectively honours, and its abject failure to bring about the United Ireland for which it fought, what kind of person in the Republic of Ireland would join Sinn Fein these days?
Senator Padraig O Ceidigh - a fluent Irish speaker whose many entrepreneurial accomplishments include founding Aer Arann - last week described the Government's Irish language strategy as a dead horse and recommended dismounting. This came not long after Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, a career politician, threw his weight behind Sinn Fein's demand for an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland that would be - in terms of the good it would do the language - a very expensive dead foal.
Well, there seems to be international agreement that our Taoiseach won the sock war. 'Trudeau Visits Ireland to Discuss Trade', said a New York Times headline that was typical of many around those parts of the globe that pay attention to politicians' nether regions, 'but Host's Socks Steal the Show'.
'They are revolting people," said that famous Irish actor Stephen Rea last week about the European Council for Fatwa and Research, based at the Clonskeagh Mosque in Dublin.
'Dear God, Ruth, what a feckin' shambles," began a message from a Tory friend last week.
Last week, attention should have been focused on Sinn Fein's wrecking of the Executive, the SDLP's and DUP's concern about the astonishing and suspicious rise in proxy votes in six nationalist/republican areas, the mysterious large donation made to DUP at the time of the Brexit referendum, and various other grown-up issues. Instead with what turned into 'Blondegate', with the unwitting help of the Sunday Independent Sinn Fein has had another hit in its long-running 'Winding-up- the-Prods' strategy.
'Believe you me, we will get to the bottom of this," said Mary Lou McDonald menacingly on Newstalk Breakfast last Friday morning, apropos allegations of financial irregularities at the Garda College in Templemore.
Brexit is happening and all those affected should be trying to make the best of it. Yet Irish and Scottish nationalists seem intent on seeking party advantage through negativity and an Anglophobia that grown-ups grew out of long ago. And now British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an election.
Sinn Fein has gone one better than the Greeks in the (probably mythological) 13th century BC Trojan War.
We've learned a lot recently about the exceptional talents of Martin McGuinness as Sinn Fein's main strategist and diplomat. Such was his intelligence, cunning, the power of his personality and his remarkable manipulative skills that he caused President Michael D Higgins's already dodgy moral compass to give up the ghost completely. His statement on the death of McGuinness, a serial mass murderer, had nothing but positives.
Here we go again on one of our periodic episodes of lynching the clergy. Since sexual scandals concerning the Irish Catholic Church erupted in the 1990s, Irish society - previously distinguished by craven deference - has turned on its clergy and shown no mercy.
In 1989, seeking ecclesiastical support for the British Association for Irish Studies, which I chaired, I met the deeply unhappy Archbishop Desmond Connell. I had begun my tour of clergy one morning in Armagh city in an office, where Archbishop Eames of the Church of Ireland listened carefully and offered practical help, then directed me across the way to his opposite number.
Look, I realise that Enda Kenny is under great pressure - but his eye is off the most important ball: maintaining intact the Irish democracy in which we rightly showed such pride during last year's commemoration.
'What's going on in Northern Ireland?" Even as they ask that dutifully, I can see the life draining out of the faces of my interlocutors, British or Irish, terrified they might get a lengthy explanation.
It's the time of the year when - after due consultation and mature reflection - I name and shame a selection of those I think should be deported from our nation forthwith.
Here's a question about Clare Daly, Eamon O Cuiv, Thomas Pringle, Maureen O'Sullivan and Mick Wallace. Are they useful idiots (exploited for propaganda purposes by cynics) or sneaking regarders (the kind of people who were against terrorism, but had "a sneaking regard for the lads in the IRA")?
Surely the Government will summon the courage to put manners on President Michael D Higgins now that he has displayed so publicly in his paean of praise to the late Fidel Castro his blatant anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism.
For years, Irish-America was seen as Catholic, nationalist and Democrat - a lazy perception that ignored those who were from different religions and traditions and who had different political priorities.
While I enjoy famous bits of the United States of America, it's to Indiana, where for about 20 years I've been attending Magna Cum Murder, a crime convention, that I go most often. Afterwards, I spend a few days with Magna's presiding genius, Kathryn Kennison, in Muncie, which has a population of around 70,000 and helps me understand the American heartland and its reassuring sense of...
There have been some pretty mad articles written recently by Irish journalists about Brexit, but palm goes to Kathy Sheridan of The Irish Times.
When it comes to Brexit, we can resist all change or we can act like the agile, clever, articulate, opportunist little nation we are capable of being. The die-hard faction was symbolised yesterday by "Border Communities Against Brexit", that gathered at six different locations to promise no surrender.
There's no point in applying normal criteria either to the politician Gerry Adams or the quasi political party he's been leading for 33 years. I'm as guilty as anyone of regularly getting steamed up about what he gets away with and lamenting that while normal politicians are often professionally destroyed because of being caught out in minor indiscretions, brazenness, omerta and fear have protected Adams and many of his colleagues from getting their comeuppance.
'As Lionel Shriver made light of identity, I had no choice but to walk out on her," said an arresting Guardian headline last weekend about one of my old friends.
Since January, Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland's First Minister, has been in an arranged political marriage with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. He's on his third, having had marriages with her predecessors.
There were happy photographs from Syria last week. In Manbij, just liberated from the putrid embrace of Isil, a young man beamed ecstatically as someone cut off for him the heavy beard required by the Islamist 'style police' and a young woman smiled serenely as she added her hated garment to a bonfire of niqabs. There was nothing happy about the recent past, where - as we were shown in a photograph from an abandoned headquarters of religious police - weapons like chains and pipes were used to beat men and women who committed sartorial sins.
An interesting development since the UK referendum on the EU has been how anger and insults from Remainers have stiffened the backbone of Leavers. Last week a young friend told me he'd just resigned as a member of the Labour Party because he could no longer stand listening to people who showed nothing but contempt for the working class their party had been founded to represent. I empathised, for I was a Leave voter who was nervous rather than triumphant when my side won, but within a few days the dismissal of us for being old, selfish, bigoted, stupid, uneducated and...
On a Sunday afternoon in May, I was sitting in a pub with friends when Len McCluskey, the Unite General Secretary, brushed past our table, saw on it the pub's copy of The Sun On Sunday and said quite aggressively: "You shouldn't read that paper. It's fascist, racist, sexist. You shouldn't be reading it."
Responding to a seismic political shock that has rocked the globe and needing to distract attention from their failure to get their followers to come out in decent numbers to vote Remain, Sinn Fein went into Little Ireland mode by demanding a border poll about Irish unity.
Writing of the death of Jo Cox, the sixth sitting MP to be murdered during the last 100 years (and the only one not killed by the IRA), the London Times columnist Danny Finkelstein tried to be positive. He reminded us of the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in 1812 (by, as it happens, an obsessive loner), which caused widespread rejoicing because he was a politician. "It is often said that our political culture is debased and has never been as rude or threatening," he wrote. "The truth is quite different. We have spent the past 200 years slowly evolving a more...
'I've been reading all about the Birmingham pub bombings," wrote a commentator last week on that invaluable blogsite, www.sluggerotoole.com, "and it seems they were entirely the police's fault. Funny old world, innit." "Most IRA crimes are the fault of the police," responded another mordantly. "The remainder are the fault of the victims."
Three recent events and a film left me thinking about what members of Sinn Fein frequently complain is being done to their party: demonisation.
YouTube has a clip from a 2009 interview with Gerry Adams reminiscing about a favourite song that was a comfort to him in jail. “After a very brutal incursion into the prison wing, the prison officers beat everybody and the wing was deadly silent and from way down the wing we heard this little voice going “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. Within five minutes, “there were 100 men singing at the top of their voices.”
'My name is Gerry and I'm opposed to things", was the opening line of Oliver Callan's recent priceless Opposition Anonymous sketch. And so he is. Gerry Adams has spent a life opposing pretty well everything that came across his line of vision and prevented him from getting his way: the Northern Ireland state, Brits, unionists, Orangemen, the SDLP, securocrats, capitalists (unless they're...
Come on. Admit it. You thought the 1916 centenary was over and you were safe from Michael D Higgins making yet another grandiose speech about rediscovering the idealism of a visionary generation, children rewriting the Proclamation to ban green vegetables on human rights grounds and grown-ups playing in the street in uncertain early 20th century costumes.
I try to avoid speculation, a great time-waster. You'll never find me poring over pages of what to expect in the budget and I stay well away from conversations on the 'what-ifs' of history. But I admit to a weakness when it comes to a bit of what-might-have-been about the Easter Rising, which has fascinated me since childhood.
According to Ezra Pound, his friend WB Yeats had been saying for years before 1916 that "Pearse was half-cracked and wanting to be hanged. He has Emmet delusions same as other lunatics think they are Napoleon or God."
'Be in no doubt," Gerry Adams wrote in his post-election blog, "that republicans would have done marginally better but for the barrage of negative campaigning that was targeted at Sinn Fein by the establishment parties and their lackeys in the conservative press… which probably cost one or two points and several seats."
What Gerry Adams had hoped for was the pulverising of Labour and Fianna Fail, leaving a weakened Fine Gael in hock to a few dodgy Independents and Sinn Fein as the main opposition party with a good chance of bringing down the Government within 12 months. What he got was victory - courtesy of young anti-establishment voters like those flocking to Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders - through the huge increase in seats for Independents, the death of Labour, collapse of Fine Gael and beaching of Fianna Fail: only Sinn Fein could form a government on March 10.
Consider this scenario: It's the last week in July 2016 and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia has to choose a candidate to take on Donald Trump (70 by then), who was crowned Republican presidential candidate the previous week.
The front page of the February issue of Sinn Fein's newspaper, An Phoblacht, has the headline "Join the RISING", under which are smiley photos of Martin McGuinness, Pearse Doherty, Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams. Across the bottom of the page is the legend "REVOLUTION 1916", under which a familiar profile of Patrick Pearse dominates the foreground, with behind him small, grey images of the six other signatories of the Irish proclamation.
The signatories of the proclamation would be surprised that they are running in the 2016 General Election, not least because their revolution was an assault on constitutional politics, which some of them - like Tom Clarke - loathed and others - like Patrick Pearse - had come to despise.
Republicans "used John Hume like you'd play a 3lb trout", said former First Minister Seamus Mallon in a BBC radio interview last week. "And he gave them the thing that they were looking for - that was, a respectable image in the United States." And so he did, for Hume consistently underestimated them.
We should now consider how Ireland could be improved by intelligent culling, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
At William and Mary College in Virginia, students are demanding the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence who is regarded by many as America's best president. As an interim measure, they've plastered it with sticky notes saying things like "Racism is a choice" and "How dare you glorify him".
This is a "trigger warning". Reach for the smelling salts, victims of the patriarchy. I intend to be offensive.
On Friday night, Gerry Adams complained on Twitter about his garrulous teddy bears. "For such a quiet un when he talks Ted talks a lot. Tom never stops. Talking that is." And then he heard about the Paris carnage.
I had an invigorating few days in Indiana last week, talking about crime fiction at a convention for writers and readers, and at a university, talking about the stark problems facing Europe.
Skilled for years in riding two horses simultaneously, these days Gerry Adams is beginning to look more like someone riding two escalators going in opposite directions.
This is a critical period for Irish democracy. A period during which voters have to think hard about whether they want a stable democracy or are minded to take a punt on a smooth-talking populist party linked inextricably with the Provisional IRA.
All Ireland seems to be hosting history fight clubs these days. Within just the last three weeks, I've been on panels discussing with lively audiences the Great Famine in Newry, the Proclamation in Portlaoise and Patrick Pearse ("proto-fascist eccentric or visionary?") in Tallaght.
So, farewell, Henning Mankell, the creator of Kurt Wallander, the melancholy Swedish detective who has charmed millions on page and on screen with his gloomy reflections on life, corruption and immorality. "The fundamental driving force for me is to create a change in the world we live in... It's about exploitation, plundering and degradation."
We're still bedevilled by myths that distort our island story. And because of the vicious propaganda of people like the Young Irelander John Mitchel, we have a particularly skewed view of the Great Famine. "The Almighty indeed sent the potato blight," he wrote, "but ... a million and half men, women and children were carefully, prudently and peacefully slain by the English government."
In these dark times, and being a believer in the importance of getting one's laughs where one can, I'm grateful for those provided in the last few weeks by British politics.
With biblical scenes of exodus and tragedy facing us every day and with the looming prospect of the EU lumbering incompetently into its last chaotic days, we need light relief. Step forward, Jeremy Corbyn.
I've identified an important anniversary that we've forgotten to commemorate. It was in April 1995 that the then Taoiseach, John Bruton, lost his temper in Cork and told a journalist he was "sick of answering questions about the f**king peace process''.
Since the mid-19th century, when nationalism got its grip on us, we have been politically a necrophiliac culture, worshipping our dead and seeking in their words and deeds instructions on how we, the living, should conduct our lives. We revere martyrs and use them to create a hunger for martyrdom.
I had a conversation on Friday morning with my brother. We both want the world to be nicer and kinder, but he's an idealist and I'm a pragmatist.
So the name of Ted Heath, British Prime Minister from 1970-1974, has been added to the list of dead Conservative politicians accused of being paedophiles. The British police, smarting from their appalling failure to protect thousands of children groomed and raped over years in more than two dozen cities and their equally shameful negligence and cowardice with the likes of Jimmy Savile, are in a state of mad, compensatory zealotry and are inviting the entire population to queue up to accuse Heath of abuse. Egged on by the Labour MP Tom Watson, who has achieved tabloid fame...
'Together let's keep the spirit of Cecil alive," tweets one of the many self-appointed Chief Mourners over the hashtag #cecilthelion. Look, guys, I'm as soft-hearted about animals as the next person, and have had for many years a standing order for Compassion in World Farming to prove it, but I am, if you'll forgive the expression, foxed by this.
I knew there must be a Twitter account for Donald Trump's world-famous hair, and so there is. "I'm on top of the man who is on top of the world," it brags, and its followers tweet things like: "Will Trump's hair be chosen as his running mate?"
Reflecting on the often perplexing rhetoric from the likes of Yanis Varoufakis of Greece's Syriza, Pablo Iglesias of Spain's Podemos and Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, I was reminded of a story of my late mother's.
'Everyone thinks progress depends on indignation, accusation, aggression, demonstration, marching," wrote the commentator Peggy Noonan last week. "But we just saw anger lose to love. It's a huge moment."
More than 20 American presidents have had ancestral links to Ireland. The vast majority were from among Ulster-Scots frontiersman, which is why nationalists have mostly pretended they didn't exist. When we talk of Irish-America, we mean Catholic nationalist stock and the Democratic Party: no Prods or big 'R' Republicans need apply. We went wild for the Kennedys and we turned up our noses at Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes despite their Irish heritage.
There was uproar in Northern Ireland last week over a row started by a flute player. And, no, I don't mean one of those in a garish uniform who occasionally misbehave outside a Roman Catholic Church. I mean Sir James Galway.
MPs in the British House of Commons, which like most parliaments is usually empty, dull or acrimonious, spent more than an hour last Wednesday eloquently, sincerely and sensitively telling 10-year-old Donald Kennedy, sitting in the public gallery with his mother, why they loved his father.
'If Caitlyn Jenner wishes to be known as she, of course she's entitled to that,' tweeted Jim Naughtie of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme last Wednesday, "and I'm sorry for saying 'he' on air. A bit sloppy."
British Prime Minister David Cameron is galloping around the EU, trying to persuade its leaders to reform an institution suffering from sclerosis, democratic deficit and bureaucratic authoritarianism among many other serious diseases.
Lasting 13 seconds, it was more an assault than a handshake. Think about it. How often have you ever shaken hands for more than a couple of seconds?
Last week, among the British political parties licking their wounds were Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Labour lost 48 seats and the Liberal Democrats 49: Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg resigned immediately.
For anyone who hasn't been paying attention, the Conservatives, whom the poll of polls had predicted would win 34pc of the vote and struggle to cobble together a shaky coalition, won 36.9pc and hence 331 seats out of 650, giving them a majority of 12. (Actually, it's better for them than that, because the four Sinn Fein MPs obligingly refuse to take their seats.)
It's some feat, but this British general election is simultaneously the most boring and the most interesting I've ever followed.
When I made a passing comment about Roy Mason in the 1980s to a London-based Irish diplomat, he glowered and told me of his recent introduction to Mason in the House of Lords. Hearing his Irish-language first name, Mason said: "I'll call you Paddy."
Gerry Adams has promulgated his latest encyclical, "2016 - A time for Renewal", in which he examines the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. "Austerity - whether imposed by a British Tory government or a Fine Gael/Labour government - are [sic] anathema to the ideals of the Proclamation".
What about the crusades?” is one of those witless questions that left-wing Islamist fellow-travellers ask if you enquire why they’re not getting upset about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. “And the Inquisition?”
Poor Gerry Adams. He's so "sick, sore and tired of a tsunami of stories" based on the Boston tapes "linking me to Mrs McConville's death" that he's putting things straight tonight on CBS's 60 Minutes.
As we rev up for the Battle of the 1916 Commemoration, those who want Ireland released from its ideological straitjacket can be happy that our country has come a long way since 1966. Then it obediently celebrated the violence that had brought us such horrors as civil war and partition and was about to unleash three decades of bloodshed upon Northern Ireland.
Bean is a Facebook friend with whom I agree about little. He votes Sinn Fein, so when it comes to politics, as it usually does, we accuse each other of being tunnel-visioned and bigoted and mostly don't engage in argument because there's no point.
My guess is that on Tuesday morning, as David Cameron read the contents of his red box, he groaned at the briefing from the Northern Ireland Office, scribbled "Not another penny: the English won't stand for it'" and went back to focusing on ISIS, the economy and the forthcoming general election.
Reading yet another article about the reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech in Washington last week, this time in Rolling Stone magazine, I noted advice given the writer Matt Taibbi years ago by a famous columnist. "Never write about Israel. It just pisses people off. No matter what you say, you lose half your Rolodex [contacts]."
The Sinn Fein rank-and-file get their chance to change their party at next weekend's Ard Fheis. If theirs was a genuinely democratic party rather than a cult, they'd be challenging the old men who've held the party in an iron grip for decades.
At a British-Irish conference I used to attend, there was often a comedy moment when a senior Sinn Fein representative denied knowing anything at all about the IRA. Sometimes, even though the audience was stuffed with nice, polite liberals, an incredulous titter would break out. A complaint would follow.
At an all-female birthday lunch-party a few weeks ago, I was sitting between two women who had worked in the city of London in the 1980s. Although they had enjoyed their jobs, they had changed careers when they decided they needed less stress and more sanity. Neither was avaricious, so taking a large drop in income didn't bother them.
Kind friends invited me to stay with them last week in the Canary Islands, where I spent much of my time reading about the leaders of 1916, for - to commemorate the centenary - I'm writing a book about the signatories of the Proclamation.
You'd be well advised not to tangle with Jodie Marsh, star of reality TV, businesswoman and bodybuilder, who began her career as a glamour model and who is forever grateful to The Sun for making her a Page 3 girl. Samantha Fox (singer); Linda Lusardi (actress and TV presenter); and Katie Price (multi-millionaire self-publicist) are among the many Page 3 girls who feel the same.
I'm grateful to the Abbot of Glenstal for introducing me to the work of impressionist Oliver Callan, who up to last week was just a vague show-business name to me. But then I read Dom Mark Patrick Hederman's distressed article about how Callan was bullying, harassing and generally slagging off our President, and rushed to YouTube to see for myself.
It was just as well that defender of the Irish underclass Jonathan Swift didn't have social media to contend with when, in 1729, he suggested the poor might breed babies for food. "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled" would have set off a slavering Twitter mob.
That great Victorian journalist, Walter Bagehot, wasn't just a luminous, irreverent writer of exceptional depth and breadth, but all he wrote was grounded in his understanding of human nature. Hence, 137 years after his death, his timeless reflections on banking are still read by chancellors and governors, and his analysis of monarchy is still required reading for heirs to the British throne.
It had most of the ingredients for yet another Belfast Groundhog negotiation: long drawn-out talks, grimly uncompromising local politicians, exhortations from British and Irish Governments about the importance of goodwill and pragmatism, exhausted journalists hoping for white smoke, an artificial deadline, and so on.
As a corrective to seasonal sentimentality and false bonhomie, this time of the year I nominate people for deportation from Ireland. This year, as an experiment, I sought suggestions from Facebook friends, an eclectic bunch with strong opinions.
Sean Crowe, Sinn Fein's spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, was outraged in February by events in Venezuela. And indeed, there was plenty to be outraged about. Angry about an attempted rape on a university campus, there had been a student protest about the frightening levels of violence and crime that have escalated under the presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. The police response was vicious.
Towards the end of Roy Foster's Vivid Faces - a riveting study of the intelligentsia of the pre-1916 revolutionary generation - I read a moving quotation from 1955. "When will all the survivors of the Civil War - on both sides - be big enough to admit their failure of judgment?" it said. "As long as they keep silent their followers are committed to justifying Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in terms of mutual hate. Until it is clear to the meanest intelligence that one can be a good Irishman and disagree with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael or even with the Rising of 1916, Irish unity will continue to be a vain...
Pope Francis had two diplomatic fixtures last week. He won his first when the EU decided not to field a team. In his second, which is still in progress, he faces a more serious challenge.
Like millions of others, I've had it up to here with whingers whose pettifogging grievances and herd mentality are making feminism a toxic word by encouraging women to embrace victimhood, take offence where none is meant and revile and belittle men. Fortunately, their more idiotic campaigns sometimes backfire.
Few care about the Northern Irish "punished" by paramilitaries with knee- cappings or terrible beatings with nail-studded baseball bats, iron bars or hammers. Though many did nothing worse than cheek a thug or nick a car, they were seen by many as the dregs of society and had no one in public life to stick up for them
A Dublin friend rang me a few days ago to tell me joyfully that she'd bought a centenary Irish poppy pin in Limerick, complete with shamrock.
'Are SF going to admit now there was a forced IRA investigation into my abuse?" tweeted Mairia Cahill on Friday evening. "Or are they going to continue publicly flogging 'the witch'?"
Sinn Fein don't know what hit them. In addition to being brave, intelligent and articulate, Mairia Cahill is well-organised and a good strategist. Thick, brain-washed Shinners of course believe she's an MI5 stooge: clever ones know the awful truth that this is an able woman whose character has been strengthened by abuse and betrayal and who is fighting on her own terms. And Twitter is a battleground where so far she's routed the enemy.
It’s tough being an Irish politician. You have an electoral system that induces constant paranoia vis-a-vis your own party colleagues; fickle voters with a culture of entitlement; and a brutal whipping system that regards your conscience as a dispensable accessory.
At last week's Conservative Party conference, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson explained apropos an EU commission plan to ban powerful vacuum cleaners that "I have read that there are some people - probably the type who are thinking of defecting to Ukip - who present themselves at A&E with barely credible injuries sustained through vacuum-cleaner abuse."