Showing posts from August, 2008

Cameron as Whiggish Burkean

On Comment Is Free, David Marquand argues that it is a misunderstanding to portray David Cameron as a Thatcherite who is donning the clothes of compassionate social policy as mere expedience. His article chimes resonantly with After Blair, Kieron O’Hara’s examination of Cameron Conservatism, which I reviewed recently.

His central contention is similar to O’Hara’s. He views conservatism as a Burkean tradition which seeks to preserve and to effect reforms by evolution rather than wholesale change. The proponents of this type of conservatism see no contradiction in a Conservative government seeking to emphasise social concerns or to refrain from instigating an aggressive free market agenda. You'll notice the juxtaposition of the lower and upper case 'c's.

“[Cameron] offers inclusion, social harmony and evolutionary adaptation to the cultural and socioeconomic changes of his age: a 21st century equivalent of the amalgam of preservation and improvement once lauded by Burk…

P Sinn Féin can't be allowed to poop the Olympic party

A Sinn Féin councillor has complained to the Equality Commission after it adjudged a British Olympic flag erected for four hours at a leisure centre in Craigavon to be unproblematic. The emblem incorporated the Union Flag as part of the British Olympic Association’s lion logo.

Three Thousand Versts has consistently argued that the principle of consent must not be disregarded, by erasing consequences which naturally flow from Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, under the guise of equality. Sinn Féin has persistently instigated a policy whereby any outward manifestation of Northern Ireland’s constitutional status is considered offensive and must be removed on grounds of parity of esteem.

It is correct to provide neutral public spaces and shared environments where flags and symbols are not appropriate. I have volubly supported, for example, initiatives to furnish the Northern Ireland football team with its own anthem. I do not wish to see buildings and lampposts …

Is that the sound of desperate Koppites?

Last night I ate my way through almost a full tub of M & S ‘Extremely Chocolaty Mini Rolls’, one bag of cashew nuts, one bag of Walkers ‘Gary’s Lamb Curry’ crisps and an eight chunk Dairy Milk such was my apprehension watching Liverpool struggle to a 1-0 extra time victory against Standard Liege.

Dirk Kuyt eventually bundled home Ryan (not Marcus) Babel’s cross after 117 agonising minutes. Ironically it was probably the first time in 210 minutes of both legs that a Liverpool player had proffered a cross from wide. Hernandez reflects the commonly held opinion that Liverpool needs a winger, fast.

I wholeheartedly agree and I also endorse his contention that Albert Riera will not suffice. Stuart Downing has Premiership pedigree and is available for around £14 million. If Liverpool cannot muster such a sum in order to launch a realistic challenge, there is something seriously amiss at Anfield.

Miliband's belligerence shows insensitivity to history

Over at Burke’s Corner, Brian highlights an extraordinary comment by Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Radio 4’s Today programme (I was starting the car as he said it and I nearly stalled), in which he reassured listeners, "there's no question of launching an all-out war against Russia". Brian was equally aghast, and he is right to contend that the fact Miliband thinks he has to make such a statement speaks volumes about his refusal to act as a Foreign Secretary should and ease tension between Britain and Russia.

The would be Labour leader chose Kiev in Ukraine as a location for an address which basically denies that Russia has legitimate foreign policy interests or a ‘sphere of influence’. Miliband’s language towards Russia is persistently the most strident from the major European governments.

In his remarks, not only does Miliband ignore the fact that Nato set the template (followed by Russia in the case of Georgia) of ignoring international law and undermining …

Johnston offers genuine commitment to local government

Next month’s Fermanagh by election has already been highlighted on Three Thousand Versts alongside the attendant issue of ‘double jobbing’ which Arlene Foster’s candidature invokes. Foster previously resigned her council seat in order to concentrate on her roles as an MLA and a minister.

A year later and she is back, contesting a by election in which her main rivals will be Sinn Féin’s Debbie Coyle and UUP candidate Basil Johnston. In addition, Karen McHugh represents the torrid world of dissident republicanism, although a positive aspect is that she may pose a threat to Sinn Féin’s vote. Rosemary Flanagan stands for the SDLP and Alliance’s Dr Kumar Kamble completes the field.

Arlene Foster has made a rather belated and tactical appeal to her supporters to transfer their votes to the UUP candidate. Clearly she does not want the DUP to stand accused of losing a seat to Sinn Féin by fostering (pun intended) unionist infighting. In such a situation, given the strength of republicani…

The outworking of unheeded warnings

Russian president Dmitri Medvedev has recognised unilateral declarations of independence by both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, some 15 years after the republics broke away from Georgia. Very clearly it is a deplorable thing when the internationally recognised territorial integrity of a state is disregarded. The dismemberment of a state, or the attempted dismemberment of a state, cannot be applauded.

However, whilst two wrongs do not make a right, it has been pointed out several times on this site that Kosovo formed a precedent which would encourage separatist regions to declare independence, and, specifically in the cases of several frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union, would encourage Russia to respond by affording recognition of its own. Saakishvili’s attempt to bombard South Ossetians into accepting his government’s sovereignty provided a pretext for Russia to harden its support for independence in the two regions.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are illegal states which should …

Sinn Féin antics show Stormont is a straw house

Having discussed below the infantile antics of Ogra Sinn Féin, it is worth for a moment considering the ridiculous and self-defeating posturing in which the senior party are currently indulging. To summarise, if other parties within Stormont do not agree that the institutions are ready and stable enough in order to devolve policing and justice, or if they maintain that an executive involving the Provisional Movement does not yet have enough public confidence to handle such an important brief, well then, Sinn Féin might well collapse those power sharing institutions, thus proving their perdurable immutability and the immense lack of volatility which republicans bring to the business of government.

Gerry Adams has been huffing and puffing on roughly this theme for some time now. Caoimhghin O Caolain, who leads SF in the Republic’s parliament, is the latest senior party figure to echo Adams' ominous sentiments. Martin McGuinness is conveniently on holiday, although as surreal as …

Provos vs. Pat?

Have you ever wondered how junior Provos spend their time, now that ‘Introduction to Explosive Devices’ courses are a no-no? The Irish News has provided a fascinating insight. It turns out Ogra Sinn Féin members are striking a blow for a 32 county Ireland by painting Royal Mail post boxes green. Now I don’t know how young Provisional recruiters are prepared to go, but I had assumed that Ogra SF were roughly the same age as other party youth wings, rather than 8 years old! More importantly can these young hoodlums not be prosecuted for vandalism?

Panorama and Britishness

Later today I must remember to print out an emboldened notice in 72 point script and sellotape it to the television. WARNING: PLEASE REMEMBER THAT PANORAMA IS RUBBISH!

The last time I inflicted the BBC’s ‘flagship current affairs programme’ upon myself, it prompted an intemperate rant about John Sweeney and his eerily Chris Morris-esque ‘Weekend Nazis’ documentary. Alas, I had forgotten this previous experience when I settled down last night to watch Panorama’s supposed examination of modern Britishness.

I suppose that in the blogosphere we are spoilt with a surfeit of reflective sites which ponder extensively and thoughtfully questions of identity and nationality, political and cultural, as they impact upon the United Kingdom. Still, it was shocking that the national broadcaster should produce such a trite, gimmicky, slanted and at times downright offensive treatment of a complex and fascinating subject.

It was particularly frustrating that the programme touched upon issues which …

Poots the 'superprod'

We have established repeatedly that Edwin Poots is a congenital idiot, but his latest press release raises the bar of imbecility, even by his standards. Responding to a suggestion by Basil McCrea that there should be a debate as to whether Northern Ireland’s football team should have its own anthem, Poots gibbered the following,

““For an Ulster Unionist Assembly Member to be openly advocating the scrapping of “God Save The Queen” is a shocking state of affairs. Is there any Unionism at all left in the UUP? It looks like they have they slowly transformed into a blue-tinged centrist grouping without Unionist principles or convictions. Basil McCrea has exposed just how anaemic his party’s brand of Unionism truly is.””

Does Poots have any notion what unionism actually consists of? Is he so stupid that he believes an intrinsic element of unionism is retaining the UK’s anthem for a sports team which is representing, not the United Kingdom, but Northern Ireland specifically? And how dare he…

GAWA turn the other cheek after anthem booing

There have been moments, I will admit, when as a Northern Ireland fan I have felt shame at the conduct of some people who would also describe themselves as supporters of the team. These moments have generally been endlessly analysed and recycled by those for whom the very fact that there is a Northern Ireland football team causes grave offence. There is certainly no need to revisit them here.

On more occasions I have felt a great deal of pride to number myself amongst a fanbase which is simultaneously passionate about their team and good natured toward opposing supporters. All those glorious nights at Windsor, for example, when a wall of noise has made Northern Ireland seem indefatigable and England, Spain, Sweden or Denmark has succumbed to the combined efforts of team and crowd.

At away games in Czech Republic, Spain and Poland the home crowds have applauded the vocal support offered by the Green and White Army after matches have ended. The applause is always reciprocal and of…

Top 10 Northern Irish blogs - 2nd!

Last year, a few months after starting the site, I was rather gratified when Mick Fealty selected Three Thousand Versts 18th best Irish political blog. This year the top 10 Northern Irish blogs (as selected by readers’ votes) have just been announced and we’ve come in at number 2! Naturally Slugger O’Toole has taken the top prize.

Many thanks to everyone who voted for this blog in their top 10. It is both surprising and not a little humbling to discover that people are not only reading, but also enjoying, the rather scattergun selection of musings which I post. Congratulations to the other blogs in the list as well. There are a good few on there that comprise my morning reading every day. The top 10 is as follows:

1. Slugger O'Toole N
2. Three Thousand Versts N
3. A Pint of Unionist Lite C
4. Redemption's Son RW
5. Conor's Commentary L
6. Everything Ulster N
7. Devenport Diaries M
8. Balrog LW
9. Modern Unionist Voice N
10. O'Conall Street N

Brief cessation of blogging

There will be no posts tomorrow or Thursday due to Northern Ireland's friendly match in Glasgow.

Cuddly Conservatism: After Blair.

Craving a more thorough understanding of Cameron Conservatism, a desire sharpened by recent moves toward realigning the Ulster Unionists with the Tory party, I recently ordered a copy of Kieron O’Hara’s book ‘After Blair: David Cameron and the Conservative Tradition’. Rather than offering merely an exposition and critique of the Conservative leader’s strategy, which I had expected, this book is a rather more subtle affair, attempting to define conservatism (small C) in ideological and philosophical terms, before arguing that the ideology outlined offers both electoral rejuvenation for the Conservative Party and a suitable response to particular policy issues which impact British politics at the present time.

O’Hara’s contention is that individualistic neo-liberalism, although it can claim responsibility for modernising the UK’s economy, does not offer an accurate reflection of Conservative thinking. Whilst he does not repudiate markets, O’Hara’s conservatism is much more firmly ro…

Football and Scottish nationalism

With the Northern Ireland trip to Hampden coming up on Wednesday, I did a little Googling at lunchtime in order to gauge the mood of Scotland fans before the match. Are they looking forward to a big ‘home nations’ clash? Do they expect a difficult test for their team? That type of thing. Now, football fans’ forums are hardly regarded as repositories of temperate good sense, but even so, I hope that the tenor of comments on one particular thread of the Tartan Army messageboard is not indicative of the political mood of the Tartan Army. Perhaps the nadir comes when one fan, irked by the attempt of another supporter to emphasise the broad base of his country’s support, asks in bemusement “so if yer not a nationalist why are you supporting Scotland?”.

What lies behind such a comment of course, is the nationalist inability to understand how someone can be proud of a perceived identity without seeking for it a separate political status. In this case, how can someone be simultaneously a …

Dust down the gentleman's persuader.

My gift to you, the readers of Three Thousand Versts, this weekend! Enjoy. I have yet to better 256.

Are Scottish Labour also edging toward CDU/CSU model?

The CDU/CSU model of party affiliation which operates in Germany has previously been discussed on Three Thousand Versts. Significantly, as stated in the earlier post, it is my understanding that it is the German/Bavarian model which both the Ulster Unionists and the Tories have in mind for the realignment of their respective parties. On Redemption’s Son Ignited has been exploring the modalities and outlining the advantages which both parties would derive from establishing this type of relationship.

As the UU and Conservative parties explore the CDU/CSU model as a means of reconciling common national goals with regional differences, it appears that the Scottish Labour Party may be thinking along similar lines. In an article in the Sunday Times Henry McLeish, former Labour first minister, expressed the opinion that in order to affect a recovery in Scotland there is “the need for the party in Scotland to have much greater autonomy; the need for the Scottish Labour leader to have more…

UUP/Tory working group tackle double jobbing

As I have stated on the thread itself, I concord with Beano’s assessment of the significance of a story on the Conservative NI website proclaiming ‘Conservatives May Outlaw Double Jobbing’. That the idea has surfaced though, and at this particular time, is in itself interesting.

With the UUP / Conservative Party working group in session, no doubt there will be discussion of policy where the Ulster Unionists could claim substantial input, or derive benefit. Preventing double jobbing between Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly would substantially weaken the DUP and ask serious questions of Sinn Féin's abstentionism whilst simultaneously offering unambiguous benefits to constituents. It should be the type of idea which the UUP is pushing.

Of course double jobbing is actually not legally prevented in the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly either, so whether the UUP are proposing such measures or not, this is at best a tentative suggestion. Does it, however, provid…

Inclusive unionism and the Orange Order

Even allowing for the rather hysterical tone which characterises political disputes in Northern Ireland and despite accounting for the time of year and the lack of news, it is peculiarly pathetic that the row regarding Jeffrey Peel’s comments about the Orange Order is rumbling on. Rather than allowing the matter to die a quiet death, David McNarry MLA has decided to dump lustily on the clean floor of common sense and demand a Tory apology, despite the fact that the party has already distanced itself from Peel’s comments and stressed their personal nature.

The specifics of the argument are amply dealt with below and need not be dignified by any further discussion. The blog did not represent the official position of the Conservative Party NI, much less the national party. It patently does not reflect Ulster Unionist thinking on the Orange Order and that should be the end of the micro-debate. A much more interesting argument entails what exactly the position of inclusive, non-sectaria…

Woeful Liverpool lower their Standards

After watching Liverpool’s anaemic display in Liege last night, I rather wished I’d been watching the full-blooded Slav derby discussed below. Leaving aside a creditable performance from the Belgian champions, Benitez’s side were truly appalling. It is difficult to name one player who emerged with credit, with the notable exception of goalkeeper Pepe Reina. The Spanish keeper was called upon to save a dubious first half penalty and otherwise dealt well with spirited Liege attacks.

Liverpool’s tactical deficiencies were worrying enough. The midfield was overrun whilst Kuyt and Benayoun somehow managed neither to tuck in and prevent their central colleagues becoming out-numbered nor to provide any meaningful width. Alonso was particularly isolated alongside Plessi who looked like a deer caught in a truck’s headlights. Consequently the totality of service provided to Keane and Torres consisted of hopeful long balls struck by the left foot of Agger or flighted from 30-40 yards towa…

Spartak vs. Dynamo renews an old and bitter rivalry

I will be watching Liverpool as they play Standard Liege in a qualifying tie for the Champions’ League tonight. The round’s plum tie, however, is taking place fifteen hundred miles away in Moscow. FC Spartak will renew their Soviet era rivalry with Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev.

Spartak were regarded as the anti-establishment side in Moscow. Formed independently, with the involvement of the legendary Nikolai Starotsin, the club was eventually connected to the food workers’ union and only latterly the Komsomol, whilst the other great Moscow clubs were formed and financed by the army, the police and the national railways respectively. Spartak won 12 Soviet titles despite their uncoventional background. A chapter of Marc Bennetts’ book ‘Football Dynamo’ dedicated to the club is called ‘Spartak is a religion’, such is the fervour of their loyal supporters.

In contrast to their metropolitan rivals, Dynamo Kiev carried with them the regional hopes of the Ukrainian SSR. The team acquire…

Batting the DUP for 6

O’Neill and Ignited have already touched upon Edwin Poots’ citation of an old blog carried on the Conservatives NI site (link at the side of the page) as a damning indictment of the UUP / Conservative Party talks. The offending post (which has now been removed) represented an intemperate and intolerant attack on the Orange Order by one blogger who was furnishing the world with his personal opinion (some of us will insist on doing just that!). It is a mark of the DUP’s desperation to find an angle (any angle) by which to attack the talks, that Poots has chosen this flimsy pretext in order to play the ‘Orange card’ and accuse “the Ulster Unionist Party [of] abandoning this valued and much-loved part of our community as they rush to embrace an anti-Orange agenda”.

Today the News Letter has a piece which charts increasing Conservative frustration with the DUP and details exasperated retorts made by both parties after this puerile attack. The Tories quite predictably point out that the…

What about the South Ossetians? - Sean's Russian Blog

Sean’s Russian Blog carries two wonderful pieces which raise an important point about the war in Georgia which seems increasingly to have been missed in its coverage – what about the South Ossetians?

“How quickly the South Ossetian War has become more about Russia and the United States, East and West, George Bush and Vladimir Putin, than about the poor South Ossetians caught in the middle.”

In a searing indictment of Georgia’s president Saakashvilli, Sean examines the roots of South Ossetian aversion to Georgian hegemony. Of course paradoxical Soviet attitudes to ethnic self-government played a part. On one hand they carved out administrative regions on the basis of titular ethnic nationality, on the other hand they did a slapdash and arbitrary job.

“When the Bolsheviks drew up its Republics, Autonomous Regions, and autonomous oblasts in 1936, the North Caucuses was an artificially crafted mosaic where political borders ran counter to (emergent) ethnic ones.”

The frozen conflict whi…

Shiels back in the squad as GAWA hit Glasgow

Progress of a sort as Nigel Worthington has selected the majority of his best available players for Northern Ireland’s friendly in Glasgow next Wednesday. Michael Duff had been unavailable through injury and his return will provide a boost in defence. Dean Shiels omission has long been a mystery, and he will be hoping to get a chance to impress.

Unfortunately Peter Thompson, who has decamped to Stockport for a couple of seasons before he returns in failure to the Irish League, has once again found his way into the squad at the expense of Grant McCann. Another notable absentee is Ivan Sproule who fails to make the 20 despite Worthington’s complaints about a lack of wide players.

Although I’m a bit sceptical about the figures, it’s rumoured that 8,000 of the Green and White Army will be marching on Scotland for this fixture. Hopefully they’ll not all be on my sailing. That should allow for quite an atmosphere for a friendly match though.

Peter Robinson dabbles in UK politics

Before 1997 the greatest danger to the United Kingdom, as it is currently constituted, was posed by Irish nationalism. More than ten years later, after Labour’s ill-considered devolution experiments, the inconsistencies and asymmetries inflicted by Tony Blair and his government form a considerably profounder challenge to unionists. In concert with the insidious creep of electoral nationalism in Scotland and Wales, these structural problems offer a far more pressing threat than anything which is currently happening in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Unionist party has signalled its determination to be actively involved in a pan-UK debate concerning the Union’s future, in order to address the most pertinent challenges which unionism now faces, by investigating a new arrangement with the Conservatives. The idea is to carve out a far more central role at the heart of the UK’s politics. As O’Neill highlighted last week, even the DUP’s leader, Peter Robinson, with his party’s politics sti…

'Pipeline war' a misnomer argues Steele

Jonathan Steele is amongst the most astute commentators on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He has turned his attention to the conflict in the Caucasus and as usual his analysis is largely accurate.

Steele refutes the notion that the war is focussed on the much cited Baku-Ceyhan pipeline which carries oil to the west from Azerbaijan. The pipeline is merely incidental to the violence.

“The …pipeline is only a minor element in a much larger strategic equation: an attempt, sponsored largely by the United States but eagerly subscribed to by several of its new ex-Soviet allies, to reduce every aspect of Russian influence throughout the region, whether it be economic, political, diplomatic or military”

Georgian president Mikhail Saaskashvili is not only the eagerest exponent of this strategy, he is also the most excitable leader in the region and on this occasion he has over-reached beyond not only his own country’s military capability, but also beyond the capacity of his allies to prof…

Harrington - the world's best fit golfer?

When Padraig Harrington won the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie it was a wonderful achievement, but it was tempting to assume that we had watched the crowning achievement of a good tour player’s career. After all, the previous European winner, Paul Lawrie, had rarely challenged in major championships after his 1999 victory. However the Irishman proved himself to be of much higher calibre when this year he repeated his triumph and claimed back to back titles. Now Harrington has raised the bar yet further and less than a month later secured the USPGA Championship at Oakland Hills.

Harrington’s achievement is astonishing and quite simply it has elevated himself into golf’s pantheon. With Tiger Woods injury ongoing, Team Europe will be able to claim the world’s best golfer when it clashes with the Americans this September. Winning the Open Championship is one thing, winning a major in America is another, to do both within the space of a month – such an accomplishment is reserve…

If war is breaking out in Georgia, the link to Kosovo is clear

The breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia has become a crucible for dispute between the Russian and Georgian governments. The region has retained de facto independence from Georgia since the early 90s. Following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and its acceptance by NATO, Russia has strengthened ties with South Ossetia and its status is underpinned by the presence of Russian ‘peacekeepers’.

It would appear today that the situation has escalated and war between Georgia and Russia is close. According to some reports it is already underway. Georgia has launched a full scale assault on the republic in an attempt to wrest control back from the separatists. 15 civilians and 3 Russian peacekeepers have been killed in these actions. In response it appears that Russian warplanes have struck targets in Georgia.

Although Georgia has de jure claims to sovereignty over South Ossetia, to launch such an attack in the present climate was an act of extreme foolhardiness. A…

Winning over the pro-Union 'nationalists'

The UUP and Conservative Parties have commissioned a poll from YouGov to examine their premise that pro-Union Catholic votes are there to be won. The figures are encouraging and will reinforce the parties’ common view that an inclusive unionism, underpinned by a deal between the Ulster Unionist and Conservative Parties, can broaden its appeal to attract new voters.

The survey found that 28% of SDLP voters would be happy to remain within the United Kingdom and a minority (44%) aspire to a united Ireland. Even amongst Sinn Féin supporters, 16 % were found to favour Northern Ireland remaining within the Union.

What is striking about these figures is that a substantial proportion of the perceived nationalist electorate are simply voting along community lines rather than registering disapproval of the constitutional link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They are voting for parties that they understand to represent their community, but they are quite happy to remain part of th…

The league without referees? Another IFA farce.

My first reaction this morning upon learning that Irish League referees, led by infamous Linfield fan Davy Malcolm, were considering strike action to get higher match fees, I suspect may have been shared with other supporters. ‘An extra £50? For that lot? They’re incompetent! I wouldn’t give them 50p’ and so on.

This is, after all, a group of men (and indeed women) who count amongst their number the appalling Frankie Hiles, a prancing, grinning imbecile from Coleraine who once expressed the opinion on local television that nothing was sweeter than seeing a team from Ballymena being defeated (albeit that the interview was concerned on that occasion with rugby). Hiles had officiated Ballymena United games on countless occasions before and has done so on many more since those remarks, with predictable consequences. An apposite analogy might be Mike Riley (from Leeds) admitting his loathing for all things Mancunian in an interview ostensibly about rugby league whilst conducting a ca…

The EU's role in encouraging nationalism

CIF today carries a piece by Ian Buruma examining the possibility of the disintegration of Belgium, which touches on attitudes toward separatism, particularly within the EU, that facilitate the dismembering of nation states. The article is a pretty anaemic effort if I’m honest, but it raises some points worth touching upon.

Chiefly Buruma is correct to identify that the European Union is playing a contradictory role in stimulating separatism which could eventually work to its detriment. The idea of a ‘Europe of the regions’ in concert with the promise of financial subvention, encourages the notion that otherwise unsustainable regions can achieve independence, either within the EU, or at least under some manner of tutelage. Fuelling the motors of ethnic and linguistic nationalism could however begin to work in a very different fashion, inimical to the EU’s centralising project.

“Why, for example, should the prosperous Germans continue to have their tax money pooled to assist the Gree…

Solzhenitsyn and historical memory

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any Solzhenitsyn. The articles which have paid tribute to his work following his death have sharpened my resolve to do so. Open Democracy’s Russia site carries a particularly pertinent piece on behalf of Memorial, which since 1992 has campaigned for a public space in countries of the former USSR, to remember the victims of totalitarianism there and to retain an historical focus and contemporary understanding of the wrongs which were committed under oppressive regimes in those states.

In June I wrote about historical memory in Russia, highlighting the importance of Memorial’s aims. Mikhail Gorbachev had offered his support to a campaign seeking to establish a ‘national memorial’ to the victims of Stalin’s purges, an initiative which a fine article in RIA Novosti had commended. On Three Thousand Versts I commented,

“Krans, and Gorbachev too for that matter, are quite right to maintain that remembering the wrongs of the past is important, not o…

'The largest chip on Europe's shoulder'

Newton Emerson has turned his satirical eye on the West Belfast Festival with devastating effect in the Irish Times. In particular he takes umbrage at the media’s uncritical acceptance of the festival organisers’ claim that it constitutes ‘Europe’s biggest community festival’. He then turns his remorseless gaze on claims that it has a ‘strong international theme’. No small irony there for Emerson to enjoy given that the festival springs from a region of Belfast which constantly demands recognition of its separateness from the rest of the city, and is doing so through just such events.

The best line is reserved for the end of the piece.

“Why not take an international trip across the Border yourself, and see the largest chip on Europe's shoulder?”

Rethinking Unionism 12 years on. Or a post about SF and flags as it was originally conceived.

I’ve been rereading Norman Porter’s ‘Rethinking Unionism’ over the past few nights. It had been a long time and my memory of it had grown dim. When I first read the book its rigour, vision and ambition made a strong impression on me, but while I thought what Porter said was important, I also found it flawed. His attempt to furnish unionism with a philosophy through which to pursue a rapprochement with nationalism was necessary, indeed in many ways he was successful and his ideas anticipated the contours which would shape the Belfast Agreement, but he was prone to throw the baby out with the bath water and underestimate the flexibility of unionist thinking that subsequently showed itself to be less rigid than Porter described.

In his book, Porter defines two strands of unionism that he thought prevalent at the time he was writing. He argues against both of these strands and proposes his own 'superior' philosophy. He identified forms of unionism that accorded more importan…