The Battle of the Boyne was the largest single battle fought in Ireland, and I recently had the opportunity to walk the site with the Military History Society of Ireland on a typically wet Irish summer day. The walk was led by Dr Harman Murtagh, the society President, who played a key role in the development of the Interpretative Centre and the site, and whose commentary added a lot to our enjoyment of the day. Continue reading
Batt O’Keeffee must be the worst Minister of Education in the history of the state, at least insofar as political savvy goes. He failed to defend his portfolio from cuts which increased class sizes, and now he is making every possible wrong choice about the very necessary reintroduction of fees. Having decided it must be done, he is progressively putting off the final act. According to reports today, the final decision will be delayed until after the Local and European Elections in June but students entering college in September will be liable for fees.Â I always thought the abolition of fees was a mistake, and that they should be brought back, but this political faffing round is going to make a pigs ear out of what was never going to be a silk purse anyway. Continue reading
Funny thing not in The Irish Times today – The Guardian has three paragraphs inÂ it’s front page lead story in which the German Finance minister attacks the UK and Irish budget deficits, which the IT manages not to mention. Is this a case of ‘don’t frighten the voters again?
Now, admittedly, it is the UK and Gordon Brown’s banking rescue which gets most of Herr Steinbruck’s ire, but he does bundle us in there and talks about the need for a quick return to sound public finances.Â A quick scan and search of the Indo and the Examiner does not turn up his comments either.
This mornings Irish Times reader poll is about the proposed increase in University registration fees, and remarkably, it is a 50-50 split at present; I guess the folks who want it all for free are still in bed. Â I’m in favour not only of bringing back fees, but of actually charging every student full economic fees matched with a comprehensive loan scheme, and a proper scholarship system. I’m probably in a minority, but I am quite happy that my position is the right one.
Well, faith and begoraah but isn’t it great to be Irish today? The government actually made a decision (quick – when was the last time an Irish cabinet made a decision?) to guarantee all savings in Irish banks and now cash is flowing from the UK into Dublin; to such an extent that Alasdair Darling is very upset and the UK banks are up in arms. Â Aside from the “yeah sucks boo to you”, I actually think the blanket guarantee to all depositors, which probably should only be a short term measure, is better than the US bailout which tries to protect shareholders as well as depositors.
The EU and its allies are now losing 50% of the votes in the UN Human Rights Commission to opponents of basic human rights led by an “Axis of Sovereignty”; a group of states who value the rights of the state over the rights of the people.Â Ratifying the Lisbon Treaty wouldn’t have automatically stopped this slide in the defence of the human rights agenda, but it would certainly help. The sorry story of the EU’s failures is told in a report today from the European Council on Foreign Relations, which can be downloaded from its website.Â It is sobering reading, and it brings home just how serious the threats to democracy and human rights are on a worldwide scale.Â Of course, the fact that the American Empire is willing to ride roughshod all over some of the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights doesn’t help the EU to defend those rights. on the world stage, or assert a foreign policy based on those values. It is clear from the research behind the ECFR report that the struggle for democracy, for ‘libertie, egalitie, fraternitie’, or toÂ “guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally” is at a tipping point and if we if we don’t work for those values, they will become a minority and endangered position. Right now, at a practical level, it comes down to Europe not being able to provide enough helicopters for peacekeepers in Chad and Sudan; next month it will probably be some other shortfall of effort someplace else. Stop moaning about your house values for a moment, folks, and reflect on how important it is to have the right to moan about them without fear of being arrested by the local secret police for criticising the goverment.
The sub-prime mortgage lending bubble continues to bite back, with the news of Northern Rock’s misfortune – a temporary cash flow problem which arose because they expected the market to recover sooner than it did. Indeed – I’ve got news for you lads, the market won’t recover for a long time yet. Commentators this evening were speculating that it would be taken over, rather than close down, but I don’t think there will be much to take over. Apparently Rock had cash of about 24bn and ‘assets and loans’ of about 113bn – but that was last night.
The start of the new school year has produced more hot air about the role of the Catholic Church in education, and the Minister for Education appearing on the news suggesting that the only problem was accommodating immigrants in the system – this is wrong. The major issue is that the government allows the Catholic Church to control the bulk of primary education, and has ducked out of providing genuinely state run, secular, primary education. This is going to be the next big fight in Irish society, it is going to be painful but it is one which is vital if we are to progress as a liberal state.