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National Myths [Updated]

by Frank Schnittger Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 02:43:12 PM EST

Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, is an old time socialist, university lecturer, sociologist, and poet from the left wing of the Labour Party. The role of President is largely a ceremonial one but he is following a relatively distinguished line of succession from Mary Robinson to Mary McAleese in taking an activist approach to the office and promoting gender and civil liberty issues. What these Presidents have in common is a rejection of simplistic nationalist myths and an abhorrence of violence for achieving political goals.

He has recently written an an op-ed in the Guardian in which he invited UK readers to share in his project of re-examining the myths of nationalism and imperialism and how they still shape our lives today. His piece provoked a vituperative anti-Irish response in the Daily Telegraph "The Irish president has a cheek lecturing Britons about history" and a chiding by Irish Times Columnist, Finn McRedmond, "Are we really entitled to lecture Britain about remembering?".

[Update]:The Irish Times has published an edited version of my letter in response under the headline Lecturing Britain about remembering?

A chara, – Finn McRedmond set up a classic straw-man argument when she accused President Michael D Higgins of casting “the entirety of British history as a monolithic, purely malign tale of imperialism” and of possessing “a unique level of arrogance to believe we are paragons of virtue in contrast; to believe that we are not in possession of our own ‘feigned amnesia’; and to believe we occupy a moral high ground thanks to a more nuanced understanding of the history of these two islands”, in his article in the Guardian recently. (Finn McRedmond, Are we really entitled to lecture Britain about remembering? Opinion & Analysis, February 18th).

He did no such thing, but he has certainly touched a nerve in British Tory sensibilities, to judge by the vituperative anti-Irish tone in the Daily Telegraph response, “The Irish president has a cheek lecturing Britons about history,” and their readers’ comments.

We all have our national myths, and no one has been more active than our President in seeking to question and understand ours.

But in asking the British to consider that there might be more than one side to the glories of their former empire he has clearly gone a bridge too far.

They need their myths now, more than ever, to overcome the dystopian reality created by their Brexit overlords “taking back control”. The UK economy declined by 10 per cent last year, which the UK government likes to blame entirely on the pandemic. But our economy grew by up to 3 per cent last year, despite the impact of the pandemic, and is projected to grow by another 3 per cent to 4 per cent in each of the next two years, despite the ongoing lockdowns and the impact of Brexit and a hugely reduced level of trade with Britain. Our exports to the UK declined by 9 per cent and our UK imports by 5 per cent last year, and that was before Brexit border controls were implemented. Meanwhile our exports to the EU single market and customs union grew by 13 per cent, and so must our level of political engagement with the EU and our fellow member states.

Sadly, our President is wasting his time trying to persuade British Tories that they should reconsider the impact of their imperial past on their former colonies. They will find out soon enough, when they try to reassert their former dominance in trade negotiations with those countries.

Brexit was a choice to distance the UK from Ireland and our fellow EU member states, and we must now accept that reality and move on to developing our shared historical narrative and future with the latter. – Yours, etc,.

Finn McRedmond is a young Irish journalist who was awarded a degree in Classics in Peterhouse College, Cambridge, among the oldest and most traditional institutions in the University.

In the 1980s it became associated with Conservative, Thatcherite politics, counting Michael Portillo and Michael Howard as alumni.

Since graduating McRedmond has been writing - alongside Irish Times work - for British commentary and news magazine Reaction. Its editor-in-chief Iain Martin was previously head of comment for the Telegraph group, while Chairman of the board, Lord Salisbury, was once Conservative Leader in the House of Lords, opposing the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, and offering freelance services to the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.[xi]

Its advisory panel includes luminaries such as Lord Hill, a former European Commissioner and advisor to John Major, as well as Adam Boulton, Editor at Large for Sky News.

McRedmond's association with the publication perhaps came about through Deputy Editor Alastair Benn, whose Linkedin profile reveals he too graduated from Cambridge in 2015, also with a Classics degree, and with whom McRedmond has collaborated on a number of podcasts.

She claimed, in 2015, that "I'm not a bad person because I voted Conservative." She is, however, the latest in a long line of Irish emigrants to Britain who became more "English than the English themselves" and has adopted the dominant narrative of her new domicile hook, line and sinker.

There are a number of Irish Tories operating in the Irish media who have, in Marxist terms, internalised the consciousness of their imperial masters, and who are always quick to point out "both sides do it" when discussing national narratives. There is, however, no equivalence between the historical narratives of imperial powers and their subjugated colonies, and I wish Irish editors would just move on and stop giving these writers so much space.

It is time we engaged more with our fellow EU member states, and stopped this obsession with British imperialism, good, bad or indifferent. As a British Tory party supporter, based in Westminster, Finn McRedmond has no particular standing to be criticising Michael D Higgins in the Irish Times, and is, frankly, irrelevant to our future. We have some unfinished business in N. Ireland which will not be resolved by international sparring and rivalry, and it is best that we all move on.

Quite some rhetoric from rightwing influencers in the City State of London. Have the British never comprehended the message FDR brought to Churchill and a Colonial British Empire?

As the European continent changed, so did the UK until Brexit put the advance in reverse. The US in fast forward from destroying the fascist regime in Berlin, acquired many of the colonial traits of King George. Instead of supporting independence of young nations, capitalism required interdependence ... all in a bullying tactic of Quid pro Quo ... in reality submission to the new kid on the block.

Rightwing populist rhetoric is less about Conservatism and more about entertaining falsehoods ... by definition propaganda for their cause. Brexiteers in the UK and Trump Republicans across the Atlantic do not debate on merits of policy. Name calling and putting labels on opponents is much more effective in this new age of social media: 140 characters or less.

The United States and the Liquidation of European Colonial Rule in Tropical Africa, 1941-1963

by Oui on Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 04:41:59 PM EST
The right is primarily narcissistic and authoritarian, and is only interested in dominance and submission.

It has no interest in fact, only in narratives that promote a dominance/submission hierarchy.

So the modern social democratic left is living in a different world.

You can't out-fact or out-argue the right. You can only humiliate it and laugh at it culturally, and destroy its power base through legally and financial means.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 07:10:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's very difficult to get people to engage with established historical fact whne mythology gets in the way.
As Prof. Scharma, the historian, once said, "History is not settled, it is argument and viewpoint".
History, being nuanced, is thus useless for the vainglories of mythology. The greater the policy error, the greater the mythology needed to support it. And right now, the UK is occupied with the mother of all policy errors.
This is why the conservative party is now engaged in a whole slew of culture wars from free speech to preserving the statues of slave owners to proposing the erecting of a 1000 more, one for each winner of the Victoria Cross medal.
There is no pressing need for such statues, indeed the objective of raising them in the homeplace of the winner is going to be embarrassing when so many are for overseas soldiers, but they stir the pot of nationalist sentiment.
In ssuch an atmosphere, a discussion of the reality of Empire is about as welcome as Billy Connolly's apocryphal "fart in a spacesuit".
Nor does it help that, for all the people unwilling to disccuss Imperial reality, there are just as many willing to paint every activity by the British with the tar of depravity and malice. There can be no meeting point between such closed minds.
Right now, the closed minds are in the ascent but, as you note, the pandemic is hiding a multitude of brexit-related problems that are accumulating with alarming rapidity.
this time next year, I doubt there will be such cocksure crowing from the Torygraph.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 06:25:25 PM EST
this time next year, I doubt there will be such cocksure crowing from the Torygraph.

Wouldn't bet on it, if their equivalents in the US are any indication. Doubling down on up is down is more likely, I'd say.

by Bernard on Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 06:58:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
reality is biting the Republicans in the arse hard right now.
Every Titanic gets its iceberg

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Feb 19th, 2021 at 08:41:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scepticism over Oxford vaccine threatens Europe's immunisation push
The vaccine, subject of an acrimonious tug-of-war between its British-Swedish manufacturer and the European commission last month, is being described by German media as a "shelf warmer" as only about 17% of doses delivered to the country have been administered so far.

According to the German disease control agency's monitoring, 129,021 doses of a delivered 736,800 had been administered by Thursday this week


Side-effects that can follow a shot of the Oxford-developed vaccine, which were reported in clinical trials, are also causing logistical problems in its use among medics.

Karl-Dieter Heller, the director of the Herzogin Elisabeth hospital in Braunschweig, told Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that he had decided to vaccinate his staff only in smaller groups and on Fridays, after 40% of one group called in sick with flu-like symptoms after receiving their jab on a Thursday.

Heller said none of his staff had fallen seriously ill and all were able to return to work on the Monday after.

Other countries have reported similar problems. In Sweden's Sörmland and Gävleborg regions, health authorities temporarily paused vaccinations after a quarter of workers injected with the AstraZeneca shot called in sick the following day, but added the programme would resume with the same vaccine the following week.

In south-west France, a hospital in Périgueux asked in an open letter that the AstraZeneca vaccine be replaced with shots from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer after 50% to 70% of injected staff experienced side-effects.

At a general hospital in the Austrian capital, Vienna, 500 members of staff signed a protest letter after finding out they would receive the AstraZeneca shot rather than the BioNTech/Pfizer one.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 10:05:12 AM EST
Sounds like bullshit to me. Of course you'd bitch if you had to take the fail vaccine, but what's threatening Europe's vaccination effort is utter failure to produce enough vaccines. I don't know if there is capacity available to produce MRA vaccines, but we didn't even seem to have tried. Better to let a highly infectious disease run rampart through the world than fiddle with IP laws.
by generic on Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 10:51:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I gather the "big" promise of the mRNA vaccines is that they take somewhat less time to produce than conventional methods where the target protein (or virus) has to be grown first.

The current problem with them is that they have never been accepted* for medical use, so there is no industrial capacity to begin with, and the demand is for billions of units.

The deactivated or vector-based vaccines take longer to produce, but the worldwide capacity exists and can even be expanded. They are basically held back by the fact that vaccine production, of all kinds, is an ecosystem and the capacity to produce equipment and materials for any kind of vaccine production just is not there yet.

For example Pfizer managed to get priority in USA for it's vaccine production requirements by strong lobbying and being approved first.

I would be surprised if the companies producing high-end lab equipment and material need to grow, filter, purify the proteins and all the adjuvants, stabilizers and preservatives that go into vaccines would be that keen to build new capacity before they know if this is one-off boom. They rather wait and make good profit from demand exceeding supply.

* even now they have been accepted for emergency use only. The very second there is either a working treatment for Covid available or a vaccine properly accepted, they lose the license.

by pelgus on Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 12:24:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I fairness the US, UK and EU all gave Billions to vaccine researchers and makers well in advance of any products being approved to try an accelerate the design, development, testing and manufacturing processes and it has all been done faster than ever before. The mRNA vaccines are, as you say, entirely a new concept and there was uncertainty whether they would ever work.

Vaccine production has long been a relatively unprofitable backwater for big pharma with some pulling out of the business altogether and none of the really big vaccine players have yet produced an approved vaccine. There is a fundamental contradiction between profit led R&D and common good prioritised R&D which needs to be addressed urgently.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 12:52:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vaccines were developed by Dutch state owned RIVM until 2003 when its division was sold.

The earlier SARS and MERS outbreaks were stopped w/o a global pandemic. The scientists who researched those corona virussen did not find interest by BIG Pharma nor state investment funds to develop vaccines. Science was very much aware it was a matter of time a global outbreak would come to pass.

What is leadership and how wise was it not to go ahead and develop the coronavirus vaccines? How gigantic is the human suffering and the scale in numbers of economic damage? The German scientists of BioNTech and Oxford were first to develop tests and were quick on results for a vaccine. Both had direct experience in the earlier research. Trump and Warp Speed money were focused as scavengers to buy brains and patented science in foreign countries. The Dutch government has invested in Jansen in Leiden and production facilities. The commercial partner is J&J. The German pharmaceutical industry also was funded by the government. See also CureVac Trump was willing to pay a high price for exclusive distribution rights.

BioNTech worked together with Pfizer for commercial dealings and use of vast vaccine manufacturing sites.

The biggest problem is wealth and logistic know-how to bring the vaccines on the market. Key word WHO warning: hoarding as it brings unbakance and inequality.

Until the G7 meeting where partners vowed  $7.5bn to GIVA COVAX, there was barely $2bn donated, more than half from a single donor ... of course the EU-27.  Bolsonaro, Trump and Johnson were to busy burying their dead to worry about lives lost beyond their borders. A complete failure in leadership!! 😡

The world could breath a sign of relief with the defeat of Idiot Trump. The Republicans still have not learned their lesson of four years of drama and division under Trump.

From revelation in Italy of UK contract with AstraZeneca, quite likely PM Boris Johnson was given exclusive rights for early delivery of vaccines.

Health was not a topic for Brussels, this has changed now from hard lessons learned.

by Oui on Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 03:57:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A Chara, - David Trimble writes "the Northern Ireland protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent. Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK - it has been annexed by the EU and is subject to EU laws and an EU court without any right of dissent." (David Trimble: Tear up the Northern Ireland protocol to save the Belfast Agreement, Opinion & Analysis, 20th. February).

Where was his concern for Northern Ireland consent when he and the DUP continued to pursue a policy of Brexit even after a large majority in the North had voted against it?

The Northern Ireland protocol he complains of is a direct result of the Brexit deal negotiated by the UK government on their behalf. Moreover, the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May would have avoided any need for a Northern Ireland Protocol, and was roundly rejected by the DUP.

It seems unionists are all in favour of British rule when they do their bidding, and all against it when it is not to their liking. In practice, consent for David Trimble means consent by unionists only. The 56% of Northern Ireland voters who voted remain do not apparently matter.

It may also have escaped David Trimble's attention that Article 18 of the protocol provides for the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on a regular basis to consent to the continued operation of the protocol. Is he concerned that unionists may not be able to command a majority of the Assembly?

How much angrier will David Trimble be when 50% plus one vote for a United Ireland as required by the Belfast Agreement he negotiated and still claims to support? The British government will then be legally obliged to transfer sovereignty over Northern Ireland to Ireland regardless of what unionists might say.

He should be glad that the Northern Ireland protocol gives Northern Ireland the best of both worlds - relatively untrammelled access to both the UK internal market and the EU single market - to the envy of Scotland and many who voted Remain in the rest of the UK.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 20th, 2021 at 02:36:09 PM EST
What I don't get is how Brexit is significantly different from "take the UK back to the economic setup of 1973." And if that is an even roughly valid approximation, then one would naturally look to the 1960s economy as the starting point for the 2020s economy.

And is not that a case of "national myths" of various sorts running headlong into economic reality?

by asdf on Mon Feb 22nd, 2021 at 05:24:45 PM EST
President Higgins wrote of "feigned amnesia". Yes, the UK has forgotten it was the "sick man of Europe" when it joined the EU in 1973 and its economy is even more de-industrialised than it was then, more dependent on integrated international supply chains,and more dependent on service industries which will now be largely denied access to EU markets. It will take a long time, and it is amazing how long myths can survive in the face of reality, but the longer this goes on, the greater damage to the UK economy and polity.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Feb 22nd, 2021 at 05:40:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"I'm not a bad person because I voted Conservative."

I have some bad news for you, child.

by rifek on Sat Feb 27th, 2021 at 01:13:39 AM EST
Irish economy shrugs off toughest restrictions in EU to post 2020 growth
The Irish economy grew by 3.4 per cent in 2020, despite one of the toughest pandemic related lockdowns in Europe, on the back of record growth in the export sector.

However, the domestic sector contracted by 5.4 per cent, as Covid-19 restrictions hit.

According to final year national accounts from the Central Statistics Office, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.4 per cent in the year. This is ahead of a projection from the European Commission in February, which forecast growth of 3 per cent for the Irish economy for 2020. Ireland was the only European Union economy to post positive growth last year, with an average contraction across the EU of 6.8 per cent. GDP fell by 5.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that the outturn was "remarkable", given international comparisons, and original economic expectations when the pandemic first hit in March 2020.

" This is entirely a result of the growth in exports, up 6.25 per cent growth despite a sharp decline in world demand," he said, pointing to "extraordinary export growth" in the pharma and ICT sectors, driven by blockbuster immunological drugs, Covid related products, and the shift to home-working.

Overall, the multinational sector produced a strong return, advancing by 18.2 per cent. The importance of multinationals to the economy also grew during the year, accounting for 50 per cent of total value added in 2020, compared with a 43.4 per cent share in 2019.

This growing dependency on the multinational sector is the greatest weakness and danger to sustainable growth in the years ahead, especially with economic nationalism and corporate tax reforms limiting the ability of Ireland to attract further foreign direct investment in future years.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 5th, 2021 at 05:09:23 PM EST

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