Archive for the ‘Uncategorised’ Category

The Origins of St Patrick’s Day

National holidays have been occurring for centuries, they’re not unusual to the general public but to me they’ve often seemed like a strange phenomenon. The mystery lies often with the connotations that are ignored, forgotten or lost within the distractions of the celebratory glitz and glamour. Take St Patrick’s day for example, the day is often used to commemorate Irish solidarity, heritage and culture; but what I have always wondered, is which elements of Irish heritage are being celebrated? Are we here to remember all the divisive parts of Irish culture as well as its solidarity? St Patrick is supposed to celebrate the achievements of the Christian Priest himself and his life as a missionary to missionary to Ireland as well. This therefore illustrates Ireland’s christian history and withdraws the Irish people from their mythological roots. But this distinction is often ignored during the celebrations, with the fantastical Leprechauns paraded around Christian symbols and buildings like the Irish churches and the cross. One could argue that the introduction of the leprechaun and other fairies from Irish folklore is simply about commemorating the universality and the depth of Irish nationalism, and this is understandable given the divisive nature of the Irish past. But surely this only seeks to detach St Patrick’s day from its true religious origins? If we want to understand and enjoy the entirety of Irish history, then perhaps there is a need to reinvent our demonstration of Irish pride. I have often spoken about the fluid nature of national identity, but when it comes to the commemoration of historical figures we should attempt to be as accurate as possible so that we do not blur legacy of our forefathers.

st 1patricksday

Is this really what St Patrick’s day is about?

Brexit Troubles

With St Georges day also approaching, the British national identity maybe on its own path of reinvention. With discussions around the Irish Border heating up, there is a growing talk of a border being formed in the Irish Sea essentially allowing Northern Ireland to retain its access to the single and customs market in conjunction with the Irish Republic. Some Brexiteers and Remainers see this as a path to the eventual break up of United Kingdom which I think would be a radical shake up of our national unity.

The Tory MP and prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, has criticised the warning that creating a Hard Irish border to separate South and Northern Ireland could reignite the Troubles. He claims that simply making that historical link is an encouragement of violence. Whilst I agree that it is premature to believe that Ireland would simply revert back to its violent and chaotic past, I do believe there needs to be some acknowledgement that creating such split on the Irish land has psychological consequences for the Irish people. It reinforces the image of Ireland being in constant civil strife and it could undermines the relatively healthy relationship that both regions of Ireland have shared recently. Many young adults in Southern and Northern Ireland have little to no recollection of the Troubles and influences it has had on Irish development, this has enabled them to live a harmonious live with their Irish neighbours. But history has often demonstrated how quickly peace and cooperation can descend in to division and conflict, thus we should never underestimate mankind’s ability to be regressive and self-destructive.

On the other hand, a border in the Irish Sea could seriously challenge the framework of the United Kingdom, given how attractive Northern Ireland may be to those seeking to maintain their link with the European Union. Furthermore with the growing regional disunity within the United Kingdom – as seen by the EU referendum – the creation of a hard border may persuade other British regions to secede themselves from the central government. Either way, some sort of border needs to be erected in or around the United Kingdom, the economical operations of our nation requires it. Whether this will transform our national identity remains to be seen, but this radical step towards greater independence has raised questions of allegiance and sovereignty, which must be addressed.


Has the Alternative Media become as manipulative as the Mainstream News Outlets?

As someone who has grown to be quite disgusted with the corporate and elitist nature of mainstream media outlets (MSM), I have found myself drawn to sources of alternative news. It wasn’t simply because they discussed subversive and thought-provoking topics, it was also because they exposed the blatant lies that MSM outlets espouse on a daily basis. It became refreshing to learn about subjects on politics, history and the economy that the MSM wouldn’t even dare to mention. It wasn’t necessarily the “sensationalist” conspiracy theories about Lizards that I was attracted to; as it was enlightening stories about international banking cartels, deeply suspicious foreign policies and the stealthy attacks on our democracy that drew me in. And one of the great things about the Alternative Media was that they operated outside of the LeftvsRight paradigm whereas the MSM are persistent in their divisive propaganda and bias to serve their establishment agenda.

But this once thriving community of alternative opinions and well researched journalism has transformed into a toxic environment that is full of hate, a lot of virtue-signalling and full of “headline-grabbing” material. Intelligent and rational discussions on immigration have descended into xenophobic and racist ramblings, important questions regarding security at Mass homicides has turned into ludicrous discussions about ‘dummies’ and ‘fake blood’. Some of these news outlets have even become gradually reluctant to discuss the financial and political scandals that occur at the very highest echelons of the elite society. These Media outlets such as Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos and  Paul Joseph Watson’s YouTube channels are a blatant example of this, as they often tap in to the negativity of a situation and bring out the darkness out of it without offering any clear solutions. It is unclear how this transformation of the alternative media has come about, I think it is too simplistic to blame this entirely on Brexit and Trump. Perhaps this is closer to our human desire to be controversial and to change ourselves into enemies rather than to be reasonable allies. History has shown a tendency for society to fabricate the truth in order to gain attention and popularity, back in Seventeenth century England a newspaper called Mercurius Bellicus tried to improve their readership by reporting on the execution of Charles I in 1648, a year before his actual death. The modern era does still offer some credible alternative news outlets that provide well researched and open minded conversations. The activist/writer David Icke and the Journalist – Richie Allen seem to offer balanced and insightful debate that does not rely upon the ‘cult of the personality’. Unfortunately both of these outlets have suffered from demonetisation on YouTube and have even faced smear campaigns based on unfounded hate crimes. 

The demise of the Alternative Media presents a bad path for the future of radicalism. The writer Asbjørn Wahl has recently claimed, that to solve our current social crises “any party of the left will need to have more radical alternatives, visions and solutions – very different from the political centre or the right“. How are we meant to deliver a true radical programme for the people, if our ‘alternative’ media have resorted to the same regressive and divisive rhetoric that is characteristic of Mainstream media outlets like The Daily Mail or the Daily Mirror? Being confrontational is something which should be encouraged for journalists, academics and politicians alike, as it allows us to challenge the status quo instead of being afraid to touch upon difficult topics. However this does not legitimatise the right to falsify information and to make the style of your reporting more important than the substance. If we have lost our grip on making Radicalism an ideology of integrity,  then it is down to us to ensure that our alternative, unorthodox and independent media does not fall down the dangerous path of the Mainstream Media.

I wrote this poem very recently touching upon the issue of public resistance. Although the poem discusses the pitfalls as well as the positives of protest, it gives an interpretation about the true nature of humanity’s desire to refuse and also asks some questions about why we have so many protests with such little positive, practical outcomes.

Resistance is important. How we execute it, is vital.

This is actually a poem that I wrote a little while ago, it was my first attempt at mixing Science Fiction, History and Radical Politics together in a captivating way. I plan to make an entire saga of poems in the future based on Glitzy (Glitchy) Paradise. Whilst it is difficult, it is important to try and broaden our horizons when we write creatively; the process often make us stumble across something wonderful, disturbing or intriguing. In a world where people are often afraid to challenge their own principles or values, this can prove to be a valuable tool.



Can an historian be objective whilst also being politically active?

My previous blog posts have often mentioned the need for people to accept more political and social responsibility if they are to genuinely subvert a system that oppresses us. But more specifically, it is the idea of academic responsibility that needs greater evaluation. In the wake of a series of political “rebellions” (Brexit and Trump) in which the ‘expert’ was no longer to be trusted and that all sovereign power should be naturally diverted to the people, it is important to provide some brief clarity as to how this has come about. Much has been made about our political culture operating in a post-truth world but I see it only as a post-trust world where evidence and facts are either withheld, suppressed or falsified. In my opinion, this means the obligation for clarity and truth rests on the professionals who have the ability to inform the wider public about the knowledge they currently hold. Unfortunately it is these same academics who are have been accused of dictating their knowledge in a manner that can appear arrogant, self-righteous and elitist. It is no wonder that professors and universities are seen as tools of the establishment rather than tools of the people. The assault on intellectual behaviour does not stem from a resentment of an academic work ethic but from a belief that academica has withdrawn itself from the ‘working man or woman’.  Secondly, with the ongoing reports of universities clamping down on freedom of speech only emphasises the greater obligation for academics to give a better representation of academic life. My experiences with universities have mostly been positive, it was only 2 months ago that I had a good conversation with a university lecturer at Goldsmiths about the need for academics to expand their intellectual reach. We are starting to see this in video games and television shows, but much more work is required.


Is our Judicicary accountable to the people? Could we even regard them as academics?

There was an inspiring story in the news last week about an historian called Mark Curtis who is digitally publishing hundreds of declassified documents regarding the government’s shadowy international dealings from the mid 20th century onwards. These documents are already available for the nation to access but unfortunately the public are widely ignorant of this. Curtis is not doing anything groundbreaking. But by making the public more aware of this country’s history,  he is arming the people with weapons of information to attack the establishment. Whether, people will be receptive to Curtis’s efforts is a different matter entirely. (the media will certainly stifle any attempts for people to unite against injustice) But in an era where censorship is beginning to override political liberty we need to convince citizens that universities and academic insitutions can be our allies not our enemies.

Lately, I have been thinking about the sort of cultural advances we as species need to make if we are to overcome some of the global hardships we face right now. Since I decided to renew my poetic endeavours, I have recognised that there is an emotional and intellectual vacuum in our society. We have become a race that seeks quick solutions to deeply complex historical problems, a race that wishes to ignore the grey moral areas and rushes to the blacks and whites, a race that believes in replacing subjectivity with defined rules about how the world should be run. Writing poetry again has reminded me that there are few things in life that we can fundamentally reject; poetry has allowed me to recognise the fluidity of language, nature and history that resides beyond politics and foreign affairs. This is not to say that we should live in a world of little to no boundaries, but that we should embrace a world that believes in challenging unquestionable truths.

I also feel that this flexible world will be encouraged by the works in science fiction, I am not necessarily talking about the big blockbuster Hollywood movies we watch from time to time (most of those films end up reinforcing the same societal stereotypes that have led us to this position), but the sort of science fiction that considers what a truly radical future could do for humanity. More importantly, it is the sort of literature that could encourage us to envision a world where political structures operate far differently, it also emphasises the value of discovery with the way it can interact with controversial scientific subjects without the moral weight that a scientist may carry. Finally and vitally, it is this sort of creative endeavour which inspires the reader to imagine a future that breaks with conventions of the past. This process of questioning, challenging and tackling unknown realms has positive repercussions when it comes to our attempt to be politically radical; history has shown that some of the most momentous changes occur people have the willingness to break down their socio-political barriers. But one of the most interesting aspects is how a certain revival in fantasy and science fiction is motivating people to envision new possibilities. I have always felt it is easier to break down structures and deconstruct systems than it is to build futures, this is especially relevant in a world where revolution and reform has become fashionable and little thought has gone in to the actual process of change.

Politics: Fiction, Non Fiction & Depends on Point of View.

Could Science Fiction teach us something about Political Science?

Politically and historically, new visions and prophesies were used often used a method to break down traditional social barriers.  There used to be a time in politics when our political representatives use to believe in far-reaching possibilities for the future. The Fifth Monarchists of the 1640s and 1650s were the perfect embodiment of a how a hostile political period could produce such grand imaginations for the future. As the Civil war in Britain and Ireland raged on. They prophesied that in 1666, Christ would make his return and bring forth his fifth monarchy (the first four being the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman retrospectively). By modern standard, these views may seem slightly outlandish, but this was an ideological that was genuine and committed. I do not particularly wish for a revival of this sort of religious zeal but I do no think it is too much to ask for politics to include a similar level of principled integrity.


A Leading Fifth Monarchist – Will our next revolution need a religious nature?

The Three Body Problem is an important example of how science fiction (and science itself) can help us to envision new futures whilst we go through the motions of revolution.

The book begins with the Character Ye Wenjie and the devastating way she witness’ her father’s ( a leading professor) persecution during the 1974 Chinese Cultural revolution. Having been born into an academic and therefore bourgeois family, she faces the brunt of the revolutionaries’ wrath: her own mother betrays her father for the survival of her position and her life.  Because of Ye’s scientific expertise she was luckily recruited into a top secret military base which gave her a chance to redeem herself politically. Whilst monitoring the air waves in spaces Ye encounters what she believes is alien communication. She then proceed to send a response as an invitation for the aliens to invade earth and reform human society. She also manages to meet with and persuade a billionaire environmentalist to invest in the preparations for the aliens to visit earth. The novel then fast forwards to the future through the life of Wang; a nanotechnology professor. The professor then has some very strange experiences including hallucinations of glowing numbers and strange coloured atmospheres. He ends up working with a police officer called Da Shi to investigate the mysterious recent deaths of some scientists. He come across a mysterious virtual reality game called Three Body, and decides to participate. The objective of the game is figure out how to create a stable weather atmosphere on the fictional planet called Trilosaris; Wang eventually develops a theory based on the orbit of the three suns around Trilosaris called the Three Body Problem. Wang’s reward for reaching the objective is an invasion to the Three Body Society which is led by our initial protagonist Ye Wenjie. The Three Body Society was developed the virtual reality as a sort of playful experiment based on research from corresponding with the aliens. When Wang attends the meeting it is broken up by the police officer Shi and Ye is thrown in to custody. As Ye gives her testimony, the reader begins to understand the moral breakdown of Ye as she reveals how she callously killed her husband and colleague to suppress the knowledge of alien correspondence – we also reveal how her disturbing political past became the main motivation for her to invite the alien invasion. For the final section of the story, the novel switches to the aliens’ perspective as they first receive Ye’s transmission. They decide to meticulously destabilize Earth’s technological advancement for the next 400 years through the release of certain protons towards earth. This is done in order to ensure that when the aliens arrive on earth, they will face no detrimental hostility as they look to sustain their superiority over humanity. The final chapter of the novel features a reflective Ye as she admits that the world will never remain the same.

I felt that the book was a fascinating exploration of how humanity could actually respond to the prospect of alien intervention. The way in which the book contrasts the radical societal changes from the Cultural revolution with the psychological prospect of cosmic intelligent life is entertaining and stimulating. It examines the way in which historical legacies can make a drastic impact on how one perceives the world. Whilst this book was a great piece of creative work that broadened my mind I want to try and demonstrate how this book sort of is especially relevant in a politically unstable world that struggles to enter new ways of thinking.

There is prominent historical methodology called Whiggish History which asserts that humanity has been following a path of political, social and economic progress from its very inception to the present day. This book essentially challenges that mode of thinking, this is demonstrated when Ye decides to invite the Trilosarians on to earth because  Humanity has hit a huge obstacle which has ceased its ability to advance as a civilisation. Ye’s reasoning may be considered to be slightly extreme by some, especially if we consider the technological advances we have made in recent years however many current political commentators have stated about the cultural regression of society and how we have reentered the ideological arenas of the 70s, 60s or even the 30s and 40s.

The upheaval that preceded World War II and the need to to avoid repeating mistakes have cast a long shadow since Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected in September with no obvious coalition partner. While no-one is predicting a return to fascism, the unexpected threat of instability at the heart of Europe’s biggest economy has alarmed business and political leaders alike.


The German election of 2017 is eerily similar to the one in 1933. Is this really a mark of political progress?

It is true that fascism has evolved in complex and sophisticated ways but it is important to recognise that it is a regression to a political idea which has shown to be morally defunct and politically ineffective (in the long term). Furthermore, although Germany has attempted to break away from its the horrors of its political past, they still suffer from the ghosts of their national failures. In a way this has some semblance with Ye’s belief that humanity has reached the point where it will eventually become prone to repeat its historical mistakes. Her belief may stem from witnessing the human rights violations that existed after the Cultural Revolution, but it may also resonate with an idea that perhaps humanity has already peaked. Popular Culture in terms of block buster television shows are increasingly portraying a world where our new machinery will eventually lead to our own demise. Sci-Fi films like GeoStorm and Tomorrowland have already explored the difficult relationship between human responsibility, technology and the environment. I once heard in a lecture from Alan Watts(dated 1970) that humanity’s ignorance with the spiritual/natural and their adoration for the technological is akin to self harm, he once claimed that this age is for “The Misuse of technology for the violent subjugation of man’s natural environment and consequently, its eventual destruction”. It is important to recognise that the advance of science can radically expand to our world for new possibilities, but we must also be aware like Ye Wenjie of Mankind’s tendency to revert back to a state of such primitive political thinking.

Another important and thoughtful aspect that Three Body Problem touched upon was the ever-changing relationship between the subject and the state. Although Ye Wenjie was given the opportunity to work in her profession without political prosecution she was still effectively a political prisoner who was forced to abandon not her and her family. It could be argued that these suppressed feelings of shame, anger and injustice eventually exploded in her drastic decision to invite the Trilosarians to Earth. I have often felt that Ye Wenjie is the embodiment of the modern day populist; the subject who has felt ignored and deserted in a world that rapidly evolved around them. In many cases this could result in fear or docility, but it could just as dangerously lead to rage, resentment, the emboldened rise of the Far Right in Europe and the persistent and  continued support for Donald Trump is strong example of what cultural suppression can do for a nation. Furthermore, this also has repercussions for political radicalism. Many activists and commentators acknowledge that a huge moral awakening is needed if we are bring about genuine progressive change. However due to the fact that humanity has been in the dark for so long about the corruption and unethical standards of our political framework, are we in any actual shape to bring about the sort of large scale revolution that our society so desperately craves? Perhaps the political awakening of the last few years is too big of a shock to the human core for us to enact any sort of rational yet extreme challenge to the status quo. I think it is fascinating how The Three Body Problem uses a science fiction plot to unpick the entangled influence of political shocks on the human psyche, to discuss how our political history affects our capability to maturely confront society and also to explain our inability to morally comprehend our own political achievements.

Ye Wenjie

Ye Wenjie at Red Coast Base. Is Ye Wenjie’s political suppression symbolic of modern populism?

Finally, I believe there is a great sense of political irony within Three Body Problem. Ye initially calls for aliens to come to Earth and reform society but her movement eventually splits in to two groups. One that despises human nature and wishes for the aliens to eradicate mankind, and another groups that worships the aliens in some sort of godlike manner. The two groups eventually became symbolic of mankind’s desire to idolise everything or for its tendency for self-loathing. The Aliens were never meant to be some sort of political Tyranny but a race that could guide and raise the human intellect, the fact that the movement evolved into such a simplistic divisions was the Author repeatedly trying to show humanity’s lack of creative ability and its wavering sense of integrity given the fact that the movement had made such a big departure from Ye’s initial principles. Could it also demonstrate that sometimes our we have tendency to try and achieve revenge for political injustices that happened in the past without remembering the contextual included. For example, one might resent human society during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for its global complicity in the Transatlantic Slave Trade whilst also forgetting the organised and persistent abolition campaign that led to its end or the creation of the welfare state and the nationalised institutions that sought to protect the British populace should another world war ever occur. The humans that wished the Trilosarians to overrule them are just symbolic of that selective political feeling that resides in all of us, it is the knee jerk reactions that seeks quick solutions to complex problems.

Three Body Problem is a great work that draws from different philosophical, historical, scientific and political perspectives and attempts to use these to challenge our sense of primacy and superiority in this world. But I believe that the secret strength in Three Body Problem is its support of the art of discovery and the joy of possibility. We live in a world that attempts to be progressive but ends up being inadvertently regressive and we also face groups that use the rhetoric of change and revolution to mask their aim of restoring outdated and failed ideology. Change is necessary. But it must be meaningful and refreshing. Humanity has continuously displayed its ability to create ways of thinking, interacting and surviving. We must continue this trend or face path of stagnation and self-destruction.

Future Blog Posts

I am going to continue in this strand of thinking by discussing the concept of futurology and more specifically people in the past who attempted to predict the future. Some these predictions were politically motivated whilst other tried to be in their clinical in vision based on the contemporary state of science. I will try and examine all of these futuristic ideas and assess how accurate they were and what relevance they hold for our unstable political and social culture.

As I write this article, I am listening to the breaking news that Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are essentially using United Kingdom’s attempt to leave the EU as a geopolitical football. The defacto leaders in Northern Ireland, the DUP have said they will not accept a Brexit deal that leaves Northern Ireland in a regulatory alignment with the Republic of Ireland. This Regulatory alignment means a soft border between the Irish regions with both of them having access to the Customs union. The Taoiseach of ROI has been firmly against the idea of a hard border within the Irish region. One could say that the The Prime Minister resides in a difficult position known as the infamous Catch 22, if she picks the side of the DUP, the ROI could act as veto power against the success of any potential brexit negotiation. If May chooses the ROI as her ally, her Conservative Party could lose their fragile pact with DUP, in which case the conservative would only be able to form a  Minority Government which could ultimately lead to another Snap Election thus being potentially be fatal for Brexit itself.

When I initially wrote about Irish politics painfully reinserting itself in to the Anglo-sphere, this is sort of what I meant. The General Election and Brexit have acted as a sharp reminder that Irish politics must be acknowledged, respected, treated in a way that not only preserves the prosperity of the United Kingdom but also maintains the precious diplomacy between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This has been one of the most pressing and difficult matters for British and Irish politicians of the past 200-300 years and it is of no surprise that it is its rearing ugly head again. My old history lecturer used to say “if you want to know what was happening in Britain at a particular time just look at Ireland, whatever they’re doing, we’re doing the opposite “. Unfortunately that sort of exceptionalism of Irish politics no longer remains, its issues remain even more complicated from a cultural, political and economic standpoint. I do believe that whilst we have swept Irish problems and complexities under the Rug, we have forgotten some of the key turning points in Irish history that have led us to this current deadlock between the EU, UK and ROI. I will attempt to revisit some of these momentous historical changes whilst also touching upon some of the other global struggles for sovereignty to see how much relevance they have to our current situation.


How much influence will the DUP have in British politics?

R. F Foster’s Modern Ireland 1600 – 1972 has been a massive help in trying to help me breakdown some of the key moments in Irish modern history. It is essentially a narrative work that successfully interweaves some of the key themes that have come to represent the divisive Irish society.  What I found most interesting is the way he dismantles the concept of the Irish struggle as essentially a war between Catholics and Protestants, he reveals a world in which  Ireland that was dominated by class, racial, intellectual and regional lines set during the century preceding this book. I feel as if this has huge importance towards the state of British politics in this century. A lot has been made about how the DUP are just a party hellbent on delivering a rigid and conservative theocratic agenda to Northern Ireland, but many commentators have missed the class distinctions between themselves and the Northern Irish populace, their pledge to lower the Corporation Tax to 10% – which would be the joint lowest in Europe – has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. This is an example of how Irish civil disputes have been skewered to portray a certain stereotype about Irish politics, Foster’s book helps to challenge these typical portrayals and explore some of the themes that underpin the classic divisions in Ireland. Foster’s book also enlightened me to how past global affairs have greatly influenced the pathway of Irish struggles, I believe this is particularly relevant to our current political landscape and the way the EU has been instrumental in the development of both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland itself. It is important to emphasise this point as it questions the concept of Irish exceptionalism and the idea that Ireland’s political journey remains unique and independent of its neighbours.

Foster’s book surveys Irish modern history from the start of the seventeenth century , but I particularly want to examine the Irish period from the late eighteenth century onwards as I believe this is the period when the relationship between the Irish and the British begins to intensify, furthermore I think they’re some interesting comparisons to be made with the UK and its connection with the Irish populace.

Irish and European Unionism

Much has been made about how the constitutional relationship between Irish people and the British is changing because of the democratic decision to leave the European Union. There has been talk of the Northern Irish drifting away from the United Kingdom, But at the beginning of the eighteenth century the Irish people became married to the British with the Act of Union in 1801. The repercussions of this event greatly affected the political life of the Irish in a way that is not entirely dissimilar to how the Northern Irish could be affected once they leave the European Union. When the Irish became legally bound to the British in the nineteenth century, their religious status became a problematic feature in their quest to acquire full citizenship. The vast majority of the Irish were Catholics but during this time Catholicism was outlawed across Britain, a successful popular movement thus emerged and developed in Britain and Ireland to give Catholics the full set of rights and liberties to ensure they could properly participate in British political and economical life.

As Fosters notes “In 1821 the granting of emancipation – full rights of political representation and civil office-holding – was still on the agenda a limited measure had just been passed by the Commons and rejected by the Lords…by then the principle of emancipation was the priority..”

When the Catholics eventually obtained emancipation in 1830, it seemed to be a day of great achievement and success for British and Irish Catholics..

“Middle-class Catholics rapidly became part of the unofficial establishment: in 1835, the French magistrate Gustave de Beaumont would note that this class “seems almost dazzled by its own splendour”

It would initially seem then that the inclusion of the Irish within the British legal system had a positive effect for Catholics across in Britain. But what about the political situation in Ireland?, although Catholics may have increased their ability to access state offices and arenas of political authority as well being able to worship with less restrictions,  the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland had their political and social strength enhanced by the Great Reform Act which was enacted a couple of years after the  Catholics received emancipation.  Even in the Catholic areas of Ireland, the reforms actually widened the protestant electorate due to the fact that the catholic were a more impoverished and mobile social group who were not able to meet the property tax and residence requirements needed to vote. The Protestants were also boosted by the the extra investment into Northern Irish infrastructure and industry, as one prominent Presbyterian in protestant Ulster commented “When I was a youth I remember it almost a village but what a glorious sight does it now present – the masted grove within our harbour – our mighty warehouses teeming with wealth of every climate…all this we owe to the Union“. But one must not forget that although the protestants had benefited from the new economic prosperity, this was under threat by the growing influence of Catholics. The Irish towns which normally typified aristocratic protestant domination became battlegrounds for patronage and local power in which the moneyed catholics played a great part. To add, the Irish Protestant church began to lose its sovereignty as a result of the Union. In 1833, the Irish Church Temporalities Act indicated that the government was prepared to use the state to reform the church, suppressing 10 bishoprics and intervening in the administration (Church Revenue Commissioners from Westminster)  of sparsely populated parishes. These commissioners played a central role in the tithe war, which forced the Catholic Church to pay for the upkeep of the Protestant-led Church of Ireland, it was particularly this sort of social reform that contributed to a sectarian feeling and a level of animosity between the protestants and Catholics that had not previously existed.

This divisive feeling began to escalate and was even portrayed in the popular Dublin University Magazine which tried to assert an identity that was distinctly  protestant, unionist and Irish, this line of thought inevitably became provocative as the magazine tried to adopt a of Irish traditions and customs that were also shared by Irish Catholics. It became hard to ignore the ethnic agitation in everyday civil life, as one Irish land agent commented in 1832: “our politics are a curious commodity. They are mere county politics and have little or nothing to do with any general principle or feeling save that of Catholic versus Protestant.” So although the Act of Union was legislated with the intention of bringing about a prospering alliance between Ireland and Britain, it appeared to be counter productive as it actually led to an atmosphere of conflict, division and competition between the different sort of social groups in Ireland and Britain.

One could say that a slightly different pattern has occurred in the relationship between the UK and European Union. Whereas the relationship between the Ireland and Britain had deteriorated and made more complicated by the 1801 Act of Union, one could say that the Irish republic’s decision to join the European Union has had a positive effect for the Irish people. It has been argued that the march towards peace in Northern Ireland was only completed because they had to reform their domestic policy to make it in line with the EU’s European Convention on Human Rights. It was this sort of utilitarian level of governance which improved ethnic relations within Northern Ireland. The problematic nature of Anglo-Irish relationship usually arose around whether the constitutional alliance with the UK was either too weak or too strong, but by claiming to be a citizen of Europe you automatically symbolised a geo-political unity with not only all of Ireland but also with the British. As the 1992 Taoiseach of Ireland once said

“Ours is a small Island of relatively limited resources which history rather than social structures, economics or geography has divided…in the context of the EU, we now face a range of opportunities and challenges which invite a joint response”

This sort of progressive rhetoric was unheard of when Ireland decided to join Britain in 1801, but this was for two reasons. Firstly, Britain did not have a coherent or even recognisable human and civil rights policy that could have provided an immediate opportunity for Irish people of different races and ethnicities to integrate in to that new union. Secondly, the historical relationship between those ethnicities were not as divisive in 1801 as it was during the 20th century. One could therefore suggest that the relationship between the Irish and the European Union became a success because the Irish were moving on a path of progression; notably away from the frequent bloody civil conflicts and towards a union that could deliver a culture of equality and justice. Thus, to place a contemporary analysis on this topic; when one measures the viability of a union, one must also consider the current conditions under which it joins the Union. When Northern Ireland leaves the European Union it will effectively have to renegotiate its relationship with the UK, in essence this would effectively mean that Northern Ireland will be rejoining the United Kingdom. At the moment, the Northern Irish assembly is in turmoil as it fails to form an effective government, perhaps the strengthened power of the DUP in the brexit negotiations between the Northern Irish and the British could provide a renewed sense of purpose, direction and unified governance for the devolved state.

Brexit on Northern Ireland

What impact will Brexit have for Northern Ireland? Will we see a new Act of Union?

Repeal and Federalism

One of the more straightforward comparisons to the brexit vote was the Irish campaign to repeal the Act of Union in 1801. One of the biggest criticisms of the Leave campaign was that it was vague and often ambiguous approach, with no clear direction for the sort of political and economic structure that would exist for Ireland, after the repeal. Many readers have probably already heard the line that Brexiteers didn’t really understand what Brexit actually meant. This is not necessarily an attack on those who voted to leave the European Union, but assertion that was directed at the leadership of the prominent leave campaigns and the incoherent direction that they took. As Caroline Lucas MP has noted


“When we say that people did not know what they were voting for, that casts no aspersion on their intelligence. The fact is that the Brexit campaign deliberately did not set out what leave would look like. “

But this sense of confusion was also apparent in 19th century Ireland. When the Repeal Association initially developed, it seemed to suffer from the same criticisms as the Brexit campaign did last year. It has been said that the brexit campaign suffered from a sort of misguided passion to transform Britain as it rebelled f under the yoke from the EU to be thriving in to a revival of Anglican Golden Age. Well it has been claimed that the Irish were also motivated by an impulsive opportunism to throw a symbolic punch at the British establishment as Foster neatly explains

“Repeal remained an emotional claim shaded into the broad spectrum of Radicalism. O’Connell (leader of the Repeal Association) indicated that the demand was limited as well as unspecific…The ideal was to force the British into offering something and negotiate from there”

But this level of vagueness did highlight the hypocrisies that often lay within nationalist movements, much of the Repeal Association wanted greater sovereignty for Irish Catholics and to remove the jurisdiction of British Law. However, one must stress that it was the British legal system that contributed to the political and social elevation of Irish Catholics in both Britain and Ireland. A comparison can be drawn here with the controversy around employment rights in the brexit negotiations; many activists have claimed that leaving the European Union will ensure that our civil liberties are governed by British legal institutions as opposed to European Court of Human Rights. However, it should be emphasised that although the EU were not first legal body to legislate workers rights in Britain, they did formally enshrine workers rights into British law. Of course, it is not a forgone conclusion that an exit from the European Union will inevitably lead to the erosion of worker rights, but one could say that it is large gamble particularly with a conservative government that has been accused of degrading the power of employees via Trade Union reforms. Furthermore, perhaps one could draw a lesson from the 19th century Ireland, where if Repeal was eventually successful; the protestant ascendancy would have continued their aristocratic domination over the Irish Catholic majority. Obviously, we reside in an age where governments have a greater obligation to uphold the rights and liberties of their citizens. Theresa May has even spoken about how EU law will transfer smoothly into British Statute, should the public rely upon her rhetoric alone?


Interestingly, the attempts to leave the European Union did mirror the Irish campaign to repeal the Act of Union. Many similar arguments were made, and some of those appeals for independence can provide us with a closer insight into the constitutional issues surrounding brexit. Currently, there is large schism amongst both Remainers and Brexiters who favour either a soft brexit (a minor legal link to the EU) or a hard brexit (a clean break from all EU sponsored institutions). A similar discussion existed in 19th century Ireland, one of the leaders of Repeal Campaign Daniel O’Connell claimed that Ireland needed to break away from Union because of its illegitimacy but also stated that Ireland needed some sort of governing alliance with the British authorities

“I will never ask for or work for any other save an independent legislative, but if others offer me a subordinate parliament, I will close with any such authorized offer and accept that offer”

This is not too dissimilar to politicians who state that Britain can have a judiciary and its houses parliament but will also share its economic obligations with the European Union as part of its continued membership with the Single Market. But it seems that Ireland was initially even more cautious with its attempts to reform its relationship with Britain. I believe it is worth noting that O’Connell’s political caution was borne out of his responsibility to protect Irish Catholics, he envisioned Irish nationalism as one that had to be pluralistic in nature, the idea that he would “not give up a single Irishman” indicates that he saw Irish sovereignty as something that must transcend the barriers of religious sectarianism before any call for pure call for independence. Perhaps we could share this mindfulness in our own brexit negotiations; with EU nationals being used a political football in the quest for a ‘great brexit deal’, would it be wise for us to walk away from the negotiations so that the government could first and clarify and certify the citizenship status of EU nationals as opposed to sacrificing certain parts of our economy or society – as we have seen with the the government’s weak handling of the EU budget negotiations. This is not an appeal for Britain to aim for a soft brexit, but for Britain to take the time to protect and guarantee rights of all its Citizens before any rushed move to leave the European Union.

Secondly, I feel that O’Connell’s cautious type of political reform came from an inert desire for a federalised relationship between Britain and Ireland. Similar to the idea of soft brexit, this proposal went even further and called for a more decentralised type of government with certain regions having more control over their domestic affairs. As O’Connell once said

The principle of self-government by representation should be carried through every institution of the state; and local taxation, whether in a parish or a town, should be imposed and managed, and the by-laws affecting the locality enacted by a body representing the locality which taxation or these laws affect and the whole kept under control and regulation, by the central power of Imperial representation”

Interestingly, O’Connell did not receive much support for these principles, his Young Ireland Repeal Association began to alienate him from the group and he eventually became infamous for being ‘next to the British Government, the worst enemy that Ireland ever had’. Although a harsh statement, one can understand how his call for a soft but sustained relationship with Britain could be interpreted as a betrayal on the Irish people. Nevertheless, O’Connell’s Irish Repeal Association created unprecedented amount of political activity, The Nation newspaper was distributed widely in nearly all Repeal reading circles and this greatly enhanced their cause. Although the Repeal Association was eventually crushed by the British government, I believe O’Connell’s initial appeal for federation has significant relevance in today’s society. With the burden of government enforced austerity and accusations that councils don’t have the capability to tackle the organisation of public services, I believe that a federalised United Kingdom could attract support across the country. It would certainly alleviate the concerns that the northern towns have about the lack of investment into their social infrastructure. It may also allow those areas to retain their cultural identity through more locally approved measures of integration. There is also  the possibility that councils in large urban areas such as London would have the power to resist the forces of gentrification. Lastly, by giving fiscal autonomy to regions such as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this may fulfil the demands of those who once called for independence in the Celtic regions thus strengthening the social and national solidarity in those areas. O’Connell’s demand for a federalised union may have been perceived as a weak and watered down version of independence, but for a 21st century United Kingdom that often seems economically and socially shacked by central government it may prove to be a radical yet effective solution.


Just an existing proposal for a Federal Uk? Is this feasible?

Ideological Inspiration

One of the strange yet somehow complex elements of democratic uprisings, is their influence from foreign forces. This operates in many different ways, but occasionally these movements are accused of either being controlled or manipulated by foreign agents to the detriment of the ruling power. There is often little respect or analysis for movements that are influenced by the ideologies or decisions of foreign nations without actually being controlled by them. This same accusation was often made towards Irish struggles for independence and the British Campaign to leave the European Union. In some instances this has proven to be true, particularly during the first world war when Germany gave Ireland weapons and ammunition to support the Easter Rising of 1916. But there have been periods in Irish history when the Irish were simply influenced by foreign ideological attitudes.

As Foster explains

“There was an educated middle-class element, an initial desire to see the men of small property represented in politics –  which could , with the radicalization of events in France…move on to ideas of universal suffrage and complete Catholic emancipation, as well as the secret ballot and payment of Mps”

This aspiration for the Irish middling sorts to improve their political station did not distinctly originate from France, there has been a tendency for certain Irish social groups to see themselves as part of a historical journey that traverses the globe. When the nationalist United Irishmen were founded in 1798, they chose to create their crest based on ‘democratic’ principles in the US and France.

“What have you got in your hand? a green bough. Where did it first grow ? In America. Where did it bud? In France. Where are you going to plant it? In the crown of Great Britain.

This was not to say that the French and the Irish did not correspond and share supplies, France indeed saw Ireland as a potential base for destabilising Britain. But there were occasions when Britain often exacerbated the situation and provoked the Irish in to forming an alliance with the France. This is evident when Prime Minister William Pitt arrested french agents in 1794 and also implicated Irishmen such as Tone and Rowan in a grand international conspiracy. The intention was to slander and defame the United Irishmen but the only consequences were a closer rapprochement between and Ireland and a belief amongst Irishmen that the discontent and distrust in Britain was to such an extent that ‘the people’ were predisposed to a mass uprising. It could be suggested that our creation of a big bad French bogeyman is not dissimilar to our creation of the Russian bogeyman. There have been numerous accusations of collusion between Russia and the Brexit Campaign which have been denounced by not only prominent brexiteers but by certain members of the British ministerial cabinet. Russia have recently been noted for their different foreign policy and the renewed sense of nationalism in their domestic affairs, the brexit campaign may have been influenced by these principles, particularly if one looks at the isolationist attitudes when comes to Brexiteers thoughts about the war on Syria as well as their ideas on immigration and cultural integration. Whilst not trying to legitimise or discredit the Russian government, it is unfair to claim that the Brexit Campaign was simply a plot by the Russians to destabilise Britain without considering the idea that ideological influence is not the same foreign manipulation. As in the 19th century, we were guilty of transforming France in to ‘The Other’, we must be cautious in making that same mistake, not out of respect for foreign governments but out of respect for democracy.


Were these events linked? Were we inspired or repulsed by the Arab Spring?

Sovereignty vs Prosperity

One of the central themes surrounding the Brexit vote and indeed for most movements that have pushed for independence, is the concept of sovereignty. Whilst, it is a principle that I believe should be honoured and fulfilled by host nation states I also believe that the principle has been abused and manipulated for reasons that are harmful to the majority of the nation. Secondly, I believe that some politicians have overestimated the strength to which ‘sovereignty’ can help resolve some of the burdening social, cultural and political problems of British society. However, I don’t necessarily believe that this an issue that was exclusive to the United Kingdom, other nations faced this problem in the past and to even to this present day. Modern Ireland outlines the difficulties that the Irish labour movement often had with the campaign for Irish nationalism and unionism, Irish labour supporters were not against Irish cause for independence or alliance – per se – but they believed it was occasionally inconsistent with vision of creating prosperous, fair and equal Ireland. When the central government decided to enforce the Trades Disputes Act, it legalised the right to strike in all the British dominions. The labour movements became energised by this opportunity to effectively enact collective action, one republican and socialist leader James Connolly stressed the importance of an independent Ireland to serve the struggle of the working classes

“His main contribution was to argue that a nation-state must be established in Ireland as a necessary pre-condition for social and economic progress, not merely as rather vague end in itself” 

He was not the only Irishman who often saw independence as a superficial ideal which could not guarantee to raise the living standards of the average Irish citizen. In 1906, A protestant and unionist activist spoke out in protest about sectarian issues stifling any sense of progress in Irish society.

“I would like to know…what Orangeism or Protestantism has got to do with men fighting for their rights, when the issue lies not in religion but is a question of bread and butter, and shorter hours and better conditions which we should have had twenty years ago”

This quote was referring to the Irish Land Act in 1855 which was set up for any tenant who wanted to take a loan out to buy land, the legislation was probably created to absolve some of the emotional and economic damage caused by the Great Famine about 20 years before the Act was put in to place. But it is now clear to witness that the legislation had such little impact upon the depressing living conditions in Ireland. Whilst economic prosperity may not have always been at the forefront of Irish strife for independence. It has always operated as the motivation to underpin the nationalist struggle as one historian has noted:

”  Much of the rhetoric of nationalist is justifying the possession of land”

However, once the Irish achieved some level of home rule the financial benefits were delivered to the nation universally, and any financial gain that was initially awarded was not distributed to the Irish people equally. In 1938, 16 years after the Irish Free State was created, their domestic economy did not prosper at the level that was expected. The Banking, Currency and Credit commission reported that Cattle products had decline in value from £54 million in 1929 to £31 million in 1936, even crop production had increased from only £4.1 million to £.5 million. Furthermore, Irish agricultural exports fell by nearly two-thirds between 1929 and 1933. Much of this economic outlook was initially perceived as a response from the retaliatory duties imposed on the Irish trading customs as response to the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty (the document which severed British dominion over Ireland). I believe, this does have some comparison with how the president of the EU has been accused of punishing the UK over our decision to leave the EU, particularly regarding the excessively high budget bill with which our government has agreed to pay. This is not to legitimise the negative effect to which independence can bring, the economic forecast for the UK ‘s life after the EU is conflicting and inconsistent, but it is important to stress that sovereignty does not automatically guarantee economic prosperity. Even, if we look at separatism in Spain; many Catalonians were fearful that their neo-liberal politicians were only seeking independence so they could enforce their austerity measures without resistance from central governments. As a member for the Spanish Communist party has commented

“Who leads the process of independence?…it is highly questionable that the independence will serve the working classes as the parties of the Catalan bourgeoisie have approved in the Catalan government biggest cuts in health and education”

Whether this statement fully embraces the realism for Spanish political life is slightly irrelevant, the important thing to note here is that independence can make room for corruption.  It must be remembered that sovereignty may be granted to a nation out of independence, but it can be controlled, manipulated and abused by a government that has no interest in fulfilling the demands for the people. If we look back Irish society in the early 20th century, we can witness how fiscal sovereignty is worth very little to a nation that does not have the internal unity and capability to enforce an approach which could benefit all. Sean Lemass, who eventually became the minister for industry and commerce in Ireland stated that:

“Ireland could be made a self-contained unit, providing all the necessities of living in adequate quantities for the people residing in the island at the moment and probably for much larger number…until we get a definitive national policy decided on in favour of industrial and agricultural protection and executive in office prepared to enforce that policy, it is useless to hope for results”

If fiscal autonomy is to be achieved, the people must press for this at every stage of government. From the those at the top of the Imperial leadership to those in local government. A similar case could also be made for unionists who managed to retain their alliance with the United Kingdom after the Irish Free State came into being. Once they achieved administrative devolution, the dire financial situation did not encounter immediate change, the legendary slums continued to exist, the house building rate was lower than that in Britain, health and living standards remained at abysmal levels with disease and illness rampant. By 1939, a large chunk of Belfast’s working class was living at the degraded level “absolute poverty”. So on the hand, we can understand how an economic motivation for greater sovereignty may initially arise; if a country has better control of its finances the chances of fair distribution are greater. However, this does not always guarantee prosperity and newly created governments need to take responsibility for this, this has great importance for current age in British society which is suffering from an onslaught to public services across the nation. If an unfortunate situation occurs where Britain overturns its democratic vote and decides to remain within the European Union, there must be a greater unified fight for economic equality. If the brexit negotiations are successful, we must not let the struggle for sovereignty blind us and thus ensure that we apply an intense scrutiny towards any brexit deal so its terms are fair and just for the entire population.


How can we make sovereignty delivery prosperity?

Today’s Global world & What Can Britain learn?

Across the world, sovereignty and independence are often seen as weapons to destroy the establishment. It is a political mood that has infused nearly every continent, its origins lie in North Africa, with Tunisia often seeing as the country to trigger the Arab Spring revolutions. Whilst, most of these movements were born out of a genuine desire to increase civil liberties, the unity of these countries was destroyed much to the satisfaction of western regimes that looked to capitalise on the political chaos. But this created a backlash in other global regions, as Americans felt that the Arab Spring chaos was creating terrorism within their own country, thus hoping that Donald Trump could isolate themselves from the neo-liberal world police state. This demand is yet to be fulfilled. A similar sentiment however was felt across Europe, with Britain seeking to ‘take back control’ of not just its borders, but its finances and its courts. This ‘discontent with authority’ began to spread across the continent with Catalonia seeming to spearhead the separatist drive and the European Union seeming to be paralysed by a fear of regional disunity particularly  considering the rising strength of far right euro-sceptic parties in Germany, France and Austria all echoing a desire for political sovereignty. Much of their success was a consequence of the Migrant crisis which is an issue that seems to have influenced the Kurdish attempt for independence, given that many immigrants in to Europe have often been Kurds who feel alienated and detached by the Iraqi government. This mood of grand political upheaval seems to be relentless as the independence movement in Quebec grows at a rapid rate, even sub Saharan Africa has witnessed the epic collapse of political elites with Robert Mugabe being effectively forced to resign as Prime Minster of Zimbabwe as part of a military coup. Asia has received very little attention within mainstream media, but its coverage has highlighted a separatist feeling amongst some of the Burmese Muslims and the citizens in Hong Kong meanwhile there is growing provocation and pressure from the western powers in their attempt to break down one of the most deeply sovereign states at the moment, North Korea.

By comparing Ireland’s subversive political past and Brexit, I have attempted to place these global movements in a comparative historical context. The ideological foundations that try to overthrow the establishment never seem to change, the American and French revolutions used a similar version of sovereignty as an inspiration to achieve their political aims. But this blog post has tried to demonstrate that sovereignty is not a straightforward process and that nationalist uprisings do not always carry a progressive attitude, similarly I have explained that attempts to strengthen regional unity and to formalise alliances with other states can be deeply problematic for all parties involved. Foster’s Modern Ireland articulates this point neatly and offers a portrayal of Irish nationalism that – like our own – travels in complex cultural/economic lines. As we progress towards a Brexit deal, politicians and the public need to be made aware of  our political naivety when it comes fulfilling the ‘demand of the people’. Hopefully, we will witness sovereignty being enacted in a way that demonstrates a radical departure from the historical failures of independence and towards a path of cultural, political and economic prosperity and harmony.





The discussions around Brexit, the remerging secessionist movements in Europe and Asia (Mainly Catalonia and Kurdistan) as well as the simmering feeling of socio-economic unrest that exists across the world has made me wonder at the sort of future people are envisioning for themselves. I feel that the minds of certain individuals are conflicted between several things, mainly; What we deserve, what we want, what we need, what we are entitled to, and what we actually receive. Once these factors have been harmonized, I believe we may move closer to the sort of peaceful utopia of solidarity that many people seem to crave for. Of course, the underlying question being, is this actually feasible? People may be asking the same questions of what we deserve and what we actually need, but the answers seem to differ greatly according the various political and economic groups that people belong to. Furthermore, there is a general feeling that citizens have been told by tyrannies of what they should and should not desire, this sentiment seems to be shared across the political spectrum; several so called “liberal left” institutions and “neo-conservative” governments have been at the spotlight of these accusations. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I believe that communication is central to addressing these concerns. This does not just mean just articulating your perspective clearly, it also means listening to others carefully so that debates and arguments can led to constructive outcomes. This may be a simplistic analysis of the current social mood, but perhaps the first stage of dealing with complex dilemmas is to begin with basic and accessible approaches.

Several historical episodes show that the creation of political utopias have often failed because there has been a fundamental misunderstanding of what people have been trying to achieve. One only needs to look at the successful and unsuccessful Russian Revolutions of the early 20th Century, or the English and French revolutions of the early modern era to see the lack of a coherent strategy after the ruling power was toppled. Our utopias will not succeed based on how beautiful or how great they look, but on our ability to compromise and interact effectively.

“It’s wrong to deprive someone else of a pleasure so that you can enjoy one yourself, but to deprive yourself of a pleasure so that you can add to someone else’s enjoyment is an act of humanity by which you always gain more than you lose.” – Thomas More – Utopia – 1516


Following on from my previous post, I have a new blog which will be dedicated to poetry and possibly creative writing. It will aim to subtly reflect my political and philosophical thoughts as well as matters on history, radicalism and current affairs.