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Saturday, 27 January


#SluggerTV with Allison Morris & Mick Fealty "IndyWatch Feed"

The latest Slugger TV with Mick Fealty and Allison Morris.


How President Trump is fueling Honduran migration north "IndyWatch Feed"

Why is the United States supporting an authoritarian regime in Honduras that is bulldozing democracy and human rights? Espaol

Honduran woman at anti-fraud protest in Tegucigalpa (December 2017).  Giorgio Trucchi / Rel-UITA.  

Today, Juan Orlando Hernandez takes the oath of office as President of Honduras with the full support of President Trump despite overwhelming evidence of election irregularities and allegations of fraud in last Novembers presidential election in Honduras. This past week, Hondurans young and old took to the streets in a nationwide strike to denounce their stolen democracy, determined to liberate their country from what they call a de-facto dictatorship. Hernandezs National Party came to power in a 2009 military coup dtat and continues its violent reign today, supported and funded by the United States. 

On December 17, the Organization of American States (OAS) called for new elections based on the extreme statistical improbability of the official vote count. They reported deliberate human intrusions in the computer system and intentional eliminations of digital traces. Three days before Christmas, the Trump administration undermined the OAS call and congratulated Hernandez on his victory, a move that legitimises and emboldens a dangerous regime. President Trump continues to chastise migrants in the United States, but actions like this further undermine democracy, fuel political violence and deepen the push factors that force migrants to flee north in the first place.

Fuera JOH! Out with JOH! is the rally cry heard in the distant background as tens of thousands of Hondurans continue marching on the streets, two months after the contested elections.

As each day passes, Honduran citizens are putting their lives on the line to fight for the future of their country. And each day, the authoritarian regime of Juan Orlando Hernandez, fed and fueled by the United States, tries to violently silence their conviction. For the Honduran people, this is not just about one fraudulent election. Accepting Hernandez is accepting four more years of state-sponsored violence, impunity a...


What does Theresa May actually believe in? "IndyWatch Feed"

Whatever your opinions on the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it's very easy to see what he stands for.

There's obviously a lot of deceptive interference being run by right-wingers who despise Corbyn's political stance and want the public to believing in a terrifying caricature of the man rather than thinking about his actual policies, but if you haven't picked up the basics of what he stands for by now, you've really not been paying attention at all have you?

Here are three of the things Corbyn undeniably stands for:
  • Social be...


Martin backs Northern representation in EU Parliament after Brexit "IndyWatch Feed"

The Fianna Fail Leader Michel Martin has backed post-Brexit representation for the North after Brexit in an report in the Irish News by John Manley.

Manley reports;

Speaking during a visit to Belfast yesterday, Mr Martin said he supported the principle of continued representation for the north.

In my view, this whole idea of respecting and ensuring that the European citizenship of people in Northern Ireland is given some manifestation and some reflection in the post-Brexit deal, is very, very important he said.

In my speech here over 12 months ago I identified that issue because of the Good Friday Agreement and because Irish citizens in Northern Ireland are also European Union citizens, the ultimate deal should reflect that in all aspects.

The Fianna Fil leader said he could not see why people would object to the proposal but insisted that the move would not necessarily be linked to the EU Constitutional Committees recommendation of two additional MEPs for Ireland.

It may not be just about the re-allocation of seats, it could be a continuation of representation that would citizens to have representation in the European Parliament, he said.

It would be unique situation something similar to what happened with Greenland but I think we should look at that as theres a lot of good feeling in Europe towards the peace process and the unique qualities Northern Ireland represents.


A Year Without Government Series: Part III of III "IndyWatch Feed"

This article makes up the third part of a series that takes a satirical look back on the last year and a bit of Northern Irish Politics. The following was written entirely tongue in cheek and none of it should be taken very seriously.

Find Parts I and II here: 

A Year Without Government Series: Part I of III

A Year Without Government Series: Part II

Talk About Talks About Talks

Election over, democracy enacted, job done, time to get back to the work of government, right? I cannot stress enough how much the answer should be yes and how much I wish it was.

Instead we entered into a period of talks and negotiations whereby the DUP and Sinn Fein must agree on a program for government and enter into a power-sharing Executive. These talks had a deadline but as we were soon to find out the meaning of the word deadline would soon go through a wondrous transition passing through ideal target, light suggestion and random arbitrary date all on the way to its final destination complete joke.

These talks would be arbitrated none other than the ultimate drawer of short straws when it came to cabinet picks, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire. And yes that is actually his last name and yes it does perfectly describe his job and yes I do think it is possible that is the reason he was chosen for the role out of some kind of sick joke.

Of course Sinn Fein claimed that Brokenshire and a Conservative government could never be a fair moderator of such discussions and looking back...


The Loughinisland appeal, when withdrawal is not recusal "IndyWatch Feed"

Now I may have been dreaming but Im almost sure I read yesterday that Mr Justice McCloskey had announced he was still sticking with the Loughinisland appeal case, in spite of the objections from the lawyers representing the families and the police ombudsman.

But no. I woke up to this morning to learn he had in fact withdrawn. Reporting howler in jumping the gun?  Maybe. But then theres that legal language of fine distinction  but crucially different meaning like withdraw rather than recuse. ( You can have averments for free). And so trailing clouds of language behind him, he was gone. Im grateful to Bimpe Archer for clearing that up.           

Youd have been in trouble if you were live tweeting that judgment, one veteran hack observed.

I dont think hes going to recuse himself, whispered a relative in the public gallery.

To summarise, I find the evidence and argument put forward on behalf of the Ombudsman flimsy, artificial and entirely unpersuasive, he concluded.

But then, before the eyes of the watching press, victims and legal teams, the judge found a third way to resolve the case.

He would not be recusing himself the case for recusal is not satisfied the application is refused accordingly, but he was withdrawing from the case, with a fresh hearing before a differently constituted court one where he is not the judge.

His initial judgment ruling the Ombudsmans report unlawful stands, but will not be binding on any party.

The unprecedented move places Mr Justice McCloskeys ruling in a special category all of its own.

By his own admission, it sits in a hybrid status, somewhat akin to an advisory opinion, which features in legal systems other than ours.



We need to talk about how we learn to accept our own oppression "IndyWatch Feed"

The more women stand up against bullies and harassment in our personal lives, the less we will tolerate them in our political lives too.

Credit: Ammar Abu Bakr/TNI State of Power report 2018. It should have been impossible for Donald Trump to become president of the United States. Even those Republicans who thought he might have defended their political interests surely saw what a terrible idea it would be to have him in charge of anything, be it his Twitter account or the nuclear codes. Why did they not organise in secret and make it impossible for him to win the nomination, let alone the election? 

We need to talk about socialisation, and how we are instructed, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, to accept our own oppression, and to not make a fuss. And it is feminism that teaches us best how to analyse this, because historically it is women who have been taught to play this mediating role, to smooth over disagreement, to flatter and to acquiesce.

In 1966, Juliet Mitchell, on the cusp of the feminist second wave in the UK, wrote Women: The Longest Revolution, arguing that the liberation of women can only be achieved if all four structures in which they are integrated are transformed  Production, Reproduction, Sexuality and Socialisation. In other words: we must address economic, social, sexual and political circumstances together.

Today, none of the structures Mitchell identified has been fully transformed: feminist counter-power still has a long way to go. Women have been brought into the workforce, but often for less money and on worse contracts than men. Labour caring for children, family members and others continues to be undervalued, and largely invisible, though it's essential to keeping human life going.



Davoss time is up "IndyWatch Feed"

Two of the most significant stories in human history are colliding against the hubris and misguided optimism of the global elite.

In times of disjuncture and hardship, an impulse exists to take flight from reality and retreat into the comfort of old-worn habits and familiar surroundings. To some, this offers the opportunity to reflect and reimagine. Many may simply desire to escape, or remain entirely ignorant to the problems at hand. For others, to be seen to act is all that matters. It is in this way that we can identify the different tribes that amassed in Davos for this years annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. Whether they realise or not, the attendees of Davos occupied a time and space in which two of the most significant stories in human history are colliding against the hubris and misguided optimism of the global elite. The first is the story of the prevailing set of economic and political ideas in major developed nations, so-called neoliberalism. The neoliberal story began over forty years ago, and -  as inequality grows and economic crisis looms - has become one of failure. The second story concerns the impact of human activity on the natural world and, specifically, the implications of these impacts crossing safe thresholds. This story began much longer ago, back in the furnaces of the industrial revolution and on the creaking ships of colonial pirates, and has reached its terminal phase as global impact portends global collapse.

The neoliberal story

Davos 2018 came at a bad time for neoliberalism. In Britain, the preceding week was dominated by the collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion and the exposure, to a wider audience, of the pervasive extent and expensive failure of the private finance initiative (or PFI). Many PFI schools and hospitals were built to unacceptably (even lethally) low standards, later than promised, and, when firms failed to fulfil their obligations as they often did the state socialised the cost while executives walked away with their pay-packets untouched. In all, we will likely pay over 310 billion for assets worth around 55 billion. PFI has been one of the...


Cmo presidente Trump est provocando la migracin hondurea hacia el norte "IndyWatch Feed"

Por qu Estados Unidos apoya al rgimen autoritario en Honduras que est arrasando la democracia y los derechos humanos? English

Protesta contra el fraude electoral en Tegucigalpa, diciembre 2017. Giorgio Trucchi / Rel-UITA.  

Hoy, Juan Orlando Hernndez toma el juramento como presidente de Honduras con el apoyo total del presidente Trump, a pesar de que hay evidencia muy firme que indica irregularidades electorales y acusaciones de fraude en las elecciones presidenciales del noviembre pasado en Honduras. La semana pasada jvenes y adultos hondureos se manifestaron en las calles en una huelga nacional para denunciar esta democracia falsa, determinados a liberar a su pas de lo que ellos reclaman ser una dictadura de-facto. El Partido Nacional de Hernndez lleg al poder en un golpe militar en 2009, y contina su dominacin violenta hoy, apoyado y financiado por los Estados Unidos.

El 17 de diciembre, la Organizacin de Estados Americanos (OEA) propugn para nuevas elecciones basadas en la "extrema improbabilidad estadstica" de los resultados oficiales de las elecciones. Reportaron "intrusiones humanas deliberadas en el sistema informtico" y "eliminaciones intencionales de rastros digitales." Tres das antes de Navidad, la administracin Trump socav la declaracin pblica de la OEA, y felicit a Hernndez por su victoria, una accin que legitima y envalentona a un rgimen peligroso. El presidente Trump contina agobiar a los inmigrantes en los Estados Unidos, pero acciones como esta socavan an ms la democracia, crean violencia poltica y hacen ms fuertes los incentivos y la presin que obligan a los migrantes a huir hacia el norte.

Fuera JOH! Fuera JOH! es el grito que se escucha en las manifestaciones mientras decenas de miles de hondureos continan marchando en las calles, dos meses despus de las elecciones impugnadas.

Con el transcurso de cada da, los ciudadanos hondureos arriesgan sus vidas al luchar por el futuro de su pas. Y cada da, el rgimen autoritario de Juan Orlando Hernndez, apoyado por los Estados Unidos, intenta silenciar violentame...

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Friday, 26 January


What would a 32 county Dil ireann look like? "IndyWatch Feed"

Public support for Irish unity amongst the Northern Ireland electorate has increased in recent years, with a recent Lucid Talk poll suggesting that a third of the electorate would vote for unity were a referendum to take place. There has been scant discussion, however, on what the politics of a new 32 county state might look like. Would the two largest political parties in the South, Fianna Fil and Fine Gael, dominate an all-Ireland Parliament?

The Constitution of Ireland states:

The number of members shall from time to time be fixed by law, but the total number of members of Dil ireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population.

At the 2016 Irish General Election, there were approximately 30,000 people per TD, so the number of TDs is around the lowest number permitted by the constitution. Northern Ireland, with its 1.88m population, would be entitled to at least 63 TDs in an all-Ireland Dil. However, if all of the 17 constituencies suggested in the latest re-districting proposals elected 4 TDs each, the resulting 68 TDs would be well within the number suggested by the Constitution.

Firstly, I re-ran the forecast model made for last years Assembly Election, changing the constituencies to reflect the new electoral map, and also to reflect the fact that the DUP and Sinn Fin have made gains in opinion polls since last years Assembly Election at the expense of the UUP and the SDLP. The following table shows the estimated seat probabilities for the 17 constituencies.

The model suggests that under the new constituencies, and given current levels of support, the DUP would expect to win between 34 and 37 seats, Sinn Fin would win 31-34 seats, the UUP and the Alliance Party would win six each, and the SDLP would win between four and six seats.

Amongst the other parties, the model suggests that the Greens will lose their sea...


Good news for Bombardier and Belfast as ITC rules against Boeing "IndyWatch Feed"

Good news for the workers at Bombardier tonight, as the US governments proposal to slap duties of nearly 300 percent on it to protect Boeings commercial interests with US airlines was thrown out by the U.S. International Trade Commission:

The 4-0 decision is defeat for Boeing, which had argued that Bombardiers trade practices were illegal and harmful to its business. Bombardier argued that Boeing did not have a comparable plane to offer Delta.


The dispute may not be over. Boeing could appeal to the International Court of Trade in New York. The U.S. government could take the case to the World Trade Organization.

Boeing said it would continue to document any harm to Boeing and our extensive U.S. supply chain that results from illegal subsidies and dumped pricing.

There appear to be two things in Bombardiers favour. More obviously is that the ITC accepts that the C Series is not a direct rival to Boeing.

But there is also the aerospace industrys dirty wee secret which is that it nearly always relies on state subsidy to pay for innovative design.

And that really should play a part in any actions going forward.

Unveiling of C Series. by NI Executive is licensed under CC


Theresa May is actually bragging about the Tories' lamentable economic record! "IndyWatch Feed"

The Tory party propaganda machine is pumping out another new misrepresentation of their woeful economic record.

This time they're actually trying to brag that the UK economy has grown by "almost 17% since 2010" as if that's some kind of remarkable achievement, rather than an extraordinarily sluggish growth rate.

Here are four things you need to know about this highly deceptive new propaganda line from the Tories.
1. Under 17% growth in almost eight years is nothing to boast about at all. In fact, thanks to the global financial sector meltdown and the catastrophic effects of almost a decade of ruinous Tory austerity dogma, the UK has actually suffered an entire decade in which GDP growth has not exceeded 3.5% annual growth once, which represents the longest period of sluggish growth since reliable GDP growth records began in the 1950s.
The Tories are actually trying to present this record-breaking period of slow economic growth as some kind of brilliant success story!
2. The period of slow economic growth since the Tories came to power in 2010 actually equates to the slowest post-crisis recovery the UK has suffered since the time of the Napoleonic wars!
Economies usually bounce back after recessions like the 2007-08 bankers' crisis, but the application of ruinous Tory austerity dogma has caused the slowest post-crisis recovery in modern history, yet they're actually presenting this appalling failure as some kind of marvellous victory!
3. The latest GDP figures show......


Watching the world burn: at the circus with Donald Trump "IndyWatch Feed"

With every clownish gaffe, Trump strips back the faade of American imperalism, revealing in newly bumbling ways a far older tale one of empire, bloodshed and destruction. It's no laughing matter.

McDonald Trump. Chris Piascik/Flickr. CC-BY-2.0.Recently, a memory of my son as a small boy came back to me. He was, in those days, terrified of clowns. Something about their strange, mask-like, painted faces unnerved him utterly, chilled him to the bone. To the rest of us, they were comic, but to him or so I came to imagine anyway they were emanations from hell. 

Those circus memories of long ago seem relevant to me today because, in November 2016, the American electorate, or a near majority of them anyway, chose to send in the clowns. They voted willingly, knowingly, for the man with that strange orange thing on his head, the result we now know, thanks to his daughter of voluntary scalp reduction surgery.  They voted for the man with the eerily red face, an unearthly shade seldom seen since the perfection of Technicolor. They voted for the overweight man who reputedly ate little but Big Macs (for fear of being poisoned), while swinging one-handed from a political trapeze with fingers of a particularly contestable size. They voted for the man who never came across a superlative he couldnt apply to himself. Of his first presidential moment, he claimed the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe; he declared himself the greatest jobs president that God ever created;...


Russian authorities take aim at anti-fascists in St Petersburg "IndyWatch Feed"

Extra-judicial means are being used to pressure and detain anti-fascist activists in Russia. 

Viktor Filinkov, who disappeared on 23 January, only to appear in a Petersburg court. Source: Personal archive.

This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.

Please remember that you can get advice about what to do if you are arrested via our telephone hotline 8-800-707-05-28, this cartoon, and our detailed instructions. We also provide a bot in the Telegram service by means of which you can get in touch with us, and also receive advice on what to do if you have ended up in the back of a police van. Knowledge is power.

The authorities are intimidating anti-fascist activists

  • - Four people were detained for allegedly covering their faces with scarves during the anti-fascist march in Moscow in memory of the murdered lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova. All four were officially notified of infringements

  • - After the antifascist march, Left Bloc activist Ilya C. was assaulted with the words, So youre from the Markelov rally? He was beaten on the head and pushed to the ground

  • - Anti-fascist Viktor Filinkov from St Petersburg went missing en route to Pul...


Video: Poet Michael Longley Keynote at Launch of 50th Anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Committee "IndyWatch Feed"

Last night Poet Michael Longley gave the keynote address at the launch of the 50th Anniversary of the NI Civil Rights Committee at the historic 1st Presbyterian Church, Rosemary St, Belfast.

The title of his talk was Songs For Dead Children, it is a variation of the talk he gave on receiving The PEN Pinter Prize in 2017.

Slugger is the media partner for the Anniversary so we were happy to be there to record the occasion. Watch the videos of the event below:

For those of you like myself with short attention spans the most powerful impact of the night was his reading of his reading of the Alan Gillis poem Progress. You can view this at 13mins 30 seconds in the part 2 video above, and here is the text below:

They say that for years Belfast was backwards
And its great now to see some progress.
So I guess we can look forward to taking boxes
From the earth. I guess that ambulances
Will leave the dying back amidst the rubble
To be explosively healed. Given time,
One hundred thousand particles of glass
Will create impossible patterns in the air
Before coalescing into the clarity
Of a window. Through which a reassembled head
Will look out and admire the shy young man
Taking his bomb from the building and driving home.



What a Citizens Assembly can do for NI politics "IndyWatch Feed"

The Building Change Trust is funding a pilot Citizens Assembly initiative to take place in Northern Ireland in 2018 around a single topic. The project will be delivered by Involve  a charity that specialises in public participation.

More information on the nuts and bolts of the project can be found on the Trusts website here. In this short video, the Trusts Paul Braithwaite explains how he thinks a Citizens Assembly could play an important role in refreshing Northern Irelands democracy.


Britain's military: costs of failure, symbols of vanity "IndyWatch Feed"

The real security threats to the United Kingdom come not from Russia but from climate change, inequality and marginalisation.

Head of the British Army General Sir Nick Carter warns that Britain's ability to pre-empt or respond to threats risks being eroded if the UK does not keep up with its enemies. Steve Parsons/PA Images. All rights reserved.A much publicised speech on 22 January by General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the general staff of the British army, had unmistakable echoes of the cold war. Warning of Russia's direct security threat to the United Kingdom, and signalling a need to increase the military budget rather than continue to shave expenditure, Carter's alarmist portrait of a nation in peril was sanctioned directly by Gavin Williamson, new defence secretary in Theresa May's ailing government.

Russia performs a useful function: its role as as a supposed threat enables the  harsh legacy of the recent past to be evaded. 

The argument for more military spending is a recurrent feature of British politics. But the well-rehearsed establishment case is ever at pains to avoid two huge and uncomfortable realities. The first is that Britain is part of a western coalition that has fought three disastrous wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) in the past sixteen years. In great consequence, the domestic threat of attacks stemming from ISIS, al-Qaida and other such groups has never been higher. Andrew Parker, the director of MI5, confirmed as much in a speech on 17 October 2017. Yet the defence community refuses to view these military failures, and their outcomes, as part of a fundamental problem. In this respect, Russia performs a useful function: its role as as a supposed threat enables the ...


Don't do It: why attacking Afrin city would be a major blunder for the Syrian rebels "IndyWatch Feed"

To attack a major Kurdish population centre alongside the forces of a historical adversary is a mistake firstly in terms of principle.

Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army, FSA, fighters in the Syrian town of Azez near the border with Turkey. Picture by: Depo Photos/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved. More than six months after it was first touted, Turkey has declared the start of an offensive on Afrin, a Kurdish canton held by the Peoples Protection Units (YPG), the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkish president Erdogan has announced that the offensive will be an extension of Operation Euphrates Shield, a major Turkish backed military campaign launched in 2016 by a broad coalition of Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions, aimed at taking territories from ISIS and the YPG/SDF in the province of Aleppo. Erdogan has also declared that the operation would extend to the major Arab-majority centre of Manbij, held by the SDF since 2016 with US and Russian protection, and the site of brief clashes between the FSA and US Special Forces.

However, it is still yet unclear whether the offensive will extend to the city of and not merely parts of the canton, and if so, which rebel factions will join in. Many rebel factions may baulk at the notion of attacking the city, a heavily-populated Kurdish stronghold, and seek to limit their advances to Arab-majority towns and villages in the citys eastern environs, such as Mennagh and Tel Rifaat, captured by the SDF from rebels in 2016 under Russian air cover. The taking of a corridor alongside Tel Rifaat would also link the Euphrates Shield areas to rebels currently cut off in the western countryside of Aleppo and Idlib.



The geopolitics of the Kurds and the case of Rojava "IndyWatch Feed"

How does the military cooperation of the Kurds in Rojava and Northern Syria with the US, Russia and other forces affect their standing in the larger Syrian context? 

Picture by Depo Photos/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved. Nowadays, with the defeat of the so called Islamic State (IS) on the ground in Syria the geopolitics of the Syrian Kurds is discussed more than ever. To be precise, we should speak of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and of the political structure Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) of which Rojava (West/Syrian Kurdistan) is a part. What is of interest for this article is the criticism by some (or many) leftists against the military cooperation with the US. However, speaking only of the US would be too limiting, since in this particular conflict Russia, Turkey and Iran are also closely involved.

The geopolitics of the Syrian Kurds can be understood only in connection with the democratic-leftist Kurdish Freedom Movement (KFM). Starting with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in North Kurdistan (Bakur; Turkish part) in the 1970s, it spread to Rojava and East Kurdistan (Rojhilat; Iranian part) in the 1990s. When in 2003 the Party of Democratic Union (PYD) was founded, it accepted calans political concept of Democratic Confederalism as basis. Due to the intensive repression by the Baath regime, the space remained small, but the organization of the population never ceased to exist.

In 2011, when the uprising against the Syrian regime started, the PYD saw its interest in benefitting from the weakness of the regime in order to organize people democratically in Rojava and the big cities of Syria. In the first months, the aim was to develop the self defense capacity as it was difficult to foresee further developments against the Baath regime as well as against the armed reactionary opposition. In the following months the revolutionary movement had been organized as TEV-DEM which apart from PYD included dozens of social organizations and people from the growing peoples councils all over Rojava. The Barzani-linked ENKS, the conservative Kurdish...


The Kremlin as seen from Kobane "IndyWatch Feed"

While the Kurds once warmed to Moscow, it seems Ankaras latest military operation in Syrian Kurdistan would have been impossible without the Kremlins agreement. 

Soldiers of the YPG, the Popular Protection Forces, in Kobane, Syrian Kurdistan. Photo (c): Pawel Pieniazek. All rights reserved.

This Saturday, Kurds are celebrating the third anniversary of the battle of Kobane. In 2015, this city in northern Syria was surrounded by ISIS forces on three sides, with Turkey on its northern border. Turkish forces over the frontier were not keen on Kurdish volunteers relieving the city, and created obstacles for those who attempted to cross the border. Without the strong support of a foreign power, it seemed that defeat was inevitable. Yet over the course of the following three months, Kurdish fighters fought tooth and nail to defeat the ISIS insurgents besieging the city. The battle for Kobane also saw some of the first US airstrikes in the Syrian war.

Victory came on 27 January 2015. It was a humiliation for ISIS, at a time when the terrorist group looked unstoppable. Islamic State had come up against the determined fighters of the Peoples Protection Units and Womens Protection Units, more commonly known as YPG and YPJ.

Three years after the bloody siege, it seems that Kobanes local administration is having second thoughts about celebrating the anniversary. The unease here in Kobane is palpable: I came here to northern Syria four months ago, during the last weeks battle for the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

Demonstrations in the city are held on a daily basis but this time theyre not about the victory of 2015. With ISIS no longer perceived as a major threat, Turkey has launched an offensive on the predominantly Kurdish region, or enclave, of Afrin in northwestern Syria. Ankaras act appears to have taken place with the tacit acceptance of Russia and the United States. Syrias Kurds were once well-disposed towards Russia and after the Turkish attack, that goodwill seems in jeopardy.

An ...


Cross-Party Campaigning against Brexit "IndyWatch Feed"

European Movement Question TimeAn impressive line-up of London MEPs and other senior politicians gathered at the Irish Culture Centre in Hammersmith last night at an event organised by the Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea branch of the European Movement. Charles Tannock MEP (Conservative), Mary Honeyball MEP (Labour) and Jean Lambert MEP (Green) were joined by former LibDem MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, Sarah Olney (standing in for Catherine Bearder MEP, who was in Ireland), at a packed Question Time event moderated by former Labour MP and Europhile, Denis MacShane. Dr Tannock is one of a number of Conservative MEPs who disagree fundamentally with the British governments policy of pursuing a so-called Hard Brexit, leaving both the European Single Market and the Customs Union. He would prefer Britain to stay within the EU but doesnt believe Brexit can be stopped, so argues for a Soft Brexit instead. The other speakers were more focussed on how the UK can reverse the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum; Sarah Olney set out the LibDems official line that there would need to be a new referendum when the details of the proposed new EU-UK deal are known, with an option to remain in the EU. Mary Honeybal...


he Golden Dawn trial: a major event for democracy in Greece and beyond "IndyWatch Feed"

It's time to show that democracy does indeed protect itself from the enemies within.

Golden Dawn members and supporters at a rally in Athens, Greece on 29 May 2017. Giorgos Georgiou/NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

What is at stake with the Golden Dawn trial?

The Golden Dawn trial, held in Athens, started in April 2015: the biggest trial of fascist criminality since Nuremberg, a unique penal trial of 69 defendants, among them 18 members of the Greek Parliament, all elected on the Golden Dawn ticket. The major accusation is based on Article 187 par. 1 of the Greek Criminal Code that defines the nature of a criminal organisation. Besides this, three more serious criminal offenses are also bought before the court: the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist rapper; an assassination attempt on Abuzid Embarac, an Egyptian worker; and assassination attempts on members of the Greek Communist Party.

The Golden Dawns line of defence is not to deny the criminal offenses. Indeed, that would have been irrational since these are undeniable facts. Instead, the objective of the defence is to plead that the perpetrators themselves bear sole responsibility for these crimes and therefore the Golden Dawn leadership is not involved. Yet, paradoxically, two years after Fyssas was assassinated, Nikos Michalokiakos, the leader of Golden Dawn, accepted the political responsibility of this murder.

By the end of 2107, 210 days of trial had already elapsed. On 8 January, the first day of the trial for 2018, I was invited by the civil party to testify. The objective was two-fold.

First, I was to demonstrate the vertical hierarchical structure of the organisation that does not allow any liberty to its members. Members of the party engaged in criminal activities with specific target groups in accordance with a political strategy designed by the leadership and executed according to an operational plan. This, we hoped to argue, is why the Golden Dawn is not a political party but a criminal organisation operating within the core of a political party. Only if Golden Dawn is recognised as a criminal organisation may it be legally closed.

The second objective was to show the racist motivation of the crimes. Although this might sound easy, in Greece there is no judiciary cult...


Michelle ONeill, one year on from becoming Leader of the North "IndyWatch Feed"

There is something a bit Game of Thrones about Sinn Feins bespoke title for Martin McGuinnesss supposed successor Michelle ONeill. Yesterdays retrospective in the Irish News confirms theres little to be learned from her first year in the job.

Her decision to address an event in April commemorating the IRAs Loughgall Martyrs drew predictable criticism. Those less exercised saw it as deliberate tactic to ensure the Co Tyrone republican base was kept on board.

Appearances at such events have since been rare, though the Mid Ulster MLA is unlikely to rule out attending similar commemorations in the future.

While we can expect unionists not to be especially enamoured by Ms ONeill, some northern nationalists also remain unconvinced of her suitability as figurehead for their community. Often her media appearances appear scripted and lacking in spontaneity.

How much she can be criticised over the handling of the recent Barry McElduff Kingsmill controversy is debatable but as the partys northern leader, she must be accountable to some degree.

Nevertheless, the Sinn Fin deputy leader-in-waiting last year oversaw her partys two best electoral performances north of the border, bringing the party within 1,200 votes of the DUP in the Stormont election and weeks later unseating two SDLP MPs and leaving its nationalist rival with no representation at Westminster.

With Stormont mothballed, Ms ONeill has left no footprints. Like a runner who carefully plots her way forward by using the prints of the one up ahead of her? At the meeting over McElduffs initial punishment, Adams was careful to enter through the back.

There are few accounts which reliably tell us how the party operates internally. Back in 2009, Killian Ford (who subsequently left the party), produced this internal memo:

Its structures are opaque, its personnel management non-existent, there is little accountability on the senior leadership and people are appointed to important roles without any experience.

Sinn Fin, it appears to me, does not even have a basic organisational chart for employees, elected officials, candidates and cumman members to be able to refer to. The power and associated decision-making in the party lies with individuals not embedded structures.

This means that those seeking to question or contribute to decisions, po...


We have politics that is almost devoid of consistent Christian or gospel values, yet which is endorsed by thousands of Christian people Rev Norman Hamilton "IndyWatch Feed"

One might even be tempted to say that we have politics that is almost devoid of consistent Christian or gospel values, yet which is endorsed by thousands of Christian people Rev Norman Hamilton

Those are strong and sobering words from Rev Norman Hamilton, a former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Convenor of the churchs Council for Public Affairs, speaking at a prayer breakfast last week in advance of Belfasts 4 Corners Festival (1-11 February).

With talks resuming in Stormont yesterday about restoring power-sharing, Hamiltons comments raise serious questions about the Christian or gospel values that motivate the politicians who identify themselves as Christians and, of course, about the values of the Christians they represent.

Hamilton has spoken in the past about the need for a civic reconciliation that is informed by gospel values and concerned about the common good, about apology, about trusted relationships, consensus or generosity of spirit. 

The full text of Hamiltons address has been posted on the Contemporary Christianity blog. It is organised around two themes:

  • His pessimism about the return of devolved government: devolution must not be seen as an end in itself, though to read and hear what is being said in public, you would think it was. What we desperately need is GOOD government. I also think that the tone of political debate in recent weeks and months has greatly set back any worthwhile discussion about what it means to heal our land. We are a long way from reconciliation being at the heart of any new Northern Ireland Executive, and that fact alone makes high quality government seem very elusive.
  • How Christian churches should respond to the deepening quagmire that is our politics.

The 4 Corners Festival sees itself as a Christian response to the lack of reconciliation and the political quagmire that Hamilton speaks about (disclaimer: I am on the organising committee of the festival).

Now in its sixth year, the festival seeks to inspire people from across the city to transform it for the peace and prosperity of all. The programme features events in all four corners of the city, a strategy designed to entice people out of their own (usually segregat...


Fox/Sky: here comes the crunch "IndyWatch Feed"

Fox acquisition of the other 61% of Sky may act against the public interest, reducing media plurality. Yet Sky shares rose when the ruling was published. What is going on?

lead Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Matt Hancock arriving in Downing Street, London, for the first Cabinet meeting following the reshuffle, January 9. Stefan Rousseau/Press Association. All rights reserved.The CMAs initial verdict on the Fox/Sky deal was delayed by a month, as it was snowed under with submissions arguing that the deal should be blocked, primarily on the grounds that Foxs many problems in the US showed it was not genuinely committed to high standards in broadcasting.

The opportunity to flood the CMA with anti-Fox material was provided by Karen Bradley, then Secretary of State for Culture, Digital, Media and Sport (and recently switched to Northern Ireland). She over-rode the Ofcom conclusion that there was no need to refer the merger to the CMA on broadcasting quality grounds. If that was a gamble designed to nail down firmly the issue of whether Fox (as controlled by the Murdoch Family Trust, or MFT) was fit and proper to own Sky News it certainly worked. The CMA endorsed the Ofcom verdict, largely by working through the available material in the same way as Ofcom had done.

This was no surprise: it is very rare for one competition authority to squelch another, and the CMA has chosen to remain as close to Ofcom as possible in its approach to the issues. So it was also no surprise that it ruled against the merger on media plurality grounds, thereby backing up an Ofcom judgment that was deficient in all kinds of ways.

Side-stepping basic media plurality tests

I set out in a letter to Karen Bradley the crass errors committed by Ofcom, and forwarded a copy to the CMA. That they have slavishly repeated those errors confirms that our regulatory processes are deeply inadequate. Even the most basic and straightforward tests of media plurality seemingly obligatory in Ofcoms investigation of the bid, but inexplicably omitted have again been side-stepped by the CMA.



"IndyWatch Feed"

Brexit politics is hotting up amid the snows of Davos. The Brexiteer house paper the Daily Telegraph reports remarks from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar taking a soft Brexit line close to Chancellor Philip Hammonds in the Swiss resort.  Hammond is the key figure here. He has  lit the blue touch paper to ignite the Tory right and  earned himself a rebuke from a No 10 which is trying to damp down the first flickers of new surge against Theresa Mays weak leadership. Of this more in a moment,

It would easy to miss the significance of how the taoiseachs  remarks are being set up in an EU as well as a British context. According to the DT,  Vardakar  has placed himself at some distance from  the  would- be champion of the EU, French President Emmanuel Macron and his finance minister Bruno LeMaire.

While France instantly shot down fresh demands from Chancellor Philip Hammond for a bespoke accord that includes financial services, Ireland floated the option of a Norway Plus arrangement that better reflects the unique nature of Britains relations with Europe.

Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said Britains insistence on a final accord with favoured status for the City of London is a complete illusion. It is a dead end. I told Philip Hammond very clearly that Britain cannot have a pick and choose model, he told the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Le Maire said the UK cannot retain access to the single market while refusing to accept the authority of the European Court (ECJ) and free movement of workers. It is not possible. The European Union is a comprehensive (indivisible) framework, he said, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

Until now the French view has been the formal position of the EUs chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who insists that the UK must face hard facts and choose between two established options: either a Norway deal that includes a high degree of free movement, ECJ influence, and budget payments; or a looser Canada deal that covers free trade in goods but leaves services out in the cold.

Yet a few hundred yards away, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar proposed the exact opposite. Ireland would like Britains relationship with the EU to be closer than that of non-member Norway. It will have to be a specific agreement as there is no precedent. Of course as Ireland we want that to be as close as possible we would have it Norway-plus but I think we have to get into the detail now of what that means, he told Bloomberg News.



The Nuclear Option "IndyWatch Feed"


No sooner had the debate begun about how Derry Girls really measures up as a sitcom, than BBC Northern Ireland decided last week to air the first of three new episodes of Give My Head Peace.

Thanks BBC because you just reminded everyone what a massive leap forward Lisa McGees not quite perfect Channel 4 sitcom is for Northern Irish comedy.

Now entering the second half of its six episode run, the fourth episode of Derry Girls again delivered some sharp, laugh out loud moments, even if, once again, it didnt completely work.

Episode four found the girls back in church where a group of teenagers from Chernobyl were paraded in front of the congregation before they were dispatched to live with local families.

The wains from Chernobyl were introduced by Niall Cusacks priest who told his parishioners they were there to get their lungs cleared.

Siobhan McSweeneys sarcastic Sister Michael commended him on his homily but snapped back at him: Keep it moving. Rawhide is on in 15 minutes.

Addressing the congregation, she mused that sending Chernobyls young people to Derry during the Troubles was not quite a case of moving from the frying pan into the fire but rather into a wok.

Saoirse Monica Jacksons Erin Quinn and her cousin, Louisa Harlands Orla McCool were delighted to have landed a wain from Chernobyl.

Diona Dohertys Katya, however, did not seem to share Erins belief that Derry was a cracker place and she also had to put up with everyone calling her a Russian.

Jamie Lee ODonnells thrill seeking Michelle naturally turned up with her much derided English cousin Dylan Llewelyns James and Nicola Coughlans earnest Clare in tow.

In typical fashion, Michelle announced her intention to lose the rest of her virginity to a Cossack.

Katya turned out to be a rather gruff Ukrainian girl who immediately took a shine to James, much to the surprise of Erin, Orla and Clare who had all bought into Michelles insistence in the previous three episodes that he was gay.

Meanwhile Erins mum Tara Lynne ONeills Mary grew suspicious when her widowed father Ian McElhinneys Grandpa Joe winked at someone in Mass.

Her suspicions that he might have a fancy woman mounted when it emerged he had bought two buns in the local bakery and had been spotted up Pump Street with a cream horn

Yup It was that kind of episode

And while Erin continued to go all gooey at the sight of Anthony Boyles wannabe rock star/DJ David Donnelly in the local chippie, Michelle had her eye on Michael Sheas rather reserved member of the Chernobyl group, Artem who had been tethered to Leah ORourkes Jenn...

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Thursday, 25 January


Reporting Distortion? "IndyWatch Feed"

By Derek Bateman

Ive never believed the media lost us the 2014 referendum. Thats deflection and avoidance of responsibility. But they played their part. And having had our eyes opened, we just cant stop looking. It must be a torment to find your journalistic efforts nit-picked on the net, corrected and derided, not to mention you yourself decried as an agent of Unionism. I sympathise.

But then there was always criticism of the Press, it just didnt surface the way it does today. It lay hidden in corners of contempt and festered, erupting now and then in a withering Letter to the Editor. Although in my experience, the dignity of the journalists trade is sufficiently fragile to prompt the binning of any complaint deemed too close to the bone. Nowadays no Editor can prevent the tirades of the aggrieved from reaching not just their exalted office but spreading across the land.

The news has never been a perfect thing and is a continually evolving resource subject to judgment and analysis by professionals. You could spend to Doomsday debating what constitutes news and, in a real sense, it is almost entirely defined by what an Editor decides to publish. That is one definition a newspaper printed it, ergo it is news.

Only we know thats nonsense. The photoshop distortions on the front page, the pointless drivel about so-called celebrities, the overstating of a simple phrase into a screaming headline, have robbed journalism of a swathe of credibility. There is also the adjustment to a digital world which has been painful, not just the decline in hard copy readers and ad revenue but in deciding what people want to know when the world is instantly at their fingertips on a keyboard, be they in a farm kitchen in Angus or a croft in Lewis (broadband notwithstanding).

We thought live television would be the instant outlier that would redefine news but its now as obsolete as VHS as live streaming and global access to every known news source sit snugly in our pocket on a phone.

So deciding what consumers want in an age of all-consuming information is much tougher than it was when far-flung correspondents called in from a phone box with the latest.

Everybody now thinks they know what news is and they waste no time telling you. But, revealingly, it often comes down to their own personal interest or partisan beliefs. And if your product doesnt reflect that, you are denounced. There are many voices in wee Scotland indignantly unhappy with the media and wishing it all would burn in Hell. Well, Im indignantly unhappy with the state of Scotland but my response is not to want it engulfed in flames in Hades. Our movement doesnt follow Pol Pot and seek Year Zero absolute solutions.

Like everything else in Scotland it is, as they say, what it is. We are whe...


Dont count on administrative resources this Russian presidential election "IndyWatch Feed"

Public sector workers usually vote how theyre told in Russias highly-managed elections. A message from the northern Komi republic hints at changes under the radar.

The office on Ukhta's Bushueva Street where the city's teachers "voluntarily" gave their signatures in support of Vladimir Putin's candidacy. Source: VK.Imagine Russias election procedure as a human body: even back in 2012, it looked like a corpse, one that was animated, briefly, by pulses of electricity. We witnessed spasms of movement here and there, before the true extent of decay became gruesomely apparent. Today, when the decomposition is nearly complete, neither the media-savvy presidential campaign of Ksenia Sobchak, nor the heroic image of state farm director Pavel Grudinin can save it. But this corpse still has a few scraps of skin left, and now well see the skeleton dance. Russias public sector workers, better known by the term administrative resources, are one of the last remaining mechanisms that can make the corpse move.

Recently, an anonymous message appeared in a local VKontakte group in Ukhta, a town in Russias northern Komi republic:

Yesterday, an announcement was posted in our school: it requested all teachers visit an address [...] and sign some papers there. People who couldnt for whatever reason sign the papers yesterday were threatened with having their bonuses removed. Today, the director of the school personally went into all the offices in the building to remind everyone of their obligation to visit that specific address with their passport. Today, I visited the above-mentioned address. I found a rather large queue: the teachers of all schools and pre-school institutions had been forced to sign documents there.

The author of this message believes that the teachers were forced to collect signatures in support of Vladimir Putins candidacy. Another resident of Ukhta visited the address to...


A year of Trump: rhetorical bluster or dangerous new reality? "IndyWatch Feed"

On the first anniversary of Donald Trumps presidency, the future of the transatlantic relationship is as uncertain as ever.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during the presidential inaugural Chairman's Global Dinner, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Washington. AP Photo/Evan Vucci. All rights reserved. Three hundred and sixty-four days ago, the world watched as Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. In Europe, his inauguration signalled the beginning of an insecure and unpredictable time for the transatlantic relationship. As Trump promised to put America First and called NATO obsolete, politicians, journalists, and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic feared for the future of US-European relations.

One year on, what damage has Trump done to the transatlantic relationship? Have his words been met with deeds? And what does his rhetoric tell us about the strength of the bond between Europe and the US?

America First

Trumps strong rhetoric during the campaign, in which he denounced the Washington elite and their foreign policy approach, implied he would move away from the liberal world order towards a more isolationist worldview. Trump promised to break with his predecessors legacy, pledging to walk away from international arrangements as varied as the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, and multilateral trade negotiations such as Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) all policies made possible through cooperation with European allies. From now on, Trump promised, it would be America First, and long-standing allies could no longer bank on US support.

Especially worrying to Europe were Trumps welcoming of Brexit as a fantastic thing and his comments about the EU, which he criticised and reduced to a vehicle for GermanyExperts feared that,...


Implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland: Have your Say "IndyWatch Feed"

When it comes to looking at the implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland, the BrexitLawNI project has been out and about gathering information about the concerns of people living in Northern Ireland. Townhall-style events have taken place in Belfast, Derry and Enniskillen, with more events scheduled next month.

BrexitLawNI is a collaborative research project between the Law Schools at Queens University Belfast and Ulster University as well as the regions leading human rights organisation, the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ).

The project examines the constitutional, conflict transformation, human rights and equality consequences of Brexit, particularly looking at what Brexit will mean for Northern Ireland in terms of: the peace process; North-South relations; the border and free movement; xenophobia and racism; human rights and equality. The project also aims to disentangle the many complex questions that have arisen, including the significant legal and constitutional consequences that demand considered reflection.

Through their research, interviews with key stakeholders and public engagement activities, the project researchers hope to make an informed contribution to ongoing conversations about the implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland.

The project team has identified a number of key issues for Northern Ireland resulting from Brexit such as:

  • All people living in the UK may have fewer human rights protections. Right now, the UK stands to lose the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as access to the Court of Justice of the EU. This means that important rights, such as important workers rights, may be lost.
  • Irish Citizens living in the UK may have fewer human rights protections. Many rights protections for Irish citizens living in the UK only exist because of their status as EU citizens and will no longer exist after Brexit. In particular, there are concerns about Irish citizens right to work, right to rent private accommodation, and to receive social security benefits.
  • The specific impacts for rural and border communities in Northern Ireland. These impacts will also have particular knock-on effects for the socio-economic rights of the people in these areas. Some of the key concerns so far include the imposition of a border, negative impacts on the economy, impacts on cross-border workers, lack of access to migrant workers, and a lack of access to services such as healthcare and education.
  • Northern Ireland might become one big border. Because Norther...


Northern Ireland Dept of Infrastructure approves new North-South Interconnector "IndyWatch Feed"

So, approval for a new north-south interconnector has gone through, without a Sinn Fein minister in charge, at the Department of Infrastructure. Robin McCormick, general manager of SONI (Northern Irelands equivalent of Eirgrid):

we very much welcome this positive outcome from the Department for Infrastructure. The North-South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers.

It has received strong support from businesses and employers because of the positive impact it will have on the economy, and from consumer groups as it will help reduce the cost of electricity.

However, south of the border, Eirgrid is still running into cross-party resistance in the Republic:

Last August, Mr Justice Barrett rejected a challenge to An Bord Pleanlas grant of permission brought by the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign Ltd (NEPPC) and a local resident, Maura Sheehy.

The applicants then sought the necessary certificates to appeal that decision but, on Thursday, Mr Justice Barrett ruled no substantial grounds of appeal had been raised.

He also, in a separate judgment, dismissed the second challenge to the project, brought by Val Martin, a farmer and environmental campaigner.

The judge held Mr Martin, representing himself, was not entitled to be granted leave for judicial review of the Boards December 2016 permission for the project. Even if he was entitled to leave, the court would have rejected his case on all grounds, he added.

There were, he said, significant deficiencies in Mr Martins pleadings and they did not meet the criteria required by the relevant court rules.

The core issue for local is the use of pylons to carry a very high tension 400kV circuit linking an existing substation in Woodland, Co Meath, with a planned substation in Turleenan, Co Tyrone.

As noted earlier, the only significant political party that hasnt protested this proposal is the DUP.

The island imports almost 90% of its energy, so fast and efficient distribution is clearly a big economic factor. Poor distribution east-west also means a poor use of renewable energy sources.

Burying cables is not only expensive, it also creates rigidities in the system meaning th...


How women are building feminist human security in the Americas "IndyWatch Feed"

Across the region, women are forging alternative paths to real peace and security, rejecting militarisation and violence. They do this at great personal risk. Espaol

Participants at the Antigua meeting. Participants at the Antigua meeting. Photo: Katy Tartakoff.Latin American countries have the highest rates of femicide in the world and are considered the most dangerous places for women outside of war zones.

Many places in this region are effectively war zones they just dont fit the model of conventional warfare. Too many women face constant threats of violence from drug cartels, government forces, paramilitaries, gangs, husbands and partners.

Women organisers from across the Americas met in Antigua, Guatemala in November 2017 to discuss root causes of such violence, challenges to peace, and how to respond.

The meeting gathered women working in Colombias peace process; searching for the disappeared, and for justice, in Mexico; fighting femicide and corruption in Honduras; defending territory in Guatemala; opposing gang violence in El Salvador; rebuilding Puerto Rico and resisting police brutality in New York.

After three days of intense discussion, a number of key lessons emerged. First: that non-traditional forms of conflict are often unrecognised, unaddressed and misunderstood, though they profoundly impact womens and childrens lives.

'Non-traditional forms of conflict are often unrecognised, unaddressed and misunderstood, though they profoundly impact womens and childrens lives.'

The war on drugs, gang violence, state violence and conflicts over land and territory have deep historical and cultural roots and can cause as much deat...


Outdoor Education Centre Closures and the death knell of outdoor education in Northern Ireland "IndyWatch Feed"

Soapbox: Craig McCullough, Managing Director of Outdoor Concepts (NI)

So why is someone who manages a private outdoor adventure business writing an article AGAINST the decision of the Education Authority to close a number of outdoor centres in Northern Ireland? The answer is threefold

  1. Greater participation in outdoor adventure will benefit both the public and private adventure sectors. A symbiotic relationship between public and private sectors works in everyones best interests. Clear and accurate information will empower and increase participation, ultimately benefiting the private sector.
  2. As someone who has worked across both public and private outdoor adventure sectors for over twenty years (as Managing Director, teacher, youth worker and instructor) I have seen first hand how children benefit from their adventure residential experience whilst at school.
  3. Many people have commented on how this decision is good news for those in the private outdoor adventure sector nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that the EA cap the amount of money available per young person per night for youth organisations for a residential experience and this is nowhere near the amount of money required if there is no public sector residential experiences available the death knell of outdoor adventure in Northern Ireland.

There is no need for you to search online for the benefits of outdoor education in children because all of the research, from a myriad of countries all say the same thing outdoor education boosts pupil development, welfare, engagement, motivation, creativity, problem-solving skills and overall wellbeing.

Not only are those people in charge of our education system in Northern Ireland closing our outdoor education centres, they are ensuring that our children no longer have access to the skills that are derived from outdoor learning and includes everything that society determines as valuable.

This decision needs scrutinised as a matter of urgency. At the very least the people making these decisions should have been brought before the Stormont Education Committee. There the peoples representatives, our MLAs, should be asking searching and extensive questions and we as the people should be watching and listening.

Civil servants can watch easily from their protected ivory towers as their decisions are ridiculed on social media. They can send out and receive consultation papers then ignore them. Various petitions and media outlets can create a voice for the people all our civil servants need to do is wait and outlast before the next story comes along and all is forgotten.

When awkward questions are asked of this decision these invisible people making the decisions take the...


Want to know why Brexit is turning into such a shambles? "IndyWatch Feed"

A National Audit Office report has found that Liam Fox's Department for International Trade is so unfit to secure post-Brexit trade deals that even after 19 months they haven't even defined "the range of capabilities and level of capacity it will require to undertake its role in delivering an independent UK trade function". Additionally they were only able to name a single person when asked to provide a list of the experienced trade negotiators they've been able to hire since the Brexit vote.

Things are even worse at David Davis' Department for Exiting the EU which is the is the most chaotic and chronically understaffed department of the most shambolic government the UK has suffered in decades.

The reason these departments are such a mess is obvious: What experienced civil servant or trade negotiator would want to have either of these two incompetent self-serving blaggers as their boss?

Working in either of these departments means continually defending whatever pathetic nonsense/lies/boasts/excuses that Fox or Davis are spewing at the time, then having your entire career tainted by association with the resulting mess once they inevitably screw it all up (and likely blame their subordinates rather than taking any responsibility whatever for their own shortcomings).


On the catalogue of injuries faced by religious minorities in Pakistan "IndyWatch Feed"

Religious minorities have been living in Pakistan for centuries, but still they are not considered equal citizens. They are persecuted by both state and society. Why?

Pakistani Christians attend the funeral of a victim of a suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan on Dec. 18, 2017. At least eight people were killed and 44 others injured. Asad/Xinhua/PA Images. All rights reserved.Since the birth of Pakistan, religious minorities have been demanding safety and equal rights. Though government officials promise time and again to take necessary measures to protect them, injustices and persecution are ongoing. Just a week ago, five Hazara (ethnic minority) Shia Muslim were killed by extremists. Recently, in two different incidents, two young Christian boys were killed in Punjab province, Pakistans most populous region. Just a week before Christmas, on 17 December, 4 suicide bombers from ISIS attacked a church in Quetta, Baluchistan Province. They killed at least nine Christian men, women, and children, and wounded 56 others. On 9 October, Arslan Masih, who was 14-year-old, was beaten to death by six policemen in Sheikhupura. And, on 27 August, Sharoon, 17, was killed in the classroom by his classmate in Vehari. According to Sharoons mother, her son was killed because of his Christianity. He was warned against drinking from a glass used by Muslim students who called him a choora (a derogatory term which often used for Christians in Pakistan).

Pakistan is an Islamic country, which was arrived on the world map on 14 August 1947. When British rulers left the Indian subcontinent, they divided the region into two independent states: India and Pakistan created as a state for subcontinent Muslims. According to Pakistans constitution, non-Muslims are considered a minority, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, Kalash, Zoroastrians, and so on. At the time of partition, they constituted 20% of the total population. Today, however, minorities constitute only 3% of Pakistans  207 million people because of their continual emigration. According to government statistics, almost 97% of Pakistanis are Muslim - about 80 percent Sunni and nearly 20 percent Shia. 



The crisis of western democracy is a crisis of journalism "IndyWatch Feed"

There is a crisis of confidence in institutions and media, a fragmenting of the public domain. Without quality journalism, democracies will be low-intensity ones. RSF proposes a solution.

French President Emmanuel Macron meets Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, during the 'Choose France' summit at Versailles January 22, 2018. Christian Liewig/PA Images. All rights reserved.If we compare humankinds present situation with the not-too-distant past, the many profound changes that have taken place encourage a degree of optimism despite continuing dangers especially to the environment. In the past 30 years, extreme poverty has fallen by two thirds, 2 billion people have been saved from malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality has been halved and, even if certain tragedies continue to be appalling, armed conflicts are less and less deadly. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the democratic model became widely democratized. And yet a spectre haunts our societies, that of modern despotism of authoritarian strongmen in other words, the spectre of democratic frailty.

There is a crisis of confidence in institutions and media, a crisis in the portrayal of reality.

Between the two world wars, the US essayist Walter Lippmann wrote that in an exact sense the present crisis of western democracy is a crisis of journalism. This is true nearly a century later. There is a crisis of confidence in institutions and media, a crisis in the portrayal of reality (as polls about conspiracy theories show), a weakening of the medias economic model that is threatening the quality of journalistic content, a fragmenting of the public domain under the impact of filter bubbles, and there is domination by technology firms that praise transparency without applying it to themselves or their algorithms.

Despotic regimes are developing enormous propaganda machines and are trying to export their alternative models in order to create a new world information order. At the same time, an entire sponsored content economy, with often unstated but very intricate interests, is pros...


We refused everything France wanted to give us: Oksana Shalyginas first post-prison interview "IndyWatch Feed"

This time last year, performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky and Oksana Shalygina fled Russia under threat of prosecution. Now theyre facing arson charges in Paris. RU

Image courtesy of Pyotr Pavlensky.Russian performance artist and political activist Pyotr Pavlensky is spending his fourth month in Paris Fleury-Mrogis prison. In January 2017, Pavlensky and his associate Oksana Shalygina left Russia after law enforcement questioned him over a rape allegation. But after performing an action at a branch of the Banque de France on Paris Place de la Bastille in October 2017, Pavlensky was arrested and sent to an isolation unit. Here, he is denied the opportunity to interact with other prisoners, and letters reach him only after considerable delay. All correspondence is checked by the court authorities, and translating Russian letters into French takes time.

The Bastille was destroyed by a people in revolution; the people destroyed its symbol of despotism and power. The Banque de France has taken the place of the Bastille, and bankers have taken the place of monarchs - this was how Pavlensky explained rationale behind the action.

The dangerous property damage case against Pavlensky is being heard in camera, prompting Pavlensky to stage a dry hunger strike (refusing both food and water) last autumn. Nevertheless, Pavlenskys close friend Oksana Shalygina, who helped Pavlensky organise the stunt and who has also been charged with arson, was released on 5 January. Shalygina remains under investigation and cannot leave France. She and Pavlensky both face up to ten years in prison.

I visited Shalygina for her first post-release interview.

Why were you released?



What remains of democracy? Egypt, Italy and the lesser evil after Giulio Regeni "IndyWatch Feed"

A thesis circulating for some time seeks the secret of the 28-year-old's death, not in the Al-Sisi regime, but for example in Cambridge. This is a dangerous distraction. Italiano.

lead Protest demanding justice for the death of Giulio Regeni and other victims of the Al Sisi government in Egypt. Rome, Italy, on February 13, 2016. Ronchini Andrea/ Press Association. All rights reserved.Two years after the murder of Giulio Regeni, the truth finally seems at hand. Or at least we know where to look for it: in the murky academic environments of the University of Cambridge which cynically used the researcher, Giulio Regeni, to build a pro-Islamist conspiracy, perhaps even an anti-Italian conspiracy.

The fact that Regeni was killed in Cairo and not in Cambridge might be thought to be relevant, but even on that front as well, there is good news: the Egyptian Prosecutor, spurred on by the Italian government, has forwarded important papers to Rome, thus proving as Interior Minister Minniti avows the will of Al-Sisi to cooperate in the quest for the truth, from which clearly Field Marshal Sisi has nothing to fear.

This is roughly the sum of what has been read and heard in recent days, and it is enough to urgently ask the question which for two years has been hovering over this all-but-obscure affair: does Italy still have a news media, or has it decided stoically to do without? Retracing the contortions that Italian journalism has been capable of, we might well say the latter.

The arrest and murder of Giulio Regeni are overall uncomplicated, transparent events. Apparently reported on by an informant to the Egyptian secret services out of personal revenge or due to some misunderstanding, Regeni was arrested on the day most feared by the regime January 25, the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, later extinguished by the coup of 2013 and in the vicinity of a highly symbolic place, Tahrir Square, where the Uprising began[1].

The security apparatus...


You've kept your power, Arab rulers, but at what cost? "IndyWatch Feed"

Let us never forget that those who make peaceful uprisings impossible will eventually make violent revolution irresistible. 

AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012. AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Seven years after the Arab uprisings, the political and socio-economic conditions in many Arab countries remain dire, if not more disastrous.

In Tunisia, the cradle of that popular revolt, impoverished youth, facing tremendous austerity measures, issue desperate calls like Employ us or kill us.

Close by on the Mediterranean, hundreds of marginalized young Moroccans have been jailed for rising up against corruption, severe unemployment, and poor social welfare infrastructure. 

Egypt has reverted to a vicious military rule. Syria is mired in an endless bloody war. Libya is a political disaster. Yemen is in the grip of a savage war between rebels and a hawkish Saudi Arabia, and Gulf dictatorships are blissfully the same. 

Wherever you look, the light is dim.  

This is undoubtedly a damning portrait of a region with rich human and natural resources but where hardship is a way of life. 

There are 105 million Arabs between the age of 15-29 but they face an abysmal 35 percent unemployment rate, 20-40 percent illiteracy in some countries, increasing armed conflicts accounting for 17 percent of all conflicts in the world, a heightened likelihood of forced displacement, and poverty levels reaching 30 percent in some cases. 

This is the land where a crown prince can go on a $1.5 billion-spending spree to buy a yacht, a Da Vinci painting, and a French castle in a few days while scores of poor Arabs self-immolate in publ...


Education Crises As Crises For Capital "IndyWatch Feed"

Glenn Rikowski



By Glenn Rikowski

Visiting Fellow, College of Social Science, University of Lincoln, UK


This is the second of my two papers prepared for the International Seminar for Public Pedagogies on Crisis and Education at the University of East London (Stratford Campus) for 21st February 2018.

The paper shifts the focus on education crisis from a concern with crisis in education as an attack on public, state-financed education towards education crises education as crises for capital, for capitalist development.


This paper is now available at Academia:

It is also available at ResearchGate:




Remembering against the tide: Giulio Regeni and the transnational horizons of memory "IndyWatch Feed"

Two years after the murder of Giulio Regeni, the call for truth and justice has yet to be answered. 

A Berlin mural for Giulio Regeni, by El Teneen.On January 25th, 2016 Giulio Regeni, a young Italian graduate student at Cambridge, was kidnapped by local security forces, who later tortured and killed him. Right after, a transnational campaign asking for truth and justice was launched by Regenis fellows at Cambridge, his family, and the Italian Section of Amnesty International, while Rome and Cairo attorneys began their investigations which are now stuck in the mud: two years later, the call for truth and justice has yet to be answered.


Giulio Regeni was an Italian PhD candidate at Cambridge, who moved to Cairo for his fieldwork, researching independent trade unions, especially that of street vendors, in post-2011 Egypt. After disappearing on January 25th, 2016 on the anniversary of the beginning of the 2011 uprisings his tortured corpse was found on February 3rd, on the outskirts of Cairo. Despite several implausible and toxic narrations, fabricated by Egyptian investigators and reported by some Italian media, all the evidence collected so far by independent media investigations, scholarly analyses, and a New York Timesreportage unanimously points to the conclusion that Regeni was tortured and killed by Egyptian security services.

Political violence is one of the few available ways for the regime to show its waning sovereignty 

Since al-Sisis military coup in 2013, Egypt - having a long history of human rights violations by its authorities - experienced a further increase in repressive measures, with tens of thousands of people...


Fallout an alarming insight into the state of Britain-Trump relations "IndyWatch Feed"

Tim Shipmans latest political blockbuster is full of fascinating vignettes, particularly when detailing the horrified reaction of British politicians to Trumps rise to power - and to his openness to outside influence.

Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images. All rights reserved.

While all eyes in the US turned to the dramatic release of Michael Wolffs Fire and Fury, across the Atlantic a separate political thriller continued its second bestselling month. Tim Shipmans Fallout (London: William Collins, 2017) spills the guts of British politics for the past year, laying plain for all who read the treacherous, if not lurid, tale about the British governments tough slog to survive the Trump Administrations unprecedented dysfunction.  Although much of this 559-page work is steeped in what Americans might consider British political inside baseball, authoritative accounts based on interviews by Shipman broadly corroborate the Fire and Fury narrative. As told by Shipman, little in this comprehensive work will prove any reassurance to wary English readers on the reliability of its special US ally under Trump. 

Of course, Trumps assault on the UK was in full swing throughout his campaign, as he accused Britain in 2015 of trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem, and of having no-go areas where cowering police dared not venture. Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, decried Trumps remarks as betraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to hold the office of president of the United States, while then Prime Minister David Cameron called Trump divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.

As Shipman chronicles Britain from 2016-2017one of the more chaotic years in British politicshe reveals how the new British government, led by Tory leader Theresa May, similarly struggled to manoeuvre the fallout from Trumps election on British-American relations, or more accurately British-Trump relations. Shipman borrows from the eminently quotable Boris Johnson, now foreign s...


Is our personal data fair game in the drive to create Theresa Mays hostile environment for migrants? "IndyWatch Feed"

Patients are dying as politicians use the NHS crisis to undermine what we love most about it a service for all, free at the point of access, that protects our confidential health data.

As a doctor and public health researcher, I believe health services should not be de facto border control. Deterring people from seeking help when they are unwell is not only bad for individuals, it is bad for public health. Healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for some. 

Last week, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP and the rest of the health select committee heard evidence to about the impact of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Home Office and NHS Digital (the national information and technology partner to the health and social care system in the UK). This data-sharing agreement to support the tracing of immigration offenders is one of a suite of products that enable the government to maintain the compliant environment, as they referred to it on the day.

It was upsetting to hear Marissa Bereoni, of Justice for Domestic Workers, describe how a domestic worker had died from pneumonia a completely treatable condition because she had been too scared to see a doctor. Further examples were given by GP Lu Hiam who works for Doctors of the World, a charity established because the NHS is not truly accessible to all some are too afraid to use it.

The hearing confirmed what I and other campaigners have been arguing ever since Theresa May said in 2012, as Home Secretary, that the aim here in Britain is to create a really hostile environment for illegal immigration.  That creating this hostile environment within a healthcar...

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Wednesday, 24 January


The Limehouse Declaration Dinner "IndyWatch Feed"

THLDs Limehouse DinnerLast night a lively crowd of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats and friends gathered at The Narrow in Limehouse for a dinner to celebrate the Limehouse Declaration, which was really the launching pad for the short-lived SDP (Social Democratic Party). Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams were the Gang of Four who led the breakaway from Labour, caused mainly because of the Labour Partys drift to the left under Michael Foots leadership, its espousal of unilateral nuclear disarmament and a policy of withdrawing from the European Union. The Declaration was issued to the media from David Owens house further along Narrow Street from the gastropub where we gathered. Lord Owen was not present at our dinner (he opposed merger between the SDP and the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats and now sits as a Crosssbech i.e. Independent peer, though rarely attends debates). But the other David, Lord Steel, was a keynote speaker at our dinner and was keen to point out that despite the rather cruel caricature of him on the popular TV programme, Spitting Image, tiny and in David Owens top pocket, the two men got on well together most of the time especially if Dr Owens wife, Deborah, was present. Lord Steel drew inevitable comparisons between...


One thing that unionists might want "IndyWatch Feed"

In a previous article, I made the bold assertion that Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants. What I should have said was Northern Nationalism has nothing that Unionism wants, and Nationalism in general has nothing that Unionism wants yet. While Northern Nationalism may still not have much to attract Unionism, after 30th March next year the Republic will have something that unionists may quickly find themselves jealous of.


While their colleagues in Stormont and Westminster get seemingly endless airtime, Northern Irelands three MEPs have been quietly getting on with the job in Brussels and Strasbourg. Outside the political mechanics of the elections themselves, the only occasion any NI MEP made the front page was when Paisley heckled the Pope. But this lack of press coverage does not reflect a lack of importance; the European Parliament is a powerful body, and one in which individual members enjoy more influence than any backbencher in either Westminster or Leinster House.

On current plans, the three MEPs will vacate their seats on March 29th 2019 along with the rest of the UKs delegation. And with them will go one of NIs strongest tools for protecting its economic interests. Whether it is manufacturing exporters in Ballymena, content producers in Bangor, or dairy farmers in Fermanagh, the EUs regulations, as drafted in the European Parliament by MEPs, are the framework of the modern economy.

And Brexit will not change this one bit.

As the British Government struggles to reconcile its red lines with the cold realities of a hard Brexit, virtually every economic lobby group from the CBI to the TUC is campaigning for the UK to remain as closely aligned to EU law as possible. On top of that, the Irish Government has secured a commitment that there will be full regulatory alignment between North and South, which effectively means between East and West also. The only plausible alternative to a cliff-edge Brexit demands that the UK as a whole continues to follow EU regulations, but without any representatives in the parliament where these regulations are drafted.

Norways so-called fax democracy is sometimes overstated. Norway has to transcribe into national law all EU regulations in the areas covered by the EEA. And yes, it has more influence on the drafting process than sometimes admitted to, as it meets regularly at governmental level with EU members in order to defend its interests. But there is no question that its voice carries less weight due to its lack of representation in the increasingly powerful European Parliament. And so it will be with the UK. It is big enough and rich enough that its concerns will never be completely ignored. But it will be Downing St making the representation, not...


Pressure to resume the responsibilities of government is not a winning card "IndyWatch Feed"

So how are the prospects for the talks being trailed?   Are three women, Arlene, Michelle and late  joiner Karen are up the creek with Simon but without a paddle? Or will they brave the towering waves of cynicism to ride them out and make it home  to everyones  huge surprise?

Karen as we must get used to calling the secretary of state for the time being -, repeats the standard stale brief, that agreement is close if only.. She sets the vaguest of deadlines; it would be nice to have something to say by NI Questions on 7 February. The suppressed disagreement with the co-guarantor Simon Coveney is just visible to anoraks.   The lead role is British, no messing, as the talks begin alongside the Irish Government, respecting the well-established three-stranded approach to Northern Ireland affairs.( i.e. Dublin, hands off the details of devolution).

So separate talks with each of the five parties, then a round table then. what? How well prepared is Karen to  cut through the thickets of humbug?

.. on  the possibility of bringing in an impartial chairperson to mediate the talks, due to the possible conflict of interest created by the confidence-and-supply agreement between the the Conservative Government and the DUP.

Mrs Bradley said she was not ruling anything out, but stated the confidence-and-supply agreement was separate to negotiations to restore Stormont.

Not ruling anything out  when  she  hopes  for a favourable update by 7 February? Good luck with that.

The head of the civil service throws in his mite of pressure..

 David Sterling, says that it will be incredibly difficult if there is no certainty over the Stormont budget by 8 February.

In reply there is not the slightest sign that  Sinn Fein are impressed while on direct rule the DUP seem to be saying bring it on as it puts them centre stage, according to Mark Devenport, who has more material on the meteorological weather outside Stormont than the political weather inside.

I suppose the question should be asked: Would returning  ministers of the type and competence were familiar with  make any difference to  solving difficult problems?

In the Irish News, Sinn Fein sympathiser Brian...


DUPs rudeness, boorishness and discourtesy, or Sinn Feins eternal flight from pragmatism? "IndyWatch Feed"

So Northern Irelands missing democracy disappeared a year ago. So says the Economist. And it notes that this

is partly because the negotiations have been punctuated by bouts of electoral combat. Elections to the suspended Assembly last March produced a surge in support for Sinn Fein. The general election in June saw the DUP stage a recovery, increasing its tally of MPs to ten.

This proved crucial when Theresa May fell short of a majority and persuaded the DUP to prop up her government, in return for 1bn ($1.4bn) in new funding for the province, or more than 500 per person.

Republicans believe that the British governments dependence on the DUP for its survival has undermined its role as an impartial broker in the talks.

The other aggravating factor is Brexit. Most republicans oppose it, since it would weaken ties with the Republic of Ireland. Most unionists support it, for exactly the same reason.

I spent some of yesterday in and around Leinster House in Dublin taking soundings from various TDs and backroom operators and I got the impression that the high level of anxiety of the last few years has substantially subsided.

Theres a general sense that endless speculation over what Brexit might look like is not as important as finding the right response to the precise shape of the final deal. Whatever it is.

The Phoenix (VOL 36, No 1) saved itself the bother of offering any serious analysis by putting this paean to bad bread-themed jokes on the front page

According to its state of the nation analysis, Northern Irelands democracy has fallen foul of the DUPs sheer rudeness, boorishness and discourtesy towards the Republics minister for Foreign Affairs and points out that Arlene wont talk to him about anything related to the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. As per the Good Friday Agreement, which set up mechanisms to deal with such matters.

In the Irish Times Denis Bradley is...


Candidate Lpez Obrador faces dilemma before the drug lords "IndyWatch Feed"

Lpez Obrador, the presidential candidate leading the polls in Mexico, does not rule out the possibility of granting amnesty to the leaders of the drug cartels. Taboo, or pragmatism? Espaol

A soldier of the Mexican Army begins the destruction of a confiscated field of marijuana. Susana Gonzalez DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

 This article is published as part of our series Which Violence in Latin America? in partnership with the University of Santiago in Chile.

A few weeks ago, during a campaign visit to the state of Guerrero, Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador (AMLO), the presidential candidate who is currently leading the opinion polls, indicated that he did not rule out the possibility of granting amnesty to the leaders of the drug cartels, if that were necessary to achieve peace in the country.

The statement came as a reply to a question by a reporter: "Will this amnesty reach the cartel leaders?" Lpez Obrador was quick to answer: "This is a possibility that deserves consideration. I am currently studying it. We shall not leave out any issue, if it can bring peace and relief. "

The big questions are what are the risks of granting amnesty and whether, if granted, amnesty would actually help reduce criminal violence in Mexico.

Undoubtedly, this is a controversial proposal. It has generated intense debates in the Mexican media and academic circles on the need to implement effective strategies to mitigate the impact of violence related to drug trafficking. The big questions are what are the risks of granting amnesty and whether, if granted, amnesty would actually help reduce criminal vi...


Former Newry Publican takes up role as Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance "IndyWatch Feed"

Sue Gray, Director General, Propriety and Ethics Team in Cabinet Office will take up a new role as the as Permanent Secretary at the Department of Finance. Described by some as The most powerful person youve never heard and going by the nickname Deputy God many as seeing this as the government gearing up for direct rule. She has family connections in Northern Ireland so maybe she just fancied a break from London, who knows. You can live a great lifestyle in Belfast on a salary of 140k.

Rather bizarrely she once ran a pub outside Newry. The Times reports:

Sue Gray, 60, who also oversaw the Plebgate inquiry, took an unusual career break in the 1980s, running The Cove public house near Newry with her husband, Bill Conlon, a country and western singer.

The pub, popular with both Protestants and Catholics, was less than 10 miles from the Irish border in a region so violent it was dubbed Bandit Country. It has since closed down.

She was a good landlady, said Adrian Fegan, who drank at the pub when Gray owned it with her husband.

It will be a novelty having a civil servant with experience of running a business in the real world. I wish her the best of luck.


A Year Without Government Series: Part II "IndyWatch Feed"

This article makes up the second part of a series that takes a satirical look back on the last year and a bit of Northern Irish Politics. The following was written entirely tongue in cheek and none of it should be taken very seriously. Find Part I here.

The Assembly Election Debate

It is a time honoured tradition of the Assembly election cycle that the BBC and UTV bring representatives from the five largest parties into a room together to shout over each other. Even though it had only been a year since we had partially heard what each of the parties had to say the broadcasters decided it would be somehow worthwhile to repeat this process. Maybe if you listen to both the debates, this years and last years, together youd be able to piece together one whole cohesive thought between the interruptions. I could only bring myself to watch on of the debates so here are my thoughts on the BBC NI leaders debate:

This years debate was quite different from last years. The DUP and Sinn Fein are normally in the position by now that they know they will have to work together and so avoid criticising each other too heavily, this was not the case and they went after each other hard. Both Isolated and having to defend having caused the collapse of Stormont neither held up well.

Foster for the DUP and ONeill for Sinn Fein floundered at the mercy of Mike Nesbitt for the UUP, Colm Eastwood for the SDLP and Naomi Long for Alliance, not to mention the studio audience asking the questions.

In what seemed like an attempt not to lose her temper Arlene Foster appeared distant and a lacking in any passion towards the issues she was talking about. She even managed to deliver the line I share their anger, I share their frustration with no emotion whatsoever.

Sinn Feins new leader Michelle ONeill was showing her lack of practice in public debate with many of her lines coming across as rehearsed and delivered at a million miles an hour. She did however start to show promise while describing Sinn Feins aim to represent all people following Arlenes apparent pledge to offer representation for only the unionist population (good job Arlene, fight those stereotypes). ONeill also managed to deliver one of the most memorable lines of the night, when challenged by Foster for interrupting and asked what about a wee bit of respect, Michelle? her quip back of what about respecting the public? received a large applause from the studio audience.



I got called in by the KGB. They said there were no LGBT people in Transnistria "IndyWatch Feed"

In Transnistria, an unrecognised territory between Moldova and Ukraine, documentary photography is becoming one of the most effective tools for talking about taboo and controversial subjects. RU

Karolina Dutka, photo from the project "No silence". Published with the permission of the author.In October 2016, photographer Carolina Dutca was preparing for the opening of an exhibition of her work in Tiraspols Club 19. But after she posted an announcement about it online, she was asked to visit Transnistrias security services.

Dutcas No Silence photo project was the first public declaration that an LGBT community exists in the unrecognised republic, and the authorities were not happy with it. Pressure from law enforcement agencies ensured that the exhibition did not take place.

A year later, the project had been exhibited in Ukraine, Moldova and the Czech Republic, while almost anyone with an internet connection in her own republic knew about her work as well. Since then Carolina has completed several photo projects on subjects that no one in Transnistria is yet prepared to talk about. Now shes planning to put all her efforts into covering social issues and setting up a creative community that she hopes will help develop civil society in Transnistria.

I met up with Carolina to talk about how art can be the most effective way to start a conversation about sensitive subjects.

Tell me in some more detail about what happened with your LGBT exhibition?

CD: I hid the fact that I was working on a project on LGBT issues until the very last moment, because I knew there might be problems. A day before the KGB contacted me I posted an announcement about the exhibition on Typical Transnistria, our most popular VKontakte social media group. Overnight, about 700 comments appeared, with...


A day in the life of an NHS nurse - how our government is failing both patients and nurses "IndyWatch Feed"

Last year 33,000 nurses left the NHS, 3,000 more than were recruited. Theres a simple solution - resisted by a government determined to press ahead with piecemeal privatisation.

If you take a look at the average daily workload of an NHS nurse, you can see how it would drive any but the most committed to leave the underpaid and undervalued profession.

Average staffing levels in NHS wards means that there are 9 patients per nurse. In elderly care wards the average is 11 patients per nurse. The reality for nurses is it can be as much as 10 or 12 patients per nurse on a medical ward, and 14 to 16 patients per nurse on an elderly ward. The National Institute of Clinical Excellent (NICE) and nursing unions recommend no more than 8 patients per nurse, yet 40% of NHS nurses reported to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) that they are working with ratios higher than this.

Imagine you're a nurse with a 12 hour shift. It's meant to only be 11 hours work because you're meant to have a one hour break (which you aren't paid for) but you'll probably end up working through it. You have 10 patients who you have to help wash, give their medications three times a day, and do a minimum of three sets of observations throughout the day. You also have wound dressings to change for several of your patients, and several need help toileting throughout the day. Some may be bed bound and require full double handed care, requiring another nurse to help you.

You also need to speak to the medical team for each of them to chase up their plans. Several need to be sent for scans, and you need to speak to the porters and x-ray, CT or ultrasound and get them sent down. Dementia patients or those who are falls risk can require an escort so you have to find someone to go with them.

If you're on a surgical ward you will have a couple of patients on Patient Controlled Analgesia, or epidurals needing hourly monitoring, as well as observations hourly for those returning from theatre, hourly sliding scales for diabetes patients, Naso-Gastric or Total Parenteral Nutrition feeds needing checking and monitoring. Alongside that youre trying to safely take multiple patients to theatres...


Claire Mitchell joins the Slugger team as Community Editor "IndyWatch Feed"

We are pleased to welcome a new member to the Slugger team. Claire Mitchell will be coming on board as Community Editor. Claire has been one of the most popular writers on Slugger over the past year with many of her posts getting well over 10,000 readers.

Slugger continues to go from strength to strength. Last year we had over a million readers, 1343 posts, and over 6 million pages of content read. There were also around 115,000 comments made over the year.

As you will know the comments section is a crucial feature of Slugger, but with such a volume we need some extra hands on board.

Claire will also be helping to bring on board new writers. We are confident with her help we can grow Slugger even more in 2018.

If you are interested in writing for Slugger you can contact Claire at: or via Twitter.


Guardians of the Property: pop-up housing for pop-up people "IndyWatch Feed"

Property guardians a win-win for everyone (except squatters)? Or a new class of exploitation thats taken root amidst the housing crisis in London and European cities?

Image: WikiCommons

Across London and other European cities, a new way of living is taking root: property guardianship. Blocks of flats, police stations, social housing, libraries, offices, warehouses, schools buildings that have been taken out of use are occupied by a new anti-squatting measure: people who guard property by living in it. Whilst ostensibly a win-win situation for everyone, this industry is a symptom of the desperate state of urban housing and ultimately reinforces the factors that caused it, as well as normalising lower conditions and precarity.

The pitter patter of a keyboard hums in the dust-speckled London space. Two tattered sofas in the corner are dwarfed by 70 square metres of open office space. Matthew, a thirtysomething freelance documentary film-maker, is working from home. One floor down, along from an old reception area, is a makeshift kitchen shared with 12 other people. Matthew is a property guardian, one of many thousands living in European cities such as London. Property guardianship started out in the 1990s in the Netherlands as Anti-Kraak (anti-squat), a way to counter squatting. The owner of a building would employ a company to manage the building until it was sold, demolished, or redeveloped. That company would find people often students and artists who needed cheap living and working space to live in the building for below market rents and very short-notice agreements. The building would remain occupied, and thus secured against squatting. Some of these companies are set up for the sole purpose of property guardianship while for others property guardianship is one option in their portfolio of security measures. These businesses have since spread from the Netherlands to other parts of Europe; industry pioneer Camelot Europe has offices in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, and France.

Whilst initially seen as a marginal and stopgap solution for students or artists, prope...


Tunisians oppose the IMF "IndyWatch Feed"

The Tunisian working class fight against poverty, corruption and unemployment is ever more present.

Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved. Tunis. January 2018. Ines Mahmoud. All rights reserved.For the past three weeks the streets of Tunisia have been echoing screams for freedom, dignity and justice. These same calls led to the overthrow of Ben Alis dictatorship seven years ago.

Fed up with newly imposed austerity measures, the people are taking their anger to the streets to send a clear message to the government. A big national protest is now being organised for January 26. The Tunisian working class fight against poverty, corruption and unemployment is ever more present.

A new campaign under the slogan of Fech nstenew? (what are we waiting for?) is going viral against the neoliberal governments policies.

The demands are a reduction in the prices of basic goods, an end to the privatization of public institutions, free education, social and health care for the unemployed as well as social welfare and housing for low-income families. 

In its first weeks, the movement reached a nation-wide mobilization with protests erupting all over the country. However, they have been met with harsh repression; nearly 800 protestors and activists have been arrested with one protestor having been killed.

This new Finance Act was put into effect on the 1 January 2018, entailing price increases of basic goods such as food, electricity a...


Job Advert: Editorial assistant "IndyWatch Feed"

Come and work with openDemocracy! A great entry-level editorial role at a growing media organisation.

Shutterstock/erce. All rights reserved.

openDemocracy is looking for a talented and creative Editorial Assistant to support our global team of editors and contributors.

Hours: full time (35 hours per week)
Compensation: 23,000 per annum plus pension & annual cost of living pay rises
Contract: Permanent
Location: London office
Application deadline: 7th February 2018

About openDemocracy

openDemocracy (established in 2001) is a global, non-profit media platform that seeks to challenge power and inspire change through tenacious reporting, thoughtful analysis and democratic debate. We run deep investigations; we partner with NGOs, think tanks, activists and academics across the world; and we have an open submissions policy committed to diversity of voice and perspective. We publish in Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese as well as English, with an ambition to bring on more languages. We also partner on major global conferences, and occasionally run specialist on-the-ground events ourselves, bringing together innovative activists and thinkers from across the globe to try and solve some of the worlds most entrenched problems.

The role

We are looking for an editorial assistant who will bring imagination and energy both to editorial and administrative work. You will be supporting the Main Site ed...


Last week on OpenGlobalRights: bridging different rights movements, shifting funding power, and re-imagining democracy. "IndyWatch Feed"

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, authors debated the value of cross-movement collaborations, the need to shift the power in human rights funding and decision-making, and how to re-imagine democracy in 2018.

Last week on OpenGlobalRights, Claudia Samcam discussed the value of using cross-movement collaborations to tackle the increasing complexity of human rights problems. Jenny Barry argued that funders will see more powerful results when they put decision-making into the hands of local activists. Finally, Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah outlined the five key battles in 2018 that will face human rights defenders trying to re-imagine democracy in our rapidly changing world.

We continuously publish new content and create different themes for debate and dialogue. Stay informed by subscribing here for weekly updates. Interested in writing for us? Click here for submission guidelines.



Heart attack? Patients dying after waiting hours for ambulances blamed on cuts to NHS services "IndyWatch Feed"

Before the Conservatives started cutting frontline emergency services, ambulances could usually be relied on to arrive within minutes of being called:

Speed of response is especially important in emergencies where the patient is in cardiac arrest, in which delays of minutes or even seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

But today, after 7 years of Tory cuts, a whistleblower at a large Ambulance Trust has revealed emergency patients are now sometimes having to wait hours for an ambulance to arrive leading to scores of deaths.

An unnamed non-executive director of the East of England Ambulance Trust has leaked a dossier of recent ambulance call outs with response times from initial call to times of arrival and the outcomes for the patients.

It shows patients dying after having to wait as long as 16 hours for an ambulance:



Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video] "IndyWatch Feed"

How can the Egyptian revolution reveal clues and unlock ideas about the changing nature of politics and organization, the meaning of revolution, and notions of failure and success?

Rules of the revolutionary square in Tahrir Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy, Tahrir Square, 2011. All rights reserved. The seven-year anniversary of the 25 January Egyptian Revolution, an event that captured global attention and inspired countless movements, provides an opportune moment to reflect on the state of politics today. French philosopher Alain Badiou was among the first major intellectual figures to theorize the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings and articulate their historical significance in his book, The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings (Verso, 2012). Badiou bore witness to the unfolding of May 1968 in France, an event to which he maintains fidelity. Badiou acknowledges that with Egypt, movement based politics entered a new phase in the historical process. It remains to be seen if and how the event of the Egyptian revolution can reveal clues and unlock ideas about the changing nature of politics and organization, the meaning of revolution, and notions of failure and success.

The event of 25 January 2011 has been challenged to its core, to put it mildly. Seven years on, the promise, openness, social solidarity, explosive creativity and social experimentation exemplified by Tahrir Square, but by no means limited to it, has for many been supplanted by cynicism, if not despair, crackdowns, further hardships, and retreat. Whatever the situation and mood today, the movement offered, in the words of Badiou, a new proposition, even if fleeting and obscure. At the same time, the movement has been supplanted by the circle, a cycle whereby entre...

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Tuesday, 23 January


NEGLECTED VOICES 1. "IndyWatch Feed"

Over the past several decades of national (and international), social and political turmoil the popular media (Television, Radio, Newspapers, Magazines) has remained dominated by the opinions and assertions of the 20th century educated middle-classes. This is a mileu whose representatives already think they know what is right and wrong with the world, how it should be modified and ultimately what the world should look like in the future. Paid to sit around studio tables in front of cameras, they confidently express their opinions on every conceivable topic. Even when they disagree, they do so only on minor points and it becomes clear that the future they seek is one very much tailored to their own needs and desires.

Therefore it is not hard to deduce that the majority of them envisage a present and future world in which the working classes, dutifully produce all the goods and services necessary for a comfortable middle-class existence. Nor is it hard to deduce from their discussions that they have a shared expectation concerning working people now and in the future. It comprises of the following. That ordinary working people will deferentially accept the inferior remuneration and status granted to them for providing these much needed necessities and luxuries to the classes economically and socially above them. At best they have a scenario in mind, which is very much in line with the post-Second World War consensus. In the UK, a sort of renewed Spirit of 1945 welfare condescension but with ample air miles, prestige car...


Transforming the powers: the continuing relevance of Walter Wink "IndyWatch Feed"

Any attempt to transform a social system without addressing both its spirituality and its outer forms is doomed to failure.

Credit: By Francois Polito (Own work) GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

But the bank is only made of man. No, youre wrong therequite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. Its the monster. Men made it, but they cant control it. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.

Most people want a world without militarism, poverty, sexual exploitation, white supremacy and the despoiling of nature. Yet we find it so difficult to achieve such a world. One reason is that our social, economic and political structures powerfully resist transformation, as Steinbeck made clear in his description of the banking system as a monster that cannot be controlled.

The American theologian Walter Wink (who died in 2012) made it his lifes work to help us understand these monsters and how to loosen their hold through an interpretation of Christianity that makes the core insights of biblical faith available to social change agents, both religious and secular.

Trained as a New Testament specialist, Wink is best known for his Powers trilogy beginning with Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament in 1984, followed by Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence in 1986, and ending with the magisterial Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, published in 1992. He also wrote several shorter works that flesh out the trilogys core insights.

Wink argues in Naming the Powers...


Who killed Iryna Nozdrovska? "IndyWatch Feed"

The murder of a prominent female lawyer in Ukraine questions the progress of reform and revolution.

The murder of Iryna Nozdrovska has been seen as a litmus test for justice sector reform. Image courtesy of the author.On the day she disappeared, Iryna Nozdrovska took a bus from the Heroes of the Dnipro metro station in north Kyiv to the village of Demydiv, where she lived with her elderly parents and 18 year-old daughter Anastasiya. Two days before, Nozdrovska had sat in a court that blocked the amnesty of Dmytro Rossoshansky, the man who had been convicted for running over and killing Irynas younger sister Svitlana two years before. At the time of Svitlanas death, Dmytros great uncle, a judge, was the head of a local district court. In Ukraine, police reform has been heralded as one of Maidans flagship reforms, one that would get rid of endemic corruption and selective justice but it has faced mounting public criticism, especially in light of the Nozdrovska case.

The seven-year sentence against Rossoshansky was the result of a long fight which had seen Iryna quit her job to concentrate on a case she felt the police and the court were intent on burying. According to Ukrainian MP Mustafa Nayyem, a member of Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Dmytro Rossoshanskys father had threatened Nozdrovska during the court session, telling her: You will come to a bad end. Iryna had a car, but lately the 38-year-old lawyer hadnt been using it, her parents told me, as she was saving on petrol. Buses to Demydiv drive north through Kyiv, first going past high rises and then through expanses of forest. They play shanson or contemporary pop songs. The ride itself takes about half an hour. People say the road is good: it leads to Mezhyhirya, what used to be former president Viktor Yanukovychs luxury estate.

When I visited Irynas relatives on the Sunday following her funeral, it was snowing. Two policemen had been dispatched to ensure the familys protection. Theres two houses on the property. A smaller, antiquated one, where the parents live, and a new one, where Iryna lived with her daughter. Sitting in a room full of children toys, where the TV, the mirrors and the icons were covered with towels, Irynas parents seemed to have been made smaller by...


New thinking at Stormont doesnt matter if its not backed up by new governance "IndyWatch Feed"

Jonny McCormick has got a Bachelors degree in Biblical Studies and a Masters degree in International Peacekeeping. Jonny writes about politics, business & anything else that pops into his head. Get in touch with Jonny on Twitter @jonnymccormick

I recently moved back to Northern Ireland after 5 years living in England. I was delighted to be moving back. Id be closer to family. I could afford to buy a house. I could access a more reliable public transport system and generally enjoy a much more relaxed and better standard of living. The one thorn in my side was knowing the utter chaos of the political situation that was awaiting me back home. I was dreading coming back to a non-functioning government with self-interested parties fighting to restore a dysfunctional system.

Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 the current incarnation of the Northern Ireland Assembly has used mandatory power-sharing as way of managing disagreements between the main parties.. The application of mandatory coalition is straight from the consociational theory playbook. Consociational theory is most simply understood as a model of governance used to manage societies that have suffered a prolonged and entrenched ethnic conflict. It all sounds good so far. Who wouldnt be on board with a model of government specifically designed to help Northern Ireland put to bed a divisive and bloody conflict? However, the question must now be asked: is this model of government, which is designed to help us transition out of conflict, what is holding us back?

The current political stalemate

The reasons for the current suspension of the Northern Ireland are well documented. Of course, there is a lack of consensus on whether or not the collapse of our devolved institutions were necessary and whether theyll lead to the changes that they sought to achieve. However there appears to be a general consensus amongst the public that wed like to see politicians back on the hill doing everything that theyre elected to do. So how to we achieve that?

There has been a lot of talk, politicking and gesturing about how new thinking is the cure all solution to get the parties back into government. This new thinking would allow our locally elected representatives to pass bills, debate motions, produce a budget, make much needed changes to the education system, and promote Northern Ireland on the global stage. So, is new thinking the elixir that will get us back on track? I dont think it is. I actually think its the wrong thing to focus onmuch like fixing a leaking tap in a burning building.

New governance

Id suggest that actually the focus should be on reforming our devolved government. There has been slow progress in moving towards a more normalised form of government thats use...


The Post surefooted newspaper drama with obvious modern parallels "IndyWatch Feed"

Its hard to beat a film about the newspaper industry and Steven Spielbergs new film The Post does not disappoint with its retelling of a few turbulent but formative weeks in the life of The Washington Post in the early 1970s, pre-Watergate.

A government-commissioned report running to thousands of pages is locked up, commissioned for future historians to look back with perspective on the US governments role in the war in Vietnam. When New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan (Justin Swain) gets hold of a copy, the Nixon White House takes legal action to silence the treasonable paper which reveals that the successive presidents have been lying to the public about progress and the unlikelihood of success.

Meanwhile, Washington Post executives are working through their last minute jitters about floating on the Stock Exchange while the editor pushes his staff to get access to a copy of the report and make their own headlines. What ensues is a battle that clarifies the previously blurred lines between journalists and politicians (and particularly Presidents) in Washington, and tests the resolve of The Washington Posts publisher to fulfil her mission to hold those in power to account.

We cant have an administration dictating to us our coverage just because they dont like what we print about them in our newspaper

These are themes that other recent films have explored, particularly Darkest Hour in which the new Prime Minister is seen to mislead the country in a radio broadcast that vastly overplays the prognosis for Allied forces in France. And they are themes that all too frequently play out in contemporary news bulletins documenting the 45s US Presidents recurring attacks on the media. But Trump isnt the only leader who would seek to shape the news.

Meryl Streep plays Kay Graham, the family heires...


Engaging with Readers "IndyWatch Feed"

Eccles Cakes Eccles LibraryYesterday, together with several other Memoir Writers, I took part in my first Facebook event, which was an opportunity for us to talk about our books and for people to ask questions. Each of us who had signed up to the event had an average of an hour to be the focus of attention, while Brenda Mohammed (a prolific autobiographer living in Trinidad and Tobago) moderated. You can catch up with the discussion here:

Writing can be a lonely business, as by necessity one needs to spend large amounts of time undisturbed at ones desk (or wherever one writes most fluently) day after day for months or even years on end. When I first started publishing books, the only contact I had with readers was the occasional letter that someone would write, sent to me via the publisher. Book signings which I did for three of my books: George Fox and the Children of the Light Soho in the Fifties and Sixties and my childhood memoir Eccles Cakes  were an opportunity to meet some readers face-to-face, though inevitably those encounters were brief and superficial. However, with the development of new communication tools and peoples changing expectations, readers are often no longer satisfied just to be passive consumers, but instead want to engage more meani...


Republican paramilitary group Oglaigh na hEireann calls ceasefire.. "IndyWatch Feed"

Allison Morris breaks the news that Republican group Oglaigh an hEireann have announced a ceasefire. The group claimed the life of PSNI man Ronan Kerr and attempted to kill another Peadar Heffron.

Allison also provides short analysis piece on the background

That most of the leadership originated from the IRA meant it already had possession of large amounts of weaponry held back from decommissioning by hardline elements in south Armagh, along with contacts with arms dealers in eastern Europe.

However, this also meant that many key figures were already well known to the intelligence agencies who invested huge amounts of time and money in monitoring their activities.

When Seamus McGrane was convicted in the Republics Special Criminal Court of directing terrorism in November last year, it was based on a covert surveillance operation.

The removal of other leadership figures in Belfast and Derry, either jailed or remanded, also brought about a slow-down of the groups activities.

A nationalist re-engagement in politics, as seen by increased turnout in the two snap elections of 2017, and discussions around a border poll post-Brexit, has also opened up the political process to more republicans.

The remaining dissident groupings are fractured and disorganised, with attacks sporadic and activity largely concentrating on money-making criminal enterprises or paramilitary shootings within their own communities.

The older leadership of ONH were keen to distance themselves from that and taking themselves out of the equation will be seen as a way to put space between them and smaller organised crime gangs.



Social media and the problem of hidden identities "IndyWatch Feed"

Jamie Bryson is a well known anti-agreement Loyalist activist with an interest in law, politics and writing. He is author of My Only Crime Was Loyalty, an account of his role in the Union Flag protests and his subsequent lengthy and complex criminal trial.

There is a great hypocrisy within Northern Irelands social media orbit. There is also a great vacuum whereby harassment, trolling and outright abuse is viewed as lovable trolling, so long as the right people are targeted. Namely those with unfashionable, or old fashioned, social views.

If a socially conservative individual tweets anything, and I literally mean anything, then they are usually subjected to the most vile abuse by a legion of liberal trolls. This, in the left leaning world of social media, is socially acceptable.

Emma Little-Pengelly is a good example. She posted a picture of her Christmas tree in her family home. A little bit of good natured festive cheer, a perfectly normal thing to share on social media. She was subjected to a plethora of vile, abusive and nasty tweets which targeted her appearance, her family, her political views and just, it seemed, her very right to even breath the same air as some of those who had deemed her a legitimate target.

The same applies to Ruth Dudley Edwards. It appears she is another who has been deemed a legitimate target by the liberal mob on social media. Her every tweet, her every opinion piece, is greeted with an explosion of nasty and personally abusive trolling.

I live with a daily barrage of abuse, and that in of itself doesnt bother me. It goes with the territory. What bothers me is the hypocrisy of the liberal elite. If such abuse was directed towards a socially acceptable liberal, some of those that join in abusing me would be calling for Amnesty International to get involved.

One political figure even couched their recent condemnation of my child being subjected to abuse on social media by effectively saying it was understandable, given that I opposed same-sex marriage. Let us follow the logic of that; if you take a particular position on social issues then you have to accept that vile abuse directed towards you, and your children, is inevitable.

We must, of course, differentiate between challenging the arguments someone puts forward, and even offensive speech, and nasty and abusive harassment. The two are not the same things.

The trolls often rely upon the argument of Freedom of Expression to justify their behaviour. Freedom of Expression has legitimate constraints, it is not absolute. If you walk into a bar to watch a football match, and a supporter of the opposing team storms across the bar and starts screaming vile personal abuse in your face, you would expect most reasonable people would look on in horror...

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Monday, 22 January


Grassroots Campaign for Irish Language Legislation transformed political discourse, but where are we now and how can we help deliver meaningful change? "IndyWatch Feed"

Ciarn Mac Giolla Bhin writes for Slugger about the upcoming talks and the Irish Language Act

On Wednesday our local political parties, this time the 5 main parties as they are described in the media, will return to the table to try and flesh out a deal which would allow for the Executive to be formed and the MLAs to take their seats in the Assembly once more. The issues in the to be resolved box is much the same as it was this time last year, the only substantive difference is this time the seat occupied by the Secretary of State will no longer have James Brokenshire sitting in it but Karen Bradley. Whether or not an outside chair will be brought in and what power they would have remains to be seen.

With every month that passed during 2017, whatever optimism existed that a quick deal could be reached dissipated and was replaced by a grudging acceptance that this was a crisis unlike that in late 2015 which led to the Fresh Start Agreement. Commentators and pundits alike talked of a fundamental shift in politics, driven partly by macro political issues like Brexit and Coalitions in Westminster, alongside the re-emergence of protest and community-led campaigns on the streets. Undoubtedly, the biggest, most consistent and most vocal of these campaigns was that of an Dream Dearg for an Irish language Act. An issue which had spent the previous 3 years on the margins and was rapidly falling off the political richter scale was catapulted to the main political issue of 2017. Despite the more recent, retrospective analysis of politicians and commentators that are hostile to an Irish language Act, this issue has not been plucked from the sky as some kind of arbitrary Sinn Fin Red Line to ensure no deal was made while simultaneously allowing them to save face with nationalist electorate. In fact, quite the opposite.

As stated on previously on this site, the campaign re-emerged in late 2016 in response to a lack of progress on rights for Irish speakers generally (as indicated by a draft programme for Government which airbrushed Irish out of existence) coupled with brazen and openly biased regressive decisions against the language; see Lofa grants, the renaming of boats and countless attacks on Irish medium schools as examples.

The attempts to dehumanise and delegitimize those activists, citizens and young people as merely political activists as Arlene Foster described us in April 2017 or in more recent times the reduction of the organic community-led campaign, the biggest seen here for a long year, to Sinn Fin Red Line ignores the reality that those parties (SF, SDLP, All, GPNI, PBP and a majority of MLAs) calling for an Irish Language Act did so as a result of a powerful organic campaign. To ignore that reality inevitably makes resolution much more difficult.

The question of the Irish language Act has b...


Beware of shady hard-right pro-privatisation extremists posing as reliable experts "IndyWatch Feed"

On January 21st 2018 the Sunday Times ran a scaremongering story claiming that Jeremy Corbyn's renationalisation plans would be a "176 billion gamble".

On further investigation the Centre for Policy Studies report that this "176 billion gamble" headline is derived from was written by a former adviser to the Tory MP Amber Rudd and the unelected Tory lord Nigel Lawson called Daniel Mahoney

The Sunday Times conveniently forget to mention that the author of the report they've churnalised into an anti-Corbyn hatchet job is an outright Tory!

Aside from uncritical appraisals of his "report" in numerous right-wing newspapers, Mahoney was also invited onto the BBC to opine about why the Carillion collapse isn't a demonstration of the failure of the hard-right privatisation and outsourcing agenda, without them even bothering to explain that he's a Tory. Neither did they identify his Tory party links when they quoted his objections to Labour's plan to bring hospital cleaning services back into public hands.

Then there's the fact that the Sunday Times article tried to dress the Centre For Policy Studies up as some kind of neutral and impartial "think tank" when in fact they're undeniably a shady hard-right pressure group that is completely riddled with Tory politicians and Tory party donors (see image).



A Year Without Government Series: Part I of III "IndyWatch Feed"

This week will mark one year since the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and one year without government in Northern Ireland. Over the next few articles from myself on this site I hope to take a satirical and hopefully comical look back on the events of this year and how we managed to find ourselves in the situation. The following was written entirely tongue in cheek and none of it should be taken very seriously.

How did we get here?

Do you like burning stuff? Perhaps you are a frequenter of the 11th night bonfires or the feast of assumption bonfires on the 15th of August where massive amounts of wood pallets are burnt every year for the hell of it? But maybe this just isnt enough for you, you want to burn wood all year round.

Well youre in luck because now the government in Northern Ireland will pay you to constantly burn wood pellets for no good reason, and who says government is wasteful? In a rush of Orange fervour the government accidentally subsidised the burning of pellets rather than pallets, but its an easy mistake to make and who cares,  you can just pretend to have a mini bonfire night all the time.  Hurry though, offer only lasts as long as nobody realises, which turns out to be quite a while. 490m of tax payers money later kind of a while to be exact. This is of course the Renewable Heat Incentive or RHI scandal, the government scheme to save the environment that involved paying people to burn stuff, regardless of whether the energy they were producing was doing anything more useful than heating and empty barn.

This scheme was actually introduced UK wide but when it came to implementing it here the Northern Ireland Assembly decided to make one key change, they failed to put a cap on the amount of money they would give to each individual under the scheme. This meant that for every 1 you spent installing and feeding your wood pellet burner the government would pay you 1.60. It doesnt take a genius to figure out how this could be exploited. People and businesses across Northern Ireland suddenly decided that empty barns needed heating, that their chickens would actually prefer a more tropical climate and that is never too early to start preheating your beef even when its still alive and wandering around a shed at the end of your yard.

This scheme was set up by the DUP and more specifically by the leader of the DUP Arlene Foster during her time Environment minister. When Sinn Fein heard about this they were livid, how dare their partners in governme...


Monolithic NHS should back Northern Ireland Randoxs pioneering blood testing techniques "IndyWatch Feed"

Randox  the global medical diagnostics company with principal research and manufacturing facilities in Crumlin Co Antrim, Dungloe Co Donegal, Bangalore, India and Washington DC has just been singled out for favourable mention by the Times science columnist Matt Ridley. He writes that its leading edge blood diagnostic techniques for cancer are not being adopted quickly enough by a sclerotic NHS.

Randox was established in 1982 by its Managing Director, Dr Peter FitzGerald in Crumlin, and has since expanded globally. (see Wikipedia)

Randox manufactures more clinical diagnostic products than any other company in the world. It invests more than 16% of profits into R&D, and almost a quarter of its staff are research scientists and engineers. [4]

Following the development of Randox Health the first public facing division the company became the title sponsor of the Randox Health Grand National.

One minor key note.

Police have suspended all contracts with a drug-testing company amid allegations of data manipulation.

Randox Testing Services (RTS) in Manchester was investigated after two scientists were arrested on suspicion of tampering with data.

Police minister Nick  Hurd told MPs: The police have suspended all contracts as I understand it with Randox.

Randox are co-operating with us fully on the priority, which is to identify the priority cases [and] get the retesting done as quickly as possible.

The extracts from Ridleys article give the gist but he article is well worth reading in full ().

The leaders of the Northern Irish company Randox, a world-leading pioneer in blood diagnostics with proteins, tear their hair out at how little they are able to benefit their home market, as opposed to overseas. They have tests that could save lives and money on a grand scale by earlier and fewer treatments. But the monolithic NHS cannot find it within its budget silos to buy such tests. Elsewhere in the world innovations that save lives and money are much more welcome.

The NHS...

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Sunday, 21 January


The Post ***** "IndyWatch Feed"

The PostThe Pentagon Papers (at least some of them) were published by the New York Times and Washington Post in the summer of 1971, just before I set off for the second time for Vietnam, to cover President Nguyen Van Thieus re-election (he was the only candidate; he won). Though the explosion caused by the publication of details of how successive US Presidents had lied to the American people about the success of the War was not quite as huge in Britain as it was over the other side of the Atlantic, it meant that Saigon was a pretty febrile place by the time I got there. Steven Spielbergs new film, The Post, opens with scenes of US soldiers in Vietnam very much as I remembered them but most of the movies action takes place in Washington, in the Washington Posts editorial office and at the printing presses, as well as the mansion of proprietor Katherine Graham and grand residences of her friends, including the former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara (for whom actor Bruce Greenwood is made up to be a disconcertingly spitting image). As the title of the film suggests, it is essentially about the newspaper and the way that Kay Graham learned fast how to behave as its owner and to guarantee its bright future in the face of legal challenges launched by the Nixon administration. Authenticity is added by the detailed recreat...


Dissent is an imaginative act as well as a moral one. "IndyWatch Feed"

This long essay by Colin Murphy is essential reading for anyone who is even vaguely disturbed by the group mind approach to the reporting of politics and other matters of public import.

He begins by focusing on Irelands dangerous predilection for consensuses and segues gently into how the liberal consensus is misdirecting journalist into rash and early judgements on supporters of Brexit and Trump..

Speaking truth to power is something were not very good at in this country and culture. The media may do a lot of speaking truth to political and business power, and even celebrity power. But the most pervasive and damaging power is often the social one the power of consensus. This is the country, after all, that invented the boycott.

Eoghan Harris speaks of the clarity crime how anybody speaking clearly gets accused of arrogance. Instead of speaking clearly, we use euphemism.

But theres a paradox here. This lack of clarity of discourse, this fear of speaking our mind, is also the source of some of the unique strength of our literary culture.

Euphemism. Ambiguity. Ambivalence. The unsaid. Silence. Our theatre is threaded through with these. The language of a civic culture that seeks to avoid direct argument, confrontation and clarity becomes a theatrical language incredibly rich in nuance, in evasion, in elision.

He continues

I suspect its a cultural thing, rooted in our history as a rural society, intertwined with Irish Catholicism, postcolonial. The sociologist Niamh Hourigan suggests, for example (in her book Rule Breakers), that Irish history has dictated we as a people would place an inordinately high value on relationships as opposed to rules.

And it has come with a cost

When writing Guaranteed!, I set out to find out who were the people who had seen the Irish bank collapse coming. This took me to London, where I met with a hedge fund manager who had made a lot of money shorting (betting against) the Irish banks.

What had he done and seen that the rest of the financial community, in Ireland but also in the UK, had not? He had looked at the growth rate of Anglo Irish Banks loan book and realised immediately that that kind of growth was off the charts. No bank could grow that quickly while following prudent procedures, he thought.

Anglo had boasted about those growth rates in its presentations. But the rest of the industry saw them, or chose to see them, in the context of th...


A woman in charge is not such a big deal. But two? "IndyWatch Feed"

When Sinn Fin announced on Saturday that Mary Lou McDonald was the sole nominee to succeed Gerry Adams as President of the party, no-one was really surprised. Over the last couple of months since Gerry Adams had announced the timetable of his retirement, it became clear that she would be the person most likely to succeed him. She was Deputy Leader of the party, after all, and what is that role supposed to be if not an apprenticeship?

Lets deal with the woman leader of a political party thing and get that out of the way, shall we? Mary Lou McDonald is not unique in that regard on these islands. On the island of Ireland, Naomi Long leads the Alliance Party, Arlene Foster the DUP, Roisn Shortall the Social Democrats and Mary Harney and Joan Burton previously were party leaders. In Britain, current female leaders of political parties include Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru and Theresa May of the Conservative Party. Earlier this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she will be taking maternity leave when her baby is born later this year and no one batted an eye, so lets nod to a good week for women in politics and leave it at that for now.

There are two much more interesting aspects to the new Sinn Fin leaders succession.

The first is the generational change this marks within the party. With McDonald in Leinster House and Michelle ONeill in Stormont, (and again I am not going to digress into speculating on the likelihood of the talks process which begins this week succeeding) the leadership of the party shifts generations. This is underscored by looking at the age profile of people who have been taking on increasingly visible roles in the party Donnchadh Laoghaire and Niall Donnghaile in Leinster House and Chris Hazzard and Megan Fearon previously in Ministerial roles in Stormont, for example.

In her speech on Saturday, McDonald said: I wont fill Gerry Adams shoes but Ive brought my own. This is a very telling remark, because it signals a leadership that intends to be mindful of the partys past but not bound by it. To borrow a phrase from the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, it is Mary Lou clearly articulating that she will be relying in the first on her own strength.

First elected as an MEP in 2004 and having served as a TD since 2011, McDonald has probably more experience as an elected representative under her belt than others of her generation. She has gained a reputation as a formidable parliamentarian in debates. She has earned the office.

It is worth noting that Nicola Sturgeon, Vince Cable, Brendan Howlin and Brian Cowan, among others, were all unopposed in their party leadership contests too.

The second interesting aspect of McDonalds elevation to the office of Uachtarn Shinn Fin is who will succe...


Carillion: From sunny outlook to bust in just five months "IndyWatch Feed"

By Russell Bruce

One of the things you should do at the start of a new year is have a good look at your finances. It is more than incompetent that Carillion did not carry out a total review of their financial position in January 2016 and January 2017.

In March 2017 Carillion issued their Annual Report for 2016. It was sunny and upbeat with few clues to the underlying issues like the change to director remuneration hidden in 8pt type in a dense section of the report.

They paid a final dividend in June 2017 for the 2016 financial year. Issued a profit warning and cancellation of future dividends in July. The company was short of cash yet paid out that last dividend when prudence would have suggested they needed to retain cash rather than consume what was left of their free cash and borrowing limits.

Keith Cochrane, who had led Weir through a difficult period, became CEO on 10th July 2017. Presented to the City as a new face, things were somewhat different. A qualified chartered accountant, Cochrane knew his way around the boardroom with a long history as a Finance Director and CEO; migrating from Stagecoach to Scottish Power to Weir to Carillion with overlapping directorships.

Cochrane actually became lead non-executive director of Carillion on 2nd July 2015. Even more damming he was on the audit and remuneration committee at Carillion, according to the Sunday Herald, for two years before his elevation as CEO. This was a man with the skills and experience to unravel the core problems at Carillion. Did he speak up? Did he advise against paying that last dividend in 2017 to preserve cash? Did he not see Carillion were going through a period of extreme difficulties that other outsourcing companies had encountered? It is the function of directors to keep an eye on competitors. Did Cochrane think Carillion was immune?

From 2015 through 2016 Cochrane was becoming firmly embedded in the establishment. An opponent of Independence, David Mundell appointed Cochrane  as the lead non-executive director for the Scotland Office and Office of the Advocate General. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2016 Birthday Honours list.

In late September, 3 months from Armageddon, the 2017 interim report indicated reduced operational profits but showed a massive write off against tax on underperforming contracts.



Should we consider a directly elected Mayor for Belfast? "IndyWatch Feed"

Watching the Sunday Politics this morning, I listened to Sinn Fein Councillor Deirdre Hargey and DUP MLA, Gary Middleton discuss the benefits of respective City Deals was could be on their way to Belfast and Derry.

I wanted to throw this idea out into the public sphere to find out more about the process.

David Sweeting has been examining the impact of a directly elected Mayor in Bristol;

Here I discuss two findings that are likely to be of interest in the debate around the introduction of mayors in other cities. The first is that there has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of citizens who agree with the statement, the city of Bristol has visible leadership. It has risen from 24.1 per cent in 2012, before the introduction of the mayoral system, to 68.6 per cent in 2014. This is a startling rise, and provides a boost to those who argued for the introduction of a mayor in Bristol on the basis that existing city leadership lacked sufficient public profile.

The second is that there are very different views on the introduction of the mayor in different sectors of governance in the city. Our survey of civic leaders in 2012, before the introduction of the mayoral system, found that, on the whole, councillors were much less positive about the introduction of a mayor than other respondents from the public, private, and third sectors in the city. This is significant because directly elected mayors are often advocated on the basis that they will facilitate positive relationships across the city beyond the council chamber. Our research suggests that this may well be the case, but there clearly would be work to be done to convince councillors of the benefits of the system.

Now there are opponents of this approach and a very considered argument can be found here.

But for the greater Belfast region could a Mayor elected through PR-STV for a 4 year mandate be something that could help wider local governance?

Answers in the comments section please.


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Wednesday, 17 May


Books Launch Two New Books by Professor Mike Cole "IndyWatch Feed"



Critical Race Theory and Education: a Marxist Response (Revised 2nd Edition)


New Developments in Critical Race Theory and Education: Revisiting Racialized Capitalism and Socialism in Austerity

Both books are published by Palgrave Macmillan: Marxism and Education Series

Professor Mike Cole (ICPuP)

Cass School of Education and Communities

University of East London

Stratford Campus, UEL, ED.2.02

25 May 2017


With an introduction from Professor John Preston (University of East London)

The books address the nature of Critical Race Theory, including its origins, its varieties and its major strength. This is accompanied by a Marxist critique. Particular attention is paid to two of CRTs major tenets, its prioritising of race over class and its use of white supremacy. Also discussed is the perceived decline of BritiCrit. Racialized neoliberal capitalism in the era of austerity and immiseration is also addressed as are CRT and Marxist visions of the future. With respect to educational practice, there is a consideration of multicultural and antiracist education in the UK and the US, and of CRT and Marxist suggestions for classroom practice. Moving to the global perspective, it is argued that the world has become polarised and that while discussion of democratic socialism has become more mainstream, fascistic rhetoric and narratives and neo-fas...

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Tuesday, 21 March


SWAN Dundee win Journal of Social Work Education's Student Activism Award 2017! "IndyWatch Feed"

They are the future of social work, and this the strongest foundation for practice. We are incredibly proud to call them Swan members!

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Thursday, 16 February


What Should You Know About The New 'National Assessment And Accreditation System' "IndyWatch Feed"

What is the NAAS? Why is it problematic in both implementation and intention? Two pieces by SWAN members that you must read.

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Sunday, 11 December



Despite the millions of written or spoken words either for against the Cuban President Fidel Castro after his death and before it, to me the characterisation of his social and political role remains somewhat muddled. For some commentators, he was a brilliant charismatic leader of a revolution which introduced universal education and health care to a country starved of both and in the grips of a corrupt pro capitalists dictatorship. To others he was a ruthless dictator in control of a police state with a disgraceful human rights record and a destroyer of individual initiative and alternative left politicians. Such dualistic partisanship exagerates and distorts, in one favoured direction or the other, his real historical role. It also fails to make clear the evolution of the political positions which he adopted in order to maintain himself (and his inner circle) as the sole political party of the island of Cuba. In fact the reality as it unfolded within Cuba was full of contradictions, and as we shall see they were the contradictions generated by a petite-bourgeois elite.

In Cuba, before what has been described as the revolution in 1956, the ruling strata of Cuban social and political life was headed by the dictator Fulgencia Batista. To enrich themselves and their cronies, this corrupt elite were hand in glove with two exploititive and oppressive institutions based in the USA corporate capitalism and organised crime. This meant that practically the whole population of Cuba was at the mercy of this corrupt combination of brutal and ruthless elites. Not surprisingly the corruption spead elsewhere in Cuba, including all the state institutions, the police and the armed forces. It was this corruption which Fidel Castro sought to eradicate when he petitioned a Cuban Court to have Batista removed from power. When this petition failed (it was not even accepted by the court), Fidel, his brother Raul and some of their supporters tried another tactic. They attempted to capture a military barracks, and failed in this also. Fidel was imprisoned for this failed attempt. He was later released and moved to Mexico where he met Che Guevara.

The Guerrilla phase. (1956 1959)

While they were in Mexico, Fidel and Che recruited other like minded individuals and a group of them covertly sailed back to Cuba. Unfortunately most of them were captured, but Fidel and Che managed to escape into the forested mountain region. From there they began a series of armed confrontations with Batistas army forces. Recruitment to this rural guerrilla force was slow mainly because the socialists and communists in the urban centres did not appear to support Fidel or Ches political goals. For a considerable time the feeling was mutual. Fidel at this early stage did not have political positions based...

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Thursday, 01 December



Any attempt to understand the current political, social or cultural turmoil caused by immigration which does not include the capitalistic economic motive in its analysis, will remain incomplete and distorted. In most, if not all, the more recent media discussions between those arguing for and those arguing against immigration, the economic factor and the key role this plays in capitalist economic cycles has been either downplayed or missing altogether. Yet immigration, in its present form, (as the free movement of labour) is entirely a product of the capitalist mode of production. Strongly expressed opinions for or against the free movement of labour cannot be fully understood until the costs of labour-power in the process of capitalist forms of wealth accumulation are openly recognised.

Those who own or control capital can only maintain or augment its value by using it to make profits or attract interest. If they do not use it in this way, they must live off it and see it decrease in amounts which are commensurate with how they choose to live. Furthermore, the class of capitalists can only maintain their capital or augment it if large numbers of them use it to employ workers to make things or do things which are valuable and can be sold. To do this they must use the capital they control to supply the workers with the tools of production, the means of production and pay them wages or salaries which the workers then use to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families. The trick the capitalist engage in to produce sufficient value in production to produce huge profits is simple, but not immediately obvious.

They pay the workers an amount (in wages or salaries) which is of considerably less value than the value the workers create during their employment. The difference between these two values is the surplus value which is contained within the products (commodities or services) and will be realised in monetary form when these commodities or services are sold. It is obvious that in this production process, the installments of profit accruing to the capitalists will be greater the lower the amount they have to pay to their workers. Therefore, cheap labour has always been the sought after golden goose that has helped the employers of labour-power to amass their past and present fortunes. The free movement of labour is the current method of ensuring the golden goose constantly migrates toward capital.

Low pay equals big profits.

So it is in the interests of those who employ workers to keep wages low, and it is in the interests of those who work to try to keep them at a level which they feel is appropriate to how they want to live. This is the economic basis of wha...

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Sunday, 27 November


Social Work Without Borders Respond to Home Office Guidance on Applying Section 67 in France "IndyWatch Feed"

SWWB have serious concerns with the Home Office guidance issued around the Best Interest Determination process. 

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Saturday, 26 November



In the UK, both Teresa May, Prime Minister and Chancellor Philip Hammond have both recently made statements asserting the need for greater productivity from workers in order to increase their pay from this increased productivity. This proves quite conclusively that despite a university education neither of them understand the economic processes of the capitalist mode of production. They are not on their own. The call for productivity has become commonplace among European elite. As this desire is likely to be replicated almost everywhere among the global elite, it is well worth examining the concept of productivity further.

Productivity, in the economic sense is the rate at which products (commodities, materials and services) are created either as finished products (or as parts and raw materials destined to be used in the production and operation of finished products). The time it takes to produce something under the capitalist mode of production, is the socio-economic basis of its value. So making it quicker reduces its value but other factors being equal, this is compensated to some extent by the fact that there are more products to sell in a given period of time. Hence greater potential profits.

Mr Hammond in his autumn statement to the British Parliament (November 2016) gave the following example. In Germany what took 4 days to complete took 5 days in the UK. In other words German workers were making things quicker than workers in the UK. As a consequence, the UK government wanted UK workers to at least match them or make things in an even shorter time. As noted, the elites alleged motive for desiring UK workers to work faster or more efficiently was so they would get increased wages and salaries.

The secondary (or perhaps primary) implication of this simplistic, not to mention confused, logic being that with increased wages and salaries workers will be able to buy more things or perhaps prevent themselves having to visit a food bank or losing their homes. However, as we shall see there is no direct economic link between what wages are paid (and therefore will buy) and how much is produced in a given time. What wages will purchase also depends upon the cost of living, not how quickly particular workers produce things. Over the last 30 years, productivity has undoubtedly risen everywhere in the advanced capitalist countries but, taken as a whole class, most ordinary working people (white collar and blue) are certainly not better off. Indeed, past increased productivity has had two important and serious effects upon peoples lives. The first has already been mentioned but lets consider it further in the light of Philip Hammonds comparison of British and German workers.

Post War produ...

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Friday, 18 November


Housing for town and country "IndyWatch Feed"

Here is my column from the December issue of the Countryman, available in all good newsagents.

Two recent conversations captured for me, the good and bad sides of the housing debate.

First, I was chatting to a woman hoping to move with her young family from a large town to the sort of village in which she grew up. But almost every village she looks at is facing proposals to double in size in the next few years. We dont want to move somewhere that never changes or grows, she says, but theyre planning to destroy what makes these places special.

These are villages where the local authority is deemed not to have an up to date local plan or an adequate supply of land for housing. Developers circle them with proposals for new estates knowing that they will be hard to turn down. This is not an accident of policy. It is Englands planning policy in 2016. And it is leading to angry resistance across the shires.

More cheeringly I spoke to a man who had settled in an attractive village in his home county, Northamptonshire. He expected his neighbours to be dyed in the wool NIMBYs, but the village now has a neighbourhood plan and those he most expected to resist new homes support them because they have a say over where they will go and how they are built.

The Government publishes a Housing White Paper shortly and I hope Ministers understand that if they try to impose housing, they will face a battle. But if they work with communities, more often than not they will find them willing to embrace change.

Of course, most new homes will be built in larger towns and cities, close to jobs and services. And here CPRE has glad tidings for Ministers. Our analysis of official data shows that there is enough suitable brownfield land to build well over a million new homes in England. A good deal of this land is in London, the south-east and the south-west. And the stock is growing. Lets use it!

CPRE wants to work constructively with the government, as we have for 90 years. The Housing White Paper can set out a path for tackling the housing crisis in ways that benefit both town and country. But if it simply entrenches the current developer-led planning system and ignores the potential of brownfield land, we will have a fight on our hands. And we are up for it.







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Friday, 11 November


VIRGIN CARE: Profiting from Vulnerability. "IndyWatch Feed"

700 million of government money once again diverts into the pockets of the private sector. 

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Tuesday, 25 October


Social Work Without Borders: Update on Calais "IndyWatch Feed"

Read here a brief statement from Social Work Without Borders, who have been tirelessly trying to protect the most vulnerable residents of the Jungle.

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Monday, 24 October


How to intensify the housing crisis "IndyWatch Feed"

Tomorrow the Government will decide how it plans to intensify the housing crisis in the south-east and usher in more strife over house building. In other words, it is going to decide whether it favours expanding Heathrow, Gatwick or both.

The justification for airport expansion in the south-east is largely economic. Both airports have spent astonishing amounts of money lobbying MPs and others.[1] Heathrow, we are told, will add 211 billion to the UK economy by 2050 and create 80,000 new jobs in London and the South East. Gatwicks backers claim a second runway will generate 21,000 jobs at the airport, as well as indirect and catalytic employment in places such as Croydon, Hastings and Brighton, i.e. across a pretty wide area.

This is investment that could help rebalance the UKs economy, already skewed to the southern counties of England. These are jobs that could be created in the places that need them most, where there is more space within existing towns and cities to accommodate the workers. It is a pity that housing was excluded from the Davies Commissions terms of reference.

As Ralph Smyth, CPREs head of infrastructure says in his excellent blog, Flying into turbulence, politicians love to talk about rebalancing the economy but the moment you mention aviation, they all scramble back to the safety of London even though Londons five airports already have 50% more flights than New York or Tokyo, the citys nearest competitors.

The debate on airport expansion has largely been about economic growth on the one side versus cost, political feasibility, climate change, air quality and noise for those living under flight paths on the other (a formidable list).

Growth seems to have won the day, but many of those arguing for airport expansion have forgotten that they also care about the housing crisis and want to defend the Green Belt and wider countryside. They need to join the dots.

[1] I should thank them for the hospitality and free gifts at party conferences over the last few years.


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Wednesday, 19 October


In Response To Liz Truss: Critique Of The Tory Party Prison Agenda "IndyWatch Feed"

David Scott, of the Manchester No Prison campaign group, offers this insightful critique into prison reform plans.

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Tuesday, 11 October


Custom build in Holland: lessons for the UK "IndyWatch Feed"

Dont let the developers near. They wont develop. That was the advice given to British planners in 2009 by Wulf Daseking, Freiburgs chief planner for nearly 30 years.[1]

One way to speed things up and improve quality is custom and self-build housing, which puts the buyer in control of the development. The sector accounts for some 60% of new homes in France, around 80% in Austria. In Britain, it contributes only around 12-14,000 new homes a year, but it is attracting growing interest from politicians. So I was pleased to join a two-day visit to Amsterdam hosted by Igloo Regeneration to get a better idea of how it works.

Our first afternoon was spent in Almere, a new city 25 kilometres out of Amsterdam. In 40 years Almeres population has grown to around 200,000, making it Hollands fifth largest city. Custom build played an important role in keeping building going during the recession.

We visited the home of a man living in a single storey house the height dictated by the design code for that particular part of the development, though some residents had chosen to add a basement. He was clearly happy with his new home and would not otherwise have been able to afford anything as good small but light and well-designed, with low energy costs and plenty of storage space.


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Monday, 03 October


Building near Green Belt stations "IndyWatch Feed"

It is rumoured that the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid set to announce a serious investment in house building and the infrastructure to go with it, with a strong emphasis on brownfield development. This is very welcome. But the Daily Mails suggestion that he will announce enhanced planning powers to allow construction of houses and apartments on land, much of it derelict around railway stations especially in the South East raises concern about the integrity of the Green Belt.

The principle of building around transport hubs is a good one and was supported in a recent CPRE report, Making the Link. But the Communities Secretary should beware of the idea that simply building around Green Belt stations in the Green Belt is an unproblematic way to solve the housing crisis. This has been energetically proposed by various enemies of the Green Belt and the planning system (step forward the Adam Smith Institute). The argument against is put briefly in CPREs Green Belt myth-buster. I have copied the relevant passage below.

In brief, building around Green Belt stations could be incompatible with key purposes of the Green Belt, preventing sprawl and stopping places merging together.

Myth 6: Just building on a small proportion of Green Belt would leave us with more than enough.

Why this is wrong: Much of the integrity and therefore benefits of Green Belt would be lost if we did this, including preventing sprawl and towns joining up.

Releasing just a small percentage of Green Belt sounds an attractive way of releasing land for housing. But once bits of the Green Belt are removed, the integrity is reduced and so its benefits begin to be lost. Permanence is also an important feature of Green Belt so people, businesses and the Government (through supporting environmentally sensitive farming on Green Belt land) have had the confidence to invest in the area on that basis. Conversely, the temptation is removed for people to buy Green Belt land in the hope that it will be de-designated and its notional value for development will increase.

It has been claimed that: You can build 1 million new homes on 3.7% of the Green Belt (or 2.5 million homes on just over 60,000 ha of Green Belt) within walking distance of a train station.4 This, and other claims like it...

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Thursday, 22 September


The developer-led planning system "IndyWatch Feed"

One of my jobs at CPRE is to go round England cheering up our branches and regional groups. I am not sure I ever really succeed, but they often succeed in depressing me.

This is not, I hasten to say, because they are all miserabilists or because we are losing every battle. I always come away proud that CPRE has so many talented and dedicated people, and full of admiration for what they achieve with minute resources. CPRE saves countryside that would otherwise be lost and improves the quality of many developments. But our local volunteers are finding the going tough, and they are not shy about saying so.

Yesterday I gave my usual message to the CPRE South West meeting in Taunton: the Government is listening, our messages are getting through, we hope we can persuade it to change course. Very few people any longer think that weakening the planning system and releasing more land is the way to solve the housing crisis: that seven year experiment is nearing its end. Indeed, no one seriously thinks the private sector will build houses on the scale the country needs: the 37 year experiment of leaving housing to the private sector has spectacularly failed.

I genuinely think we may be at a moment for radical new thinking about housing or perhaps a variant of old thinking, harking back to the years when Conservative governments prided themselves both on building houses and looking after the countryside.

For now, though, at a local level CPRE branches have to grapple with a system of mind-blowing, spirit sapping complexity and opaqueness, one that seems almost designed to discourage civil society from having its say.

For many CPRE branches, the ills of the current system are symbolised by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). The Coalition abolished the previous governments regional bodies on the grounds that they were undemocratic and unaccountable. It took some genius to replace them with LEPs. These, according to the minutes of a previous CPRE South West meeting, are not democratic, not transparent and are pushing for huge developments at all costs. But that, I fear, is the point. I can almost hear someone in the Treasury reading that and going tick, tick, tick.

In opposition, the Conservatives railed against unaccountable regional bodies, but it is hard to get anyone outside CPRE too exercised by the role of (sub-regional) LEPs. They are below the radar, too obscure, too secretive and besides, they have local government representation so they must be okay.

Across the country LEPs are driving up housing targets on the back of unrealisable growth projections. The joint core strategy for Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, for instance, is based on the local LEPs aspirational target of 4.8% GVA, a rate of growth that has never consistently been achie...

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Friday, 09 September


Visiting Alconbury Weald, Huntingdon "IndyWatch Feed"

A couple of weeks ago I went on a fascinating visit to Alconbury Weald, a large and impressive Urban and Civic development on an ex-USAF airfield outside Huntingdon.

The development is supported by CPRE Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. I only really got a sense of its scale on a drive round the site. Not only is it the largest business park in the country by some distance; there are also plans for 5,000 new homes, three primary schools and a secondary school. There is huge investment in landscaping, heritage assets are being preserved (the heritage in this case is mostly of the Cold War), and a design code is in place.

In addition to 1100 acres of brownfield land occupied by the old airbase, 330 acres of farmland have been purchased, linking the development to the town of Huntingdon. Some of this land will be developed, the rest will act as a green corridor between the new settlement and the town. Alconbury Weald will not have a major retail centre; the intention is to support Huntingdons struggling town centre.

You can read about the development here and here. The visit prompted four thoughts in particular: developers can win consent for good developments, but they have to work for it; we focus on housing, but it is often the lack of infrastructure that stops housing getting built; we talk about the housing crisis (and the emergency of climate change) but then carry on pretty much as usual; the one crisis response is to weaken the planning system, in the mistaken belief that this will significantly boost house building.   

  1. Local input has been vital

Since Urban and Civic bought the site in 2009, it has met with the local parish council every six to eight weeks on average. It has also worked closely with a joint forum of neighbouring parishes, with other groups (including CPRE) and, of course, with Huntingdonshire District Council. Incredibly, the previous owners of the land kept the district council off the site not a strategy conducive to building trust.

Given the scale of the development, Urban and Civic intend to be around for a good many years, so it has a stake in the area and in good community relations. This is not always the case with smaller sites, where the developer may be in and out in a few years. Meaningful engagement is hard work and takes long-term commitment. But it is essential to gaining consent for new developments.

One particular breakthrough in establishing trust was when Urban and Civic paid the parish council to employ a planning consultant to digest and advise on the volumes of technical detail surrounding the various...

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Thursday, 01 September


A fair deal for our farmers "IndyWatch Feed"

First published in Shooting Times, 31st August 2016

Post-Brexit politics looks set to be dominated by years of hard, tedious trade negotiations and arguments over what to do with over 40 years of EU-inspired legislation. The business of getting back control may be pretty dull.

But one area of policy enthuses both sides in the referendum campaign: forging national agricultural policies to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Britains countryside has been shaped by farming, and farming since the Second World War has been largely shaped by public policy. UK farmers currently receive just over 3 billion a year in financial support, but both the overall sum and how it is spent are largely determined in Brussels. Now we must decide how, and how much, to support British farmers.

The question is important for farmers, of course, but it is also vital for rural communities and for anyone (including the shooting community) who wants beautiful landscapes rich in nature. How we fund farming is also significant for food security, diet and much else.

The vast bulk of CAP funding currently goes in the form of area payments. Those with the most land get the biggest returns. In return for this money, farmers have to do very little by way of improving their environmental performance.

So it is that UK agriculture has become increasingly industrialised and remote. We may delight in the countryside, but most people have lost their connection with farming. Some simply have no idea where their food comes from. Farms grow bigger (we have lost 34,000 farms in the last decade); soil quality declines; nature is pushed to the margins.

We can do better. CPRE is certainly not proposing an end to public funding. Farming is too important to be left at the mercy of market forces important not only for the food it produces, but for wildlife, flood protection, carbon capture and, yes, safeguarding the matchless beauty of our countryside.

I hope debates on how to replace the CAP will not descend into arguments between green groups (we need more butterflies and bees) and farming bodies (we need more food). The truth is, we need nature and we need food, but we can get much better value for over 3 billion a year than we currently do. Farmers and environmentalists should be making common cause.

We now have a great chance to deliver major, positive change in the countryside. It is common to describe such moments as once in a generation, but we have had not had such an opportunity since before the Second World War. Lets take it.


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Thursday, 18 August


Tattoo Circus Amsterdam 2016 "IndyWatch Feed"

Shout out to the Tattoo Circus Amsterdam! Friends of us are organizing the amazing Tattoo Circus Amsterdam on the 15 and 16th of October at the Plantage Doklaan 8-12. All proceeds of this non-commercial DIY festival will be going to (political) supporting prisoners. There will be Workshops, films, food, music, Tattooing, piering and freak shows. See for more [...]

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Wednesday, 10 August


Cubaanse anarchist spreekt in anarchistische bibliotheek "IndyWatch Feed"

[English below] Infoavond Cuba, socialistische vrijhaven of gecamoufleerd neo-liberaal project? Een activist uit Cuba is op tour in Europa en zal in Amsterdam en Nijmegen komen vertellen over de sociaal economische situatie in Cuba. Hij zal hierbij aandacht besteden aan de economische transitie die revolutionair Cuba op het moment door maakt en over de activiteiten van [...]

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Friday, 22 July


The new government: Defra and Beis "IndyWatch Feed"

This is the second of two blogs, mainly for CPRE members, on the composition of the new government. The first can be found here.

Department for Food, Environment & Rural Affairs (Defra

The appointment of Elizabeth Truss as Environment Secretary in 2014 was greeted with little enthusiasm by environmentalists. She did not enter the role as a committed environmentalist, but she was willing to engage for instance, hosting a CPRE seminar on landscape and she pushed forward the 25 year plan for nature with conviction. Liz Truss also deserves thanks for approving the extension of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. I wish her well in her new role as Lord Chancellor.

If Liz Trusss appointment was coolly received, Andrea Leadsoms has been greeted by some with outright hostility. This is partly because of her support for Brexit, partly because of her gung-ho support for fracking. I would not expect anyone from the free market right-wing of the Conservative Party to be immediately reassuring to most green campaigners, but it is worth noting that as a Minister in DECC Andrea Leadsom showed that she was prepared to listen. She went in a climate sceptic and emerged as a believer in the need to tackle climate change.

In Andrea Leadsom we now have a Secretary of State who was down to the last two in the Conservative Leadership contest. The first three Defra Secretaries of State Margaret Beckett, David Miliband and Hilary Benn were powerful figures in the Cabinet. Whatever their merits, Caroline Spelman, Owen Paterson and Liz Truss were more junior. Andrea Leadsom should have the clout to champion the environmental cause in the next few crucial years as we exit the EU (an undoubted force for good in terms of environmental legislation) that is, if she wants to.

Whether she will is unknown. But she has worked well with her local CPRE branch and she lists cycling and walking in the Northamptonshire countryside as her hobbies (alongside, inevitably, spending time with her family). She is certainly not a lost cause. As for a much-discussed blog she wrote in 2007, proposing an end to farm subsidies, I am unfazed. I just impressed that a Parliamentary candidate bothered to attend a seminar on the CAP and was sufficiently interested to go home and write a rather breathless blog about it

As someone who played a leading role in the Leave campaign, Andrea Leadsom must know that the referendum was not a vote for weakening environmental protection. Defra must ensure that whatever replaces EU directives on habitats, birds, water quality, air quality,...

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Wednesday, 20 July


The new government: Treasury and CLG "IndyWatch Feed"

A number of CPRE members have asked what we should make of the new Government. What follows is largely for them.

It is rather more hopeful than some commentaries from environmentalists. No government will do everything campaigners want governments cannot achieve what they want, let alone satisfying everyone else. But Ministers, learning on the job, can confound expectations.

I gave initial thoughts on Theresa May as Prime Minister in an earlier blog.

The Treasury

George Osborne has been a dominant figure in government over the past six years. He had a big impact on national life, and many achievements. But it is unlikely he will be missed by conservationists. For all his undoubted qualities, he had a tin ear when it came to listening to the environmental concerns or people worried about development. He interfered constantly in the planning system, but made no effort to understand it.

George Osborne never understood that planning is about more than economic growth. But even if all you are interested in is building stuff, in a democracy you can only do that with consent. He failed to understand that too.

It remains to be seen what impact George Osbornes departure will have on the Northern Powerhouse, devolution deals, unaccountable Local Enterprise Partnerships, aviation expansion, HS2, the National Infrastructure Commission and the many other things, some good, some bad, that he championed. I dont expect any sudden shift in policy, though Parliamentary and civil service time for any initiatives will be at a premium as the government machine focuses on withdrawal from the EU.

In any case, it is likely that under Philip Hammond the Treasury will be less overbearing, less inclined to interfere in every aspect of domestic policy. That will be a good thing.

The Department of Communities and Local Government

I am sorry to lose Brandon Lewis as housing and planning minister. We often disagreed, but he listened to CPRE, championed the brownfield-first agenda, and had a genuine passion for neighbourhood planning.

He was given the impossible task of building a million homes in five years without any significant public investment beyond incentives to the private house builders (how much of the 600 million bonuses Persimmon paid to its executive team last month was originally public money?).

When Churchills post-war government achieved over 300,000 new homes a year, the state played a huge role. It is blindingly obvious that it must do so again if we really believe there is a housing crisis (I do) an...

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Monday, 18 July


Farming after Brexit: reasons to be hopeful "IndyWatch Feed"

Whatever one thinks of the decision to leave the European Union, in one respect at least, it presents a great opportunity.

For 30 years during and after the war, the purpose of UK agricultural policy was to increase food production. Since 1973, farming policy has largely been decided in Brussels. Now we have the chance to fashion our own farming and land management policy for the twenty-first century.

Englands countryside is in large measure the product of farming. Those who manage the land should be rewarded not only for the crops they sell, but also for public goods such as flood management, carbon capture, promoting wildlife and, yes, maintaining and enriching beautiful landscapes.

But farmers will soon be competing for limited funds with steel workers, the NHS and other causes. Within the EU, with no choice but to follow EU farm support policies, there is little point debating whether farmers deserve public funding. It will be different once we are out. I doubt that many Treasury officials will want to carry on paying around 3 billion a year to UK farmers, and it is easy to imagine campaigns against the taxes of poor people in cities supporting rich farmers in the countryside.

So a case needs to be made for public funding, and the farming industry must demonstrate that it deserves such funding. As CPREs Graeme Willis will argue in a forthcoming report, New model farming: resilience through diversity, taxpayers will not want to pay for mega-dairies where the cows are never seen outside, or for farming practices that sterilise the countryside.

There is a deal to be had between land managers and the country as a whole: manage the land sensitively, reverse the loss of nature, treat animals (and your workers!) decently, and we will pay you for it; but if you want to farm simply for maximum profit and productivity, why should we treat you differently from any other business?

Judging from a recent news item in the Farmers Guardian, I am not sure the NFU understands this. NFU President Meurig Raymond is reported to want a new domestic agricultural policy with growth, innovation, productivity and profitability at its heart. This is a paraphrase. I hope the NFUs position is more sophisticated than that.

Of course, there is plenty of scope to debate the farming system we want now that we have the chance to shape it. This goes beyond a decent livelihood for farmers and farm workers, promotion of wildlife, or action on climate change. What about public health? Should we aim to grow more fruit and vegetables here, rather than importing them from countries whose agriculture is being h...

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Wednesday, 06 July


Social Work Reform - our Response and a letter from the Government. "IndyWatch Feed"

The Children and Social Work Bill is a troubling piece of social policy, failing to address serious issues in social work funding and direction.

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Wednesday, 25 May


Transnational day of action against detention centres. "IndyWatch Feed"

A report of the May 7 2016 transnational day of action against detention centres. In the Netherlands and Europe every year thousands of people adults and children are being detained in migrant detention centres against their will virtually without time limit, adequate access to legal support or health care just for being [...]

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Monday, 09 May


Supporting refugees on the border: the story of the Soli-Cafe. "IndyWatch Feed"

The Soli Cafe is a squatted social centre on Chios, one of the Greek Islands near the Turkish coast. Or, more accurately, the Soli Cafe WAS a social centre. From January this year until the last week of April it was a thriving social centre where refugees and activists cooked, talked, hung out, where [...]

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Wednesday, 04 May


Alles Flex? Over de grenzen van de flexibiliteit. "IndyWatch Feed"

[English below] Op donderdag 26 mei organiseert de anarchistische groep Amsterdam onder de naam Recht op Stad een vertoning van de documentaire Alles Flex? met aansluitend een interview met  Abel Heijkamp en muziek van de Italiaanse troubadour Alessandro Mezzigori. Wat voor samenleving krijgen we als ons wonen en werken is geflexibiliseerd? Dat is de vraag die [...]

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Tuesday, 26 April


Anarchistische Muurkrant verspreid. n arrestatie voor opruiing en aanzetten tot geweld. "IndyWatch Feed"

Afgelopen zondagavond is er in Den Haag iemand gearresteerd op verdenking van het plakken van de Anarchistische Muurkrant. Hem word nu opruiing tegen het gezag, het aanzetten tot geweld en het plakken van posters ten laste gelegd. Hij is in verzekering gesteld en het OM wil hem donderdag voorgeleiden bij de rechter commissaris om hem [...]

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Monday, 29 February


Solidarity Against Spanish Sate Repression "IndyWatch Feed"

Thursday, 3th of March Benefit at Joes Garage, Pretoriusstraat 43 Amsterdam 19:00 Door open and Food (vegan) 21:00 short talk about why this benefit and some bizarre state repression examples in Spain from the last months. 21:30 Acoustic Concert: Almudena and Davide (voice and guitar) Popular folk songs about revolution and love from Spain and Latin America. The money we collect [...]

Friday, 05 February


Nigel Farage Attacks PEGIDA, Claims Its Anti-Democratic "IndyWatch Feed"

During his Phone Farage segment on LBC Radio with Nick Ferrari, UKIP leader Nigel Farage was today asked about the February 6th Pan-European PEGIDA silent march.

Farage said on the show that we let people march for left wing causes and that of course PEGIDA UK should be allowed to protest but when confronted about the fact that UKIP members will be attending the march, Farage suggested that those people perhaps found UKIP too democratic and too liberal. Perhaps he conveniently forgot that PEGIDA UKs deputy leader, Anne Marie Waters, is still a member of the party.
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The UKIP leader also predicted that PEGIDA UK wont go very far because those that are running it probably have pretty dodgy associations and unpleasant pasts. Referring no doubt to Tommy Robinson and Paul Weston, Mr Farage continues to attack decent, patriotic people concerned about radical Islam, while continuing to support the building of more mosques and refusing to tackle the problem of third world immigration and the growing power that Islam has over our liberal democracy and Western civilisation.

At this point, it should be entirely clear to UKIP members that the party is not a solution to our problems, and that the UKIP should be boycotted. In order to solve our problems, UKIP needs to do more than just tackle the European Union. It must also stop attacking working class people for being concerned about the destruction of their communities and freedoms, and even banning people from joining their party.

The behaviour of Farage and UKIP perpetuates the idea that radical Islam and multiculturalism are not causing problems (which could ultimately trigger civil unrest), and that people who voice their concerns are anti-democratic and dodgy.

Just who the hell do you think you are, Mr Farage?

Watch Paul Weston (leader of PEGIDA UK and the political party Liberty GB) discuss why its so important to come to PEGIDA UK on 6th February.

Jack Buckby,

Press Officer,

PEGIDA UK &am...

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