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Monday, 18 September

19:06

A way of life they have no interest in forced upon them "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

With my odd contributions here on Slugger Ive tried to steer away from the usual boring tribal political arguments that take up a lot of time in Northern Ireland arguments about who gets what or who doesnt; what is or is not fair; or about who did what in the past.

These arguments are always the same and involve healthy doses of recrimination and whataboutery, but seldom the introspection that is required to seriously progress the issues behind them. Theyre old hat. Before they were debated in places like Slugger or other websites, we debated them across television studios; before there were television studios, within the letters pages of the local newspapers and among the crowds who stood to listen at the steps of the Customs House in Belfast or outside the GPO in Dublin.

(I found a fascinating letter in the News Letter from 1935 that included both whataboutery and an attack on the BBC for perceived bias perhaps a basis for discussion another day).

But lately Ive been hearing a small number of arguments, concerning the Irish Language Act the issue that is supposedly holding up the re-establishment of the Executive that are impossible to address without drawing some comparisons that would invite the whataboutery tag. This morning, I heard the quote in the title above, from the TUV spokesperson Sammy Morrison, describing what for him was an issue with an Act. Sammys perspective is typical of the three principal arguments Ive heard. Paraphrased :

  • its being forced on us against our will
  • its going to cost a lot of money which could be spent on public services such as healthcare
  • whats the point in expending resources on a dead language ?

These arguments, in isolation and taken at face value, are legitimate, albeit debatable, positions. For some Irish republicans, the Irish language is an emblem which they want to use as a tribal marker, identifying neighbourhoods and spaces in the same way that flags and painted kerbstones are used. Their case is not helped by the fact that so many of them cannot even be bothered learning how to speak it. And of course, it is undoubtedly the case that people need doctors and access to medical care more than they need most other things, including the right to have their children educated in any language they dont need for communication purposes. My Latin teachers back at school would certainly have strongly contested the third argument.

The problem, however, with these arguments is that, in context, they are fundamentally hypocritical. If the same criteria were applied to all of the controversial issues that arise in Northern Ireland wed end up with a lot of unhappy people and a deeply unstable society. Arguably, many of our problems derive precisely from the perception that criteria are...

17:52

Britains distant war "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The latest attack in London is deeply connected to a hidden war Britain itself is waging.

Children in a street south of the Old City, western Mosul, Nineveh, Iraq, July 2017. Andrea Dicenzo/PA Images. All rights reserved.Britain is engaged in a major war, and has been for three years, yet very few people recognise this and there is little debate about the rationale or potential consequences.  

It is mainly an air war fought with strike-aircraft and armed-drones and is at an intensity not seen since the Gulf war in early 1991. As then, this war is run by a United States-led coalition and has killed tens of thousands of people. What is difficult to explain, though, is that few make the connection between this new war and the many attacks of the past three years, including Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Nice, Berlin, Istanbul, Manchester and three attacks in London Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and now Parsons Green.

That there is a direct connection should hardly be a surprise, since ISIS propagandists were calling for attacks on the far enemy as soon as the coalitions air war started in August 2014. Nor should it be forgotten that this blowback has happened before. After the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, prime minister Tony Blair insisted strongly that there was no connection between the Iraq war and those attacks; but this stance was quickly undermined with the release of suicide-videos by the bombers and by the deputy head of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The latter said: "this blessed battle has transferred like its glorious predecessors in New York, Washington, and Madrid the battle to the enemies' land", and that the attacks were a slap to the policies of Tony Blair.  

For one of the bombers, Mohammad Siddique Khan, the matter was clear-cut:

Until we feel security, you will be our targets. Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation."

...

17:41

President Jean-Claude Junckers scenario six for the future of Europe "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

In March of this year, the European Commission published a White Paper on the future of Europe that laid out five possible future scenarios or paths for the European Union. In a series of previous articles published on this platform, I outlined and discussed each of these five scenarios in turn. The goal of this White Paper, according to European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, was to launch a process in which Europe determines its own path by fostering a cross-continent debate on the kind of Europe we want to achieve. In his State of the European Union speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday, President Juncker presented his own ambitious vision for Europes future, a sixth scenario based on three core principles: freedom, equality and the rule of law.

 

In this scenario six, these three principles make up the foundations on which a more united, stronger and more democratic Union should be built.

 

A more united Union

 

President Juncker said that he aims to increase efficiency and inclusivity within the European Union. To this end, he suggested first of all that the Schengen area of free movement should be opened to Bulgaria and Romania immediately and to Croatia once it meets all the criteria in order to strengthen the protection of Europes external borders.

 

Regarding the euro, President Juncker expressed a desire to see more countries joining the Eurozone, stressing that the euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. He proposed to create a Euro-accession Instrument, which would provide technical and financial assistance to Member States hoping to join the euro. President Juncker also affirmed that completing the Banking Union, which would allow banks across Europe to operate under the same rules and under the same supervision, is a matter of urgency.

 

The European Commission President further recommended that Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights by 17 November 2017 at the Social Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden. Finally, he said that a credible enlargement perspective must be maintained for the Western Balkans but he ruled out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.

 

A stronger Union

 

Regarding the European single market, President Juncker proposed that decisions in the European Council in this area should be made on the basis of qualified majority, rather than unanimous, voting. This would allow decisions to be made more often and more easily, allowing Europe to act quicker and more decisively.  In addition, in the interest of a stronger Monetary Union, he called for the a...

14:56

When worlds collide: oil and community tourism in the Amazon "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

This is the story of Huoarani Lodge, the emblematic tourism project closed down by a Chinese oil company. Espaol

Foto cortesa de Lalineadefuego. All rights reserved.

In the heady days of the Constituent Assembly and the subsequent proclamation of Ecuadors new constitution in 2009, there was much speculation about how the countrys new economy might take shape. It was, they said, to be the economy of the bright new world of el Buen Vivir Living Right or Right Living. Respect for the environment, social responsibility, greater equality and the possibility of overcoming poverty would be the pillars of this brave new world, and tourism, in particular community tourism, would be one if its main engines. But somewhere, something went wrong, and not just with the constitution.

For community tourism to work as a major element in the new order, it was clearly essential that priorities change, that the country should leave behind its dependence on oil and other primary resource projects, and place greater emphasis on the other forms of economy mentioned in the Constitution. But it didnt happen the way it was imagined. Something did happen of course: there are new well built roads, hydroelectric projects, new hospitals, new schools; all more than necessary, but all insufficient to make the major change many had desired and expected. The big plans to build a new economy based on tourism, technology, knowledge, biodiversity, simply never took shape.

As was pointed out, those changes would surely require a lot of time, perhaps decades, and possibly Ecuador is still in the first stage, and its just that the great changes dreamed of are not yet visible. Or perhaps the dreams were so grand that the possibilities of making them real was always minimal in a small country whose economic and strategic weight was insufficient to support them. Or perhaps it was the fault of commodity prices; they rose so high that the logic of exploiting the sack of gold youre...

14:54

CSSC research shows complexity and diversity of controlled education "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The Controlled Schools Support Council (CSSC) launched its baseline assessment of the controlled schools sector in Northern Ireland on Monday 18 September.

Controlled schools are non-denominational and firmly set within an ethos embedded in Christian values. They are open to pupils of all faiths or none, and account for 558 or 48% of all schools in Northern Ireland.

As CSSCs research demonstrates, the controlled education sector is complex and diverse. It is also the only education sector to comprise a full range of schools, with nursery, primary, special and non-selective post-primary schools sitting alongside grammar, integrated, Irish medium and Dickson Plan schools.

Chief executive Barry Mulholland explained the importance of this piece of research, saying

We believe that this is the first time that such a detailed piece of work has been carried out that clearly demonstrates the size and complexity of the controlled education sector.

The findings also seek to any dispel many misconceptions about the controlled sector.

Some of the key findings from the research include:

the controlled sector has over 140,600 pupils
over 8,500 teachers are employed in controlled schools
the majority of nursery schools, primary schools and special schools in Northern Ireland are controlled
95% of all special schools belong to the controlled sector
over a third of newcomer pupils attend controlled schools
31% of all controlled pupils are entitled to free school meals
over 28,700 primary and post-primary pupils have special educational needs

In terms of religion:
66.% of pupils are Protestant
9.6% of pupils are Catholic
5.3% of pupils are other Christian
0.9% of pupils are non-Christian
17.9% of pupils indicate no religion

The religious breakdown of individual schools reflects their community, Barry Mulholland commented.

For example, I know of some controlled schools that have an almost 50/50 religious balance and others that are over 90% Catholic. It is therefore misleading to describe the controlled schools as the Protestant sector.

Indeed, controlled schools have greater religious diversity in comparison to other education sectors and, interestingly, provide education for more pupils of no religion than any other sector.

CSSC, the advocacy body for the controlled sector, has been in operation for just one year, and has plans to use this research to tackle some of the challenges facing schools.

It is essential that we have evidence to underpin our p...

14:19

Revealed: how loopholes allowed pro-Brexit campaign to spend as much as necessary to win "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

New tranche of Electoral Commission emails show how Vote Leave gave a student 675,000 overnight and the worrying implications for British democracy.

Darren Grimes. Image, Channel4, fair use.

Last year a young fashion student from County Durham called Darren Grimes registered a pro-Brexit social media campaign, aimed at persuading young people to vote to quit the EU. It was called BeLeave. At first, not many people noticed.

In its first ten weeks, BeLeave raised the sum total of 107 for its activities. But in the ten days before the Brexit referendum, Darren Grimes spent more than 675,000 on a pro-Brexit social media campaign.

Now, a string of emails released under Freedom of Information laws to WhatDoTheyKnow and seen by openDemocracy demonstrate the full scale of the loophole in Britains electoral rules which allowed Grimes and Vote Leave to spend this extraordinary sum and the worrying implications it has for British democracy.

By the usual measures, BeLeave wasnt much of a social media success. Its launch met with the traditional fate of campaigns aimed too obviously at young people: it was briefly mocked on Twitter, and then ignored. To this day, it has a sum total of 4,139 followers on Twitter. Its Facebook page seems to have been taken down, but was reported on Buzzfeed to have reached fewer than 6,000 fans. We cant find an Instagram account.

Grimes is now deputy editor at BrexitCentral (who controversially got a press pass for the Westminster lobby recently.)

Investigations by Buzzfeed, Private Eye and the Observer have all reported on the sudden and extraordinary 675,000 spent by BeLeave in the ten da...

13:43

LibDems Vote to Recognise Palestine "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

IMG_2811At their autumn conference in Bournemouth yesterday, Liberal Democrats voted overwhelmingly to urge the British government to recognise the State of Palestine. The vote came at the end of a thoughtful and well-informed debate on a motion to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, drafted with input from both Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP, which I chair) and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI). Balfour expressed support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, providing the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish inhabitants were not compromised. Clearly the second half of that commitment has not been fully implemented, not least in the occupied territories. In my speech, I argued that calling for the recognition of the State of Palestine was timely for three reasons, namely the Balfour centenary, the 50th anniversary of the Occupation (the longest such situation in modern history) and the fact that it is one minute to midnight for finding a way forward to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Personally, I believe it is up to the people of the region to decide ultimately whether a two-state or a one-state solution is ideal, but in the meantime, recognising Palestine would give Palestinians a degree of equality in a singularly unequal relationship. Moreover, to acknowledge Palestine as a state (as more than 130 members...

13:24

Why are we talking about student debt but not benefit debt? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The state and its providers are crushing people with debt. Rather than helping people, they own them. The problem is as urgent as student debt and an amnesty is long overdue.

Image: JobCentrePlus office. Wikimedia/Creative Commons

This is a story about the preposterous demands for money made on people who rely on what we used to call the welfare state on councils, housing providers, and the Department for Work and Pensions. Organisations which are supposed to support, not fleece, people in the greatest need.

Lets start with Sams story. A 22-year-old Newham woman and mother to a young child, when I spent several days interviewing here she was in debt to every single one of the organisations that she relied on for housing, income and support.

Sam owed money for unpaid council tax and court fines. She had serious rent arrears - more than 1600 and rising. Sams flat was managed by the Notting Hill Housing Trust. Her rent had increased, but her housing benefit was capped and she had a shortfall of about 46 each week. She was dealing with a difficult domestic problem which took up a lot of time and energy and which affected her benefit entitlements. Sorting this out took months. Finding a cheaper flat in the area was extremely challenging (we tried). 

Sam struggled to fill in complex forms for council tax and housing help with Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), payments that are to help with short term rent shortfalls. We ended up filling in the form together. The Notting Hill Housing Trust wanted 66 a week in shortfall and rent arrears repayments. Sam received only about 73 a week in jobseekers allowance.

Smaller weekly arrears repayment plans were proposed, but even a fiver a week was a problem by this point. Sam was also repaying a loan from the DWP, who were deducting as much as 15-18 a week. At times, Sam had as little as 50 a week to live on. There wasnt spare for paying arrears. There didnt seem much point in trying to find spare, either. A fiver a week would have...

12:04

Will the 'Tory Momentum' fail? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

After Momentum marshalled the youth vote with enviable mastery of social media, youthful Tories have hatched a plan to try to emulate Labour's success, with some hiccoughs along the way...

Activate. Source: Twitter. Fair use.According to the popup on its website, Activate is not a Tory-momentum. Nevertheless, if youve not heard of Activate, thats the expression which sums it up best. A grassroots movement which is not officially affiliated with the Conservative Party, Activates aim is to engage young people in the right of centre politics.

Things have not gotten off to a great start. The group came under fire for talk of gassing chavs and shooting peasants in messages leaked from its WhatsApp group. Activates response was that these members did not represent it, but this did little to appease commentators like Owen Jones and others.

Then, things got strange fast. The group came out on Twitter in support of Jacob Rees-Mogg as Tory leader in a move that wasnt exactly shocking. After all, as a popular, outspoken, long-time backbencher of the Tory party, its fair to label him the Conservative equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn. Momentum and its members were Corbyns biggest backers during his leadership campaign, so it made sense that Activate would back Rees-Mogg during his leadership campaign.

Except that there is no Tory leadership campaign and Rees-Mogg has already made it clear that he has no interest in being the leader of the Tory Party. As it turned out, this was all an elaborate ruse. Activates account had been hacked, something which became clear as the increasingly cringeworthy Rees-Mogg memes kept just kept coming....

09:56

Conflict prevention: will the United Nations return to its roots? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The secretary general is an advocate for reform. But change will not be easy and the case of Bosnia shows how complex peacebuilding can be.

The "The Knotted Gun" by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward sits outside of the United Nations in New York City. The scultpure was a gift from Luxembourg to the UN in 1988. Photo: Tim Brakemeier/PA Images. All rights reserved.The United Nations charter, the global bodys founding document, defines its purpose ambitiously: to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Symbols of this mission abound at its headquarters in New York City. Outside the visitor center, an iconic blue helmet rests on a pedestal. The entrance to the general assembly hall is marked by a sculpture of a giant revolver, its barrel knotted and pointed upwards.

But the UN is a product of its member states, which insist that they are always, ultimately in charge within their own borders. This means that UN peacekeeping efforts have focused primarily on responding to acute conflicts, where violence is imminent. French delegates to the UN confirmed to me last week that this remains their priority as permanent members of the security council.

Critics say UN responses to conflicts do not come fast enough when they come at all. Some have called on the body to embrace its "responsibility to protect"; others have argued that preventing conflict is more effective and cost efficient than providing peacekeepers as actors of last resort.

Secretary general Antnio Guterres agrees; even before he took over at the organisation in early 2017, the Portugeuse politician and former head of the UN's refugee agency was advocating for a shift towards preventing conflicts, emphasising education and development. G...

09:40

Kurds in Iraq: from Sykes-Picot to no-fly zones and beyond "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Will the approaching referendum on independence open up a new phase for the Kurds, abrogating the Sykes-Picot Agreement?

lead Masoud Barzani has exceeded his allowed term as president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Kay Nietfeld/ Press Association. All rights reserved.The situation of the Kurds in a drastically changing Middle East has received little attention in academe and less in the media despite their growing impact on regional and international politics. The biggest stateless people living in the Middle East are on the verge of a new status, not only in Iraqi Kurdistan, where a referendum for independence takes place on September 25, 2017, but also in Syria and Turkey. In Syria, Kurds have fought an organised and effective struggle against the IS. In Turkey, they have suffered a massive destruction of Kurdish cities, displacement of half a million Kurds and eradication of all forms of legal entity by the Turkish state. Then there is Iran. This weeks short series looks at current political struggles of the Kurds in four neighbouring countries. Mehmet Kurt, series editor.

Since the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions sent a seismic shock wave through the Middle East the suffering of Kurds such as Alan Kurdi and the fight of the peshmerga (Kurdish militia) against the Islamic State has catapulted the Kurds plight as a stateless nation to the worlds attention. 

On the liberation of Sinjar from the Islamic State, Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, called for the international community to move beyond the Sykes-Picot borders. This phrase is a shorthand for the artificial and arbitrary frontiers imposed at the end of the First World War by Britain and France which locked the Kurds into the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi states where they have experienced sustained attempts at assimilation, denial of identity and human rights, and genocidal attack.

To emphasize his intent, Barzani announced in 2016 his intention to hold a referendum on independence for...

09:30

US cross-border data deal could open surveillance floodgates "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Internet users should assess whether their domestic system would adequately prevent their government from abusing the arrangement, and whether local law enforcement can be held accountable.

Edward Snowden, a former CIA worker before turning whistleblower, speaks via satellite at the IT fair CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, 21 March 2017. Friso Gentsch/Press Association. All rights reserved.In July 2016, the United States Department of Justice released a legislative proposal that could vastly increase surveillance by other governments with the direct assistance of Silicon Valley. The unprecedented proposal would allow certain governments to demand the contents of Internet communications such as e-mails and chats directly from US companies, rather than going through cross-border law enforcement treaties that have long been in place to protect rights. The US has already negotiated the outlines of such a deal with the United Kingdom and the Justice Department proposal would extend it to other governments. The US has already negotiated the outlines of such a deal with the United Kingdom.

This development should raise alarm bells for any user of US-based Internet companies such as Google or Facebook. If enacted, privacy safeguards will get much weaker, collection much broader, and private information potentially more widely shared, since governments will have increased access to user communications. While the legislative proposal generally conditions this access on a governments general respect for human rights, it falls short of ensuring that rights will be adequately protected.

The proposal was introduced on September 14 in the US Congress as an amendment to a defense spending bill, and may be introduced in stand-alone legislation later this year.

The rationale

Under current US law, Internet companies are prohibited from turning over the contents of communications directly to foreign governments, even for investigating crime. Instead, law enforceme...

09:00

Why we formed an independent farm workers union "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The Familias Unidas por las Justicia migrant workers union in Washington state is taking action to defend the rights of women workers. Espaol

Hector and Ramn of Familias Unidas por la Justicia. National Farm Worker Ministry/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

My name is Ramn Torres. I am the president of the independent union Familias Unidas por la Justicia in the state of Washington.

Penelope Kyritsis (oD): Can you tell us how the union addresses gender-based discrimination and violence in the workplace?

Ramn: Since we just recently formed the union, around three or four years ago, the only option we have had has been to take these cases to court. After a strike we organised to obtain a union contract, we had many cases of women who suffered abuses. There was no way to resolve these problems directly with the company. Our only option was to look for lawyers and take these cases to court. And we won.

Penelope (oD): Can you talk about the problems you had with private security?

There is a situation of daily abuse, because we are migrants and we are scared.

Ramn: The company, Sakuma Brothers Farms, brought in private security from California. What the security personnel did was check on the women in the showers. We have around 12 showers, and all the women would have to shower there. These men would use their privilege to enter the shower area and see what the women were doing. It was a very large abuse, so we took them to court and won the case. We were able to force the company to remove those people, who were violating the rights of the women workers.

Penelope (oD): What resources do these women have to report abuses?

Ramon: Well, we used to not have any. Now, thank God, we have the union. The union contract gives us an avenue to deal with situations related to abuse, especially abuse against women. There have also been cases of such abuse against male workers, though women have been more affected.

Penelope (oD): What can the government do to help these women and the workers in this sector in general?

...

07:00

We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

Theres nothing wrong with you; stop playing games; no one believes you.

Credit: By Chitrapa at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ive experienced mental health problems for the past 24 years, and in that time the stigma I have experienced has come, not so much from outside the system as within it. And yet we dont seem to be having conversations about this issue in the mainstream media.

I was first hospitalised at the age of 17 in an adult psychiatric ward in the UK. It was an inappropriate place for someone still in the throes of adolescence and somewhat emotionally behind due to having suffered in silence for the three years preceding my admission.

Quickly it became clear that I was considered to be a histrionic, attention-seeking young woman whose problems amounted to an individual moral failing, and a refusal to take responsibility. I was not alone. There were other young women my age and we were all subject to the same invalidating experiences which served only to exacerbate our distress.

Our common presentation was self-destructive; we self-harmed and attempted to take our own lives, refusing to suffer silently once our despair had surfaced, the seasons of being able to keep our demons under lock and key well and truly over.

The common refrains we would hear from mental health nurses and doctors went like this: just take responsibility; theres nothing wrong with you; you are bed-blocking (even though they had sectioned many of us, including myself, and it wasnt in our power to free up any bed); stop playing games; and the worst of all, no one believes you.

Despite being considered a risk to myself, and lacking mental capacity, these judgements were accusations of mere misbehaviour and laden with mixed messages: you are too ill to make your own decisions, and simultaneously, you should stop being willfully disobedient. It must be noted that these comments were not levelled at the male patients on the ward, and were not reserved solely for younger patients.

This kind of treatment followed me for years until a desperate attempt to take my own life by jumping from a bridge startled others into taking me seriously. I wasnt meant to survive. I felt that I was a lost cause and that my inability to just snap out of the madness was a personal failing.

...

Sunday, 17 September

00:05

Barcelona vs Madrid "IndyWatch Feed Politics.eu"

The Spirit of Franco never really left the Spanish state. Sometimes it is hard to see from the outside world but in the run-up to the Catalan referendum the Spanish Government are clearly trampling over basic human rights in their efforts to prevent the referendum from even taking place.

Yesterday some 100,000 pro-independence posters were seized by the State after raids in various printing shops. Today they came back for the printing equipment!

In newsrooms armed police came with a warning to editors that they will face prosecution if they publish adverts for the referendum.

The Spanish authorities have ordered that the referendum website be shut down.

A letter from Danish MPs is particularly damning saying that they, as MPs representing a democratic country, are increasingly puzzled and concerned about this apparent lack of political skills to address what is, essentially, a political challenge.

The power of persuasion rather than the pressure of the jackboot? Dont expect Madrid to listen.

Criminal charges are already being drawn up against members of the Catalan Parliament and Government . To understand how repressive Spain is, a nearby equivalent would be Theresa May ensuring that criminal charges be placed against Nicola Sturgeon & the SNP government whilst sending outside police into Scotland to prevent a potential ballot from taking place.

The Catalans however are pressing ahead. More than 700 Mayors including the Mayor of Barcelona have been called in for questioning after collaborating with the referendum.

Some of the Mayors gathered outside the Generalitat Palace  with the Catalan President on Saturday as the crowds chanted We will vote.

The Partido Popular Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is confident that he will crush this democratic exercise, speaking today to the party faithful : I say this both calmly and firmly: there will be no referendum, it wont happen.

The spirit of Franco is alive and well in the Madrid government. Should it not seek compromise however, even at this late stage, it will be the pro-independence camp in Barcelona that will be the ultimate benefactors.

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