Ireland as a whole needs a new liberal Nationalist Party - not a new Liberal Unionist movement - if Northern Ireland is to commemorate the centenary of its formation with a stable, devolved government at Stormont and effective, workable cross-border agreements in a post Brexit society, according to political commentator, Dr John Coulter.  

Given my Right-wing Unionist stance, it will initially be viewed as sheer cheek for me to lecture Irish nationalism on a way forward ideologically in a post Brexit and hopefully post pandemic Ireland.

As a born again Christian, perhaps my critics will be quoting Scripture at me to take the beam out of my own eye of Unionism before I start to take the mote out of the eye of Irish nationalism.

Critics of the Unionist ideology (in whatever form the pro-Union community sees itself) may say that Right-wing Unionism has no place in a modern Ireland, and that liberal Unionism and the politics of concession and compromise are the only formats through which Unionism can be relevant for the next 100 years after 2021.

For the third election in succession, Northern Unionism found itself on the minority back foot politically. If ever Northern Unionism needed a wake-up call, it was Alliance leader Naomi Long’s comprehensive winning of one of the Province’s three European seats pre-Brexit.

This has prompted a huge debate within the Unionist family as to its future direction, with increasing cries that it is the centre ground in Ulster politics which holds the dominant key and that’s where Unionism should redefine itself ideologically.

There have been calls for a new Liberal Unionist Party, similar to the Liberal Unionists which existed in the Home Rule era of the early years of the 20th century, especially before the outbreak of the Great War.

However, when the votes and transfers of the European elections are studied in fine details, it was not necessarily tactical voting by traditional Sinn Fein supporters which guaranteed Mrs Long’s victory, or even transfers from the SDLP - the key to her victory was the defection of tens of thousands of soft liberal Unionists to Alliance.

The bottom line for those thinking of trying to revamp another version of the doomed NI21 experiment created by former UUP MLAs Basil McCrea and John McAllister, or even a 21st century version of the late Brian Faulkner’s Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (UPNI) - a Liberal Unionist party already exists; its called the Alliance Party!

Under Mrs Long’s leadership, Alliance has been transformed from a ‘wine and cheese supper brigade’ into a genuine liberal party with a clear ideology.

If the so-called centre in Northern Irish politics is to be the driving force for the restoration of Stormont, then what Alliance needs is a liberal partner within the nationalist community - hence the need for liberal nationalists to reform the now defunct Irish Independence Party.

The SDLP has always branded itself as a moderate nationalist party, whereas what is needed is a liberal nationalist party. There is a major difference between a ‘moderate’ direction for nationalism and a ‘liberal’ agenda.

Under the likes of John Hume, Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin, the SDLP was a fusion of democratic nationalism and soft socialism. But there was always the shadows of conservative Catholicism hanging over the SDLP throughout its history.

While the media loved to describe the SDLP as the ‘moderate nationalist’ party, we should really have branded it ‘the conservative Catholic SDLP’.

Past referenda in the Irish republic regarding support for same-sex marriage, more liberal abortion and divorce laws have clearly demonstrated that Southern Ireland is no longer dominated by the Catholic Irish Bishops.

Southern parties have had to take account of the development of the secular society in the Republic’s body politic. In Northern Ireland, the SDLP as it currently exists is sending out mixed messages to its electorate. Is it a party which wants to work closely with Fianna Fail, with Irish Labour, or with Fine Gael?

Will the real SDLP please stand up? If it cannot, then the fate is that it will join Eddie McAteer’s Irish Nationalist Party from the original Stormont Parliament days in the dustbin of history. What is required is a secular liberal nationalist movement in Northern Ireland which can work hand in glove with Alliance and there Ulster Unionists to force the so-called ‘Big Two’ (The DUP and Sinn Fein) to reach agreement in the power-sharing Stormont Executive.

The foundations of such a liberal nationalist movement were established when the Irish Independence Party was launched in the 1970s. It put down tender political markers in the 1979 Westminster General Elections that there was a credible secular liberal nationalist alternative to the moderate Catholic SDLP.

But in reality for ‘moderate Catholic’, we must read ‘conservative Catholic.’ The IIP suffered badly because of two terrible events - firstly, the murder of its leading ideologue Larne councillor John Turnley by the UDA in 1980.

Turnley was an ex-British Army officer, from a Protestant background, who felt the SDLP was too Catholic in ethos and he wanted a liberal secular agenda to achieve Irish unity.

The second was the 1980 and 1981 republican hunger strikes which launched Sinn Fein as a political movement. As Sinn Fein gained its first seats in the Prior Assembly of 1982, this marked the political death knell for the IIP.

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt recognised the benefit of the need for some form of liberal unionist/liberal nationalist coalition to develop an alternative to the DUP and Sinn Fein dominance of the Stormont Executive. However, the Unionist family - and especially traditional UUP voters - were not ready for his ‘Vote Mike, Get Colum’ agenda.

Republicans may try to spin the past European vote to ensure that two ‘remain’ MEPs were returned as ‘Vote Martina and Colum, Get Naomi.’ But Alliance seems strong enough to now paddle its own canoe politically.

The key question which the liberal - not the so-called centre - community must now ask in future polls, is ‘Vote Naomi, Get a Liberal Nationalist’.

Nationalism needs a middle class, secular-based movement in the Catholic community which can counter the myth that Sinn Fein voters ‘lent’ their votes to Alliance to guarantee a ‘remain’ victory. Only a revamped IIP can provide this vehicle.

There is no point in trying to create yet another direction for the SDLP. It has become nothing more than a ‘sweeper’ party to soak up transfers for Alliance.

The bitter medicine which nationalism must face is that it must go back to the drawing board in terms of creating a new party for the whole island.

Just as I have been urging Unionism to consider my ideology of Revolutionary Unionism to consider an all-island agenda in a post Brexit Ireland, especially in a ‘no deal’ or hard Brexit era, so too, Alliance and liberal nationalists must prepare for the eventuality that Brexit’s consequences along with the challenges of the Covid 19 pandemic will herald a dire economic downturn in Northern Ireland.

A fully functional devolved Executive at Stormont is key to surviving the fallout from a post Brexit and post pandemic Northern Ireland. For Alliance to be the key stone of a serious Stormont Opposition to the DUP/Sinn Fein coalition, Mrs Long will need the assistance, not of a new Liberal Unionist party, but of a new Liberal Nationalist movement - and such a movement must be organised on an all-island basis to combat the rise of Sinn Fein in the Republic.

In this instance, Naomi Long has only one option - bring back the IIP! If Alliance MLAs can leave their faith outside the revolving door at Stormont, so too must the liberal nationalist IIP.

And if Fine Gael and Fianna Fail need a reliable Dail coalition partner to keep out Sinn Fein, then step forward the Liberal Nationalist Party of Ireland.

 Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

 Listen to Dr John Coulter’s religious show, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning   around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, or listen online   at www.thisissunshine.com

Time For A New Liberal Nationalist Party Of Ireland

 



A Morning Thought @ 906

Anthony McIntyre feels the National Union of Journalists missed an opportunity to showcase the type of threat journalists face as they go about their vocation.  

For anything but the right reason, when we learn of events like the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, it is all too commonplace to see what Einstein did, "spooky action at a distance.”

When the young journalist Lyra McKee was killed last year, her colleagues intuited correctly that, unlike the killing of Martin O’Hagan two decades ago, it was not a focused attack on journalists, rather a transfer of hideous malice. The projectile of hatred was aimed towards another, not her.

That's hardly the full story. In an era where the leader of the "free world" increasingly demonizes the "free press", both threats and violence against journalists and the profession of journalism are much closer to home. As recently as yesterday the NUJ released a press statement:

Two journalists working for the Sunday World newspaper have been contacted by police and told of a series of "imminent threats" of attack by criminals and loyalist paramilitaries including the West Belfast Ulster Defence Association (UDA). One NUJ member was contacted in the middle of the night by the police and alerted to a threat. Another NUJ member has been issued with a shoot to kill threat and is also at risk of entrapment and attack. Both individuals have been named in various threatening social media posts and both journalists have been threatened on previous occasions.

Appalling, but it is far from an isolated incident. Earlier in the week there were reports of threats having been issued against a journalist working for the Belfast Telegraph.

Increasingly, the website of the NUJ finds itself flagging up the type of intimidation that is wielded against journalists in Britain, the union's general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, voicing her own concern.

If you’re being threatened with rape, if you’re being threatened with grotesque violence, your family members, your children are being threatened over social media, you can’t simply think, ‘Don’t feed the trolls, don’t engage with it … You have to take those threats very seriously. And even if you weren’t, the very fact that this content is appearing in your life, in your home, is incredibly unsettling, and it’s affecting people’s mental health and their well-being.

The backdrop to the Stanistreet comments was a NUJ survey which estimated that one in five journalists claimed to have been physically attacked while a staggering 51% had experienced online abuse, with ethnic minorities and women bearing the brunt.

The specificity of the rape threat being used against journalists was earlier made evident by the UK journalist Lizzie Dearden:

I had been getting hundreds of threatening messages from people calling for me to be raped, attacked or killed. They had been sparked by a report I wrote from a terror trial – an account of what had been said in the court – that was published on The Independent.

It was with this invidious spectre hovering menacingly in the background that a charity group took the initiative and organised an online workshop to explore the matter. Compass Rose Network describes itself as: 

a charity set up in response to dealing with conflict, trauma, peace and reconciliation. We run workshops where ordinary people relate their narratives of conflict and trauma but also how, by telling their story they have gained a transformative life changing experience.

The thinking behind the event, according to one of the proposed speakers, was to "to discuss attacks on women journalists." Invitations had been sent to journalists around the world as well as to academics and others who might have an interest in the subject matter.

Listed as panel speakers were journalists working and living in the North, Felicity McCall, Trisha Devlin and Kathryn Johnson, each of whom was expected to outline their knowledge or experience of the dangers faced by journalists. The keynote address was to be given by Trisha Devlin, who according to one of the organisers, had been subjected to horrific abuse,  “trolled, abused and the safety of her and her baby threatened by loyalist gangsters.” 

 
In an even chillier echo of the experience of those British journalists outlined by Michelle Stanistreet and Lizzie Dearden, the type of horrific abuse hurled the way of Trisha Devlin included a threat to rape her infant son. It is without the slightest difficulty that we can conjure up the horrendous vista of some knuckle dragger being more than prepared to follow through on his threat and then use political motive to mask his predilection for children. As in the case of Lyra McKee who had gone to the PSNI accompanied by a NUJ official to complain about being persistently bullied, stalked and intimidated - ironically on this occasion allegedly by a fellow member of the NUJ - the police have continued farcically directing onlookers away from the scene of the crime. 

With police disinterest shaping a "look the other way" approach, it was crucial that CRN's workshop proceeded so that attention could be brought to matters that both the PSNI and Police Scotland would for some reason rather not see the light of day.

Nevertheless, the CRN event ended up being pulled in the most puzzling of circumstances that gravely dismayed the organisers who took to Twitter to express their disappointment:

It has unfortunately come to our attention that a journalist has made a complaint to the NUJ regarding one of our members. This is in relation to a personality clash + only that. As a result of this action we feel that they have prohibited the valuable work that CRN aim to do ... Many journalists will now not get the opportunity to tell their stories or participate in the upcoming workshop which has gathered an attendance from all backgrounds globally. The fact that @NUJofficial were NOT sponsoring this event nor did they contact us is disappointing ... Very sad state of affairs..... that freedom of speech is hindered by the very body who continually fight for it.... based on a vindictive complaint.

According to Lesley Stock, a former PSNI officer and one of the minds behind the event, CRN was contacted by participants claiming to have been informed by their union "that a ‘complaint’ had been lodged by another female journalist about one of the organisers.” Ms Stock further felt that the NUJ in London left the three journalists with no option other than to withdraw from the event.

The NUJ's reason for not wanting its members taking part is apparently down to three tweets posted earlier in the year by Ms Stock about a NUJ member, which the latter is said to have taken offence at. The tweets are available online and it seems beyond question that while sarky there is nothing in them that would remotely lend itself to a legitimate reason for seeking to dissuade journalists - including one under serious threat - from joining the panel.

If events like these which afford journalists some protection at an otherwise foreboding moment - where the police are culpable of a complete failure - are to be scuttled it should be for reasons of the utmost gravitas rather than the piffling one upon which the decision to upend this workshop seems to have swung.

Journalism matters, journalists under threat matter, and the voices of journalists like Felicity McCall, Kathryn Johnston and Trisha Devlin matter in the battle against all forms of perverse obscurantism and the threat posed from that quarter. They are voices that should be amplified not muffled. Lesley Stock and her colleagues at CRN deserve credit for doing in essence what the NUJ should be doing. 

While what is happening to journalists is no laughing matter, if a laughing stock does emerge from this gratuitous cancellation - or the feet of someone are to be placed in stocks as atonement - it will not be Ms Stock.

 ⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Voices That Need Amplified Not Muffled

Michael Nugent with the twenty-second in a series of pieces on whether gods exist.

The first commandment of the Christian god is that you should worship only him or else be stoned to death.

According to the Bible, the first commandment is:

I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20:2-3, Deut 5:6-7)
Picture adapted from Rembrant’s Moses
Smashing the Tablets of the Law

Outside of quoting actual Bibles, today’s Christian churches typically shorten this to some variation of “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.”

They do not focus on the part about their god bringing them out of Egypt, but in the Bible story, this claim was essential to establish the credibility of this god with the tribe of Moses.

People of this era worshipped many gods, including the sun, the moon and other celestial bodies, and this claim let the Israelites know they were dealing with a very powerful god, who had already intervened in earthly affairs on their behalf.

How had the god intervened on their behalf? According to the Bible, the god had repeatedly sent terrible plagues on the Egyptians (Ex 7-11)

  • He turned the rivers of Egypt into blood
  • He smote the territory of Egypt with frogs
  • He turned the dust of Egypt into lice
  • He corrupted Egypt with swarms of flies
  • He killed all livestock owned by Egyptians
  • He caused all Egyptians top have boils
  • He sent thunder and hail and fire onto Egypt
  • He sent locusts to eat every tree in Egypt
  • He made Egypt dark for three days


These plagues were supposedly intended to convince Pharoe to let the Israelites go. But after each plague, this same god had deliberately “hardened Pharoe’s heart”, specifically to ensure that Pharoe would not let the Israelites go, in order that he could move on to sending the next plague.

The final plague was killing the firstborn child of every Egyptian family.

11:4 Then Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; 5 and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals. (Ex 11:4-6)
12:12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Ex 12:12-13)


After killing the Egyptian children, the god chose not to harden Pharoe’s heart, and Pharoe decided to let the Israelites go. This god’s behaviour is clearly deeply immoral, but to a primitive Bronze Age tribe, their god’s power was more persuasive than his morality.

As a more direct incentive to worship the god, they would be stoned to death if they worshipped the sun, the moon or any other gods (Deut 17:2-5).

17:2 If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, 3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, 4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an [d]abomination has been committed in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones.

So that is commandment number one. I will examine the second commandment in my next post.


Michael Nugent is Chair of Atheist Ireland

Do Gods Exist? ➤ 22 The Lord Thy God?

Los Angeles Times ✒ Fresno Bishop Urges Catholics Not To 'jump on the COVID-19 vaccine bandwagon'.

Hayley Smith  

Citing ethical concerns about the use of fetal cells in vaccine development, Bishop Joseph Brennan of the Diocese of Fresno is urging Catholics not to "jump on the Covid-19 vaccine bandwagon.” 

In a video shared by the diocese this week, Brennan said that some of the researchers racing to produce a coronavirus vaccine have made use of cells derived from an aborted fetus, and perhaps other "morally objectionable" materials.

"I try to maintain a joyful spirit, so I don't like to rain on anyone's parade," Brennan said. "But I'm going to rain on a parade today: the vaccine parade."

In his message, Brennan said the use of fetal cells at any stage of a vaccine's development means Catholics cannot avail themselves of its scientific results.

I won’t be able to take a vaccine, brothers and sisters, and I encourage you not to, if it was developed with material from stem cells that were derived from a baby that was aborted, or material that was cast off from artificial insemination of a human embryo. That's morally unacceptable for us.

Continue reading @ Los Angeles Times.

Bishop Bollix

Right Wing Watch ✒ George Pearsons Says People in Heaven and Even ‘The Ballot Itself’ Are Crying Out About Voter Fraud.

Kyle Mantyla
 
Right-wing pastor George Pearsons dedicated his Sunday sermon to railing against the supposedly rampant voter fraud that has prevented President Donald Trump from winning reelection, claiming that people in Heaven and even the ballots themselves are crying out against the alleged fraud.

Pearsons, the son-in-law of televangelist Kenneth Copeland and senior pastor at Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church in Texas, has claimed that God is “not happy” with what happened during the election and he has therefore been using his church services and television programs to endlessly rail against the results.

During his sermon, Pearsons took a passage from the book of James that says ‘the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty” and rewrote it to make it about the election.

Continue reading @ Right Wing Watch.

The Opinion Of People In Heaven

 



A Morning Thought @ 905

Alfie Gallagher calls out the sheer hypocrisy of former England goalkeeper in his parsimonious response to the death of soccer legend, Diego Maradona. 

 
There is something particularly pathetic about Peter Shilton using the death of the great Diego Maradona to spend almost an entire column in the Daily Mail condemning Maradona for having "no sportsmanship" because he refused to apologise for his Hand of God goal in that iconic World Cup quarter-final in 1986. I suppose his reaction should come as no surprise; it's merely the latest chapter in Shilton's 34-year-long whinge. 

Yet to any objective viewer who takes the time to watch the game in its entirety (it's easily accessible online), it's clear that there is gross hypocrisy in Shilton's sanctimonious denunciation of Maradona's "cheating" the England team out of a chance to play in a World Cup semi-final. 

Like most of his teammates, Shilton conveniently forgets that throughout the match, Maradona was the victim of a much more dangerous, brutish form of cheating than his handball goal: systematic, cynical and often brutally violent fouling.

Even before his Hand of God goal, Maradona had already suffered a late, hefty bodycheck; a vicious, lunging, two-footed tackle; and two nasty elbows to the head — all from England's centre-half Terry Fenwick alone. Fenwick would again swing his elbow into Maradona's head for a third time about ten minutes after Maradona's Goal of the Century, but incredibly the only sanction Fenwick would receive during the entire match was a yellow card for that ferocious tackle in the 9th minute.

Yet Fenwick was merely the worst of many culprits. Within the first 32 minutes, Maradona had been hacked down twice by Peter Reid, leveled by Peter Beardsley's two-footed tackle from behind, and cynically tripped up and sent flying by Steve Hodge just outside England's penalty area. Perhaps the most incredible thing about his glorious second goal is that none of the English defenders managed to foul Maradona before he rounded Shilton and scored.

Diego Maradona had his flaws and his demons, very much like his friend Paul Gascoigne, but I saw him as a lovable rogue as well as an artist with the ball. He made many mistakes in his life, but I would argue that the Hand of God is not one of them.

As I said to my friend Anthony McIntyre the other day, Both of Maradona's goals against England were works of staggering genius. Maradona's second goal was of course football poetry incarnate, but his first goal was an ingenious two-fingered riposte to the thuggery that he was forced to endure, not only in that quarter-final, but throughout his entire career, simply because cynical violence was not punished in football then as it is now. 

The Hand of God goal epitomises the two qualities I admired most in Maradona: his brilliance with the ball at his feet and then the impish cunning of the little barrio boy who learned his craft on the streets.
May Diego Maradona rest easy now, and may Peter Shilton forever suck lemons.



⏭ Alfie Gallagher is a Sligo based blogger.

Particularly Pathetic Peter

Ancient Order of Hibernians has issued the following statement by National Freedom for All Ireland Chairman Martin Galvin


HUNGER STRIKE 1980 

Forty years ago, seven Irish Republican political prisoners were in the midst of a 53 day Hunger Strike against British torture and a strategy to brand them as common criminals rather than political prisoners. Britain's decision at the end of that Hunger Strike, to intensify efforts to break the H-block prisoners rather than compromise, triggered the 1981 Hunger Strike transforming Irish politics and its American dimension. Hibernians will host a special live webinar broadcast 'Hunger Strike 1980' on Saturday December 5th featuring key perspectives from inside the Hunger Strike, from the campaign on Irish streets, and from the crucial battle for American public opinion.

One of the 1980 Hunger Strikers Tommy McKearney, will be joined by former H-Block Blanketman now MLA Fra McCann, and political commentator Andree Murphy.

America's oldest and largest Irish organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, will host the live webinar broadcast, with Hibernians across the United States joining, led by National Presidents Danny O'Connell and Karen Keane. The event will begin at 4pm in Ireland,11am in New York, to accommodate American time differences. 

Tommy McKearney will discuss, why Republican prisoners resorted to a hunger strike, the events inside as he and other prisoners neared death and how Britain's misjudgment at the end of the 1980 Hunger Strike led directly to the 1981 Hunger Strike, the deaths of 10 of his fellow Republican prisoners, and a transformation of Irish politics.

Fra McCann will discuss his personal experiences on the protest begun by his close friend Kieran Nugent, and how he and other H-Block prisoners were sent to America in the crucial battle for American support against the massive resources of the British government.

Political commentator and journalist, Andree Murphy, will speak about Britain's efforts against the campaign, including the assassination of leaders of the H-Block-Armagh Committee, the widespread use of plastic bullets against marchers, and news censorship.

" The AOH resolved at its national convention to hold a series of commemorative events, and forums, to study, and honor the legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike Martyrs. The 1981 Hunger Strike is one of the most consequential events in Irish history with added meaning next year, in direct contrast with British celebrations of the 100th anniversary of partition and formation of the Orange State. 'Hunger Strike 1980' deals with a crucial chapter in understanding and honoring the legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike.

'Hunger Strike 1980' follows last month's program on "Plastic Justice" which was not only joined by large numbers of AOH and LAOH members across the United States, but was also watched by viewers in Ireland and Irish American organizations like Irish Northern Aid and the Irish American Unity Conference. We invite and welcome everyone to join Hibernians as we use new technologies to bring important speakers from Ireland to you at this crucial time".

Martin Galvin

“Ireland Unfree shall Never be at Peace”

Hunger Strike 1980

 



A Morning Thought @ 904

Anthony McIntyre recalls one of the greatest players ever to take to a soccer pitch. 

 

"The truth is, I want the Pope to be more famous than Maradona. But I have an edge, which is that I played soccer pretty well - Diego Maradona. 

If not primus inter pares, he certainly cruises in the top flight, courtesy of a mercurial talent and an ability to turn a mediocre team into, if not a majestic side, one at least capable of delivering magnificent performances.

The first time I heard the enchanting name Diego Maradona it emitted from the lips of Denis Faul as he updated blanket prisoners on the weekly sports news prior to one of his masses in the H Block. Denis, a walking sports encyclopedia that continuously replenished itself with the latest gossip and news, enthused about this 17-year-old sensation, whom none of us had previously heard of.

In the summer I, not yet on the blanket, had in Cage 11 watched Argentina take the World Cup through the sublime efforts and panache of a Mario Kempes driven side. Their 2-1 win over France in the early stages, the finest game I ever witnessed. So, I thought I had seen the best of what the Argentinians had to offer. What could possibly have changed in a matter of months? It was not that such a prodigious talent had gone unnoticed in the top echelons of Argentinian soccer management, and had only come rapping on the door post-tournament.

National coach, César Luis Menotti who set up shop in his dug-out - no technical areas back then – with an ever growing pile of cigarette butts gathering at his feet, felt Maradona at such a tender age might not be able to handle the pressure. The gaunt Menotti, AKA  El Flaco (the Thin One), kept him out of the squad and thus starved the rest of us of a strange magic, to borrow from the ELO song. 

Four years later with the blanket protest and hunger strikes behind us, we were still non conforming prisoners, as official prison parlance had it.  Although wearing our own clothes we were still refusing to work or conform with those prison rules we found objectionable. Once out from behind the doors, we had forced a relaxation in an otherwise recalcitrant regime and were able to see a lot of World Cup action, including the final between West Germany and a rejuvenated Italy.

It was our first chance to watch Maradona who, after some reasonable but not scintillating performances, trudged off demoralised from a game where the opponents were - and remain - the most dazzling Brazilian side post-1970. The fiery Argentine had been shown a red card for basically kicking an opponent in the goolies.

1986, cometh the hour cometh the man. Maradona arrived in style, like no other since Pele. He replaced 1978 winner Daniel Passarella as team captain. Passarella had come down with Montezuma’s Revenge while in Mexico to compete in the competition and was replaced by the late Jose Luis Brown, scorer of the opening goal in the final. The tension between him and Maradona was reputed to to be fierce. To dip into the observation made by Tacitus on the relationship between Livia Drusilla and her son Tiberius, there was either a genuine harmony or a hatred well concealed, with plausibility on the side of the latter.  It has been speculated that Passarella represented an image of an older Argentina, authoritarian and disciplined whereas Maradona was of the new Argentina, more relaxed and democratic. In a sense he projected the vision of Menotti, the manager who had earlier overlooked him, and who had:

described the purpose of a footballer as “a privileged interpreter of the dreams and feelings of thousands of people” and wanted to instill into his ‘interpreters’ a left-wing ideological view of football where the focus was bringing joy to the masses by playing attractive, attacking football.

Team wise, the 78 side were more balanced with a less disproportionate distribution of acumen and were subsequently stronger as a result. But the 86 squad had in Maradona a star of such unique refulgence that it is hard to think of any other player in history who so singlehandedly determined the outcome of a World Cup tournament. Four goals of sheer genius in the quarter and semi-finals booked their place in the final and the rest is history. 

Although maligned by England players and fans for his hand of God goal in the quarters, my close friend, friend. Alfie Gallagher, made the astute observation: 

His goals against England in '86 were feats of staggering genius. The first encapsulates both his brilliance with the ball at his feet and the roguish cunning of barrio boy who learned his craft on the street.

Diego Maradona found favour in many quarters for his progressive stance and the causes he endorsed. As unafraid off the pitch as he was daring on it, he never followed in the footsteps of his continent's many tyrants. 

Again, there is that strain which is to be detected in Menotti 

There's a right-wing football and a left-wing football. Right-wing football wants to suggest that life is struggle. It demands sacrifices. We have to become of steel and win by any method ... obey and function, that's what those with power want from the players. That's how they create retards, useful idiots that go with the system.

Maradona retarded the ability of the opposition to get their game together and often made idiots out of those left in his wake as he dribbled past them on the field of dreams. The system he went with was one of flair, panache, élan, Right wing, left wing, he had wings that saw him soar above the rest.

 ⏩Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Diego Maradona

Juan David Ramírez Rubiano ✒ History has shown us that some authoritarian political regimes have displayed immense fear of certain ideas expressed in books, works of art and all types of artistic expression that was considered dangerous to the ideology of the government. 

To mention two well-known cases, the burning of piles of books carried out by the Nazis (mirroring the style of a Colombian ex-attorney in his youth), among which those of Bertolt Brecht could be found, to mention one of the greatest German writers or the censuring of the Russian writer and journalist Vasily Grossman by the Soviet regime which almost wiped out his written work Life and Fate. It was written in 1959 with strong criticism of Soviet bureaucracy and totalitarianism. 

It was the object of censure and persecution and could only see the light of day and be published in 1980 in Switzerland. It’s worth mentioning that this work also criticized Nazism.

This practice is not only specific to totalitarian governments; it has also been taken up by religious institutions. The Catholic Church is ripe with these types of acts ...

Continue reading @ Juan David Ramírez Rubiano.

Insolence That Troubled The Church

Christopher OwensThe first major book of fiction inspired by coronavirus? Well, apparently not. 

 
According to the press blurb, legendary American author Don DeLillo “…completed this novel just weeks before the advent of Covid-19.” However, “The Silence is the story of a different catastrophic event. Its resonances offer a mysterious solace.” And one that only extends to 117 pages as well! Must be a quare compact read.

The plot is very simple:

It is Super Bowl Sunday in the year 2022. Five people, dinner, an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. The retired physics professor and her husband and her former student waiting for the couple who will join them from what becomes a dramatic flight from Paris.

A worldwide power outage puts a spanner in the works (to put it politely) and each character is forced to reckon (without technology) with themselves and the outside world.

Nowhere near as apocalyptic in terms of content as the scenario implies, it has been described in some reviews as Beckettian. Quite an apt comparison. With the focus on five characters and their reactions to the complete breakdown going on around them, they resort to sprouting verbose, on the nose monologues that range from Einstein’s proclamation that “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” right down to counting stairs. The syntax is very formal, very literary. As if the characters have been waiting their whole lives to speak like this and, when the moment finally arrives, it appears in the most unnatural form.

As a result of this and the lack of action, The Silence is a cold and mildly disconcerting read. Albeit one that is entertaining if you enter with a certain frame of mind. Some readers have admitted to struggling with the text, feeling it to be flat and lifeless. One could argue, however, that the sudden loss of technology (which is a crutch in the modern world) would leave most people adrift and bereft of proper conversation, so it could be argued that the “flat and lifeless” criticism is actually an intentional move on the part of DeLillo to make the end of the world much more mundane.

As an example, the character of Max’s reaction to not being able to watch the Super Bowl is both predictable and yet unsettling (he stares intently at the screen), while the interactions between his wife Diane and her former student James (who can’t stop quoting Einstein) strongly hint at a marriage held together by Sellotape (i.e. technology) and a youth culture trapped not only by a fixation with the past, but also no clear way of making their mark on the current climate.

Another factor that helps with the unease is that we’re never sure what it is that has caused this outage. There is some speculation about Chinese involvement, but the discussion around it is very loose and is never properly investigated. As a result, there is an ever-pervading sense of powerlessness (literally and metaphorically) throughout the narrative.

Ultimately, it is a book that is not for everyone. There’s a possibility that, if stretched out over 200 odd pages, with the issues examined with a finer lens and a more accessible writing style, DeLillo could have written a novel akin to his classic White Noise. As it stands, it’s an experimental novella which doesn’t quite fulfil it’s potential. But the fact that it doesn’t is what makes it so oddly compelling. We are merely left to ponder to ourselves.

As Beckett once wrote: “We always find something, eh Didi, to let us think we exist?” Maybe The Silence is a more modern example of this phenomenon?

Don DeLillo, 2020, The Silence. Picador, ISBN-13: 978-1982164553

Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

The Silence