UnHerdIf you were bullied by 338 colleagues, what would you do?

 Suzanne Moore
It is March 2020. For several months now I have been trying to write something — anything — about the so-called “trans debate” in my Guardian column. But if I ever slip a line in about female experience belonging to people with female bodies, and the significance of this, it is always subbed out. It is disappeared. Somehow, this very idea is being blocked, not explicitly, but it certainly isn’t being published. My editors say things like: “It didn’t really add to the argument”, or it is a “distraction” from the argument.

Distraction has always been a triggering word for me. In a good way. My PhD supervisor told me I was “a woman of too many distractions”. This was because I was venturing into journalism, frustrated by the dead language of academia ...

Even though I’d been writing for them for decades, editors consistently try to steer me towards “lifestyle” subjects for my column. One even suggests that I shouldn’t touch politics at all. And yet I won the Orwell Prize for political journalism the year before.

Continue reading @ UnHerd.

Why I Had To Leave The Guardian

The Journal - Report details case of mentally ill inmate found lying naked on floor of cell
Hayley Halpin  

The Council Of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture found a mentally ill prisoner lying naked in his cell in an Irish prison, with faeces and urine on the floor. 

The CPT has today published its report on its seventh periodic visit to Ireland, which took place from 25 September to 4 October 2019.

In the five prison establishments visited, prisoners stated that the vast majority of prison officers treated them correctly.

However, a small number of prison officers are inclined to use more physical force than is necessary and to verbally abuse prisoners, the committee outlined.

The CPT also found that the current complaints system cannot be considered fit for purpose.

The committee outlined that most people stated that they were treated corrected by gardaí when detained.

However, it said there were several allegations of physical ill-treatment and verbal disrespect from remand prisoners. These allegations mostly involved slaps, kicks and punches to various parts of the body.  

Continue reading @ The Journal.

Report Details Case Of Mentally Ill Inmate Found Lying Naked On Floor Of Cell

UnHerd ✒ A university without a library is like a home without a roof.

Tom Crew

 And so, despite the insistence of many universities that their libraries remain “open online”, higher education has all but come to an end in the UK. A sector that remained open during the Second World War and provided a home to dissidents and the otherwise persecuted — from Theodor W. Adorno to Sir Ludwig Guttmann — has closed itself as quickly and as meekly as the church.

The University of Cambridge, where I am a doctoral student and which, in 1933, helped form the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), seems to be leading the retreat: declaring an end to group lectures for the whole of the next academic year and generally falling over itself in eager deference to government “advice”.

Speaking at the Albert Hall at an event organized by CARA in 1933, Albert Einstein urged the audience to “resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom”. As contentious as references to the 1930s might be, when in our entire history has “intellectual and individual freedom” been as besieged as it is today?

Continue reading @ UnHerd.

Safetyism ➖ The New University Doctrine


A Morning Thought @ 908

Maryam Namazie dismisses the suggestion that cartoons are anything other than an excuse for theocratic murder. 

Cartoons are an excuse. Everything “provokes” Islamists – Being a woman, freethinker, gay, unveiled, ex-Muslim, atheist, religiously unprescribed sex, laughing out loud, music… If you think that killings will stop if you stop drawing cartoons, you cannot see the innumerable in prisons & on death row in Iran, Asia, Mid East, North Africa for “provoking” the Islamic fascists by living 21 century lives.

Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born activist and Spokesperson 
of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All.

Cartoons Are An Excuse

Double Down News ✒ Meet The Wrong Type of Jew, The Media Doesn't Want You To Know Exists Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.

The Wrong Type Of Jew

Thomas Dixie Elliot
An Unapologetic Irish Republican is a thing of the past, as far as Sinn Féin are concerned. 

Sinn Féiner TD Brian Stanley deleted a tweet about Kilmichael and Narrow Water over the weekend, then apologised for it, saying that it was, 'inappropriate and insensitive'. 

Kilmichael and Narrow Water were successful IRA operations against sections of the British military which had murdered innocent people on Bloody Sunday in 1920 and the more recent Bloody Sunday in 1972. How could anyone claiming to be a Republican apologise for comparing the two historical events? 

Given the Declan Kearney apologies to the British military forces and the RUC for the hurt and pain they experienced during the war, this comes as no surprise. The thought that Tom Barry, Dan Breen or Ernie O'Malley would have ever considered apologising to the British military or the RIC for the hurt and pain they suffered during the War of Independence is unimaginable. Yet there are many members of Sinn Féin who would put such apologises today down to, 'changed times' and the need to 'move on'.

In fact, Sinn Féiners seem to have an annoying habit of apologising at the crack of a whip. Martina Anderson 'apologised unreservedly' for her ‘dirty war’ tweet back in August after her attempt at a bit of the old Republicanism had the Unionists barking their outrage. 

The ranting reverend, Ian Paisley, gave a speech in 2004; in which he referred to a Gerry Adams' statement that they wanted to humiliate the IRA in regards to decommissioning. Paisley thundered:

There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s a very noble thing ... The IRA needs to be humiliated. And they need to wear their sackcloth and ashes, not in a backroom but openly. And we have no apology to make for the stand we are taking.

Clearly his words are ringing true, as far as the Sinn Féiners are concerned. They are wearing sackcloth and ashes a lot these days. 

Those scarves and waistcoats that Laurence McKeown supposedly made, out of what must have been a king size blanket that he kept from the H Blocks, never took off as being fashionable in Gerry's party. How ironic given that the wearing of sackcloth and ashes are, without doubt, the equivalent of the prison uniform which they tried and failed to get us to wear back during those dark days of the late 1970s/early 80s. 

It's not surprising, given that the Sinn Féiners squeaky-booted from Republicanism a long time ago and conformed to the very system brave men and women died fighting against. So much for the 'Unapologetic Irish Republicanism' of the past. It is now seen as being 'inappropriate and insensitive'.

Thomas Dixie Elliot is a Derry artist and a former H Block Blanketman.

Follow Dixie Elliot on Twitter @IsMise_Dixie

Unrepentant Fenian Bastards No More


A Morning Thought @ 907

Gabriel LevyCarbon dioxide removal (CDR) systems, touted as techno-fixes for global warming, usually put more greenhouse gases into the air than they take out, a study published last month has confirmed.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), which grabs carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by coal- or gas-fired power stations, and then uses it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), emits between 1.4 and 4.7 tonnes of the gas for each tonne removed, the article shows.

Direct air capture (DAC), which sucks CO2 from the atmosphere, emits 1.4-3.5 tonnes for each tonne it recovers, mostly from fossil fuels used to power the handful of existing projects.

 Biological carbon removal: a forest in Turkey.
Photo: Fagus/ wikimedia

If DAC was instead powered by renewable electricity – as its supporters claim it should be – it would wolf down other natural resources.

And things get worse at large scale.

To capture 1 gigatonne of CO2 (1 GtCO2, just one-fortieth of current global CO2 emissions) would need nearly twice the amount of wind and solar electricity now produced globally. The equipment would need a land area bigger than the island of Sri Lanka and a vast network of pipelines and underground storage facilities. (See endnote 1.)

Claims made that CCS could be “green” – by generating the energy from biofuels, and/or storing the carbon instead of using it for oil production – do not stand up to scrutiny either, the article shows.

The paper – “Assessing Carbon Capture: public policy, science and societal need”, by June Sekera, a public policy analyst, and Andreas Lichtenberger, an ecological economics researcher – is free to download on the Biophysical Economics and Sustainability web site.

Sekera and Lichtenberger demolish the case put by governments and fossil fuel companies for investing in CDR systems – and show how research methods are slanted to avoid discussion of the full resource costs.

They also challenge the way that so much CDR research focuses not on its extremely dubious worth as a tool to combat climate change, but on whether it can make money. Economists envisage the CO2, in a gaseous or solid form, being marketed as a commodity – but this, too, could operate at scale only in the world of techno fantasy and/or late capitalist dystopia.

Who Wants CDR And Why

Sekera and Lichtenberger write that “market actors seeing avenues for profit [and] seeking government support” are the main promoters of CDR by mechanical and chemical methods (such as CCS and DAC), as opposed to natural methods such as planting trees.

Fossil fuel producers are keen too. They falsely claim that CCS can help produce “green” electricity from coal or gas. Moreover, the main use to which sequestered carbon is currently put is for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), an oil and gas production technique: the carbon is pumped into underground reservoirs containing oil and gas, helping to push these products to the surface.

Governments have long backed industrial CDR, and that has intensified since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports of 2014 and 2018, which pointed to negative emissions technologies, in particular Bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) – producing electricity from biofuels, and sucking back the carbon emitted with CCS – as a way to meet decarbonisation targets.

Climate scientists have slammed the scenarios in these reports that rely on unrealistic and dangerous assumptions about using a vast proportion of the world’s land to grow crops for bioenergy. (See e.g. here, here or here.) But that has not stopped state backing for CDR.

The US government alone sank $5 billion into research of CDR in 2010-18, Sekera and Lichtenberger point out. The UK Committee on Climate Change says CDR is a “necessity”, and the European Commission has incorporated industrial CDR into its “green deal”. The trough of development funding is getting bigger.

Why Some Types Of CDR Do Not Work

Humanity’s “collective biophysical need” to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is the standard by which Sekera and Lichtenberger judge CDR technologies.

This helps them to cut through mountains of hype about CDR, including articles focused on how “cost effective” it is, or claiming it is “carbon reductive” compared to a hypothetical “business as usual” case.

They reviewed more than 200 scientific papers, and analysed what they said about: the impact of each CDR technology on the total carbon balance; the resource usage required for it to be used at scale; and the biophysical impacts, especially at scale.

Carbon Capture And Storage

In the case of CCS, Sekera and Lichtenberger point out that it “can not reduce the stock of atmospheric CO2 since it can not store more than it captures”. In order for the CO2 to be captured by this method, it has to be added to the stock in the first place, almost always by a power station or industrial process.
If the carbon is stored, rather than used for oil production, “the process could avoid being net [CO2] additive”, Sekera and Lichtenberger concede. But renewable electricity generation linked to storage would be much more energy-effective, as a research team led by Sgouris Sigouridis at Khalifa university, Abu Dhabi, calculated recently – so why would you invest in fossil fuels plus CCS in the first place?

Furthermore, in the real world, now, CO2 captured by CCS is not stored, but used for EOR – that is, to produce more oil. All five of the largest CCS projects recently listed by an oil industry journal (one of which, Petra Nova, is currently mothballed) send the captured CO2 for EOR. (See endnote 2.)

Other CCS facilities, that take the carbon out of natural gas without the gas being burned, e.g. in the manufacture of hydrogen, also very often send the CO2 produced for use in EOR.

The Global CCS Institute, an industry body, says that, of ten new projects it recently listed, three will send CO2 for EOR, two are “considering” it and only two plan dedicated geological storage. No information is provided for the other three.

The life cycle analysis of CCS+EOR’s global warming impact is dire. Paulina Jaramillo of Carnegie Mellon university, USA, and her colleagues estimated that CCS+EOR emits 3.7-4.7 tonnes of CO2 for each tonne sequestered – and in the ten years since their article was published, no-one has questioned their numbers.

Researchers who claim that CCS+EOR is carbon-negative are not telling the full story, Sekera and Lichtenberger write:

We found that papers that deem CCS-EOR to be a climate mitigation technique either fail to account for all emissions (i.e. they perform only a partial life cycle analysis) and/or they make an assumption that CCS-EOR-produced oil “displaces” conventionally produced fossil fuel energy.

Direct Air Capture

DAC technologies suck CO2 from the air using sorbents (solid chemicals that absorb the CO2 molecules), or aqueous solutions containing amines (nitrogen-based compounds). All these techniques require a ferocious amount of energy.

High-temperature sorbent-based techniques need masses of heat energy, usually supplied by burning natural gas – which straight away makes them net CO2 emitters.

Pilot projects using low-temperature sorbent and amine systems are being run from electricity alone, or supplemented by spare heat from other processes.

Sekera and Lichtenberger found no published research with a complete life cycle analysis, including the manufacture of sorbents or amines, of renewables-powered DAC.

What they did find is that tremendous quantities of energy needed would be needed to remove any significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

This is where the issues of scale come in. One study claims that, of the 40+ GtCO2 pumped into the atmosphere by human economic activity, 2.5 GtCO2 could be captured by DAC in 2030, increasing to 8-10 Gt CO2 by 2050. But, Sekera and Lichtenberger point out, the largest of the handful of existing DAC facilities now working captures 0.000004 GtCO2 per year. (Yes, that’s four millionths of a GtCO2! There are five zeroes there.) The largest projected facility aims to capture 0.001 GtCO2/yr.

Mechanical carbon removal: Climeworks direct air
capture plant in Hinwil, Switzerland

For these systems to be scaled up, using renewable energy, implies using prodigious amounts of wind and solar power. (As though there are not enough concerns already about the danger of resources being grabbed from the global south for large-scale renewables.)

For those who like numbers, the estimates of energy required to capture 1 GtCO2 are: 1390-2789 terawatt hours (TWh) (US National Academies, capture only); 3580.9 TWh (Smith et al, capture and storage); 3417 TWh (Climate Advisers, capture and storage). To compare: total world electricity generation from renewables in 2019 was 2805.5 TWh. (See endnote 1.)

On top of the energy, there’s the land. And the “massive mobilisation and diversion of material, human and energy resources”, Sekera and Lichtenberger point out. And, once you scale up technologies of this kind, biophysical impacts include “groundwater contamination, earthquakes caused by vast volumes of CO2 stored underground; [and] ‘fugitive emissions’ that pollute the air.”

Sekera and Lichtenberger found that, for DAC enthusiasts, the “major, but generally ignored policy issue” is:

[W]hether renewable energy should be channelled for carbon removal, rather than used directly to reduce carbon emissions by powering homes, industry, businesses and transport.

Yes. Why not just use the renewably-produced electricity – hard enough itself to produce at scale without causing further resource stresses – and close down fossil-fuelled power stations? Assuming you are not just trying to invent survival strategies for oil and gas corporations, that is. …

The Politics Of CDR

Politicians and researchers alike are avoiding the question of whether using electricity generated from renewables to power DAC can ever make sense, Sekera and Lichtenberger charge.

Scientific and technical papers increasingly acknowledge that fossil fuel-powered DAC is thermodynamically counterproductive, yet those same papers fail to tackle the consequential question of whether renewable energy should be funnelled to DAC, rather than used to directly supply energy for buildings and transport.

And the massive land requirements and biophysical impacts are largely “ignored”.

Sekera and Lichtenberger call for all existing subsidies for carbon removal systems for EOR (effectively, subsidies for oil production) to be removed. No system that puts more CO2 into the atmosphere than it takes out should get state support, they argue.

As for DAC powered by renewables, they say that it should be discussed as “a public service to meet a societal need, which is to achieve an absolute reduction in atmospheric CO2”.

They are sceptical that DAC can ever work at scale. The political question is “whether industrial-mechanical carbon removal is a realistic option”. Before any support is given to it, it should be analysed according to (i) its overall impact on the carbon balance, (ii) the effect of using resources (electricity, land, labour, and so on) at large scale, and (iii) the biophysical impacts of using it at scale.

Sekera and Lichtenberger argue that DAC and other industrial techniques need to be compared with biological methods of carbon removal – such as reforestation and afforestation; farming techniques; and grasslands and wetlands restoration – that they propose, preliminarily, will be “more effective and efficient” in energy and resource usage.

A report by Climate Advisers says that natural solutions are “the most readily available”, have already been deployed on a large scale for decades, are more cost-effective, offer numerous co-benefits and “should be a component of all truly visionary international climate action agendas”.

And by the way: BECCS is not a biological method of carbon removal. It is a way of burning biological material as fuel, with the carbon captured mechanically.

For social and labour movements, and all who are concerned about climate change, Sekera and Lichtenberger’s research must surely be taken seriously.

The Powers That Be Love Technofixes. We Should Not Be Fooled By Them.

Technologies are not neutral. They work in social contexts. In contrast to biological methods, big, industrial CDR will – for the foreseeable future at least – be controlled by oil companies, or by the state. These technologies are by their nature inimical to collective control or operation.

We should therefore be wary – as Trade Unions for Energy Democracy are – of union bosses who support CCS, supposedly to “protect jobs” but actually to give a new lease of life to fossil fuel industries. And we should have serious, thoughtful discussions about the relationship of technological change and social change.

All our efforts should be directed to changing the big technological systems that consume fossil fuels – urban transport and buildings, industry and agriculture, military and state systems – to reduce wasteful and unnecessary consumption. We should fight for existing technologies, preferably small scale ones, to change these systems, as trades unionists in Leeds are doing; fight to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels; and fight to unmask hypocritical “climate emergencies” that are a cover for inaction.  

■ The report cited in this article: June Sekera and Andreas Lichtenberger, “Assessing carbon capture: public policy, science and societal need: a review of the literature on industrial carbon renewal”, Biophysical Economics and Sustainability (2020) 5:14

Geoengineering: let’s not get it back to front (People & Nature)

Will Labour rely on monstrous techno-fixes like BECCS (People & Nature)

The history of BECCS (Carbon Brief)

Endnote 1. Sekera and Lichtenberger, using calculations made in Peter Smith et al, “Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions”, Nature Climate Change 2016 (6), show that to capture one-tenth of a gigatonne of carbon dioxide (1/10 GtCO2), all wind and solar power generated in the US in 2018 (370 TWh) would be needed. So to capture 1 GtCO2, 3700 TWh (about twice the total world wind and solar output in 2018 of 1853 TWh, as stated in the BP Statistical Review 2019) would be needed. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: a research agenda (2019), gives an estimate of 5-10 GJ (=1.39-2.78 MWh) for capturing one tonne of CO2 by DAC; that figure, on p. 10, apparently refers to a range of values in table 5.11 on p. 222. Climate Advisers, in their report Creating Negative Emissions: the role of natural and technological carbon dioxide removal strategies (2018), give an estimate of 12.3 GJ/tonne (3.417 MWh/tonne) for carbon capture, processing, transportion and injection into storage. On land area, Sekera and Lichtenberger, again citing the National Academies report, say that 10 times the state of Delaware, i.e. 64,460 km2 (or 10 x 6446 km2) would be needed to recover 1 GtCO2. For non-US readers I use the example of Sri Lanka (land area 64,630 km2). That is roughly equal to half the land area of Greece (128,900 km2).

Endnote 2. The NS Energy article to which I linked states that Occidental’s Century plant, the world’s biggest CCS facility, supplied CO2 to an industrial hub. But actually it ends up being used for EOR in the Permian basin oil field, as Occidental states here. The article doesn’t state the destination of CO2 from SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project. If it has changed since 2016, when 90% of the CO2 was going for EOR, the company has kept quiet about it.

Carbon Dioxide Removal Sucks ➖ There Are Better Ways To Tackle Global Warming

AtlanticWhite nationalists have always been able to find one another in America, but the recent resurgence of the white-nationalist movement—and the extent to which its ideas have seeped into the mainstream alongside Donald Trump’s political ascent—is stunning.

Daniel Lombroso

In November 2016, I captured footage of Trump supporters throwing Nazi salutes in celebration of his presidential victory, a moment that became an explosive story in the days that followed, and set the tone for the Trump presidency. 

In the nearly four years since then, I have focused all of my journalistic energy on the “alt-right,” documenting the figures leading a swelling, and splintering, movement that centers around racism and hate. 

I saw far-right rhetoric rising on college campuses and in mainstream American politics, and white nationalists reaching millions online. 

I found my way into the heart of the movement, witnessing violent protests and wild parties, and sitting in the rooms where populist and racist ideologies were refined and weaponized. 

Through it all, I wanted to understand: What made white-power ideology so intoxicating, especially among my generation?

Continue reading @ Atlantic.

Four Years Embedded With the Alt-Right

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