AmeriCeltic promotes Discussion of Topical Issues of Celtic Interest.
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From time to time as we research Celtic matters we gain insights into contemporary issues, or see applications of lessons our forebears endured which seem forgotten now, yet needed. Our editorials reflect those insights and observations. We occasionally have contributors with important comments. We also have readers interested in re-reading our and our contributors comments or passing them on. So, we decided to dedicate a webpage just to our editorials separate from our “past newsletters,” for those who consider our Commentry worth a repeat read or a to link or share to someone else.
Table of Contents
2019-08-20 Editorial: Brexit Update by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2019-07-19 Editorial: Perspective on the 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike by Pat Goggins
2019-07-12 Editorial: Festivals & Cultural Generations by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2019-06-20 Editorial: Brexit Update ‘Something Else’ by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2019-05-31 Editorial: Brexit Update by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2019-04-19 Editorial: Politicians at Lyra McKee’s Funeral by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2019-04-19 Editorial: Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement by Tony Becker
2019-04-11 Editorial: Brexit and Trade – Halloween Follies by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2019-04-05 Editorial: Brexit and Trade – STILL Not Done (Sigh) by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2019-03-29 Editorial: Another Scottish Festival in the U.S. Cancelled – by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2019-01-18 Editorial: Brexit Update – A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall – by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-11-30 Editorial: The British-U.S. History of Voting by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-11-21 Editorial: The DUP and Brexit by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-11-15 Editorial: Brexit Update by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-11-09 Editorial: Freedom of the Press and Literacy by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-11-02 Editorial: Blasphemy Laws by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-09-27 Editorial: Hallowe’en Plans for Daughters by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-10-19 Editorial: Brexit Update by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-06-02 Essay: Peace, Prosperity and Celtic Referendums by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-07-18 Remarks of Dan Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to USA
2018-05-10 Editorial: Virtues of Celtic Culture by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2018-05-07 Remarks: The Good Friday Agreement 20th Anniversary by George Mitchell
2018-01-05 Editorial: Brexit, The Border Deal, and the DUP by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2017-11-10 Editorial: Ireland’s Future by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2017-11-03 Remarks of Dr. Leo Varadkar by Tony Becker
2017-10-16 Remarks of new UK Consul-General, Andrew Whittaker and Discussion by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2017-10-06 Pitfalls for Members of Facebook Groups Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2017-05-19 Editorial: Shopping at Celtic Festivals by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2017-04-17 Brexit Progress and Movements by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Tony Becker
2017-03-31 Editorial: Celtic American Heritage and Collaboration by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2016-12-02 Editorial: Celtic and U.S. Rebellions by Celia Fabos-Becker and Tony Becker
2016-07-15 Stay Positive and Focus on Your Circle by Donagh Mc Keown
2016-06-24 Message from Consul General of Ireland Philip Grant
2016-06-24 Editorial: The Future Possibilities for Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland
2016-06-17 Editorial: Antecedents of the American Revolution by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
2016-06-17 Women’s Civil Rights in Celtic Societies by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
Editorial: Brexit Update
Poll says Norn Iron majority backs Irish Sea border
Voters Rejected by DUP and Tory Government
By Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2019-08-23
Amid extensive reporting of estimates that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would result in the loss of 40,000 job Northern Ireland and an unprecedented economic shock for its food and farming sectors, last Monday, August 19th, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk spelling out the UK’s demands for a new Brexit deal. In that letter, demanded that the ‘Irish Backstop’ provision be dropped, and supporting his demand by the argument that such an arrangement was undemocratic and did not respect the sovereignty of the UK. Click Here to read the Full Text of Boris Johnson’s Letter to Donald Tusk
On Tuesday, Tusk rejected Johnsons demand to drop the ‘backstop’, tweeting
‘The backstop is an insurance to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland unless and until an alternative is found,’ and ‘Those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support re-establishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.’
Ironically, on Sunday, Belfast-based market research company, LucidTalk, released their August 16th, 2019 quarterly tracker poll of Northern Ireland voters to be published in the Sunday Times, and the Belfast Telegraph, and on Monday to all media outlets. Click Here for a full description of the LucidTalk Poll. LucidTalk polled 1,252 eligible voters, carefully chosen to be representative of the 1.3 million eligible voters in Northern Ireland, asking how they would vote in a referendum proposing that Northern Ireland (but not Great Britain) remained aligned to the European Union, (EU), ‘perhaps staying in the single market and the customs union’. (This is a proportionally larger sample than most polls done in the U.S., and LucidTalk estimates the results are accurate to within an error of +/-2.6% at 95% confidence)
In response, almost three out of five Northern Ireland voters responded in favor of a ‘customs border in the Irish Sea’ Brexit compromise.
An overwhelming majority of Sinn Féin and nationalist voters, a clear majority of Alliance and Green Party voters, and one in six unionists support the Northern Ireland-only backstop as a way of averting a hard Brexit, while this Irish backstop is vehemently opposed by the DUP’s Arlene Foster and UK prime minister Boris Johnson.
Northern Ireland voters have also taken a dim view of how the government is handling Brexit negotiations with the European Union; fully 2/3rds say in polls that Johnson and Foster’s government is doing ‘very badly’ in negotiations with the EU.
Obviously, Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster’s demand for no backstop is NOT in sync with the desires of their Northern Irish constituents!
While polls are not referendums, they can be, and have been, strong indicators of a need for a referendum. The ‘backstop’ was not part of the original 2016 referendum on leaving the EU as the Irish border was not even considered in that proposal. The leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, including Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and others promised a rosy deal as though only England would write it. No one else was considered.
If Boris Johnson is so concerned about the UK, he needs to consider what the UK IS. The UK is a UNION of several once separate states. It is a contract in which England owes Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland a certain regard and respect, including fiduciary obligations and it can be broken or nullified if one side is perceived as taking unfair advantage and abusing the other. It is not just England. Additionally, Boris Johnson himself and others threatened Scotland with denial of EU membership if the Scots voted for independence, before Johnson, Farage and others introduced the Brexit vote. In many countries, and much international law, calling for a Brexit vote AFTER threatening the Scots in this manner, and promising that only if they remained in the UK would they remain in the EU is a form of FRAUD. Fraud is cause for nullifying a contract.
In the 1918 UK parliamentary election, a minority of counties in Ireland, mostly the Ulster plantation counties, voted for candidates wanting to remain part of the UK and did so for its own economic and social benefit. This was then a 50-60% Protestant area and the Protestants feared both reprisals for centuries of abuse of Catholics, and having to give the Catholics full and equal rights. On May 3rd, 1921 these interests affirmed their continuing loyalty to the United Kingdom, and petitioned King George V for a separate self-governing parliament for Northern Ireland, which resulted in the partition of the island and Northern Ireland remained part of the UK, while the rest of the island became the Republic of Ireland.
For nearly the entire 98 years since then, England has been denying the Northern Irish the same amount of financial and other benefits given to English, notably investments in developing a modern economy with greater employment and pay for its people. Ireland did well with a combination of the Good Friday Agreement and EU membership. Now The UK Government, led by partners Conservative Leader Boris Johnson and the DUP’s Arlene Foster, is undemocratically ignoring the will of the voters of the two entities who made the original 1918-22 agreement. This government wants to take away both the economic benefits of EU membership, and risk the peace of the Good Friday Agreement which specifically took down the border between Ireland and Northern ireland as both at that time were EU members, and ended decades of bloodshed known as ‘The Troubles’.
Who is REALLY being undemocratic and ignoring the principle of self-determination, as well as sovereignty and contract law here?
If Boris Johnson is so concerned about democratic principles, then he needs to support a new referendum on the Irish border, one way or another. He either needs a UK-wide referendum on the backstop, or he needs to allow Northern Ireland a new referendum to consider reunification with Ireland to maintain EU membership. To be consistent, he needs to also allow Scotland a new referendum on Scottish independence (perhaps as a dominion, if the EU and UK will allow dominions to negotiate their own trade policies, as Canada seems to be able to do).
Otherwise Boris Johnson is both a hypocrite, and a fraud.
And what about the sovereignty of the EU as a WHOLE, with its laws about the equality of its member nations. Johnsons arguments deny both Ireland and the EU THEIR sovereignty by insisting that ONLY the sovereignty of the UK matters in the latest English divorce.
Conditions have changed in Ireland as well as in Northern Ireland. Ireland is no longer a theocratic state under the thumb of Catholic clergy. It already harbors, gives jobs, and benefits to hundreds of thousands of Northern Irish, Protestant as well as Catholic, particularly younger persons who have emigrated there. Families have branches on both sides of the border. For 20 years now there has been peace between the two parts of Ireland and increased social and economic ties. If anyone is still behaving like an antiquated theocracy, regarding the Irish, and undemocratically toward most of Europe, it seems to be the Conservatives and their DUP partners.
We hope that the 27 remaining members of the EU stand fast for their own Sovereignty and equality of members, and suggest that PM Johnson practice as he preaches regarding real democracy within his own UK, formed by contracts among separate entities, and holds either a full UK referendum on the back stop or two referendums: one in Northern Ireland, regarding reunification with the rest of Ireland, and a second in Scotland for independence.
On 1 August 2019 Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds beat Tory Chris Davies in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election reducing the ‘coalition’ of Tories and DUP to a one vote majority in Parliament. Any further defections of a Tory MP would end the current majority, and force the formation of a new UK government.
But most significantly, there is one other needless, antiquated problem in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin has 7 elected members for Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom Parliament that do not take their seats and haven’t for over 98 years, since before the creation of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as an entity within the UK.
By remaining out of the Parliament, these 7 Sinn Féin MPs, are almost as responsible for the current mess as the Tories and DUP. They are not part of the solution, but part of the problem. 98 years ago, there were good reasons for abstention. But 98 years on, with the exception of the Loyalty Oath, those reasons are moot and they do more harm to Northern Ireland and the people who elect Sinn Féin party members to Parliament by not taking their seats, now. If any of these 7 were to act responsibly, for the good of the people of Northern Ireland, reject their outdated abstentionist policy and take their seats in the London Parliament, Sinn Féin could end that majority and force a new election, or a vote on either a new EU referendum (with the facts of the matter now better known), or a referendum on the backstop.
We have one more suggestion. In 2020, in its mandatory review of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act of 2011, the UK Parliament should restore the right of the reigning monarch to call for a general election when there is a hung parliament. Had this right of an independent monarch, who represents the entire UK above political parties still existed, these past three years of angst in the UK over former PM May’s negotiations and proposed withdrawal agreement, and all the attendant financial and economic uncertainties, and perhaps, even some of the economic decline, could have been avoided.
Norman Ten with Pat Goggins at the ceremony. Norman grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, is a working member of SEIU and President of APALA. Norman co-ordinated the First Prize Railroad Worker unit in the SF Chinese New Year’s Parade.
A Perspective on the 150th Anniversary of the Golden Spike
Pat Goggins, Board Chair of the Irish Literary & Historical Society
© IRISH HERALD, July, 2019 – reprinted by permission
Thank you (to the Irish Herald – ed.) for your front page coverage of the May 10 Gold Spike Ceremony at the 150th Anniversary of the Completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the U.S. It was significant for Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall to applaud all who labored and sacrificed to build the railroad. This inclusiveness is so important because the past reporting emphasized the business financiers and left out the thousands of workers, especially non-whites.
The various worker groups included an estimated 20,000 Chinese who constituted approximately 90% of the work force coming from California to the East on the Central Pacific, the estimated 10,000 Irish who constituted approximately half of the workers coming west on the Union Pacific (and considerable numbers on the Central Pacific too), many recently emancipated African Americans, Mormons, Italians, American Indians and others.
There were 35 official photographs taken at the original 1869 ceremonies and only one included Chinese. For example, Chinese were missing in the universally distributed original iconic photo, shown as recreated in your Herald article, even though the original photo had over a hundred people in it. History has been misrepresented. We can, and should, imagine the insult and hurt. We must also remember the discriminations against the Chinese who were paid less for the same work and assigned the critical and most dangerous work. Over 1200 Chinese died in powder blasting and avalanches.
Incredibly, the May 10 re-enactment ceremonies over the 15 decades have focused on the capitalists, Leland Stanford et al. At the 100th Gold Spike anniversary in 1969 respected Chinese-American Philip Choy of the Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco, was invited via telegraph to attend and speak – yet when Phil arrived he was bumped so that another could speak. Believe it or not, the favored speaker was John Wayne. Further xenophobia was exhibited in 1969 by Keynote speaker John Volpe, U.S. Secretary of Interior, who bragged, ‘Who else but Americans could drill tunnels in mountains 30 feet deep in snow?’
Of course, the Chinese were not allowed to be citizens. This infamous statement was unforgettably witnessed by Carl Nolte of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The overriding reality of political awareness among Chinese in the U.S. is derivative of the extreme prejudice against Chinese that unfolded during the economic strife following the waning of the gold mining and railroad jobs and culminating in the 1870s and 80s with the deplorable 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The working class competition between Chinese and Irish which was greatly fomented by sand lot labor demagogue Denis Kearney in San Francisco needs to be acknowledged and understood.
History is always still in the making. We Irish can help our Chinese brothers and sisters tell their story by recognizing our roles, having simpatico today and sharing mutual concerns. We had a contingent of Irish from California, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Kansas who celebrated the accomplishments of all workers and showed solidarity with Chinese at the 150th Golden Spike activities in Utah. Let’s do it everywhere. The Chinese community supporters who won first place with their fabulous railroad workers unit in the recent San Francisco Chinese New Year’s Parade are interested in participating in our St. Patrick’s Parade of 2020. Let’s welcome them with Caed Mille Failte.
Several developments in recent years have raised consciousness about the forgotten Chinese railroad workers, including the formation of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association in Salt Lake City, whose President Michael Kwan organized an influential 8 day Golden Spike Conference regarding the 150th Transcontinental Anniversary and the Chinese Railroad Workers in America Project at Stanford University co-directed by Gordon Chang whose new book Ghosts of Gold Mountain – the Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad is prominent among the exploding plethora of publications on the subject. This transformative scholarly attention and community activist lobbying created a cultural and social force compelling the current inclusive nature of the 150th anniversary activities.
In the spirit of collaboration and inclusiveness, as demonstrated at Promontory Point by Keynote Speaker & historian Jon Meacham, Secretary Elaine Chao U.S. Dept. of Transportation and Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the US.
ps – The Last Tie, into which was tapped the Gold Spike, was harvested from a California Laurel Tree on Mount Tamalpais in Marin County and fabricated by a professional billiard table maker in San Francisco.
Children at play on a hay-fort
Editorial – Festivals & Cultural Generations
Why were there fewer guilds at festivals?
By Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2019-06-20
Yesterday, we saw an interesting Facebook posting by a festival organizer we know. The question was, ‘why were there fewer guilds at festivals?‘ Within an hour, there were 145 responses, and they are still coming as we write these words.
The real issue isn’t the number of ‘re-enactment’ or entertainment guilds, but their quality from the perspective of the public and the festivals’ prospects for growth in both participation and attendance. These are issues for Renaissance Faires and some Celtic Festivals, and also many ethnic organizations, including Scots and Irish groups. Many have been ‘struggling’ in recent years.
Beginning with Renaissance Faires and Fantasy-Celtic festivals there are several reasons: foremost is the problem that many of the existing guilds are not soliciting and training younger successor members to keep a guild going, particularly in providing what the general audience will appreciate as ‘entertainment.’ Yet the average age of guild members is, to put it kindly, ‘over 45.’ Do the organizers even poll the non-participant attendees to see what they liked and why and what they didn’t find entertaining, or ask the attendees if they will recommend the event to their friends or return themselves?
This isn’t a true scientific sample, but we have been both on the ‘inside’ of guilds and performing groups (musical sessions), listened to comments from the public and asked for more. These observations should provide some clues and should stimulate more real research into the related issues.
Some festivals actually employ/or solicit groups with real acting skills and experience. We’ve heard–and seen, in person–that some closer to Hollywood or areas with a strong local theatres following, have better real audience entertainment that most people attending theatres might expect, and interaction or engagement with the audience. Not all pay the entertainers but are happy to find the local theater groups and invite them to participate and put out literature about themselves and other performances they might do. The actors and actresses are typically younger and there are skit-writers among the guilds.
For others, are there real skits that last several minutes with proper voice projection and drama/comedy or action? Consider the nature of the general audience–if you want a more general audience and not a specialized one. A general audience might want and expect guilds to entertain them–not just entertain the members themselves! Too many guilds are simply costume parties for the members to ‘play’ with each other, and most of those members are clearly older people who are largely incapable of much action–especially in heavy costumes on warm to hot days. 2000’s California is not the ‘little ice age’ Renaissance Europe. That’s all fine, if all the organizers intend to simply have a big costume party–but then the festival should be advertised that way.
At some festivals, too many guilds need more younger people with real skills. In live-action theatres and Hollywood films or theatre plays you see purposeful action in the presentation to the audience, by mostly younger actors. In many festivals today, the actors have little or no training or experience, are mostly aged 45 and older, and not in great physical shape. Their voices can’t be heard more at the ropes to the enclosure (or stage area) or more than two feet beyond, and there is no real action that makes any sense.
You can see the differences by attending a variety of festivals. As just one example: we go to the KVMR festival in Grass Valley, California in early October. We like the two sword guilds who perform there. There is ALWAYS something going on, drills, sparring, training and I often see groups of people watching for 10 minutes or more. The participants are about half the age of some guilds, elsewhere. I like the fact that at KVMR and at some other festivals there are demonstrations of things like Scottish ‘games,’ activities with audience, especially older children ‘try-outs’ with smaller objects. The kids get a thrill learning to toss end over end something that looks like a telephone pole and the parents get great memories and cell-phone videos. The KVMR festival also has a ‘castle-fort‘ made of large bales of hay where children play what is probably a centuries old game of siege or ‘king of the hill’ with groups getting acquainted with one another and either holding the castle or trying to take it and ejecting the holders, almost any way they can. It’s good fun for the children and the parents and other visitors watching.
Another festival was staged at a scale-model Tuscan village (before it burned in a recent wildfire) at a winery on a hillside overlooking Clear Lake. It had the players of a local theatre as ‘Duke Cosimo Medici and his court’ at the time he was just becoming the Doge of Florence and the lead actor and the other young players of the theatre group were great and made you want to follow them all around the festival. They also didn’t just sit in a tent and wait for festival attendees to come to them. In addition to this, there was an active winery and tasting and several vendors selling locally or home-made foods and jewelry. It wasn’t all made in some other country. We still miss that delightful little festival.
As another example, we enjoyed it at the Celtic Ren-Faire at Ardenwood one year when one of the guilds created a rolling croquet game moving throughout the festival, occasionally telling amused visitors to stand still so a player could shoot the croquet ball between the visitors’ feet. In some of these croquet games children of visitors were being invited to join the play. There were some sporting activities in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, but they not often shown enough today.
The Scottish festivals with the ‘games’ (heavy athletic competitions), pipe bands, dancers and vendors of several types do pretty well, as do those of mixed Irish and Scottish activities, and entertainment, such as the KVMR festival, Woodland Celtic Games and Festival. Pleasanton has the addition of more modern sports games with older traditions such as shinty and rugby. The animal exhibits of Scottish livestock and dogs and falconry/birds of prey get significant audiences also–as well as 6 and 7 stages of musical entertainment and dance.
There is a demographic issue in California, though. Festivals do best and longest that are most inclusive without completely sacrificing distinctive cultures that can be related to one another. The Asian population is growing, the mixed Latino-Celtic population just as often goes to Latino as Celtic events. Not all persons of Latino descent have Celtic grandparents also, and number of recent Celtic emigrants and/or traditional Scots, Scots-Irish, and/or Irish Americans is shrinking, and the general public identifies fewer people as such.
All the festivals and organizations need to consider these demographics, and keep working to attract the younger generations. We all need to go out and support one another. We must BRING OUR CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN, NIECES and NEPHEWS into these events and organizations–and encourage the rest of their family and friends to do the same. The older generations do this in part by finding out what their children and grandchildren like and figuring out how what they know and like fits with modern views.
Parents and grandparents are still the greatest teachers in time and sheer quantity of experience and knowledge most children will ever know, but it is up to the parents and grandparents to reach out to share, to engage and to teach, and to remember their own youth and their own relationships with elders and figure out how to draw in the next generation.
One key guide is to remember that your children’s and grandchildren’s experiences are all not the same as your own. Youth almost always fantasizes a more glamorous, fun past, lives in the present and looks to a bright future–and is less traditional, less cultural than parents and grandparents.
I don’t just mean that one generation was lucky to have television or radio and bicycles and other has computers, cell phones, the internet, and technology assisted automobiles, Children born in the U.S. did not experience the rule of England, Ireland of DeValera or Scotland when it was frequently called simply ‘North Britain, part of the UK’ or ‘the British Empire.’ They didn’t experience World War II, and the hardships during and after the war.
When these sad, depressing memories, and especially their music and stories, are prioritized and emphasized, we are not going to be understood well or appeal to a generation that has not experienced them. The good news, though, is the young, like the rest of us, don’t stay young forever – they learn and become interested in the real past, and culture over time, and with encouragement but patience–and outreach to where youths are or go–on the part of parents and grandparents.
For those who are the current leaders of organizations, and organizers of festivals, please remember that it helps to weave the modern youth interests in with the older traditions–such as having six stages of music and a mix of ‘traditional,’ ‘folk’ and Celtic rock, as well as enjoyable games in which to both watch, participate. The same is true for drama/comedy and literature. History can be successfully presented in short segments and with humor–and the recognition that human nature–good and ill–hasn’t changed much in 40,000 years or so.
What our ancestors felt, and how they looked at and treated others was not terribly different than what we do today. Somehow we need to teach that to our younger, more diverse generations along with the past cultural traditions that still have meaning today and for the future, even with a Mersey-side, calypso, or more modern pop-rock, or rap beat.
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson
Editorial: Brexit Update
‘Something Else’ Possibilities
By Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2019-06-20
As we all should know, Theresa May resigned from her post as Prime Minister (PM) of the United Kingdom (UK) last May 24th. As a result, the Conservative Party, (Tory), Members of Parliament (MPs) must select two candidates for Prime Minister and put them to a vote of the Tory party membership. But whoever is selected, that new PM will face the same Parliament and the same Brexit dilemmas, some of which are only now beginning to be discussed.
Recall that, as a result of the ‘Snap’ election on June 8th, 2017, the Tories lost their majority in the UK Parliament, and to form the UK government, the Tories needed the support of another group. Seeing that, until the next general election, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland and it’s 10 MPs were the Tories only practical allies, on June 26, 2017, Ms. May, and the the DUP entered into a Coalition Agreement. Here is a link to a Wikipedia article on that June 26, 2017 Agreement that covers all it’s major points, and is supported by numerous primary sources. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative%E2%80%93DUP_agreement
It is important to be aware that, according to this deal, DUP Members do not have any voting rights in the current PM selection process and that the fundamental principles of the DUP call for Northern Ireland to remain a part of the UK. For now, the deal must remain in place, because without DUP support, the Tories lose the right to form the UK government, or to name the new Prime Minister–unless the Tories can find another ‘something else’ alliance.
As of 6 PM GMT last Thursday, initial rounds of the selection process have whittled the field of candidates down to two: former foreign secretary Boris Johnson received 160 votes, and current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt received 77 votes. At 75, current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove just missed the cut, and since Mr. Gove had once called Boris Johnson ‘unfit to be Prime Minister’, this was Mr. Johnson’s preferred result.
Over the next month, we will see a more public battle between Johnson and Hunt at 16 regional ‘hustings’, some to be televised in the UK, and then these two will be on a postal ballot sent to ~160,000 Conservative Party members in the UK, with the results due in the week of July 22nd.
Recall that the main ‘sticking point’ in the present Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union, (EU), is the ‘Backstop’ provision for preventing a ‘hard border’ between Ireland, which will still be in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which would be leaving the EU along with the UK. This ‘Backstop’ is the largest problem with the UK parliament to approve the present EU Withdrawal Agreement, and completely unacceptable to the DUP. It is the main reason that the DUP opposes the present Withdrawal Agreement. (See this ‘The Backstop‘ wikipedia article for more detail).
As previously reported, the EU has given the UK until Halloween (October 31) to leave the EU. This gives the new UK PM just a couple of months to pass the same Withdrawal Agreement PM May negotiated. The new PM might try to make changes to the existing Withdrawal Agreement, but none of the other 27 members of the EU has yet offered that alternative, and moreover, to date, the 27 remaining EU members have been steadfastly 100% united in saying the present Withdrawal Agreement will not be changed. Remember that to allow any further delays or renegotiation it takes a unanimous vote of these 27, and several members are adamant about ‘no more delays, no renegotiation. We want to move on, also.’ It seems to us that there is no possibility of any changes to the present Withdrawal Agreement.
So, will the UK Parliament be, at last, persuaded to a majority vote to ratify the present Withdrawal Agreement (unlikely), or leave the EU on Halloween with no Agreement (likely), or something else?
In preparation for the upcoming Tory vote on the new PM, the non-partisan public opinion polling company YouGov surveyed the Tory party membership and released their results last Tuesday, June 18th. Click here for the full article. This poll included these VERY significant results.
• ’63 per cent of (Tory) members would be prepared to see Brexit take place even if it meant Scotland leaving the UK.’
• ’59 per cent would prioritize leaving the EU even if it meant Northern Ireland breaking away from the rest of the UK‘
These two poll results set up a serious conflicts and opportunities for the new PM. Recall that in the 2016 Brexit referendum, 55.8% of Northern Ireland’s electorate voted to ‘Remain’, and this was confirmed in last May’s EU Parliament vote as ‘Remain’ candidates took ~ 56% of the votes. If there are no changes to the present Withdrawal Agreement and, as in the previous three votes in Parliament, there is no majority for approval, the new government will need to decide whether to go against the fundamental principles of the DUP and adopt the present Withdrawal Agreement or allow Northern Ireland to exit the UK so as to avoid the ‘backstop’. Together, these developments provide several ‘something else’ opportunities for the new Tory PM.
First, the next Prime Minister could partly dispense with the DUP coalition by extracting Labor or other votes of MP’s with constituent midlands workers who favor leaving the EU. The Labour Party, is becoming irrelevant in the Brexit process, because their continue fence straddling on the issues of another Brexit referendum, or any other referendum that might release the current deadlock, weakens the Labour Party in the public view. Also, support for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been diminishing just as it has for the Conservatives, with MP’s very publicly resigning their Labour party membership. Yet those MP’s continue to hold office until the next general election and could join a new governing coalition.
There is another ‘something else’ opportunity for the Tories, and it is within that June 26, 2017 Tory-DUP agreement. A key point states, ‘No poll or referendum on the future of Northern Ireland’s constitutional status will be held without the consent of the people.’
If the next Prime Minister has a real plan to get rid of the backstop issue, it almost certainly means ‘letting all of the Northern Irish–not just the DUP–determine the future status of Northern Ireland’ while honoring the vote of the majority of the ‘people’ (85% English) to leave the EU.
DUP leader, Arlene Foster
DUP Leader Arlene Foster has also consistently held, including in recent statements, that ”the people’ are not just the DUP, or even all the Northern Irish, but all the UK people; that Northern Ireland is merely a part of the UK.’
There is also the issue that the DUP has already breached the Agreement, at least twice. Most law courts would agree that the other party, the Tories, could now lawfully end the agreement without penalties.
The agreement also required that the ‘DUP shall vote to support the minority Conservative Party on all votes pertaining to the UK’s exit from the European Union,’ which the DUP has NOT DONE, constituting a breach of the agreement. Another point in the agreement stated that ‘Both parties agree to adhere to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement‘. In a second breach, the DUP has not supported ‘the Backstop’. The Good Friday agreement specifically required that the hard border, with armed border guards, etc. was to come down. Finally, in contradiction of the point regarding ‘referendum’ and ‘consent of the people,’ the Agreement between the two parties also stated, ‘the ongoing commitment of the Conservative Party to the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’
Based on Ms. Foster’s definition of ‘the people’ as referring to all of the UK, and using the ‘consent of the people’ from the previous point in the agreement, a majority of members of the Conservative Party, which is the largest party in the UK, (and representing the majority of the English people, who are 85% of the population of the UK), want to breach the ‘commitment to the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,’ in order to ‘get on with Brexit’.
From the foregoing, it also appears that the DUP did not negotiate EITHER the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ or the Conservative Party Agreement in ‘Good Faith’ (an important legal term for negotiations and contracts in civil law and its courts).
Therefore, the next UK Prime Minister, under civil contract law and court precedents, could declare the agreement between the Conservative Party and the DUP, ‘null and void’, citing how the DUP has already repeatedly breached it, and use ‘consent of the majority of the Conservative party as representing a majority of the UK’s people’ to immediately call for a Border Referendum in Northern Ireland. This vote would decide on whether or not the people of that region consent to be reunified with the rest of Ireland and thus retain an open border with Ireland along with their EU membership and all its benefits.
Additionally, a new PM could also work to make Scotland a dominion, similar to Canada, in which the long-standing issues of foreign policies and alliances (and 400 years of warfare) that caused the English to feel it necessary to unite the two kingdoms, would be addressed, yet Scotland would be independent enough to be able to rejoin the EU. The Queen and nobles would also still have their titles, rights and properties just as their titles and privileges are respected in Canada and if they owned property there before the change in status, they continue own it in the dominion.
And even more radically, the new PM could make an agreement with Sinn Féin. Since 1905, it has been Sinn Féin policy for its MPs to abstain from taking the required loyalty oaths to the Queen, or taking their seats in the UK Parliament. To the present day, Sinn Féin’s fundamental principle has been the reunification of all of the Irish island under one Irish Republic. Acting on this goal, after having taken the oath to the Queen, could get them arrested in England. However, reunification of Ireland would eliminate the need for the oath as well as any ‘backstop,’! Using the ‘will of the majority’ of the UK, in a nod to Ms. Foster’s identification of ‘the people’, and under a short-term agreement with the Tories, Sinn Féin MPs could temporarily take their seats in the UK parliament, without an oath of loyalty, and satisfy both parties goals, thus eliminating the ‘backstop’, each for their own reasons.
EU 2019 MEP Election Results
UK and Ireland
Editorial: Brexit Update
A Review of Current Status
By Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2019-05-31
Last week’s Europe-wide elections did NOT change the makeup of the Parliament in London, but after almost 3 years of indecision over the Brexit issue, their results are widely accepted to be an accurate indication of the voters current sentiment on how to resolve the divisive issue of the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the European Union (EU).
In this election, voters in 28 countries, including Ireland as well as Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, elected 751 Members of the European Parliament, (MEP), for the next 5 years. The results generally represent significant changes in voter sentiment, but today, we will confine our comments to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, plus England and Wales. Here are the election results, totaled by political party affiliation:
In Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s party, Fine Gael, topped the vote, taking 29%, and Independents as a group took 24%. The balance went to Fianna Fail at 16.5%, Sinn Féin at 11.7% and the Green Party at 11.4%. An exit poll of these voters showed over 77% were in favor of reunification with Northern Ireland, and 90% of voters feel that the government needs to heavily prioritise climate change.
In Northern Ireland, the Republican Sinn Féin Party, (SF), took 22.2%, slightly more than the Democratic Unionist Party, (DUP), with 21.8%. Very significantly, there was huge upsurge in support for the non-sectarian Alliance Party at 18.5%, with the AP perhaps more significantly finding their support mostly among younger voters who do not self identify as either Protestant or Catholic. This election also marks the first time all three MEPs for Norn are women.Â 56% of the votes went to ‘Remain’ candidates.
In Great Britain, (England, Scotland and Wales combined), the 6 week old Brexit Party, lead by Nigel Farage, swept all the former leading parties with 31.6% of the votes, with the Liberal Democrats surging into 2nd with 20.3%, Labor at a distant 14.1% and the Greens at 12.1%. The Conservatives, (Tories), were crushed all the way back to 9.1%!
In Scotland, as part of the ‘Great Britain combined’ totals above, the Scottish Nationalist Party, (SNP), took only 3.6%, but if we consider only the votes cast in the country of Scotland the results are quite revealing. In Scotland, the SNP took 37.8% vs. the Brexit Party’s 14.8%, and the SNP bested all other parties in every Scottish constituency by significant margins except for the Orkney and Shetland Islands, where the pro-remain Liberal Democrat candidate won. Taken together, remain candidates of all parties polled over 70% in Scotland.
Here is our take on the significance of these results.
- Ireland remains a member of the EU, with continuing liberalization and growing support for reunification with the North.
- Northern Ireland is becoming more divided and less sectarian, a trend supported by the increasing numbers of younger voters. Remain candidates took a clear majority of the votes at ~ 56%, similar to Norn results in the 2016 Brexit referendum.
- Scotland has moved firmly into the Remain camp, with the SNP having broad support throughout the country of Scotland. If another referendum on Scottish Independence were held today, it seems clear that it would succeed, Scotland would leave the UK, become independent country, and would be free to remain in the EU.
- In the UK, when Conservative and Labour votes are factored in, the remain candidates polled a narrow majority. This can be interpreted to mean that, if a second Brexit referendum were to be held today, ‘Remain‘ would win narrowly, reversing the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
However, the UK and the Irish backstop are only a fraction of the myriad Brexit issues. The UK, with a population of 67 million, cannot unilaterally dictate terms to the other 27 EU nations and their 450 millions. The remaining EU is a greater global economic powerhouse by 6 to 1, and also the larger part of NATO.
In France and Italy, two large nations in the EU, the nationalists made significant gains. In Hungary, a leading nation of the Visegrad group of nations that has been voting together on a number of issues, the nationalists held, though the far right declined. All over Europe the Green party gained and in Germany it is now the second largest political party. The sentiments of the nationalists, who will be allying increasingly with the Greens and even some liberal parties, will form a even harder line toward the UK in their new 5 year term.
Departing PM May’s withdrawal agreement is the ONLY EU proposal the UK will get, and the nationalist hardening of Continental Europe will only make it both more difficult for the UK to ask for any more delays. The statements of the several persons now jockeying to be the Conservative Party leader, and so the next Prime Minister of UK, and half of the English voters (the other half voting firmly for ‘Remain’ parties) leaves the UK’s EU representation literally split 50-50. If they believe that in October, when moderates Juncker and Tusk leave their EU leadership posts, that they can renegotiate the proposed EU treaty to obtain terms the Conservative Party Brexiteers would prefer, they are self-deluded. Since the parties themselves were already in the EU parliament, Juncker, after consulting with the leaders of winning parties, was asked about this, and offered two words to the UK’s Conservative Party, ‘absolutely not.’ Moreover, the Visegrad Group foreign ministers essentially have said, ‘we want to move forward and these delays are hamstrings for us.’
In Black’s Legal Dictionary, the term insane delusions very accurately describes the statements and behaviors of some Conservative Party MP’s. Worse for the UK, their continued, perceived arrogant, insane delusions will only make the EU more reluctant to grant treaties to the UK that in any way give any advantage to the UK or do so quickly.
Both Switzerland, a necessary financial powerhouse, and Norway, with its oil and minerals, spent TEN YEARS in negotiations with the EU before mutually acceptable non-member treaties were achieved. These nations were friendly to the EU, demonstrating far less arrogance than the UK, and had demonstrated their desire for a relationship with the EU. Yet, it took TEN YEARS for these two non-EU members to achieve their agreements with the EU. The behavior and public statements of the UK, and especially both its current Conservative Party leadership, and half of the voters, all speak loud and clear for themselves. Every party and government leader in the other 27 EU members have heard and seen this. If the perception of UK arrogance, and disagreement on fundamental issues, such as climate change, energy, ecology, and intra-Europe migration, continues, we think it could take a full generation, up to 25 years, before the UK achieves another non-member trade agreement with the EU.
Editorial: Politicians at Lyra McKee’s Funeral
‘Why, in God’s Name, does it take the Death of a 29 year old’
by Cecilia and Anthony Becker – Published April 26th, 2019
Last week, on Holy Thursday, a reporter, a friend of a friend of ours, Lyra McKee, was killed during a riot in Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland. It was a sad reminder of the way things were before the Good Friday Agreement and it may well be a foreshadowing of what can happen again in a ‘No Deal’ Brexit with a restoration of a ‘hard border’ between Eire and Northern Ireland, still part of the UK.
This week, at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, Fr. Martin Magill presided at the funeral of Lyra McKee, and in his homily, noted that (at long last), discussions between the responsible politicians about ending the years long deadlock in forming a new government for the Northern Ireland, as provided in the Good Friday Agreement, were finally happening. News Report: McDonald and Foster ‘ready’ for restored NI Assembly
In this video of Fr. Magill’s address, you will see, seated together in the front row, Irish President Michael Higgins, UK prime minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach (PM) Leo Varadkar. Behind them, together, are Irelands Tánaiste (#2) Simon Coveney and UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley and behind them, together, the aforementioned politicians, DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, sitting side by side.
Behind all these politicians, you can see a huge congregation of mourners, from all sides of this centuries old conflict.
As Fr. Magill utters his challenging words just a few feet in front of Foster and McDonald,
‘Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her to get to this point?’
first, the congregation rises to its feet in a standing ovation. Then, slowly, Foster and McDonald stand and join in, and finally, the other politicians also stand and applaud.
Click Here to view the video: https://youtu.be/QO_Qrx7G8s8
It seems to us that the people have had enough of violence. Let us all hope that these politicians really do move forward, and restore the Assembly to the people of Norn, and get on with reconciliation under the Good Friday Agreement.
These events though, remind us too strongly of other events in the past, in this country, and in others, where the responsibility for a tragic, needless, death is not as clearly defined as some might think or would like to believe. In the 1970’s, people who were part of the growing anti-war movement were well aware of government agents, for instance, who deliberately infiltrated organizations and were literally inciting them to law-breaking and other violence, precisely to provoke incidents in which they could arrest far more than the perpetrators and destroy the organizations. Reputable organizations intent on staying within the law to effect change had to be very careful. We would joke about ‘watching out for guys with new blue jeans that were still so stiff with starch the jeans would stand up by themselves, without anyone in them.’
Of course, not all the provocateurs came from outside the movement, then, as is the case with many important, potentially divisive causes and movements that have passionate, determined adherents. There were plenty of young, irresponsible idiots then, as now, and then and now, it is up to the leaders to keep them in check, and above all you don’t give irresponsible hotheads weapons.
However, though the ‘Real IRA/New IRA’ has admitted they believe it was indeed one of their ‘operatives’ who stupidly fired shots at a vehicle in the dark, not caring who else was in the immediate vicinity or about potential ricochet, etc., they do not bear the sole responsibility.
‘No one is paying any attention to the Unionists any more!’
Look at the facts and some very interesting real ‘coincidences.’ Fact: First, just last week, the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, lamented publically that, ‘No one is paying any attention to the Unionists any more.’ Fact: The DUP is the biggest roadblock to the part of Brexit called ‘the Backstop’ to avoid a hard border between Eire and Northern Ireland, and maintain the ‘Good Friday Agreement.’ Facts: The 21 year old Good Friday Agreement was brokered and partly negotiated by the U.S. for very good reasons. Among other things, both sides prior to it had been soliciting arms and support from people in the U.S. The conflict in Ireland was causing real conflict in the U.S.. Fact: Last week the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the U.S., accompanied by several members of the most powerful committee of that body, the Ways and Means Committee, was in London, personally warning the UK Prime Minister May, the hard-line MP’s of the Conservative (Tory) Party of the UK, and Northern Irish politicians that if Brexit, particularly as a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, damaged the Good Friday Agreement, the separate UK would not get a trade agreement with the U.S.. Fact: WHILE Speaker Pelosi was STILL in Ireland, the ‘Police Service of Northern Ireland–whose leaders include a lot of DUP members, decide to hold a raid in the Creggan district of Londonderry–long the most troubled area of Norn, on Holy Thursday!
The spokesperson for the PSNI said, ‘the service believed there were guns and bombs in a house that were about to be used on the Easter Weekend.’ Fact: the PSNI said ‘Believed.’ There has been no evidence, presented, even with the usual redactions, as in other countries, that there was any real intelligence behind this allegation and the plans for this raid. Fact: the raid was done, at night, with armored vehicles, and personnel in body armor, carrying guns, etc.. Fact: NO explosives, weapons or guns were found. None, nada, zip.
Could the allegedly intelligent, mature, well educated, politically savvy leaders of the PSNI have picked a worse time than ‘Passover/Holy Week’ or a worse place, the Creggan area of Derry, for a raid based on as little real fact as this one was? How could they NOT have expected any potential for violence that might get out of hand? They themselves arrived in armored vehicles wearing full body armor! And what did they think this would look like to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives–and her delegation? You couldn’t wait until she and the delegation were back in the U.S., at least?
To this veteran of the U.S. governmental misdeeds, and survivors of violence, sometimes perpetrated by the government in the 1960’s and 1970’s , and the shenanigans of the Serbians and others in the 1990’s, this is what it looks like to me, bearing in mind this is a personal opinion.
It seems to us that the PSNI, particularly its leaders, who are close to the DUP, were trying to embarrass the U.S. Speaker of the House, by provoking violence from the native Irish in Londonderry. They knew darned well they could expect some violence during this raid, because the New/Real IRA is run by mostly young males, and hotheads, especially in this area with its long history of civil strife. The New/Real IRA was no more considerate of the gravity of the situation, and had shot up police vehicles, burned vehicles and no innocent bystanders had been killed up to then. None of the macho males on either side, gave a damn about the full, and deadliest potential of their intended actions. A young, bright, female reporter was killed. She was doing her job, in an allegedly free society, covering a sensational event that the PSNI itself had initiated.
Certainly the New/Real IRA needs to do far more than ‘accept responsibility.’ It needs to turn over those he-men who shot wildly into the night without regard for bystanders. It needs to remove the guns from any more like them, and frankly reorganize into a non-violent group or disband. It could have just as easily killed someone with a gasoline bomb that went astray. It needs to raise funds for Ms. McKee’s loved ones. It needs to ‘knock off the nonsense.’ As for the PSNI, it needs to fire the leaders who decided on this needless raid,, The PSNI also needs to apologize to Ms. McKee’s family, and help raise funds for it. It needs to apologize to all the people of Northern Ireland, and to Speaker Pelosi and the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Delegation. It also needs to ‘knock off the nonsense.’
Arlene Foster, you got your ‘attention’, alright! Are you in the DUP proud of yourselves? We believe it’s time for you and your big mouth to resign! YOU, above all started this particularly dirty, deadly ball rolling. The PSNI was just doing what you wanted–and the New/Real IRA gave what you hoped for.
With regard to the question off the border / backstop / Brexit issue, it seems that, unless you are the English-dominated (85% of the Tory Party) parliament or the Prime Minister, the voters of the UK are not being allowed to change their minds. The last and only vote to determine reunification of Ireland, was 100 years ago and no present time vote is currently planned. Perhaps it is time to have another Irish Border referendum.
Editorial: Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement
U.S. Congress Takes Control of related U.S. Foreign Policy
by Anthony Becker – Published April 19th, 2019
Easter Week 2019’s high-powered U.S. Congressional Delegation visit to London, Dublin, and the Northern Ireland border and Belfast, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, represented the most significant American official visit to the region in years. The central theme of the delegations activities was their support for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, (GFA), that brought peace to the island of Ireland after centuries of religious strife.
Wednesday 4/17/19’s article in the Washington Post by Neil Michael did a good job of summarizing their visits to London and Dublin. https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/pelosis-warnings-on-brexit-and-irish-peace-pact-trigger-tense-talks-with-british/2019/04/17/8d99ce16-6120-11e9-9412-daf3d2e67c6d_story.html
Ireland is an European Union (EU) member, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom (UK), which is seeking to withdraw from the EU, (Brexit). If Brexit happens, it would require a secure border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent smuggling of goods across the Ireland / Northern Ireland border. This ‘securing the Irish Border’ issue has been the main sticking point for Brexit supporters. Moreover, if the UK is no longer a member of the EU, the UK’s trade with the US would no longer be governed by the current US-EU Trade Treaty, and the UK would need to quickly negotiate a new US-UK Trade Treaty.
The Post article contains some significant excerpts from their London meetings with the two main UK political parties on Monday, April 15th, 2019. In it, Pelosi confirmed that, she delivered exactly the same message to both the Conservative Party leader, British prime minister Theresa May and opposition Labor Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. ‘We made it clear to all that if there were any harm to Good Friday accords — no treaty‘ Pelosi said. ‘Don’t even think about that.’
The U.S. delegation also had a quickly arranged meeting with The European Research Group (ERG), lead by MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who earlier this month publically threatened that, if forced to stay in the European Union (EU) the ERG would do everything in it’s power to disrupt and undermine the EU.
In remarks after that meeting, Rees-Mogg suggested there were a few ‘snowflakes’ in the meeting, to which Pennsylvania Congressman Brendan Francis Boyle responded, ‘Look, Speaker Pelosi is one of the toughest people I know and nobody could accuse her of being a snowflake’, adding that the delegation had a ‘heated exchange‘ with members of the pro-Brexit ERG.
Boyle’s father, Francis, is an Irish immigrant who came to the United States in 1970 from Glencolmcille, County Donegal, and works as a janitor for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
In Dublin on Wednesday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized control of American foreign policy in relation to Brexit, telling the Irish Oireachtas (joint session of the Irish Parliament) that Congress would block any new trade deal with the United Kingdom if Britain’s exit from the European Union threatens the peace in Northern Ireland. Watch a Video of Pelosi’s comment: https://youtu.be/Fs_K6DdhVg4
‘I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord, including, but not limited to, the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.’
‘Let me be clear,’ Pelosi added, ‘if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday accords, there would be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.’
On Thursday April 18th, 2019, Pelosi and the delegation visited Bridgend on the Derry-Donegal border in Northern Ireland, where Pelosi said “We come here out of respect for the courage of those who took part in talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.” and “We believe that Brexit should be just an aberration in this discussion as we continue to build and strengthen the peace that was generated by the Good Friday Agreement”.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was also in the U.S. delegation. Neal’s maternal grandparents were from Northern Ireland, and Neal has often said that one of his grandmothers personally experienced the segregation common under British rule in Ireland.
Speaking to the gathered media, Neal said in part, “Just a reminder that America is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. This is OUR agreement as well.”, and continued “(GFA) maybe, in the last 50 years, our most important diplomatic accomplishment…”
This BBC article contains a video clip of Neal’s remarks: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-foyle-west-47973814
Later the same day, Neal was awarded with an honorary degree for his contribution to US-Ireland relations at Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derry.
Sadly, that very Thursday night, , a young journalist, 29-year-old Lyra McKee, was shot and died during rioting after police searches in Derry’s Creggan area.
The following morning, Friday, April 19th, 2019, the U.S. delegation visited he Stormont Estate in Belfast. Very poignantly, for Christians across the planet, this date is also celebrated as the commemoration of Good Friday, when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified 2000 years ago. Since the Good Friday Agreement takes it’s name from this holiday, and the main reason for the Delegation’s week long visit was the preservation of the GFA, negotiated under the guidance of U.S. Senator George Mitchell and executed exactly 21 years prior on Good Friday, 10 April 1998, McKee’s death was especially poignant.
Stormont is the site of the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly, and Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Robin Newton welcomed the Delegation. Together, they all gave a Press Conference, which is described in some detail in this RTE News article: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2019/0419/1043555-nancy-pelosi
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, began by acknowledging the death on the previous day.
“Sadly, we join you, on the sadness, the tragedy that happened last night, we extend our condolences to the family, coming on Good Friday, it is especially poignant”.
In our opinion, all Celts, whether in the homelands or the diaspora, should support the preservation of the Good Friday Agreement, at all costs, and over any self interested goals, including Brexit.
Editorial: Brexit and Trade – Halloween Follies
by Cecilia Fabos-Becker and Anthony Becker
Published April 12th, 2019
We know that most of our readers are mostly looking for Celtic entertainment and cultural news (Celtic festivals, Celtic music, and the like) however, many of our readers are also involved in, or employed by businesses with relations with Europe, including it’s Celtic countries, or enjoy buying products from the UK and the rest of the EU in their favorite stores. Additionally, many Celtic Americans travel to the EU and UK for general tourism, or family history related tourism and would like to know if they will encounter extra travel delays for customs and inspections or are going to need, an extra visa for traveling to the UK. They might like to know if the euro or pound are dropping in value and whether they need to save up more or less for the things they want to do or buy on their trip.
While Brexit has been big part of all of these concerns and discussions for almost three years, it is not the only issue. A new one that’s been on and off again popped up this week. It affects all our readers who buy favorite foods and beverages from anywhere in the EU, but first, we’ll briefly update you on this tragic but amusing international soap opera.
As the German press put it, Prime Minister Theresa May came to Europe this past week on her latest ‘Begging Tour‘, still refusing to acknowledge fully that the problem is not the European Union, but her own House of Commons and Conservative Party. Both are hopelessly deadlocked, and seem to want the entire 27 nation EU of 450 million people to cave in to their demands, ignoring the EU’s 27 members own legal responsibilities to one another, including Ireland, and the hard won Good Friday Agreement that finally established peace in Northern Ireland and between Ireland and Northern Ireland 20 years ago.
The French are exasperated. After yet another set of narrow and indecisive votes in the British Parliament last week, France’s Minister for European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau, announced that she had named her cat ‘Brexit’, saying,
‘He wakes me up every morning meowing to death because he wants to go out. And then when I open the door, he stays put, undecided and glares at me when I put him out.’
As some people may know, despite the fact that the Conservative Party members cannot even agree among themselves on what they want, one MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, of Bath and North Somerset, England, single-handedly threatened to make war on the entire EU, and disrupt all its relations and activities–which would definitely affect its trade, including that with the U.S. This intemperate outburst by Mr. Moog, on the eve of Ms. May’s ‘begging tour’ was made despite the fact that it is his country’s Parliament, and his party, that voted the nation would NOT leave without a treaty, and some sort of other deal, but has neither passed the treaty nor agreed upon any post treaty options (never mind that this can’t happen until the treaty is ratified). At the moment, Mogg is only one, out of touch, obstreperous idiot, who, having embarrassed his God, his Queen, and his Country, has now turned to attacking his neighbors, and had the immediate effect of tightening the EU 27’s demands on the UK as conditions for granting the UK’s request. In response, last Wednesday the EU approved ‘flexible 6 month delay’, but required that if the UK is to stay in the EU beyond June 1, the UK must have elected new representatives to the EU in May, and to take those seats in Brussels they must pledge ‘good behavior’, from then through their new exit date of Halloween.
For 2017, at $718 billion, the EU is the largest trading partner of the United States at 18%, while US – China trade was $635 billion or 16%. US trade with the UK was $109 billion, or 3% and is currently declining because of the Conservative Party’s three year old Brexit mess. At $171 billion, Germany had a significantly greater trade relationship with the US than did the UK. Mr. Rees-Mogg’s ill considered comments affect our readers as U.S. citizens and legal residents, who are also employed by, or even own businesses with EU relationships, especially since California and Silicon Valley are significant parts of that EU trade and joint ventures etc.. Even if the UK finally does leave, the remaining EU does as much trade with the US including Irish relationships, as China does, and the ability of the EU business relationships to function are very important to US businesses of many kinds.
Last week we did a little more learning about the situation in the UK. Among other things, we learned that the Conservative Party, (The Tories), who have been responsible for this prolonged, painful Brexit and the threats to the EU–and US is composed of almost entirely of English persons. This is partly understandable as 84% of the population of the UK lives in England, even if some of this 84% has significant Irish and Scottish ancestry. Quite simply, for 300 years, most banking investments and so most jobs have been in England. In contrast, the portions for the other countries in the UK are as follows: Scotland 8.3%, Wales, 4.8%, and Northern Ireland, 2.8%. Most of these populations are, of course, working class, ordinary people, like the people of the rust belt states of the US and farm states of the midwest.
In contrast, a check of the MP’s online shows that most of these MP’s, though they claim to represent mostly ordinary little people, graduated from Eton or Harrow and most went to Oxford and Cambridge. Some are sons of earlier Conservative MP’s, as Mr. Rees Mogg is. They are non-titled, but entitled feeling little dynasties of wealth and privilege whose families miss the ‘good old days when England was an empire.’ There are very few Conservative Party members in Scotland or Wales, and none in Northern Ireland. Of the 312 members of the Conservative Party in the UK House of Commons, only 31 are Scots or Welsh members. The Tories are an English political party.
Make no mistake that England, is all they really are and all they care about. There have been editorials and articles about growing mistreatment of Irish in the UK, including Irish whose families have been workers in the UK for several generations. It also makes no difference to the English whether the despised Irishmen are from Eire or the UK’s own Northern Ireland. According to one report, this past two years, over 60,000 EU citizens who were working in the UK have left–for good–and are not encouraging anyone else from the EU to come to England. International investment banking has dropped by 20% in the UK and is continuing to decline. This includes banking from France, Germany, even the Visegrad group of nations, Austria (Austria and Hungary have resurrected a decent financial industry since 1989), and the U.S.
The Conservative MP’s are at odds with their own people and have been observed by the international press to be behaving as though they had an overwhelming mandate of more than a 67% (two-thirds) vote in the Brexit referendum when it barely passed with a 52% vote and all subsequent polls have shown that the majority of persons voting ‘leave’ were not expecting a hard Brexit which might damage trade and jobs for a decade or more. Additionally, recent polls indicate that, if there were to be another referendum today, 55% would vote ‘stay’.
The ‘elephant in the room,’ preventing a Withdrawal Agreement majority, is Northern Ireland. The nearest thing to a ‘public referendum’ on Northern Ireland was the December 1919 general election. Between then and 1922 these results, combined with the religious passions prevalent at the time, were used to justify the partition of the island of Ireland into two states, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. Religious strife continued through time of ‘The Troubles’, but in 1998, the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ was signed by all three parties, and the region has been peaceful for the past 20 years.
Although today, nearly 100 years after partition, Northern Ireland, remains part of the UK, the politics of Ulster are vastly different, and especially with the youngest generation of voters. In the Brexit referendum of June 2016, a majority of 55.8% of Northern Irish voted to ‘Remain’ in the EU. The DUP does not represent the ‘remain in the EU’ and keep the border with Eire open. In the ‘Snap’ election of 2017, the DUP received only 36% of the total vote for a government in their own realm of Northern Ireland, though it does have a 10 to 8 majority of the Northern Ireland seats in the UK Parliament. DUP leaders were involved in financial scandals several years ago, and refused to step down, leading to a political impasse, and there has been NO real government in Northern Ireland since.
Under UK law, the Sovereign Monarch of the entire UK including Northern Ireland is Queen Elizabeth II, whom the DUP acknowledges as their ‘Sovereign’. Had this happened before 2011, prior to the passage of the FTP reform act, the Queen would still have had the authority to call for elections in the case of hung parliaments in the UK, and might have called for new elections in Northern Ireland to end the lack of government there.
Prime Minister Theresa May should have acknowledged that the House of Commons and her own Conservative Party are hopelessly ‘hung’ and called for a new general election. She did not, as she does not want to give up her position as Prime Minister, and the Conservative Party is reasonably certain that it would lose control of the House of Commons and government and both would go down–and possibly Brexit, their cherished cause–as well.
Given the very real betrayal by the DUP of the Conservative Party and its goals, the alternative, is for Prime Minister May to minimize pain and loss to herself and the Conservative Party by calling for a new referendum in Northern Ireland on Reunification of the Irish Island, to allow the majority in Northern Ireland to fulfill its wishes to stay in the EU and not have a hard border again with their own extended family in Eire. This has been suggested to her. We’ll all have to see if she follows up on that advice after the entire Parliament takes their customary Easter break.
The EU visa is still good for travel in the UK, as well as the rest of the EU until either October 31 or whenever the House of Commons ratifies the EU-Brexit ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ or decides to remain in the EU, permanently, after all. Readers do not yet need a separate VISA to combine travel in Ireland and Northern Ireland or Scotland. Given the declaration of war on the EU–and the U.S. vis-a-vis its continued choice of relations with the EU, by Jacob Rees Mogg, and disruption of the EU, already by the antics of the Rees-Mogg’s extreme Brexiteers in the Conservative Party, readers may wish to shun the UK, particularly the area of Bath and North Somerset for a time. In May, 2020, based on the legal requirement of review, and repeal or amendment of the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act (FTP), authority may be restored to the Sovereign Monarch (the Queen or her successor) to call for new elections in the likely continued event of the hung parliament, and Mr. Rees-Mogg may be replaced later in 2020.
Alternatively, if there is no call for new elections in any way before then, in May, 2022, under continuance of the act, all members of the House of Commons, including Jacob Rees Mogg will stand for election. His constituents may then choose to replace him. However, if they believe as he, then Americans and Europeans would not be welcome in his district anyway. Americans or Europeans might find themselves mistreated and blamed for whatever discomforts Rees Mogg and his constituents are feeling at the time any outsiders visited.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the prices of favorite foods and beverages from the EU are going up. Airbus was discovered to be lowering the costs of its products to the U.S. and international airlines companies, unfairly potentially taking sales from U.S. aircraft companies (there are more than just Boeing). The just thing to do would have been to insist on either being allowed equal subsidies for our own aircraft companies or fine Airbus and whatever governments were subsidizing the company and pay our aircraft companies for any likely losses and then make sure any one-sided subsidies stopped in the future.
No, the culprits in this mess go, pardon the pun, ‘Scot-free,’ while the American consumers of food and beverages, and the innocent European, including Irish, food and beverage producers are to be punished instead by orders of Donald Trump, President of the U.S. who just this week slapped $11 billion in tariffs on EU products. These tariffs are not on the airlines who are buying subsidized Airbus’s and the travelers who use them, and not on EU aircraft or autos (whose EU owners have also been violating U.S. and other laws. Instead, POTUS Trump is slapping tariffs on these EU food and beverage industries and the U.S. consumers who like and buy EU foods and beverages. The money collected also does not go to repay the U.S. aircraft industry for its losses from the unfair competition. It goes into the general U.S. budget and expenses, and compensation for the deficit from the huge tax cuts to the super rich and corporations–including airlines corporations.
So when you buy your favorite European cheese, or pasta products, or olive oil, or wine, or Irish or Scottish whiskey or ale, and find yourself paying more, this is why. You are paying for your sin of having any interest in anything European at all. Mr. Trump wants you to buy everything American instead, regardless of availability or quality.–Never mind what the U.S. and international airlines industry bought and the fact these tariffs do absolutely nothing to punish Airbus or the governments who actually subsidized Airbus. Never mind these tariffs do little or nothing to prevent these subsidies and other illegal activities in the European aircraft and auto industries from recurring. It can be wondered if these tariffs and the problems behind them would have gone unnoticed and unredressed, including the possibility of responding tariffs from the EU, had the EU and UK not been overwhelmed by the soap opera of Brexit and the complete incompetence of the English Conservative Party and its Prime Minister.
Editorial: Brexit and Trade – STILL Not Done (Sigh)
by Cecilia Fabos-Becker and Anthony Becker
Published April 5th, 2019
It occurred to us that many Americans, even those of Celtic descent, might not realize how connected the world’s economies are and why Brexit is actually important, and a serious problem, for the US economy.
As reported by the International Trade Administration, for 2017, the US had a total of $3,888 billion in foreign trade with it’s top 30 partners. In 2017, US trade with the 28 EU countries was $718 billion or 18%, our largest trading partner. China was second with ($635 billion or 16%), and after China, our two biggest trading partners were Canada ($582 billion or 15%) and Mexico ($558 billion 14%). Together, 2017 US trade with Canada and Mexico was $1,319 billion or 29%, almost twice as much as China.
The UK was only $109 billion or 3%–about one-sixth of the trade with China and one-tenth that of Canada and Mexico. If we subtract the UK figure, 2017 US trade with the remaining 27 EU countries was still $609 billion, or 16%, and still equal to US China trade!
Mexico is a Federal Presidential Constitutional Republic, but, since 1982, Canada has been a Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy (the monarch being the Queen of England) a member of the British Commonwealth, and a major trading partner of the UK and EU–as well as the US. Within the EU (and NATO), the US additionally has as significant trading partners, Germany and Turkey, though these two not as great as China. For example In 2017, trade between between the US and Germany was $171 billion or 4%.
The US, whose minimum wage is less than that of Ireland and the UK, has major problems for its manufacturing industries and its domestic consumers.
For example, high grade iron ore in the US deposits are depleted. For decades, the US has not encouraged geologic exploration to find significant new deposits of iron ore in the US, nor to develop any known deposits, large or small, and has been content to import high grade iron ore and steel from other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Germany, and Turkey, a trade in which the US competes with China, the world’s largest customer for this vital commodity.
The US has a similar problem with aluminum. We had large aluminium ore mines in Arkansas and, in abstract theory, could develop something in Montana. Unfortunately, Montana’s corundum (aluminum oxide) is very close to the Missouri river–used for drinking, irrigation, etc. by millions of people downstream across half a dozen states and it merges with the Mississippi, affecting even more people and states. The huge known and previously mined deposits were in Arkansas, and were largely closed due to complaints about air pollution, as well as waterways pollution. Fortunately a huge deposit exists in Jamaica. China can get aluminum and aluminum ore from deposits in Asia, the remaining EU can get their aluminum from Hungary. Jamaica, also, however, is part of the British (UK) commonwealth which now intends to compete with the EU and the US.
UK officials, including members of the currently ruling Conservative (Tory) Party in the UK Parliament have publicly stated that, when and as the UK finally pulls out of the EU, the UK intends to revive the old EXCLUSIVE trading alliances with the Commonwealth nations. Those include Canada and Jamaica! The UK goals, considered separate from the EU, have the potential to cut the US out. A non-EU member UK can make these vital raw materials much harder for US manufacturers to obtain–and more costly. These cost increases will hit the entire US manufacturing industry, and drive up costs of most goods for US consumers.
While the UK cannot command these nations, etc. to restore exclusive trading agreements, it will be attempting to persuade, buy, etc. these agreements at precisely the same time the US government has initiated, and still retains, tariffs on Canadian products–including steel, which are beginning to hurt the US economy. By going its own way, the UK is becoming yet another separate competitor as well as potential trading partner to the US. However, the US and Canada already have trade agreements with the EU, and the UK will have to compete with the rest of the EU to obtain new and more favorable agreements with the US and Canada.
According to business reports by UK and European press this week reported on the BBC, Germany has now slid into an odd recession. The economy as a whole remains strong, and growth, although much slower, continues, but manufacturing and related international sales are declining. France is a major partner to Germany and supplies Germany’s manufacturing, so the French economy is sliding along with Germany. The East Central European and southeast European nations supply raw materials to Germany, France and Italy. Hungary is a major supplier of aluminum, concrete–and uranium (Europe still has functioning nuclear reactors producing electricity).
While it still has very low unemployment, the UK is seeing declines in business investment in the UK and also manufacturing until Brexit finally occurs and the worldwide financial industry can finally determine how international trade will proceed again.
The entire western hemisphere of Europe and North America, well over a billion people, is now waiting on the UK, to determine how to rearrange economic investments and trade, and the House of Commons of the UK parliament is “hung“–again, for the sixth or seventh time since the passage of the ill-considered Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011, which removed the traditional royal prerogative to dissolve Parliament. It is obvious that the UK Parliament is currently so divided into uncompromising partisan blocks that they cannot move their minds and votes to act for the good of their nation and the rest of the developed world.
The other 27 EU nations realize this. Germany, now the leading country of the EU, gets it. Economists and bankers in the US and Canada get it. The East Europeans, who were shattered by the UK’s imperial ambitions and arrogance since 1918 get it. They are all still hoping for a miracle.
The miracle that is being hoped for is that the current 11th hour talks between Tory Party leader and Prime Minister Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will bear fruit. Officially May is “Prime” Minister of the UK but it is only after 3 years of going nowhere, that she has deigned to meet with Corbyn and the remaining leadership of the leading opposition party. Both May and Corbyn have been losing support from their own party membership. Still, the hope is that, as the leader of the Labour party, these discussions may yield some sort of addition to the “Withdrawal Agreement” that will both allow it to be introduced for a fourth time to the House of Commons, as substantially different than the previous three, and pass the House of Commons and do so by April 10, 2019. Then Prime Minister May can go back to the EU and ask for an extension to put a likely Customs Union sub-agreement in place and the UK may actually implement Brexit. A Customs Union, by the way, still does not deal with the issues of tourist travel and immigration. There will still have to be a separate agreement between the EU and the UK, other than for implementing trade, to permit travel relatively free of obstacles between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Other than a real miracle, resulting from these last minute discussions of PM May and Mr. Corbyn, there are only two other alternatives that would represent a “credible reason to grant an extension,” as required by the EU to the UK. One would be for PM May to finally recognize she has a hopelessly hung parliament, and call for another snap General Election for the House of Commons. She is believed by the BBC and international press to be highly unlikely to do this because her party is highly likely to lose the majority vote in the House of Commons, and thus she could no longer retain her position as Prime Minister. She’d bring down her party and herself–as if the current hopeless divisions in the party haven’t already effectively done so in the general voting public’s collective minds. The second alternative is to put a three way choice to another general public referendum: (a) No Deal (Hard) Brexit; (b) “The Withdrawal Agreement” with a Customs Union (the highest vote getter after another referendum in the House of Commons two rounds of “options” votes), and (c) Remain in the EU. If none of these three gets a majority, a run-off of the two highest vote-getters would be required.
In September, 2011, with the assent of the Monarch, the UK Parliament (both Houses) then passed “The Fixed Terms Parliaments Act (FTP Act) of 2011.” Prior to this ill-considered change, when there was a “hung parliament” on a serious matter of grave national or international consequence, the reigning monarch and his/her privy council could officially call for a general election of the House of Commons to try to break the deadlock. Though very rarely used, with the threat of this, the House of Commons had hung parliaments only for a few days or weeks, never for years. In 2011, the people and the Parliament, with the assent of the Queen, thought that the members of the House of Commons were mature enough and had enough collective sense and public interest to prioritize the country over political parties. They decided that this royal prerogative was no longer necessary, and so abolished it. However, in the not quite 9 years since this change, there have been more “hung parliaments” than there were in 45 years between 1929 and 1974. Since 2010, there have been as many hung parliaments as in the entire preceding century.
In May, 2020, not quite a year from now, this 2011 FTP Act is required to be reviewed and, if it is found to not have worked for the greater good of the nation, as well as planned or hoped, it is to be amended or repealed. The same FTP Act also set elections once every five years for members of the House of Commons, with a reset of the 5 years period if a snap election is called within a 5-year period. Some members of the Parliament in 2010-2011 when this Act was being written, amended, debated and passed, had wanted elections sooner, perhaps as quickly as once every three years, more like the case for members of the US House of Representatives.
It is our considered opinion that, if the FTP have not been made law, or if the House of Commons had three year terms instead of five, Brexit, one way or another, would have been over by now, much to the benefit of the UK, and more importantly, the entire world. Let us all hope that the royal prerogative to intervene to break such deadlocks is restored when the FTP is reviewed in May, 2020.
Editorial: Another Scottish Festival in the U.S. Cancelled
20 year old, Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival Folds
What YOU can DO!
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker – 2019-03-29
According to an article appearing in the ‘Westerly Sun,’ one of the largest Scottish festivals in the Northeast U.S., the Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival, an annual event for 20 years, was cancelled this year for lack of volunteers. See the full article about this at the following link: Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival Cancelled
With thousands of participants and thousands more attendees, this cancelation was not for the usually suspected lack of community interest but instead reflects THE growing problem for the entire Celtic community throughout the U.S.. Those people most interested in preserving and commemorating this culture and heritage that literally gave birth to the United States, are mostly over 45 years of age and overwhelmed with dividing their time caring for both younger and older members of family, working to maintain retirement income and health care, and then do all the physical work of these festivals. The younger generation is NOT stepping up yet. While many younger individuals, couples and even young families, certainly attend the games and gatherings and younger individuals participate in the heavy athletics, bands of bagpipers and drummers and appreciate the music, including very popular Celtic rock bands, they are not helping to put on the festivals.
One oft-cited cause of declining festivals, is that U.S. and European history is not taught as much in the schools, nor is Civics, and how the Constitution came to be, all of which have deep roots in Celtic Culture. Instead a mish-mash of politically correct and vague social science are taught. Polls cited in articles and editorials have indeed shown that younger persons show less concern for and less knowledge of the past as it really was. Without this awareness, there is less knowledge of and interest in the cultures connected with real history. Unfortunately, not enough people with power to act, such as state and federal legislators are DOING anything about it and, more importantly, not enough voters and campaign donors, care to bring this issue to them and insist upon some legislation restoring these subjects to schools.
A recurring theme I’ve personally heard at festivals, suggests many attendees feel that U.S. and European history have been unfairly lumped into a ‘bad category’ because of modern ‘political correctness’.
At the huge festival at Pleasanton, CA last year, I heard similar complaints from more than one person. To paraphrase, ‘We allowed slavery to continue, and slavery is bad. Therefore, since we didn’t sweep slavery away sooner, all our history and culture is bad.’ There is genuine anger at political correctness superseding historical reality; that nearly the entire rest of the world was still practicing slavery, and continued well into the 1800’s and the educators and political demagogues don’t care. Somehow, only the U.S. and Europeans were the only bad guys and yet supposed to be different and better. It seems to many people that modern, politically correct educators, politicians and ethnic demagogues cannot look at world history as it actually was. They are seen as unable or unwilling to separate the issue of slavery and our modern abhorrence of it from all else–and this is a double standard that is ultimately hurting interest in and celebration of European culture, and European cultural festivals.
Discussion of the value of teaching real history, warts and all, has filled a number of editorial pages in far larger print publications than this one, and is a discussion that needs to take place among voters, school boards, and legislators. However, this cancelled festival in Rhode Island illustrates more than one troubling trend.
The interest was there, the attendance was there, but the younger people arranging their lives to volunteer to help, as their older, supposedly less strong and energetic elders were doing, was NOT there, based on interviews by the ‘Westerly Sun’ with the weary volunteers and leaders who decided to cancel their event. The older people are also having a harder time finding the means to communicate with younger people about this and attracting new younger volunteers. Where do they go besides Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get their attention and get them to volunteer?
A bigger emerging question is should schools and colleges, perhaps also look at volunteerism in cultural events, including leadership roles in helping to set up and man events, instead of just sports participation, and business leadership? This past week was filled with newspaper reports of a cheating scandal involving dozens, perhaps hundreds of rich parents, sometimes with the help of college coaches, and others both cheating with SAT tests–and lying on applications about their children’s sports activities–and volunteerism. Prior to this, already, some people at festivals observing and discussing this situation have suggested we need to restore the national draft: and teach public service, including organizing efforts for it, and disaster relief, besides warfare. Again, this is a discussion that needs wider interest and discussion among communities of voters and legislators if the problems of lack of young adult interest, volunteerism and leadership for events and programs are to be resolved. Otherwise, many more festivals, and the organizations behind them, run by older people are at risk of disappearing.
If you want your Celtic Culture to survive for future generations, you should DO something about it, and the most effective action you can take is to attend your regional festivals, AND BRING YOUR CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN along and encourage them to get involved! If you are one the organizers and volunteers–get your children involved! Remind them that they claim to be stronger and more energetic, more media and PR savvy, that here are opportunities to prove it. Remind them that if their parents aren’t rich, they can use cultural events’ volunteer work on their college applications!
Editorial: Brexit Update – A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
A Review of Past Predictions and Where the UK is Now
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2019-01-18
We reviewed all the editorials we’ve written that have touched on Brexit, comparing them to the predictions made by the UK’s Tory government lead by Prime Minister Theresa May, and a few observations and predictions we ourselves made. Our observations of difficulties and trends and what was likely to happen have been pretty accurate, compared to the predictions of those representing the May government. We paid attention to what EU ministers and observers in the international press, including the British press, were saying, including the business analysts.
We were skeptical of the official government and Brexiteer statements since the press was full of descriptions of the very serious divisions within the Tories, the only major party with most MPs supporting Brexit. We knew that the Tory party itself did not have a majority in the House of Commons without the 11 votes of the Northern Irish DUP, itself a minority party in Northern Ireland. As members of other organizations, we’ve also been asked to support business relations with both Ireland and the UK, who are about to become more competitive with one another and possibly less cooperative.
As we all now know, Brexit happens in just 6 weeks, deal or no deal, and the UK Parliament House of Commons just voted down the only available deal from the EU. The votes were 432 to 202, a record margin of 230 votes, the most lopsided defeat for any UK government in nearly 100 years! Worse, delaying the vote on this deal for nearly two months did PM May, her government and the people of the UK no good at all, merely leaving no time for anything else, other than a hard, no deal Brexit. There are NO new trade deals in the works with any other parties; they must wait until the UK is out of the EU.
As of Thursday, in the UK, PM May said she and her staff had been finally meeting with leaders of Tory factions to hear what they would like in a deal, as well as meeting with non-Tory parties. However, the Tory party itself is still divided and the Labor Party leader has thus far refused to meet with May or her staff and say what it would like in return for their ‘aye’ vote. There is still no majority, nor consensus about and for any deal.
For months, the EU’s position has been, ‘take it or leave it; we’ll do only minor adjustments.’, but now, for even ‘minor adjustments’, the EU will need to see a consensus from these same MP’s on what Brexit deal they are willing to pass with a majority.
How does this contrast with the predictions and soothing comments made by the Brexit advocates and the May government beginning almost 18 months or so ago? The May government promised that the value of the British currency, the Pound, would not suffer but would, instead, rebound, and that the financial institutions would not leave London for the Continent and Ireland. At the time those first statements were made, the pound, though it had dropped from about $1.45 just before the Brexit vote on June 23rd, 2016, to as low as $1.25 to begin the year of 2019, it had rebounded up to about $1.30 to sometimes $1.40. The highest it has been since the Brexit vote was $1.43 dollars per pound in April, 2017. This past week it has gone back down to $1.25. The Pound has lost significant value and will likely continue to do so.
We were told that by the time Brexit actually happens, on March 29th, 2019, it would be a soft Brexit with most of its trading and other international relations with the EU intact. It would not all happen right away, but the MPs’ approved deal would happen sometime in the last two or three months before March 29, 2017. Also the UK was going to work on restoring trade relations with the Commonwealth and that would replace some of the EU business. We also heard and read the statements that the EU would bend to the UK that it needed the UK more than the UK needed the EU.
Those rosy, soothing statements would all be funny if only the pound were not slowly sinking, the Royal Bank of Scotland hadn’t just applied for a German license, Dublin hadn’t built and rented out a lot of space to financial institutions that are indeed leaving London, and if every international and British economic analyst weren’t predicting years of losses in every business sector, a 8 to 10% decline in GDP, increased unemployment, increased public services costs, etc.
As of the middle of January, 2019, with less than 2 months to go, a modified deal would require that the EU back down and give the UK Brexiteers the sweetheart deal they want, despite that the UK instigated this divorce and all the calumny the Brexiteers have continuously heaped upon the EU. It is not going to happen. PM May just demonstrated that, since November, has lost the support of the Brexiteers and has no support from anyone else. The much larger EU is not going to bow its 27 heads to the much smaller UK. No matter what PM May is saying, the nations of the EU are now preparing for a hard, ‘no-deal’ Brexit. A soft Brexit deal is not just between PM May, as though she was a dictator, and the EU – both the UK House of Commons and the EU Parliament must vote aye on any negotiated Brexit. There is no friendly divorce agreement here if one entire side doesn’t vote for and sign the deal. The irate partner simply storms out on her own, with nothing – a no-deal Brexit.
What is particularly pathetic is why and how it happened. The very part of the deal PM May allowed to cause the delay, the Irish border backstop, was the thing that was of least concern to the overwhelming majority of the Parliament. To gain the 11 DUP votes (out of 637 in the House of Commons), PM May kept trying to get a better deal on Ireland’s border with Northern Ireland. The tiny DUP and PM May demanded the preservation of the UK sovereignty, as though that was the only entity whose sovereignty mattered. Even more, in so doing, the DUP, and May, ignored the ‘1998 Good Friday Agreement’, which opened the Irish border, as if this treaty was between no other parties except the UK, and thus parts, or all of it, could be discarded as the UK saw fit. For 9 solid months it was the only major sticking point, and in the end, PM May still had to present the deal with this backstop that the DUP did not want. By delaying the inevitable for so long, PM May eliminated any remaining time for her own Tory Party, either among its own members or working across parties with other MPs, to come up with any real proposal that a majority could and would vote for as a soft Brexit.
The DUP issue was firmly shot down when the DUP amendment to the proposal to be voted upon, that the UK be able to unilaterally end the backstop and restore a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, received only 24 votes; 600 MPs voting ‘nay’ to this amendment told the DUP, essentially, to ‘go to blazes’. That vote also showed just how much time and effort PM May wasted, delaying a proposal to the House of Commons on just that DUP issue. The entire UK has PM May and the DUP to ‘thank’ for the coming hard Brexit, and all the real pain that is likely to entail for years, maybe a decade or more, to come. We said that, based on the BBC’s own polls, the overwhelming majority of English, Scots and Welsh had no regard for the Northern Irish DUP and their big issue. We were right.
Worse, there is no alternative now or likely by March 29, because the Tory and DUP government of Ms. May cannot come to any agreement among themselves what they DO want on all the rest of the issues! They have been fighting for months. Last night (Tuesday night) they were still stating on international television that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU and that the EU will come around now that its proposal through PM May has been defeated. There is not one single pronouncement by any EU leader, including the larger nations of Germany and France to indicate this will happen. Germany has been openly admitting that its auto industry will suffer and it regrets the no-deal Brexit happening but the German government is already working to mitigate its auto industry’s situation and the Germans will stand by the EU majority. The UK is not going to divide and exploit continental Europe in 2019 as it did in 1918-1919. There’s a new, and more united Europe, and this time, the French, Italians and Germans are all on the same side–voluntarily.
While delusional MPs may brag about the UK being 3 times larger in population and economy than the ‘average nation of Europe’ this implies that the nations of Europe all operate independently and there is very little of significance binding them together. The MPs are trying to compare the UK to the separate nations of Europe, as though this was still 1919. However, the EU has actually become an economic and political coalition of strategic continental partnerships that is working together, even if not perfectly, and the EU is 8 times larger than the UK in population alone–and several times larger geographically also . Within the EU, France is certainly of equal consequence to the rest of the EU as the UK. The French economic relationship with the UK however, is only half of that of France with GERMANY. Germany is of even greater importance to not only France, but almost all other members of the EU. Germany’s trading relationship with France is about the same as its relationship with the UK. . However both these nations, but Germany in particular, are interdependent with the rest of the continental EU and respect that interdependency, even if the UK does not. Germany feeds its industrial machine with more resources from the continental members of the EU than from the UK. The UK MPs and others are forgetting about regional blocs within the EU, who are very important to the Germans, and other EU nations, particularly Italy, whose population is about equal to that of the UK. The UK MPs also are forgetting about other sizeable entities, potential competitors to the UK, who are not EU members but already have EU agreements. Canada now has a population of about 55% of that of the UK and a lot more resources, and already has a trading agreement with the EU. The U.S. at 330 million also still has some trade agreements with the EU, despite Trump’s claims and games. However, the UK’s messy, self-initiated divorce negotiations is with the EU, but too many British MPs seem to think all they need to worry about is Germany, not the entire EU together. Here is a brief explanation of why that belief is terribly mistaken, and who is really the group that is more important to the Germans than the UK.
Within 15 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall–instigated by the Czechs and Hungarians, which also eventually allowed Germany itself to reunify, several nations of East Central Europe, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, joined the EU together as a cooperative bloc of over 45 million persons, about 60% of the population of the UK. Geographically, this was a larger and more more resource rich area than the UK, already. This was called the Visegrad Four or Visegrad Group, reviving an old alliance that began before World War II. The VF nations have continued to act together many times, and expanded that bloc. Romania, Croatia, and eventually Slovakia when it split from the Czech Republic, literally asked Hungary and Poland for help in obtaining NATO and EU admission and agreed to be more cooperative with the VF nations. The Romanians requested help from Hungary, and Hungarian Americans, etc., in Washington DC in 1993, in exchange for ceasing all support to Serbia, and agreeing to help improve the lives of Hungarian-Romanians. The Hungarians happily and readily agreed! Slovenia and Austria had developed relations with the Visegrad Four as well. There is also a second regional bloc of many of these nations together, with Italy, called the Pentagonale Initiative, begun at the same time the Visegrad Group was revived. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are members of both the Visegrad Four and the Pentagonale Initiative. The VF and PI blocs together are now a usually quite cooperative economic, research and voting bloc with a population that is 100% GREATER than that of the UK, and with large non-depleted mining and minerals areas in the Alps, Carpathians and lower mountains of the Balkans, including uranium and aluminum ore. Much of the coal used to make steel in Germany and other parts of the continental EU also comes from Poland, part of the VF.
None of the nations in this combined bloc have significant relations with the UK and they don’t worry about the UK leaving the EU. In fact, most of these nations resent the UK, and its banks, as part of the ‘imported international banking problem’ that flattened their economies and caused severe politically damaging austerity measures starting in 2007. These nations had just joined the EU, were in the throes of a lot of costly reorganization to meet higher western standards in many aspects of life, had just paid back billions of dollars and pounds of Soviet debt to British and U.S. banks and were just starting to rebuild after a century of war and occupation when the same darned banks who had made bad loans to the Soviet backed governments yanked the rug out from under their feet–again with a global financial and real estate crisis these banks had created. Some elderly persons also remembered what the British and their banks had done between World War I and World War II, playing divide and exploit. To these elders, it was simply more of the same chicanery, and they were quite happy to tell the younger generations all about it. Germany’s Deutsche Bank was seen as part of the 2007 to present problem also and Germany is conscious of this, as well as needing the resources, human as well as geologic, from the combined bloc. Most of this combined bloc also has a population that is well educated in mathematics, engineering and the sciences. Samsung and other Asian high technology companies who have invested in East Central Europe hire them. Silicon Valley, Germany and Canada also continue to hire and prize these peoples. The big problem for most of the MPs in the UK is that Germany, the 600 pound gorilla in the EU, and the UK’s biggest trading partner in the EU actually needs the Visegrad and Pentagonale blocs more than it needs the UK. Italy, another 60 million person nation, also has long-standing relations with these two blocs and does not have significant relations with the UK.
These shared histories and relationships in the center and southeast of Europe, of 9 nations together and with Germany and Italy, is why the EU is standing firm and not willing to grant the UK any special favors. It is a reality that too many MPs in the UK continue to overlook and disregard.
After the crushing 432 to 202 defeat of the Brexit deal on Tuesday, PM May and her Tory government just narrowly avoided losing a vote of ‘no confidence’ on Wednesday, with the help of the 11 votes of the DUP. The House of Commons voted 325 to 306 to reject the opposition motion of ‘no confidence.’ If the 11 DUP MPs had voted the other way, May would have lost, 317 to 314, and May would have been forced to call for new national elections.
It has been 2 years since the original vote and a lot of conditions even in the UK, have changed. The electorate has increased by over 2%, including the 16 and 17 years olds given the vote this past year in Scotland. There is a much better understanding, now, from well publicized analysis by reputable, experienced entities, of the potential economic consequences. The pound has also declined. Yet Prime Minister May, most of her Tories, the DUP and even some members of the Labor party do not want another, better informed, popular referendum. The people do not have the right to increase the numbers of voters, nor do the voters have the right to change their minds. Prime Minister May, the Tories, the DUP and Jeremy Corbyn have all decreed this–publicly. It is why, for the present, we predict a hard, costly Brexit–for the UK– not for the EU.
The British-U.S. History of Voting
(or: How is it That All Those Extremists Keep Getting Elected?)
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker 2018-11-30
Basic Legislative Structures:
A part of the Celtic-British heritage in the United States is our National Assembly, called the Congress. The UK equivalent is called the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which meets in Westminster. Within the UK, each country has their own, Regional Parliament. These are, for Wales, the Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru (Wales National Assembly), which meets in the capital city of Cardiff, for Scotland the Scottish Parliament, which meets in the Holyrood area of the capital city, Edinburgh, and for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Assembly which meets at Stormont in Belfast. In Ireland, which is a country independent of the UK since at least 1949, the National Assembly is the Oireachtas, (Irish Assembly) of which principal house is the lower house, the DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann. They meet in the capital city of Dublin.
Like the UK Parliament, the U.S. Congress is comprised of two houses, upper and lower. In the U.S., the upper house, the Senate, is elected directly, with 2 Senators representing each of the 50 political states (and not huge private estates), and each Senator has a set term of 6 years. In the UK, the equivalent is the House of Lords, and these Lords are unelected as their seats are a hereditary entitlement. Being composed of elected representatives, the US Senate has much more power than the UK House of Lords. The lower houses, the UK House of Commons and the US House of Representatives both have ‘the power of the purse.’ Budget bills, and particularly tax-raising, funding and expenditure bills must originate in the lower house.
Like the U.S. Congress, the State Legislatures of the individual states of the United States have two houses,, upper and lower, except for one state, Nebraska, which has only one legislative house. Although all four are the UK, only the countries of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales could be considered a very rough equivalent of ‘states’ in the UK, as the country of England has no separate English state parliament.
Until the UK fully withdraws from the EU, the citizens of the UK also elect members to one other body: the European Parliament (EP). Each EU member states’ delegation size has been a major issue for the British citizens as the EP is not based on one-man, one vote. Several small independent states have fewer than 100,000 citizens, and the minimum number of states’ members is 6 while the largest is capped at 96. Worse, in the UK, the citizens do not directsly elect individual Members of the EP (MEPs), but instead choose a political party. Then the winning party leadership chooses the MEPs from its own Party membership. Here is how Wikipedia describes the makeup of the European Parliament.
The apportionment of seats within the European Parliament to each member state of the European Union is set out by the EU treaties. The apportionment of seats is not proportional to each state’s population, nor does it reflect any particular mathematical formula; however, it is stated in the treaties that distribution of seats should be ‘degressively proportional‘ to the population of the member states. The process can be compared to the composition of the electoral college used to elect the President of the United States of America in that, pro rata, the smaller state received more places in the electoral college than the more populous states.
The Evolution of Voting:
From foregoing comparison, you can begin to see the roots of the U.S. Constitution and Congress. There are great differences as well as similarities. Though descended heavily from Scots, Irish, Welsh and English immigrants, as a nation, the U.S., is about 800 years younger than England and the other UK countries. These differences, as well as similarities stem from who originally had the right to vote and how long did that voting system last.
Unlike in England, in medieval Scotland and Ireland, clan chiefs were elected, though often they proved their superior merit to be ‘elected’ on the basis of either bloodthirsty military victories–even against members of their own clans and in killing their competition, or having military victories over their own fellow Scots or Irish in the form of other clans, eliminating some of the leadership of competing clans.
In medieval England, the lords were entitled (given their titles) by a king, and with these titles came large estates (lands) and dominion over all the common people in those estates. The Lords were required, based on their rank, to supply a certain number of men from their estate’s for the king’s or parliament’s armies, for the purpose of national defense, conquest and international disputes. Early on, the Lords were also, required to equip, feed and clothe the men at arms they provided. Lords could and did rebel–especially since they commanded men at arms and weapons, and to counterbalance the lords and have some degree of justice for common people, the kings also appointed sheriffs for every shire. Sheriffs were independent of the local Lords, and served only the King, and only at the pleasure of the King, were not entitled with large estates that they owned and could pass on, and so were replaced more often than the lords.
In England, lords and kings passed on their titles and estates to their oldest son, and younger children got much less. In Ireland the clans and four kingdoms did not want children ruling, so the battle was between oldest brothers, even cousins, of the monarch or clan chief who had died. In Scotland and England when a king died and left a child heir, there was a regency, usually of one of the king’s brothers or a great lord the king had named as guardian and regent before he died. Often the highest ranking lords, though, were still related to the king, just more distantly.
At first, the right to vote was, reserved only for members of parliament. At first based on being male, of a certain age (poll-able–as there was a tax on voting age males), as well as property ownership and wealth. Additionally, if a person had property in two or more constituencies or wards or boroughs, he had a vote in each and every one. Apprentices and guildsmen who were in good standing and owned tools, and ‘of age’ could also vote. Property meant assets.
This was the system until the 1950’s in England, and the U.S. started out with a nearly identical system.
Voter Qualifications and Abuse
By the mid 1800’s, in the UK, a few groups were barred from voting: incarcerated criminals and ‘lunatics,’ (sometimes called ‘fatuus’–‘imbeciles’ in Scottish law). These were also often barred from inheriting and managing estates, if they were the lord or primary heir, as mismanaging the estates could harm their families and tenants, and risk services to the kings and parliaments. The lunatics or imbeciles were was roughly identified as those a danger to themselves or others by being unable to reason and not knowing the difference between right and wrong, particularly in terms of the law and being thus unable to follow the law. In the United States we banned convicted criminals, whether they were incarcerated or not, from voting but have allowed the insane not in institutions, and drug addicts or alcoholics, to vote. In the 1800’s, we even allowed bars to become polling booths and candidates and their supporters to continue campaigning for votes on election day in bars that were voting booths and persuade or bribe people, often with drink, to vote more than once in said bar under different names. Voter fraud in the mid to late 1800’s in the U.S. was rampant. There were few state laws prohibiting it, and little or no enforcement for any laws that did exist.
With regard to voting, the insane, which we now usually call ‘mentally ill,’ and drug addicts are mostly treated as the same group. In the U.S., we allow people who are incapable of reason and don’t know, or don’t care, about the difference between right and wrong and who are, or potentially are, a danger to themselves and others to vote. Some other countries do not allow this. That’s a crucial difference, and potential problem in elections, when the difference between a win and a loss is only a few percent, as it has been in many elections within districts and regions.
The ability to reason is taught, primarily by parents and schools, and studies have also shown that in both the U.S. and the UK education that teaches reasoning, objective thinking, logic, and research and how to determine truth from fiction, has been failing for decades.
‘An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.’ – Thomas Jefferson.
‘A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.’ – Theodore Roosevelt.
Recent studies have shown that illiteracy combined with marginal literacy and understanding (roughly 6th grade level ideals or less) stands at about 40% in both the U.S. and U.K. It was about 25% or so in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It was higher than it is now, before mandatory high school (secondary school) beyond 8th grade. The two nations added mandatory secondary schools but they did not improve literacy, reasoning, or jobs related skills, as was hoped they would. Many other countries have higher literacy and real education rates than the U.S. and U.K. The Scandinavian countries are among the top.
In its history, particularly in some states, The U.S. has sometimes had literacy tests that persons had to pass to be able to vote, but they were not applied uniformly. They were often abused as a means of discriminating against less educated people of color and females and were struck down by the U.S. courts over time as unlawful–as they were constructed and applied–and no state resurrected them as a uniform test for fear of having to deny any part of white and male constituencies.
In the U.S., city councils, county boards of supervisors/commissioners, state and national legislative office holders are elected by direct vote by majority–no quorums of registered voters are required. This is also true of the House of Commons in the UK. There are a few critical differences, besides the first obvious one, the U.S. has, in addition to Congress, 50 states and 50 state legislatures, governors, etc., and the UK doesn’t. In the U.S. Constitution, the legislative districts, are supposed to be equal in population size, the same sized fraction of the total number of legislators for that class of legislators, except for the Senate. The Senate, as per the Constitution grants two Senators to each state, regardless of geographic size or human population. The U.S. Constitution, as amended to allow minorities of color full voting rights, and women, was written on the concept of ‘one-man, one-vote’ equality of voting rights. In the UK, one-man, one vote does NOT exist in either the House of Commons or Lords and the median population size of constituencies (voting districts) varies among the ethnic regions.
According to the official government site: https://www.parliament.uk:
‘The typical size of constituencies differs between parts of the U.K. The Office for National Statistics gives the median parliamentary electorate across constituencies of about 72,400 (persons) in England, 69,000 in Scotland, 66,800 in Northern Ireland, and 56,800 in Wales.’ Note that this said the ‘MEDIAN’ size, saying right then and there, the district sizes are NOT the same in population even within the ethnic regions! ‘Median’ is defined as an adjective denoting or relating to a value or quantity lying at the midpoint of an observed frequency distribution (or range) of values or quantities.’
The site doesn’t state what the range is in actual population sizes of constituencies, only that there is a range.
However, the U.S. is not without fault in this area. We have allowed a quaint and corrupt practice called ‘Gerrymandering‘. The name is derived from Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry who, in 1812, created a geographical district that on a map, looked like a salamander–hence the name ‘Gerry-mander.’ Gerrymandering has the effect of keeping a disproportionate number of office holders in power even when the larger majority votes against them and their parties.
In recent years, the Courts have begun to insist on districts conforming more to natural topographic and man-made boundaries such as rivers, mountains, highways, and keeping contiguous communities of people who normally live, shop, and are educated side-by-side, together. Until these reforms are nationally mandated, court ordered redistricting plans will always run the risk of being overturned by some later court. While judges try to be more objective and fair in office, and political party is not supposed to be a qualification for nomination and confirmation as a judge, partisanship of governors and legislators at state and national levels, means some degree of partisanship occurs in the nominations and confirmations and is inevitably seen in some interpretations and judgments of law, including in elections.
In the UK, the Prime Minister is elected by the MP’s in the majority party in the House of Commons, and a similar process is used to select the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
These Parliamentary Ministers can also be removed by a vote of ‘no confidence’ that originates among a certain minimum number of members of his/her political party in their Parliaments. For the UK Prime Minister, the House of Commons can file ‘letters calling for a vote of no-confidence,’ before a general election year. If the vote fails, another vote of no-confidence may not be called for at least one full year.
In the U.S., this is similar to the office of Speaker of the House who first must get a majority vote of his or her own majority party to be nominated as the Speaker of the whole House of Representatives and then must be voted upon by the Representatives of both parties, and the few independents, in the entire House of Representatives.
The U.S. President is not directly elected by the entire national electorate, but instead by an Electoral College, whose votes are based on the combination of the majority or apportioned votes in a state, and the number of persons in the College is then based on the combined number of state Representatives and Senators, automatically giving greater weight in the vote to smaller states as all states have two Senators. Additionally the states make their own laws as to whether the vote that goes to the Electoral College shall be ‘winner takes all,’ or percentages in the college delegation based on the percentages voting for each candidate in the state. A small ‘winner take all state,’ thus has greater influence in the vote for U.S. President than a large apportioned vote state. The U.S. Presidential election is not based on one-man, one-vote. If the Electoral College cannot agree on a majority of its vote going to a candidate the, the election for President then goes to the House of Representatives. A further twist in this already rather warped Electoral College system is that they have no other role than to vote for President, and so its members are free to decide to vote against the popular votes of their own states, though the states may assess a fine for doing so!
The Political Parties:
The next problem is the nature of the political parties themselves. Each one thinks it has all the answers, or superior answers, to some or all the problems within a nation, and seeks veto proof control to enact its partisan beliefs without compromise, which they believe weakens their intended legislation. There is no mandate for compromise in the Constitution of the U.S. or the UK. Over time parties come to each think of themselves as the sole national good, and superior to the nation, or the nation and the others are demonized and even called traitors. In the early history of both Parliament and Congress, the term ‘loyal opposition’ was applied to the minority parties by majority party but in the last two or three decades of both the UK and U.S. governance, particularly in the U.S., this concept has become almost non-existent.
Worse, in both the UK and U.S., members of parties hold party membership AFTER being elected to serve entire districts, or wards, states and the nation, and are allowed to hold party offices while holding government offices. In a democratic government in which the voters and the Constitutions expect elected and appointed officials to serve ALL individuals EQUALLY, with equal respect and regard, this is a conflict of interest! One is not elected to serve just the members of the party who nominated him or her, or those who voted for him or her in any district or the nation. Again, this tradition of combining party and government in the U.S. comes from its earliest European immigrant citizens’ UK roots.
Unlike the U.S., with its dominant two parties, the UK has traditionally had three or four parties that have enjoyed the government leadership role. In the UK, the parties are mostly national. In Scotland, Ireland and Wales, there are nationalist parties for just those countries within the UK. In the UK, Labor is a separate party, while in the U.S. Labor does not have its own party but must choose between the dominant two. Labor was seen for many decades by voters and the party members themselves as more the interest of Democrats, and Business/Corporations more the interest of Republicans. Since the mid 1980’s, in the U.S., ‘Labor’ has been abandoned by both major parties, except for public employee (government employees) unions, which remain a Democratic Party interest because there are now more government workers organized into unions than any other group of workers in the private economy. The only other organized, mostly non-government workers unions of any appreciable size are the ‘service’ employees in the hotel, restaurant and hospital industries. While the SEIU members often vote for Democrats, they can and sometimes do split from their union leadership. The large independent swing vote in elections in the U.S. in the last 25 years or so has been heavily dominated by what is usually called ‘the labor element/party’ in many other countries.
In the U.S., Labor can and does include many college educated persons who feel very much apart from corporate or other business leadership. In high technology, which has many jobs, age discrimination and sex discrimination are rampant, despite federal and state laws and agencies (usually grossly underfunded), and somewhere between age 45 and 50 many highly educated persons have been let go by all kinds of businesses and corporations and are on second even third, lesser paid and lower status jobs or careers.
In the U.S., the parties are each organized by and within STATES, as though the states are individual nations. There are literally over 100 party organizations in the 50 states and governed more by state laws, not federal. This is a legacy of the thirteen separately chartered and governed colonies who first became a confederation government of thirteen state-nations, each with their own currency and other important aspects normally thought to be associated with nations. These parties started before the US Constitution was adopted, making the thirteen original colonies/states a single democratic republic. Thus, at one time, most states did elect central committees and candidates for office under a town-hall meeting like system of caucuses. These caucuses then elected representatives to the state conventions at which statewide candidates and a state central committee were elected. However, this system fell apart as populations of states grew, and as more minorities were granted the right to vote. It’s easier to control candidate selection, at all levels, when the selection is done only by a smaller group and that group that is a bunch of cronies that don’t need to themselves stand for election.
The Candidates and Office Holders:
In all these countries, candidates may nominate themselves, and may claim party affiliation or membership, or they may be nominated by parties, through conventions or ruling central committees. Most candidates in the U.S. are nominated or endorsed by a political party, and thus supported by that party in a variety of ways through district or county central committees. In most of the U.S. states, these central committees, are elected only by fellow members of the committees, and non-party members have no role in the process. Once elected, by any means, these party office holders they are not required to stand for re-election at any time afterward. There is no requirement in the parties’ rules and by-laws, and no requirement by law, or in the Constitution that the political parties themselves must be democratic and central committee members be elected from party membership.
This begs the question: How can you have a truly democratic government if the parties who control the candidate selection are themselves not democratic? Moreover, if the general voters don’t understand that the candidates being presented to district or state conventions and in the primary general elections are not democratically and openly selected, are the elections themselves truly representing the general public?
The worse the education is of the electorate, the easier, and more likely, to have these undemocratically selected candidates on to both primary and general election ballots especially if you drop civics and government courses, as well as keep passing on up through the grades people who can barely read the lowest levels of primary school books. Of course, based on voting laws in the U.S., any insane person can also run for office, and need only, for a few hours, persuade a handful of people on a committee that he or she is a good candidate based on what, and how convincingly, said candidate has learned to parrot of priority party ideologies.
As Abraham Lincoln once notably said,
‘You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’
A party central committee can easily be ‘some of the people all the time.’ Actors learn to convincingly parrot rote ideas and speeches in front of audiences all the time.
Beyond age, the U.S. Constitution imposes very few requirements for anyone to become a candidate or hold federal office. For the Presidency, one must have been born in the U.S. or its territories, including military bases abroad. For the UK countries, it is ‘generally understood’ that one had to have been born somewhere in the Commonwealth–though that is not precisely stated in law. In Ireland, candidates must be Irish citizens and candidates for President must also be over 36. According to Irish officials, most of the Parliamentary government and elections laws were borrowed from the UK. ‘The three best things that the UK gave us were the English language, the rule of law and Parliamentary government.’ (Several leaders have repeated this.)
In the U.S., there are no requirements for literacy, education, no criminal background checks required, no mental health exams, no requirements for any years of experience in either government or business. For some offices there is not even a requirement of humanity. In the U.S. almost anyone can run for office; even dogs have been elected mayors, although some people have waggishly suggested the dogs were an improvement over the humans (pun intended). There also is no mandate, no law in most states, much less the federal government of the U.S. that requires competing candidates to debate one another, or do so openly in an open public forum, or even to provide accessible campaign literature stating one’s political stances.
In the UK, those under bankruptcy orders and those convicted of felonies within five years before an election, and those convicted or otherwise adjudicated for financial misconduct, election and public service crimes are disqualified from running for office as are employees of the same office while they are still employees.
In this treatise, we are deliberately leaving out the history of using race, religion and gender as a basis for restricting the right to vote, access education or hold office, which were widespread between about 1580 and 1830. We are also omitting the messy debate on the influence of money in elections and the U.S. Supreme Court decisions granting unlimited political donations being an expression of free speech in the U.S., treating corporations as citizens (though unions are not unless they’ve incorporated, and likewise other interest groups. If any entity, human or otherwise, can be “citizens”, how do we draft them to fight for the national defense, and shouldn’t they all be paying taxes?) We have taxed our limited, rational human brain enough for one day.
Editorial: The DUP and Brexit
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker
Ms. Foster, if you and your minority Democratic Unionist Party, (DUP), want to be part of the United Kingdom (UK) so much, move to England.
First, remember a little history. Most of the members of most Scots families who were settlers of Northern Ireland in the 16th century, whether under the deal between Conn O’Neill, by Sir Hugh Montgomery and James Hamilton, or under the plantations set up by James I of England/James VI of Scotland, did not stay. The vast majority left Northern Ireland in the 18th century and resettled in what became the U.S. or Canada. These Scots-Irish people left after several major catastrophes: first, a famine and second, after the English parliament allowed the rack rents in Ulster to skyrocket, and then, third, limited trade opportunities for Northern Ireland with the Act of Union in 1707.
Most of the current unionist, (as in union with the UK, not Ireland), supporters descend from families who have been in Northern Ireland only since then, less than 300 years. These families didn’t live through the very hardest of times in Ireland and the hard choices the people all over Ireland had to make in the 17th century.
I, personally, descend from those earlier Scots-Irish people, and so do many millions of other Americans. I think we have a right to express our opinions in this matter, especially because, since that time, both sides of the Irish problems have come to us for financial and political support, and, yes, even weapons.
Second, although these Unionists prevailed and kept Northern Ireland in the UK, the rest of Ireland finally wrested its self-government back from the UK by force of arms in 1918 and full independence in 1947. Since then, the independent state of Ireland has pulled itself together, particularly since the late 1960’s, and is now doing just fine.
Just two years ago, the majority of Northern Irish people were still divided on the question. While a 55.8% majority, including Protestants, voted to remain in the EU, the DUP held on to a plurality of power in the representation of Northern Ireland in the UK Parliament. Ever since, the Northern Ireland has had no unified government, as the minority DUP holds fast to its demands to stay in the UK in defiance of the expressed will of the majority, and all the while the UK itself is inching ever closer to leaving the EU.
It is up to the majority of the people in Northern Ireland to demonstrate some consistency and form a government in Northern Ireland and elect members of Parliament that represent the will of the majority of its own people. It is NOT up to either the majority of the 60 million persons in the UK, or the 500 million in the EU, or the 340 million people in the U.S. They have enough problems of their own. The Northern Irish have created these problems themselves and they must solve them!
In fact, the DUP is supported by only about one third of the 1.2 million voters in Northern Ireland. However they voted, the other two thirds, did NOT vote to support the DUP. It would make a lot of sense for the DUP, the largest part of this mess because it wants to remain essentially English, to simply pack up and move to England. This would allow the remaining two-thirds of Northern Ireland to elect a majority government even if, (gasp!), they decide to reunify with the larger nation on the island they share, Ireland.
As for the hard-line Brexiteers in London, we cannot suggest you pack up and move somewhere else, although the majority in Parliament and perhaps the Queen and the army might have an idea of a new, old location, for you. You are in the same position as Arlene Foster and the DUP. YOU are a minority in your own Conservative Party and in the entire UK, and even more a minority in the much larger EU.
A bit more history will help explain why the EU is driving such a hard bargain with England. Twice, in 1815 and especially in 1918, England was in a position to manipulate the rest of Europe. In both cases, England set the rules of rights of minorities and recognizing separations from larger countries, especially in 1918, when the UK, under the huge English majority, chose to work with France and Italy to tear up the Austro-Hungarian empire and recognize the independence of Czechoslovakia, under the ‘Maffia’, and Yugoslavia, under a king, not as democratic republics. Well educated government officials now realize that the U.S. entrance into that fray on behalf of the Triple Entente is still controversial and might in hindsight, have actually been a mistake. Thankfully, today, in 2018, these hard-line Brexiteers are a small minority, and so have no right to dictate to the entirety of Parliament, let alone demand further concessions from the much larger EU. Grow up!
To its credit, in the 1990’s, the UK, along with France and some strong persuasion from the U.S. and others, corrected some of the mistakes of 1918. To end the Balkan war, the UK recognized the independence of Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia–for the good of the whole of Europe. Just three years later, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought peace between two more EU members: the UK and Ireland. In the larger EU, the crux of the current problem, Northern Ireland, is seen as just as important to the peace of Europe as the 1995 Dayton Agreement which brought peace to the Balkans and recognition of the rights of the individual Balkan ethnicities. The first priority of the EU is to the good of all the EU and its members, and not to the UK which chooses to LEAVE. It is NOT in the interests of the EU to see any renewal of strife or economic hardship in Ireland, Northern Ireland or the Balkans, and so these hard-line Brexiteers will just have to deal with the Realpolitik of the matter.
It was extremely naive of Mssr’s Johnson, Farage, Raab and others to believe and insist on a double standard between the UK and the rest of Europe and expect rule of the minority in either the UK or Northern Ireland. In so doing, they threaten the peace and prosperity of the unified Europe. They cannot have one rule for the Balkans (or for East Europe generally) and another for themselves. The English people who voted these characters into office need to understand the same – you are a minority even among your own fellow voting citizens throughout the UK and cannot dictate terms to the much larger EU.
Now that’s just the political aspect. Here in the U.S., and California we have the issue of our own businesses and how to make them thrive for our people. I once owned a retail business, and when I first started it I had to consider how best to make it prosperous as I selected a market in which I might succeed. My choices were, a solid niche market, in which I had little competition, or the majority market. If I selected the latter, I had to figure out how to build my stores just enough to join a much larger corporation and have the products at the lowest possible price from being a part of a much larger wholesale buying group.
To prosper, businesses need to go where the market is largest and barriers are least. Businesses must grow to live. They have employees and investors to pay, products and services to sell to be able to pay employees and investors. This means, the 500 million persons EU, (and Ireland within it), is a much better opportunity than the 60 million persons UK, especially since, as of today, there still is NO post-Brexit trade and customs deal between them. Both UK government spokespersons and the EU spokespersons are saying trade and customs deal will not be concluded until 2020, and possibly even later before all the pieces are in place to implement it. Businesses cannot wait on such promises from badly divided governments run by a badly divided plurality party, and four more years of actual uncertainty will dampen trade and discourage most investment.
Therefore, though I grieve for my late mother’s Scottish ‘cousins,’ I must say, present day U.S. and California business and finance must focus, not the UK, but on Ireland as part of the EU and an English speaking gateway nation to the EU. The Scots deserve equal trade treatment to Northern Ireland. I know this next statement will not be popular among many officials in the UK, but Scots have the same rights to self-determination as do Czechs, Croatians, and Slovenians.
This one even more so. During the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum run-up, the majority in England and the UK told Scotland that if it left the UK, it could not have membership in the EU, which everyone admitted the Scots wanted as the UK was then still a member of the EU. Now, with the UK leaving the EU, those promises and threats are moot, and so it’s time for another Independence Referendum for Scotland, free of such coercion.
Last but not least, we remember that the Irish rebels of 1798 and 1916 were shot, hung or beheaded when THEY initially tried to leave the UK–and these wars certainly did destroy the UK’s peace. Wouldn’t destroying the UK, or its peace, qualify as treason, still? Now that we have seen the actions of these hard-line Brexiteers, if I were Her Majesty, the Queen of England, I would already be looking at all the legal authorities I still have and considering the possibility of having my army arrest Mssr’s Johnson, Farage, Raab, Ms. Foster, and others, take them to the Tower of London, and charge them with treason. I’d also be musing about whether or not it’s possible, for the good of the entire UK, if not the whole of Europe, to resurrect capital punishment and find a good headsman with a sharp axe.
Editorial: Brexit Update
New Proposed Deal to Avoid Hard Internal Irish Border
Chaos in Ruling Conservative Party in UK
DUP Dumps Conservatives
2018-11-15 – by Tony and Celia Fábos-Becker
On Tuesday, November 13th 2018, more than two years after the entire United Kingdom (UK) voted narrowly to withdraw from the bloc, in a divisive referendum, UK prime minister, (PM), Theresa May‘s office announced that British and European Union (EU) negotiators have agreed on a this first proposed agreement in the total Brexit deal that would avoid hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. On Wednesday, November, 14th, after a several hours long ‘impassioned discussion’ (PM May’s own words), her cabinet narrowly agreed, based on their briefing by PM May, to this first ‘technical agreement’. The only persons who had read the entirety of the agreement were PM May and the EU Negotiator in Gibraltar. Not one cabinet minister, nor the head of the DUP in Ireland, nor Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (FM), had seen the full 585 page agreement, nor were the heads of the DUP nor the First Minister of Scotland invited to the cabinet meeting, when PM may called the Cabinet meeting asking her cabinet for support this agreement.
EU officials have described this draft Brexit deal as ‘A broad backstop that includes a custom union for the UK and regulatory alignment for Northern Ireland’. The first and immediate protest from FM Sturgeon, as well as Scotland’s Members of Parliament (MP’s), was in more or less these words, ‘Why isn’t Scotland getting the same deal?‘ Thursday, November 15th, the Scots MP’s stated the issue even more strongly, ‘if a deal is good enough for Northern Ireland, the same deal should be for Scotland.’ According to BBC commentators, their concerns are that this initial Brexit deal would force Scots to compete with Northern Ireland for finance, industry and jobs.
Thursday, November 15th, the Brexit Secretary of PM May’s cabinet, Dominic Raab resigned as did the Secretary of Work and Pensions Esther McVey, and the non-cabinet Northern IrIsh Minister, Shailesh Vara. Four other ‘junior ministers’ also resigned. The Secretary of Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, continues to support PM May.
There is a hard split in the ruling Conservative Party (Tories) between the hard-line Brexiteers that want to tell Northern Ireland and Scotland you are part of the UK, and a minority vote, and you must bow to the will of the British majority, whose Brexit vote occurred with a large English majority. It is the hard-line Brexiteers who are filing the letters of no-confidence and resigning from PM May’s cabinet. Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP, the leader of a group of Conservative euro-skeptic lawmakers, submitted his letter of no confidence Thursday and called for Mrs. May to be replaced. ‘We didn’t ask for the right things’ from the EU, he said. Mr. Rees-Mogg is a member of the Conservative Tory Party of which PM May is the leader, and from which she derives her authority to form the current government.
Receipt of 48 such letters triggers a mandatory vote by the House of Commons. The BBC reported that there are rumors that this number has been reached. PM May and her secretary have both expressed confidence that if there is a vote on ‘no confidence,’ it would fail the House as a whole and Ms. May would retain her position. Moreover after a no confidence vote, there cannot be another such vote for a full year. The coalition that allowed the Conservative plurality to name the Vice Presidency, going by the statements to BBC interviewers is ended.
The reality is that, while the Tory government could fall over the divisions within the Conservative party and between it and the DUP–itself a minority in Northern Ireland there is no other person being considered by any of the other parties as a viable alternative to replace Ms. May.
This new first ‘technical agreement’ is not the entirety of the final Brexit Agreement. In fact, as a number of Tory MP’s and resigning cabinet officials publicly said, ‘trade is not even part of this agreement. Of the 585 pages in this, there is only an introductory 5 pages about trade,’ (direct quote from several MP’s and cabinet officials) essentially little more than a memorandum of intent to work on a trade agreement later.
Also, there remains a long process of approvals before it is in force. Any such treaty must go through a series of approvals, including both the UK bodies and the EU. The leadership of PM May and her appointed ministers is the result of a tenuous coalition between the UK’s Conservative (Tory) Party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, (DUP), and the DUP was not invited to the Wednesday briefing and vote of the cabinet ministers. As of Wednesday evening in the UK, Sammy Wilson, the ‘spokesperson for the DUP’ being interviewed by the BBC just before PM May exited 10 Downing Street to make her own announcement, said he would not support the agreement with his vote. Interestingly, he said it was because it would put Northern Ireland under too much regulation and rules from the EU, rather than the UK. The DUP stance implies it believes it represents the majority in Northern Ireland, but in fact, they only have support from only about one-third of the Norn Iron electorate.
Most who voted ‘Leave’, especially hardliners lead by Boris Johnson, MEP, express frustration that the DUP is also being allowed to hold up a stronger agreement more in accord with the wishes of the Brexiteers. A recent poll showed that the concerns of Northern Ireland and Scotland were held in NO regard by the overwhelming majority of English and Welsh who voted ‘Leave’. Another percentage of the population didn’t vote at all, not caring whether the UK stayed or left and not caring about anything else, such as the concerns of Scots and Northern Irish. However, interviews show that all of both groups (‘leave’ voters and non-voters) resent this tiny minority of the UK having any ability to block or hamper the will of the English (with Welsh) majority of the UK, which is more than 79% of the total of the UK parliament MPs.
Mr. Johnson also expressed frustration that ‘The EU is has more control over the terms of Brexit than the UK’, which puts him and the majority of the UK, relative to the EU, in the same category as the frustrated Northern Irish and Scots, a relative minority. Mr. Johnson’s comments, as per BBC and other international press interviews with EU spokespersons, demonstrates a failure on his part to understand that the UK itself, with a population of about 60 million people is only 12% of the total EU population of about 500 million, and that he and his fellow hard-line Brexiteers are themselves trying impose the will of a minority on a European majority, in the same way the DUP is trying to assert its will on the entirety of the UK. Johnson chafes at the idea that the EU could also respect the self-determination of Northern Ireland and Scotland as separate entities, when they are part and parcel of the government of the UK. Mr. Johnson complains that this first ‘technical agreement’, ‘…is vassal state stuff’, but does not want Northern Ireland and Scotland to have any special agreements with the EU, as though they were vassals of the UK.
The EU does have the right to grant recognition of country status to countries breaking away from others, as they did for Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia when they broke away from Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. The UK in some ways set the rules of modern Europe itself, when the UK insisted on recognizing Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia when the UK, with France and Italy, engineered the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. Ironically, Hungary and Austria, most damaged by the rules of 1918, are agreeing to abide by them; it is the hard-line Brexiteers of the plurality leader party–not even the majority party in the UK–led by Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees Mogg, Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson who now want a different set of rules.
On Thursday, November 15th, PM May presented the agreement to the House of Commons in the UK Parliament, where she does not have a majority of MPs. It is now under discussion, but three hours of questions, initially indicated she does not yet have the votes of any majority, however it is organized, to pass this agreement. Both BBC commentators and MP’s have stated that Mrs. May must also renew the support of the DUP, as she relies on the DUPs votes for her extremely narrow majority in the UK Parliament’s critical House of Commons, or she must persuade enough members of the Labor Party and others that this is the best deal that can be had for the entirety of the UK if it is to exit the EU with a deal at all. The EU ministers and the EU press has presented a united stand that this is the only deal they are offering the minority UK which itself chose to leave the EU, ‘take it or leave it.’
Overall, in the Brexit referendum, the UK electorate cast 46.5 million votes, and the ‘Leave’ vote carried the day by a slim majority of the total of only 1.2 million votes. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but with only about 1.2 million voters, Northern Ireland only constitutes only about 3% of the total UK electorate and the DUP only gets support from about 400,000 or about 1% of the total UK electorate. With only a bit over 7 million voters, Scotland is only about 18% of the UK electorate. In the 2016 Brexit vote, a majority of 55.8% of Northern Ireland’s small electorate voted to ‘Remain’ in the EU; similarly, a 62% majority of Scots voted ‘Remain’.
Stepping back from these immediate issues, we recently discovered a very insightful analysis by Physicist Bob Taylor, in which he uses various graphical techniques to visualize the fully detailed distribution of the 2016 Referendum vote. As one considers Bob’s rendition, a shaded continuum in all its detail, the picture of who voted Stay versus Leave is revealed as much more nuanced than the usual ‘Black and White’ analysis that makes for headlines with strong emotional appeal to the extremes. We believe this is the more accurate way to think about these issues.
Here is a link to Bob Taylor’s original article online: https://medium.com/@jakeybob/brexit-maps-d70caab7315e.
Looking over the votes presented this way makes it seem to us all the more obvious how ridiculous it is that a tiny minority group like the DUP, or regretfully, the entirety of Northern Ireland and Scotland, together only 21% of the total UK electorate, should have such extreme leverage over so many others. As Boris Johnson (not our favorite person) says, quite correctly, in this instance, ‘the minority is taking away the self-determination of the majority.’ However, as noted by the BBC, Mr. Johnson and the extreme Brexiteers are themselves a minority in their own Conservative party and the whole of the UK Parliament, and they could be considered as ridiculous as the DUP by the majority of Conservatives and the majority of the entire Parliament.
The BBC commentators are also saying that, what little the press has been given suggests there might be a way out for Northern Ireland and Scotland. It is being rumored the EU will allow a referendum in these two parts of the UK for them to decide to stay under the terms of the proposed agreement, or abide by the terms of the rest of the unified UK. There is also continued discussion being reported among the Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership, of holding a second Independence Referendum, especially if they do not get the same favorable, special treatment as Northern Ireland. A third possibility now being publicly suggested is that either the entirety of the UK electorate be allowed to vote on the proposed agreement, or vote in a second Brexit referendum with this 2nd vote requiring a two-thirds majority.
Interviews with people on the street of the English cities who voted for Brexit show a growing frustration with PM May and the Tory government, and growing unease about the increasing possibility of a no-deal Brexit, for which no one in the government has said that the PM and Cabinet have adequately prepared. BBC interviews with members of Parliament show that MP’s believe the UK would have to ask for additional transitional time to set up the new customs facilities and more. The EU spokespersons have also said they expect a longer transition, as the trade and customs deals have not yet been negotiated, into 2020.
Philosopher and Pupil
Editorial: Freedom of the Press and Literacy
Ireland and Britain’s Celtic Legacy
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker 2018-11-08
The AmeriCeltic newsletter publishes information about Celtic heritage, culture and events, including current events, under the protections of the US Constitution’s guaranttee of Freedom of the Press. After the past few US elections, and increasingly politicized news coverage of nearly everything, it might be useful to review who established Freedom of the Press and why. It is usually defined as the freedom to write and publish news and criticisms without interference and restrictions by government or religion, (See ‘Freedom of the Press‘). The first modern instances of freedom of the press begin in the British Isles, in England, when Parliament got rid of the government’s right to license newspapers and other print media that might be critical of the government in 1695. But, that is not the whole of the history.
Freedom of the press began to be important during the beginning of the Enlightenment period, (1685-1815), when scientific methodology and rules of evidence, particularly for courts, and for medicine, began to be formalized, and when literacy grew under the encouragement of the Scottish Presbyterian church, to help people become more economically self-sufficient and less dependent upon the charity of churches and communities.
The Scottish Stuart kings, particularly the Catholic kings, were at odds with these ideas. The Scottish Stuart kings were absolutists who wanted the most political–and economic–power, yet no responsibility when their decisions failed to improve the well being of the nation. They wanted to combine church and state–and be in charge of both–and were using such things as star chambers with secret trials to punish critics. In the star chambers’ trials, the accused often had no idea who his or her accuser was. There were few or no witnesses allowed, particularly for the defendants, and there was little or no evidence presented, but severe punishments, even death could be the result. People could just disappear as a result of these trials, and families not know what happened for weeks, months or years. The Stuarts were not the first to be this way, but they hardened the line at a time when literacy was increasing, while the judicial system, at least at the lower levels, was relying more on facts, evidence and witnesses who themselves could be examined.
The Christian Church, the other great dictator of behavior, was also changing. There was no longer just one Christian Church, though the king and Parliament were still trying to make that so. The Presbyterian church was run not by bishops appointed by kings, but by elders elected by church members in the parishes, and both the people voting and the elders could be, and were, women as well as men. All the churches also had an economic responsibility to the parishes to help make them more self-sufficient and help take care of the needy at the local level. The churches found that they were better able to take care of real needs, if the community as a whole was wealthier. Increased literacy among Presbyterians was definitely increasing the wealth, power, and influence of the Presbyterian Church’s membership and its communities. Soon other churches, particularly the Church of England, the state church under the king and parliament, were encouraging greater literacy, if not self-government in the church. It was a natural step in logic to think if ordinary people could run local church communities successfully, they could run larger areas, even a nation, and that the king, as a person, was no better in making decisions than anyone else.
During this same period, it became understood that to make good decisions, you needed facts, truth, and reliable witnesses. People needed to learn the difference between belief and prejudice, and knowledge, based on real events, real experiences, real facts.
Brehons inscribing Brehon Law
But this was not new either. The Scots and Irish already had a long history of believing that men were more or less equal. Kings in Scotland were routinely deposed, often violently, by clans led by other men who thought they were better than the preceding king. The clan was an extended family by blood, and in the earliest times of clans, marriage. Anyone within the Clan, could become clan chief by merit in war and in peacetime wisdom in making decisions that helped a community prosper. If chiefs failed, they were, of course, deposed, usually by murder, sometimes by the entire region’s assent. They hadn’t yet realized you could, or should, be able to just vote them out of office and exile them if they didn’t accept the vote. Neither the chieftainship nor kingship in Celtic society automatically went to the oldest son of a oldest son. Even though, to avoid bloody civil wars within either clans or a nation, a degree of primogeniture was adopted in both clan leadership and kingship, it was still possible for the oldest male relative or someone appointed by parliament to be a regent and hold all the actual power of a king deemed too young to rule, or in the case of the clans, to be ‘tutor’ to the clan chief or head of a clan house and hold and exercise the actual power. This strength of clans and especially their belief in their equality to royal families was unusual in Europe.
The Enlightenment, was a period of resurrection and extension of these earlier feelings of equality and the desire to establish a fair system of justice for everyone, regardless of social status or wealth. The secular Enlightenment was enhanced and extended through the changes and greater egalitarianism in religion, long used to bolster autocratic political power. The success of Enlightenment in bringing about political and economic development and greater opportunities for everyone, depended upon literacy, and education: for the vast majority of people being able to read, and think, to analyze events, people and what was being presented as facts and evidence.
In fact, in the early 18th century, one of the penal laws that angered the Irish most, was the prohibition against educating Catholic Irish as well as Presbyterian Scots-Irish for some decades. The Presbyterians were luckier in that, being NOT CATHOLIC, they could educate themselves. However, they could not attend universities or obtain professional degrees for a few decades. Unfortunately for Catholics, many more decades would pass before they were allowed the same rights. When both came to North America, they made education happen for everyone interested in learning to read, write, do math, learn science, regardless of religion–and the colonial governments went along with it. Even in the frontier communities in North America, families were banding together and hiring school teachers to not only teach the children of the wealthy in a church or local meeting hall, but the poor as well, lest the poor increase beyond the resources of the community.
300 years ago, education was seen as a means of eliminating poverty, and even the poor shared that belief. By the time of the Revolution, there were 24 newspapers in the 13 colonies that were read and shared even on the remote frontiers. The British courts had actually already upheld freedom of the press to report on government wrongdoing–and (gasp!) criticize Crown-appointed colonial governors as well as the elected early legislatures. By the late 18th century, education–particularly literacy, the skills of thinking, analyzing and acting rationally, using logic, and more, were all very important to the mostly Scots-Irish, Scots and Irish, founders of the United States of America.
The press had an obligation, though, also for this precious freedom. It was not free from lawsuits for libel or helping to spread in print, verbal slander, especially if it caused harm or ruin. To enjoy its freedom and respect, the press was expected to faithfully report major events as they occurred in the colonies, London (the central part of government for the entire UK–and its colonies), and in local communities. Early on, the press was expected to adhere to the developing scientific methods and processes of examination of what was claimed to have happened, and report both sides of a dispute. Very early, it was expected to report who did what, when, where, why and how. News was major or unusual ‘NEW’ events; it was mostly happenings or doings, allegedly verifiable. Editorials/opinion letters or commentaries, and Gossip existed, and were recognized as separate from news. There were Gossip columnists for gossip and speculation, including political gossip columnists and Satirists. There were social gossip columnists as well. Between them they could report the he-said/she-said whether it was in government or society for salacious entertainment, but it once was largely separate from the news, and seen as entertainment. Today, most ‘news’ is now a mash-up of gossip/speculation, editorials and commentaries and maybe buried in all of that, are a few real facts of real events.
Today too many Americans, sometimes even those of Scots, Scots-Irish and Irish descent, fail in differentiating facts, evidence and knowledge from belief and prejudice, even bigotry – reality and logic from fantasy and wishes. This even includes members of the press; some of them have become little more than modern versions of the gossip columnists of old. Too few people realize that a real democracy cannot exist if government is run by unaccountable religions or individual tyrants and that, to expose the realities of either, requires a free press that reports real news, and keeps it separate from gossip and speculation. America is in danger of losing a very big part of its cultural heritage, its Celtic heritage, when it turns it back on literacy, and critical thinking and freedom of the press–a real press. Our Celtic and English ancestors fought, bled, were sometimes exiled, and died for freedom, including the right to vote, the right for anyone to hold government power, and the freedom of the press with its rights to speak and write the truth and disseminate it. Many Celtic descended individuals, as early members of that press, also risked life and limb to publish the truth, of actual events, actual active threats,–even when it didn’t make Parliament, the king, a colonial governor or colonial legislature look as good as he or they wanted.
Don’t forget, or turn your back on, this part of your heritage and history: your nation depends on this. READ, THINK, learn to do both if you don’t know how to do them, already. Learn the difference between knowledge and belief, fact and fiction. If you are fed up with news channels that offer more speculation, gossip and commercials than real news, COMPLAIN to the owners and boycott those channels–and tell them you will boycott them and spread the word to others to add to the boycott. Go watch BBC World News, and use your cell phones and computer with internet connections to read the major reputable printed press in the U.S. and international print press. Learn who is reputable and thoughtful, and who is not, in the press and shun the political press, such as Politico (that very name says it all) and Breitbart. What would your ancestors think of you if after their working and dying for more than 2000 years for the nearly 400 years of hard won freedoms you have enjoyed, and obtaining the right to 12 and more years of free education, you turned a democratic, literate republic back into a medieval tyranny, and economic and scientific backwater.
Ireland’s Blasphemy Law Repeal
Editorial: Implications of Blasphemy Law Repeals
by Cecilia L. Fabos-Becker 2018-11-01
(from Katherine Graham Harrison, Irish Observer, and analysis by The Guardian, and BBC)
“Campaigners in Ireland celebrated an end of the ‘medieval’ ban on blasphemy, on Saturday (October 27, 2018), after voters overwhelmingly backed removing the offense from the Constitution in a referendum.”
“The referendum saw a 64.85% vote ‘yes’ to remove the prohibition on blasphemy, with 35.15% in favour of retaining it…”
“Three years ago Irish police investigated comments made by comedian Stephen Fry on TV (on complaints of blasphemy), when he described God as ‘capricious, mean-minded and an utter maniac.’ They ultimately dropped the case, deciding that not enough people had been outraged.”
The articles noted that the 2009 Defamation Law was still in effect, despite the referendum, but that legislation was already being drafted to honor the referendum vote and was expected to be passed shortly.
Ireland’s Blasphemy Repeal Referendum was approved in the same election that saw President Michael Higgins re-elected, with voter turnout, of 43.79%, relatively low for Ireland. This vote was still seen as “the latest reflection of seismic social and political changes in Ireland“. BBC commentators, felt that this change may help to make reunification of the island more possible.
Also during this past week, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, claimed the agreement on Brexit was “95% complete except for the sticking point of the Irish border”. Also, a poll of Brexit ‘Leave’ voters was reported to show that Leave voters were ‘not concerned about northern Ireland, and had not considered northern Ireland at all in their vote and thought Northern Ireland irrelevant to British needs’. Several BBC pundits observed that recent comments within Theresa May’s Conservative party suggest it may be contemplating, “letting the voters of Northern Ireland decide where it wants to put its own border“. In some parts of the UK, and Theresa May’s government, this could be considered blasphemy as well.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Pakistan, (formerly part of British empire and commonwealth), the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted a Christian mother of four of blasphemy after she’d served 9 years in prison in mostly solitary confinement on death row. The Supreme Court found no evidence for the crime, and stated that the complaint filed by her male village Muslim cleric, who was not present at the alleged incident, was based on hearsay. The the lady had an argument with two female Muslim neighbors who had refused her offer to share a drink of water from the same cup, on the basis of her religion, and her neighbors then went to complain to the cleric that she had blasphemed their God in the argument.
Blasphemy is still a capital offense in that country, and this acquittal immediately led to angry protests of thousands of Muslim clerics and their nearly entirely male hordes of their supporters in the streets of Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, marching with clenched fists and demanding that this female Christian infidel be hung, despite the Court’s ruling.
BBC World News had interviewed a female Pakistani journalist about the case and asked the question, “How many cases of blasphemy are there really? Is it abused to repress or drive away others?” The female Pakistani journalist answered that, although there are some cases of what really is considered blasphemy, nearly all are poorly tried with little evidence and most complaints are instances in which the law is being abused to force others to extort and steal from someone else, or to drive unwanted persons out of the community, such as Christians.
Historians often observe that Laws with capital penalties often result in trials that rely mostly on religious claims and little real evidence. Such accusations, are often abused to oppress or steal from ‘others’. As a historian, I know the same was true of most witchcraft accusations in Europe and the U.S. – they were mainly used to extort and steal. The most famous U.S. case, of course, was the Salem witch trials of 1692-3 in which most of the accused had the more desirable lands of the Salem colony, many of which were then acquired by the accusing families, (as documented), since the lands of a convicted witch were by law and custom forfeit.
We applaud the action take by the Irish, and only wish the same freedom from oppression for the rest of the planet.
Wonder Woman Costume
Editorial: Hallowe’en Plans for Daughters
Skip the Bodice and channel Boudicca
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker
Hallowe’en is just around the corner and from now until October 31st, there will be costume purchases and party plans. In the wake the #metoo movement and these past week’s of highly public national events and discussions, I’d like to offer a few suggestions to parents with daughters.
‘Damseling’ as per Mark Judge’s interview, is all too real. Lets please skip most of the princess gowns. Too many girls over recent decades are finding out that, like the good-looking ‘Prince Charming’ of Shrek animated films, good looking boys are often a lot less than charming in character. If you must go for the ‘princess look,’ try Fiona–Shrek’s formidable wife, or Belle in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ who was also pretty resourceful and didn’t need to rely on someone to rescue her.
How about if you suggest to your precious little daughter, a Wonderwoman costume, or any female super-hero of the Marvel comics series.
Otherwise, try ‘the smartest witch of her generation,’ Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter, whose classroom robe could also be used for ‘Female Supreme Court Justice.’ Just lose the bosom-enhancers please. There are too many male boobs out there who notice nothing else–regardless of age, both ways.
Now for you teenage daughters, you’ve heard that if you are drinking alcohol, you can expect to have NO credibility and a lifetime of ruin and PTSD. It is a fact that police officers, most district attorney’s and staff, particularly prosecutors, most of the judges, and one half of most juries, etc. are MALE.
It is a fact that once a girl is damaged, it is for life. Unless a boy is molested when young, most have little understanding of what a molested female experiences. Worse, boys who commit assaults as boys, have their records sealed at age 18, or even later if they go to college, as most colleges do not involve the police in most incidents of sexual assault.
Tell your daughters if they even THINK a party has drugs or alcohol at it, when you all know that the state law for drinking alcohol says it’s only legal for persons over 21, to get out, and call you–if they didn’t get there by their own cars. Teach them how to get out gracefully and quietly if they can, and otherwise, to not be afraid to make a loud scene while they escape, so everyone hears and remembers it. Teach them to call the cops if it really gets bad, and run, if they can’t reach you soon enough. BE AVAILABLE for them and ready to pick them up. Don’t be off partying on your own with your cell phone off. Children of any age still need the support and love of their parents. They need to know parents are really there for them when they NEED those parents.
Parties are dangerous, because all it takes is one, or a very few persons, to really ruin a fun afternoon or evening by introducing or ‘slipping in’ alcohol or drugs to young brains that are still changing–a lot–at a time when sex hormones are at their highest for males. Teach your daughters that alcohol and teenage, even early 20’s, males, is a bad, dangerous combination–a lot like throwing gasoline on a fire and too many people get burned by this combination. Teach them that they must take some responsibility for themselves and avoid this situation, and that you will always have their backs in helping them avoid and getting away from this kind of situation. Parents, you need to know who your children are with at parties and if the parents are really home–ask the parents of the friend who is hosting the party if they will be there and what their policies are on alcohol and drugs. If they are casual, learn to tell your daughters, ‘there will be other parties, you are not going to this one. It’s because I care and love you and am trying to protect you.’ Better yet, concerned parents, host a party yourself. Yes, you will get push back. ‘Don’t you trust me?’ your daughters will ask. Here’s one answer: ‘yes, I trust you, but I don’t know and can’t trust all your friends and I’m not sure you know all of those who will, or might be, at the party well enough that you can really trust them all.’
Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni tribe of Britons circa 60 CE
Boudicca led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire
Just tell your daughters to take a good look at what Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and her family are going through, and ask themselves if this is where they want to be in 30 years, themselves. Human nature hasn’t changed in 40,000 plus years and it isn’t going to change in the next 40 years.
Last, I often pass a number of judo and karate studios near my local grocery and drug stores, and I always see far more boys than girls. Why? After all we’ve seen and heard since at least the mid-1990’s, and for anyone who studies any history after centuries of this, why aren’t ALL your daughters getting self-defense classes, starting in grade school? Let’s not just dress up our daughters as self-reliant, hardy princesses and super-heroes, or really good witches–let’s MAKE them real, self-reliant heroes.
One of the best recent commercials I’ve seen on television, is from Ancestry.com, showing a descendant of the ‘four mothers’ tribe run by warrior queens and warrior female armies that once really existed in Africa. There were other real warrior queens that once existed also, Boudicca, Grania O’Malley, even Elizabeth I –who rallied England to fight the Spanish. Let’s stop creating helpless, fragile princesses waiting for a Prince Charming, and hoping he is in character, as well as name. Instead, let’s have our daughters be confident warrior queens!
Editorial: Brexit Update
Latest Rounds of Talks Fail
Hard Border Likely to Return Between Northern Ireland and Ireland
October 18th, 2018 – by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
In June of 2016 the majority of the United Kingdom, (UK), electorate approved ‘Brexit’, a referendum that required the UK government to extract the UK from the European Union (EU), and in March of 2017, the 2 year process was officially begun. Much has resolved in these intervening months, but finding an agreeable set of necessarily renewed security and customs arrangements for the border which has partitioned the island of Ireland for nearly 100 years has not.
Despite many meetings, as two BBC News guests complained on Monday, October 15, it’s been another week of empty promises of ‘a deal is coming next week.’ In fact, the EU’s spokesperson for the negotiating team, Donald Tusk, and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May‘s own coalition partner, Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, (DUP), are in agreement on one thing; as of now, the ‘Brexit’ coming in March 2019, is going to be a hard one – Nothing that May wants will be granted by the European Union except for one thing: the UK will hold onto Northern Ireland as it is.
This outcome ignores the 56.44% majority of Northern Ireland voters, as well as the 62% majority in Scotland, who, by their votes in the Brexit Referendum, expressed the desire to remain in the EU. As of now, there will be no border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the UK and this week, both Arlene Foster and Theresa May indicated satisfaction in both statements and pictures. The latest public statements from the EU despite some late evening discussions on Wednesday was there was nothing new from Theresa May and her Conservative and Unionist Party-DUP coalition and therefore there is no deal.
The practicable deadline for a deal is December 2018, leaving time for a transition period from January through March 2019. Barring a leadership change in the UK parliament, or the Northern Irish somehow ending enough DUP MPs for the coalition that barely sustains Theresa May and the Tories, there will be a hard border again between Ireland and Northern Ireland. If there continues to be no deal between the UK and EU, a hard border must exist somewhere – that is the only possible outcome.
As per the BBC news reports last night, the EU spokespersons said the EU may grant the UK extra time in the ‘transition period’ to determine how it will handle the new customs policies and ports, and financial transactions, etc. This new proposal is that transition period, originally set by the Article 50 statute to end in March 2019, would perhaps end in December 2019, and most think it will be approved.
Theresa May forms a new Government
The problem is, Conservative and Unionist Party (Tory) party leader May wants what she wants, as the leader of one EU member, and the rest of the 27-member EU refuses to knuckle under to Ms. May and the UK. May wants all the good things of EU membership, such as free movement of goods and British citizens, and none of what has been perceived as ill, including open borders for movement of the EU peoples, and the West Asian and North African refugees they are willing to allow. Foster and May are accusing the EU of arrogance, yet ignoring the reality that a single EU member, the UK, representing only about 50 million persons, has chosen, of its own volition, to leave, while the other 27 nation-members, representing over 350 million persons, had no part in this decision and will remain in the EU.
From our viewpoint, outside Europe, it appears it is the UK behavior that is the more arrogant side. Psychologists often say that the self-delusional who do not wish to take responsibility for their own actions, ‘often accuse any challenger of his/her (the self-delusional) own worst sins.‘ It is up to the UK to bend, not the 27 member majority of Europe, just as no one would expect the other 49 states of the U.S. to submit to the demands of any one state, such as California, Texas, or New York.
The fact that some nations in the EU, like Germany have a few tens of billions of dollars in export sales to the UK is only one factor. The UK also sells to the 27 EU countries, and is not regularly seen as conducting fair trade and investments that benefit both parties equally by others, including Hungary and Poland, or even France. The 450 million other consumers in Europe are far more affluent than most of nations in the old British commonwealth, even the larger nations like Nigeria and India, and the Europeans know it. In fact, most of the would be migrants and refugees trying to flood Europe are NOT from West Asia but the UK’s former Commonwealth member, Nigeria. The UK will not be rid of the real, uneducated, African migrant problem, at all, but the rest of Europe soon might with Brexit. Let the British handle their own messes. If Nigeria is still a dependent, corrupt, non-self-sufficient nation, that is exactly as the UK set it up and then left it. If as its consuls and other officials have been saying, the UK intends to resurrect some form of the Commonwealth again to replace the EU, good–it can deal with Nigeria and all those migrants.
The biggest sticking point all along is that May and Foster have been adamant that they ‘will not break up the UK–regardless of what the majority in Northern Ireland, and Scotland might actually wish.’ Majority rule exists in the EU, and in England, but Scotland and Northern Ireland are not really separate and so the majorities in those parts of the UK have no voice and influence. They are simply outnumbered by the majority in the rest of the UK. We can only hope that if the majorities of Scotland and Northern Ireland, have something else to say to May and Foster, that for their own sakes, they will find a way to do so with votes, and maybe insist on some other status within the overall UK.
We’d like to suggest to the people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK a notion that has worked pretty well here in California. It’s a concept called ‘Recall’. If an elected legislator is caught in flagrantly corrupt or harmful activities, such as predatory sexual activities, taking bribes, or in the case of the recalled Governor Gray Davis, negotiates secret deals with corrupt energy companies that not only raise the costs of energy sky high to individual consumers–and business and then don’t deliver enough energy besides leading to black-outs and brown-outs, it is a means to cut short the damage and remove the person from power who did the damage and prevent him or her from doing more. We spent years undoing the damage Gray Davis but, but it could have been decades and we could have had far more damage in a variety of areas had he not been recalled. We also have another quaint concept that might interest them: it’s called ‘Referendum,’ and it can be initiated by the people, not the members of the legislature to undo a vote or legislative action by the legislature that proved a disaster. If it existed in the UK, the people, not Ms. May and the Parliament or its political parties would initiate a vote to undo the failed negotiations and overall Brexit departure. If the British people ever decide to enact this and try to use it, do so with great consideration and caution. Don’t use it lightly. It hasn’t always done what was hoped for in California, but a few times, just a few, it has.
As BBC and other international pundits noted this week, there is an existing way out, at least for Northern Ireland. The same majority that voted to remain in the EU, must, somehow, vote out the DUP and Ms. Foster, which will also bring down the current UK government of Ms. May, These same pundits also noted that if May and the Tories are dumped, the next likely PM will look more kindly on the majority vote of Northern Ireland, and eschew insistence on Northern Ireland remaining in the UK in its current status.
The Northern Irish then could ask for one or another of two things. The first possibility is dominion status, that allows it, like Canada to have control of its foreign policy, including trade, while continuing a relationship with the UK. The second possibility is reunification with the rest of Ireland, which seems increasingly possible, given the Irish Free State’s increasing secularism, and weakening of its former stringent ties with the Catholic Church. However, in the end, it is up to the Northern Irish people themselves to decide what they want to do and do it. It is the Northern Irish people who have the real power to break this dangerous logjam, not Ms. Foster and the DUP, nor Ms. May and the Tories.
Right now, the 27 nations of the EU are telling the Northern Irish that under the DUP and its support for Theresa May, the only choice is where the Northern Irish want the hard border to be: on the Irish sea or between Northern Ireland and Ireland? In the words of a mother, and perhaps exasperated older sisters and aunts, the 27 nation EU is telling Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as might be said to a temper tantrum-throwing three year old in the family: ‘you made the mess, you clean it up–I’m not doing it for you!’
As a person of mixed heritage, my British side, Scots, Irish, and even a little English, (mostly from Cornwall originally), I doesn’t like to see small countries made smaller, and my Hungarian side is reminded of what happened to all of east Europe when France, Italy and the UK decided to carve up Austria-Hungary into a bunch of tiny nations all competing with one another and thought Romania could handle any problems from the east and despises the prospect. Consider that after WWI, came economic depression for all of Europe, World War II and Hitler, followed by Stalin all happened, to the benefit of NONE of the peoples of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, and perhaps nearly as bad for entire rest of Europe.
The UK, though a now smaller nation in population and diminished in global power, is still an important part of Europe as whole and its withdrawal from the EU is also causing tensions and distrust in NATO. It must be asked, just how isolationist is the UK willing to become, in the face of real adversaries such as Putin, Assad, the House of Saud and the Wahhabi Imams, the Ayatollah and IRG in Iran, and China’s communist party?
It is also very true that wages and benefits have become as stagnant in the UK, and other parts of Europe, as they have for the majority of Americans, and yet costs of living for the majorities in almost all these countries have grown, and the needs for services for the bottom classes, and destitute people fleeing even worse, more murderous governments and civil strife. There were reasons that Brexit passed, and nationalism and populism has grown in Europe, with demands for better trade deals all round, particularly with China, India and other low wage, environmentally negligent, large countries. The usual elite decision makers of all the major political parties and their corporate executive cronies are now seen by the majority of people in many countries of Europe, Latin America and North America as having ignored the majority of employees, even the aspiring, educated and skilled middle ranks of engineers, market-makers and manager for far too long. The exasperated ordinary people are now, finally willing to vote in many places for the equivalent of rampaging bulls in China shops, to upend the status quo, to get the attention of the usual elites, if that is what it takes. At least it’s better than a reprise of 1789, or 1848, which considering how little human nature has changed since then, is something of a relief.
Within the UK, itself, though, it is also true that the economic development and welfare of Scotland and Ireland, including Northern Ireland were badly neglected with the original ‘acts of Union,’ and continued to lag. Conditions may be considered bad by the English and Welsh now, but they are only ‘catching down’ to what the Scots and Northern Irish have suffered for over 3 centuries for the former and 2 centuries for the latter. Yet, the Northern Irish and Scots do believe in international relations, trade and being able to garner international investments as a way out of their predicament with the UK. The UK looks at Scotland and Ireland rather as Canada used to look at the underpopulated remote ‘Northwest Territories’ or the U.S. looked at Alaska. They are underpopulated and have fewer voters and have fewer members of parliament. Because of climate and resources the two were never going to be equals in socio-political power, but did decline far more than they might have after the Acts of Union which abolished both the Scottish and Irish parliaments. Here is why. As political power all moved to London, so did the business, and socio-political elites of Ireland and Scotland, further exacerbating the neglect of Scotland and Ireland, leaving them in effect, orphaned. The people with the most power, money and influence literally packed up and moved to England, mostly around London. To this day, many of the great peers of Scotland, and business owners and financial executives, spend as much or more time in England as they do in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The Scots and Northern Irish can’t even really get much attention from what ought to be ‘their own.’ No wonder they are willing to look outside the UK.
Since Scotland’s last referendum on independence there have been promises to send more money to Scotland for development, but little real delivery. Northern Ireland has heard the same promises and seen a little more, only since the 1998 peace accords, but not nearly enough, either. How can the promises be fulfilled for either Scotland or Northern Ireland, though, if England’s own economy and finance industry is going to suffer from the separation of the UK from the EU, especially if the current trend toward a ‘hard fall Brexit’ continues under May and Foster.
May herself and her government just put out official warnings this week of what ‘is likely to happen,’ and in them was the first admission that the financial business sector, of England would be hit, and a conservative estimate of ‘5,000 jobs to be lost in the London Financial District.’ The history is, that during any UK crisis, England looks after England first, and the other parts of the UK take a bigger hit, as less populous and less important. My father’s people and their neighbors in East Europe used to say, ‘when Russia catches a cold, the rest of East Europe gets pneumonia.’ That’s pretty much what happens to Scotland and Northern Ireland when England is having difficulties, and it chafes more when the difficulties are of England’s own making, as it chafed for East Europeans more when Russia’s ‘cold’ was Russia’s own doing.
There are now six months left before Brexit will happen, whether the UK is ready or not.. While it was quietly predicted by British and a few European officials, for months, that ‘a deal will finally happen when everyone panics on both sides, about 2 or 3 months before March 29.’ The assumption of Ms. May and her government was and still is that the EU was going to panic also, that they really need and want the UK. That is not shaping up to be the case. The EU is determining that it may actually be in better shape to find other markets and that the British will still buy EU goods for their quality and geographic nearness, regardless of extra customs prices. That is, the UK needs the EU more than vice versa. The EU is not panicking, and increasingly its member states are also more nationalistic thinking of THEIR nations first, continental Europe second and the UK is barely on their radar of concern. So, ok people of the UK and Northern Ireland: you made the mess, you clean it up! This is not to say that the current state of public discourse in America sets a better example. Comedic Video: If England was a person / You Can’t Take England Anywhere!.
The U.S. will not be the escape valve for British citizens suffering from severe consequences of Brexit. Author and RTE news person, Caitriona Perry, interviewed numerous Trump voters for her book In America: Tales from Trump Countryand we heard her presentation at the Irish Arts Festival in Los Gatos, Saturday, October 13th. Please note, people of Northern Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the UK, that the Irish American Trump voters in 2016 have since then been quite dismayed that Trump has no intention of allowing hordes of Irish and Scots freely into the U.S., any more than hordes of any other nation.In fact, ICE has been deporting undocumented Irish immigrants as much as it has others, though the numbers of deportations have been small (only about 50 in the last 4 years of Obama and Trump) compared to the actual numbers, (over 30,000) of illegal Irish immigrants in the U.S.. Silicon Valley employers are complaining that H-1B visas are also being cut. Both issues have already noted by officials of Ireland to be ‘of concern’, and they should be of concern to the UK. As several American Trump voters told Ms. Perry, ‘native’ means people who were born in the U.S. only. Most of these nativists have little to NO regard for ANYONE, regardless of race, who was not born in the U.S. and as long as those 25 million voters in 13 states are still feeling as though they are greatly suffering this will not change.
Perhaps our friends in Canada and Australia, might be more welcoming, as they were when the UK exported Scots and Irish in past centuries. At least Canada is still a dominion of the UK, though it appears Australia will soon change separate themselves and become a Republic, like Ireland and the USA.
10 Celtic Nations (Switzerland in Purple)
Essay: Peace, Prosperity and Celtic Referendums
Celtic Conflict and the Principal of Self-determination
A personal perspective by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fabos-Becker 2018-06-02
Have you ever thought about the fact that, throughout the Age of Empires, which included The Roman Empire, a Khmer Empire, the Mongol Empire, a German Empire and even a Holy Roman Empire, there never was a Celtic Empire? We attribute that seeming puzzlement to the strain (or perhaps stain) of love of individual freedom that was always part of Celtic culture. Since arising in the ancient region of Central Europe, for these past 3 millennia the Celtic culture has been pushed uphill and westwards. (See Map)
A few weeks ago, we wrote about Central European country of Switzerland, whose alpine people still proudly self-identify as Celts. This ancient people have never had a king, preferring to own allegiances and laws within their Confederation of Helvetia over any form of monarchy. Likely, the mountainous terrain of their country was a significant aid to them in resisting the encroachments of their neighboring Empires. One can say the Swiss were among the first post-Classical people to practice the Principle of Self-determination.
Long before the British Empire’s Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800, our Celtic ancestors were often pitted against each other, too often to argue the point. From the map, it is clear that these centuries of defeats had pushed all Celtic peoples into the mountains or up against the Atlantic Ocean before they finally laid aside their rivalries and united against their opponents, and by then the task of rolling back these encroachments was too much to be reversed.
The British Empire‘s Acts of Union are prime examples of tyranny, especially the first, which was imposed by the English on the Scots by putting Scotland under extreme duress while demanding that they acquiesce. By 1707, with few exceptions, the aristocrats who controlled both the land and the Parliament of Scotland had long ceased to be Scottish, and most had lost their fortunes in disastrous foreign investment schemes.
Aggressor England deployed an English Army on Independent Scotland’s border, and then threatened to invade Scotland if the Scottish Parliament did not agree to accept England’s terms. Simultaneously, huge bribes were paid to supporters of Union that modern research has proved were NOT overdue salaries as claimed. At least four such payments were made to people who were not even members of the Scottish Parliament. No less a figure of Scottish culture than Robert Burns castigated them for their treason in his wildly popular 1791 poem, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation:
Of course, the English aristocrats who held the seats in the ‘Scottish’ Parliament, pocketed the bribes and acceded, thereby abolishing the country the were sworn to protect and defend. The Scottish people were never allowed to vote on this question, but instead lost their independence as the United Kingdom was created against their riotous public objections.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, English, Scottish and Scots-Irish immigrants were building their own, new society as the new people of what we now call America. After a few generations, many Americans were of Celtic ancestry, but as whole, early America encompassed much greater diversity of ethnicity, socio-economic status, and culture than in of the European homelands. The British Empire denied these American colonists full civil and human rights, forbade them from full participation in business and trade, and imposed unfair tax policies which they jealous enforced. These abuses created a motive and their distance from England offered an opportunity for relief, and so these Americans arose to oppose the tyranny of George III and his minions. Americans joined behind the principled ideas of the Declaration of Independence and the leadership of one of their own, George Washington, and successfully ejected their oppressors in one of the most significant political events in the History of the World, The American Revolution. One can say these American Revolutionaries were the most significant practitioners of the Principle of Self-determination.
We have a personal interest in this, as these American Revolutionaries included some of our ancestors.
All Tony’s immigrant ancestors came to America from Europe prior to 1900. The Austrians, Germans, and Irish in the mid-19th century and the Welsh and Scots in the late 17th Century. The latter two (Beebe and McCormack) fought for American Independence from Great Britain with George Washington in the Northern theater of the American Revolution.
More than half of Celia’s ancestors were Scottish and Scots-Irish. Celia has traced dozens of them back to Ireland and Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries, and all these came to what were the British Colonies of America prior to the UK’s Acts of Union. Celia’s mother was a Wallace, and several of their Wallace ancestors served with George Washington in the Southern theater of the American Revolution. Six Wallace brothers, Samuel, Andrew, John, James, Malcolm and Adam Wallace from Rockbridge (formerly Botetourt, and Augusta) County Virginia served, and all but one in Southern Campaigns of the American Revolutionary War. Five of them died as a result of their service to the just cause of American Independence.
Notably, one of these, Captain Adam Wallace, fought British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and died at the Battle of Waxhaws on May 29, 1780 when Tarleton’s troops hacked him and several hundred others to death with their sabers and bayonets after they had surrendered. Just a few months later and a few miles away, at the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, the fresh memory of the massacre at Waxhaws gave the mostly Scottish ‘Over Mountain Men’ good reason to repeatedly charge up the hill, shouting ‘Tarleton’s Quarter‘, killing fellow Scot, Major Patrick Ferguson and dealing the British Army’s ‘Southern Strategy’ it’s first humiliating defeat.
As Celia continued her research into her ancestors, she has found that some of her many contemporary Kentucky and Tennessee fore bearers fought with Col. Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Between December 14, 1814 and January 18, 1815, Jackson’s scratch army dealt the British forces under Irish General Edward Pakenham, including several regiments of Scottish Highlanders, another humiliating defeat as the British Empire tried in vain to recapture some part of their former American colonies. Celia’s ancestors also died at the hands of Native allies of the British just after the January 8th, 1815 battle.
After Independence and the War of 1812, the new Nation of the United States and the British Empire remained wary of each other. Mutual hostility continued unabated for nearly another 100 years, and was only broken by President Woodrow Wilson when he guided America into the First World War on the Allied side.
Wilson’s ancestors were late arrivals in America. None of Wilson’s ancestors were of the Revolutionary War American stock. Woodrow Wilson was the son of an immigrant mother from England, and the grandson of immigrant grandparents from Ireland and Scotland, all of them loyal subjects of the Crown. As recent immigrants, these ancestors remained deferential to the Crown, and Wilson himself was personally besotted with the British monarchy.
During these 100 years since the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution had transformed the world’s economy. One crucial transformation was that America had become the world’s principal shipper of Arms and Munitions to the British Empire, and therefore the target of choice for both the German Empire and later the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan as they fought two world wars against the Allies. As the Germans in the then Triple Alliance, and later, as the Nazis, attacked American shipping with U-Boats, and later the Japanese attacked the US Navy with dive bombers, it is no wonder the US was at last forced into these Alliances with the UK, but the real cause was these commercial entanglements.
Still, there was one Celtic nation that gained Independence from the British Empire at about that time, Ireland. After the British Empire imposed another tyrannical Act of Union on Ireland in 1801, as well as the cruel Penal Laws which made Irish Catholics non-citizens in their native land, there were several attempts to emancipate the Irish people, as well as several unsuccessful Irish ‘Risings’ during these same 100 years.
Late in the 19th Century, it seemed as though Home Rule would be granted to Ireland, but the majority Protestants in the counties of Northern Ireland (the Province of Ulster), were violently opposed to being ruled by majority Catholic counties of the rest of the island and on 13th December 1912, during the third home rule crisis, the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) decided officially to establish a paramilitary body, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to prevent Home Rule. In response, the Irish Volunteer Force (IVF) (later known as the Irish Republican Army or IRA) was publicly launched in Dublin on November 25th, 1913 to oppose the UVF. In the Larne gun-running of April 1914, the UVF imported 25,000 rifles and three million rounds of ammunition from the German Empire and by mid 1914, UVF membership peaked at 90,000 men. Meanwhile, the IVF had 160,000 men but far fewer arms. In Westminster, there were well justified fears that setting up any form of Home Rule for the whole of Ireland would start a full-scale civil war in Ulster and Home Rule for Ireland was delayed (again!).
But on July 28th, 1914, WW I broke out and large numbers of these men enlisted in the British Army. Seeing their opportunity, on Easter Monday, 1916, the Irish rose again. Although this Easter Rising was initially unsuccessful, when the Irish people saw the cruel execution of so many heroic Irish patriots, it steeled their collective resolve to break free from Britain. The fighting continued for years, and included a Civil War between Republican factions (Sinn Féin) who opposed the partition demanding all 32 counties of Ireland become a single united nation, and those who were willing to accept the Free State Treaty and Partition offered by the English.
The Partition of Ireland was partly justified by the results of an election. Barely a month after the November 11th, 1918 Armistice ending World War I, on Saturday December 14th, 1918, the UK held a general election and the Sinn Féin Party won the overwhelming majority of the Irish parliamentary seats. In January 1919 the Sinn Féin members declared unilaterally an independent (all-island) Irish Republic. Unionists, however, won a majority of seats in four of the nine counties of Ulster and the day after the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 took force, on May 3rd, 1921 they affirmed their continuing loyalty to the United Kingdom, and petitioned King George V for a separate self-governing parliament for Northern Ireland.
Still, partly by this election result, by 1922 most of Ireland had achieved Independence, with dominion status for 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties. Also by this election result, the remaining six Irish counties were partitioned into Northern Ireland, and remained part of the United Kingdom.
Woodrow Wilson became a believer in the Principle of Self-determination – at least for West Europe. On February 11th, 1918 Wilson stated: ‘National aspirations must be respected; people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. Self determination is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action.’
During World War II, the Principle of Self-determination was included in the Atlantic Charter, signed on August 14th, 1941, by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who pledged to uphold The Eight Principal points of the Atlantic Charter. In 1948, the Principle of Self-determination became a formal part of the Charter of the United Nations. That same year, Ireland shed it’s Dominion status and became a fully Independent Nation, with Northern Ireland still joined to the United Kingdom and subjects of the Crown.
Ireland has not been entirely peaceful over these years since 1948. In the late 1960’s, ethnic / sectarian fighting in Northern Ireland (The Troubles), began and continued for 3 decades, but since 1998, with the successful multi-party Good Friday Agreement (see last weeks Editorial: the Good Friday Agreement), violence in Northern Ireland has been sporadic over its first 20 years.
Across our several decades, we’ve encountered persons who were on both sides of these ‘Troubles‘ in Northern Ireland. Some of them justified their terrorism and mass murder by claiming that the ends justify the means. Our answer is the same now as first time we encountered such talk from an IRA man visiting in the U.S. at McCafferty’s Pub in Saint Paul, Minnesota in about 1973.
Killing for a cause is wrong, especially in modern times when there are better options.
From the first days President Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War, Celia was an anti-war protester. Her classmates were being sent to die for corporate control of resources in foreign countries, when they did not even have the right to vote. The American People were being lied to repeatedly, and their most precious resource, human lives, were being wasted. As a female, she had even fewer rights and opportunities in the U.S.. Discrimination against women was still legal, and there was worse that could be done.
During the Vietnam war era, we are glad to say we and the organizations in which we participated never broke or bent the law, never hurled a brick, bottle or even any four-letter epithets. We ejected individuals who tried to advocate otherwise, and shunned groups that broke laws and engaged in violence. Instead, we found every lawful means to expose the truth and persuade those with the power of votes to finally stop the war.
Over those years, Celia paid a price for her efforts more than once. She got onto Nixon’s enemies list and survived at least three attempts on her life before she reached 21–one of which occurred in public. She was not alone. If that generation could stop a war, end virtual apartheid (segregation) in the U.S. and expand civil rights without the use of bombs, guns and other forms of violence, there should and can be a peaceful path in any other modern, reasonably democratic country — not everyone is cut out for the harder stuff, but every voter can vote for what is right.
In these past 20 years, another significant trend, Globalization, has shaken the socio-economic fabric of the world. We assert that Globalization, is every bit as significant to the 21st Century as the Industrial Revolution was to the 19th Century.
In September 2014, the Principle of Self-determination was employed, enabling an Independence Referendum in Scotland. This first one, went down to defeat as Scottish voters split, with 55.30% voting to remain in the UK and only 44.70% voting for an Independent Scotland.
2016 Brexit Referendum Results
As the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising was celebrated in Dublin at Easter 2016, Ireland was still a mostly peaceful island, and though the British Empire was largely gone, the rest of the UK was still intact with both Scotland and Northern Ireland still joined with the United Kingdom. In June, 2016, the Principle of Self-determination was again employed to put the question of the UK leaving the European Union to the electorate in a United Kingdom European Union membership referendum (commonly known as Brexit), and it narrowly passed, with 51.89% voting to leave the European Union.
Britain has long been of two minds with regard to the rest of Europe, a fact satirized with typical dry wit by writers Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn of the 1980’s British television comedy, ‘Yes, Minister‘. In this clip, https://youtu.be/lFBgQpz_E80, their officious bureaucrat lead character, Sir Humphrey Appleby, explains that Britain had to get inside the EU in order to ‘Break the whole thing up.’
In the lead-up to the Brexit vote, some British leaders argued that, as part of the EU, the UK had ceded to much of its full rights of self-determination, by being subordinate to the laws of others. One of the big issues was immigration from certain parts of the world. There are definitely serious problems in the EU that it would take two or three more editorials to cover adequetely. However, in the words of well-respected analysts from reputable British institutions, some of the biggest issues were ‘not made by the EU, but rather were actually Commonwealth laws passed by the UK’s own parliament prior to joining the EU!’ Free passage of persons, goods and citizenship were guaranteed to all these peoples of the British Commonwealth in 1949 and 1965. Some of the pro-Brexit voters seem to have forgotten that the colonial British Empire, had included many of these ‘small nations’, as well as the financial inequities that existed.
With the Principle of Self-determination and the mechanism of the Referendum now both well established, likewise, there will likely be more plebiscites, where all the members of an electorate get to vote on such important policy questions.
Let us consider the possibility of a second Independence Referendum in Scotland. A swing of just 5.3% would take a second Independence Referendum to victory, and cause Scotland to join Ireland and America as Independent Countries. In the Brexit vote a mere 2 years ago, (See Map), only 38.0% of Scots voted to Leave and a whopping 62.0% voted to Remain in the EU. If Scotland is forced out of the EU by Brexit, the Scottish electorate will resent it, and the younger, newly enfranchised voters all the more so.
Let’s suppose that a second Scottish Independence Referendum passes and an Independent Scotland remains in the EU. Of course, Independent Ireland would remain a member of the EU, so both of Northern Ireland’s Celtic neighbors would be EU members. What would the voters of Northern Ireland do?
In the Brexit vote 2 years ago, only 44.2% of Northern Ireland’s voters marked ‘Leave’ while a majority of 55.8% voted to ‘Remain’ (See Map). Should the question of Northern Ireland remaining in the EU be asked in a future referendum, would the DUP continue to raise the specter of the Sinn Fein and insist that they continue to look to the now smaller UK for protection? Would the younger, newly enfranchised voters of Northern Ireland be likely to follow this siren call?
Or would Northern Ireland’s voters strike for renewed trade, peace and prosperity within the EU, like their Celtic neighbors, Scotland and Ireland?
Remarks of Dan Mulhall
Ambassador of Ireland to the United States of America
San Francisco, Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
Published July 26th, 2018
Daniel Mulhall is Ireland’s Ambassador to the USA, and he visted the Bay Area last week. Mulhall took up duty as Ireland’s 18th Ambassador to the United States in August 2017. He was born and brought up in Waterford and undertook his undergraduate and post-graduate studies at University College Cork where he specialised in modern Irish history.
Ambassador Mulhall joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1978. His assignments include Brussels, Belgium (European Union) and Edinburgh, Scotland where he was Ireland’s first Consul General, and just before coming to Washington, Ambassador Mulhall served as Ireland’s Ambassador in London from 2013 to 2017.
Here is a copy of his remarks given at the San Francisco World Affairs Council on Wednesday, July 18th, 2018:
‘Ireland is going through an interesting time of change at present, politically, socially and economically.
Politically, a younger generation of politicians has taken the helm. Our Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar is 39 years old while his deputy, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, and Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe, are both in their mid-40s. Inevitably, they bring a fresh mind-set to bear on their responsibilities in Government. All three are very good communicators and they have rolled out some ambitious plans, such as Global Ireland, which aims to double Ireland’s international footprint in the coming decade. One aspect of this initiative will be the opening next year of a new Irish Consulate in Los Angeles, which will become Ireland’s seventh Consulate in this country. As things stand, only a handful of much larger countries have more Consulates across the US than we have. This reflects the unique relationship that exists between Ireland and the United States.
The impact of social change in Ireland can be seen in a number of places. First, the outcome of the referendum we held in 2015 which resulted in marriage equality being approved by 62% of those who turned out to vote.
Confounding predictions that the measure would be popular in Ireland’s cities but would be rejected in rural areas, all, bar one, of our electoral districts voted in favour of this constitutional change. Thus, to the surprise of many people around the world, Ireland became the first country anywhere to legalise same sex marriage by popular vote.
In last month’s referendum on abortion, 66% of those who voted gave their approval for a liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws. It is not necessary to make any judgement about the abortion issue in order to see how far public attitudes have shifted since the 8th amendment to our Constitution introduced a ban on abortion in 1984. At that time, 67% voted to enshrine the right to life of the unborn in the Constitution.
Another indicator of social change is the fact that today 17% of Ireland’s population was born outside of our state. This is an astonishing turnaround for a country that historically has exported its people all over the world and especially to the United States. Back in the 1990s, the foreign-born percentage of our population was in the low single figures.
Education provides another illustration of the changes that have occurred in Ireland in recent decades. Having invested heavily in our education system, our labour force is among the best qualified in the world. Today, some 60% of our school leavers enter third level education and in the 25-39 age group about 50% have 3rd-level qualifications. Ireland now has one of the youngest populations in Europe, with 40% of our people under 29.
Another point of note is that these dramatic demographic changes have not given rise in Ireland to the kind of populist resistance that has become a fact of life elsewhere. No Irish political party has adopted anti-immigrant policies and the kind of Euroscepticism that is rife in other parts of Europe has to date found no echo in Ireland.
Ireland’s economic transformation has its roots in decisions taken as far back as the 1950s and the 1960s to open up our economy to trade and foreign investment, and to seek membership of the European Union. EU membership turned out to be a game-changer for Ireland. It is not that this has been a smooth, unhindered progression towards prosperity and economic security. When Ireland joined the EU in 1973, our per capita wealth levels were around 60% of the EU average and it took us a long time to bridge the prosperity gap between ourselves and our continental neighbours. Today, Ireland is comfortably above the Union’s wealth average.
We did, of course, endure some torrid years during the Great Recession that began in 2008/9. As a small open economy, we were very vulnerable to those seismic external shocks. As a consequence of the international downturn and the travails of our banks, Ireland’s debt levels and joblessness figures soared. We were forced into an EU-IMF programme in 2010, which was a low ebb for modern Ireland. Since that time, our economy stabilised and we now have had the strongest growth figures in the Euro Zone for the past four years. Unemployment in Ireland is now down to just over 5% from 15% at its height.
Ireland’s success story has a strong American flavour. US investment in Ireland has undoubtedly helped change the shape of our economy. Today some 700 US firms have operations in Ireland where they employ 150,000, some 7% of our workforce. Their main reason for being there is that Ireland gives them a base within the European single market and they can tap into a well-educated, English-speaking workforce. Moreover, successive Irish Governments have created an environment conducive to business success. Our fair and transparent system of corporation tax, with a flat rate of 12.5%, is also part of Ireland’s attraction.
The outlook for Ireland at present is very positive. Our economy seems set to continue growing strongly in the coming years, but there are a couple of clouds on our horizon. The first is the decision of the UK to leave the EU, (Brexit-ed) which we did not want to see happen but have to learn to cope with.
Ireland has a unique relationship with the UK, a product of geography, history and people-to-people links. That relationship will continue to be vital to us and it will remain so in the future.
The so-called Brexit poses genuine challenges for Ireland, to our trade links with Britain and with regard to Northern Ireland. Among our EU partners, Ireland is uniquely exposed to Brexit-generated disruptions and for that reason we will be looking to keep the UK closely aligned to the EU so as to minimise the impact on trade flows between us.
Our Government is determined to maintain the current invisible border between north and south in Ireland. In this we have the support of our EU partners and the British Government is also in agreement. The problem is how to achieve this in a situation where the UK leaves the single market and the customs union as it says it plans to do.
Our Government welcomes the recent British White Paper on its future relationship with the EU which seems to us to provide a basis for negotiations between the Commission and the British Government. Ireland wants to see those negotiations succeed, and hopes that Britain will be able to show the requisite flexibility in order to find the right balance between the advantages of free trade with the EU and the obligations that must inevitably accompany such a privileged relationship.
There will also be an upside for Ireland from Brexit. This is because the UK’s departure from the EU will make Ireland an even more attractive location for US FDI than it already is. We expect to gain quite a lot of investment in the years ahead as companies look for a European base that will give them guaranteed access to the single market. There will also be scope for Ireland to play an enhanced role in trans-Atlantic relations on the back of our close traditional and contemporary ties with the US.
This brings me to the second international challenge on Ireland – tensions in trans-Atlantic economic relations. These are of special concern to Ireland given our extensive stake in trans-Atlantic trade and investment. Few countries have benefited as strongly as Ireland has from the globalisation of recent decades and we have every interest in seeing a continuation of this positive environment. The fact is that the EU-US economic relationship is one of mutual advantage. Ireland is a good example of the mutual advantage that flows from our trade and investment ties. US investment has helped to strengthen Ireland’s economy and in turn Irish companies have increasingly been investing in the US where today some 500 Irish firms employ around 100,000 Americans in all 50 US States.
It would be a mutually-damaging development if those productive trans-Atlantic exchanges were to give way to a tit-for-tat imposition of tariffs. This is why my country will continue to be an active exponent of continued free flows of trade and investment across the Atlantic.’
Power Weaving, England, 1836
Editorial: Virtues of Celtic Culture
Have the tables turned?
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2018-05-10
We usually think of ‘Celtic Culture‘ in just a few ways: drinking, music and some forms of sports. Historically there has been more that is distinctively Celtic. This past week, as I researched the Irish experience in England for my husband’s family history book I found contemporary articles reporting that, between the 1830 and 1860, about 800,000 Irish became economic emigrants to England. The articles explained why the Irish came and how they were treated and regarded.
Back in Ireland, the Catholic Irish didn’t own much of their own land, nor businesses. The English colonial government and land-owners hadn’t invested in much infrastructure, nor any manufacturing in Ireland, preferring to maximize profits in England, and, of course, sell to the larger, more affluent English consumer market.
As a rapidly industrializing economy replaced subsistence farming, displaced cottage industries and mechanized farming, then, as now, people needed wealth, from jobs that paid decently, or owning land and leasing it out, or owning or leasing enough to farm for profit, not mere subsistence, or own profitable businesses. Under the Penal Laws, Catholic Irish were not allowed to own land or businesses in Ireland. It was also harder for them to get an education and trade or professional skills. Schools cost money also.
Across the Irish Sea, many of the newest, dirtiest and most hazardous jobs of the new industrial economy were available to the immigrant Irish. Passage to England on the deck of a packet steamship going from the smaller Irish ports to Liverpool and Bristol, near England’s industrial heartland, only cost four pence. These were jobs ‘native born’ Anglo-Saxon-Norman English were unwilling to take.
Scots also emigrated into England, though more Irish went to Scotland than Scots to England. The Scots went mostly as skilled labor, and upper levels of service, as education was less difficult to obtain for Scots than Irish.
I read several articles that described how the Irish took the jobs no one else wanted, the worst of the coal mining jobs, ‘they didn’t balk at being told to go down into a dark pit’ working with chemicals with no modern protections, hauling and laying stone and brick for buildings and roads, hauling away trash, including ‘night soil,’ and dead animals, cleaning cesspits and sewers. They ‘were willing to work for 9 and 10 shillings a week instead of 12-14 that the Englishmen wanted, because their needs and wants were simpler, having come from original homes where they lived more simply with less goods… They lived on potatoes, pigs and cabbages and little else… (Actually they also ate mutton and whatever bits of beef weren’t wanted by others, that they could stew or baked in a meat pie heavy with lard and flour.) They would repair clothing and shoes until there was nothing left to sew together.’ ‘They are quick to learn, and adaptable to changing work conditions.’
However, there was another side that disturbed the English factory owners and class-conscious managers in a highly structured society. ‘Every Irishman believes he’s just as good as anyone else, Irish or not… He is quick to put down his tools (strike) if he believes he has been treated unfairly. He is quick to attack with his fists as words… The Irish drink and fight too much. They could do better by their families if they didn’t waste what little extra money they have on drinking so much, etc… They were also seen as slovenly in their homes and in their personal attire, to ‘filthy,’ though much of the last complaints were as much the result of no running water in most places the poor Irish were allowed to rent, and no water closets (earth closets instead–a pail with a box of clay over it, where one pulled the lever and dropped clay over the waste and then eventually had to remove and dump the full pails and refill the clay containers. The Irish had never known indoor plumbing in Ireland and had not bathed frequently there, either. However, they usually had their own well, and didn’t have to share a well or pump in a courtyard with a half dozen other families, or haul water for bathing and washing clothes as far as they were required to do in most English cities.
In the complaints though, were virtues and heritage the English did not understand. The Irish, and most Scots, were not into insatiable consumerism, even when they had money. They lived simply and didn’t accumulate lots of ‘stuff.’ Having stuff didn’t define the worth of a man or a family. This meant that, with care, they actually could live on less than an Englishman who used ostentation to try to establish his social value and status. Even in Roman times, early Christian times, and later, when the English coming to Ireland first saw the Irish, even the lords of the then great Irish clans, it was repeatedly observed how the Irish and Scots lived much more simply than other peoples, more humbly with less ostentation. The Irish, even before the English, also did indeed believe every Irishman was as good as any other. Kings were not dynastic father to son, and neither were heads of clans, but often accepted as kings and chiefs, only as they fought each other and outmaneuvered and out-organized each other to MAKE themselves leaders. It was brutal, deadly, and while it was quite egalitarian that anyone of a surname could make himself head of a clan, or any clan could seize a kingship it divided the country and allowed the English to invade, increase the divisions, and conquer all.
The Irish had a system of law, Brehon law, but no independent of clans and kings means, that all could agree upon to enforce the law, no independent universally supported judicial bodies with any necessary armed support, such as sheriffs and deputies. The Scots did adopt a more enforceable code of law and sheriffs, and had more towns which elected governments and had their own defense systems. However, the Scots also had similar clan and family warfare to the Irish, and more Stuart kings died by murder than in their beds peacefully. Again, it was relatively easy for the English to divide the Scots in the 17th and early 18th centuries and write the Act of Union to their own advantage and effectively invade, conquer and colonize.
‘Divine Right of Kings’ is not a Celtic concept or value. Instead, it’s ‘any man can make himself a king,’ and they never took kindly to anyone insisting upon a lot of deference because he’d made himself a king. Kings could be, and were deposed, often violently by the next bigger and better wannabe. The Irish and Scots were not into rigid caste systems. Individual merits and skills and caring for families were more important than birth or temporary excessive wealth which could be taken or destroyed. It is unfortunate for the Scots and Irish that they never developed their egalitarian views of human life and interaction into what one group of Celts in Europe, the Swiss, did, and learn to elect leaders with terms of election so they could remove them without civil strife and murder.
The Celts were also very interested in education and making it available to all people, not just a select few. Anyone could become a druid, a metal smith, acquire and maintain a decent herd, etc.. The monasteries in Ireland and Scotland were many and filled with sons of even what the English would have called tenant farmers, not even yeoman class, and not all were to become monks. The Scottish king, James IV was much better educated and had a larger library than his counterpart Henry VIII, though James would have done better to have a bit more on military organization, strategies and weaponry. In ancient Celtic society, the Celts were known as master craftsmen in metal work of all kinds, leather work, and textiles and taught these skills and were quick to learn and adapt new techniques from neighbors. Flemish weavers brought into Scotland and Ireland had many students and transformed the industries in both countries rapidly in 14th and 15th centuries. The Celts were also superior herdsmen and knew how to breed and adapt domestic livestock for more variations in climate and terrain. The ‘Scots cattle were as hardy as the Scots themselves,’ wrote more than one observer in the 17th century. The Scots and the Swiss were quick to create systems of public education that started with the Protestant reformation and the idea that ‘all men should be able to read the Bible themselves and not need a human intermediary between them and their God,’ and ‘if all men and women have a good basic education in reading, writing and arithmetic, they will be more able to take care of themselves in more ways and be less dependent upon charity from Churches and communities.’ Although education was made more difficult to obtain in Catholic Ireland, whenever Irish moved anywhere they could avail themselves of education (including skills training for trades) for adults and children, they took full advantage of it. My husband’s Irish great-grandparents were absolutely overjoyed that Pennsylvania, even in the coal mining towns, offered a public education to all children, regardless of ethnicity or religion and urged their children to stay in school and make the most of this service, as long as possible, to get ahead. The Celts loved education and the arts and skill-requiring crafts, and they have excelled at these for thousands of years.
All of these interests, ideas and skills continued not just in Ireland and Scotland, but in Switzerland as well, with one big difference. The Swiss continued to own their own country and its resources and its industries, and owning all this were more willing to invest in all them–including their human resources. They weren’t the colonial subjects, or second class subjects of anyone else. The Swiss weren’t perfect. Until they industrialized and became the banking center of Europe, they bred and provided more mercenary warriors for the rest of Europe than almost any other country. There were serious differences between the rural parts of cantons and the towns and cities and the rural areas engaged in the time-honored Celtic tradition of ‘laying down their tools and taking up their arms,’ to finally obtain adequate redress, going back to the ancient Celtic idea that all men were fundamentally equal, and hard-working men and women who tried hard to better themselves in all ways were worthy of equal respect and treatment.
After reading all of this, I found myself also thinking of all the headlines and anger and divisiveness now in this country, and political upheavals, yet electing for decades elitist, ostentatious, millionaire and billionaire members of state houses and a national Congress, politicians who either neglect or abuse us. We have tons of personal weapons yet do not use them for either actually sustaining ourselves or righting wrongs, and don’t need them to fight off an invading foreign army–we have the many times largest defense budget and forces than any several other nations, combined, in the entire world for that. We have increased incivility and no real communication, much less dialogue and compromise. We throw tantrums very well, but what have we really gained from them?. We have 12 years of public school education and about 40% of the graduates can barely read and write their names and addresses but know every rock/ sports star’s name and details of his or her career and what the latest style in shoes is. We mass produce lots of stuff, and put ourselves into bankruptcy repeatedly acquiring it, but little of it is high quality or displays real craftsmanship or skill, and most falls apart and doesn’t even biodegrade in the landfills to which it’s eventually hauled–by someone else.
None of this has led to any real improvement in the lives of millions of families for decades. Our present and future is really up to us, as it was for our ancestors. Yet, what are most of those who have the greatest real needs and complaints actually DOING about it, for themselves, compared with their Celtic forebears? I, and many others, have realized that some of the worst economic situations complaints and anger, is coming from areas of the nation that are most Celtic in DNA, if not heritage. This bothers me a lot–I’m more than half Celtic, also! These are my relatives hurting and complaining and stuck in a deep, dark, stinking rut. I have to wonder, though, what would our Celtic ancestors would think of their modern descendants in the U.S.? They struggled to get an education for their children, packed up and moved when necessary and did all kinds of really dirty, nasty jobs and did them WELL to make a living, who also organized and stood up for themselves, sometimes at great physical risk, to obtain justice and fairness, when necessary. Have we finally become like the English of the 1830’s-1860’s and lost more of our real Celtic heritage – which is what the class-conscious English originally wanted us all to do?
Editorial: The Good Friday Agreement
Twentieth Anniversary Reflections by George Mitchell
May 7th 2018, The Olympic Club, 524 Post Street, San Francisco
After 30 years of civil strife, the Good Friday Agreement was signed 10 April 1998, bringing Peace to Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement is actually two documents:
- a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties (the Multi-Party Agreement)
- an international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British-Irish Agreement).
Because of this multi-lateral nature, it’s 20th Anniversary was celebrated by a month long, multi-city, international tour of commemorations and celebrations.
As part of this tour, on May 7th 2018, the Agreement’s chief negotiator, US Senator George Mitchell, spoke at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, and the event was sponsored by the NI Bureau (a part of the Executive Office of Northern Ireland), the local Consulates of both Ireland and the UK, and the California Legislative Irish Caucus. Thanks to the good efforts of our friend Donagh Mc Keown, you can watch a video of Senator Mitchell’s 22 minute address at this link, Mitchell’s address at Good Friday 20th Anniversary Event in San Francisco.
In the words of Senator Mitchell, ‘By itself, the Good Friday Agreement does not guarantee Peace; it makes it possible.’ Senator Mitchell went on to say, ‘The real heroes of the Agreement were the leaders and the people of Northern Ireland. The people supported the effort, … and afterwards, they voted overwhelmingly to ratify it.’ with 71% in favor, and ‘In Northern Ireland, these (political leaders) were ordinary men and women. After 700 days of failure, they joined in one day of success, and they changed the course of history.’
Over these last 20 years, has that course been lost? Have most of these Celtic heroes died? Did they fail to raise enough children who believed in peace as they did? What will it take to restore and build on the ‘Good Friday Agreement,’ now–another bloody civil war?
It seems that historic agreement may now be in danger of falling apart, for the same reasons strife has ensued in northern Ireland since 1641. This situation makes the peoples who live in Northern Ireland no different, in no way superior, to those who hate, discriminate and kill in West Asia on the basis of being Shi’ite vs. Sunni, or any of the current highly polarized political sects that lead to the Brexit outcome in the UK or the 2016 Presidential Election results in the USA.
Senator Mitchell went on, ‘We should not hold Northern Ireland to a standard higher than we apply to ourselves.’
In fact, the peoples of Northern Ireland, indeed, all of Ireland and most of Scotland, have fewer actual differences of ethnicity, language, culture and history than who identify as either Shi’ite or Sunni, Leave or Stay, or Red or Blue.
In Northern Ireland, the discrimination and disagreements of the past few centuries to today are based solely on religion. In contrast with the over 3,000 years of shared history between these Islands, including Ireland, most of Scotland and even parts of what are now northern England, these two sects of ‘Christianity,’ are a recent development, less than 500 years old.
Too many people forget about these millennia of shared history. When the Romans conquered the Brythonic speaking southern part of the island of Britannia, they wrote about the ‘Scoti’ the Roman name for the Gaels who inhabited the north-western portion of Britannia and all of the adjacent island, Hibernia. After the the Romans left in 437 CE, came a thousand year period during which the real kingdom of Dalriada spanned the short 12 miles of the Northern Channel of the Irish sea, uniting the peoples of both islands. In the 5th century, Irish monks, along with the people of Dalriada, converted the pagans of Scotland to Christianity. These Christian Irish expanded and took over the entire west of Scotland and northern England (albeit some of the latter was with the Vikings who had founded Dublin).
The Gaelic language in Scotland today, (Gàidhlig or Erse), is the direct descendant of the Goidelic Gaelic of Ireland and Scotland of the Roman period and earlier. It is the same, one language.
Both cultures had clans and clan warfare, and didn’t see kings as having divine rights and deserving to be slavishly followed unquestioningly. The people of both regions were equally capable of murdering kings and chiefs and did so when greatly displeased by them. Neither had come up with the idea of repeating elections nor impeachment yet. Both peoples were accomplished herdsmen and fishermen and metal workers and used the same designs in metal work and other crafts, reflecting their shared religious and philosophical beliefs about the world about them. Both lived and confronted some of the least arable land and worst climates in the world–when almost 90% of all people in the world lived solely by farming and herding.
Religion, though, is only one part of any people’s culture, and the Christian religion is a MERE 2000 years old. Yet it is solely on the choice of religion and the few differences between the two sects of a CHRISTIAN religion that occurred only about 500 years ago, that these very Celtic brothers have been willing to murder, to discriminate on the basis of self-acclaimed ‘superiority’ in choice of religion. The major tenets of Christianity, such as a belief in commandments that came to Christianity from an earlier religion include ‘thou shalt not kill,’ ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods (including lands, businesses, etc.)’. Both these religions claim to espouse these proscriptions, but they are consistently ignored by followers of Christ, Islam and Judaism alike. Where is the ‘love thy neighbor as thyself?‘ in anything that is being heard and done today in Northern Ireland? Neither Catholic nor Protestant seem to be very Christian to an objective observer.
The real irony is that, in the contrast to the discord in Northern Ireland or the electorate in the UK that voted for Brexit last year, the English monarchy, who initially set up most of these frictions, (particularly after the English King, Henry VIII, changed the religion to suit himself), is currently showing some leadership in greater tolerance. Prince Harry, with the consent of the queen and royal family, has set an example for all allegedly vehemently Christian, intolerant, bullying, warring Irish and Scots who seem to behave like ‘Cain and Abel’, by marrying a mixed-race American actress, Meghan Markle. Her ancestry also apparently includes both Scots and Irish–Protestants and Catholics alike!
Politicians, and voters, especially those with a stake in Northern Ireland, including Arlene Foster and Theresa May, should take note of this courageous leadership and honor their more recent agreements, like the recent agreement to maintain an open border, post Brexit, or risk their political futures or worse. We’re also guessing that if the break-down continues to worsen and bloody civil strife resumes, the Queen, and her successors, will ‘not be amused.’ Neither will many Americans who have mixed Scots and Irish, Protestant and Catholic heritage.
Email the authors Tony and Celia Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Theresa May and Leo Varadkar meet
Editorial: Brexit, The Border Deal, and the DUP
Some Progress, Some Obstacles, Some Hope
By Celia and Tony Becker – Published 2018-01-05
Just a month ago, after intense negotiations, United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced a formal written agreement between the UK and the EU to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland open, and to continue to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and human and civil rights in Northern Ireland.
Here are links to two videos of related press conferences that same weekend:
Theresa May On Brexit Negotiations… Irish border…Brussels…EU Deal – Dec 7, 2017
Just yesterday, Leo Varadkar, the Republic of Ireland’s Taoiseach (prime minister), spoke about the recent agreement between the EU and UK, regarding the borders of Northern Ireland and the limitations that Northern Ireland will, unfortunately, likely suffer as part of the non-EU, UK. For a related news article, Click Here. It is those limitations that, unfortunately, will continue to encourage greater U.S. and Silicon Valley investment in Dublin and the Irish Republican, rather than Belfast and Northern Ireland, or Glasgow and Scotland, as provinces of the non-EU, UK.
This new agreement between the UK and the EU is good news, but there is still bad news in Brexit. Tourists and business persons traveling between the two parts of the island of Ireland will continue to have to change money and the pound is weakening and will continue to weaken. Full trade between the UK–and Northern Ireland with the rest of Europe as freely as now is not guaranteed and the pound and the euro will no longer support one another. Of the two, the euro is now stronger. Our review of various media articles, this past week pointed out that the stronger euro is now enabling shopping sprees as Irish buy goods in the UK at bargain prices. For the U.S. this is a good thing for tourists traveling to Northern Ireland and Scotland, as the dollar is also weakening thanks to the financial uncertainty of this past year combined with the tax deal and increased deficit. The dollar isn’t weakening quite as much as the pound, so hotels and restaurants in northern Ireland and Scotland, already depressed areas of the UK, will continue to be a bargain.
If you are Scots or Northern Irish looking for jobs in the future, you may move to Ireland, or elsewhere in the EU. As minority citizens of the UK, your economic opportunities and trading rights are diminishing, yet again. The English supermajority in the UK Parliament appears to be focused entirely on the survival of the English, not caring about Scots or Scots-Irish. In fact, the English would rather your language, culture, separate identity all disappear and you simply become good little English men and women, in England. The travel and trade relations that currently exist between Ireland and Scotland are not guaranteed for the future, which also complicates tourist and business travel for many Americans who often plan trips to visit both areas when both are part of their heritage and interests.
With a population of about 50 million persons, the UK market is far smaller than the market of 450 million persons still in the EU, and the Venture Capitalists (VCs) and corporations, particularly from Silicon Valley, will likely find it more convenient and profitable to invest and set up offices and more in Ireland, France or Germany rather than the UK. Leaders from China recently illustrated the greater interest of a larger market by visiting the EU headquarters and pointedly ignoring London for potential trade deals, quite literally to replace the UK and the U.S., and publicly stated that.
DUP leader Arlene Foster Responds
Northern Ireland has another particular problem though, best exemplified by Arlene Foster and the Democratic Union Party that she heads. The DUP does not want union with the rest of Ireland, instead it wants only union with the UK. Fine, as far as most of Silicon Valley and the VC’s are concerned, then Northern Ireland can sink or swim with the UK. Foster’s anti-Republic, even anti-Catholic rhetoric does not help. Increasing religious-sectarian violence in the last few weeks and months since the Brexit vote and sometimes after Foster’s public comments, most recently last November, just before this new agreement was made, do not inspire confidence for the security and growth of either business investments or tourism.
Foster’s November comments lauding union with the UK as superior, reminds far too many Irish people, in Ireland, as well as in the global Irish diaspora, of the centuries of violence and repression on the basis of religion, in Ireland, particularly under the UK rule. The Queen of England is still the titular head of the Church of England, thus the UK still combines the institutions of church and state and that church is Protestant. That religious discrimination and related civil strife only ended in Northern Ireland 20 years ago with that Good Friday Agreement, and Foster’s November comments, absent any clarification, make the current peace appear shaky.
In our first hand experience, VC’s run from civil strife and discrimination and repression that have the potential to incite violence, especially when those VC’s have been born and raised, or lived long, in mostly Catholic, politically and socially liberal, racially diverse, California, a unified market by itself that is nearly 40 million persons and rapidly approaching the size of the UK.
Consider the events of the 1980 – 1990 in east and southeast Europe. When Tito died in Yugoslavia in 1980, and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, several things happened. Romania’s last full-dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, decided he could ignore the trends of the future and do one more act of genocide against Hungarians in Transylvania–repressing, even mass-murdering a minority that was once a majority in that part of what is now Romania. It was an act of intolerance and caused civil strife and threatened to cause multi-nation war, and he was executed on Christmas Day, 1989. The Serbians and Croatians took radically and violently different views of the entire Balkan peninsula, demonstrating violent intolerance of each other and Muslim Bosnians, who were ethnically and genetically related to everyone else in the former Yugoslavia. Many are blonde-haired and blue-eyed. The Balkan War lasted from 1991 – 2001. Slovakia decided it wanted to be less politically liberal and tolerant than the Czech half of Czechoslovakia and maintain communist style industrial management, limited democracy and accountability and separated from Czechoslovakia in January 1993.
Now consider, which parts of Europe have received the most investment, trade etc.? especially from Silicon Valley, (where something like 2/3 of all the VC’s in the U.S. live). It wasn’t Slovakia, Romania or the Balkan nations. To this day, these nations who demonstrated greater intolerance, violence and no accountability remain much less developed and have less international investment and trade. War, civil strife, discrimination, intolerance and exclusion are not good for trade, the free sale of goods and services, and full market development. Unfortunately for Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster and the DUP are, sounding and reading more like a potential for war and civil strife, and thus a limitation to economic growth.
Consider even in the U.S., where are the greatest investments and economic opportunities? Are they in the states where the KKK and Nazis are most active, where voter suppression laws are greatest, where there is still rampant discrimination against people of darker color, or in cities where there the murder rates are sky high? How do amounts and quality of investments in Oakland/Chicago, or Alabama/Mississippi compare with San Francisco/Atlanta or California/Massachusetts, etc.? Where do health insurance companies and health product manufacturing companies set up? Are they in small states whose governments really don’t care about the health care for the majority of their people and therefore are not much of even a local or regional market for health care services or products? Where do the majority of VC’s and corporate executives themselves choose to live?
So, what if Northern Ireland becomes a tiny, intolerant, violence-prone rogue province of a small country, and that itself is viewed as withdrawing from a much larger unified market? Or worse yet, why did the supermajority in the English part of the UK vote to withdraw–was some of that vote a racist reaction against emigration from less white, less Protestant Europeans, as well as darker skinned, non-Christian African countries?
We’ve heard and read statements by some UK officials, say how they intend to replace the unified market of the UK with a revival of the Commonwealth. Really? The Commonwealth was jettisoned a generation ago, and itself was a one-sided relic of colonialism. It was created by the English supermajority in the UK parliament and used the English banks, limitations on international access for investment or trade deals through England, to keep the nations under-developed, and the people of the Commonwealth nations poorer, relative to the English part of the UK. This was done nearly exactly as the English supermajority of the UK had been doing with Scotland and Ireland, then Northern Ireland since 1707. It is arrogant ethnocentrism and continues to this day. Listen to any speech of any representative of the Prime Minister and English supermajority parliament about the future of the UK. There will be no mention of development of the Celtic perimeter provinces, or the people, towns and cities within. They don’t exist, or should not exist, in the minds of most English or those who want to identify themselves as English. Have these UK officials asked the considerably less affluent, darker skinned peoples of the former Commonwealth how they feel about this plan? Don’t they think there are any televisions or cell phones that showed to the Africans the comments of pro-Brexit voters such as, “now the white Anglo-Saxon Brits can throw out all those darker-skinned peoples”, and signs in shops, etc., like, “Poles go home”?
Back in 1973, when Britain joined the EU, was the last time the Commonwealth existed as a somewhat unified economic entity. Most of the African and West Asian nations were still economic and financial colonies of the UK with no manufacturing, no other types of well-paid employment, besides government, and were providing little GDP but raw materials and some unprocessed agricultural products exported to the UK. They were no real market for much in the way of value-added UK goods, nor any other developed nation’s goods. Have the African and West Asian former colonies of the UK progressed that much to become better markets? Would the UK cut a better deal with the EU or the U.S. than the African and West Asian countries could do directly for and by themselves, and have been doing since 1973? Right now, the EU, and soon just the UK, has to compete with China, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. to buy raw materials and agricultural products from Africa and West Asia. With this competition, the latter now earn more money, even if they still don’t have much manufacturing. How does a return to an exclusive, dependent relationship with the UK improve people’s lives in Africa and West Asia, any more than in the last 44 years it’s improved the lives and economy of Scotland and Northern Ireland? We still have more immigration to the U.S. from Scotland and Northern Ireland than from the more populous England, precisely because so many Scots and Irish believe or see that they have more economic opportunities in the U.S. than in their own parts of the UK.
England (and the UK) have NO history, even within its government, of treating its native minority peoples in conquered formerly independent nations on its own islands fairly and equally. The U.S. still struggles with this, but has come a long way in the last 100 years. Unlike the U.S., the UK parliament does not have a balance of power of large and small population areas with two legislative houses, one of which is based on population and the principle of one man, one vote, and the the other in which states each elect the same number of ‘Senators.’ The districts for the House of Commons are uneven in population size and historically more MPs have come from English districts with the MP’s representing fewer people than the MP’s of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Realizing the UK has no states, but has counties and shires, if it had a second house similar to the U.S. Senate, it would have the same number of representatives for each county or shire. However, the reality is the UK has no bicameral parliament that balances the interests of the large and small population areas. This works to deny services, development and political influence of the lower population, mostly Celtic, areas. It was precisely because of the already evident discrimination, repression and denial of development and services to the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and northern English, in the 18th century that the founding fathers of the U.S., most of whom descended in large part from emigrants from these deprived areas, created the bi-cameral Congress as they did. The UK government, particularly the legislative, budget and money controlling Parliament remains skewed to the greater benefit of the larger, midland and southland, English population. Financial, economic, infrastructure and services policies and programs have all been crafted to work to encourage the other peoples the English have conquered to move to England and become good little Englishmen, subject to direct management and rule by these ‘real’ English.
Unlike what happened in the U.S. or other countries where manufacturing developed and continues closer to natural resources, and despite the fact that most of the UK’s mineral wealth, power grid, etc. is in places like Cornwall, Wales, northernmost England and Scotland, UK manufacturing industries were all set up further south and east, in the heartland of Anglo-Saxon England. Ports for trade and trading rights were also set up in England, and the ports of Scotland and Northern Ireland were deliberately limited to be fewer and smaller. Realizing there is a difference in geographic scale and just looking at political control, if the infrastructure of U.S. had been set up like the UK, the entire south and southeast of the U.S. would have one port, say at Houston, and likewise the entire west coast one port, say at Los Angeles.
Consider the prospect of a revived Commonwealth. With this UK history still in place in the current UK government, how would the peoples of Africa, India, West Asia gain any more benefit than the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland in any English-UK led restoration of the oxymoron ‘Commonwealth?’ For the rest of the world, for example, the U.S. and China, how much of a market would exist anywhere beyond the English area of the UK in the ‘Commonwealth?’ This is why U.S. and Chinese political and economic leaders are talking with the EU, and the large, former commonwealth nations of Africa and West Asia, and not the UK. They will do their utmost to discourage Nigeria, Iraq, Pakistan, India, South Africa and more from re-establishing the Commonwealth. This is why if, or as, the UK declines, the minority regions of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will suffer more and be of yet less interest to international investment and trade.
What we hear and read among business persons and VC’s in Silicon Valley is caution: don’t invest in northern Ireland or the UK until we know what the final deal is and how much of an economic relationship with the EU is really retained. We also hear and read caution about investment, travel and trade after increasing expressions and demonstrations of intolerance and exclusion. We hear and read from some who are not going to wait and see, saying, “why bother dealing with the uncertainty of any part of the UK, and for years on end, when you have Ireland which speaks English, is still in the EU, and whose leaders and voters are supporting tolerant, inclusive policies?” The international corporate world is a world of stock markets that want results to price shares every quarter. They are not going to wait for years for the UK to create and implement their new separate trade and economic development plans and hope that the UK can deliver on its vague promises to create a new, larger ‘Commonwealth’ market that may or may not replace what already exists as the EU. Ireland, as part of the EU, benefits from the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, which continues to be a 450 million person unified market.
Editorial: Ireland’s Future
Biotech and Pharmaceuticals
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker – Published 2017-11-10
Last week, Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, visited the Bay area and spoke at a reception at San Francisco City Hall. He was actually in the area for a few days and also visited some high technology companies, undoubtedly looking for additional investments in and joint ventures with Irish companies. The three mentioned in his speech were the usual high visibility companies, Apple, Google and Facebook, all existing companies dominant in their fields. Because these three are all proverbial 800 pound gorillas in their field, with little competition (though Apple has more than the others) these companies can demand–and get–subsidies and tax discounts whereever they locate their facilities. They promise jobs, but at what cost to the communities and states in which they are? Who pays for the infrastructure they need and use in their facilities, the roads, railroads and airports to get people, raw materials and products moved to and fro, the services like fire, police, clean water, waste water removal and treatment and more? Has anyone told the Taoiseach that in their home state and country, these three are at the top of the list of large corporations who pay next to nothing in taxes? Has Ireland forgotten the problems with the U.S. and the UK in favoring Apple and the insufficient returns to Ireland for taking that large risk?
Of the three gorilla / tax-dodgers, only Google, through it’s parent Alphabet, provides significant public value through its search engine and content that links researchers to data, and shoppers with sellers, and more. Alphabet also has a division/arm that does much more research, development and experimentation beyond computing and communications, such as driverless cars and meat grown in labs minimal environmental impact and without slaughtering animals. Facebook is a marketing and social connecting tool, but it has a real public downside providing a platform for bad attitudes, ignorance and negative behavior of a large percentage of its users to the point that, like the Usenet of old and Yahoo groups before, it is increasingly driving people away, rather than attracting new users. Marketing of anything on Facebook, whether it be products, or ideas and news, has become suspect because of shoddy products, scams, and fake domestic news (myths, rumors lies to harm someone or persuade someone to do something) not to mention globalized propaganda and manipulations.
Google has two other aspects that make it the most useful of the three. Google has published out of print books and other materials on-line, making more content available to researchers than might otherwise never have been. At least one founder of Google and his ex-wife are also interested in modern medicine and modern medical technologies, such as stem cell work, ways to optimize treatment for genetic related illnesses by basing the treatment on what works best for people of differing sexes, races, ethnicities, and DNA.
As the developed nations look to cut health care costs and improve quality of life, this move to outcome based treatments–and payments–optimal standards and health care, data and products, that are correlated to DNA are among the coming high technologies coming of age today. Many of these companies in this fledgling industry are NOT YET gorillas able to command subsidies and huge tax breaks. Yet these jobs require high levels of education and pay well such as Ireland’s colleges provide and to which most of its people aspire. Many of the products will be in pharmaceuticals, which does not require a lot of raw materials. Other small countries like Switzerland and Austria have prospered in part with pharmaceutical companies.
Ireland, though, has one other advantage that should encourage its leaders to look at more biotech and pharmaceuticals as future industries for and in Ireland, with well paid jobs. Ireland is still a largely homogenous country and it shares a large amount of DNA with Scotland, and the diaspora of both the closely related Scots and Irish are in Canada, Australia, New Zealand–and the greater UK, and the U.S.. If companies want to create products for optimal medical practices and treatments that are saleable to the largest most homogenous groups who are also the most affluent, then the people of Irish and Scottish descent are among the top markets, if not the top. Over one-half of the U.S., that is 160 million persons have a third or more of their DNA as the closely related Irish, Scots and Scots-Irish. Studies have recently shown that even England, and its 50 millions are now mostly a quarter or more Irish, because of all the Irish emigrants to England when investment was done in developing and modernizing industries and their facilities and manufacturing equipment only in England and not in Ireland, and only minimally in Scotland and Northern Ireland. What works well for the smaller populations of Ireland and Scotland, should work well for large parts of the UK and US populations. Additionally, unlike the UK and U.S., Ireland also has fewer levels of government and related bureacracy, permits, fees, taxes, etc. for developing bio-tech companies whose products target the Irish, Scottish, and their diaspora descended populations in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the U.S..
Consider personal genomics and biotechnology company 23andMe, and its pharmaceutical industry clients who are purchasing both DNA tests–and well-documented family histories. The latter has been found important for showing the effects of changes of environment on DNA over centuries. To do this, first you need to identify families, for multiple generations, then determine where they were and how they generally lived. The world was mostly agrarian until the 20th century, including the U.S.. Most of the data we’ve been using up to now has been from cities and towns–less than 20% of the population of the nations, and much more mixed than the more rural and small town populations. Also pollution was a greater factor and earlier in cities. To study what makes people the way they are now, means first knowing what the majority were like back then in different circumstances from now.
No nation has been without international war and civil war, but of nations more than a couple of centuries old, the UK and Ireland have had a greater amount of vital records survive, though in Ireland, they are more scattered. What the Irish government and medical researchers may not realize, though, Irish records are not as completely “gone” government officials and researchers once thought, as a result of the PRO explosion. Yes, most of the civil census records of the 1800’s were lost. However, there were church records identifying families in parishes at various times, cemetery records, tithe applotment records, and more. It turns out that most people had copies of wills, contracts and court decisions, and land records in their families–in the estate collections, many of which have survived. The estate records identified and covered all transactions with TENANT families, neighbors and many others. Also priests and ministers sometimes made copies of parish records and the Catholic records were not sent to the PRO. None of the deeds, including leases that were filed in the Registry of Deeds since 1707 have been destroyed and they identify family members across generations connected to specific lands and areas.
Ireland could contract with Google to get all the remaining records organized, indexed, digitized and on-line, so family history and medical researchers can access and study them to help develop those accurate family histories to help develop optimal medical treatments for families–and individuals within them, to help understand why siblings and branches of families get illnesses and respond differently to treatments than others in the same immediate or extended family. By Ireland doing this, it might also finally inspire all the U.S. states that existed before 1850 to do the same. Now you have a complete data base of up to 500 years or more of families that have the greatest shared DNA to really pinpoint optimal treatments and know why they are for a population of over 250 million persons in the combination of generally affluent Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand–and the UK and U.S..
Ireland can also to encourage its people to cooperate with the three largest DNA testing companies to create a significant database of DNA to study, along with the histories, and so help connect their diaspora with their Irish roots. Of over 7 billion people, the combined world-wide, DNA data base numbers just 10 million. Of that under 10 million, most of the DNA tests have been done in the U.S., mostly among people of European and African descent. The U.S. is only 200 years old as a nation and at most its Irish and Scottish ancestry-heavy people have not quite 400 years of DNA evolution here. Most descendants U.S. ancestry have between 100 and 300 years. 160 million or more of them are a third or more of Scots, Irish and Scots-Irish descent. How else do you link that 300 million total, U.S. citizens and legal residents, to the older, more homogenous DNA, to families elsewhere, but particularly Ireland and the UK? How else do you create optimal bio-medical products, technologies and services for that large potential market and know to whom to sell the products and services?
Everyone wants good health, the best possible, the longest healthiest life, and to have effective diagnostics and the most optimal treatments and all at the most reasonable costs. Outcome based optimal treatments based on individual and family history and DNA–large data bases of both–is a key to nations providing this. Ireland can be a leader in the development of modern optimal outcome based on DNA medical products, in one very large, and world-wide, the most AFFLUENT DNA market, if it wants to be, sees the opportunities and then pursues them.
Taoiseach of Ireland, Leo Varadkar
Remarks of Dr. Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland
Hosted by Robert O’Driscoll, Consul-General of Ireland
for the Western US and Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco
By Tony Becker – Published 2017-11-03
On Thursday evening, November 2, 2017 between 6 and 8 PM, a reception was held for the new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Dr. Leo Varadkar the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, in the Rotunda at San Francisco, CA, City Hall. The Irish flag was flying on the Civic Center Plaza side of the building and the exterior was lit up with green lighting.
The event was attended by about 300 members of the Bay Area Irish community, including members of the United Irish Cultural Center, the United Irish Societies of San Francisco, the Irish Literary and Historical Society, the San Jose-Dublin Sister Cities Program’s board members, AmeriCeltic.net, San Francisco city employees and many more Irish community organization members.
Consul-General of Ireland
For the Western US
San Francisco has a sister cities relationship with Cork, Ireland and the Mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee and the San Francisco-Cork Sister Cities committee had just returned from a visit to Ireland. Thus so the evening began with Mayor Lee’s warm welcome and thanks for the hospitality he received on his Irish trip.
Ambassador of Ireland
Taking the podium from Mayor Lee, Consul-General Robert O’Driscoll further surprised the assembly by introducing Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Mulhall, just arrived from Washington DC. Mulhall made a few remarks about the importance Ireland places on its relationship with America in general, and the West Coast in particular, and then in turn introduced Dr. Varadkar.
This occasion marked Mr. Varadkar’s very first official visit to the U.S. as Taoiseach, and San Francisco and the Bay area were honored by being the first places in the U.S. he chose to visit, as per the speeches of the Mayor of San Francisco, the Consul General and the Taoiseach. Earlier in the day, Dr. Varadkar had visited Google, Apple and Facebook, south of San Francisco.
Taoiseach Dr. Varadkar began his remarks by describing the substantive changes that have taken place in Irish society in the few years since the great recession, and went on to relate this to his personal career. ‘Earlier in the day, I took the opportunity to visit the statue of former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk that stands here in this building.’ and, ‘I know that I would not have had the opportunity of becoming the first LGBT Taoiseach of Ireland without the courage and leadership of people like Supervisor Milk’.
Dr. Varadkar spoke about the long and deep relationship between Ireland and San Francisco and the Bay area, noting that the relationship is over 170 years old, and that several early mayors of San Francisco had been born in Ireland. Taoiseach Varadkar reminded the crowd that Ireland particularly values its relationship with America. Ireland has long been the gateway to the European Union for American business, and most of the Irish diaspora is in the U.S.
He also noted that over 550 U.S. companies, including many from the SF Bay area, have divisions or branches in Ireland and employ 140,000 Irish, and 430 Irish companies are throughout the U.S. in turn and employ 100,000 Americans, including 25,000 in California. He is looking to increase these relationships into the future. Dr. Varadkar concluded by expressing great thanks for Ireland’s support among the Irish diaspora, and in particular to the many such in the audience, and promising continued its support.
UK Consul-General, Andrew Whittaker
New UK Consul-General, Andrew Whittaker
Remarks and Discussion of Monday, October 16th, 2017, 7:30 PM
Saint Andrew’s Society of San Francisco, 1088 Green St, San Francisco
by Cecilia Fabos-Becker – Published 2017-10-20
On Monday, October 16, 2017 the new (since August, 2016) Consul General for the United Kingdom, Andrew Whittaker, spoke at the St. Andrew’s Society of San Francisco monthly meeting in the evening at its Green Street building. The meeting was sparsely attended, mostly due to a number of persons being affected by the wildfires and the still smoky air in and near San Francisco.
Consul Whittaker, began by introducing himself and his personal history. Much of it is in his official biography here: Andrew Whittaker Biography. Whittaker graduated from Cambridge with a Master’s degree in Political and Social Sciences and went directly into employment in the foreign service. Though partly of Welsh ancestry, he grew up in England, and has been an avid rugby player. His previous two decades of experience included assignments in Jerusalem (Israel) for which he prepared by spending 18 months learning Arabic, and Basra, Iraq related to UK military activities there, and Spain. He then was the Deputy Secretary for Crisis Management in the Foreign Office in London, and most recently has been involved in cybersecurity issues for the UK government and industries.
He then spoke about a few issues he considered to be of greatest mutual interest to his Scottish audience. In his speech, and conversations with members, he stated several times his interest in Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security, particularly in promoting investment in the UK by U.S. companies involved in these and in joint ventures, and sales of UK Cyber Security products to the U.S. He said that, of particular interest, the UK hopes to increase trade relations with the US, and as Brexit evolves, minimize the impact of Brexit on UK workers; keeping their employment up.
He spoke about Brexit as a slowly developing situation with on-going negotiations, still, on basic issues, such as the border of Northern Ireland. He said that It is not in the interest of the UK to restore border crossings and limits, but there is yet no resolution of this matter in the UK-EU negotiations. Scotland was not mentioned, at all.
Thus, it prompted a question from your editors: “Wouldn’t it be simpler to help Northern Ireland reunite with Ireland and grant Scotland dominion status, to both maintain some control and relationships with Scotland yet allow Scotland enough independence to become a member of the EU as its citizens wish?”
Mr. Whittaker’s brief response was, that Scotland had already visited the Independence question, and had to voted to remain. The inference we editors took was, that if Scotland has any interest in another independence referendum, they will not have the cooperation of the UK Foreign Office and current PM. It does not matter that the September 2014 vote to remain in the UK was influenced by the UK officials stating that if Scotland were to vote for independence the UK would block Scotland’s separate EU membership. At that time the UK was firmly in the EU; now it is leaving. The Scots voted in September, 2014, to remain in the UK, end of discussion.
Mr. Whittaker explained that the leadership in London believes it can resume its former trade agreements with the members of the Commonwealth that they mostly had to drop when the UK joined the EU in 1973, and that the UK continues to have superior relations with African, Middle East and Asian nations. He stated that he believed the relations that the UK has, and will strengthen after Brexit, would be of benefit to those U.S. industries, and, he implied Scottish industries also, wanting to develop greater and better relations with Asian, African and Mid Eastern countries.
Articles on-line, however, indicate that in the past 44 years and counting, the Commonwealth countries never had unified trade policies, and have, according to their own interests, developed greater trading relationships with, their regional trading partners, such as the U.S., China, or other nations in Africa. Analytical writers of those articles believe it may be difficult for the UK to resume the lead and unify the Commonwealth, and restore the trading relations it once had, which favored the UK, particularly England, and were originally crafted when many of these nations were still colonies of the UK. It has been noted that, of the English speaking nations, for instance, Canada has been developing close ties with the U.S. in the past several decades, and Australia and New Zealand with one another and with Singapore and India. India has been developing greater technology industry and trade relationships with the U.S.. Even South Africa has been developing stronger relationships with the U.S., since South Africa ended apartheid.
Mr. Whittaker also stated that the UK believes there will be no significant loss of the financial industry in the UK as Brexit actually occurs. He suggested that the sophistication and shared English language of the London financial district, will continue to make London more attractive to the U.S. financial industry than any other location. He pointed out that although the pound against the U.S. dollar dropped significantly from a ratio of 1.5 dollars to the pound to 1.2 dollars to the pound after the initial Brexit vote, the pound has strengthened somewhat and leveled off at about 1.3 dollars to the pound, and he believed that as the process evolved, the pound would continue to strengthen. He also noted, that to date, no significant Brexit issues have been settled. Probably, little will be agreed upon until the last two or three months before the actual departure date of March, 2019.
It seems strange to us that, we have heard two such very different views about the financial sector from the UK and Irish Consuls in the last several months. We then suggested to Mr. Whittaker might want to discuss with his Irish counterpart the building boom in Dublin, Ireland, and all the buildings near Wood Quay that have been rented and the rising rents. The Irish Consul and rest of his government, you see, have stated they are already seeing a greater interest by the U.S. and other countries in increasing development of the financial industry in Ireland, as the Irish also speak English and Ireland is remaining in the EU, precisely for the overall EU financial relationships. Mr. Whittaker indicated he was in contact with his Irish counterpart and would continue to be.
As the meeting drew to a close, questions were asked about tourism to Scotland, and the possibility of more advertising and travel programs, targeting Scottish and Irish descent audiences in the U.S., and whether tourism and travel generally were now under the new Department of International Trade. Whittaker said that the new department does not cover the travel and tourism industry, and questions related to tourism and travel are all handled by “Visit Britain,” an entirely separate organization. Based on its website, which we later skimmed through, ‘Visit Britain‘ may not be a part of the UK government. Its domain name, visitbritain.com, ends in top-level domain, ‘.com’ indicating a commercial website.
We, the editors of this newsletter, are hoping to have further discussions in other meetings with Mr. Whittaker regarding Scotland and the interests of Scot and Scot-Irish descended Americans who might be interested in travel and study related to their heritage and culture, as well as investments directed more so to Scotland, especially as Brexit evolves.
Pitfalls for Members of Facebook Groups
Friends, Groups, Private Messages and Privacy (nor NOT)
by Cecilia Fabos-Becker – Published 2017-10-06
Human Beings are social creatures who want to communicate and share. They especially want to share things and ideas they really like and often will form groups around them, such as non-profit services, clubs, or professional groups like bands that perform music. Some people like some things, ideas and such so much, they form businesses that are interests-based, such as ethnic culture and heritage.
In recent years, we’ve all been happy to have increased means of and tools for communication and an extended electronic reach to share our interests whether they be a non-profit service, or support for a for profit group, such as a band or a shop, with such things Social Media apps or tools to use it better for communications and marketing. I use Outlook and other programs for emails and personal contacts, and both I and my spouse use Facebook. It’s much faster than snail mail, easier to sort lists of sub groups of friends or markets, but, like snail mail, it allows the intended recipients or readers to decide to open, or toss, something or ignore it, and isn’t as intrusive as telephone calls which to be effective have to get past an answering machine, especially when deadlines are looming.
However, to our dismay, we recently discovered that Facebook has a number of ‘glitchs’ in a significant, relatively new ways.
It’s an important one that everyone who has joined more than one Facebook Group should be aware of. Likewise anyone who any affiliation with a non-profit or professional entity of his or her own, and is hoping friends will support shared interests, activities and events, and not just the programs put on for or by these separate groups.
Facebook states in its own policy statements and press releases that it is a tool and service that is meant to facilitate communication, sharing and marketing, for all kinds of people and groups (including those using more than one service), within the free platform users have voluntarily ‘boarded‘ called “Facebook.” On board Facebook, primarily using the concept of establishing on-line, as well as often in-person, friendships. Facebook allows Sales and marketing by any and individual persons and groups for both for profit and non-profit causes and events. Sharing is allowed, not only with people you already know, perhaps from some other prior experiences, but also those who have “friended” you as individuals or through groups. You may believe a ‘friend’ will like something or someone, expand their interests and support them. Nearly everyone shares, (markets and communicates) to expand their groups of friends and supporters and support for the things, and people, that interest them. Facebook’s mission clearly states that the company and its programs exist to do both and both are specifically allowed.
Facebook is, to a certain extent, like a ship bound for a certain destination. When you board it, you agree you want to go there, also, even though you don’t own the ship and don’t control it. You only control how you, yourself, interact with it and others on the same ship. The ship company owns the ship and the captain, hired by the ship-owner, controls its operation.
It is one’s understanding, or failure to understand, these basics of Facebook that creates the most pitfalls for Facebook users–whether they are individuals or groups. There are also conflicts among the services and programming to perform the services, and what they allow to be done by and/or for users, as individuals and groups, while trying to retain a certain amount of privacy for people who have already accepted this is a platform to communicate and share, and have boarded it.
Here are just a few examples of Facebook policy, lawful use and legal terms statements from 2015 to present:
“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”
“Facebook offers a wide variety of products and services, including communications and advertising platforms. Many of these products and services — such as the Facebook mobile app, _Messenger_, and Paper — are part of your Facebook experience. ”
“Groups provide a space to communicate about shared interests with certain people. You can create a group for anything — your family reunion, your after-work sports team, your book club — and customize the group’s privacy settings depending on who you want to be able to join and see the group.”
(Regarding events or items of interest to one member that said member wants to share with others)
“Depending on the size of your group, you’ll either be able invite all members of your group or invite all your friends in the group.”
This being the crucial one, we invite you to look it up for yourself. Buried deep in Facebook’s Help screens, at the URL: https://www.facebook.com/help/1210322209008185/?helpref=hc_fnav and at the very bottom of the page, you will find the very last topic “Can I message members of a group if they are not my friends?”
and you can find this answer:
“All members of a group can chat together in group messages, even if they’re not all friends with each other. However, only friends can message each other individually and start a one-on-one conversation.”
Do you see the potential for misunderstandings and conflicts here? The last two items are especially important for persons who share interests with multiple groups’ members and might have events, persons, or things to promote, either for profit or not. It is especially a potential source of conflict for those who are members of MULTIPLE groups, for example, a musical performer and/or Band. Even if you are part-time and earn most of your daily bread in some other occupation, pay attention, what just happened to us, can happen to YOU.
We discovered this Facebook glitch the hard way and informed them of it afterwards. The glitch is in the last two quotes, particularly the last one. If you are a member of group and want to message other groups about an event that interests you and you think might interest them, you may indeed, according to Facebook’s policies, send a private message your fellow group members. At the same time, the Facebook “messenger/messaging” process of limits you to enter each individual names one at at time, and allegedly will prevent you from accidentally listing on your “to” line/block those in the group who have not ‘friended’ you. But this limitation only applies SOME of the time. As Facebook says, groups of a certain size, which we have now observed seems to be any group with under 50 members. Yet, even within groups of smaller size, this implied bit of programming to help you as a message sender avoid accidentally offending someone who is not a friend only works, SOME times–even within a single list of a subset of group members who you believe are your ‘friends’, because at some point, a group chat among all members of a group is allowed REGARDLESS of whether they are all ‘friends’! In the face of accusations that we deliberately sent something to people who are not in some way our friends, we literally spent several days figuring out what had happened and how to avoid it in the future.
This glitch quickly resulted a very unwelcome reminder of the negative social aspects of adolescence. We’re still waiting for a response from Facebook – Does anyone know a Facebook Executive out there we can ping in some way?
For many people, including bands and small businesses who are members of many groups, you are now literally going to have to do as we did and check all your Facebook friends lists of every group to which you belong or Facebook generally, which can amount to thousands. You will have to check your professional page ‘friends’ lists as well as your individual page(s) friends lists–spouses and other family members included. You will have to check your Outlook or other personal contacts data base to verify that you are somehow otherwise friends, (since most such contact programs are meant to somewhat work together these days) to verify who all are really your friends someway or not to DEFEND yourself against the occasional accusation that you deliberately sent something to people who are not in some way a friend of yours.
In particular, it took us hours to try to send what we thought was a personal group message using Facebook’s Messenger service, to a small but select subset of friends from a group to which Tony belonged. It took us days to go through the 5,000 Facebook friends through several groups and our own Facebook Pages, and the many thousands more contacts in our Outlook database as well as and internet group contacts we have–that are still people with whom we occasionally communicate or see, to figure out just how few people we might have actually offended. (Precisely 6 individuals).
We operate a weeklyy newsletter with over 3000 subscribers, and an events calendar with thousands of users. For heaven’s sake, our AmeriCeltic services are intended to to cover/promote the interests of all the several Celtic ethnicities, and to have a large and expanding outreach to thousands more! Celia has spent 45 years doing and networking information about family history. In just the last five or six years, we have over 10,000 email addresses on just four extended families/clans from members of internet groups, let alone our thousands of Facebook ‘friends’!
So people, read all of the policy and services statements of Facebook, watch the news to keep up with their constant experimentation to expand or improve services of ITS platform or ship which we all voluntarily boarded to use their services. Be aware of the contradictions, limitations and glitches–and do not assume that all messaging that you didn’t want to receive, and may not have set your own privacy settings to exclude was intentional on the part of the sender. Last, if you group or society that has a group page on Facebook has a policy limiting kinds or frequencies of communications or posting–SAY SO, in writing on the group page and in your other public internet postings about your society and its goals, objectives, and LIMITATIONS and don’t slam someone for accidentally violating polices that were not publicized as that person could not have known. The acceptable response would be for an officer to politely send a letter or email to the parties involved.
Facebook, and the other “ships” (social media platforms) using the internet to communicate are all still ‘under-construction’, with changes being made on a daily basis. Be aware of that. it is good practice to read more, and when you realize how much you have to read, know and understand, to withhold any complaint and instead think about how easy it is to miss something, and stumble into a glitch. What might have been a nice experience or relationship can easily turn into ashes! Let’s all hope Facebook fixes a few more of these glitches to make it easier to create and maintain pleasant or successful relationships, or both.
Editorial: Shopping at Celtic Festivals
One Persons Perspective – Spring 2017
by Cecilia Fabos-Becker – 2017-05-19
When hosting at a Celtic festival booth, it’s often difficult to get a break, much less have time to browse through the vendor areas thoughtfully. As my husband Tony takes more questions from folks asking whether they are Scots, Irish, Welsh, English or some mixture thereof, as most usually are, from the books and maps we bring, last weekend, I got a chance finally to spend a little time browsing the small but good selection of vendors at the Silicon Valley Irish Flead, in Mountain View. On a budget, I especially appreciate vendors that have beautiful, unusual work, whether it be in fabric, leather or jewelry, and priced under $50, or even $30!
In more than 20 years of hosting, I’d seen a lots of gifts at the many Scottish and Irish festivals and when you are hurrying, the unusual stands out. For some years, stand outs have been rare. Quite a number of vendors have the mass produced silver claddagh rings (two hands holding a heart) and the same few styles of earrings and pendants using a few of the variations of Celtic knots. It’s almost all real sterling and good quality but, well, there is a lot of it, and a lot looks the same. It’s also almost all produced outside of the U.S. in large factories, though blessedly, not a lot has a “made in China” label on it.
There are a few vendors who have started appearing in recent years who are different. For a long time for higher cost unusual Celtic and art-nouveau style jewelry, collectors and Celtic-fashionistas at some festivals have long appreciated “Postgate Jewelers“, a small design and self-manufacturing studio up near Truckee, California. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to afford their gorgeous gold work, but I certainly admire it every time I see them at a festival, and on others. You can recognize a Postgate piece at a distance. They are that good, but so is the price. “Nagle Forge & Foundry” has a unique mixture of higher and medium cost, unique designs all done in house. I once bought an unusual belt buckle there. I absolutely loved for its combination curves and waves design, and being just the right size for a woman’s belt. At the Silicon Valley Irish Fleadh, though, I finally had a chance to spend some time examining the displays of three more vendors, newer, primarily jewelry, who do some or most of their own design work and either their own manufacture, or work closely with small, U.S. designer-manufacturers. I also revisited a more unusual gifts vendor whose wares attracted me from the first time I saw them at the Ardenwood Historic Farm Park Tartan Day in early April. All of these vendors will be at the San Francisco Caledonian Club Gathering and Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds at Pleasanton in early September 2017, and several will be at the Costa Mesa Gathering and Games in southern California on the Memorial Day weekend. Some will also be at smaller festivals such as the Mother Lode Scottish Festival at the Amador County fairgrounds in the small town of Plymouth along Highway 49, on June 10-11, and either Reno or Big Trees (Felton) the second weekend in October.
For those who are looking for different new designs in affordable jewelry, locally made, often with gems, I urge you to spend a little time looking at the offerings of “Willow Jewelry“ and “Phoenix and Crow.” Both have excellent jewelry designs using Celtic themes, art-nouveau and some what I’d call art-deco elements; elegant jewelry that suggests nature and classic historic design, and uses gems in addition to metals, mostly silver. I have a collection of jewelry history and design books and used to design jewelry a little when I had my own store, so I’m not just tossing around these descriptions lightly.
Willow specializes in unusual, natural, gem stones, but you will see some of these, colorful, less commonly seen gems at Phoenix and Crow also, and a few at A&A, in the next paragraph. Willow does all of her own design and manufacture. Bev Rafferty of Phoenix and Crow does some design herself but mostly works with others who then produce the items in their own facilities, in the U.S. and some, locally. I especially liked the collections of rainbow moonstone and labradorite (mineralogical siblings of kind) rings at Phoenix and Crow. Some had an art-deco look, some were set in art-nouveau vines and leaves style of ring mounting. She also had some stones set in an unusual thistle design ring mounting. Phoenix and Crow, also had an unusual collection of hand-made cast-iron “Thor’s Hammer” pendants, and Viking design small piece pottery, offering dishes or candle holders, also locally made. At Willow’s booth, I saw several pendants and a gorgeous pair of rose quartz drop earrings that had me lingering at, and then returning to her booth, as well as her gorgeous Venezuelan amethyst jewelry. I used to own a jewelry shop myself 15 years ago and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen natural amethyst that nice. (An awful lot of good colored amethyst, the really purple stones, these days, isn’t: it’s Chinese made jewelry glass or else irradiated inferior quartz, originally another color). Willow also had a cute collection of hand-puppets for children and adults who have children in their families they like to entertain made by Folkman’s Puppets, including dragons! The puppets and jewelry work well to keep the attention of both parents and children. There were families lingering by this vendor’s booth.
Another vendor that doesn’t have jewelry but has a lot of colorful, original Celtic legend/ mythology themed designs that also use Celtic knotwork, on T-shirts, handbags/tote bags, change purses/small wallets, glicee wall art and even small jigsaw puzzles, is “Celtic Art Studio” owned by Jan Delwyth. On my first visit, I bought a t-shirt and a jigsaw puzzle. I live with a budget and don’t usually find myself making a snap decision like this. The color and design were absolutely just right to go with about four pairs of my favorite colors in pants and a couple of skirts. Even my even more fiscally conservative husband understood the appeal of this one. I heard a number of persons complimenting this vendor and the very beautiful unusual designs of her merchandise, and reasonable prices, at both the Tartan Day festival and the Fleadh.
A&A Company once had its own shop in the Stanford Shopping Mall. The couple who own this little company now travel to major weekend festivals around the U.S., and they sell on Etsy. designer Anita McKenzie, was not present at the Silicon Valley Fleadh, her husband was the sole salesperson that weekend, Anita does some of her own design and limited self-manufacture. Those were the best items at the A&A booth and caught my attention at once. (Most of what A&A had was built by someone else). Anita’s husband explained that they once owned their own manufacturing facility as well as having their brick-and-mortar store, but it got to be too much as they got older and rents and other costs escalated. Some of her designs are not mass manufactured and may be made by local craftspersons, but some is clearly supplied by the same manufacturers who supply a number of other festival vendors, particularly the rings that were being sold. A&A’s best and most unusual pieces bore Anita’s own label, “Anita McKenzie” (Watch for that label). I saw several very striking pairs of paua or abalone shell earrings with Celtic knotwork or classic scroll and vine work around the pieces of shell and some very nice, bright red jasper earrings with similar work. These all were eye-catching at a distance. She had also some nice clusters, and drop earrings, like leaves on a vine, of faceted garnets, and earrrings and pendants using blue topaz and iolite (a natural stone similar to sapphires in color).
So, when you are visiting and enjoying the Scottish and Irish festivals throughout the year, and know you have birthdays, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Christmas gifts needs coming up, and don’t have a fortune to spend, keep these vendors in mind and look for them. They’ll appreciate it when you do, and your intended recipients will love you for the beautiful and unusual gifts you buy to give them–and your bank account will probably still have something in it at the end of the day.
MEP Martina Anderson
Brexit Progress and Movements by Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker and Anthony Becker
Published April 7th, 2017
Like their cousins in Northern Ireland, Scotland voted decisively to remain in the European Union (EU) in the Brexit vote of last June. Recently, the UK Parliament decided not to hold a second vote on their exit from the EU (Brexit).
On Tuesday, March 14th, 2017, Martina Anderson, member of the EU Parliament for Northern Ireland, told the EU assembly that any border between Northern Ireland and Ireland was unacceptable in unequivocable terms: ‘Theresa (May) … stick (a border) where the sun don’t shine because you’re not putting it in Ireland.’ Ms. Anderson’s expressed sentiments may be extreme, but it seems impossible to find anyone on Erin’s isle who favors a new internal border.
Just ten days ago, on Tuesday, March 28th the Scottish Parliament passed a motion to authorize Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to negotiate with the UK parliament for a second referendum on full Scottish independence, to be put to a vote within the next 2 years. On Wednesday, March 29th, the government of the United Kingdom delivered the official “letter of divorce” to the EU, a process which by statue, must be completed within the same 2 years. Most observers expect this second Scottish Independence Referendum to succeed.
Over these last 4 years, there have been many talks between the UK’s Royal Family and Northern Irish leadership, particularly the Sinn Fein party leadership. When former First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness died on March 21, 2017, Queen Elizabeth II sent a note of ‘personal condolence’ to his widow. There is a growing sense that soon Northern Ireland and Ireland will merge. Ireland has demonstated that it is separating the policies of the Catholic Church from government policy, and in turn Catholics have gained greater political and economic rights in the north. Ireland has a strong economy, and all see trade as the matter of most importance for both.
If Northern Ireland became economically separate from the rest of the island, Northern Ireland, would be dependent, once again, upon relations solely with England and the Commonwealth, which were disastrous the last time Northern Ireland was so limited, after the passage of the Act of Union of 1707. After 1707, Northern Ireland was limited primarily to exporting raw materials and semi-finished products to English manufacturers who, in their turn, sold the high-value-added finished goods back to the Irish, and the price of goods produced in Northern Ireland plumetted. This resulted in the emigration of a large part of the Northern Irish population, particularly to what became the U.S.A. In the 20th century, Northern Ireland struggled with civil strife, which devastated the economy and discouraged trade and investment. It is only in the last 20 years, since the Good Friday Agreement, that Northern Ireland has overcome the centuries of dependency and strife, and with the ‘Leave’ vote of the majority of English voters, Brexit threatens to yank the new floor from beneath Northern Ireland’s feet.
Northern Irelands citizens do not want to return to these burdens of the past, and in our opinion, this makes the unification of Ireland inevitable. As part of the Republic, Northern Ireland can retain its trade with the EU, and Ireland can join NATO, which may provide additional stimuli to the economy of all of Ireland as a full, supporting NATO member.
As for Scotland, the issues that prevented passage of the last independence referendum have changed. The threat that if Scotland voted for independence the UK would make it difficult for Scotland to join the EU is moot if the UK leaves the EU. This leaves one other former issue: Scotland’s financial footing. The threat that if Scotland voted for independence the UK would make it difficult for Scotland to use the Euro as its monetary system, limiting Scotlands ability to make and sell enough goods to provide revenue for services, is also moot.
There are several things Scotland could do. First it must remember that Scotland is no smaller than many of the smaller, successful countries in Europe in geography and population. If Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Austria can survive and thrive, so can Scotland. Neither land area or population are determinants of success or failure of small nations. Over nearly two centuries, Ireland and Scotland, have both been artificially deprived of manufacturing investment by the UK, dominated by England and English interests. For 30 years, Ireland has been attracting more investment than Scotland and doing generally well with it. Both these Celtic nations could do more, especially if they cooperate with and support one another as much as possible, sharing resources, and both making themselves more self-sufficient in critical components of human needs, such as food, building materials for housing, hotels, schools, factories, etc., transportation and medical equipment and services.
Even for the most northern lands, there is potential for multiple sources of energy today: wind, oil and gas, tides, heat pumps etc. More food can be grown year round to provide adequate nutrition without excessive imports. Both nations have abundant water. More could be done with green-houses for vegetables, berries, even dwarf citrus, and more varieties of trees as well as just more trees generally could be planted, as well as hemp for wood and paper. We were amazed to see how much land in Ireland has very little diversity in its agriculture, and little space devoted to home gardens. Scotland doesn’t have as much arable land as Ireland does and it is further north, but it is highly efficient in grain and livestock production with what it does have. Yet Scotland itself could do better with timber and some greenhouse agriculture as well. There is no reason that either nation should be importing as much food as either does. If the state of Minnesota’s major grocery chains could make money with greenhouses using excess warm water from power plants and produce tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, etc. for 8 months of the year supplemented by freezing or canning fresh local produce during the few months of its limited growing season, there is no reason why Ireland and Scotland cannot both as well. With all the dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees, even citrus, that have been hybridized for home and small gardens, there is no reason they can’t produce some of these fruits as well – they have something many North African countries don’t have – year round water supplies. If they are to do well with tourism, (another important industry), then they will want to become more self-sufficient in food, shelter and transportation for both residents and visitors.
Recently, we did our own research using census and immigration records and results of DNA tests, and found that, compared to estimates of just 10 or 20 years ago, a much larger percentage of the U.S. is 50% or more Scottish and/or Irish. It’s 160 million or so, not a ‘mere’ 35 or 40 million. The DNA is there, the awareness of the reality is growing, and people do like to travel to where they think they have roots. This is a huge potential for financial success for both Scotland and Ireland together, as most Americans have both Irish and Scottish ancestry.
Some small nations do very well with a combination of tourism and limited manufacturing, provided they can balance the expenses for the needs for residential and visiting population with its revenues. Some charge high hotel and meal tax rates to do this. Scotland and Ireland, share a huge, largely untapped, potential for revenue from tourism, particularly from the U.S. In just the last rew years, DNA tests and other mediums have developed, and so people are much more aware of their real Scottish and Irish heritage. However, the majority of these 160 million or so U.S. citizens of Celtic descent who might travel, are not all rich as the oil princes of Saudi Arabia and although they are a bit more budget minded, are a huge potential in sheer numbers of travelers.
If both are independent, both are members of the EU, and they are financially cooperative with one another as well, such as having a monetary system tied to one another, more tours could be arranged that cover both countries together. If Scotland follows Ireland’s lead and adopts the Euro, it too would also have a strong financial system. If the two countries’ systems and policies are coordinated, and the Euro is equal in value in both, they strengthen one another, because now they become a two country financial bloc. They can become as alike as North and South New Zealand, or closer than the U.S. and Canada, long considered financially/economically close where manufacturing, trade and travel moves freely between the two.
The UK has its needs also, and one, very big, concern over the centuries in its dealings with both these Celtic nations, has been its national security. It was hard enough for the UK to let Ireland go, after several times in the 16th and 17th centuries Irish leadership made alliances with France and Spain, for assistance and even offered to let Spain rule, when those powers were inimical to England. Scotland shares an island with England. if it’s agreeable to the EU under these circumstances, Scotland can become a Commonwealth country, like Australia, promising not to make war on the UK, vaguely acknowledging the Crown, and allowing relatively free travel to and from the UK, but in all other respects run its own financial, taxation, trade and foreign policies. This can can work well between Ireland and Scotland, similarly to the relations between Canada and the U.S., where Canada is a Commonwealth country and the U.S. is not.
Ireland and Scotland are only a short distance apart, as little as 12 miles at one point. That’s just about the same distance as between San Mateo and Hayward across the San Francisco Bay. The San Mateo bridge connects them, despite the fact that the two cities are on two separate, active earthquake faults. A real, physical, rail and highway bridge would develop the economic relationship between Scotland and Ireland uniting their common interests and goals, and two such plans are extant. The Scots and Irish could build their bridge together and call it the Dal Riata Bridge.
Editorial: Celtic American Heritage and Collaboration
Our community is made up of MIXED Irish, Scots-Irish and/or Scottish ethnicities
By Cecilia Fábos-Becker
As measured directly by over 4 million DNA tests of Americans, (our own included), and depicted in the Venn diagram at right, the number of Americans who have greater than one-third Irish, Scots-Irish and/or Scottish ancestry is now about 50% of the U.S. population. This means that, as of the 2010 census total of 320 million total US population, about 150 million Americans have at least 1/3 of their tracable DNA originating in Ireland and/or Scotland. Additionally, the majority of these 150 million are a MIX of Irish and Scottish. Despite a growing number of Americans with Hispanic ancestry, the population of the U.S. is still substantially Scots, Irish and Scots-Irish in ethnic origin. This mixing will continue, with Hispanic DNA slowly being added to the mix. For examples, one need look no further than the ancestry of the parents and grandparents of San Jose’s own city councilpersons!
In the past, errors have been common in calculating numbers of Scottish Americans, Irish Americans, etc. by Scottish and Irish governments, and Americans themselves, trying to determine numbers of Irish OR Scots over 350 years of emigration to the U.S. as well as intermarriage before and after emigration. Since arrival in the U.S., a large amount of intermarriage has been almost constant, starting typically with the children or grand-children of immigrants. In Ireland, intermarriage between Scots, Normans and “native” Irish has been going on to one degree or another, for about 700 years–even prior to emigration.
First, for 1500 years, religion didn’t matter. It only really mattered for 300 years. In fact, all three groups were Catholic until the reign of the Tudors in England and subsequent, gradual Protestant conquests forced change of religion upon all parts of Ireland, and Scotland. Religion, until the Tudors, was originally no bar to intermarriage because everyone adhered to the same religion.
After Henry VIII, choice of religion could make it hard to survive, much less prosper. Particularly after repressive measures following the Catholic Irish rebellion of 1641, and after 1707, when the Penal laws imposed by England on Ireland, persons who chose to become or remain Catholic could not own land, own a business, hold political office or even vote and intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants was also forbidden. However, many Catholic Norman Irish and native Irish families urged the oldest and biggest land-owning sons in the family to change their religion, at least publicly, to retain land and to have some political power, and many actually did. At that point, as Protestants, they could intermarry with Scots Irish and Anglo-Irish who were Protestants and did. After 1867, the laws eased again, Catholics increased in numbers, after being diminished after 1707, and more intermarriage occurred.
Last, in both the UK emigration records (such as existed and not many) prior to 1831 and the U.S. immigration records to 1922, there was NO distinction made in records of the emigration from Ireland and immigration into the U.S. by religion, nor the cultural identity of the emigrants/immigrants. They were ALL listed as simply “Irish”, whether Protestant or Catholic, Scots in Ulster, Anglo or Norman-Irish or Native Irish. All were Irish. Over time, particularly since the 1870’s when the U.S. celebrated its centennial as a nation and first began thinking of cultural heritage and compiling or making up family histories, this is how many Americans began to think of themselves in their cultural heritage/identity. All they knew by the 1870’s was where the emigrant ancestor got on the ship–Ireland, for most. Other than the immigration or importation/naturalization records, if there was a sense of Scottish identity, it came from surnames with Mc or Mac in them, compared with O’. Ulster being heavily Scots-Presbyterian, once upon a time, was long forgotten. Even by 1876, religion was getting to be less a consideration in sense of historic identity. This continues to this day, and DNA tests are now surprising a lot of people who thought of themselves as purely “Irish,” and forgot about difficult periods in Scotland, Ireland, and the U.S., regarding religion.
James Leyburn’s 1962 History of the Scots-Irish being a good example, it used to be thought that once the Scots, and Scots-Irish crossed the Appalachians they intermarried so much with English descendants and German immigrant descendants that the DNA and culture became very dispersed and these Americans lost all sense of identity. However, our new DNA tests are showing otherwise–that they mostly married whatever they thought of as “their own kind“, and well past the famous 1960’s song in West Side Story where Anita is admonishing Maria to “stick to your own kind, marry your own kind.”
The long popularity of what is called “old-time music” in Ireland and Scotland, played and danced to all over America with many pieces little changed since their origins on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, also contradicts this idea. Over time in the U.S., as religious identity became less important, the places one left and the older shared history became more important as identifying kind. It became ok for Presbyterian and later Baptist and Methodist Scots and Scots Irish to begin marrying Catholic Irish, especially when private schools were increasingly seen as better schools for education to get into college and well paid careers and the Catholic schools were outnumbering all the other church schools put together and providing a well-rounded education to get into college, not just a theology based education to become a preacher. By the 1920’s, with Catholic politicians becoming legislators and state governors and more, all of this intermarriage and genetic integration only accelerated.
The result is, we now have an increasingly intermarried population of Scots, Irish and Scots-Irish, for nearly a full 100 years, four generations. It is impossible to state, using simply emigration, immigration and census records, how many Americans are purely Irish or purely Scots, because the vast majority of Scots/Irish/Scots-Irish Americans are not purely either one – they are a mixture of both. With only a 13 mile gap across the Irish Sea, a distance that we bridged in the San Francisco Bay area between San Mateo and Hayward at least 80 years ago, the U.S. has returned to what was the reality for Scotland and Ireland, together, for 1500 years prior to that unfortunate interlude when religious intolerance dominated.
For the 150 years since the dark age of intolerance, religious preference has gradually become less of an issue for the Scots and Irish themselves, especially in the U.S., where religious tolerance was practiced, and economic discrimination on the basis of religion was banned starting in some American colonies in the late 1600’s. Americans were determined not to bring the hatreds and conflcts from the old world to the new. In 1787, we made that idea of religious tolerance and equality part of our Constitution. Religion can be part of culture and history, but it is not the sole or most important element of culture, especially not a historic culture that is more than 2 millenia old, and Religion is certainly not in our DNA.
This newsletter is read widely by both musicians and artists who want and need an audience, and members and supporters of Scottish and Irish societies and clans, all of whom want attendance at their events, financial support for their bands, organizations, scholarships, etc., and membership for organizations (and clans). Yet we are all here together, now, in a U.S. where the recent immigrants purely from one partly-religiously-identified nation or another is a tiny, tiny, tiny minority. The number of immigrants and first generation Americans who are purely either Scots, or Irish is less than one-tenth of one percent of the entire U.S. population–nationwide. Our present shared need for audiences, supporters and members, and your future, here, in the U.S. must rely upon the 150 million or more Americans whose DNA is 36-50% identical with the recent immigrants, who are the product of 350 years of immigration from Scotland, Ireland and Scots-Irish Ulster and intermarriage, and who, for various reasons, may indeed have lost their identity and who are also more than fed up with conflicts involving religion–and in fact mostly FLED those conflicts.
Think of it this way: How are you going to reach out to the 150 million MIXED heritage people all around you, who should be your supporters? How are you going to help these 150 million persons, become more aware of their own MIXED Scottish and Irish heritage, and support you, without you trying to constantly ask them to choose one over the other, as if they were children of a nasty divorce with the fighting still ongoing? How are you going to help “build the bridges between the Scots, the Irish and Ulster, and among them and their U.S. cousins, that the current modern leaders of all three are now asking to be built?
We have some ideas on that, but we’d like to hear/read from others, those who especially want audiences and supporters, in the U.S., about their ideas for outreach, building support for all the bands and organizations and “building bridges, not walls” among Celtic descendants, here in the U.S., and between the Celtic descendants in the U.S. and their cousins east of the Atlantic Ocean. Email us at email@example.com.
Editorial: Celtic and U.S. Rebellions
The Work is Not Yet Done
By Celia Fabos-Becker and Tony Becker
Last month, on Thursday, November 17th, 2016 AmeriCeltic.net and San Jose-Dublin Sister Cities Program redressed an omission in the March commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland that ultimately led to Irish Independence. San Jose Irish history buffs visited the grave of Michael McDonnell, an Irish revolutionary who fought with Pearse and Collins that Easter in 1916, served under Collins during the terrible struggles of the Irish Civil War 1919-1921, came to San Jose, California and lived the rest of his life here in the South Bay Area.
In Autumn of 2015, President Michael Higgins of Ireland spoke at San Jose City Hall and, referring to the events of 1916 – 1922 in his speech, centered his remarks on the theme: “The work is not yet done.”
Besides rebelling against rule by England, there are two aspects that the American Revolution that began in 1774-5*, the Scottish rebellions of 1715 and 1745, and the Irish Revolution of 1916 – 1922 all shared. Yes, Ireland, Scotland and the American Colonies wanted independence to assert their separate national identities and to have and run their own governments, but this itself was entwined with a second purpose: We all wanted to drive our own futures, to control our own economic affairs and to maximize the prosperity of our own peoples. In fact, the Irish named their revolutionary movement Sinn Féin , “We Ourselves”, in the Irish language.
Americans, mostly Scots, Scots-Irish and Irish, all battled British elites, and their trade policies, particularly in manufacturing.
The British government, who ruled over all of Ireland, Scotland and what is now the U.S. , largely closed us off to trade both ways. The British Parliament kept our markets and manufacturing extremely limited, leaving us to export largely raw materials and semi-finished commodities at low prices while we were to required to import finished goods at high prices from English merchants. Not only could we not sell freely, we could not buy freely. Using their overwhelming force of arms, England, particularly the English owners of manufacturing companies, monopolized our trade, tightly controlling who could buy our goods and also who could sell goods to us.
The leaders of all three nationalities, Irish, Scottish and American, saw that external control hurt the prosperity of our peoples and limited their growth. These policies treated all of us as second class or lower citizens, existing only to serve external masters.
Today, there are too many corporate leaders in all our nations who are generally perceived as, and often consider themselves, elite globalists. These elites generally show no regard for workers of any nation. Through donations and other means many have forged alliances with entrenched politicians and political party elites who have forgotten their obligation to care for the people who elected them and trusted them with their economic well-being.
In the past year, we have seen the disgruntled, excluded voters of England itself vote narrowly for Brexit, which would, in turn, limit their subject peoples’ trade and development and in effect, return to the worst days of economic dependence. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who also fought for the recent Scottish independence referendum, as well as Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness stand together against allowing their two countries to suffer such externally imposed economic hardships, and made statements similar to Irish President Higgins “the work is not yet done“.
This latest, terrible election in the U.S., was a primal scream of rage from the forgotten non-elites. Hillary Clinton lost as much through her too obvious political donations from the wealthy and the rigging of the Democratic Primary by her party elite friends, whom she did nothing to dissuade, as from her own personal faults, and those of her husband.
Bill Clinton was seen as potentially too influential. He had enacted, rather than torn up, NAFTA, and then signed the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act, which had kept Investment Banks out of Consumer banking. Both of these greatly harmed the economy of the nation and the lives, well-being and security of millions of ordinary Americans.
Donald Trump was one of these significant donors to the Clintons for many years, and others of their ilk, for decades, and also socialized with them to gain influence. Whether Trump will be any different is yet to be seen. However, there is one possibly promising sign. Trump’s apparent Secretary of Commerce nominee; Wilbur Louis Ross Jr.
Wilbur Ross is a person of Scots and Irish descent (his father is from a Ross family that has long lived in New Jersey and his mother is an O’Neill) and was among those to first suggest to Trump that “much of America is disgruntled because the economy has left middle class workers behind”. He has a history of taking the bits and pieces of broken companies left by the mismanagement by greedy, selfish, executives and directors and turning them into more viable entities, four of which he kept himself to run and develop.
It is very interesting to note that a certain George Ross, an ancestral cousin to the New Jersey Ross’s, was among the Signers of the American Declaration of Independence.
* The October 10, 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant, in what is now West Virginia, preceeded the April 19, 1775 skirmishes at Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts by 7 months. After this Battle, victorious Virginia militias forced then Virginia governor Lord Dunmore to flee the Virginia colony, effectively ending British Rule in Virginia. The fight was instigated by the colonists anger at then Prime Minister of Britain, Lord North and his policies, carried out by Lord Dunmore, attempting to bring the American colonies under tighter control in all ways, but ultimately enriching English elites.
Donagh Mc Keown
Stay Positive and Focus on Your Circle
by Donagh Mc Keown
Published July 15th, 2016
“The world is heading to hell in a handcart” Every other posting on social media would lead you to think it was going that way. Postings linking to videos of a man’s death, opinion postings on mass shootings in a Texas city, doom and gloom around every corner. Analysis of past wars (Chilcott) email destruction, and much much more. As human beings with compassion and consideration for our fellow humans, we are easily sucked into expressing those opinions, multiplying the negative energy and enmity aroused by such sharing.
I think once, twice, nay twenty times before saying anything about such incidents. Of course, as a caring human being, I wish well for my fellow man and woman. I am, however, careful not to act as a catalyst to increase anxiety or pain, particularly by sharing video of horrific events. The need to see someone’s final moment of life or to share in someone else’s nightmare is one I most definitely can live without.
Respect the dignity of a life lost, and of those involved in the activity that caused it. To watch it may be a personal choice. I leave that up to you. I believe it degrades me as a human being to watch it. I also know, from bitter experience and mental health circumstances, that it affects my long and short term sense of wellbeing. To me it serves no purpose other than demean, desensitize and demoralize the human spirit. The act itself is no less horrific. I know that reporting of such instances is necessary, so that we are aware. A free press is vitally important. I believe that it should not be so invasive and graphic.
On a second point, let’s not get caught up in the vehicle of sensationalism and scaremongering that is mass media. Yes, atrocities are happening in this world, some closer to us than to others. Let us just consider how good things are for us in the immediate center of our lives. Despite shootings, from whatever sources they come from, most of us are living in a free from violence, healthy environment. We are able to walk our streets, share a coffee and a smile with our neighbour. Yes, there are many in our wider society who don’t have just the same sense of freedom. I don’t ask anyone to forget that either. I just ask that we start to realize much of what we have to be grateful for in our immediate circle. This attitude of gratitude keeps me grounded, rather than falling into a state of melancholy or fear. It won’t immediately solve the problems of those more closely linked to violence and confrontation. Neither will, may I suggest, the sharing of graphic pictures of violence. Be aware and be vigilant, for sure. My choice is not to get caught up in the vitriol of violence, the sharing of such acts, for whatever purpose. Maybe it’s because I’m a hippy, whose just moved to his spiritual home in San Francisco. I don’t think so. I was a supporter of non violence all of my life, in a society where it was take one side or the other.
Smile at the next face you meet, say hello to all who cross your path. Build trust in your own circle. It’s the only place you have any real influence in. Use it wisely.
Message from Philip Grant
Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States
Published June 24th, 2016
Ireland advocated that the European Union is better with the United Kingdom as a full-member and that the United Kingdom is stronger inside the European Union.
Regrettably this was not the outcome of the vote – but the people spoke and we fully respect their decision.
There will be no immediate change to the free flow of people, goods and services between our islands.
Ireland is fully prepared to meet the many challenges that will arise. The Irish Government has published a summary of the key actions it will now take to address the issues arising from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, available at this link: http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Releases/Government_Brexit_Contingency_Plans_announced.html.
These will be difficult challenges. The decision by the United Kingdom raises many concerns for Ireland and for our communities around the globe, especially in Britain. The answers to many of these issues are likely to be complex. Examples of some of these and their implications have been detailed by the Irish Government at http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/EU-UK/FAQs/. Many are relevant to the Irish-born community in the US and Americans of Irish heritage especially to ensure that stability and progress in Northern Ireland is maintained.
Our primary objective going forward must be to protect and advance our interests and also those of the people of Northern Ireland and the special set of relationships that connect the people of Ireland and the people of Great Britain.
Ireland will remain a member of the European Union and of the Eurozone. That is in our national interest. After more than 40 years of membership, we have built up strong bonds of partnership with all the other member states, and with the European institutions, that will continue to serve us well. It’s important to remember the enormous achievements of the Union. For all its flaws, the EU remains the best structure for advancing prosperity, promoting peace and confronting the many and complex problems of today’s globalized world.
There will be a discussion of the next steps at the meeting of the European Council next week. The Taoiseach will set out our position and ensure that our national interests are respected as we prepare to enter the next phase of negotiations. These negotiations will not commence for some months yet and will take a considerable amount of time to complete. Until that time the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union and will continue to be so until those negotiations have concluded.
While Ireland’s future lies within the European Union, we will work to maintain our excellent bilateral relationship with the UK and continue to work closely with the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive as co-guarantors of the peace process.
We welcome the backing of the US Government as expressed by President Obama and especially Vice President Biden, who has been visiting Ireland this week. We are especially grateful to have support and goodwill of our community and friends here in the United States. These bonds of kinship will be of great as
sistance in helping to meet the difficult challenges ahead.
Editorial: The Future Possibilities for Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland
by Anthony Becker and Cecilia Fabos-Becker
Published June 26th, 2016
Last Thursday in the UK “Brexit” referendum, 62% of Scottish voters voted to remain in the EU. Since the majority of the UK, primarily those in England and Wales voted to leave the EU, the only way Scotland can maintain its membership in the EU two years from now will be as an Independent nation. Although the result of the last Scottish Independence Referendum, was, narrowly, to remain in the UK, that vote was contingent upon Scotland retaining EU membership. It seems clear that there will be another referendum, either later this year or next, and that is where the Government of Scotland is leading the Scottish nation.
57.5% of Northern Ireland’s voters also voted to remain in the EU in the UK “Brexit” referendum. If ‘Norn Iron’ wants to remain in the EU, it has two choices. It can either join the Republic of Ireland, (Eire), as they are a full member of the EU, or it can join Scotland, which, like Northern Ireland, is currently a member of the UK and in two years must leave to maintain its EU membership.
Independent Celtic Nations
One way or another, it seems very likely that there may be two newly independent Celtic nations. The remaining question is; How shall they be governed and what should their relationships with one another be? We suggest that the answer should be to emphasize and recognize what these Celtic nations have in common, form a working Celtic alliance, and work as closely together as possible in these areas.
Only larger nations and blocs have the most influence in the EU and in world trade agreements. Only larger nations or blocs have the best ability to maintain themselves in varied circumstances.
If it is to be ensured of being regarded as a completely independent nation for EU status, Scotland cannot be a ‘dominion’ of The Crown. Scots cannot to sing “God Save the Queen”, acknowledging fealty to the UK monarch of a non-member nation, and be credible as a member of the EU. Nor should Scotland restore any monarchy. It should build on the more democratic principles, established by its history of clans and its independent Presbyterian Church centuries ago. Scotland should elect its own Leaders, etc., and if it decides upon a two-house Parliament, make the upper house either Scottish notable, honored citizens (clan chiefs!) or a form of Senate representing larger districts than those of the House or Commons.
It’s time to fulfill the empty promises of ‘one man-one vote, representation‘ of too many UK prime ministers, monarchs and political party leaders in England, and make it happen in a free and independent Scotland and all of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. End ethnically based classism. Both these newly independent Celtic nations must do something that remains undone in the UK to this day: guarantee all citizens equal enfranchisement by the principal of one man, one vote. All districts of the house or houses based on population must be the same size and their representatives represent the same number of legal residents and voting citizens.
Taxation without representation was a primary reason for revolution among the Scottish/Scots-Irish/Irish-descended Americans and has to this day been an issue and very real grievance for many parts of the UK. Residents pay taxes and need services also. They should have representation even without yet having a right to vote as full citizens. Children can earn or inherit income and pay taxes, and certainly need services and we do not deny them, so neither should legal residents be denied.
The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was written and adopted by the descendants of Scots, Scots-Irish and Irish emigrants, both Protestant and Catholic who had become more than fed up with religious strife in these very countries. Beginning 400 years ago, religious intolerance, often tied to one monarch or another, tore their countries apart and caused the terrible deaths of millions. This horror continued for more than two centuries! Recognizing that, only 20 years ago, related intolerance was rampant on the Irish island, and is still tearing the U.S. apart where some religious zealots would still have human and civil rights limited or denied and laws otherwise made on the basis of religious beliefs, it is imperative that all three nations guarantee complete freedom of religion with NO discrimination, nor denial of equal civil or economic rights based on religion. Religion should never again be allowed to be a part of state government. We suggest a Constitution in a united Ireland and independent Scotland, rigorously enforced, guaranteeing freedom of religion and stating that the government shall neither prohibit a religion, nor make it part of government laws and rules.
We suggest adding a couple of more things to both Constitutions to avoid oligarchies, filled with non-citizens, gaining control over citizens, (as the U.S. has done): declare that corporations are not ‘persons’, shall have no rights to make political donations, and if they state themselves to be “global,” have no private lobbying rights, and all records of their meetings with government officials shall be made public. The same must be true for any international churches or unions. Only individual, adult, human beings who are citizens should have the right to make political donations. Also, to avoid the idiotic partisan gridlock that has increasingly rendered the U.S. Congress impotent and threatens to cause yet another Civil War in the U.S., when our refusal to enforce keeping religion out of government doesn’t, require that once a person is elected or appointed to any public office, in which he or she must serve all citizens and legal residents equally, they must resign any political party membership.
Celtic Co-operation Blocs
A strong, united front when dealing with the EU, any large Asian nation, and/or the U.S. is also imperative. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the bigger and more powerful a nation, or pact of nations, the more likely smaller ones will be exploited and/or abused. It can be much worse than merely unfair trade deals. A new independent Scotland should form a tight alliance with all of Ireland and they must agree to support, assist and defend one another, and to not war on the remaining UK. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries the opposite was done, and this lack of fair dealing directly led to devastating multi-area conflicts. Learn from and don’t repeat this part of the past. Additionally, the minimum wage, quantities and amounts of services must be very nearly the same for Scotland and Ireland and use the Euro monetary unit, as close as it is to the Canadian and U.S. dollars. Environmental standards must be nearly the same and equally well enforced, and likewise education standards.
These newly Independent nations must avoid being treated as the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles were just after World War I. This advice proceeds from the lessons of hard experiences, and ultimately successes, of the nations of the Visegrad Group. These small, weak, divided nations of Central and East Europe found only by doing these things could they end the constant efforts of large nations of Western Europe, and Russia to divide and conquer/exploit them. In the first years after World War I, after their borders were seriously re-arranged to suit these same larger powers, those larger powers deliberately sowed division and competition for the advantage of the larger powers. The larger powers had the weak, divided nations of Central and East Europe constantly fighting for the bottom in wages, standards etc. just to have any investment money, loans, jobs and industries, and at the same time competing to pay the highest prices for the most and best imported manufactured goods for their own peoples from these larger nations who jealously guarded and promoted their own manufacturing industries. The Germans, French and the UK, as well as the Russians and Italians haven’t changed the ‘dark side’ of human nature of their leadership that much in only one century, and would be only too happy to take unfair advantage of the several small Celtic nations, as they have other small European nations.
There is strength in numbers, and we suggest a unity of some sort, such as a Celtic-Atlantic Trade Association (CATA) Pact, or to honor their shared history, they could call it the Dalriada Pact. Negotiate with Europe and the U.S. on the strength of 12 million people in tight agreement with, and who mutually support one another, not several small competing smaller nations of only 6 million people each. It was by sticking together as a pact of over 25 million people in the three nations of Visegrad Group as they entered the EU together under the same terms and benefits, and likewise NATO. (Editor’s note: Cecilia was involved in these negotiations).
We suggest that both Scotland and Ireland also become members of NATO, and as nearest neighbors, cooperate with one another as well as the other NATO members. Neither of these Celtic nations would like to contend with Russians on the issues of who owns or has exclusive rights to what in the Arctic, on your own, any more than, after a series of events in the 19th and 20th century, any of the Visegrad Group of nations wanted to deal with Russia on their own ever again. Polar bears don’t change their colors any more than leopards change their spots.
The Celtic countries should learn from their histories, as well as the mistakes and successes of their cousins in North America, Australia and New Zealand to build their great futures. Who knows–maybe they will someday inspire the U.S.A. to regain it’s sanity and unity!
Editorial: Antecedents of the American Revolution
Published June 17th, 2016
by Tony Becker and Cecilia Fábos-Becker
New Primary Sources on www.AmeriCeltic.net
Recently, we’ve seen ugly and violent acts of religious extremists in Africa, West Asia, Europe and now here in the U.S. Politicians here in the U.S. as well as Europe are now clamoring to put all the adherents of some religions or some sects on terrorist watch lists, or make them wear identifying badges to show what they are at a glance, or to ban them from entering the U.S., and other extreme acts of government.
On the scale of human history, the events of 1689-90 are recent. Human nature does not change across even millennia, and we are in danger of resurrecting a past that most of our ancestors fled when they came to this nation. For proof, just take a good look at the related documents and sources we found in the last few months.
As AmeriCeltic researches family history we look for primary source documents with the names of heads of families, and precisely where in Ireland they lived. Ongoing research has just made available another set of primary source reference documents, the Intro, Extracts of Walter Harris 1749 Book & List of Attainted Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. The ‘Act of Attainder‘ was created by an extremist Parliament hastily appointed by the fanatic, the Earl of Tyrconnell, who had been given the task by the deposed King James II. This item will be of interest to family history researchers of Scots-Irish, Anglo-Irish and Irish families, students of the antecedents of the American Revolution.
In view of these current events, it is also timely for readers of this newsletter.
When we discuss 17th Century Irish history, we often hear only of the atrocities of the fanatical Protestant Cromwell and his ilk, but with their “Act of Attainder” the transient Parliament of 1689 dispossessed and imprisoned tens of thousands of people, both Protestants, and Catholics. They revoked prior Acts accepted by the majority of Irish who held power in Ireland, made under the preceding kings who were the parents and siblings of James II. It undid 150 years of history that began with rebellions to eject both English and Norman Anglo-Irish, who were both Protestant and Catholic, but seen as foreign invaders and occupiers, and owing allegiance to a now Protestant English crown. Many of these attained families, ordered to be either killed or ejected from Ireland, had been there since the 12th century!
It has often been said that ‘those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.’ When presented with the Act of Attainder by these fanatic Catholics in Ireland, James read it found it exceeded even his own wishes. James II himself responded, ‘do you really want to engage in 1641 all over again?‘ 1641 was the year in which some Irish Catholic lords had led a rebellion against persons who were either non-Irish and/or non-Catholic, that went out of control and slaughtered several tens of thousands of Protestants, including Scots, as well as some Catholics who were of mixed heritage, both of whom the leaders had not wanted harmed. 1641 had led to Protestant reprisals, civil war, and then Cromwell who, under the Authority of the English parliament which had executed James’ father, King Charles I, engaged in the complete devastation of nearly 2/3 of Ireland–Protestant and Catholic lands and families alike. Again, with the blessing of Parliament, Cromwell enacted the first harsh penalties toward Catholics as the general instigators of all that followed, which were only partly rescinded by Charles II.
Today’s Irish politicians often acknowledge the value of Parlimentary government introduced by the English. In contrast, these rebel 16th and 17th Century Irish earls and lords had no accountability to anyone. They lived and acted by no Parliament, not even the minimal ones of England and Scotland, but only by their own interpretation of religion, and were willing to form military alliances with fanatical Catholic governments, such as Inquisition era Spain, which was literally ruled by persons whom their own peers in Europe called MAD.
At least twice, these unaccountable, rebellious earls, (one of whom was of Norman descent and whose direct ancestor owed feudal allegiance to Henry II of England), invited the king of Spain to rule Ireland! They did this without consulting parts of their own families, much less any ordinary people of Ireland. To use modern parlance, England, ‘freaked out’, as England had just endured the horrendous English Civil War and massacres of Protestants under “Bloody Mary,” and just prior, had fought off the Spanish Armada.
The punishments for these rebellions were harsh, but actually less so than the previous 150 years of religious wars throughout Europe over which sect of Christianity was to be the official state religion of various independent, duchies, principalities, kingdoms and empires. The historical fact is that all the unaccountable, autocratic kings, and lords wanted to make their chosen religion, whatever sect of Christianity that was, the religion of entire countries and use that religion to bolster their repressive governance, including governing all thought, spoken and written expression, and behavior, right down to how people were to dress, speak to one another and to government officials, what rights they had in particular social and governmental orders, how churches were to be decorated or not, how Bibles were to be written and interpreted and much more.
Suffice to say, by the late 17th Century, in the minds of both Irish Protestants and Catholics it was time to ‘move on’ and over the next two centuries more than a third of all Catholics and Protestants in Ireland emigrated abroad, mostly to what became the United States.
We seem to be sliding toward revisiting those horrendous experiences upon one another in our own lives, and unluckily, the option to ‘move on’ as our Celtic ancestors did, no longer exists. Luckily, the children of our mass-homicidal ancestors, and those who were attempting to flee from them, had the sense to enact a Constitution that governed an elected Congress and an amendment that separated Church and State. It’s time to remember that, and why they did so. Since independence, even Ireland itself has separated Church and State and more recently has increased the distance.
We hope it will be useful then to review some of the very experiences of our own Protestant and Catholic ancestors at a time when religion was combined with state and each side was willing to deny rights, even massacre the other.
Women’s Civil Rights in Celtic Societies
Published June, 2015
by Cecilia Fábos-Becker
By blood we are mostly a Celtic nation, with a long, rich history of Celtic culture in attitude and law regarding human and civil rights. If more people knew what that history was, they’d be appalled at the attitudes, behaviors, deals and stated goals of most of candidates for high elected office in the U.S., particularly as they regard women, the elderly, the truly skilled and educated, and living children. This article reviews the status and rights of Celtic women, a somewhat sensitive subject, but real Celts will appreciate it as part of their cultural heritage.’Bay Area author, Catherine Duggan, recently published a book, The Lost Laws of Ireland (2013, Glasnevin Publishing, Dublin, Ireland).
This book reveals the status, rights and obligations of Celtic women as described in Brehon and other pre-Roman and pre-English law. There are additional references to pre-Roman and pre-English laws in a number of Scottish history books and commentaries by the Romans and English about the Scots, particularly between the 3rd and 10th centuries.’The difference in status of women is startling. Compared to Brehon law and the Christian Church of Saint Patrick, Aidan and Columba, the Romanized Christian Church and related laws and cultures considered women mere property. It did not matter what was the status of their parents, what their parents contributed to the marriage, nor their education and skills. They could not own property, could not own labor, livestock, nor pass on anything to their children by choice. This was very different in Celtic societies.’Under Brehon law, women were ordered to be protected by their fathers, husbands and sons. If injured or killed they had an ‘honor price’ based on rank at birth and their own education, skills and integrity. If a woman married a man of equal rank, she continued to own property in her own right after marriage, and could buy and sell property, have separate as well as common earnings. According to her will, upon a woman’s death she could could dispose of property inherited from her own family back to her own family under the care of the ranking male. Property acquired in a woman’s own right, before or after marriage, could be disposed of by her choice and will to whichever sons and daughters she preferred. Primogeniture among males was not the sole rule of inheritance.
Marriage was governed by contract sections of law and also laws against extreme violence. Women could divorce men for violations of the marriage contracts, infidelity, slander and abuse, especially if any physical abuse left a blemish. Polygamy was also legal but the second wife had only half the status and honor price of the first, though her sons might be considered equal for a father’s inheritance, since a father did not have to give everything to his first born son. A man could divorce a wife for having an abortion or for smothering or otherwise killing a child.
Brehon law continued to operate in Ireland until the 1600’s and in Scotland a similar form of law continued until the beginning of the Stuart kings. In fact, according to Patterson’s History of Ayrshire, widows had property rights and other rights up to the time of the Act of Union and later, at least until 1745, and a woman could demand and obtain a divorce. When the Presbyterian Church was formed in the 16th century, councils of elders were quickly agreed upon by the church communities to be elected by both men and women and both men and women could be elders, and religious teachers up to a point.
Scotland was at one time a matriarchy. Its Pictish kingdom was often ruled by a Queen in her own right. Over time, males were crowned, but becoming a king was determined by the mother’s family, that is who your mother was, not the father’s family. Even the Stuart kings ultimately came to the Scottish throne on the basis of the marriage of a daughter of the preceding king who had no sons. Civil strife sometimes occurred because there was no guaranteed preference of birth order among daughters, and outside mercenaries or mediators could be and were brought in by one husband of a daughter or another. This is how the Plantagenet kings of England began making inroads into Scotland began outright invasions at times into both Scotland and Ireland. It was, ideally, a combination of the marriage of a daughter and the honor price–the worth–of her husband that determined the support for the kingship of one husband of a daughter over another. Outsiders were supposed to be left out of the decision. In both Ireland and Scotland, leaders of families or clans was a combination of heredity and election, and likewise kings. However, disagreements could and did lead to violent conflict so it often was a combination of force of arms, as well as wealth, intelligence, and the degree of non-violent popular support that led to a clan or family chief being decided or a king. This was both a strength and weakness of the nations. Enemies could and did profit during civil strife over leaders at the lower and higher levels, especially when someone whose ego outweighed his sense of community invited them into the fray.
Women were also accomplished queens and warriors in their own right in pre-Romanized society. In the 60 CE the Romans battled Boudica (Boadiccea), Queen in her own right of the British Iceni tribe who led an army of 100,000 against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in the then Roman province of Britannia. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth contended and negotiated with Grania O’Malley, who ruled the provice of Connaught in Ireland, where the Brehon law of the native Celts still ruled.
By 1654, the English had finally completed the conquest of Ireland and their oppression began in earnest. These conquerors outlawed the ancient Brehon laws, imposed their English laws (see Penal Laws and Highland Clearances). Within a generation, Celts began emigrating to the North American colonies, and after serveral failed revolts, by 1750 over 1,000,000 Scottish and Irish emigrants had populated the American colonies, especially along the Appalachian Piedmont, where English law did not reach. Scottish and Irish famines of 1837 and 1847 added at least another 1,000,000 Scottish and Irish emigrants to America.
Though these more egalitarian laws and rights were in decline in Scotland and nearly wiped out in Ireland, the memory, and oral and written histories of what once was, continued for a time in the U.S.. The memory was refreshed by a huge new immigration of Scots and Irish who had continued to suffer under the English in the famines and Highland Clearances, and had kept the memory alive the stories of the old ways. In all these cases, the influence and greater control of the exclusively male, feudal, classist society of England was seen as a major cause of loss of rights of women, increased poverty of women and children, as Dickens and Austen described, and one more reason for emigration to America where a new society might be created and some treasured older values revived.
Unfortunagely, the lingering influence of the English usurping Brehon Law lasted for centuries. It wasn’t until the mid to late 19th century that American women finally regained most of the civil-rights that they had 400 to 800 years earlier in Ireland and Scotland.
The battle for womens and human rights continues today, as too many ignorant men still cling to Romanized and pre-modern English traditions. Some still regard as women as little more than “senseless property” and and try to impose these more restricting attitudes, as law, upon a mostly Celtic nation. Like the Romans, they all too willing to use brute force when persuasion by their eloquence fails to convince their victims, and we still have a long way to go to restore justice for the still too prevalent oppression. Real full equality of women, as once existed in pre-Roman times, may still depend upon women being willing to do battle for their equality and rights as Celtic warrior women of yore once were willing and able to do.