A great headline

 It was a great headline for a great story in the Irish Times.
“GAA and Rangers unite to promote Gaelic games.”
The piece was by John Fallon and Paul Cullen.
The piece was breathless in its enthusiasm.
An almost identical piece was in the Indo the same day by Brian MacDonald.
 “The GAA and Glasgow Rangers had joined forces to promote Gaelic games in the Rangers heartlands of the West of Scotland!”
It gushed about the Glasgow club’s army of community workers opening doors for Gaelic games in what had been, heretofore, hostile territory for the Gah.
It seemed a great story that probably the only major football club in Britain who has never fielded a Republic of Ireland international was working with Cumann Lúthchleas Gael.
Surely it would only be a matter of time before Glasgow Rangers were playing Crossmaglen Rangers in a friendly in South Armagh!
There was only one problem.
It wasn’t true.
This journalist spent an interesting day last month unpacking a story that had been run in both the Irish Times and Irish independent on Monday 2nd March 2009.
I called Rangers FC’s PR department and I spoke a very helpful and very young sounding press officer.
He told me that he had been fielding phone calls from “across the water” all morning.
I believed him. He sounded at the end of his tether.
“We don’t have any official link with the Gee Gee Ay!” he pleaded.
I believed him.
He told me the kids had been “treated” to a visit to Ibrox where they had witnessed the Light Blues trounce lowly Hamilton 7-1.
He then kindly sent me the following club statement.
“There is no official link up with the GAA as such but we were delighted to welcome pupils from Glaschu Gaels and Tír Conaill Harps to a recent anti-sectarianism workshop at our Study Support Centre which is based at Ibrox Stadium.
This involved a group of school children from Glasgow and Co. Meat, Eire – primary and secondary school age – coming together for the workshop followed by a tour of the stadium and tickets for the Rangers v Hamilton SPL game on October 25 last year.”
I hadn’t the heart to return the call and point out that Rangers had been away to Hamilton on October 25th.
At that match the racist abuse of young Irish player James McCarthy was so bad that it made it onto Sky news.
Rangers did host Hamilton on December 6th and duly won 7-1.
As I was checking this out Rangers supporters message boards were going into meltdown. This wasn’t a positive development for the Shankhill Loyal.
I called Croker and spoke to Alan Milton in the press office. I told him who I was and that I was calling about the rangers story.
“News to us.” He sniffed.
I told him that the story was in both the Irish Times and the Indo (hence must be true).
“Yeah, that’s where we heard about it.” Another sniff.
I called the GAA president in Britain Bernie Keane.
“I don’t know much about this!”  Bernie joshed.
“You’ll need to speak to John Gormley. He’s yer man!”
I duly called John Gormley-no-not light bulb banning John Gormley, but the ex-president John Gormley of the GAA in Britain.
If it is possible to sound ashen faced on the phone then that’s a fair reflection of John as he was heading from Luton to Glasgow for county board meeting. He had the Times ands the Indo on his lap.
Finally I caught up with John Fallon of the Irish times who was in Castlebar on the fateful night that the marriage of Glasgow Rangers and the GAA was announced.
A 25-year veteran of the quote unquote business Fallon confirmed the story. He had checked the quotes after the AGM with Gormley. The Irish Times man and me then quickly shared “source remorse” experiences.
I left this story with John Gormley getting back to me to confirm what he had been told by a GAA administrator in Scotland.
I’m still waiting.
It was a great headline though…………….

Admiration in Omagh

Recently I had cause to travel to Omagh on consecutive nights. My daughter Aislinn was on stage at the Omagh arts centre in the Lyric theatre’s production of Brian Friel’s play  “the Home Place.” 

My little one was, of course, brilliant in the part of little Maisie McLaughlin.

It was-at the tender age of 12-her first professional role.  Despite working alongside luminaries like Ian McIlhinney and Aislin McGuckin my princess wasn’t out of place.

There are no thespians in either familial line. The kid, however, seems “to have it”. 

As every parent has to, by dint of having issue, part of the parental contract is that you have to sit thru your kids play and clap wildly at the end.

Most children shouldn’t be near any of the performing arts and schoolteachers aren’t cut out to put on theatre productions or concerts.

Sitting in the wings over those two nights I was able to look at the work fine actors speaking the words of a master dramatist.

After my Aislinn’s final performance I chatted briefly with Stuart Graham who played Con Doherty the local Fenian leader.

Anyone who has seen the film “Hunger” will have seen Stuart play the role of the prison officer who, on a daily basis, batters Blanketmen for a paycheque.

I told him that I had watched the film in the Irish Film Centre in the company of people who much better than me knew what it was to be a resident of the H-Blocks. They were of the opinion that Mr. Graham got the character perfect.

I passed that on.

It is fair to say that he left the interaction mildly delighted.

Unlike the stage there is no immediate feedback for a film actor. Moreover the film performer has no idea what will be changed in the editing suite.

An enthusiastic audience cheered the cast of “the Home Place” to the rafters.

A film actor has no such immediate feedback after “cut”.


Many of Con Doherty’s fraternity ended up in English dungeons. Like Bobby Sands they refused to accept their criminality.

Neither the Fenians in the 19th century nor the Blanketmen of Long Kesh accepted that they were behaving in a criminal fashion.

I suspect that the verdict of history will be more important than the verdict of a judge without a jury.

The play had toured the four corners of the island and had ended the production in Brian Friel’s home place-Omagh.

The play is set in a big house of the British Raj in Ireland when Britain was actually was “Great”.

The play deals with the concept of home-the dual identity of the Anglo Irish.

Where is, for the lordly Gore family, is home?

They have been in the big house for 400 years, but have never married out into the “mere Irish”.

Set in the time of the Land War Friel also deals with the scientific racism of the Victorians towards the conquered people of the empire.

An excellent review of first production of the play in 2005 can be found here.




On the first night we were unsure of how to get to the arts centre in Omagh and having negotiated the one way system several times we spotted a small sign pointing a walk thru to the centre.

I pulled into the side and parked. As I got out I looked up the street to the imposing building that makes the T-junction. It was then I realised that I had seen this vista before.

I had to be very close to where the Omagh car bomb had been left ticking more than ten years ago.

As we made out way to the centre I pulled my little one into my side-it was an instinctive act of protection.

“Who in their right mind” I thought “ would leave a car bomb here?”

The answer is, of course, no one.

One the way back on the Strabane road, just at the Newtown Stewart slip road two friendly PSNI officers were waving people through a roadblock.

The following night-at exactly the same spot-at around the same time they were there again.

I wondered if the battle hardened RUC would have committed such an error?

One both nights, despite being waved on, I stopped briefly and wished them well.

I fear they may need it.

The funeral of Stephen Paul Carroll, the police officer killed in Craigavon had yet to take place, as I drove back to Letterkenny thru the darkness.

Expelling Britain from this last corner of Ireland wasn’t worth his death.

It is certainly worth no more.

Let him be the last.

Britain is, of course, no longer “Great” no longer a world power. Even in the deluded worlds of the Daily Mail reading golf club chap in Surrey is Britain a major player on the world stage.

The historical period of “the Home Place” saw British troops take part in the first Afghan war.

They didn’t win that one either.

However Britain was then the world’s biggest economy and the planet’s only superpower.

Times change.

History takes a long time the colonial system that put the Gore family in the big house is now gone and gone forever. The backwash of Britain’s empire is still, of course, felt in the North.  Empires are messy things. They are constructed in a haphazard, violent fashion and they are de-constructed in much the same way.

The current situation in the North between native and settler is a messy squabble, but it is better than what has went before.

The concept of “home” and a sense of belonging is still a focus for conflict on this island. The work of the men and women of 1916 remains unfinished.

However, those two nights in Omagh allowed me time to consider that the final push to achieve Connolly’s Republic has no further need of a man like Con Doherty.










Celtic Underground Podcast

The following audio file is a Podcast Interview Phil done with Celtic Underground on 26th February.


Here is Celtic Underground’s introduction to the piece;

“A slight change in format this week in that we completely ignore the previous week’s game. Having endured it once was probably more than enough for you. It certain was for us. Instead this week Eddie Pearson is joined by Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, the noted Irish journalist who has worked tirelessly to shine a spotlight on the Famine Song and those that continue to sing it. We discuss Phil’s efforts to date, the reaction to the song in Ireland, Scotland and Europe. We look at the reaction from the Scottish Press to this song and we speculate about what will be required before we can consign this song to the dustbin of history. We also hear a cracking story about Jimmy Johnstone. Phil’s website can be found at www.philmacgiollabhain.com

The Unreal IRA

I have deliberately held back this blog until my anger subsided to the point that I could focus on what was important and relevant.

I had originally written a blog in response to the killings in Antrim.

Then two good young men lay dead.

Then came Craigavon.

Now three good men are dead who should be alive.

The people who planned and executed these operations clearly have a high degree of technical proficiency.

The security forces on both sides of the border are, as these words blink to life, hunting for them

I know where they reside.

I know where they are hiding.

They are inside a delusional bubble.

They know they are correct. The rest of us on this island are wrong, but they are right, damn right.

Damn them.

On this site there is a piece I wrote for Magill in 2002 after the first decommissioning event.

It is entitled “Ricochets of history.”

In article I detailed my own family’s history in the IRA during the War of Independence.

I remain hugely proud of the struggle that my family took part in.

Like most people in nationalist Ireland I consider cogadh na saoirse to have been just and worthwhile, but that was 1920.

Context is everything. Absolutely everything.

Only those in the hermetically sealed belief system of the nutter cannot see that.

Imperial Britain held my father’s Mayo as part of their first colony.

It was an Ireland where the people starved outside the walls of the big house.

For the most part the native people, where they could, resisted by peaceful means.

It is the county of Ireland that gave a new word to the English language.

The “Boycott”.

However there was, morally and justifiably, a place in the world for physical resistance.

Only the colonialist or the lackey could see it otherwise.

These days representatives, both civic and military, of the British government, attend the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.

It is redolent of the cenotaph of Remembrance Sunday.

The ex-colonial power now pays homage to the insurgents of 1916 at the building where Padraig Pearse read out the Proclamation.

One of the classic processes of anti-separatist insurgency is the “asset to liability shift”.

The rationale is that the territory has been seized by the outside power for some benefit-perhaps raw materials, access to a port etc.

The insurgents, by their asymmetrical warfare, then turn that imperial asset into a colonial money pit and, perhaps, an embarrassment on the world stage.

Only a member of the Flat Earth Society (Marxist Leninist wing) could see Northern Ireland as anything other than a grotesque fiscal liability to the British state.

Among the mandarins of Whitehall the easiest way to get them gnashing their teeth, I am reliably informed by a fellow journalist in London, is to mention the problematic province to them.

Quite frankly the people who run the British state destest the place.


Northern Ireland?

Yeah me neither.

Subsequently, there is nothing that these tiny delusional groups could do that would make Northern Ireland any more of a liability to Britain than it already is.

Finally the idea that nationalists in the North are in 2009 in any way “oppressed” by the local state is laughable.

This is 2009 not 1969.









Groundhog day at Celtic Park.

I was discussing this story with the news editor of the Irish Post this week. As ever when journalist and editor discuss a piece the question from the editor is always “what is the peg?”

I didn’t have to think too much about that one.

I immediately said: “Groundhog day at Celtic Park!”

That was my initial feeling.

It felt like the first few days of September last year when I had reported on the singing, by Rangers fans, of the now infamous “Famine song” at Celtic Park.

Most of you will know that following on from that soccer match in Glasgow.

The “Famine Song” controversy became a matter of inter-governmental communication between the Republic of Ireland and the devolved assembly in Edinburgh.

I thought we had all heard the last of the “Famine Song.”

I was wrong.

Rangers were back at the home of their rivals this month for the first time since August 31st 2008.

This time, just like in August, the  “Famine Song”, the racist anthem that has replaced the Billy Boys as the main signature tune of the Rangers support, was heard by almost everyone in the stadium and by anyone watching the match on television.

The “Famine Song” was heard loud and clear several times throughout the match by almost everyone.

What was not lost on many in the Irish community in Scotland and here in Ireland was the way the story was covered in Scotland.

Ewan Murray writing in the Guardian and Graham Speirs in the Times mentioned the singing of the Famine sing in their match reports.

Match reports in the Scottish papers didn’t have a mention of this behaviour by the Rangers fans at Celtic Park that day.

This is very similar to what happened in the reportage of the last Old Firm match at Celtic Park last august.

There was, however, one important difference from August 31st.

The SPL match delegate Alan Dick made reference to the singing of the “Famine Song”.

In August the SPL match delegate had been ex-Scotland manager Craig Brown. In that match report the “Famine Song” wasn’t mentioned.

Brown himself had been embarrassed some years back when a tabloid newspaper had received a tape recording of a voice message he had left on his girlfriends answering machine. After a Rangers victory over Celtic he had sang the  “Billy Boys”.

Brown stated, in his defence, that he had done this “ as a joke.”

This song is now banned by UEFA.

Many think that, as nature abhors a vacuum, the banning of the “Billy Boys” by UEFA, then by the SPL created the need for a new anthem that articulated the Rangers belief system.

Following on from this recent performance of the “Famine Song” there was a swift reaction from representatives of Glasgow’s Irish community.

The Garngad Irish Heritage Group spokesperson said:

“The sad fact about this on going racist abuse is not the half educated racist morons who sing it, it is the deafening silence from the Scottish establishment, from the SNP Govt. right through to the media whose silence on this serious issue makes them just as guilty as the perpetrators.
 One Scotland, Many Cultures is a popular slogan from this SNP Govt.  It should have in brackets [unless you are of Irish descent].
Scotland’s Shame is not sectarianism, Scotland’s shame is Anti Irish Racism!”

Kieron Brady, Ex-Sunderland and Republic of Ireland international who has worked extensively in the anti-racism field said:

I asked Kieron what action should the SPL take about the singing of TFS by Rangers fans at CP during the recent match at CP?

“When you look at the history of the ‘Famine Song’ and the persistence in airing it and its alternative adaptations for James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady then there have to be some action which gives Rangers an incentive to ensure this anti-Irish racism is removed completely from the song sheet. My own view is that the threat of police action is in many ways futile Vis a Vis to acting as a worthwhile and indefinite deterrent. I think what would be welcome from Rangers FC would be a statement that all who hold anti-Irish attitudes are not welcome at Ibrox Park. Such statements have been issued by various other clubs in light of racist incidents. I would refrain from second guessing any potential SPL sanctions.”

I then asked Kieron about the  “self-policing” that had been announced by Rangers supporters organisation.

“I think such initiatives per se are positive but only if strenuous efforts are made to marginalize and mute those who are motivated by self-interest and intolerance. It would be encouraging if a collective of supporters felt empowered enough to introduce measures, which could rid the support of the racist element. In a similar vein to any club statement, it would be encouraging if such a collective made a statement saying that those with anti-Irish attitudes were no longer welcome within the ranks of the support.”

I put it to Kieron the view that the “Famine Song” was merely a bit of ironic banter?

“The concept of inviting or telling immigrant groups to ‘Go home’ is a mainstay of global racist mantra. Ergo it is erroneous to label it as ‘banter’. The Irish community in Scotland just like the Indian and Pakistani communities for example, have the right to celebrate their culture and heritage and likewise have the right not to be discriminated against. These are fundamental and key cornerstones of equality.”

The fact that the singing of the “Famine Song” had been included in the match delegate’s report made sure that the story did break into the Scottish sports pages on Tuesday after the match on Sunday.

It was also discussed on Radio Scotland.

In this radio broadcast anchored by the BBC’s Richard Gordon the Daily Record journalist Keith Jackson made a defence of those singing the “Famine Song” and, effectively, blamed the Celtic supporters for the fact hat the song was sung that day at Celtic Park. At the start of the match some Celtic supporters had unfurled a banner with the statement at Celtic FC had been “born out of famine and oppression.”

The Daily Record journalist stated:

“I can’t pretend to be outraged or mock some kind of horror at that famine song…the lines that are sung at a football match. To me it has just got silly. People want to point score and to get people into trouble.”

Keith Jackson stated some bemusement at the presence of police officers pointing video cameras.  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that singing the “Famine song” is, in Scotland, illegal.

Keith Jackson maybe unaware of the court case in November at Kilmarnock Sheriff court, where a Rangers supporter was convicted for, yes you guessed it, singing the “Famine Song”.

When I covered MEP Eoin Ryan’s visit to Scotland the week of the Kilmarnock case I met with a senior police officer in charge of Operational Planning for Ibrox and Hampden.  This was a serious no nonsense cop and he was very clear that singing the “Famine Song” in a soccer stadium was illegal.

He even told me the law, the section and the subsection.

Several months on a senior journalist like Keith Jackson is still treating the “Famine Song” issue as political correctness went too far.

I went back to Kieron Brady for his analysis of Keith Jackson’s thought on the “Famine song”

After listening to the BBC podcast the ex-Republic of Ireland international and anti-racism campaigner was trenchant in his criticism of the Daily Record journalist.

“Keith Jackson’s assertion that the banner unveiled by a section of Celtic fans is in some way inviting the Famine Song is fundamentally flawed bordering on the most warped logic. A basic right relating to equality is the right to overtly and openly illustrate a pride in identity allied with the right not to be discriminated against for the same reason. If this logic was applied across the board we would have racism and sectarianism as well as other forms of intolerance not only commonplace in sporting stadia but throughout society. If Tottenham fans of Jewish extraction or of the Jewish faith were to illustrate a pride in their identity would this give carte blanche for supporters of other clubs to engage in anti-Semitism. I very much doubt that the media, Tottenham Hotspur FC or the English FA would tolerate such behaviours.
Additionally his assertion that Scotland has ‘cleaned up its act’ is fantasy. I spoke with a former colleague at Show Racism the Red Card Scotland and am also aware of the thoughts at Kick it Out, with all in unison that the Famine Song and how it has been sustained for almost a year is the worst racism in British football stadia for many many years. When you look at the persistent anti-Irish abuse meted out towards Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy then there is a recognition that Scotland has a unique problem vis a vis anti-Irish racism and what is arguably more shameful is that in relation to the racist abuse of both players, much of it has been engendered by anti-Irish racists in the Scottish media.
Throughout mainland Europe, anti-racist bodies look at England as a positive model regarding eradicating racism from footballing environs. Of course this does not mean that offensive and insensitive expressions have been absented completely. We only have to look at the despicable abuse of Sol Campbell several months ago to witness that on occasions reprehensible expressions can rear their ugly head. Likewise in mainland Europe, particularly in the East of the continent there is much work to be done to ensure that vocal and visual expression is kept within the parameters of football, or at the very least is not based around prejudice.
I would agree with his assertion that there has to be more of an evenhanded approach. That would mean that the Irish community are entitled equality in relation to the right not to be discriminated against. Admittedly this concept may seem foreign to certain elements in Scotland, including some in the Fourth Estate but anti-racism only has credibility when it operates from a platform of Equality and ensures there is no hierarchy, whether that is based around the victimised group or indeed the perpetrator. What this means effectively is that that the Irish community, the Jewish community or the African or Caribbean communities being asked to go home is equally abhorrent and equally racist. Referring to a tragedy such as An Gorta Mor only makes it all the more reprehensible, in the same way as alluding to the Holocaust or Slavery may in particular be offensive to the aforementioned communities. On that note measures have to be introduced to address all forms of anti-Irish racism in the same way it would address other forms of racism, or indeed other forms of intolerance.
On his last point about potential sanctions I would be inclined to agree in that the chances of a points deduction are negligible. This is not only an unwanted sanction in Scotland for clubs but throughout Europe national associations have reservations about such sanctions being imposed.”

Rangers supporters organisations themselves, in as much as they made statements on this re-appearance of the “Famine song” were dismissive of the criticism that the song was a manifestation of anti-Irish racism.

The Rangers Supporters Trust concentrated their response on the author of the match delegates report. They questioned the impartiality    ipso facto, integrity, of Alan Dick.

Rangers Media, another fans group, decided to dismiss the entire episode by looking back into the history of the two Glasgow clubs. 


“The Famine Song-surely something to celebrate?”

Looked at the events at a Celtic Rangers match in April 1909 recounted a Scottish cup replay at Hampden that ended in a riot with 50 police officers injured.

“Now that happened exactly 100 years ago this spring. I think it is fair to say we’ve moved on a fair bit from then. So why is the media reaction to what is reported to have been sung on Sunday so strangely out of kilter with reality. I’ve yet to see the statistics for arrests on Sunday but I’d be astonished if more than 20 were made during the entire match, inside and outside the ground. There certainly wasn’t a riot, despite the poor performance from both teams, I’d hate to see the reaction if there ever was. Some people might have sung a song that doesn’t slander anyone.
Isn’t it great that this is all we’re talking about, look how far we’ve come.”

Rangers supporters of 1909 and 2009 are, of course, products of a radically different society. What they do share is a hatred of the Irish and any expression of Irishness.

This dismissal of the racist “Famine Song” as “no big deal” is identical in content and tone of Keith Jackson’s opinions on the BBC podcast.

When Eoin Ryan MEP visited Scotland in November, as a guest of the Scottish government, the object of that trip was to show the Irish politician the excellent work being done at grassroots level in tackling racism in Scottish football.

I was the only print journalist present that day to cover the event at the Glasgow City chambers.

One of the organisations invited to meet Ryan that day was “Show Racism the Red Card”(SRTRC). Readers of this site will know that SRTRC were petitioned by Irish community organisations in May last year after the “Famine Song” was sung at Celtic Park in April during an SPL match.

Despite conceding in these meetings that the “Famine Song” was racist it took SRTRC until October to state on their website that the “Famine Song” was, in the opinion of SRTRC, “racist”.

This week I tried in vain to any response from the Scottish office of SRTRC.

I finally called the English office of SRTRC and they gave me the mobile phone of one of their Scottish workers Tommy Breslin.

Tommy has surprised to take a call from a journalist. It isn’t his role, but no one else was, so to speak, at home. I explained why I was calling. It was, essentially the same conversation I had had with Tommy in October-remember this is Groundhog Day.

I have never met Tommy, but he seems a very decent sort of man.

He agreed to pass my request for a statement from onto SRTRC Scottish co-ordinator Billy Singh.

Before calling Tommy I had tried to get Billy on his mobile over several days, but his phone seemed to be off.

I had a deadline to make for the Irish Post so in the end I had to go to another organisation that works against racism in soccer for a statement to make the story stronger.

As in October I called the organisation “Kick It Out!”

Groundhog Day. Kick it out don’t seem to suffer from any shyness problems when it comes to dealing with the anti-Irish racism of some Rangers fans.

Danny Lynch a spokesperson for “Kick it out” made this statement to me:

“Recent efforts to eliminate offensive singing and chanting from ‘Old Firm’
games need to be reinforced if the situation does not improve quickly. The
singing by Rangers fans of songs such as ‘The Famine Song’, which invites
second generation Irish people to go back home, are clearly racist.
If the club cannot persuade fans to refrain from singing such offensive
songs, then the SPL will need to take action.”

Why couldn’t SRTRC make such a statement?

When Jason Scotland was racially abused in 2007 by Motherwell fans the response of SRTRC and, indeed, sports journalists in Scotland was swift and appropriate.

Since then Noel Hunt (Dundee United), Aidan McGeady (Celtic) and James McCarthy (Hamilton Academical) have been on the receiving end of anti-Irish racist abuse from opposition fans.

Sadly the organisation that is meant to work against racism in Scottish football seems somewhat compromised when the victim of the racist abuse holds an Irish passport.

The SPL board will consider Alan Dick’s match report at their next meeting in March.

Rangers, who have already received a warning from the SPL for similar behaviour from their fans, could face a fine or a points deduction.

A points deduction by the SPL is unlikely. However, this season action has been taken against clubs in Europe for the behaviour of their fans. Paris St Germain were banned from this season’s French League Cup after unveiling an offensive banner, but were later reinstated on appeal in a civic court.

However, there may still have been some form of sanction i.e fine or a warning.
Botev Plovdiv were deducted points in the Bulgarian top flight this season, again for a banner that was deemed racist.  They also had to play a subsequent game behind closed doors. It is worth noting that this club, like Rangers, has had a recent history of hooligan problems.  Last season Botev Plovdiv were forced to play more than one game behind closed doors because of hooliganism.

This will be a real test for the SPL.

It is time for Lex Gold and his organisation to walk the walk.

If Rangers fans think they can act with impunity then they certainly will.

Just ask the good people of Manchester.











I had thought it better to hold back on this piece until the euphoria of the United States having a bi-racial president had subsided.

Like the revelry through the night every 1st of January.

After a few weeks the New Year looks remarkably like the old one.

Of course Obama is as different is style from Bush 43 as is possible to get.

The problems he has to deal with are the same ones that caused “Dubya” to stare into the headlights.

Obama’s soaring rhetoric will not change a few unpleasant facts.

The USA is bankrupt. It didn’t become a debtor empire overnight, but now the situation is desperate.

If the Chinese stop buying US Treasury Bills then it is difficult to see what the Federal reserve can do other than print more dollars.

The Chinese could, if they so wanted, destroy the dollar overnight.

They own so much of them that they could flood the world market with dollars.

The mighty US military is also suffering from a shortage of the much-vaunted “boots on the ground”.

The Iraq experience has, like the Western front in the Great War did for the British, has taught the Pentagon what they can and cant do to a determined insurgent enemy.

The fighters of the Sunni Triangle battered the US army and Marine Corps of four years with IEDs and suicide attacks.

The answer was to put them on the payroll and withdraw from their neighbourhoods.

The architect of this strategy General Petraeus has stated, “money is ammunition.”

The problem is that the money is running out.

90% of these militias are now off the payroll as of late last year.

Last week four US soldiers were killed by a suicide attack in Mosul. The first US fatalities in Iraq from enemy action in months.

Obama wants to withdraw 16 combat brigades from Iraq. This is an election promise, but it will prove difficult to execute. The possibility of Iraq disaggregating a la Yugoslavia is not so fanciful. Indeed the most realistic plan for Iraq during the mayhem of the 2006/2007 Civil War was the so-called “Biden plan”.

This was a Vance/Owen type approach to a loosely federated Iraq with self-governing ethnic neighbourhoods within a federal Iraq.

Joe Biden is now, of course, US Vice President.

Another election promise of Obama was to “go after” Bin Laden and defeat Al Qaeda. His polemic on “the war on terror” was that going in to Iraq was mistake (no kidding?) and that this had diverted resources and attention form the main event that was Afghanistan.

Now the “Afghanistan surge” has been curtailed.

The USA’s junior partner in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot deliver long term either.

The cost to the UK taxpayer of keeping a brigade size force in Helmand province has been recently re-costed from £2billion to £4 billion.

There is little chance of the British taxpayer paying that cost for the twenty or so years that the Taliban insurgency could last.

In Pakistan the government there has publicly ceded the Swat valley area to the Jihadis. Sharia law is now being imposed on the area.

NATO’s overland supply route into Afghanistan from Pakistan has been repeatedly sabotaged.  The Taliban have won that particular one with the USA bringing in their supplies through Russia.

In the 2006 film “Apocalypto” director Mel Gibson told the tale of a Mesoamerican hunter gatherer tribe who are attacked and enslaved by a raiding party from the Maya civilisation.

Although technologically superior to the forest dwellers the Mayans   have past their zenith and are descending into a moral collapse as their way of life is becoming ecologically unsustainable.

They do not know that their method of building is poisoning the surrounding farmland. In their ignorance they offer more and more human sacrifices to placate the angry sun god.

The film begins with an epigraph from American philosopher Will Durant the:

 “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

When interviewed about the movie the Australian admitted that he was drawing a clear parallel between the Mayans and the Americans.

The “American dream” is a gluttonous unsustainable lifestyle that forces US statecraft to acquire more and more finite resources.  Resources which when expended threaten the climate of the planet.

No rousing rhetoric form Obama will alter the material facts that the power of the US Empire is starting to decline.

It would be healthier for all of us if the new president admitted that their days of being able to do anything they set their mind to is over.

No they can’t.




















Darwin’s Victory

I suppose when an institution has been in some kind of existence since the days of the Roman emperors then they know a thing or two about re-positioning themselves to stay at the top table.

A leading Vatican official declared recently that Darwin’s theory of evolution was compatible with Christian faith, and could even be traced to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. “In fact, what we mean by evolution is the world as created by God,” said Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The Vatican also dealt the final blow to speculation that Pope Benedict XVI might be prepared to endorse the theory of Intelligent Design, whose advocates credit a “higher power” for the complexities of life.

Breathtaking stuff!

In the realm of politics this would be like Margaret Thatcher declaring that she always had a soft spot for Leon Trotsky and the Fourth International.

Or like Ian Paisley declaring that a United Ireland was the only sensible solution to the problems of the people on this small island d.

Terms like “ one eighty” really don’t do this justice.

Perhaps this was the day when feudalism finally threw in the towel.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition……….

They definitely don’t expect it to fold up its tent and go away.

The organization that tortured Galileo and reacted in horror at the publication of “The origin of Species” in 1859 have finally smelled the de-caff.

The Hitler Jugend chap formerly known as Ratzinger was, before his elevation, the head of the modern equivalent of the Inquisition.

I will declare an interest. Darwin has been a hero of mine since boyhood.

On summer holidays in Mayo my little boat jumped from island to island in Clew Bay. It was a  humble oul rowing boat without a name.

I named it “the Beagle”.  I didn’t discover any new species on a boggy Galapagos in Mayo, but the idea of Darwin discovering new species, new ideas captured me as a twelve year old.

I was only born a century after he published, but my world, because of him, was so utterly different from the world that had existed a 100 years before  “Origin” was published.

None of this is ancient history. The mother who fretted on the quayside about her dangerously aquatic son was alive when a science teacher in America stood trial for teaching evolution.

The scientific discoveries after Darwin re-inforced the brilliant insights of his original work about the origins of life on this planet.

The discovery of DNA by Crick and Brown in the 1950s and the ability to isolate and mark DNA in the 1980s has had profound effects on how we consider our species in relation to others.

If you were raised in a Eurocentric Christian household, then you will have been informed that “dumb animals” were created by God, but not in God’s own image. That special place was set aside for us Homo sapiens.

There is, of course, no objective evidence that God made man in his/her/its own image. There is a hillside of evidence from every human culture on the planet — contemporary and historical — that humans have made and remade their deities to suit their own material experience at that time.

As human experience changed, so did our view of the deities that comforted us. Gods and Goddesses soothed our nasty, brutal short lives with the certainty that there was “something else”. To contemplate the reality that this is all there is still too much for most of the planet, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that there is no deity.

Think about our ancestors, huddled round fires without a scintilla of scientific knowledge to explain the terrible plagues and natural disasters that cut short their awful lives. Developing a belief in God made good survival sense. Any survival school worth its salt hammers home to would be castaways the importance of a positive mental attitude. That is any God’s utility function.

There isn’t, of course, “anything else”.

The question “is there life before death?” is, here, very appropriate.

The Religious Right has been an enemy of science since Galileo’s time. As the USA became the dominant force in the world, it was to be expected that the dominant religion of that society would become the main enemy of the scientific project.

The Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 in Tennessee was a show trial that made manifest the ideas of that particular ruling class. Protestant fundamentalism ruled in the Southern States and science was seen as un-Biblical, which it is.

It is, of course, no coincidence that this haven of freethinking provided Big Ian Paisley with his doctorate.

The most pilloried and misunderstood parish in the social sciences at the moment is Evolutionary Psychology. It doesn’t look at what people say they do, or aspire to, but actually what they really do — especially when they think no one is looking.

Having got such reliable data, these scientists then look for comparable patterns in the animal kingdom — especially among our primate relatives. It has continued to uncover that we are much more like animals and animals much more like us than previous generations had been led to believe.

It is not now incontestable that religion was a product of evolution — it has a survival benefit. People who believe in a deity have longer, happier lives than atheists like Derrig. So the practice of religion itself establishes that humans — and the cultures we create — are proof positive of the existence of evolution and our place in it.

What science now knows is that we share 98% — yes 98% — common DNA with the Bonobo, also known as the Pygmy chimp. Scientists who work with these wee people consistently relate that on a one-to-one basis, they are eerily human.

They are highly organised socially, absolutely sex mad they have a wide repertoire of sexual positions. Unlike other primates, they mate face to face — just like we do. They have the “copulatory gaze”, that is they look into each other’s eyes before they go at it.

It is now, because of IVF and what we know of the genome of both species, scientifically feasible to have a crossbreed ‘Humanzee’ just as horses and donkeys are crossbred to produce mules.

In cognitive tests, chimpanzees outstrip human infants for a considerable length of time.

The ‘Chimpanzees’ tea party so loved by the British of yesteryear was actually a piece of ironic theatre. The chimps had to be taught to make a mess at the table. They were well able to figure out how to use cups, plates, etc in an appropriate manner. Chimps who are introduced to human domestic arrangements have no problems in adapting to the foibles of their nearest relatives.

In the 1960s, a female chimp, Washoe, was raised in the USA as a deaf child and was signed to in America Sign Language. The humans around her never used spoken language.

When she communicated with her ‘parents’, Washoe produced sentences akin to that of a two-and-a-half-year-old human child. Primatologists looking anew at our cousins in the wild discerned that a basic sign language was at work.

They also have discovered that chimps express moral outrage if a member of the clan goes back on an agreement. Therefore, they have an understanding of values and ethics and that a deal is a deal.

Science has also proven beyond anyone’s reasonable doubt that the higher primates are self-conscious. They know they are unique. They recognise themselves in mirrors — unlike cats and dogs, who just see a rival and unknowingly square up to their own image. Chimps see themselves.

We are blessed with extra frontal lobes in our brains, a stronger lower back, opposable thumbs and better vocal chords. That is the extra advantage that evolution has given us.

If we are so close to the other primates, what then makes us — in the religious worldview — so different from these other apes? We are surely apes — a product of the same evolution that produced Bonobos, lemurs, tree frogs, cheetahs and antelopes.

So where does the “immortal soul” come in?

As man-made God in his own image, so he changed the rules about the place of animals in the scheme of things once he started to domesticate them. It is no coincidence that hunter-gatherer societies, who live in symbiosis with the beasts of the forest, have a very different worldview of animals than agricultural societies.

Where the lord of the hunt becomes the lord is my shepherd, don’t expect much respect for the dominated domesticates in the field.

There is no objective reason, other than the prejudice laid down by the religious right, that says we are special because God created us.

If there is such a thing as human rights, then there is no reason why those special rights should not be afforded to chimpanzees. That would have serious implications for zoos and the scientific community, whose treatment of our primate siblings, as with other inmates of their labs, is nothing short of scandalous.

The Renaissance in Europe represented the break out of the human mind, the first defeat in Western Europe for religious superstition and the power of the Church over learning.

Once science established a foothold in the affairs of mankind then there was no rolling it back.

We live in a Western Europe that is increasingly secular. God has little place in our discourses. The recent debate about the place of God in the new EU constitution would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. The new Europe’s civic discourse will be closer to Camus than Dana.

Cultures evolve. The religious are tolerated by a secular majority. The next stage in that journey must be to deconstruct any notion that we are anything but a product of evolution. To grant our nearest relatives the same rights that we agree every human on the planet should have just because we are of this species would be of huge symbolic importance.

It would signal the final defeat — in Europe at any rate — for the creation myth as peddled by Christians for millennia. No creation myth means no Creator. No Creator means the dawning of a future that is truly humanist.

If we accept our familial responsibilities to the remaining 30,000 higher primates in the will — and those we keep captive for our entertainment and experimentation — then we can build a worldview that might start us behaving in a way that gives this planet and the rest of its tenants a fighting chance for survival.

Monkey Trial Background

When the anti-evolution Butler Act was passed in Tennessee in March 1925, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) launched a campaign seeking someone to challenge this law that forbade the teaching of evolution in Tennessee’s public schools. George W Rappleyea of Dayton read an ACLU advert and decided that the potential publicity generated by such a challenge would be a good way to attract businesses and industries to his town.

Although John Scopes was never actually sure he taught evolution (he was a high-school coach who had substituted for the biology teacher during the last few weeks of the school year), he volunteered to challenge the law which made it “unlawful for any teacher” in any of the public schools of the state “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals”. Scopes went to trial.

William Jennings Bryan was called in to assist the prosecution, while famed defence lawyer, Clarence Darrow, led the defence. A carnival atmosphere pervaded Dayton as the opening of the trial approached in July of 1925. Banners decorated the streets. Lemonade stands were set up. Chimpanzees, said to have been brought to town to testify for the prosecution, performed in a side show on Main Street. The trial began on 10 July 1925 and lasted several days. A team of scientists and even theologians travelled to Dayton to help the Scopes’ defence (although their testimony was not part of the trial, it is recorded in the transcripts) and to proclaim that evolution was true and that the law should therefore be struck down. The statements of the experts were widely reported by the press, helping Darrow succeed in his efforts to turn the trial into a national biology lesson.

After Darrow questioned Bryan on the witness stand, and before Bryan could do the same to his counterpart, Darrow decided to have Scopes plead guilty in order to avoid being examined by Bryan on the stand. The confrontation between Bryan and Darrow was reported by the press as a defeat for Bryan.

Scopes was fined $100. This conviction was later overturned on a technicality.

The Scopes trial by no means ended the debate over the teaching of evolution, but it did represent a significant setback for the anti-evolution forces. Of the 15 states with anti-evolution legislation pending in 1925, only two states (Arkansas and Mississippi) enacted laws restricting teaching of Darwin’s theory.

Today in the United States the “Intelligent Design” movement has tried to portray the scientific community as being split on the origin of life on this planet.

The Intelligent Design movement’s main arguments have been that of “irreducible complexity.” That life is on earth is so complex that it couldn’t possibly have emerged by chance. One example of this they offer is the design of the human eye. That the rods and cones inside the human eye are so complex that the hand of a creator must be at work.

In fact if an omnipotent omniscient creator was at work then he/she/it didn’t do a very good job in design the human eye. In some respects it is quite inefficient.

Having failed in several test cases in the USA to get Intelligent Design (ID) afforded the same legitimacy as Evolution in schools the supporters of ID had hoped that the current Pope would approve of ID.

He didn’t.

It would be comforting to think that the Vatican tactical white flag on Darwin is the final victory of science over superstition, but it isn’t.

However, it is still worth enjoying the moment.

Science rules Ok.




Normal service will be etc etc

Hello all.

Due to me being in transit to a sunnier clime over the next week or so you may find that your postings may not appear right away.

When I do get to a working terminal I will log on and approve comments.

I am encouraged that,in recent weeks, there has  been an observeable tendency to robustly play the ball rather than the man.


Phil Mac Giolla Bhain


PS: last month saw the site register over 170,000 hits. This is the best month since the site was created in 2006.

Roscommon Child Abuse Case

Ireland has been stunned by the “Roscommon incest case”.

People have been incredulous at the details of the case.

A mother-of-six from County Roscommon was sentenced last week to seven years in prison after being convicted on ten counts of incest, sexual abuse and neglect of her children.

Because the mother was sentenced under 1908 legislation she could only receive a sentence of 7 years.

A man convicted of the same offences could face up to life imprisonment.

Circuit Court Judge Miriam Reynolds said there was room for future legislation to be drawn up to deal with the actions of the woman.

‘Had this being a case of a male person being convicted – a much longer sentence would be allowed under more recently amended legislation. A man convicted of incest can be jailed up to a maximum of a life sentence,’ she said.

The woman’s six children were aged between six and 15 when the offences took place over a six-year period at the family home.

The woman cannot be named for legal reasons.

The court was told yesterday that the six children were not fed properly, suffered from head lice and were beaten and abused on regular occasions.

The Health Service Executive said tonight it had appointed a senior manager to carry out a preliminary review of the circumstances surrounding the case.

The investigation would establish the facts and inform any further decisions, according to a spokeswoman.

‘This review has already commenced and is being carried out by a senior manager from outside the Roscommon area,’ she said.

A Garda who investigated the case has praised the bravery and determination of the six children.

Sergeant John Hynes said great credit was due to every member of the family who brought the offences to the attention of the authorities.

He said the children had been adversely affected by the trauma but were receiving counselling on an on-going basis.

Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney has said the case was probably the most appalling case of abuse that she had ever read.


The reportage of this case has been, as I opened one of incredulity.

I was interviewed on the radio show “The Right Hook” on the day the story broke.

The producers on the show contacted me and asked me to take part on the show because of my journalism on the issue of child protection and the fact that I am an ex-social worker.

When I was making some notes to guide me on this live radio interview the first two words that I jotted down on the pad was

“Groundhog day.”

That is what happens, I thought, when a serious systemic problem that everyone knows about is not tackled.

We get to re-live the same events over and over.

I was interviewed by Ivan Yeats, the former Fine Gael TD on the radio show “the Right Hook”, on the day that the Roscommon case broke.

Ivan opened the interview by stating that he was “shocked and disturbed” about the details of the case.

I told him I didn’t share his shock, because the word “shock” implies surprise.

I was not surprised at the details of the Roscommon case.

The following day in the Irish Independent child protection expert Shane Dunphy asked:

“How could professionals, who testified that they visited the home of this family twice a week — a home reportedly infested by rodents, littered with rubbish and rotting food, where children were only given dinner twice a week (perhaps on the days these social workers called) — miss what was happening right under their noses?”

That is simple Shane social workers are not professionals.

I know this because I was a social worker for over a decade.

Social workers cannot be struck off unlike a medic, a solicitor, a nurse or a teacher.

Social work does not pass any objective test of being a profession.

Out with the state structures social workers have no economic value.

There is no private practice in social work. The idea that a person would seek out a social worker and hire them to avail of their skills is, quite frankly, bizarre.

In the free market social workers have no value because no one would hire them.

Social workers are neither properly trained nor skilled at what they are supposed to do on our behalf.

There is no agreed knowledge base for what social workers do that can be verified as having any validity.

There is no social equivalent of, say, the Glasgow Coma scale the gold standard for all receiving medic s when the patient has a head injury.

What is taught on social work courses is a mishmash of feminist ideology and simplistic leftwing “explanations” of human behaviour.

My own experience as a social work student in Swansea University in 1989, as a practice teacher in Glasgow in 1995 and a social work lecturer in the University of Ulster, for an academic year in 1998, has taught me that social work courses are stuck in a mental universe that ordinary people would not recognise.

Subsequently we have people in posts that cannot fulfil the core function for which the state pays them, protecting children who are at risk.

The Irish government are well aware of these facts. I know. I told them.

I wrote to Minister Barry Andrews last year to relate my experience of the state’s state run child protection services. The letter was a two-page critique of the structural issues and systemic failures at the heart of Health Board run services there was also an implicit offer to help. After waiting two months for a reply I was informed by letter from the minister’s office that my letter would be passed to the HSE and, the minister was sure that, the contents of said letter would be very helpful.

Mary Harney has asked for a full report from the HSE on the Roscommon case.


What does she need to know?

She knows everything she needs to know about the child protection services and has done so for several years. The child protection service in this state is not fit for purpose. Roscommon is no aberration.

The children in the Roscommon case were caught in a perfect storm of incompetence, indolence and ideology.

The kids were being neglected, but no one moved to act decisively to safeguard the children. The “parent” was a female so, in the feminist mindset of social work, was “oppressed” and was therefore deserving of social work sympathy.

As a female she would not be suspected of being a sexual predator. In the social work worldview women cannot be guilty of such crimes, but clearly they can be.

There will be other Roscommon cases. There are, undoubtedly, other children currently enduring agonies and those children are known to the child protection services yet they are not removed.

It is easy to hide behind the constitutional protections of the family or complain about the intervention of pro-family religious groups.

To focus on these issues takes the public’s gaze away from social workers who resist providing a 7/24 service and instead prefer to work office hours for their own convenience.

Like Letterfrack and Goldenbridge everyone knows what the problem is, but nothing has been done heretofore.

Moreover nothing will be done because these children are less important that the interests of these well-paid public servants.

Had the Roscommon case happened in Britain then, at the very least, senior people in the social work system would pay with their jobs.

In the “Baby P” case three people from Haringey council either resigned or were sacked.

Who will resign in Roscommon?  Who will be sacked?

One definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

If anyone in our government is surprised by the Roscommon case then they are not fit for purpose either.