Why feminists are like John McCain

Carol Hunt of the Sunday Independent in Ireland (www.unison.ie) is, I think, rather like John McCain.

It isn’t that she doesn’t care about male suicide.

She does.

It is that she just doesn’t get it.

She mentioned my book “Preventable Death” in a piece on Sunday 7th September 2008.

She spent most of the column fulminating about the cover design.

Now I can no more take the credit for that book cover than I could a Rembrandt.

As our American cousins would say ” he hit it straight out of the park!”

I did say that I wanted the death certificate with cause of death ” feminism” on it. However the rest of the design and how my idea was brought to the cover was all the designers.

The reason I wanted such a mocked up death certificate on the cover of preventable death was that it summed up the central thesis of the book.

Interesting there wasn’t a single relative that I interviewed for the book-female or male-who complained about the book cover.

Feminism is indeed in the dock over the hundreds of our young men every year who die by their own hand.

However so many in public life owe their position to loyalty to that world view that even heaps and heaps of young male bodies every year brings them face-to-face with their very own Lord Denning moment.

To finally come around to the proposition that everything they believed about men, women, society and all of human affairs since their adolescence through university education and o0n into their professional lives-to believe that all of that was wrong.

That all of it was based on a nonsensical ideology.

That is such an appalling vista for them that it is better that these young men continue to die just as the Birmingham Six were sent back to prison in 1988 rather than Lord Denning have to face up to the reality that the entire English criminal justice system fitted up six innocent men simply because they were Irish in 1974.

Male suicide in Ireland, that body count of hundreds of young men every year, is the innocent man quietly incarcerated without a voice.

This is a huge miscarriage of social justice.

It is becoming more difficult for feminists like hunt to remain silent on the male suicide issue.

What we are witnessing in Ireland is an entrenched ideology, in social policy power, fighting for to retain its privileged position.

It isn’t a pretty sight.

Child Protection (except weekends & bank holidays)

Phil was invited to discuss the issue of no out of hours emergency contact for the HSE’s Child Protection ‘services’ which resulted in a 15 year old boy spending the night in a make-shift bed in Garda station as the emergency numbers provided were not covered at the weekend.

Listen to Audio FileYou can listen to the audio file of an interview from the George Hook show, The Right Hook, by Kevin Myers.

This was broadcast live in August 2008 and has been kindly provided by Newstalk Radio.

The audio file is an MP3 file and clicking on the link will open it in your default media player.

The Scots have a word for it

The Scots have a word for appallingly dismal weather – well they would have to by now wouldn’t they?


Feel the quality of that word dripping down the back of your neck and it incrementally racks up the misery index.


It was indeed a dreech day last week when I travelled with my son from the East End of Glasgow, where I was visiting my mother, to travel to the country’s capital.

When I was my son’s age in the 1970s Edinburgh wasn’t really the capital of anything.

Today it feels like a capital city. In a cautious canny way Auld Reekie is edging towards being a power centre. When we alighted from the fast commuter train at Edinburgh Waverley the deluge was such that even the street performers of the Edinburgh Fringe were absent.

I have, like most Glaswegians, a basic understanding of Edinburgh’s street layout. I was told that the destination I was heading to was at the bottom of the Royal Mile.

Even in a dreech day it is an impressively venerable thoroughfare. The facade is late medieval and is the urban ravine that would have been thronged with the Highland rabble that had Britain in crisis in 1745.Today the tartans that were banned after that failed rebellion are on sale everywhere.

We had trudged and splashed a remarkably short distance when I thought we might be at the destination. The building we were going to was an animal of report. I asked the lady at a bus shelter -a “wee wifey” from central casting-where the Scottish parliament building was? She dismissively gestured straight in front of her.

We had arrived. The story of Scotland’s first tentative steps towards self-government three hundred years after being annexed into the Westminster state started with this controversial and hugely expensive building.

Our guide for the day was the Herald’s Chief Scottish political correspondent Robbie Dinwoodie. Robbie and I had first met when he was covering the SNP’s unorthodox campaign in the 1987 general election in Glasgow Shettleston. We have been friends ever since.

After passing through the airport style security scanner we were finally inside the much criticised, much over budget parliament building.

I claim no special insights into architecture or what buildings “mean2 or what a pile of concrete, wood and glass can “say”. I just know that the building is, to my untrained eye, Impressive, innovatiebve and human friendly.

Robbie was the ideal guide with his backstage pass and the political nouse to know what to show my son and I and where to take us.

The debating chamber itself send a message of openness and modernity. There is a fully staffed crèche for MSP’s all staff and even day visitors to the building. This is not the gentleman’s club on the Thames.

The MSP’s offices are, like the rest of the building innovative and different. I was especially taken with the “think pod”. The leather chair built into the back wall of the MSP’s office. The architect senor Morales thought that the most important task of a public representative was to be able to think. The electorate makes the choice, but he created the space.

While we were on the top floor among the SNP offices we met with professor Chris Harvie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Harvie

Professor Harvie MSP is the author of the seminal No Gods and Precious Few Heroes: Twentieth-century Scotland, Blackwell (3rd Edition), 1998.

Our chat was illuminating especially in the light of the Glasgow East by-lection and the journey that had been embarked upon in that constituency from Labour stronghold to SNP gain. Chris harvie would puncture anyone’s preconception’s about Scottish nationalism. Chris is an eminent historian and would be the first to admit that history makes fools out of all of us.

However, as I went back into the deluge across from the British Queen’s official; Scottish residence I would not wager that one of these garden parties in Holyrood she, or her floppy eared son, will be the monarch of an independent Scotland.

It was a thought that made a dreech day in Edinburgh enjoyable.


The Provisional SNP comes of age.


21 years ago I trudged the mean streets of Glasgow’s East End proffering a message hardly anyone there wanted to hear.  I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness nor was I selling insurance, although I might as well have been.

I knocked on every door in tenement buildings. I walked up flight after flight of rubbish-strewn stairs in high flats where the lifts could not be relied upon. The stairs had an ingrained smell of urine that was the perfume of poverty, of hopelessness.

It was, as now, one of the poorest parts of Western Europe.

To outsiders it would have been a daunting task to walk these streets by day, let alone night. It did not occur to me, as this was my patch, my hometown.

Familiarity breeds a sense of security in a situation that would terrify anyone who wasn’t local either spatially or socially.

The chances of bumping into a cousin on these streets, or an old school friend were quite high. Despite the fact that I was advocating for the enemy, in carrying SNP leaflets, I had a sort of tribal diplomatic immunity.

Middle class people from Glasgow (yes they do exist) wouldn’t have set foot in these areas unless they were required to do so by their profession.

I was far away in Donegal the ancestral homeland of most of the East End Irish when I watched the British labour party come tumbling down in my hometown. The Labour party had held the Westminster seat in the East end of Glasgow since 1922. In those days it was the ILP (Independent labour Party) when Glasgow Shettleston returned John Wheatley to Westminster.

John Wheatley was, like the famous soccer club that grew out of the area, Irish.

The catholic Irish of the East End flocked to Labour they way they flocked to Celtic park on a Saturday and to mass on a Sunday. If you do not understand the narrative of the Glasgow Irish diaspora on the Clyde you will not understand Celtic football and for sure you will not understand the Fort Knox quality of the Labour Party’s vote in the area over generations.

Although Labour left John Wheatley behind the people of the East End, his people, stayed with Labour.

It was, like the Catholic Church and Celtic FC a badge of identity. Any canvasser from another party   knocking on any door in my parish would be told firmly “we’re labour in here!”

The concept that people made up their own minds on how to use their vote after sifting the various policy packages on offer from the competing candidates was, quite frankly, bizarre.

We were; indeed, labour in my household and in all the households of the neighbourhood.

Last week that inheritance of history was finally spent. Labour’s political cheque finally bounced. For generations labour votes were weighed in the East End of Glasgow not counted.

This time the party managers called for a re-count. It actually increased the SNP majority.

Over the last six months I have visited the constituency more than I had in the previous six years due to the illness of my mother who still lives in her native Baillieston.

Up until then she would visit her grandchildren here in Donegal.

The hometown looked much the same, but there were subtle changes.

People said they would opt for independence if they got an option.

I had been last in the area in the mid 1980s. I had arrived back in Baillieston because of the illness of my maternal grandfather. While I was there I looked around at the crushing effects of the Thatcher economic experiment and I was roused to become politically involved. Despite having a politics degree becoming a political activist was something I said to myself that I would never do. Politics fascinated me. My father’s family had been “out” in 1916, had run Sinn Fein in Mayo and were founder members of Fianna Fail. My mother’s father was a life-long trade unionists and a devotee of the secular faith of class-consciousness as well as a dutiful member of the Catholic Church.

He was fashioned in John Wheatley’s image. He had been born in 1904 a few miles to the east in another mining village. Both his parents were Irish from County Carlow.

Poor as church mice they had struggled through real poverty and institutional discrimination in Protestant Scotland to rear their relatively small family of five children.

All of his life he voted Labour and voting anything else would have been like him denying everything he was, everything he believed in.

People do not do that easily.

Maybe it was easier that he had passed away when I decided to become a member of the local branch of the Scottish National Party.

This was apostasy in my tribe.

I argued that it should not be viewed as such.

How could a community, which advocated Irish national self-determination, oppose national freedom for the country they lived in?

The local labour party startled by this development from within their bedrock constituency dubbed this new happening “The Provisional SNP.” This attracted the interest of the media and the Scotsman newspaper sent their seasoned political reporter Robbie Dinwoodie to cover the story. We’ve been friends ever since. Our little rebellion had an excellent front man.

John MacVicar, a rugby playing schoolteacher from the Scottish Borders saw the Labour hierarchy in Glasgow clearly through a nationalist prism. Moreover he accepted my analysis that the Catholic Irish bedrock of the Labour vote was their jugular. In a street fight that is a good place to start.

The SNP hierarchy were horrified.

We dubbed them (well I dubbed them) SNP = So Nice Party!

We saw ourselves in a street brawl with a bully who had never been challenged on their own turf before.

In the end the SNP Provos of the East End didn’t unseat labour (although we did get the best vote in Glasgow).

What we did do, I’m sure, is to plant a seed from within the East End Irish Catholic community that Scottish independence was good for them also.

Large cultural changes after often only visible a generation or so later. It is now culturally acceptable to be an East End “Tim” and vote for the SNP and advocate Scottish independence. It should always have been the case, but better late…

21 years on I’m proud of the place I come from.

Terminal Decline

     The cautionary tale of post Blair Britain.

    100 years ago, a mere nanosecond in the human story, the Westminster parliament was the political centre of the biggest extension of global political power since the Roman Empire. In 1908 the British Empire spanned the planet it was the first truly global exercise of power.

     In 2008 British troops are huddled in Basra airbase as the descendants of the fighters to that took on General Haldane’s troops fight it out for control of the Iraqi city. The soldiers of the Queen look on impotently as a Shia on Shia civil war unfolds.

     This is packaged for public consumption as “Providing Over watch”.   What is interesting is that this ignominious episode has passed almost without comment in the UK, even among the left.

     In the North West Frontier the latest episode of the Great Game is being played out. In Helmand Province the great grandsons of the tribesmen who defeated the British Army of Kipling’s day are killing Gordon Brown’s men and women with consummate ease.
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains – And the women come out, to cut up what remains.  Then roll to yer rifle, and blow out yer brains And go to yer God like a soldier!”  Wrote Rudyard Kipling the Bard of the British Empire.

     Now the suicidal bravery is largely displayed by the Afghans detonating themselves as they close with the Infidel. As a young boy in Scotland in the 1960s I read my comics-like all other young lads.  It was pre-gameboy and X-box. We played soccer, we scrapped at playtime and we read the Hotspur and the Victor. One character that remains in my memory was an ace British spy “The Wolf of Kabul”. With his sturdy, if not too bright, native sidekick armed with a copper bound cricket bat this James Bond of the Hindu Kush always came through against the villainous rebels.

     In Basra the British troops await in the departure lounge of credibility. A US general said in 2007 that the British in Basra had “ been effectively defeated”.   Their defeat in Afghanistan is not in doubt. The insurgency, which they are, the targets of have an almost inexhaustible manpower pool in neighbouring Pakistan.

     Unlike the Iraq invasion the UN mandated NATO operation in Afghanistan is completely legal within international law. Despite this the contribution of the major NATO powers in Europe (France & Germany) has been lacklustre to say the least.

     Kevin Myers in the Irish independent broke the story that the Bundeswehr troops are not allowed, not allowed, to be out on patrol after the hours of darkness. The French, like the Germans remain in the relatively quiet North while the British, the Americans and the Canadians do the heavy lifting in the South.
If Afghanistan becomes a failed state-again-it could well prove the tipping point in Pakistan. A Talibanesque regime in Pakistan with a nuclear arsenal is something that is too horrible to contemplate, but contemplate it we must. India would almost certainly feel compelled to act. That is set of events could be set in train because of the resources currently diverted to Iraq.

     We were told that the Baghdad regime was a clear and present danger and a regional WMD threat. The blood and treasure spent on that illegal catastrophic war could well have stabilised Afghanistan. Certainly veterans of the war against the Taliban feel that they were forgotten solders in a largely ignored conflict .
Blair said ,in the weeks after 911 “ Let us re-order this world.” He pitched to his Labour party that the war against the Taliban could also be the war against third world poverty.

     Blair will, undoubtedly, be remembered as the Anthony Eden of the early 21st century. His was a foreign adventure that changed the nature of Britain on the home front. Eden’s Suez debacle was, of course, a military success. His error was to act without United Nations AND United States approval. The UK was no longer a world player capable of independent action, even if the action involved smiting a few pesky Arabs. Britain was now, Post Suez, at best a very junior partner in the US imperium.

     Blair’s charge to Basrah fully accepted that role, indeed reaffirmed Britain’s filial piety to the US empiure on capital hill. What is different now is that Britain can no longer afford the treasure to augment the blood needed for colonising the Islamic world.

     Britain in fighting an insurgency against the Taliban that it might very well lose. At time of writing the Parachute Regiment is suffering an almost daily attrition rate of its men. The Paras are, in terms of line regiments, the very best that the British can throw into any conflict. To say that the Taliban are giving a good account of themselves against the Paras is beyond understatement.

     Unlike Northern Ireland the vast majority of the civilian population are not ethnically pro-British. Northern Ireland is the size of Yorkshire with a population similar to that of greater Glasgow. Two thirds of the civilian population identified with the UK state and supported the security forces. Yet it took 20,000 regular British soldiers and 10,000 local security forces twenty-five years to grind down the IRA to a point where it gave up, destroyed its weapons and entered the Northern Ireland political establishment. The situation in Afghanistan could hardly be more different.

     Meanwhile in Basrah 4,000 British troops sit in quiet defeat awaiting their departure instructions. The remarkable thing about this is that this defeat has passed almost without comment in Britain even from people who vehemently opposed the war in the first place. When a US general in late 2007 said that the British in Basrah “ had been effectively defeated” it hardly made the inside pages of the quality British papers.

     The Al Qaeda threat that was alleged to have existed within Saddam’s Iraq and allegedly enjoyed his protection is definitely there now. Their main target from 911 to 77 is the mass transit systems that allow the Western way of life to continue and flourish. The “opening” of Terminal 5 at Heathrow proved that Britain doesn’t need only to worry about Islamic extremists trying to disrupt the mass transit way of life.

     The British can do it to themselves as well. Heathrow airport’s latest building, Terminal 5, launched after almost two decades of planning, $8.5 billion dollars in cost, and 100 million hours in manpower. It is a glass and concrete and steel marvel, the largest free standing building in the UK, with over 10 miles in suitcase moving belts, and was supposed to be a cure for the Airport’s famous congestion by way of massive automation. But on its opening day it just did not work right. There were scenes of travel chaos not witnessed since the bomb plot of 2006 was uncovered. There was a time when Britain erected buildings that wowed the world. What would an Empire Exhibition look like now? The opening day of Terminal Five was a timely reminder that Britannia does not rule the airwaves. It can’t even get a baggage carousel to do what it is supposed to do….

     Of course, post 7/7 the Islamic threat to the UK remains a very real one. The attack on Glasgow airport, although happily it was botched, reminded the UK that they were virtually defenceless against suicide attackers. It is perhaps fitting that the hero of the hour at Glasgow Airport was a lowly baggage handler. John Smeaton, crucially, used the “B” word when interviewed after his heroics with the burning would be suicide bomber. This is what Gordon Brown wanted, and needed to hear. A Scot talking about Britishness!

     Blair re-inforce Britain’s place in the world as the faithful servant of the US. Empire rise and empires fall. Historians will judge that the US Empire in the early 20th century became fatally entangled in the equivalent of the forests of Germania or the muddy field of the Somme. Iraq and Afghanistan, but above all else Iraq is where the United States of America found the extent of its power.

     The great grandfathers of the Pashtuns now killing British Paras in their red berets fought and killed British redcoats. Not only cant Britain afford the treasure of this war but now from the land that produced the Empires toughest troops, Scotland, it appears not willing to play the blood price of such a war.
In today’s Daily Record in Scotland an exclusive story that there are 615 soldiers, the equivalent of an infantry battalion, either AWOL or submitting sick notes for such aliments as “depression”. The story implies that these soldiers are not physically wounded. However they have a medical certificate saying that they cannot perform their duties.

     The British Empire did not crumble in a catastrophic defeat. Latter day Huns and vandals didn’t sack London. The first truly global empire is merely sinking beneath the waves of history. The UK is now, more than ever, a vassal state of the US. That it should have hitched its wagon to an empire also passing its zenith is probably Blair’s lasting legacy. However differently he wasn’t history to remember him.

     The defeated British troops in Basrah or the dying British soldiers in Afghanistan will not prevent another 7/7 in London. Britain over stretched itself in defeating the threat of Germany in the first half of the 20th century. Since Suez Britain has known its place as a junior partner in the US empire. Now Britain can’t even step up to the plate with the big boys anymore. Blair’s real legacy has yet to be fully revealed.
Could he be the last Prime Minister of a Britain that could even pretend to be “Great”?