Shaun Doherty

The James Connolly Reader

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The legacy of James Connolly, Ireland’s pre-eminent Marxist revolutionary, has been appropriated and sanitised by every political tradition including the Irish state to such an extent that his historical role has often been obscured. Shaun Harkin’s selection of Connolly’s writing shines a penetrating light through this fog and allows him to speak for himself.

Can Corbyn's Labour grasp the moment?

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The Tories’ Brexit troubles are escalating, with talk of an early general election returning. But can Corbyn’s Labour Party take advantage of the situation? Shaun Doherty investigates.

In any assessment of the Labour Party conference it’s useful to look beyond the headlines, particularly since some of them were quite remarkable.

After Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s closing speech to conference George Osborne’s London Evening Standard ran a front page featuring a caricature of Corbyn wearing a communist hat and carrying a volume of Marx, alongside the headline, “Corbyn: United, We Will Never be Defeated”.

Tories in a bind over migrants

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The Tory immigration policy is in a mess. They are caught in the bind between their “hostile environment” towards immigrants and the needs of their friends in big business. Sajid Javid, the home secretary with leadership pretensions, has been reportedly forced to act against his instincts and allow EU passport holders to be “waved through” immigration after the March deadline if there is a No-Deal on Brexit.

Ireland: the border is the problem

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One of the ways that Brexit negotiations are breaking down is over Ireland. Yet much of the discussion ignores both imperialist history and the consequences for working people.

At first glance the shape of the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country makes no sense. It is a squiggly line stretching 310 miles from Lough Foyle in the north west to Carlingford in the east. It follows no natural boundaries and cuts across 180 roads. Donegal is indisputably in the north of Ireland, but not part of Northern Ireland. Neither was the border based on the division of Ireland into four historical provinces with Ulster as the northern one. Three counties of Ulster — Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal — were excluded from the newly created statelet.

Nazis outnumbered

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A demonstration of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the far-right anti-immigrant party, in Berlin, Germany on 27 May was dramatically outnumbered by anti-fascist protesters.

Overall around 70,000 anti-fascists confronted 5,000 supporters of the party that won a worrying 13 percent of the vote in the federal election in 2017.

Chants identified the party with its core Nazi support, its antisemitism and its anti-immigrant poison.

In a boost for the anti-fascists the AfD’s Berlin leader complained that his party’s supporters were being stigmatised.

The Balfour Declaration

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Bernard Regan has produced a timely and well researched analysis of the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. The declaration stated unequivocally the British government’s support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. The qualification that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” was a view observed less in its implementation than in its negation.

Northern Ireland Executive impasse

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Talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive after more than a year’s stalemate have collapsed. The Guardian editorial put the blame unequivocally on Sinn Fein: “The darker truth here is that Sinn Fein has chosen to weaponise the language question for political ends, less to protect minority rights than to antagonise unionists.”

This assessment could not be further from the truth. An agreement had been reached by all parties which included a proposed Irish Language Act.

The Skull of Alum Bheg

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This is a remarkable work of historical detection. A skull found in a pub in Kent in 1963. A handwritten note inserted in an eye socket: “Skull of Haviladar Alum Bheg 46th Bengal N Infantry who was blown away from a gun. He was a principal leader of the mutiny of 1857 and of a most ruffianly disposition.”

Kim Wagner, who had been writing and researching colonial executions, is alerted to its existence and “found myself standing at a small train station on a wet November day with a human skull in my bag.”

Linguistic juggling can’t hide Brexit woes

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Brexit has become a classic example of how public discourse is designed to obscure meaning. As May’s “triumph” at reaching the “end of the beginning” begins to look somewhat premature, metaphors of divorce have become stretched to breaking point. Donald Tusk, president of the EU Council, clearly auditioning for the role of marriage guidance counsellor, sets the ball rolling: “Breaking up is hard, but building a new relationship is harder.”

Tories Brexit Blues: A European crisis

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The dominant narrative of the political establishment and its various media echo chambers is that the European Union has Britain over a barrel as the Brexit negotiations stumble towards the end of their first phase.

The reality is more complex. The Tory crisis is real enough, but it is to some extent mirrored by the situation of Europe as a whole, if not in its economic manifestations then certainly in its political ruptures.

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