Shaun Doherty

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.

Struggle or Starve

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The dominant narrative in Northern Irish politics from both imperialist and nationalist perspectives is the existence of two tribes with separate and incompatible interests. We have argued that unity between Protestant and Catholic workers was not only possible in the North of Ireland, but had been realised, albeit too briefly, in the dock labourers’ strike of 1907, the engineers’ strike of 1919 and the unemployed workers’ strike and riots in 1932. It is the last of these that Seán Mitchell’s marvellous new book bears witness to.

Materialism

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The thread linking Thomas Aquinas, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Friedrich Nietzsche to Karl Marx may seem tenuous to many, but with typical verve and bravura and not a little waspish humour Eagleton has made these connections in his defence of materialism and critique of the metaphysical. In the preface he nails his colours to the mast of “unabashed universalism” which he hopes will scandalise “only those postmodern dogmatists for whom all universal claims are oppressive”.

Labour: left in the driving seat

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There is no doubt that the left were in the driving seat at Brighton and exuded a confidence and assurance born from the unexpectedly favourable election result in June and the subsequent turmoil and implosion of their Tory opponents.

It was particularly refreshing that socialist ideas were common currency and openly debated. What a change from the stage-managed PR presentations of recent years.

Jeremy Corbyn comes out fighting

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Jeremy Corbyn’s keynote speech to the Labour Party conference was a defiant response to his critics in the parliamentary party who have been doing their best to undermine him since his re-election as leader at the start of the conference.

On education, arms sales, housing and especially on immigration, he offered a refreshingly radical agenda in complete contrast to that of his deputy and chief tormentor, Tom Watson, the previous day.

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