Public servants and secret societies: let there be light…

gold statue of a man

Politicians and archaeologists have had a long and interesting relationship with secret societies. Elias Ashmole, a founding Fellow of the Royal Society, was a politician, officer of arms, student of biology, astrology, and alchemy, and an antiquary. By any measure a polymath, he was also an early Freemason. Indeed, Ashmole’s initiation into the Lodge at Warrington in Lancashire in 1646 is the earliest known record of such a ceremony in England. Grand Lodges also eventually appeared in Ireland in 1725 …

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Social cohesion: can there be a united Ireland without a united Northern Ireland?

green grass and trees near river

Despite the current turmoil at Westminster or even the more mundane matter of the not unrelated cost-of-living crisis, the constitutional question is never far from being the main concern of many in Northern Ireland. But for at least the immediate future, would it not be better to reflect more on social cohesion than on geographic unity? Geopolitical regions are of course social constructs. They reflect certain perspectives and judgments in making particular groupings and, like every modern region, the social …

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Hard borders on the Island of Ireland are nothing new…

Hiking to the top of a rocky outcrop right before a heavy rain storm came in and caught the very last glimpse of sun making way through the clouds.My work is 100% community-supported. You can fund my next photography adventure at Patreon.com/rvrmakes

Half a billion years ago the land mass that makes up the island we recognise today as Ireland belonged to two primordial continents separated by an ancient ocean. The northern portion belonged to the continent of Laurentia, now preserved as parts of North American, while the south belonged to the supercontinent of Gondwana, which would form large parts of Europe, Africa, and Australia. About 470 million years ago, the process of plate tectonics caused these two ancient continents to drift …

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The Unheard Third, or the Non-Voting Prod…

Don't just take, give.

An Annex to ‘Voter Turnout Trends around the World’, a study published in 2016 by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, tabulates the turnouts in the most recent parliamentary elections for 196 countries. The top 50 includes 14 democracies where voting is compulsory. These include Australia, 7th with a 93% voter turnout, and Belgium, 18th with 89%. There are also six South American countries where voting is compulsory, not all in the top 50. Three Scandinavian countries that …

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When Ballance Went a Long Way in Politics…

Despite a separation of almost 12,000 miles, Ireland and New Zealand share a significant number of defining cultural characteristics. Most obvious of these would be a common language, legal system, and parliamentary democracy, all the result of having been part of the British Empire. There is also a shared sporting legacy which recently saw Ireland celebrate its first-ever series win over the All Blacks. Like Ireland, New Zealand has a largely rural economy, famous not least for its lamb and …

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Do our representatives really represent us?

#LeaveNoOneBehind

Representative democracy, or indirect democracy, allows elected representatives to make decisions on the electorate’s behalf without further consultation. This system is efficient and, unlike direct democracy, does not require frequent referendums, relying instead on the representative to accurately reflect the views of their electorate. However, once elected, representatives can, with relative impunity, pursue their own agendas and vote according to their own beliefs. They might even choose to change party midterm. Representative democracy can, therefore, result in a lack of …

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1798, a cross-community rebellion…

The return of inflation, a fuel crisis, strikes and recession, together with Russia’s invasion of a neighbouring state, all to the soundtrack of a resurgent Swedish pop group, has prompted many to ask if this is the 1970s all over again. However, some striking parallels with today’s problems can be found almost 200 years earlier, in the 1790s, with a cost-of-living crisis, climate change, unpopular wars and, to add a particularly local flavour, constitutional upheaval and sectarian strife. So, in …

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The past made present: the relevance of historical statecraft…

Basement of Diocletian's Palace, circa 295 CE. Split, Croatia, February, 21 2022

Are there lessons to be learned from history regarding the impact on junior partners following the fragmentation of monolithic powers and the realignment of geopolitical relations or, to put it another way, what have the Romans ever done for us? Given that they never felt inclined to invade the remote island to the west of Britain they called the Land of Winter, the extent of any Roman influence felt in Hibernia must have remained relatively limited. It certainly would not …

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Frictionless passage in Prehistory…

The implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol has focused attention on present and future trading relations between this and other regions of the United Kingdom and the European Union. However, a brief reflection on the movement of goods in the past might help bring perspective to the debate. In the words of George Santayana, “those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.” Long before the launch of the first Larne-Cairnryan ferry, the …

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Futureproofing our schools…

person holding red and white pen

While the constitutional question appears to have been consigned to the back burner for now, it’s an issue that cannot be avoided indefinitely. A recent Slugger article reflected on the question of pension provision following some future unification of north and south. The integration of State benefits and of services such as housing and health would undoubtedly be challenging, however, unifying the island’s education systems may prove the most difficult task of all. It is worth noting the religious composition …

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