“it is a distant aspiration that fails to motivate anything other than occasional nostalgia”

The News Letter reports some interesting quotes from former senior Provisional IRA member, now an organiser of the Independent Workers’ Union, Tommy McKearney’s new book – The Provisional IRA: From Insurrection to Parliament.  From the News Letter report The ardent socialist, who now organises the Independent Workers’ Union, says that Sinn Fein has become increasingly right wing as it has gone further and further into government at Stormont, where, he argues, “contrary to talk of power-sharing, the [Stormont] administration is almost …

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Another Bookish Thread

We have not done a general thread about books for a very long time. I did one two years ago. I have just finished Kafka’s The Castle: I think I have now read most of his stuff. Metamorphosis was probably my favourite along with the In Penal Colony. Actually all Kafka is fairly heavy going: I tend to read a page or two and then stop for a think; the blurb explains part of the problem is a German literary …

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A poem for (yester) day – Affshore

In the early 90s I was living in Portmuck, Co Antrim, with a small child who thought the beach was where you lived, rain or shine, day or night. A gas pipeline was being laid between the Ayrshire and Antrim coasts, and the ‘supergun‘ scandal was in the news. Then the same news told us that all up the coast old phosporous bombs were washing ashore, and igniting in contact with the air. It turned out they were the refuse …

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A poem for the day – The Pipe-bomber

This is another one from the late 90s, that I think is a response to or expression of a sense of depression at the low-level post-ceasefires violence from loyalist organisations that didn’t ‘get it’ or see anything in the ‘process’ for themselves or were just too plain sectarian to care (delete as applicable). Though I hope there’s more going on in the poem than just a middle-class whinge – in fact, maybe it’s a satire on the middle-class whinge as …

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A poem for the day… Bonfire Makers

Mick has generously let me take up his offer to guest bloggers a while back, and the idea is that, a la Moochin Photoman, I’d post a poem a day for the month of August, with the odd book review or other more or less ‘cultural’ item thrown in. In deference to the appetites of Slugger’s bloggers and commenters, I’ll probably draw on my more ‘political’ poems – and I suppose raise two questions. First, do the creative arts have …

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The Earl Bishop

Interesting BBC article on an upcoming presentation and talk [Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, 17 August] by lecturer and broadcaster Stephen Price on the subject of his new book – The Earl Bishop. The 18th Century “Earl Bishop” was Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth Earl of Bristol and Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry.  Hervey was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his work on interpreting the Giants’ Causeway.  And it was near there that he built the Downhill estate, …

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“It’s Bloomsday, or Christmas for intolerable Joyceans everywhere”

Crooked Timber’s Kieran Healy performs “the sacred Bloomsday ritual of genuflecting solemnly before the Poster of Great Irish Writers.”  In the Irish Times, Joycean scholar Terence Killeen asks whether the lifting of copyright protection will apply to all categories of Joyce works.  And here’s that excellent video again.  It’s tradition!  Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. Pete Baker

Quote of the Week…

From Gary Wills’ memoir Outside Looking in: Adventures of an Observer, reviewed by Michael McDonald: “Politicians live for contact with people. They lose the gift for contemplation, or research, or simple reading. Being alone with a book is a way to die for many of them.” Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the …

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“All we’re doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly…”

In The Guardian Decca Aitkenhead interviews the rational thinking AC Grayling on the publication of his latest book – “The Good Book: A Secular Bible“.  And he has this to say on atheists, and criticism from supernaturalists.  From the Guardian interview Atheists, according to Grayling, divide into three broad categories. There are those for whom this secular objection to the privileged status of religion in public life is the driving force of their concern. Then there are those, “like my chum …

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John Laird for Christmas?

John Laird (Lord Laird of Artigarvan) is unionism’s jester. His memoir A Struggle To Be Heard ” by a True Ulster Liberal”  (from Slugger’s shop on Amazon here) might serve more as a heavy stocking filler than anybody’s idea of a main present. In it he wears the masks of comedy and tragedy to turn the stereotype of unionism on its head, as his title implies, dressed in his huge kilt on the front of the book and a grenadier’s uniform …

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The lost art of reading (or drowning in too much information)…

Here’s a great review of a fascinating book (H/T reader Rory) on how the Internet is destroying our capacity for intelligent, focused and critical thought. It opens thus: …here is the news that Ulin brings in this slim, meandering book: that reading is “an act of contemplation”; that such an act becomes more difficult in “our overnetworked society, where every buzz and rumor is instantly blogged and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of …

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“The Provisionals must accept that this will happen to them, too.”

Liam Clarke was invited to speak at the launch of Richard O’Rawe’s second book on the disputed offer to end the hunger strike in the Maze – Afterlives: The Hunger Strike and the Secret Offer That Changed Irish History. In the News Letter he explains why and, in doing so, addresses a recent topic on Slugger. It is long past time we were free of this heavy hand, this atmosphere of threats and intimidation for anyone who tries in a serious way to …

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Belfast port celebrated as hopes rise for lower corporation tax

The House of Lords was the suitably grand venue for the London launch of Alf McCreary’s magnificently illustrated tome Titanic Port, a history of Belfast Harbour. Before I got a chance to take a good look at my copy, my ears pricked up when the chairman of the harbour commissioners Len O’Hagan said hopes were high that Northern Ireland would “soon be allowed to set its own rate of corporation tax”. Sitting nearby was the Secretary of State Owen Paterson who …

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The secret world from one Ulster historian

 I know it’s a stale hangover from the Troubles.  But I still get a kick out of hearing the Ulster accent used to talk about something completely different and not thank God about US all the time. No, it’s not Jimmy or Fergal Sharkey on UK Music or broadcasters like Colin Murray, Peter Curran or our own Lady Gagga to Gloria’s Madonna, Christine Bleakley, but the deeply serious but very witty Keith Jeffrey letting rip on his history of MI6. …

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Talking to a brick wall: how to make politicians listen?

It took me a long time to warm to advertising agencies. The first time I worked with one I was working in sales management on Fairy Washing Up Liquid. I was due to attend a meeting at which I was to be told what consumers really thought of the brand. I remember my reluctance to attend. Surely, I reasoned, we already knew the answer to this question as millions of consumers picked up the dark green bottles off the shelf …

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Tony Judt

Tony Judt, the great historian of modern Europe, is dead from a terrible neurological disease.  The news commands attention out of our usual box.  Judt was not afraid to preach a social democratic humanism to fill the vacuum left by the end of ideological conflict.  He was that rare thing for an Englishman- a public intellectual, although based on New York. Born an east end Jew, and later a  volunteer serviceman in Israel, he caused uproar there by advocating a …

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Listening to Van Morrison

There’s a great piece in today’s Guardian Books section, Greil Marcus on his new book Listening to Van Morrison.  Here’s an extract from the article It’s a short book, not a biography or a career survey, but an attempt to follow those moments in Morrison’s music, as he’s made it from his first records with Them, from Belfast in 1965 to the present day, when something happens that breaks through the boundaries of ordinary communication, of ordinary art speech. In this …

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On the public utility of deceit and rejection of Republicanism’s millenarian ambition…

Richard English has a cracking review of the Voices from the Grave in the Irish Times last week… Just here he gets to the crux of why the posthumous blows from an old dead comrade will in eyes of many in wider society simply bounce off the public persona of Gerry Adams, despite the Sinn Fein leader’s continued public dissembling about the reality of his own past… ‘There is little doubt that, despite his denials, Adams had a significant career …

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Two Irish books shortlisted for the Orwell Prize

No Irish bloggers in this year’s Orwell Prize long listing (Chekov made it last year), but two writers make it for their non fiction work: Fintan O’Toole forShip of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger and Ruth Dudley Edwards for her magnum opus on the experience of the relatives of the Omagh bomb victim in their ten year plus quest for justice Aftermath: The Omagh Bombing and the Families’ Pursuit of Justice… Both feature in various of …

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