Who Won The Week (16 February 2020)

I have Fandango to thank for this title – he has been posting regularly on this subject from his west-coast-USA vantage point. I am interested in current affairs too, and normally have some nonsense or other to spout about one of the UK’s topical news stories. So, I like to join in. Maybe there’s something in your world that you’d like to post about?

I follow some Irish feeds, so I had my eyes set on the Irish General Election last weekend, and was pleasantly surprised that Sinn Féin did so well. Because of this, Sinn Féin are my winners.

Ireland has been carved up between two centre-right parties, ever since independence a hundred years ago. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Sinn Féin grew out of the old Irish Republican Army, which fought for independence, and grew in prominence during the conflict in Northern Ireland. At the start, they had a simple policy of wanting a united, independent Ireland, but as they have become a bigger political force, they have developed policies in every area – things like housing, education, healthcare – with a broadly left-wing slant. The type of political party which everybody else of us takes for granted. So I welcome them, as a breath of fresh air to the process.

I talked about a month ago about Irish politics, the intricacies of Northern Ireland. As you might imagine being an all-Ireland party, Sinn Féin have a presence there too. In fact, during the recent UK General Election they won 7 seats. So you have this kinda perverse situation where a bunch of people who want nothing to do with the UK … are sitting in the UK’s parliament.

Except that … they don’t! They don’t take their seats.

The reason? Well, in order to take their seat in the UK Parliament, every MP had to swear an oath of allegiance to the UK’s queen. As a party whose whole ethos is to be independent from the UK, Sinn Féin’s MPs won’t do it. So they elect not to take their seats at all.

I must admitthat if I voted for somebody to represent me, I would at the very least expect them to … represent me! But I can see Sinn Féin’s point. Other MPs have, in the past, paid lip service to this oath, by crossing their fingers or some other such childishness, but I can see why Sinn Féin won’t go there, on a point of principle.

But it does raise an interesting question. Should an MPs allegiance be to our queeen, or should it be to their constituents, the taxpayers who pay their wages?

Fortunately they face no such constraints in Ireland, and last week they became the largest party, in terms of the popular vote. So my winner, this week, is Mary Lou McDonald and her party. They received 24½%, the largest share of the many Irish parties.

[I don’t fully understand the Irish system, but this “only” translates to 37 seats in Ireland’s 160-seat parliament, the same number of seats as the second-placed Fianna Fáil party (even though they received more votes). Mathematically speaking, that doesn’t quite add up. But as I see political systems around the world, it is not uncommon to see a country’s popular vote getting stitched up by its political system, which was generally been built to suit the main parties. So, even when those main parties lose popularity, it is hard for anybody else to join the party.]

The election result is resonates in the UK too, where some people are prone just to dismiss Sinn Féin as terrorists, because of its role opposing the UK’s occupation of Northern Ireland. A quarter of Irish voters, not only do they not see Sinn Féin as terrorists, but they see them as the party most fit to govern their country.

The three “big” parties, between them, received around 70% of the popular vote. Fourth were the Greens, at about 10%. There then followed a host of smaller parties – I think I counted twelve of them, some who won seats, others who didn’t. Lastly there were twenty successful independent candidates, so the independent voice still has a role in Irish politics.

Although Sinn Féin came first overall, the numbers mean that they probably won’t get a chance to form a government. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael both said, pre-election, that they would not enter a coalition with Sinn Féin. That’s not really surprising, because they are at different ends of the spectrum. And if they join forces, they can keep Sinn Féin out. But who knows? They might change their minds, now that the results are in and they have a whiff of power? Some horses to be traded!

Mary Lou McDonald

Song Lyric Sunday (16 February 2020) – Making a Choice

Last week, Jim (NewEpicAuthor, A Unique Title For Me) set a theme of songs featuring personal pronouns (my choice). This week, he gives us the theme of making a choice.

A bit of history today. I like to keep these posts light-hearted, but as soon as Jim mentioned leaving and staying, I thought of an event that was so great, it helped shape the future of a whole country.

I’m referring to emigrations by Irish people across to the Americas. I know there are some US/Canadian readers read my posts, perhaps you yourself have Irish ancestry?

Until 1850, there was a small trickle of Irish emigration, which turned into a flood during the Great Famine of the late 1840s – crop failures over successive years. As you can imagine, emigration grew massively during the Famine, largely unskilled labour, and largely into the east coast ports of New York and Boston. Canada, which at that time was, like Ireland, a British colony, was also a favourite destination.

Immigration continued after the Famine, and the number of Irish-born people in the USA reached its peak by around 1890 (about 4 million). Even in 2016 there were still only 6½ million people in Ireland itself, and in last week’s Irish general election was decided by just over 2m votes! From that point on, there was less and less immigration, which took a further nosedive in the 1920s, when the US applied immigration constraints. Today, only around a hundred thousand Irish emigrate to the USA per year.

My choice of song today commemorates that mass migration. The song was written by Dublin singer-songwriter, guitarist and Pogue Phil Chevron (1957-2013, cancer) and is performed here by The Pogues. It was released on their album If I Should Fall from Grace with God (1987). Thousands Are Sailing.

The island it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves
And the torch lights up a famished man
Who fortune could not save

Did you work upon the railroad
Did you rid the streets of crime
Were your dollars from the white house
Were they from the five and dime

Did the old songs taunt or cheer you
And did they still make you cry
Did you count the months and years
Or did your teardrops quickly dry

Ah, No, says he ’twas not to be
On a coffin ship I came here
And I never even got so far
That they could change my name

Thousands are sailing
Across the Western Ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see
Fortune prevailing
Across the Western Ocean
Their bellies full
And their spirits free
They’ll break the chains of poverty
And they’ll dance

In Manhattan’s desert twilight
In the death of afternoon
We stepped hand in hand on Broadway
Like the first man on the moon

And “The Blackbird” broke the silence
As you whistled it so sweet
And in Brendan Behan’s footsteps
I danced up and down the street

Then we said goodnight to Broadway
Giving it our best regards
Tipped our hats to Mister Cohan
Dear old Times Square’s favourite bard

Then we raised a glass to J.F.K.
And a dozen more besides
When I got back to my empty room
I suppose I must have cried

[chorus]

[chorus]

Phil Chevron