Thursday, August 11, 2011

A statement from the Irish Prime Minister on the British Isles riots

This just in from Enda Kenny -

"The events of the last few days have collectively shamed us as an island people. It has been suggested to me that we in Ireland should in some way distance ourselves from what has been happening in order to protect our tourist industry, and indeed some have even suggested that events which are confined to English cities are self-evidently nothing to do with Ireland. I find that as incomprehensible as I do disgusting and petty-minded.

Yes, the riots may be confined to the territory of England, but the underlying causes are not. Are cities an "English" or a British Isles phenomenon? The latter, obviously, and moreover they are an exclusively British Isles phenomenon. There are no cities in France, or in Panama, or in Indonesia. Are inner cities and disaffected inner city youth "English" or British Isles phenomena? The latter, clearly, and moreover they are exclusively British Isles phenomena. There are no inner cities or disaffected inner city youth in Germany, the United States or Russia. Are social divisions, unemployment, poverty, hopelessness, criminality, greed, etc. "English" or British Isles phenomena? The latter (duh), and moreover they are exclusively British Isles phenomena. There is no social division, unemployment, poverty, hopelessness, criminality or greed in South Africa, Turkey or Brazil. These are very specifically British Isles sicknesses, and to try to somehow get Ireland an exemption card from them is to run away from our very character as a people.

Last month we showed our solidarity with the people of Norway by saying "we are all Norwegians now", but that is simply insufficient for a tragedy that involves our fellow islanders. What we must say this time is not "we are English", but that we are Irish, and that these are Irish riots. The fact that they aren't taking place on Irish soil and don't involve Irish people is a mere technical detail. And am I prepared to sacrifice the Irish tourism industry to speak that truth? You bet I am. British Isles solidarity demands nothing less, and I shall not be found wanting."

This has been an exclusive report from a parallel universe occasionally visited by contributers to the website Labour Hame.


  1. James, excellent post. It’s not that long ago that the Irish had to send formal letters to the British Home Office demanding that they stop referring to ‘Ireland’ as part of the British Isles in their literature. Even after Scotland has won its independence we’ll have to watch these buggers!

    You could also have done a piece today on why the use of the term ‘England’ has become a taboo in the UK? Because that’s what’s been happening, and it’s happening here too. The poor old English are being air-brushed from history. What I find quite sinister in all of this is the desire to smother differences and cultural specificity, the desire to homogenize, you might say that there’s something of the ‘neo-fascist’ about all of this. Apart from anything else, we’re never going to understand why these riots happened if we take this approach. One thing you can be sure of though, when the explanations for these riots are being sought and when the preventative measures are being devised to reduce the risk of their re-occurrence, no-one is going to be looking to Scotland or Wales to provide explanations and solutions, why would that be then?

    Some bright spark on Labour Shame reminds us that Alex Salmond did say on the day of the recent tragedy in Norway that “we’re all Norwegians now”, which was a statesmanlike expression of empathy with the Norwegian people by Scotland’s First Minister on behalf of the Scottish people. The clue here is his use of the word “Norwegian”. For if, on that day, Salmond had said, “We’re all Scandinavians now”, people would have thought that he’d gone a bit peculiar. But he didn’t, he referred to Norway because the fact was that those events happened in Norway, not Denmark or Sweden. In fact, it would have been an insult to the Norwegian people not to make a reference to the specificity of their horrific experience here.

    These riots happened in England, that’s a fact, or at least it’s a fact to everyone outside the twilight zone that passes for Labour Shame. Of course, what the Labour Shamers are doing here, with their characteristic shamelessness, is playing politics. And remember folks, they’ve got form on issues like this. Remember Jo Moore, the spin doctor for the former Labour Transport Secretary Stephen Byers? On the day of the tragic events of 9/11, she sent an email to a colleague advising him that “this would be a good day to bury bad news”. Remember that, the next time that a Labour Shamer lectures you on your narrow, parochial, insular nationalism and your lack of empathy with the suffering of others.

  2. James,

    I’m sorry, but I can’t keep silent any longer. Labour Shame has now got Torcuil Crichton on the case and, as you’d expect from the Daily Record’s finest, this is now beyond parody. It provides so many potential favourite lines that I feel like a bairn in a sweetie shoap, so I’ll limit myself to a few choice examples from what is a generous menu.

    After criticising the “hubris” of Alex Salmond for pointing out the mundane fact that these were English riots, Torcuil, following the earlier lead given to him by Tom Harris in making false analogies, informs us that, as a journalist in London when there was an Islamist terrorist cell on the run there in 2007, he was commissioned to do a story on it for the Daily Record. He then tells us:

    “The message came back to write an atmospheric wrap, because none of this really affected Scotland. Boom! A few hours later Glasgow airport was aflame and Scotland was the frontline in the War on terror”.

    It’s not quite clear who relayed this original message back to Torcuil but can we take it that it wasn’t Alex Salmond, so maybe it was one of those narrow, parochial, insular nat editors at the Daily Record? The “Boom”, of course, refers to the drunken doctors’ bungled attempt at ‘terrorism’, an episode that the Independent newspaper characterised at the time with the appropriate sub-headline, ‘Carry On Up The Jihad’. To date, this is the only ‘terrorist’ incident to have occurred in Scotland since 9/11 and one of only a few in Scotland’s modern history. To compare this ‘terrorist’ attempt, as Torcuil does, to the co-ordinated and devastating attack of the London bombings in 2005 is an insult to the memories of those poor souls who perished in that atrocity.

    Undeterred however, and with his feet now firmly planted on the high moral ground, Torcuil gets down to business on the riots. Here’s how it starts:

    “many have been wondering why the Neds, Scotland’s answer to the Yobs, haven’t been rioting”.

    There’s no hint of post-modernist irony here folks, Torcuil says what he means and he means what he says. These guys really are “Neds” and “Yobs”! So what’s been deterring Scotland’s “Neds” from rioting? Wait for it – this should really be accompanied by a drum roll – first up, is “Geography”. But it’s a little more complicated than that, Torcuil tells us. You see:

    “for any disaffected youth to get to downtown Glasgow, say, they would have to pass through the territory of rival youth gangs, and get back again once the looting was over”.

    We’re left to marvel at Torcuil’s insights into the logistics of Glasgow gangs’ military-like manoeuvres. But let me check that I’ve got this right. These fearless “Neds”, these ‘feral’ teenagers roaming the streets of Glasgow haven’t been rioting because they’re feart? And what are they feart of? Getting lost apparently! The only problem here, actually there are a number of problems with this, is that even if we suspend disbelief and buy into what is the most pathetic explanation I’ve yet read for the absence of riots in Scotland, this may, in the mind of Torcuil, explain the behaviour of those gangs who live furthest from “downtown Glasgow”, but what about the gang that lives nearest to “downtown Glasgow”, who is getting in their way? We’ll never know.

    I could go on but my sides are aching, it’s painful to type these words out now. I do hope that Labour Shame recruits Torcuil again to have another bash at this. I haven’t laughed so much since Maggie Broon was kicked out of office.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Anon. Absolutely, Torcuil's line of argument is risible. I think he and the Labour Hame gang are just devastated that this is one skirmish with the broadcasters that the SNP have actually won - and it's hardly surprising that they have, given that the riots have indeed been so obviously geographically-specific and not UK-wide.

  4. Sorry...

    Am I dreaming this or has Enda been taking a drop of the poteen?

    Or crack maybe?

  5. Anon: My sides are aching after reading your thoughtful analysis of the logistics of doing a spot of rioting and looting in Glasgow.

    Several thoughts occurred. The first was that Glasgow's a big place. There are shops on the estates. Now these shops won't have the range of delights of "downtown, where all the lights are bright", but the average "ned" is not likely to be incredibly fussy, and a bottle of Buckie is, after all, a bottle of Buckie, regardless of from provenance, specially a free one.

    The second thought was that if the "neds" are "feart" to go downtown to loot, how do they get downtown on a Saturday night to go tae the dancin'?

    The third notion was, if all the "neds" in the inner estates are "downtown", the outer ring of "neds" won't have anything to worry about, because if the inner ring of "neds" are "downtown" they won't be in their estates to impede the outer ring "neds'" progress.

    Lastly, our friend seems to have forgotten, if he ever knew, that Glasgow is not the only city in Scotland. Dundee, which has seen no riots, and no looting, has a series of peripheral schemes, then a relatively posh belt... then "downtown". More of less it is possible to catch a bus from a schemes and arrive en ville, without having passed though another scheme. I wonder that the Dundee "neds" never thought of that.

    Perhaps the estimable Torcuil will take the trouble to point this out to them in his rag, er I mean journal.

  6. It annoys me so much that these people don't even think twice before taking pot shots and digs at our cities and the hard-working, well-meaning people that live in them.

    As someone who is Edinburgh born and bred, I can perhaps see this a little more objectively; Glasgow really gets treated so unfairly and this isn't just from outsiders - I've seen its own Labour MPs and MSPs making fun of the city and talking about it in such a disparaging way. Glasgow is a wonderful city, and like any large post-industrial city, it has its problems, but these can and will be overcome if we as a nation stop insulting ourselves and putting each other down.

    We can do anything if we put our minds and collective wills to the task. We should never get involved in the petty snobbery of some of our "press" and "representatives".

  7. Actually, strike that last comment - I might be accused of being backwards and parochial for wanting to solve Scotland's problems. How foolish of me for being so selfish. I knew those Labour politicians were right all along. We should ignore our own problems and do nothing about them for over a century (thereby making them worse). To be concerned about your own problems is so slef centered. I'm glad I saw the light.