A united Ireland.

According to the latest news reports the EU has stated that if Northern Ireland were to unite with the Republic of Ireland then the North would automatically be a part of the EU. With the fall of the Berlin Wall after the end of the Cold War Germany was united. East Germany was allowed to enter the EU as of right. What the EU is saying in its negotiations with Britain is that Ireland will be treated like Germany if Irish unity was to be achieved. This statement doesn’t mean that we will have Irish unity in the morning. But it does mean that the EU could look favorably on the possibility of Irish unity as well as the possibility of Scottish independence. The EU doesn’t want to be too soft on the UK. The EU doesn’t want to encourage other countries to leave the EU. Because of the divergence of opinion in the UK over Brexit the UK has shown itself to be a deeply divided society. Brexit has revealed that the UK as a union isn’t very stable.

Northern Ireland itself is deeply divided. The divisions in the North are not only between Unionists and Nationalists but there are divisions between pro and anti EU opinion in the North itself. The majority of the voters in the North voted to stay in the EU. The biggest party in the North the DUP supports Brexit. The DUP is not only the biggest Unionist party but it is still the biggest party in the North.

The political parties in the Republic are officially in favor of a united Ireland. Would they support a united Ireland in reality? Would the people in the Republic support a united Ireland in reality? Would the people in the Republic support a united Ireland if it meant an increase in taxes? I ask these questions because I wonder if a united Ireland were to happen tomorrow would the head or the heart rule?

The question of a united Ireland can only be answered by the people of the North and the South themselves. The role of the media should be to inform the people in an objective fashion. The constitutional position of Northern Ireland can be an emotional one. Any discussion of it needs to be done in a calm rational and a sober fashion. In the past the border question has created violence. Now we will deal with the border and our relationship with the EU calmly if we want to take into account the peace process in the North.

Negotiations between the UK and the EU has only begun. We must await the results of the British general election before we see how these negotiations will develop. Calls for Irish unity may be an academic exercise. If they become part of the political debate in the Republic of Ireland then it could mean that a shake up of domestic and European politics would happen.

Parking in Mallow.

When I talk with the business community in Mallow a major issue that they raise with me is the paid parking. Cork County Council has agreed that there will be free parking in Mallow from 1pm on Friday and all day Saturday. There are limits to prevent people parking all day in town. It is hoped that this measure will encourage people to shop in Mallow. It is important to help the local economy.

There are different stakeholders in society. In relation to local government we have business people, workers, consumers and our democratically elected councillors. I believe that genuine local democracy demands that the different stakeholders are heard. I believe that dialogue is important if we want solutions to emerge when we face the practical problems that occur. I wish this new measure all the best. I hope that Mallow town the crossroads of Munster will grow and thrive.

John O Brien.

What happened to Donald Trump?

When Donald Trump ran for office he ran as an economic nationalist. He criticized foreign interventions. He believed that the United States should form an alliance with Russia in Syria against ISIS. When he came into office with people like Steve Bannon advising him he was making his promises a reality. Under Trump’s America unnecessary foreign interventions were to be a thing of the past. Free trade deals were to be renegotiated. Jobs were going to come back home. China was seen as the main threat to America’s global dominance.

Lately we have seen a different Donald Trump. He bombed Syria. He is clashing with Russia. He is getting friendly with China. Steve Bannon has been removed as a principle officer in the National Security Council. President Trump is acting like his Presidential predecessors. He is acting like a mainstream politician. His intellectual adviser Steve Bannon is sidelined. This change of policy could have a knock on effect in American politics.

Donald Trump is a billionaire. His Cabinet has fellow billionaires  and military leaders. But he campaigned on a populist nationalist agenda. There were 2 agendas in the Trump candidacy. One agenda was to appeal to the voters who were alienated from the ruling elites. Another agenda seems to be to win the election. It could be said that it was winning for the sake of winning.

The downgrading of Steve Bannon has exposed a rift in the Trump Presidency. It could mean a  split in the supporters of President Trump. Could Steve Bannon led an opposition to President Trump. Steve Bannon doesn’t need the job. He is already a wealthy man.

Even if President Trump used a nationalist agenda cynically it does show that voters genuinely want change. They feel  that economic policies benefit the elite. They want  a government that represent the people. If they turn away from President Trump then they would look elsewhere.

Steve Bannon was asked was his nationalism white nationalism? He  said no it wasn’t white nationalism it was economic nationalism. He sought to combine conservative moral values with a government who sought to protect and expand the middle class.  I have read that many people that voted for Trump used to vote President Obama. Many  of these voters would have voted for Bernie Sanders if they got the opportunity to vote for him. In 1992 the Clinton’s team had a saying “its the economy stupid”. To understand politics you can’t ignore economics.

President Trump got elected because he spoke to the economic insecurities of his voters. If he  ignores their economic concerns many of them will become disillusioned with him.

National Maternity Hospital ownership.

I am at the Labour Party Conference in Wexford town. There are many debates and motions. An emergency motion was debated today, Saturday on the issue of the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital. The Labour Party voted that the hospital should be in public ownership. The issue with this debate is the fear that if a religious order owns the hospital then they might impose their views in relation to care in the hospital. If that was to happen then those mothers who don’t share the views of the nuns would be discriminated against. We have seen across the world in countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia etc. where religious leaders gain political power that individual liberty suffers. People have different ideas about ethics and religion. In a peaceful society where liberty and equality is respected the state is neutral on questions of personal beliefs. A secular state respects liberty. Giving a religious group control over health care undermines individual liberty.

John O Brien.

British general election.

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a general election that will be held in the summer. With the uncertainty of Brexit already, a general election could add an extra lair of chaos to British, Irish and European negotiations. Why did Theresa May call this election? She might want to have a mandate of her own. She might want to strengthen her hand in her negotiations with the EU. Polls have shown that the Conservatives lead over Labour is big. The polls might be a temptation for the Conservatives to call the election. The Conservatives might hope to have a larger majority in the next Parliament.

For Labour to win the election they need to win back Scotland. They will also need to win over the floating voters in England and Wales.  The Liberal Democrats under their new leader wants to regain ground that they lost after the last general election. The SNP will want to retain their dominant position in Scotland. They will hope that the gulf between Scotland and England will continue. They will hope that this gulf will push Scotland towards independence.

The last thing Northern Ireland needs is another election. They already had an Assembly election last year and this year. The 2 main parties, the DUP and Sinn  Fein haven’t agreed to a devolved government yet. If these talks collapse then there is a danger that direct rule would be imposed.  The general election will mean that the chances of a power sharing government being formed has lessened. Instead of putting their energies into forming a government the parties in the North will focus on the general election. If the Conservatives wins in Britain then the path towards progress in the North will be known. But if Labour were to win further uncertainty would enter in relation to the North. While a Conservative win would bring stability to the North, a Conservative win would strengthen Scottish nationalism.

The Irish government has to deal with a Britain that is leaving the EU. A general election and how this election would affect the North has added to  the problems that face the Irish government.

I get the impression that the modern Conservative Party is very insular. Their political strength is in the South East of England. They don’t seem to be interested in what is happening in Scotland or Northern Ireland or Wales for that matter. Theresa  May called this election to benefit the Conservative Party.  I wonder did she think about the stalemate in the North or the growing independence in Scotland?

Turkey today.

Is the legacy of Kemal Ataturk in danger in Turkey today? The referendum results on expanding the powers of the President are in. There is a dispute over the vote itself. Some opposition figures claim the vote has been rigged. Is the secular republic dying slowly in Turkey? As the 2nd biggest member of NATO a move by Turkey towards an Islamic Republic should be a matter of concern for the security of democracy globally.

The relation of religion and politics in the modern world is an issue we need to deal with. This issue distracts us from dealing with  the economic problems we face. I think the best policy that states should use dealing with religions is adopting a secularist policy. Secular states insures that individual freedom and equality between people is guaranteed. Religion should be a personal matter.  The state should be neutral concerning religious issues. Modern Turkey used to apply this principle of secularism. But this policy has been under attack.

John O Brien.

Farming and Brexit.

I have been reading in the news that Brexit will have a negative impact on Irish agriculture. We need to remember that agriculture isn’t just about farmers. It also includes the food industry like Dairygold Co Op in Mallow Co. Cork. The food industry is a major native industry. It employs many people in good jobs. The UK is still a major export market for Irish food products.  The food industry is an important native industry. If sterling weakens and if the UK leaves the custom union then profits and jobs will fall. Is the Irish government planning for this situation or do they think only foreign companies creates jobs?

Foreign companies play a role in our industrial policy. But if we are over dependent on foreign companies then we are in reality a neo colony. Farmers and those who work in the food sector are important to the national economy. In the main foreign companies seek cheap labour as when Dell moved its plant from Limerick to Poland. Sucessful countries with their own industrial policies have strong native industries.  I think the mainstream media should focus more on the issue of Brexit and agriculture.

John O Brien.