Archive for February 10, 2020

A Day of Results

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , on February 10, 2020 by telescoper

The results of Saturday’s election are not all in yet, but it is clear that Sinn Féin have come top of the popular vote, with 24.5% of first preferences. As I write this they have 36 TDs compared to 22 altogether in the last Dáil Éireann. They are unlikely to win more than 2-3 more so won’t be the biggest party in terms of seats, but the chances are they will be part of the next Government.

In my own constituency of Kildare North, Sinn Féin’s Réada Cronin won a seat, dislodging one of the Fianna Fáil incumbents, Frank O’Rourke:

As news came in yesterday evening of the strong showing by Sinn Féin, quite a few old friends from the UK emailed me to ask about my opinion. Some for some reason were under the impression that this result is something to do with Brexit. It simply isn’t. The campaign was totally dominated by domestic issues, especially housing and health, on both of which the existing coalition has clearly failed. The so-called `Irexit’ party (funded and promoted by Nigel Farage stooges) flopped in spectacular, as did sundry other far-right parties who tried to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment.

Others asked whether the success of Sinn Féin makes a United Ireland more likely in the short term. Although I would love to see that outcome achieved by democratic means, I’m not sure that this election result automatically brings it closer. For one thing, the Border Poll that would be needed to achieve unification is not in the gift of the Dublin Government, whatever its complexion. For another. a successful vote for Irish unity would require a majority in favour on both sides of the border. The hard-line unionists in the North would not vote `yes’ under any circumstances so a majority would require a significant number of more moderate or more pragmatic unionists to swing towards unity. That may well happen as the negative effects of Brexit begin to bite on Northern Ireland, but it’s also possible that Sinn Féin’s past association with violence may scare some of them off. We’ll have to wait and see. A lot will depend on what happens in the next few months.

There are also some here in the Republic who regard Sinn Féin as pretty toxic, but I see the fact that it is now a major mainstream political party as a very positive development for Ireland’s democracy. For one thing, they offer a radical alternative to the two `establishment’ centre-right parties that have run Ireland for decades. These parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, came into existence as a result of the Irish Civil War, the latter party splitting from Sinn Féin on the issue of abstentionism. After the Civil War it was not until 1997 that the first Sinn Fein TD actually took a seat in the Dáil. Way back in 1919, however, the First Dail was essentially created by Sinn Féin. It seems to me only right that this party that played such a key role in Irish history should return from the wilderness. In some sense this General Election could mark the end of the beginning of Ireland as an independent nation.

Update: here is a summary of the final results.

R.I.P. Mirella Freni (1935-2020)

Posted in Opera with tags , , on February 10, 2020 by telescoper

I was deeply saddened last night to hear of the death at the age of 84 of legendary operatic soprano Mirella Freni who belonged to the generation of stars that included Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Renata Scotto and Maria Callas. Freni’s light and elegant voice was perfectly suited to lyric roles, especially Mozart and Puccini, although in the later years of her long career she did broaden her repertoire considerably. For me (and I guess many others) her signature role was as Mimi in La Bohème to which she brought not only lovely singing, but a wonderful tenderness and warmth to the character. As a small tribute here she is in that role with the great Luciano Pavarotti (who was born in the same town as Freni, Modena).

R.I.P. Mirella Freni (1935-2020)