Archive for the Politics Category

Preparatory Reading

Posted in History, Literature, Politics with tags on August 12, 2019 by telescoper

With less than a month to go before I take up a position as Head of Department, I thought I’d spend some of the book tokens I got from the Everyman Crossword prize on some preparatory reading material…


The Last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom?

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , on July 23, 2019 by telescoper

The front page shown above is three years old but is now even more apt than ever. Having won the Tory Party Leadership election, Boris Johnson will soon be installed as Prime Minister. The fact of his being a lazy dishonest blustering charlatan who is totally unsuited to any form of public office seems not to matter to the 90-odd thousand members of the Conservative Party who voted for him. I’ve never felt happier that I escaped…

It was always likely that Brexit would propel the dregs of UK politics to the forefront, and now the bottom of the barrel is in charge. It will take more than luck for the UK to get through this abysmal episode intact. The only question to me now is whether it will be Scotland or Northern Ireland that leaves first.

What do you think?


Arron Banks and the Threat to Democracy

Posted in Politics with tags , on July 13, 2019 by telescoper

So it seems that a dodgy businessman named Arron Banks, who has extensive connections to similarly dodgy Russians,  and who is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency for his role in unlawful activities during the EU referendum campaign, has decided to sue award-winning journalist Carole Cadwalladr for defamation after she exposed him. Interestingly Banks is suing her individually and is not taking action those media who have published her claims. I know I’m not the only person to suspect that this is because the litigation is merely vexatious, i.e. intended to exhaust Carole Cadwalladr’s financial resources, rather than a serious attempt to recover damages.

One of the items mentioned in Mr Banks’s claim is this TED Talk, which he alleges contains defamatory statements. The least I can do therefore is to share the video here.


Fascist Lookalikes No. 357

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2019 by telescoper


Have you noticed to remarkable similarity in behaviour between representatives of the Nazi Party elected to the Reichstag in 1930* and representatives of the Brexit Party Money-Laundering Company in the European Parliament in Strasbourg?

I wonder if, by any chance, they might be related?

*In an earlier version of this post I used 1926 (the date given by the stock photo supplier Alamy) but this is incorrecr; the right date is 1930.

The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative

Posted in Education, Maynooth, Politics with tags , , , , , on June 27, 2019 by telescoper

I’ve been so busy over the last week or so that I forgot to mention that on Friday (21st June) the Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor announced a new scheme to improve the gender balance in senior academic roles in Irish universities.

While women make up more than half of university lecturers here in Ireland, just 24% are professors, and the new scheme plans to tackle that under-representation at senior levels by creating up to 45 academic leadership positions specifically for women over the next three years.

The Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI) is funded by the Department of Education and Skills and managed by the Higher Education Authority. More details of the scheme can be found here and the call for applications can be found here.

In summary: new and additional senior academic leadership posts will be funded in areas where

  • there is clear evidence of significant gender under-representation
  • where this appointment will have significant impact within the HEI and the relevant faculty/department/functional unit
  • where they would be a proportionate and effective means to achieve accelerated and sustainable change within an institution

Predictably there has been a bit of a backlash to this announcement from some quarters, but I think it’s an excellent idea and it has my full support. Note further that Legal advice from the Attorney General has confirmed that this policy approach is consistent with EU and national employment and equality law.

I hope a significant number of these positions go to outstanding female academics in STEM disciplines, where the under-representation is indeed significant – and hope we can also attract some here to Maynooth! We don’t have any female academics in the Department of Theoretical Physics….

It’s important, however, to bear in mind that this scheme addresses only one of the issues relating to gender discrimination in Irish higher education and there are many others, especially in STEM disciplines (such as recruitment of early-career level) which will require separate actions.





The End of the Common Travel Area?

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Politics with tags , , on June 14, 2019 by telescoper

I’m back in Cardiff for a couple of days after flying from Dublin this morning.

When my flight arrived at Cardiff Airport there was yet again a full passport and immigration check on all passengers.

There is supposed to be a Common Travel Area including the UK and Ireland (as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), and passport checks are not supposed to be made routinely at borders within the CTA.

I have noticed passport checks happening at Cardiff Airport before (e.g. here and here) but I’ve previously imagined there was some specific reason for them. Passport checks have, however, been carried out every time I have arrived in Cardiff recently and it is now abundantly clear that there has been a material change of policy.

When I got to the desk and handed over my passport I asked the Officer whether these checks were being imposed all the time now. She said yes: there are now full passport and immigration checks on all flights to Cardiff from Dublin.

This is from the UK Government’s website:

Well, if they check all passengers on all flights then that sounds like ‘routine’ to me. In other words the British authorities are violating the Common Travel Area agreement just weeks after undertaking to uphold it.

Did someone say ‘Perfidious Albion’?

Ten Little Englanders

Posted in Politics on June 11, 2019 by telescoper

Starring an illustrious cast of sociopaths, liars and drug addicts, Ten Little Englanders is an adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous detective stories, usually known by its less offensive title And Then They Were None.

Plot Summary: A group of of ten people find themselves on a small isolated island off the coast of Europe, lured there by the promise of a job as Prime Minister. One by one they all perish, stabbed in the back apparently by each other. But who could have struck the last blow? (continued, page 94).