Thursday, 24 March 2011


Dominic Haugh, a member of the Socialist Party in Limerick has written an excellent critique of Fine Gael's 'FairCare' plans through analysis of the Dutch model on which it is based. Dominic demonstrates that:

1. The Netherlands has gone from a two-tier health system to a three-tier health
system. Almost half a million people are now uninsured or defaulting on the
health insurance payments.
2. Private health insurance companies are findings ways to circumvent the ban on
‘risk selection’.
3. The current cost of the Universal Health Insurance basic package in the
Netherlands is €1194 per person for this year. On top of that Employers deduct
a further 6.9% of a workers income up to a ceiling (€2233 in 2009).
4. With annual income running at €53,000 per household, the annual cost of
health insurance is somewhere between €4,525 and €5,625, or 8.6 to 10.7 per
cent of household income.
5. Since the introduction of Universal Health Insurance in 2006, premium costs
have risen by 41% and could double from the current rates by 2014.
6. More than 50% of the hospitals in the Netherlands are facing bankruptcy as a
result of the introduction of Universal Health Insurance in 2006.
7. There has been a significant and continuing increase in healthcare costs since
the introduction of Universal Health Insurance in 2006.
8. The necessity to negotiate and implement 30,000 Diagnosis Treatment
Combinations (DBCs) between private health insurance companies and
individual hospitals has led to a massive bureaucratisation of the system.
9. It is not known how many hospital beds there actually are in the Netherlands.
10. The Dutch healthcare system has growing waiting lists and short-notice
postponement of operations.
11. The Dutch healthcare system is no better than average in comparison with
other wealthy countries.
12. 41% of people say that the quality of the health system has worsened since the introduction of Universal Health Insurance in 2006, while 8% indicated that it had improved.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Congratulations to Paul Murphy

Congratulations to Paul Murphy MEP, who has taken Joe Higgins' vacated seat in the European parliament. Paul is a seasoned campaigner who has been involved in the fight against the war in Iraq, the re-introduction of fees and various community and industrial campaigns. We wish him all the best. His website.

Monday, 21 March 2011

A Stroll Around Highgate

Heading down to London this weekend I finally got round to checking out Highgate Cemetery, something I've been intending to do for a long time but that I always ended up putting to one side. Needless to say, even though I only managed to get a look at the east cemetery, it proved very rewarding. I don't think anybody will be surprised that my main interest lay in the 'political' graves that, for various reasons, had been placed close to the enormous Marx tombstone. Though I did manage to find the graves of two very influential and talented writers.

Douglas Adams, author of Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy.

George Eliot, the name adopted by Mary Ann Evans, one of the most celebrated novelists of the Victorian period.

Having snapped these I stumbled upon these I made my way to the collosal grave of Marx himself.

The grave itself is quite interesting. Until 1954 the site was marked by a fairly humble gravestone which was then replaced by the current monument (at least 9 foot from base to the top of the bust) by the Communist Party of Great Britain. There was an attempt to destroy it by right-wing anti-communists in 1970. A stroll around the base also revealed the visit of some interesting mourners.

An Italian edition of the communist manifesto next to a handwritten note. Unfortunately, I can't speak Italian so it's contents remain a mystery.

Flowers at the graveside.

Left by our old friends the Maoists.

It was the graves that were given the honour of proximity to Marx that proved most interesting though. I honestly don't know how one ensures that their grave is located in this particular part of an already overcrowded cemetery. Personally, I reckon it would require a fairly substantial donation to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery and a certain degree of reputation. Anyway, that's just speculation. If anyone knows the process it's be interesting to know. Not that I'm intending to be buried in Highgate, just curious :). Anyway on to Marx's neighbours.

Chris Harman. Leading theorist and central committee member of the British SWP. Editor of numerous publications and responsible for a slew of theoretical material.

Buried nearby is his comrade Paul Foot, writer and journalist. Perhaps best known for his campaigning work on behalf of the Birmingham 6.

Mansoor Hekmat. Founder of the Worker-Communist Movement whose main strength has been in Iran and Iraq. An interesting figure, revered within the Iranian party. His ideas are interesting in representing one of the few significant variants of anti-Stalinist Marxism besides Trotskyism.

Yusuf and Winifred Dadoo, South African communist leaders.

Koque Martinez

Nazhad Agha. Deputy leader of the parliament of Kurdistan. Originally established after the first gulf war.

Buland Al Haidari. Kurdish poet and activist.

Saad Saadi Ali. Iraqi Communist Leader.

Another Iraqi Communist. The proliferation of Iraqi and Kurdish graves is interesting. Perhaps due largely to the fact that many of them lived in exile in London during Hussein's rule.

Well that's pretty much it. I might do similar articles on other 'political' graveyards closer to home (like Bodenstown) the next time I have a chance. There's clearly a lot of work to be done on these kind of cemeteries in relation to popular memory and so on.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The dynamics of class, space and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

I should explain. This post started as a response to some points raised over on the fascinating Little Review on how and why what are broadly defined as 'progressive' politics seem to find a more welcoming home in cities than they do in rural areas. However, by the time I began researching Luke Flanagan's election literature I realised that the post was going to be too long and off-topic for a comment box and required a post of it's own.

The phrase 'progressive politics' includes a wide range of issues. In terms of social liberalism, i.e, why attitudes towards choice, LGBT rights etc. find more support in cities, the answer is obvious. Namely, that freed from traditional family environments ideas like these can find more support where such bonds are loosened. Very few LGBT people who move from the countryside to the city find that their sexuality is received with a warmer reception in the former. However, what interests me more is why class politics, rather than broadly progressive politics, is much stronger in cities than it is in the countryside. Why is this? After all class exists in Castlerea as much as it does in Ballyfermot, yet class politics is clearly a much more powerful force in Dublin than it is in rural Ireland, where clientism, personality politics etc. remain surprisingly strong forces even now.

This brings me to something I've been thinking about a lot lately, which is the geography and the landscape of class and the connections between these dynamics and politics more generally. There's an excellent term I came across recently, that is used frequently by geographers but one that, as a historian, I wasn't familiar with. The term is 'intensity', or intensification. What this refers to is how different trends, experiences and social relations are inflated and intensified within a city. Essentially, the same social relations that exist within society generally become intensified when they are experienced within the concentrated social space of the city. The importance of this is recognised among urban geographers generally, but it's also something that Marx was well aware of when he wrote:
The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. (
It's important to remember of course that what the term 'idiocy' is a poor translation. In the original German, the term means 'narrow-view' or 'narrow-mindedness' rather than stupidity. Essentially, it means that a rural peasant cannot see national and international political and social forces at work and respond to them in the same way that a worker in a big urban area can. So, Marx, right back in 1848, was aware of how importance space was to class and class consciousness. How does this work in modern Ireland?

Let's take two individual workers: Jenny and Mary.

Jenny lives in the countryside in a single detached bungalow. Her nearest neighbours live a quarter of a mile down the road. While one of her neighbours is a great deal better off than she is, this social difference is not so clear. For one thing houses in the countryside are bigger than those in cities for reasons of space, so the difference in opulence between their two dwellings are not immediately obvious. Jenny's neighbour more than likely went to the same school as she did. While in Dublin or Galway her neighbour would have been sent to an exclusive fee-paying school like Blackrock College or the King's Hospital, those same opportunities don't exist this far out in the countryside and driving 50 miles to the nearest private school is not a feasible option. Because of this, Jenny and her neighbour are more than likely part of the same social circle. Anyway, Jenny drives to her workplace, a small agricultural supply centre with 12 other staff. Their relationship with their boss is cordial given the size of the workforce and, if she is unionised, major industrial issues only occasionally arise. This is how Jenny experiences the world on a day to day basis.

Mary has a very different experience.

Mary lives on a large working-class estate of over a hundred houses in North Dublin. Her neighbours generally share the same social background, social circle and, while there are differences in income, these are not major and don't reflect in the type of houses they live in. When Mary leaves for work she passes by streets of opulent wealthy houses. These houses are often surrounded by high walls and gates and she knows from experience that the provision of services tends to favour this area over her own. The contrast between this area and her own are staggering despite the fact that they are less than 2 miles apart. Mary reaches her workplace, an office building employing around 200 people. Mary is friendly with many of the staff. Her boss is a distant, authoritarian figure who may live in one of those big houses we mentioned earlier while the actual owners of the multinational that employ them may never have even set foot in the building. This is how Mary experiences the world on a day to day basis.

Obviously those two example are massively simplified generalisations and neither are going to relate exactly to any particular person. However, what we can draw from them is this: Even though Jenny and Mary exist in the same class relationship, they experience that same relationship in very different ways and a big part of this is to do with the dynamics of class and space

What do I mean by class? There are many different frameworks for understanding class, from the one favoured by the government - occupational class as recorded on census returns - to the more outlandish concepts favoured by postmodernist social scientists. In my view, the best framework for viewing class relations is that of Marxism. The Marxist view is that class is based on the power relationships that exist at the heart of capitalist society. At the centre of these power relationships are the means of production: Capital, machinery, assets etc. which are owned by the capitalist class. Since workers do not posess these things, or indeed, aside from a house or a car, very little private property, they can only make a living by selling their labour power to the capitalists, who own the other things necessary to produce goods and services. As such class is not defined by wealth, though obviously massive differences in wealth and income are a by-product of capitalism, but by economic power. Simply put, Class:
stands for those broad aggregates of people which can be classified together by an objective criterion - because they stand in a similar relationship to the means of production - and more especially the groupings of exploiters and exploited which, for purely economic reasons, are found in all human societies beyond the primitive communal and, as Marx would argue, until the triumph of proletarian revolution. (Eric Hobsbawm, 'Class Consciousness in History' in Istvan Meszaros, Aspects of History and Class Consciousness, pp.5-6)
There are multiple reasons why I feel this is the best framework, which I'll probably come back to again, but for the moment all you need to know is that this is the framework I am using when I talk about class.

So basically, class happens in the workplace, but this is not necessarily where most people experience class most profoundly. This was particularly the case during the 1990s and early 2000s when the level of class struggle in the workplace was historically low, the role of shop stewards was diminished and social partnership managed to contain the class tensions that did exist. But people still encountered class, just in different ways. People saw how the health service reflected class divisions in ensuring those with good insurance would get the same operations that public patients had to wait months for, through anti-water charges campaigns and a multitude of other ways. Where space and geography enter into this is the fact that geography is central to people's mental landscape. It seems natural, but when you think about it, very bizarre just how strong ideas like 'northside' and 'southside' in Cork and Dublin actually are. Why should a river define your concept of place so profoundly? Yet, these mental geographies are deeply powerful on a fundamental level. Class too influences this mental landscape. One of the most powerful expressions of class difference I ever experienced was when walking from Lover's Walk in Cork to the North Ring Road. The walk is only ten or fifteen minutes long, but in that brief stroll you go from a centre of disgustingly opulent wealth to some of the poorest, most neglected areas of the city. Coming from outside the city, I found this absolutely amazing, but for people living in either of those areas, the existence of class, inscribed onto the city landscape itself, is both clear and profound.

So, what has all this got to do with Luke Flanagan?

Luke Flanagan is part of a long line of populist non-ideological political figures in Irish politics. This lineage includes people like Jackie Healy Rae, Seán Dublin Bay Loftus, Mattie McGrath and various others. I should stress that I use this definition broadly and it would be highly unfair to compare Ming with Jackie Healy Rae for obvious reasons. Ming is undoubtedly a lot more intelligent and tuned in than Healy Rae or his children. Similarly these figures are not isolated to rural areas or indeed to independents. Noel O'Flynn in Cork is (was) an excellent, and repellant, example of this kind of politician. What links these figures is that while for the most part they are right-wing in practice, the way they present themselves and win votes is based on their status as 'ordinary guys' and as local men, as distinct from the usual politicians who are seen as remote and elitist by constituents. This localism can be seen in Flanagan's maiden speech to the Dáil: Note 'West of Ireland Man' and the 'people of Roscommon and Leitrim'.

What is the link between these guys and what we were talking about earlier? It has to do with how the intensification of clsss relations, and therefore class consciousness, impacts on politics. As we've seen, intensification and development of consciousness happens much more easily in a city or big town than a village. When the geography and landscape of class is not so obvious, for example in Kerry or Roscommon, people understand politics through a different lens. So for a man living in Castlerea, the idea that the problems he faces are not the result of the division of power between classes, does not necessarily come naturally. However, the idea that these problems are the result of a division between a marginal, rural, underdeveloped area and Dublin, the 'big smoke', the seat of power, wealth and industry, a division between the metropolitan centre and the rural periphery, seems more intuitive. Additionally, because of the marginality of his home and community, it is natural that he should feel powerless about affecting change on a national level. National politics 'happens' in the urban centre of power, so the appeal of localism increases. Jackie Healy Rae, it must be remembered, did actually fix the potholes, which is more good than any Fine Gaeler ever did for Kerry.

However, such politicians are a dying breed. The scale of the crisis has meant the awareness that there are conflicting social forces at work in society and that their interest are mutually antagonistic has become much more widespread in both country and city. It's also not true that left-wing ideas cannot find fertile ground in rural areas. During the Irish revolution most of the Soviets that sprang up in workplaces were in small towns and villages (Limerick excepted) while much of the social radicalism of the 1960s revolved around countryside issues like fishing rights, ground rents and land agitation. The Worker's Party won it's first TD in Mallow, not Dublin. This year's election also saw the success of Séamus Healy of the Workers Unemployed Action Group who have established a strong following in South Tipperary while Thomas Pringle, undoubtedly a man of the left, took a seat in Donegal. What TWAG show in my opinion, is just how important the role of an activist party is in fostering class consciousness.

So how can parties of the radical left imitate Healy's success in South Tipp? Linking local issues to national ones is crucial. A campaign to save a hospital can be diverted into localist channels by the likes of Mattie McGrath but a party that links this issue to the need for reforming the health service completely can cut across this sort of thing. Also, issues of margin and periphery, dismissed by some on the urban left, shouldn't be ignored. I was struck by this leaflet over on Irish election literature:

Well why shouldn't Mayo get an airport? If it provides jobs and services then why the hell not? This leaflet plays into a different but equally reactionary localism to that of Jackie Healy Rae or Mattie McGrath. Parts of Ireland that are dying due to a lack of infrastructure or development shouldn't be dismissed because they're outside the pale.

But I digress. The interesting thing about these populist TDs is that the way they present themselves, as the ordinary guy, representing the little fella has strong echoes of Fianna Fáil's populist message from the 1930s onwards, where they managed to contain the development of class politics through concessions to the working-class in terms of housing and social welfare combined with an ideology that appealed to workers, small farmers etc. but that still denied the centrality of class. It seems odd to describe FF as non-ideological, given their right-wing policies over the past few decades, but even an event as absurd as Bertie trying to describe himself as a socialist reflected Fianna Fáil's reluctance to openly embrace a right-wing identity. What's sure though is that the crisis and the collapse of Fianna Fáil has shaken the foundations of Irish politics to the core. Shane Ross, when interviewed on RTE after his election victory, congratulated Joe Higgins and explained that even at that point in the count (Saturday afternoon) there was an ideological dividing line being established in the Irish political system that hadn't previously existed. Healy Rae and Mattie McGrath may have clung to their seats but they seem increasingly like an anachronism as the lines of left and right are being drawn within the Irish political system.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Wonderful New Resource

Political and other historical postcards from the Linen Hall library. Be careful if you're planning on doing any actual work, I ended up spending an hour looking at these.

All available here

Friday, 11 March 2011

North West Spanish Civil War Commemoration Events

 Via the Irish Labour History Society:

The North West Spanish Civil War Project was established to honour all those from counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal who played a role in the International Brigades. We are pleased to announce that in 2011 we will have a series of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and to ensure that the names of the 24 local men who went to Spain in the fight against fascism are never forgotten.

From the outset our aim has been to remember and honour the role played by volunteers from the North West of Ireland, who participated in the International Brigades. The men involved were ordinary working class people who came together in a foreign land, sacrificing their lives for an ideal, and with this year being the 75th anniversary we will create a lasting tribute to those involved.

At present we have a number of events scheduled for the year ahead to coincide with the anniversary. The main event will undoubtedly be the dedication of a bronze plaque in the city centre of Derry to these volunteers. Plans are also afoot for the launch of a publication by local lecturer and Irish labour historian Dr. Emmet O'Connor that will examine the lives and backgrounds of those involved, and the roles in which each of them played in defence of the Spanish Republic.

Over the coming months, we will be publicising the events through the local media and on our website as dates and venues become finalised. If you would like to support the project or have information on the volunteers you can contact the project:
email on:
Visit our website:

China Mieville: Politics in the most unlikely of places

Some of you may be familiar with the work of China Mieville, that rarest of beasts, a Marxist fantasy and science fiction author (he is a long time member of the SWP and was even an election candidate). I'm a big fan myself and his work has attracted a wide audience alongside copious amounts of critical praise. However, Mieville has not shied away from producing novels and short stories that reflect his Marxist politics. Iron Council in particular doesn't hesitate in marrying revolutionary Marxism to fantasy literature, a genre usually better known for its creative and political conservatism, while his most famous creation, the city of 'New Crubazon', is a not especially subtle allegory for humanity under capitalism. However, alongside these deeper explorations of revolutionary change and so forth, Mieville also clearly has a sense of humour (a necessity for survival in the British far-left) and experienced socialists ought to get a kick from stories like this one. If you don't want to read the whole thing then just have a look at this quotation:

'I moved on. A man stepped into my path. He was part of a group of sharp-dressed types at the edges of the crowd. He sneered and gave me a leaflet.


'Why We Are Not Marching.

'We view with disdain the pathetic attempts of the old Left to revive this Christian ceremony. The notion that the government has 'stolen' 'our' Christmas is just part of the prevailing Fear Culture that we reject. It is time for a re-evaluation beyond left and right, and for dynamic forces to reinvigorate society. Only last month, we at the ILMI organised a conference at the ICA on why strikes are boring and hunting is the new black...'

I really couldn't make head or tail of it. I threw it away'
The more astute leftist trainspotters among you will have recognised the reference to the notorious 'Why the Socialist Labour League is not Marching' leaflet produced by Gerry Healy's followers in a now infamous display of paranoia and sillyness. These references are not why I like his work, but I do like that Mieville does occasionally wink at socialist activists through his fiction.

Anyway, I have to say that when I started reading Un Lun Dun, Mieville's first novel aimed at the young adult market, that I really wasn't expecting one one of these 'winks' to show up, given the target audience. I was pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong a mere 55 pages in:

'Obaday took them past a house-sized fist, carved out of stone with windows in its knuckles....'

Bottom right hand corner of the page, third building from the right. Yep, that symbol should be more than familiar to socialist activists:

which is itself based on the old logo of the Militant tendency:

So, that most potent symbol of revolutionary socialism, the clenched fist of insurrection raised defiantly in the air has been re-imagined as a dwelling in an alternative fantasy London. Thanks for the wink China.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Joe Higgins addresses the new Dáil

“The outgoing regime indulged the profiteering speculator and the grasping bankers, imprisoning a generation of young working people in monstrous mortgages, now in negative equity. And when that greedfest inevitably choked on its own excess, it treacherously connived with the EU, IMF and the ECB to save the skins of the major European banks that had their snouts deep in the feeding trough that was the Irish property market, where they slurped as frenetically as any Fianna Fáil developer or big Irish banker.
“And for this, and the crash that inevitably resulted, now we see the savage attacks on the living standards of our people which this nominee for government intends to continue. They attack public services, they steal from the disabled and the poor. A revolution would overturn and reverse all that, but what this nominee for taoiseach proposes is to confirm and reinstate the discredited programme by a discredited government. The poisonous cocktail of austerity drawn up, concocted by the witch doctors in Brussels and in Frankfurt because of the sickness of the European financial system is to continue to be force-fed to the Irish people by this new proposed government.
“Nearly 100 years ago, the forebears of today’s speculating European financiers, and their political clients, plunged Europe into war in a vicious competition for markets, for raw materials, and profits. The Irish parliamentary party of the day will forever be remembered in infamy for its campaign to dragoon a generation of youth to feed the insatiable appetite of the imperial war makers.”
Also before the opening of the Dáil:

Monday, 7 March 2011

Some Joe Higgins Speeches

Joe Higgins webcam speech to Socialist Party of England and Wales following the gains made by the Socialist Party and United Left Alliance in the general election

From quite a bit ago, Joe Higgins speaks at a Socialist Alternative public meeting in Minneapolis

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Antifascistas Exhibition

'Antifascistas', an exhibition of material taken from the International Brigade Archive at the Marx Memorial Library, mainly to do with British and Irish Volunteers who fought for the Spanish Republic, will be on display at the Irish Labour History Society museum and archives at Beggars Bush from Monday 16th to Friday 27th of May from 10.30am - 4.30pm daily. The exhibition is reviewed here.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

I believe they call it a 'shout out'.....

Two new blogs for your perusal:

Emerald Bile

21st Century Partisan

Ex-Westlife Wanker Brian McFadden advocates Date-Rape


When it was suggested to Brian that stalking a woman 'drunk as shit' at the bar and then taking her back to his house to 'do some damage' and 'take advantage' was pretty hard to interpret as anything except date rape he was incensed at the 'super-intelligent reaction' to his song. Well this is a new low for one of the worst popstars in the history of the world. Disgusting lyrics and abhorrent music.

Seriously Brian, strap your balls to a mace and fling it off a cliff.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Books Worth Waiting For

So, what might a discerning Irish Marxist such as myself be looking forward to in terms of reading material this year? I've already read Hobsbawm's latest work, the excellent Tales of Marx and Marxism, as well as something a little bit older but still very relevant in the form of Richard J. Evans' In Defence of History. So what's there to look out for in the coming months? Well...

1. Sins of the Father: Tracing the Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy by Conor McCabe is now available for pre-order on Amazon. For those of you who haven't been following Conor over on Dublin Opinion, the book is essentially a history of Irish political economy from the founding of the state to the present day, focusing on the historical roots of the current crisis. If you've been following Conor's posts you'll know that the book, at a modest 220 pages, is going to seriously challenge the orthodox narrative of the Irish economy and will be the first book on the economic collapse, with the exception of Kieran Allen's Ireland's Economic Crash, that examines the death of the Celtic Tiger from a historically grounded, Marxist perspective. It is disappointing that he didn't go with my suggestion of 'The Rocky Road to NAMA' for the title but this is definetely one to look out for. Speaking of left responses to the crisis....

2. Ireland's Economic History: Crisis and Uneven Development in the North and South by Gerard McCann is due out in August 2011. I don't know a great deal about McCann except that his background is in development studies and that he is a lecturer in European Studies at QUB. Like McCabe he appears to be challenging the dominant consensus on the economic collapse, but interestingly, he is coming at it from an all-Ireland angle, focusing on the island economy as a whole. According to the amazon blurb, the book promises to highlight how 'aggresive differentiation has been divisive and destabilising' for both the Northern and Southern economies. This is another one to look out for and the focus on the all-Ireland economy is an approach that hasn't really been used since Neo-Marxist theorists went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from Connolly School left-republicanism. Whatever way the final book turns out, this is one to look out for.

3. A Labour History of Ireland: 1824-2000 by Emmett O'Connor is a new expanded edition of his Labour History of Ireland: 1824 to 1960. I'm a big fan of O'Connor's work on Irish communism and other aspects of labour history but (unfortunately) like most people I have yet to read his most ambitous work. Having seen the new version advertised on Amazon, I decided I'd wait for this rather than shelling out 20/30 quid for the old version. I haven't read it so I can't really comment except to say that it is the closest thing to a Marxist / Materialist history of the Irish state and society currently available. The only comparable works would be the awful Ireland Her Own by T.A Jackson or the little better A History of the Irish Working-Class by Peter Beresford Ellis. Again, this is one that I'm quite looking forward to, especially as it intersects with my own research.

4. On the Run: The Story of an Irish Freedom Fighter by Colm O'Gaora, translated by Micheál O'hAodha and edited by Ruan O'Donnell. This coming June, this primary account of the Irish Revolution by an important republican figure will now finally be available for those, such as myself, who lack a grounding in the aul teanga dúchais. O'Gaora's memoirs will fill an important gap in terms of sources relating to the revolution in the west of Ireland which, compared to say Munster, are few and far between. Not really much to add, except that I'm a great admirer of Ruan O'Donnell who I think is currently taking on the mammoth challenge of a writing a trilogy on the modern republican movement, from the border campaign onwards. This I am looking forward to since the current sole volume on the border campaign, Soldiers of Folly by Barry Flynn, is a bit shit. Finally, when I'm sick of all this history and need to unwind with a good novel...

5. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry. I was a massive fan of Kevin Barry's clever, humorous columns in the Irish Examiner a few years ago and was extremely disappointed when he vanished from the backpage. I felt a bit better when I found out that this was in order that he could complete work on his first short-story collection There Are Little Kingdoms. The collection was a mixed bag, but on the whole, excellent. Barry's fiction, like his journalism, combines a wry sense of homour with deep and genuine insights into contemporary Irish society. This is his first novel and one that I intend to wolf down as soon as I can. For an example of Barry's fiction, though far from his best, check out Fjord of Killary, published in the prestigous New Yorker.

Well that's pretty much it. If anyone has anything else they feel deserves a place on my wishlist drop me a comment.