July 10th, 2010


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July Books 4) The Bloody Sunday Report, volume III

This is the first of what I imagine will be six or seven intensely detailed volumes, detailing every available account of events remembered by the participants in Bloody Sunday. It covers
[22.1] what happened in the area of the Rossville Flats car park and in the adjoining waste ground to the north. There is no doubt that in this sector Jackie Duddy was killed by gunfire, while Margaret Deery, Michael Bridge and Michael Bradley were wounded by the same means. Patrick McDaid, Patrick Brolly and Pius McCarron were injured, though whether by gunfire or otherwise was a matter of controversy.
Collapse )The evidence of the soldiers is then summed up in one of the most masterfully written passages so far:
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To me, it becomes absolutely clear that soldiers expected to be able to shoot at their own whim and get away with it without serious investigation or penalty; the Yellow Card, which specified the circumstances under which soldiers might fire, was simply ignored (or at best misunderstood). This was the case for the soldiers, for Lieutenant N in charge of the platoon, and probably went all the way to the top. Collapse )

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Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Volume IV | Volume V | Volume VI | Volume VII | Volume VIII | Volume IX | Volume X and conclusions


Why are there 108 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly?

Thos who know me will have observed that I am fascinated by the political significance of numbers, whether that be in election results or science fiction awards. One number that has been flagged up to me a couple of times in recent days is 108 - the number of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. As so often in political history, the path leading to that fairly arbitrary number is a succession of accidents and very occasional deliberate planning.

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So, the current 108 seats come from 1) giving the Ulster Unionists a Home Rule parliament that they did not particularly want in mid-1920; 2) an afterthought of a second chamber in December 1920; 3) wishful thinking about moderates getting in with larger numbers in 1973; 4) mathematical convenience in 1983; 5) mathematical convenience in 1995; 6) the legacy of 1996's political expediency as it played out in 1998.

The new British government's figure of 600 seats for the whole of the House of Commons is enirely arbitrary, as is the decision to allow the outlying Scottish islands four or five times the level of representation of the country, but at least it is a political decision rather than an accidental consequence of other processes.

July Books 5) In The Shadows, by Joseph Lidster

I drove to the Hague and back yesterday afternoon - normally I would go by rail without hesitation, but it was such a hot day that I decided I would prefer to be in control of my own air-conditioning than subject myself to the whims of the train's electrical system. This gave me quite a long period of audiobook listening (it took about two and a half hours each way), and since I'm still eagerly waiting for The Guardian of the Solar System to appear on the Big Finish website, I dug into the archives and found this Torchwood story - set mostly during early Season 2 (after Jack's return from the end of the universe but before Gwen's wedding) but told in flashback from between Seasons 2 and 3. (I also started on a Tenth Doctor audiobook, but more on that when I finish it.)

It's rather good: a classic horror story plot (spooky taxi driver who kills people by aging them to death) moored expertly in the Torchwood setting, with nice character moments for each of the team (especially Toshiko and PC Andy) and lots of continuity references to please the fans. Eve Myles has a lovely reading voice and does a decent impression of Jack, and indeed of the others as well. If you liked Torchwood in the old days you'll like this.