October 9th, 2010

politics

Delicious LiveJournal Links for 10-9-2010

ireland

October Books 3) Ireland in the Age of the Tudors 1447-1603, by Stephen G. Ellis

I greatly enjoyed the first edition of this book when I read it two years ago, and the second edition is even better. To the penetrating insights and lucid descriptions of the earlier version, there are added a couple of extra chapters at the beginning looking at the relationship of the Old English nobles of Ireland to the Yorkist v Lancaster/Tudor struggles in the other parts of the realm - I had not really grasped it, but the Fitzgeralds (earls of Kildare and Desmond) were basically Yorkist (Lambert Simnel was crowned as King Richard IV in Christ Church cathedral in Dublin) while the Butler easrls of Ormond were basically Lancastrians and then Tudor supporters. This balance was upset by Henry VII's partnership with the Earl of Kildare once the Simnel unpleasantness was over, but their sons fell out in 1534. The rivalry between the two families continues through to Elizabeth's court, where the Fitzgeralds were aligned with the Duke of Norfolk and the Butlers with Essex.

Ellis sticks to his original conclusion, that the "surrender and regrant" policy probably could have worked given time, but Henry VIII lost interest, and from then on the question became one of how much money and how many soldiers to throw at the Irish wars. (In the course of the 1590s, for instance, 3% of the total population of Wales had been conscripted to fight in Ireland.) Lots more interesting background also on the perpetual lack of money of the Irish government institutions, and on the court system (though that was not quite as clear as I needed it to be), and many more tips for future and wider reading.
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Cutting the Northern Ireland Assembly from 108 to 75 seats

Peter Robinson's proposal that the Northern Ireland Assembly should be cut from 108 to 75 members has run into trouble, with criticism both from the UUP and from Sinn Féin. Of course, speculation on how this might change the political landscape is premature, but that won't stop me.

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Of course, all of this is more than a little theoretical. The votes cast in next year's Assembly election, never mind the first election under the proposed new arrangements in 2015, will be different from those cast in 2007 or 2010. And in any case we will be in a totally different ball game with respect to the constituency boundaries; the shift from the current 18 Westminster seats to 15 is pretty certain, but any shift from six-seaters to five-seaters from the Assembly is highly theoretical, and would require at least the DUP and SF to agree on it and probably at least grudging acquiescence from the other parties. But I think the basic lines set out above - that such changes will affect either the tallest poppies, or the more vulnerable party in the smaller bloc - are sound, and so it seems to me a fair conclusion that Peter Robinson's proposals will do the DUP no relative harm, will be bad news for the UUP and SDLP, and ironically may actually benefit Sinn Féin most.