Parisienne scene Apr26

Parisienne scene

No. 1 Rue Auber, 75009 Paris: Entracte Opera opposite the Academie Nationale de Paris. There’s some kind of commotion, a congregation of youths on the steps. I spot a Chinese tourist with one of those awful selfie-sticks, a boy with wide-brimmed black hat, a performing hat, takes it and attempts a photo with the facade behind. Locals walk by and look down at our table and see a breadbasket, a beer, a glass of wine and the little dish of butter and me, writing this, in my little black notebook. A black guy with a silk scarf and blue headphones wears cool sunglasses and saunters past; a mother and daughter hold hands, trailed by their husband, father respectively at a distance of ten feet. A moustachioed man rubs his jaw at the bus stop to our left; a rickshaw pursued by a bicycle; talk of how delicious the bread is; three Asian women cackle in the corner behind us as the food arrives. An old guy comes along to talk with our waiter. The hair on his head is erect, deliberately so – bouffant? – like he’d just come from a bungee jump or maybe he jumped off a high wall and passed through a bucket of hair gel on the way down. A girl passes with tissue shoved up each nostril; another man who looks a lot like Ho Chi Minh passes two Asians who smile at his appearance. One of them has a duck packpack, trying to stand on her boyfriend’s heels as a joke. Because of the tables, pedestrians have to slow as they bunch up in front of us and they take a moment to look at us looking at them. There’s a pink 81 and black 95 bus stop...

2016 Unfinished Business by Graham Harringtom Feb24

2016 Unfinished Business by Graham Harringtom...

The idea that 1916 was a simple blood sacrifice or a romantic and spontaneous uprising by a group of fanatics will be parroted out to no end in the coming months. It doesn’t help that this is a revisionist myth. The reality is the Easter Rising was a product of certain conditions, conditions which the Establishment certainly won’t want admit today. The question must be asked, what makes 1916 different from other uprisings like 1798, 1803, 1867? All showed grand feats of heroism and sacrifice. All failed from a military point of view. However, 1916 stands out because it ignited a series of events afterwards – the rise of Sinn Féin, the 1918 election and the first Dáíl, the Tan War and Civil War. Collectively, these events can justly be called the Irish Revolution. However, it would be ridiculous to say a revolution can be caused by the executions of 16 individuals. 1798, 1867 and others  all had executions  and in their own way inspired other uprisings, but yet they did not lead to revolution. But why? It wasn’t that 1916 stood apart in terms of its egalitarian demands – “cherish all the children of the nation equally” and so on. It could be argued the Fenian Proclamation of 1867 was superior to the 1916 proclamation in terms of its social radicalism, demands for the end of the exploitation of labour, appeals to English workers and so on. The firm reality is that  1916 did not set off a revolution;  rather it was itself an event in a wider revolutionary period, in Ireland and Europe. 1916 could not have happened were it not for the Gaelic Revival which began as far back as the late 1800s. This led to a new-found pride in the...

Enda’s Been Shouting Again Feb22

Enda’s Been Shouting Again...

Recently, Enda Kenny, our Taoiseach, shouted. Loud. Ly. He was, erm…exhorting us, the electorate, (people who can vote) to ensure that Fianna Fail don’t get into power after the next election. They’re the bad guys; you’ve heard the argument by now. Many. Times. Loud. Ly. Don’t do it! said Enda. That would be bad. His shouting. Loud. Ly reminds me of what all teachers are told when they’re training: “Don’t smile til Christmas.” Well Enda hasn’t forgotten that sage advice and now he uses it to run the country, or to win elections: are they the same thing? I don’t know. Do nurses win elections? Or engineers? Teachers do! There are many of them in government: Enda Kenny; Michael Martin; Michael Noonan and lots more. I recall a scene in Blackadder the Third. Edmund, butler to the Prince Regent, is disguised as the Prince Regent; the Prince Regent is dressed as Edmund; Baldrick can’t tell the difference now. Enter Stephen Fry who plays The Duke of Edinburgh. They discuss tactics; Edinburgh is assured of one thing at least – the only way to win a war is “Shout, shout and shout again!” It be may that Enda shouts Loud. Ly because of his teacher training all those years ago. Was he told way back when that you don’t smile til Christmas and shout every so often, Loud. Ly to scare the bejayzus out of them? And who is “them”? Enda seems to think that people fall for that shouting routine; it’s the words, Enda…the words and the speaker. Not the volume. Churchill didn’t shout; he just chose really great words. But Enda ain’t no Churchill I guess. Who in the Dail is? And isn’t that the real issue here? Isn’t this why shouting is...

The National Front by Daniel Dilworth Dec24

The National Front by Daniel Dilworth...

  The past couple of years have seen meteoric rises of the political extremes; we have seen the likes of Syriza (the Greek socialists) ascend to power under Tsipras and more recently a bloc of leftists in Portugal. Simultaneously, the far-right has also gained popularity: many cite the examples of Golden Dawn in Greece, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Nigel Farage’s UKIP in the UK. And amongst these is one of the original “far-right” and “bigoted” and “racist” of all European parties: the infamous Front National in France. The Front National (FN) was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in the early 1970s as just another small political party. Influenced by the nationalist Action Française, FN gradually moved to its extremest incarnation. Immigration and racism soon became entwined in party doctrine, FN espoused a France where immigrants from North Africa were to be returned to their native lands and immigration from such areas ended.  For many years, FN remained a minor party, seldom troubling the more mainstream parties in France. Le Pen cut a divisive figure, one who could never realistically ascend to the French presidency, a position he coveted.  In 2011, he stood aside and was replaced at the top by his daughter, Marine. Le Pen Senior remained in the shadows witnessing his daughter change the party’s xenophobic image to a much more republican one whereby the traditional secular values were to be defended first and foremost; the previous racism which had been associated with FN was shed. It hung on, and still does. Earlier this year, Marine Le Pen was involved in a spat with her father over his alleged remarks that the Holocaust was a “detail” of World War Two. Marine wanted a retraction but Jean-Marie refused. In the end daughter had to...

A Beautiful Life Dec14

A Beautiful Life

While at Arles, Van Gogh tore his pants and used them as a canvas. He improvised reed pens and drew on the material. He was aware that he was broken, damaged. Art was a means for him to join the world, to manage. He sat in fields in Arles and painted “A View of Arles with Irises in the Foreground.” What could be simpler? Most of his paintings have similar titles: “Irises;” “Almond Blossom;” “Wheatfield with a Reaper;” “Cypresses and Two Women.” I imagine the silence of his work, the patience and the hope that he’d be okay, at least for today. When inspiration didn’t come so easily he’d ask his brother to send to him copies of paintings by Millet and he’d paint them; one such endeavour is known as “The Sheepshearer, after Millet.” His brother Theo loved him and supported him, perhaps understanding that without his paintings, Vincent would be destroyed. Vincent wrote him letters, articulate and tender, and they are a great example of brotherly love. He ended his life in a village outside Paris. His last painting is called “Tree Roots;” later that day he walked into the countryside and shot himself. Then he walked back and spent the evening talking and smoking with his landlord even though he was in great agony. On July 29 1890, he died in his brother’s arms. He said, “I want to die like this.” The local priest refused to bury him because he was a suicide so they waked him at his little hostel where he had finished 80 paintings in 70 days. One of his last paintings is called “Wheatfield with Crows,” and it depicts a wheatfield and a winding road and of course some crows. But what the title doesn’t advertise is the troubled blue sky – dark, uneven, laden with tears. I wonder if he painting it with the decision to end his life settling on his shattered soul like rain on a campfire. Six months later, Theo died too. Vincent is reputed to have said, “Art is long and life is short.” His life is a beautiful testament to such truth....

Smoking Makes Me Feel Epic Nov11

Smoking Makes Me Feel Epic...

I used to smoke Marlboro Reds, still to my mind the best tasting cigarette out there. I can remember opening a second box once because I was enjoying them so much, though that didn’t happen often. I might have got through as many as thirty that day. As a rule though, I smoked about ten in a day. Part of me misses that old self, before the intolerance. I envy heavy smokers. I imagine they are the least bored, most creative of people, and because they persist with it while the rest of us – ex-smokers and non-smokers – judge them as ignorant or irresponsible or maybe simply a bit too cavalier, they effectively tell us, “I don’t care what you think.” It’s this tendency some people have to not care (or at least not to care in any demonstrable way) that I think helps to explain the continuing appeal of smoking. Smoking is a way to stick two fingers up at the world but it can also be a means for those with low self-esteem to fit in. I remember watching an acquaintance pretend to inhale a cigarette. He was an accomplished athlete and relied on that for popularity but his need for acceptance occasionally grew enough for him to bum a fag. I disliked the practice of pretending to smoke and still do today. Smoking is dangerous and ill-advised; that’s the whole point. It’s not like having one last drink in the pub even though you’ve had enough already or eating too much on Christmas day. Smoking is a way to express things all too often discouraged in us: defiance; rebelliousness; nonchalance; rage; disregard for one’s own well-being; fascination with death. It’s not unfortunate that it’s bloody unhealthy and can kill you:...

A VISIT FROM CIARÁN COLLINS Nov08

A VISIT FROM CIARÁN COLLINS...

Every new school year brings with it hopefully a new year for CloudofThink. It must be admitted, however, that the creative writing club has struggled somewhat to get off the ground this year. We decided then that it was about time to raise a greater awareness of the club and of the general pastime of writing by inviting an author to the school to speak to students. Ciarán Collins, a Cork writer and teacher, kindly consented to come along to our school on Tuesday 20th, and discuss both his new book and the process of writing. This book, Mr Collins’ first, is called The Gamal. It tells the story of Charlie, a lad from a small West Cork village, who keeps mainly to the sidelines of life but, contrary to the popular belief that he is a bit of a fool or “gamal,” notices anything and everything from joy to sorrow to the book’s central doomed romance. Charlie’s first-person narration meanders from the realms of the hilarious to the heart-wrenching in a touchingly real and relatable account of the life of a teenager. It was with a reading from the first pages of this novel that Mr Collins began the event on Tuesday, a reading which I could see left the whole audience enthralled and determined to read more of the book themselves. I then sat down with Mr Collins for what proved to be a fascinating and very informative discussion about his work. He described how, when he was beginning The Gamal, he thought it very important to “be as ambitious as I could… to try and write the very best deepest, funniest, most heartbreaking, engaging, insightful kind of a book that I could come up with,” a sentence which captures perfectly the...

Bad TV Oct31

Bad TV

There’s an ad for RTE out at the moment. Four young, clean-limbed, reasonable, middle-class, college-educated lads are sitting together watching a TV screen. You can’t see what’s on but the lads are having the craic. They’re extremely pleased with the fare. One of them even uses the phrase “gone through the roof” in his effort to convince us that RTE is great. Then they all laugh again, heartily, some more heartily than others. I wonder if the likely lads are thinking of “Winning Streak” as they ruminate on the fabulousness of it all. “Winning Streak” always features old people. I’ve nothing against old people, you understand. They’re always old. They buy lots of lotto tickets. This is a perfect show for old people because all they have to do for money is choose a number from 1 to 5. That’s not quite true. Now and again they are asked to press a button that sits atop a kind of pedestal well within arm’s reach. They like being asked to do simple things for money. It’s only fair. Their arthritis won’t allow anything more challenging. But wait…it’s not so easy. They need to consult their families in the audience. They can’t decide which of the numbers 1 to 5 they want. Ooh, it’s so agonising; what if they pick 3 and it turns out to be 2 or 4 behind that yoke that turns? That would be maddening. So close! But it’s okay. Ask the family… because with three or more people on the case, you’ve a much better chance of guessing that elusive number. Phew, glad we brought the family now. You stick it out ( it moves at a blistering pace) and you might get to spin the wheel. You have to spin...

OPEN NIGHT ’15 Sep17

OPEN NIGHT ’15

Imagine that the world has been conquered by aliens….  The big, scary, aliens crawled out of the high-tech space ship. They asked could they conquer the world, but I said no. They did not listen. Within a day they had taken over the world. I started a rebellion…… Timmy O’Riordan     Imagine that you have been stranded on the moon for weeks… Only two days ago I landed on the moon and the rocket blew up I barely survived. I would not be here if it was not for my beautiful leather wallet that sacrificed itself for me. There is barely enough food and water to survive on… Cian Hourigan     Imagine that you live in the Middle Ages…..  I made a fire and ran around it for a while. I went to bed… Adam Laverty     Imagine that a real zombie apocalypse has suddenly happened… I would go to scatter Lego on the floor, grab bear traps, scatter them across the house, grab as much food as possible, grab the hammer at home, buy a second hammer, grab the two sharpest and longest knives in the kitchen, grab as much money as possible, sell anything that wouldn’t help, set a ladder up at my bedroom window and bring a friend for shared equipment, extra brains, for my sanity and a night shift. Billy     Describe a dangerous sea journey on a small, old ship… One night out at sea, a really foggy, a small oil liner was heading towards a few rocks that were just ahead. The coast guard reckoned they had about ten minutes to locate the small ship. So, as quickly as possible they sent out a big lifeboat, and the lifeboat was able to locate the...

To Be Extraordinary No Longer Matters Sep07

To Be Extraordinary No Longer Matters...

Carpe Diem “Carpe Diem, Be Extraordinary,” says Robin Williams inspiring his students in the film “Dead Poet’s Society.” I was inspired by this yesterday while I was planning a careers class for my Transition Year group. Today, I am heartbroken – not by the quote itself – but by the image of toddler Aylan found washed up on the shore of Bodhrum, Turkey. I just can not get it out of my head. As a daughter, mother, sister, aunt, teacher – what more could I want for the next generation, whether it is my sons or Aylan. Aylan is my son, my son’s brother, my son’s friend. To be extraordinary no longer matters. It should never matter – as long as our sons and daughters are safe, healthy and happy, there is not one other thing that really matters. It now feels indulgent and over the top to be filling their heads with such quotes. To think we live in a society which festoons such sentiments disgusts me when every effort and energy should be put into helping those around us. Overall, I am angry with myself. I have been reading about our naval crews on the LE Eithne and LE Niamh over the past few months rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean. On finishing each article I have thought to myself, “Isn’t that great, that the Irish Navy is out there helping those poor people.” But I have not really thought about these poor people, who are not economic migrants but refugees. You see, sometimes it is just easier not to think about these things and not to care. In first year Geography class, twenty four years ago, we learned for the first time about the push and pull factors that force people to...

WorkMustPay by Graham Harrington Aug18

WorkMustPay by Graham Harrington...

“Yes friends, governments in capitalist society are only committees of the rich to better manage the affairs of the capitalist class.” – James Connolly WorkMustPay is a campaign of young trade unionists and political activists against the JobBridge internship racket. JobBridge is a state scheme which forces young workers to work for periods of 6-9 months for only €50 euro on top of their dole. This is unacceptable. The minimum wage in this state is €8.65 per hour yet interns under the scheme only receive €3.65 on average. The purpose is quite clear: it is to provide employers with slave labour and encourage workers to engage in a race to the bottom against each other. The Department of Social Protection provided interested businesses with a subsidy to take on people from social welfare. This massages unemployment figures and alleviates the burden on the state of providing jobs for people. It is a scheme designed solely to make Joan Burton and her Labour colleagues feel as if they are doing something when in reality what they are doing is destructive. It will only lead more people below the poverty line and more young people to the plane to Australia. If a business has a vacant position then they at least should owe any potential applicant the basic respect of the minimum wage. JobBridge waives that responsibility for employers and promotes a mentality of “Don’t like it, feck off.” Employers have the right to sever any agreement with interns and interns do not have any right to trade union representation. If the intern has any problems with conditions then they have to be silent or will lose even the meagre allowance of €50 a week. This allowance is merely a token amount and in many instances is not...

A WEEK AT THE WEST CORK LITERARY FESTIVAL by Cian Morey Jul19

A WEEK AT THE WEST CORK LITERARY FESTIVAL by Cian Morey...

The West Cork Literary Festival, centred on the town of Bantry, is one of those wonderful but rare weeks in which one can focus completely on books, on either their reading or their writing. Featuring readings and talks from established authors and poets, Q and A sessions with literary agents and editors, and even nightly open-mic events in which one can showcase one’s own talents, the West Cork Literary Festival has become an annual highlight in the Irish literary calendar. This year’s Festival was just as enjoyable, interesting and informative as I had hoped. The first talk I attended was aptly entitled “An Evening with S. J. Watson”, the author of the hit thriller novel Before I Go To Sleep. Watson read from his latest book, Second Life, before discussing writing techniques, the publishing process and the fascinating impact of the internet on humanity in what was quite an intriguing hour and a half. The next talk I attended was rather different, and proves that everybody will always be able to find something that appeals to them at the West Cork Literary Festival. Nuala O’Connor, previously known as Nuala Ní Chonchúir, read in the Bantry Library from her new historical fiction novel Miss Emily, which deals with the relationship between the real-life poet Emily Dickinson and her fictional Irish maid. Most of the talk related to history, which was of particular interest to me as it is my favourite subject, but towards the end the discussion became more general, and Nuala O’Connor, like S. J. Watson, gave insights into the world of writing and publishing. That evening saw David Nicholls, whose latest work, Us, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, give an entertaining and inspirational talk to almost 270 people in the Windward...

Socialism: What is it and why do we need it? by Graham Harrington Apr27

Socialism: What is it and why do we need it? by Graham Harrington...

Socialism is a system whereby the means of production, distribution and exchange are publicly owned and used for the benefit of society as a whole. In English, this means that the natural resources of a country (oil, land, gas, water), the infrastructure (power stations, roads) as well as the commanding heights of the economy (the large industries, factories and essentially anything that produces anything on a large scale) are owned by the state. However, this is not the same as what we currently recognise in Ireland as state ownership. Under Socialism, the working class, i.e. the vast majority of society who do the vast majority of the work, take ownership of the state and make the decisions through a direct, participatory democracy, such as in Cuba. This ensures that the production and distribution of goods and services is done to meet the needs of people rather than for the profits of a small elite in society. I’ll explain this in more detail later on. Socialism would be ideal for Ireland. We possess a hugely skilled and educated workforce, have decent natural resources and we have excellent access to raw materials for production. For instance, we have a lot of rain here in Ireland, which is quite obviously a huge nuisance. However, under a democratically planned economy, we could develop ideas on the harnessing of rainwater which could be used to provide water services for everybody in Ireland without having to worry about water conservation. Under the current Capitalist system, this wouldn’t be done until it would become profitable and as we know, privatising water services is far more profitable than making clean, renewable water available for everyone. Our natural resources are privatised and given to foreign multi-national companies such as Shell to make a...

Iconography: What’s that? Feb10

Iconography: What’s that?...

On a trip to Mayo we spotted Croagh Patrick and thought, “Let’s have it.” Turns out it’s quite pretty and very manageable really. At the top it was very cold. I met a few stalwarts who filled me in on some of the history; one man remembers when they’d ascend in darkness with candles, throngs of people on a pilgrimage. Of course they banned that. Others still go up barefoot. Even with Zamberlans on with Vibram soles I found it fairly challenging; barefoot was never going to be an option for me, not that my soul is as pure all that, you understand. There were a couple of young fellas hanging around there, about thirteen or so. I asked one of them, the one with straw-coloured hair (which is uncommon nowadays) to take a photo. We were perched behind the sign announcing the summit, four of us. The sun was out, the view was wonderful and on the other side of the little chapel the wind was a bit Tom Crean. The photo caught us with smitten faces, pinkish and weathered, as if we’d been on foot for months in this terrain. I zoomed in later and took a screen grab of my face and altered it with an app and suddenly (to myself at least) I appeared more, well…heroic. My facial features were virtually annihilated yet it was instantly recognisable as a face. I think what the modification added was a kind of logo, the power of which I know advertisement agencies understand and exploit to the max. I could have been anyone to the untrained eye and yet I was me all the while. My expression was rendered more inscrutable and the scarf I’d worn as a hat obscured the precise dimensions...

Achievements of the USSR by Graham Ó hArrachtáin Jan08

Achievements of the USSR by Graham Ó hArrachtáin...

The Soviet Union achieved more in its first few decades than any other nation could ever even dream of replicating. The USSR originated in the baptism of fire that was the October Socialist Revolution. In this revolution, the exploited working class took state power and began administering the Dictatorship of the Proletariat under the leadership and guidance of the Bolshevik Party. The revolutionaries faced vociferous opposition from the dispossessed landowners and big bourgoisie and their supporters. Not to be out done by their Russian allies,16 countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan and Britain sent an expeditionary force to help the White Russians. The Bolsheviks successfully marshalled the support of the masses and the Red Army crushed the counter-revolutionaries. The young USSR achieved much in women’s emancipation. Women were given a right to vote, a right to education and the pay gap between men and women was abolished. Day care centres and créches were set up and provided to women to allow them to work without worrying about their children’s welfare. Women were also allowed play an equal part in the Red Army and in the protection of their country. The 5-year plans created a new era of industrial progress with industry growing by over 800% from Tsarist times during the first two 5-year plans. All this occurred at the same time the Capitalist countries were enduring the Great Depression! Magnificent feats of Socialist construction such as the Stalingrad grain factory and the industrial city of steel, Magnitogorsk showed the benefits of a planned economy. The Bolsheviks believed in cheap and effective transport for all citizens, with the construction of the Moscow Metro in 1931. Socialist architecture dominated the cities with beautiful buildings such as the Red Army Theatre, made in the shape of...

Why Jenna Coleman should leave Doctor Who by Cian Morey Dec19

Why Jenna Coleman should leave Doctor Who by Cian Morey...

Doctor Who’s eighth series has come and gone and it was one of the better ones. In fact, it was quite excellent, compared to Steven Moffat’s series 6 in particular. There were a lot of good episodes, a lot of good monsters, and, most importantly, a lot of good acting, specifically from Jenna Coleman. Those who are familiar with Doctor Who will know that Jenna Coleman’s character Clara Oswin Oswald was introduced to us as a plot device. She wasn’t really a companion; she was mostly a mystery to be solved. And she stayed that way for all of her first series without getting a lot of character development or a lot of opportunity to show off her talents. She was rather forgettable and I wanted her gone. Then series eight happened, and I realised that Jenna Coleman could actually act. Which was nice. The series opener, “Deep Breath,” gave us a pleasant hint of what was to come as did “Into the Dalek” and “Robots of Sherwood.” In “Listen” she improved. In “The Caretaker” she improved again. In “Kill the Moon” she became one of my favourite companions. Now I want to make it perfectly clear that I strongly disliked most of that episode due to its large assortment of scientific errors and gaping plot holes. However the last five minutes – when Clara stormed out of the TARDIS – were spectacular. Jenna Coleman delivered some of the best acting on Doctor Who since its reboot in 2005. Peter Capaldi, the new Doctor, a favourite actor of mine, had been outshone. Jenna Coleman stole the show, in that episode and in many of the following episodes, and that was fine. I’m happy that she has had such a wonderful opportunity to showcase her...

My Love for Jurassic Park by Graham Harrington Nov27

My Love for Jurassic Park by Graham Harrington...

It was with great delight and excitement that I watched the new Jurassic World trailer. I’ve loved Jurassic Park since before I was old enough to pronounce the names of my favourite dinos. I remember going to see Jurassic Park III with my family when I was about 6 or 7. My dad, thinking I would be frightened, told me we were going to see Doctor Dolittle. Despite his worrying, I ended up being entranced by the film. This started off a life-long enjoyment of the film series. I must have seen the three movies about ten times each – no exaggeration – whether it was the scene in the first movie when the T-Rex attacks the Velociraptors in a Des Ex Machina moment or the scene in the sequel when the T-Rex rampages through San Diego or the part in the third film when the T- Rex (You can guess what my favourite dinosaur is) duels with the Spinosaurus. Unsurprisingly, I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was younger. The idea of digging up dino bones and researching species was my life dream rather than to be a fireman or anything like that. I had an ecclectic collection of books, manuals and magazines on anything related to dinosaurs. Sadly, my interest declined over the years. Thankfully, my interest in the Jurassic Park series never waned. Jurasssic Park is definitely a big part of my childhood and instrumental in forming me as a person. This might be a bit odd to say about a film without a deep message or comprehensive story; although, to be fair, the first film did give a lesson on the potential consequences of man trying to play God. After watching the trailer for the new installment (five times...

Homage to Catalonia Again by Daniel Dilworth Oct14

Homage to Catalonia Again by Daniel Dilworth...

Hundreds of thousands have rallied for it; numerous political parties in the region support it;they speak a completely seperate language there. Artur Mas has signed legislation allowing a much-sought independence referendum for it. And yet…Mariano Rajoy and Madrid continue to deny it. I am talking about is the Catalan Independence referedum, scheduled for 9th November. In recent years a wave of nationalist sentiment in the region – already carrying limited autonomy –  has mushroomed, inadvertently assisted by the policies of successive governments in the far away capital of Madrid. Catalans feel they have been shouldering the brunt of the economic crisis in Spain and that their industries have been subsidising the less-well off regions such as Andalucia. Momentum has grown and at a much faster pace than say Scotland. But what have these two regions got in common? Both have strong independence movements; both are financially feasible should they become independent – which Scotland has voted against –  a result that would disappoint both William Wallace and Robert “Braveheart” Bruce (no, that is not an error – just showing one of the major inaccuracies of Mel Gibson’s infamously inaccurate films, but that’s for another day);  and both of these regions’ independence was/is opposed by the European Union. Madrid’s argument that any such independence referendum would be unconstitutional really annoys the Catalan people. Spanish army generals have suggested military intervention should independence be declared. All of this poses a problem though. Democracy is considered a birthright in Western nations. This must extend to a referendum on autonomy. The hypocrisy is evident: Spain is simultaneously threatening to undermine one perfectly legitimate referendum while questioning the desire the people of the Crimea to vote to join Russia. This referendum could’ve failed. Spain could’ve kept the independence movement...