Opinion pieces..

Over the years I've written a lot of articles and thought-pieces and letters to the paper. But, since you probably never heard of me before you probably didn't read any of them. 

I've put a bunch of them here. Most of the pieces are fairly short. There are a few long ones. Several of them are tinged with sarcasm, some with anger. They should show you my point of view on a lot of "political" topics. 

TL;DR?  Probably that I don't usually agree with the consensus or the approach that I see on the news in Ireland all the time.  

If you're reading these articles, please bear in mind the context of the time they were written. 

See if you agree. 

The Cost of Housing  (Jul 2011, originally from May 2004)

I was looking through my old email archives trying to find a receipt for something I bought online when I came across an old (unpublished) letter I wrote to The Economist in May 2004.  I was working in telecom at the time.  I titled my letter “The Cost of Housing”.



One of the most notable achievements of the liberal economic system is its ability to make products and services simultaneously better, cheaper, and more widely available.  It’s an achievement that few if any other socio-political systems can claim.  

Everything from cars to PCs to travel to food to entertainment, even the eponymous Big Mac, is getting better and cheaper all the time.  Some product categories are improving in quality and performance and falling in price so fast it has even become difficult to include them in inflation calculations. 

How can it be that such a powerful economic system cannot seem to make one particular product either cheaper or better?  House prices in far too many countries are rising and rising and rising.  

Petrol reaching $2/gallon or 80p/litre seems to be big and very bad news but house prices are rising to levels that put them at fantastic multiples of annual incomes and it seems to be good news.  Even ignoring the obvious concerns with inflationary bubbles, shouldn’t persistent price rises and persistently high prices in any industry so central to a nation’s wealth and well-being be a cause for national concern rather than celebration?  

Surely there is prima facie evidence of something structurally wrong with any such industry.  If so, isn’t it something that governments should be trying to investigate and repair rather than something where they fight to take the credit?


Hugh S


Of course the answer is easy and my question was largely rhetorical. It’s because most governments are trying to encourage expensive housing and to actually take the credit.

Expensive housing is politically popular and the entirely predictable (and predicted) social and economic consequences can be damned.

Ah well.

House Prices 2012 (July 2012)

After a much hyped upward blip in prices in May, is the decline resuming? It looks that way. With no prospect of domestic economic growth and the imminent arrival of property taxes, is there any countervailing reason for prices to rise?

The sad answer is probably “Yes”. Why? Because the government wants prices to go higher. It’ll bail out people in negative equity. It’ll bail out the banks. It’ll make the Irish middle and upper classes happier and they vote FG. And screw the economic and social consequences that are almost certain to follow. Again.

Could take a few years, but I don’t expect the govt to see this crash as an opportunity to keep housing affordable.

A Quick one on Genderquotas (Sept 2012)

There is an interesting article in Al Arabiya about an all-female party planning to run in the Palestinian elections.

Lest there be any doubt, if this party was running in Ireland they would not get party funding and even if they did – their allowance would be cut by 50% because they don’t meet the requirements of Ireland’s genderquota laws.

This is a rather telling illustration that these genderquota laws are NOT about increasing women’s ability to become candidates. They are about securing the EXISTING parties’ hold on party funding and excluding any real change.

The genderquota law is as cynical a move as can be imagined.  That sounds about right considering who’s supporting it.

Here’s the link to the article on some splendidly brave women. Good luck to them.


The Wonderful GAA (Nov 2012)

One of the Irish institutions that deserves as much praise as it can get is the GAA.  A nationwide structure that gets everyone from kids to old folks involved. Across the country. Across the social spectrum. 

No matter whether it’s the All-Ireland final or – like today – an under 11 schools match, there’s slick organization, great facilities, and a competitive but friendly vibe unlike most other sports. 

Something for Ireland to be proud of. 

Ireland’s Shameful past (Feb 2013)

The official reports on the abuse that was happening in Ireland’s industrial schools and orphanages is old news by now, but I was just re-watching the “States of Fear” program that brought it all to light.  

Scary to think that I spend the ’70s and ’80s walking up and down outside St.Josephs and never even wondered what was going on inside. There was even a boy in my class who lived there.

And still, today, we can see that there’s more horror still hidden.

Read this.

Elections, Elections, Elections – an Irish Ozymandias (April 2014)

There are elections on in Ireland, both for the European Parliament and for the local councils and corporations.

I keep wondering if it’s too late to register for the European elections. At least then I’d have a candidate I wasn’t ashamed to vote for.

As for the local elections, there are a couple of good independents to vote for so that’s good. It’s important to state that NOT one preference will go to ANY party candidate.  FF are a solid disgrace. FG and Labour have proven to be liars, particularly Labour. SF are cause to emigrate if they ever get into power. And the left parties in Ireland are all nuts.

No-one remains. It’s like Ozymandias and the debris of Irish democracy.

Same old housing bubble, same old hypocrisy (Nov 2014)

Ireland is re-entering on the path it’s tread several times before.

Housing is the flavour of the day, at least as long as there’s a mortgage on it. High house prices are again a good thing.

Recently the Central Bank tried to bring in some measures to reduce the madness, opposing 100% mortgages. There was a flurry of politicians, including many from the government, saying how dreadful this was and that it would “lock young people out of housing”.  It is, of course, hypocritical nonsense.

I tried to summarize some sense in a letter to the papers.  But I fear that the dodgy politicians have an all too willing audience on this topic. The Irish general public want to spend all their money on houses. Apparently there’s a consensus that it’s a good thing to have young people borrowing huge amounts for housing in a country that’s almost all open land. And even in Dublin some simple steps could resolve the housing problem in short order. But don’t hold your breath.



The usual Irish political hypocrisy on housing is returning to historic levels. While govt TDs and  ministers complain about how a rule requiring 20% deposits will “lock young people out of housing”, it is government policy that is largely responsible for high house prices in one of the least built up countries in the OECD.

Development levies on new housing, yet no effective property tax or land tax.VAT on housing construction. Effective limits on competition in the Irish bank market driving mortgage rates much higher than most EU countries. Effective prohibition on eviction of mortgage defaulters restricting supply and forcing interest rates higher. Market manipulation to recapitalize the Irish banks and protect the taxpayer (or their pensions). No reform in the rental market making long term rental an unpleasant and unstable option.

There is no end to the hypocrisy. It is explicit Irish government policy to inflate house prices. This, more than anything, locks young people out of housing. Yet you can continue to expect the politicians to blame the Central Bank. It’s all a lie. Again.




Yep – once again, letter writing is the lowest form of political expression. Apart from being a supporter of Sinn Fein

Political Integrity and Courage in Ireland – if you can find it (Jan 2015)

A couple of events in Irish politics recently made me wish I lived in a country where political integrity and courage existed much.

With honorable exceptions, they don’t.

On one hand we recently had Lucinda Creighton announcing the formation of a new political party. That’s all fine, but she’s still a sitting TD in a seat that she won as a Fine Gael candidate. And thus was supported by Fine Gael money, Fine Gael voters, and Fine Gael party workers.

Worse, she was even supported by my money which Fine Gael gets from the taxpayer as a big party. And there’s absolutely no pressure within politics or from the Irish media for her to resign the seat and re-win it (or not) as either an independent or as a leader of a new party. Meantime she has the pay and public visibility of a sitting TD and the uncritical attention of much of the Irish media. 

And when challenged on the topic Ms Creighton makes it clear that she feels no obligation to go back to the electorate. None. Regards it as a stupid question.

So in her mind it’s OK to be elected with money, votes and effort from one set of people, leave those people behind and continue to sit in her seat as a TD. Let’s say I think that’s lacking political integrity.  In the UK even Tories defecting to the much-maligned UKIP have all stood for re-election. But not in Ireland.

Especially since the new party she’s founding is supposed to represent a rebooting of politics in Ireland.

Meantime, on the other hand, a member of the cabinet recently announced to the country that he’s gay. And many in the media regarded this as a great act of political courage. I guess it might have been, 25 years ago.  But a lot has changed since then. The Irish ban on homosexual activity was declared illegal under the European convention of human rights in 1988. It was removed from Irish law in 1993. Since then we’ve had two women presidents and a (gay) presidential candidate in Ireland who were all supporters of the abolition of the ban. And none of whom suffered political consequences from being women, or gay, or supporters of gay rights.

And now a gay member of cabinet comes out and gets praise for his courage. 

It’s all so disappointing. He’d have been brave in 1987. Or maybe even 1992. But not in 2015. And meantime the fight for gay legal rights (still quite real in Ireland) has gone on without the visible support of a gay member of cabinet. Until now, of course, when it’s apparent that the remnants of anti-gay prejudice in Ireland are being driven into the margins and all the fights are about to be won.

Like most people in Ireland I don’t particularly care whether he likes boys or girls or both (i prefer girls myself), but I do care that he’s spent decades in politics and has never been brave enough to say anything in public about a rather fundamental feature of his being. A feature that’s politically relevant even if it’s not been a political handicap for a long time.

Not bravery in my book I’m afraid.

So, while a mini-series of the life of Charlie Haughey continues on our national broadcaster, mini-me’s of Ireland’s lack of political integrity and courage still swan around. And the Irish media not only let’s them get away with it, but practically encourages it.

ISIS in Ireland – topping the polls for years (Nov 2015)

ISIS is the new terrorist organisation in the news. EVERYONE thinks they’re terrible. And yet there’s a funny silence in Ireland. Because we have some of the progenitors of ISIS in our national parliament.  And they’re perfectly respectable people. Almost.

ISIS’ recent atrocity in Paris was particularly similar to two infamous atrocities by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in the 1970s and not unlike a bunch since then. Whether by the PIRA itself or any of its spin-offs, the Irish republican terrorists aimed to massacre innocents. And they weren’t fussy about how. Their methods and attitudes were influential in forming the approach of other terrorist groups since, ISIS included.

The Birmingham Bombing and the Guildford Bombing are the particular two atrocities that should be in every Irish person’s mind this year. Innocent people blown to bits on a night out in town. Just like Paris.

The IRA and Sinn Fein make excuses, but they’re just the same as ISIS would make; “our cause is just”, “the result of historical  oppression”, etc.

They try on a couple of additional ones too, like “we tried to give a warning”. But you don’t need to give a warning that you’re planning to blow up a crowded pub in the middle of a peaceful town if – for instance – you don’t plant shrapnel bombs in a crowded pub in the middle of a peaceful town.  You also get claims (as in the last few years) that atrocities like Birmingham and Eniskillen were “not approved” or “went against our principles”. And yet they kept happening.

So here we are. Some of the major organizers of the IRA are in our national parliament. Men convicted of importing guns and bombs are poll-topping successes.

It’s a horrid indictment of the Irish conscience and the Irish electorate. And the Irish media too, of course. But none of this is new. It’s just cause for a slightly uncomfortable silence.

Sectarianism in Ireland – still (Nov 2015)

The debate will probably ease off again in a while since it’s unlikely that any of the main political parties cares enough to try to do anything, but it’s worth noting that the sectarian nature of Ireland’s schools is in the news at the moment. And it’s a national and international scandal.

Whatever you think about schools with an ethos (and most countries have them) the Irish situation is unusual. >90% of all primary schools are run by various arms of the Catholic Church. Another 6% or so by arms of the Church of Ireland. A scattered few are “other” or non-denominational.

For most people in the country the only local school is a Catholic school. Or, at best, there’s a Catholic school and a Protestant one. But mostly it’s Catholic.

So what if you’re not religious? Or a Jew or Muslim?

Well, if there’s space in the local school you only have to put up with a your child being in a Catholic school. You can keep them out of religion class but religious formation – not just education – is a huge part of the school week. Communion, confession, everything. It’s hardly ideal and there’s really no choice. Since Ireland is still heavily Catholic it’s unlikely that there are enough people to form an additional school in the area, and in any case the practicalities of forming a new school are hardly for every family with children. So you’re stuck.

And if there isn’t enough space in the school you’re really screwed.

School admission policies in most religious schools go something like this;

So basically if you’re in category 5 you can be a citizen or an immigrant or rich or poor or a taxpayer or not. But you’re at the bottom of the list. You may have been living across the street from the school for generations, but if a Catholic child moves in you’re out. So what do people do?

There’s lots of anecdotal evidence that many Irish people baptize their children as Catholic (or Protestant) merely to get their children into the local school. Otherwise they’re not religious at all. And there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of non-Christian families being excluded from their local and having to travel miles to get into whatever school has space.

And yet these are state-funded schools. Practically 100% of the costs paid by the state. This is religious discrimination, pure and simple.

And the Irish Parliament doesn’t care. The Department of Education doesn’t care. The Minister of Education doesn’t care. Because if they did it’s easy to fix. And the law that allows all this was introduced in 2000. Yep.

My views on the subject were probably originally captured by Atheist Ireland in 2011. They weren’t radical enough for their tastes, but given Ireland’s situation my ideas would at least be a step forward.  Atheist Ireland

And more recently on the Irish Independent Letters Page (down the page a little).

Here’s the text of the letter, since it’s hard to see on the Indo’s page.



the topic of religious criteria in school admissions has become hot recently. One of the recurring themes from the religious communities seems to be “we made our schools, you can make your own”. It’s common, but hardly charitable. 

I’d like the people who think like that to try a thought experiment.

Imagine you were one of only a few dozen Catholics in an area and living in a largely atheist country….and that admission to the only schools where you live was done with atheists first and anyone religious pushed to the back of the queue. 

What would  you call that? I can tell you. You’d call it religious persecution. 

That’s what’s happening in Ireland. There’s no need to abolish religious schools, but as long as there’s effectively no alternative (and there isn’t) then the current admission rules amount to religious persecution of a minority. It’s a disgrace. 

And for Catholic (and CoI) schools to continue that persecution is impossible to reconcile with the values of the respective religions. Christians love their neighbours. They don’t tell them to get lost. 


Hugh Sheehy


Boris the Buffoon, or Fianna Fail f**kwits? (July 2016)

There is much amusement in Ireland – albeit slightly nervous amusement – at the spectacle currently playing out in British politics.

A referendum that the winners didn’t want to win. A new PM and a surprising Foreign Secretary. Boris the buffoon is now one of the most senior members of the British Government and will be facing off against Britain’s allies and adversaries in a critical period. It’s funny and scary in equal measure.

Yet the amusement in Ireland obscures a truth that is scary without the funny side. Fianna Fail, perennial economy and life wreckers, are back at the top of the popularity stakes in Ireland.

Anyone looking east with amusement needs to concentrate on the idiocy closer to home.

Stockholm syndrome has nothing on what the Irish electorate seems to be able to do. Falling in love with your kidnapper is easier to understand than falling in love with this mob.

The Parable of the Frozen Oranges [Housing] (Sept 2016)

Just to have a link to point to for David Van Der Klauw’s submission, complete with the parable of the frozen oranges.


The parable itself starts on page 8.  However, the whole document is worth the read.  It demolishes the vast majority of myths and excuses on why housing is expensive. And it reminds us of why there’s a market in things….which is to supply those things to people as efficiently as possible. So when you hear people blaming house prices on “the market” you can be reasonably confident that it’s not actually “the market”‘s fault…more likely there’s collusion and price fixing (even if that’s implicit and not explicit) between govt and the existing landowners and developers.

Donald J Trump as POTUS (Nov 2016)

I guess this is worth saying, for the record.

Just ‘cos he’ll be President of the United States of America, I owe Donald Trump no more respect or deference than I did before. Which is less than zero.

And it is sad but true that the office of President of the United States of America – a great and honorable position in a great and honorable republic – is demeaned and disgraced by the fact that Donald Trump will hold that office.

And while he holds it, the office deserves no more respect or deference than required by maintenance of public order…and maybe not even that much. It depends on what the holder does.

While the phrase “Salute the rank, not the man” is a nice general rule, there are exceptions. This is one.  Of course the same is true in lots of countries. Here, for instance. very much not as much as in the USA, but still true.

And even if Donald Trump doesn’t do the things he promised, it’s the things he said that forever damn him.

A New Low (Feb 2017)

While the potential consequences of Brexit rumble around unknowable and the thumpings of Trump scare the world, Irish politics has shown it can still compete with the worst. And can still beat them all.

Often I wonder why people continue to vote for the main parties that have run Ireland for decades. The recent scandal, still to be fully uncovered, magnifies that puzzlement into a state of total gobsmacked “I’ll never get it” disbelief.

But…what’s the scandal? It is, frankly, hard to believe this story and it’s even harder to see any way that it doesn’t indicate an immorality in the whole Irish governing system that requires not just a clean-out, but actual prosecution.

Several years ago an Irish police office, after much frustration, blew the whistle on how Irish police were abusing their powers by forgiving traffic offences from the police IT system.

A fairly petty abuse of power, really. One that any senior Police manager should have quickly sorted out. But the whistleblower was swiftly sidelined, nearly fired, and thoroughly made to feel that he should have kept his mouth shut. More to the point, his accusations were really not taken up with any enthusiasm by any of the (few) people in Irish politics who might have done so. The whistleblower, apparently a persistent type, suffered years of abuse and mistreatment but stuck to his story. And nothing really changed and no-one really dug into why.

Why? Well, it turns out that the Irish child protection agency put a note in his file that he’d been accused of child abuse. “Digital rape”, to be specific. Of an 8yr old. No police investigation followed since – after all – there was no actual crime to investigate and an investigation would have to have evidence, processes, courts and all. But the accusation ran around Irish political and journalistic circles for years. So support for the whistleblower was, shall we say, thin on the ground. Tie your political career to a child abuser? Not likely, eh?

Finally, someone somewhere let it be known to the man himself. The only person who wouldn’t keep quiet. And now everyone is running for cover.

But there are really only two scenarios.

I confess I tend to believe the second option.

That’s how the Irish state apparatus reacts to a single policeman who goes through formal reporting channels to complain about widespread (albeit petty) abuse of police power.

Imagine how it reacts to anything serious….

Again, twould all make you believe the stories that PBP and Sinn Fein tell. Though their solutions are still the wrong ones.

Housing Again, Still (May 2017)

Dublin is now in the grip of a housing crisis. A rental crisis. A homelessness crisis. A price increase crisis.

The government is again (still) saying that they’re taking steps to alleviate the problem. But they’re not really.

High house prices suit the banks. High house prices suit existing house owners. High house prices get people from the last bubble out of negative equity. High house prices and rents suit landlords (of which there are many in the Dail). High house prices enrich land owners. etc., etc., etc., etc.

Again, Ireland is a barely built up country. Dublin is a small city with lots of empty land, lots of empty housing, lots of low density housing, and surrounded by fields. There’s no excuse for expensive housing and homelessness. None.

So listen for the lies, because everything presented as an excuse is a lie.

Ireland’s Leading Men (June 2017)

I’ve often said that writing letters to the paper is the lowest form of political expression, other than voting for Sinn Fein.  Writing ironic letters to the paper brings letter writing one step closer to the bottom.

Ireland is getting a new Taoiseach, chosen from two candidates within the Fine Gael party. They were lionized by the press coverage, particularly the ultimate winner – Leo Varadkar.

Let’s say my view is less glowing. The praise for them is, let’s say, a crock…



The FG leadership election is finished and we’ll shortly have a new Taoiseach. It’s time to celebrate the uniquely high level of the two candidates.

Leo Varadkar, a lifelong politician, really cut his teeth in fixing Ireland’s broken Health System and brought us from the bottom of the international health league tables to a point where the Irish health system is the subject of both domestic and international admiration. No-one in long queues for orthopedic surgery or old people in pain on trolleys in corridors any more thanks to Leo. And not for Leo a strategy of merely surviving his time in Health. No, he focused on real change and achievement irrespective of any personal political risk. If he has the same positive attitude as Taoiseach we can expect a transformed nation.

And as for Simon, though he won’t immediately be Taoiseach his time as Minister with responsibility for Housing has seen Ireland finally eliminate the scourges of homelessness and high house prices, and has seen policy recommendations from as far back as the 1970’s finally implemented to the benefit of the whole nation rather than just a handful of landowners and developers. His ability in driving real change and not just in releasing aspirational soundbites in time for the 9 o’clock news marks him out as a man that Leo can depend on to held further transform Ireland.

We’re so lucky to have such inspirational leaders to depend on.


Hugh Sheehy


Catalunya (Oct 2017)

Ok, first off, it’s not my place to have a view on whether Catalan independence is a good idea or not. Spain (including Catalunya) has a long, complex and often painful history and while I know a reasonable amount about it I hesitate to make judgements on such emotional and historical matters.

That being said, the recent events in Spain and Catalunya seem likely to result in a degradation of respect for the principles of democracy and human rights, and all in favour of mere administrative and bureaucratic convenience.

Mostly it seems to me that the PP in Madrid is the prime mover behind the sudden increase in desire for Catalan independence.  Yes, there’s an element in Catalunya that has continuously pushed for independence, but their support was very low until the PP got going.

What’s hugely disappointing is that the Spanish govt, under PP leadership, has taken every possible step to make the situation worse, apparently playing to its own voter base, and that the EU has essentially preferred institutional and administrative convenience to supporting human rights and democracy.

A recent column by Joschka Fischer (https://goo.gl/QmbbpC) summarizes many of the views I see as being so backways.

Maybe worth reading the article first.

Here’s my response;


The article if full of contradictions and unsupported assertions.

Yes, the UK wanting to leave the EU is historically daft, but as a nation state it’s perfectly entitled to do so. What’s sad is that several regions (all but one, actually) of the UK do want to stay in the EU and currently cannot.

And as for the EU, I fully agree that the aim should be to transcend the nation state and have a shared European polity. But in that event, whether the EU consists of 27 nations or 34 nations is largely irrelevant on any historical timeframe. Plus, the long forgotten principle of subsidiarity would imply that the nation state should be less powerful and the regions more powerful, unless we’re trying to have a powerful centralized European state – which I fear is wildly politically dangerous. There can be a standard set of rules for all Europe at a high level and locally adapted rules at a local level and the nation state becomes trapped in between and eventually less relevant.

Now, on Catalunya, whether or not you agree with the benefits of Catalan independence, there’s obviously a major issue which has been peacefully expressed in massive scale for years now (and ignored by the Spanish govt). Currently the Spanish government is holding leaders of huge peaceful organisations on charges of sedition, which is hardly compatible with an idea of Spain as a modern democracy. The referendum was illegal under Spanish law, but that merely needed to mean that any result had no legal validity. The Spanish govt beat the crap out of people trying to vote. Why? Almost certainly because they were afraid to let an accurate measure of voter intentions take place. That was a conscious choice, hardly a demonstration of democratic principles. Talks could have taken place before, or after, but there was no need to beat people.

Then, there’s this repeated claim that an independent Catalunya would be excluded from the EU. This is a bureaucratic claim only and is both historically and geographically idiotic. Yes, Catalunya would not immediately be a signatory state to the treaties. But the territory of Catalunya is already in the EU and the citizens of Catalunya would remain citizens of the EU through their (remaining) Spanish citizenship. Plus, fast forward 10 years and Catalunya would be in the EU so there’s absolutely no point keeping Catalunya out in the first place. Plus, geographically, Catalunya blocks the main road and the trainline between France and Spain. Erecting customs posts on the borders would be economic idiocy. And Barcelona is the main port on that whole coast, for Spain as well as Catalunya. Madness to suggest “Oh yeah, we’ll keep Catalunya out of the EU”. It can only be asserted as a threat.

As for the breakup of Yugoslavia, or the history of Ireland, they give us great hints how the breakup of a state could be managed better. Instead of “f*ck you” being the main approach, we could try “Hmm. I guess we could be best of friends that way too.” If Germany broke up into regions then the discussions of inter-region transfers could and would take place at an EU level, rather than within Germany. Just as difficult, probably, but essentially exactly the same.

Catalan independence may indeed not have majority support among the voters of Catalunya, but to put administrative preference or bureaucratic preference above democratic principles is a betrayal of the most important idea behind the EU – which is that Europeans can live together peacefully with democratic institutions. Denying democracy because it doesn’t suit what the administrative functions find most convenient is both morally obnoxious and politically dangerous.


Brexiteers & British ignorance on Ireland (Nov 2017)

The apparent sudden realization among Brexiteers that the NI/ROI border is a problem is sad but not terribly surprising. NI didn’t feature as an issue in the Brexit campaign and any initial questions about the issue were waved away with dismissive comments. Now, in the run up to the December summit, the UK govt and various UKIP and Tory MEPs and MPs are out in force condemning Ireland’s view that there has not been “sufficient progress” on the NI/ROI border.

Of course when asked what the UK’s plan actually is, there are stupid statements like “well we don’t want a border there so if Ireland and the EU want one it’s their problem“. Plus there’s a strong and rather nasty undercurrent of indignation that the UK might not get its way because the Irish want something else – a real “who the f*ck do they think they are?” reaction.

Now whatever about the nastier UKIP and Tory Brexiteers, there’s still a real problem on both sides of the Irish sea and we’re seeing the impact of it in this context more than normally.

British people, and English people in particular, just don’t think about Ireland much. It’s their blind spot. If they ever do think about Ireland far too many people think of the “British Isles” and assume that the Irish are the same as the English, just stupider and with charmingly funny accents.

It’s natural for there to be an asymmetry between the levels of knowledge on either side. The UK is much bigger and richer than Ireland (a series of unpleasant stories in themselves), so Irish people know a lot about Britain. We have to think about Britain, and British history is so world encircling that everyone knows lots about it. The British, on the other hand, don’t have to think about Ireland. Well, almost never. And British people know astonishingly little about Irish history.

Any Irish person who has worked in the UK or with British people will have stories of startling ignorance about Ireland. Yet here we are again. Ireland is causing political problems for a UK govt. You’d think they’d never read British history either.

My two most amazing experiences were with Oxbridge educated Brits. Great guys. I love them. But wow.

One case dates to the mid-90’s, when the movie Michael Collins was released. Over lunch with British colleagues I was asked how historically accurate the movie was. After initially getting into too much detail I realized that the guys didn’t know what I was talking about so I simplified and mentioned the War of Independence.

What war of independence?” was the returning question. And yes, none of the internationally traveled Oxbridge graduates were aware that Ireland left the UK after a war between the two. Just never heard of it. That’s wow#1.

The second experience was on a multi-national field trip to Clare. Brits, Americans, Nigerians, Dutch. Twas great. One of the Brits repeatedly talked about the “British Isles”, despite me explaining that it wasn’t exactly a term that delighted Irish people. He insisted that the two countries shared a culture and history and that to avoid the term “British Isles” was a geographical, historical and cultural nonsense. Essentially I could either fight him or let him continue…so I let him continue.

The next day he noticed that there were flags on almost every house and pub in the area and asked what they were for. “Well we’re in County Clare“, I said, “and Clare is in the Munster Hurling final this weekend“.

His reply stuck in my head because it was such a perfect contradiction of his whole position on “British Isles” and such an illustration of his lack of knowledge about Ireland. “What’s Munster,” he said “and what’s hurling?”

Where could I start? In trying to explain this to him I could only approximate by suggesting it was like an Irishman asking an Englishman “What’s cricket?” and “What’s Manchester?“. That was wow#2.

So, take this level of ignorance in even the most charitable members of the British elite and then add the Brexiteer’s toxic hate of foreigners in general and dismissal of the Irish in particular and the reasons for the UK govt’s lack of preparation becomes apparent. 

Britain has always gotten in trouble in Ireland. Britain never bothered to understand Ireland and is merely repeating the mistakes of the past. 

Sad, but true.

Abortion in Ireland. Warning - LONG!  (Jan 2018)

Looks like there’s a debate on abortion in Ireland again, and it looks as if it’ll be as messy and unpleasant as all the previous times.

Now abortion can’t be taken as a “pleasant” subject at the best of times,  but we could at least talk about it calmly and logically and discuss what the goals of policy ought to be. But we won’t .

As for me? I find abortion a difficult and unpleasant subject but that doesn’t give me a free pass from trying to have an opinion on it. Some women might say that I shouldn’t have an opinion. Whatever about the philosophical angles of that discussion, I’ll have a vote in any referendum so it seems important that I try.

Anyway, all I’d like to do is touch on what policy ought to aim for, and then very briefly on one of the more awkward discussions, i.e. Down Syndrome, on why that discussion is largely a distraction from the main issues and therefore why Down Syndrome  need not and should not be brought into the discussion at all.

I might even come to a personal conclusion, like it or not. You might like my reasoning, or at least tell me where you think I’m wrong. Politely, please, on twitter.

First off, I think most people would agree that policy should not aim to have “more abortions”. For instance, probably everyone would agree that contraception is a better way of avoiding unwanted children than abortion. So fewer abortions is probably better, as a general principle.

However, we know that Irish resident women have abortions all the time, they just have the abortions in England. So we DO have abortion in Ireland, we just outsource it. And we only outsource it if you have the money and ability to travel to England in the first place, which doesn’t seem too equitable.

Now the only effective way of preventing these abortions would be a travel ban on pregnant women, or even all women, which are both terrible ideas for more reasons than anyone could list. So these abortions will continue to happen unless there’s a better option. For some women, a better option could include better support for adoption, better childcare and support for potentially handicapped children, etc.   And Ireland’s record isn’t great on either of these topics, but that’s a discussion for another day.

For other women there may not be a better option so those abortions will happen anyway, at least for those women with the money and the ability to travel (and, thinking of the sad Savita Halappanavar case, she was in hospital and unable to travel).

In addition, the abortion pill is now widely available and can be sent untraceably in the post. So if you’re quick enough you don’t even have to go to England to have an abortion, you can do it at home. You just have to have a credit card and you can’t do it with any medical support, which seems a bad idea too.

So, we have abortion in Ireland, but about as badly provided as we can manage – although we are (AFAIK) spared the horrors of back-street abortions. One small mercy at least.

That makes our choice smaller in scope.

Are we going to allow Irish resident women to get abortions in Ireland, with medical support here, instead of forcing them to take the abortion pill with no support or having to go to England for an abortion with minimal after-care?

Personally I’d say “Yes”, although there certainly are arguments for and against allowing abortion in Ireland.

Many of the arguments for are probably pretty clear already, and I’ll get to some more of those in a minute. The argument against is mostly two fold; one is that, by banning abortion in Ireland we’re at least taking a clear moral strand against it and not facilitating “the murder of children”, and the other is that the number of abortions might increase if getting one in Ireland was easier. On the first part, I disagree. Taking a moral stand against something without doing anything practical about it is meaningless. On the second case, there’s certainly an argument. If the total number of abortions were to increase, most people would probably agree that was – at least – an apparently undesirable element of any change.

For a moment I need to take a segue into some specific cases where I believe our current law has some terrible, unfair, and immoral consequences. In my view they’re grounds for repealing the 8th Amendment on their own and obviously some would have to form some part of a replacement policy on abortion, though they don’t and won’t drive a fully coherent policy on their own.

So, on balance I think the 8th Amendment needs to go. And my argument so far hasn’t really gotten into the politically and often sexist territory of “Choice” or “Life” beyond what I feel are pretty solid cases where abortion should be possible. Unwanted, unpleasant, but possible. And supported IN IRELAND.

So, does any of this get to a stage where I have a wider view on what abortion in Ireland should look like? If we replace the 8th with either law or a new constitutional amendment? And which should we do?

First up I think Ireland should aim to prevent unwanted pregnancies better in the first place. Our sex education compared to – say – The Netherlands is pretty poor. Better  sex education, better contraception, fewer abortions. And fewer STDs too, hopefully. But that’s largely a separate discussion too.

On abortion,  it has to be legal in Ireland at least in the cases above but I think most Irish people – even those who support abortion in general – get increasingly unhappy the later an abortion takes place. At some point the embryo becomes a fetus and that becomes, essentially, a child. Then, for most people, it’s not just the woman’s body any more. What’s “late stage”? A good discussion, but let’s at least agree that the issue is a real thing. You can’t just abort an 8 month baby as if it’s nothing. ‘Cos it’s not. So, in the absence of some huge reason in each specific case (e.g. fatal fetal abnormality, threat to the mother’s health requiring either delivery or abortion, but perhaps not on grounds of rape any more), there have to be limits on how late abortion can happen. Let’s say approx three months for now and mark both the timing and the specific possible cases as “To be discussed”. The committee looking into it in Ireland suggested 12 weeks.

But this does mean that there will have to be very strict limits on abortion after this stage. Whatever your view on abortion earlier, in my view there cannot be an open-ended possibility. At some point, it’s a baby or at least close enough to one that it’s not one person’s choice any more. Some may argue that the same is true before that stage, but let’s at least agree about after that stage. Easier if we find agreement rather than disagreement, I hope.

So, conclusion so far is to allow abortion in some specific cases, and a general “No” after some stage in pregnancy. That narrows the problem/discussion down a little.

But before that stage, what?

Well, in the case of rape or incest or Fatal Fetal Abnormality my view is already pretty clear. But what if the reason for abortion is “It doesn’t suit me for economic/personal/relationship/whatever reasons” or “The baby is going to be a girl” or “The baby is going to be handicapped“? Then what?

So, we’re back to the fact that people can still get on the boat or place to England and/or get the abortion pill, and so we’re back to trying to equalize things for those who can and who cannot travel. Or at least that’s a factor that needs to be taken into account. Alongside trying to make sure that women who DO use the abortion pill can get medical support without risk of arrest…so I’d argue that a possibility of some kind needs to exist to get an abortion in Ireland before the pregnancy becomes “late stage”. And yeah, I’m talking myself into allowing abortion fairly widely here….whether I like it or not. Again, doesn’t matter whether I like it….we’re talking about legislation here.

Now, first off, I think there’s good grounds for saying “Abortion on grounds of sex is wrong” and doing whatever’s possible NOT to support that. So if we, for instance, made it illegal to say if a pregnancy is male or female until at least “late stage”, I’d be fine with that. I’m not aware of any medical reason to need it normally.

As for “Abortion on grounds of handicap”, that’s difficult and dangerous ground. Here’s where the Down Syndrome people come in. The reasons they shouldn’t be specifically pulled into the discussion are multiple. One is that abortions of handicapped babies will be a minority among all abortions, and abortions specifically of DS babies a subset of that, so there’s simply no need to use their specific circumstance. The majority of “aborted babies” will be nominally healthy. And people shouldn’t use Down Syndrome as a specific example because using their specific circumstance is uncomfortable for the many DS people who live happily among us. But, assuming there are pregnancies where the baby is known to have some congenital, chromosomal or developmental problem, should the parent/s be able to make the awful decision?  If it’s early enough, yes. How early is early? “To be discussed”. If the discovery is late in the pregnancy then this is a difficult legislative issue. If early, as you’ll see below, I think it’s a personal decision for the parent/s.

With which handicaps SHOULD parent/s make that decision? Hard to say. Many handicapped people live happy and productive lives and both they and their parents are happy they’re alive. Many, sadly, lead miserable lives full of pain and they and their parents’ lives are potentially worse off than if they didn’t exist. Where’s the line? I have no idea and certainly have no idea how you’d put that into law.

And as for “Abortion on convenience”?  Here’s the really hard one. First, I really doubt that many women use abortion as a “convenience”. It’s certainly a lot harder than getting contraception right, and I expect that many of the women who DON’T get contraception right and who then want abortions are in the kind of circumstances where they’re least suitable/prepared to be parents, e.g. drug/alcohol problems, abusive relationships, precarious economic situations, etc. So the state should be doing everything it can to support women and families in those situations so that they’re NOT in those situations, ensuring that all men and women are well educated on contraception, and offering pregnant women more support ONCE they’re in that situation and ultimately, if all else fails, offering them the option of abortion (early) in Ireland rather than throwing them on the boat.

So, where does that leave me? Well, the logic might be very different if there was no abortion in England, but there is. All sorts of moral quandaries might arise. But they don’t….we have a much simpler problem.

Abortion is a reality in Ireland and we’re managing it really badly.

Summary? In my view abortion should be extremely difficult after again (say) 3 months. Only possible in the event of serious medical problems, which will have to be carefully defined in legislation, leaving enough flexibility for doctors to address cases that’ll never be the same twice. And yeah, if the pregnancy is the result of rape this might well mean having to stay pregnant, awful though that is.

And before or after 3 months we should not support any attempt to abort on grounds of sex. Why? Well, apart from the fact that it’s morally awful there are valid grounds for states not to want skewed sex ratios. So that’s that one. No sex tests, or results, to be given to the parent/s before “late stage” and no abortion on those grounds afterwards.

But in general we should allow abortion up to (say) 3 months on the sole decision of the parent/s and do as much as possible to make sure that parent/s always say “No, let’s keep the baby”.

And I still don’t like abortion. But sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “La la la” doesn’t make England go away. I suspect Ireland tried that before.

And, since the whole thing is going to remain a horrid moral, legal and practical grey zone, I believe that the 8th Amendment should be repealed and then replaced with legislation rather than another constitutional amendment. For instance if, some day, it’s possible to take a 4 week embryo and put it in an artificial womb then all sorts of other possibilities and issues arise. Just one example might be that a father might get to say “But I want the baby”, even if the mother didn’t. Easier to deal with in legislation rather than another cocked-up constitutional amendment.

Phew, that was long. But I’m ok with that. And it’s not a neat conclusion, and I’m ok with that too. And I might be wrong, but someone’s going to have to tell me why.

Housing – a shared guilt (May, 2018)

I’ve been banging on for a couple of decades by now about the housing situation in Ireland and why it is so bad. The reason it’s so bad is that affordable housing in Ireland is not politically popular.

People with houses like them to be valuable. So they vote for parties that support that idea. And they object to new housing near them. etc. So housing is expensive in a country and in a city mostly made up of empty space. And so kids sleeping in Garda stations is on that large chunk of the Irish electorate which likes their house to be worth a lot of money.


Yeah, the govt are the ones with the actual “blood on their hands”, but it’s important to understand why they do it. They do it because people care more about the value of their own house than they do about this.

All the petty corruption of a Burke or a Haughey is of minimal impact compared to the social and economic damage caused by the Irish electorate’s belief that their house should get more expensive every year. It’s a widely shared guilt. So next time you hear someone gleefully telling you how much their house is worth, think about how you should respond.

Presidential Election 2018 (Oct 2018)

I wrote about Ireland’s 2011 Presidential election at the time. The roster of candidates was uninspiring and the least bad candidate won.

Michael D Higgins was, and is, too fond of the authoritarian left for my comfort but he’s been sufficiently ineffectual over the decades not to be scary. And he’s been in politics long enough to have a decent understanding of the potentially important constitutional role of the Presidency.

We should all hope that an Irish President has nothing more to do than kiss babies, open supermarkets, and occasionally to represent the people of Ireland on the international stage in a graceful and dignified manner. The other part of the role is a critical constitutional role where the President is a key constitutional backstop…and which we should all hope isn’t needed often or much at all.

Michael D has been fine. Apart from opening his mouth a few times and saying idiotic things about Fidel Castro and the like, he’s been suitably dignified and knows the limits of the role. He’s a bit old, but compared to the other candidates on offer he’s FAAAR and away the best option.

The vacuity of the debate around the Presidency is perhaps nicely illustrated by this video from one of the better remaining candidates. What, in heck’s sake, is this man saying?  Seriously, click the link and listen for the requisite minute.

Meantime, the fact that Irish politics has no-one better to offer than a clapped out old socialist with no new thoughts or directions or vision or even personal history is a sad indictment of the state of Irish politics. Not a decent dignified option among them. FF has nothing better to offer than discredited and corrupt chancers. FG might be able to put forward – say – John Bruton, but he’s potentially too divisive. Labour? No-one at all. Other than the aforementioned Michael D.

Are there any possibilities from elsewhere? Not really. People floated the idea of some journalists running. People who – apart from their prominence and name recognition – have nothing else to recommend them. Decent people perhaps, but almost all coming from RTE’s gilded world so the idea of the representing the people of Ireland is slightly ludicrous.

And there we are. Ireland hasn’t got a good candidate for President so the best option is again the least bad option. Vote for Michael D. At least he understands the job and won’t make a balls of it.

GE2020 Ireland – Disgraceful brings on Shameful (Feb 2020)

A couple of days to go to the poll for #ge2020 in Ireland. Maybe not the last election of 2020, but the one we have now.  What’s the main theme?

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have run the country badly enough for long enough that they have really, finally, made SF seem respectable enough that lots of people may actually, finally vote for Sinn Fein – a party run by murderers and people who took orders from murderers.

This isn’t funny. Now there are two main things here.

I don’t want FF or FG in power in Ireland ever again. They’ve proven they’re incompetent, venial, corrupt, untrustworthy, dodgy, self-serving, etc. And whatever about Labour’s role in encouraging social liberalization over the decades, they’ve really not been much better as a party in Government. So, why not SF?

Well, apart from the fact that their economic policies are direct from La La Land (a problem common with much of the Irish left), they are the refuse of the Irish political system. The party is controlled by the remnants of the IRA. The party contains, in the Dail, several convicted bombers. The party leadership treated the murderer of a Guard like royalty when they were released from prison. The party is involved in extensive criminality and murder, still. The party is full of people who think that murdering Irish people who have slightly different political opinions is perfectly ok.

That’s not ok.

So, go ahead and don’t vote for FF and FG. Yes, Ireland needs a change. It just needs a change for the better.

Vote for the Greens. Vote for the Social Democrats. Vote for the other idiotic left in Ireland like People Before Profit. Vote for any of the many decent independents. Just don’t vote SF.

BLM and Ireland’s past (recent) sins (June 2020)

There seems to be a lot of self-righteous criticism in Ireland of how “bad” the USA and the UK are in the way they treat black people. And the USA and the UK certainly have some major issues there.

Ireland is far from blameless in that area. But Ireland has been ignoring its main racism and sectarianism for too long. We should perhaps finally start to talk about it.

So, not being a public figure, a letter to the paper is about all I can do.



The BLM movement seems to be finally making some progress in getting recognition that racism has continued to be endemic in many countries long past the time when racism was “formally” outlawed. Meantime, while Ireland may not be as racist as some countries (not exactly a claim to be proud of) we should still take a moment to recognize that racism and sectarianism of different sorts lie at the absolute core of our national myths and that parties in our Dail still operate on the basis that some Irish people are better than others. 

The Northern Ireland state was certainly worse, but the Irish Free State and then the Republic of Ireland proved that Irish Protestants had a point when they claimed that “Home Rule is Rome Rule”. That attitude of deference to the Catholic Church has weakened over recent decades, but the idea that Celtic Irish are better than other Irish and that Irish republicans are the only real Irish is still being peddled by one party in particular. And not just that…the idea is often allowed to pass unchallenged by everyone from other parties and from the national media. 

But of that one party. Let’s not forget that they and their armed allies quite recently engaged in ethnic cleansing to rid Ireland of its protestants. To change the demographics of Ireland through murder of one type of Irish people. Not just within living memory, but quite recently. And many of the people who organized it are still in the driving seat in that political party. A party that many Irish people vote for. 

So, let’s not fool ourselves. Ireland may have somewhat less anti-black racism than other countries, but we’re still perfectly comfortable with acolytes of sectarian murderers and people that any decent country would pursue for crimes against humanity sitting in our Parliament and appearing on our TVs.

It’s not statues of bad people from the past that we need to tear down. We need to confront, for once, that most of us are happy to define Irishness by race and by religion. That the murder of other Irish people over differences of religion or political detail is something we’re happy to gloss over and forget. That we might not be such good guys after all. 

Many people are calling for change. Ireland does need to change. For the better. 




Mis-remembering Irish History - (June 2022)

One common theme in modern Irish political discussion is that we need change. And we do. But we surely need change for the better. SF presents itself as change for the better, often using the appallingly venal FF and FG as a benchmark. If challenged on their alliance with the murderous Provisional IRA they'll often respond by claiming something like "but sure all Irish political parties came out of violence".

First, that's simply not true. And second, even for the parties like FF and FG where it's kinda true, they came out of a very very different kind of violence.

SF doesn't want people to know that and most people don't know it. But SF and the IRA's violence was very different both in type and in scale.  



As Sinn Fein stand on the verge of government in Ireland, it seems important to point out that they do so largely on the basis of two major mis-rememberings of Irish history.


Sinn Fein supporters claim that FF and FG are corrupt and venal and useless (or worse) and this is all true. But they are not the inheritors of the same sort of violent tradition as Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein is allied with a level of brutality and murder that had never been seen before and which has educated many terrorist groups since.

SF are both the actual allies of actual murderers and lying about Irish history. It is one thing to call for change. It’s another to call for change for the better. As someone allied with no Irish party, I know the difference between really bad (the traditional parties) and much worse (SF).

If we’re going to have SF in govt, at least let’s not close our eyes to the realities.


Hugh Sheehy


Housing...again again again. Still (March 2023)

The housing crisis in Ireland has been making great progress.

It's likely there's no point trying to talk about it any more as it's clear that no-one is listening. But still. 



I’ve been writing futile letters to the paper about the housing crises in Ireland since at least 2006. In all that time, Ireland still has not confronted the demon in the room. No elephant, but a demon. The Irish electorate is the demon. The electorate WANTED housing to be expensive (or ‘valuable’). The Irish electorate repeatedly voted for people who drove housing costs and prices higher. Those people – lacking any integrity and knowing the certain social and economic consequences – did what the electorate wanted anyway.


The Irish electorate is still out there supporting the parties in government and the parties in opposition – all of whom are objecting to housing being built, putting measures in place to make housing being expensive, and not supporting implementation of measures that might make a difference (vacant levies, etc).


This is not a “market failing”. Governments set the rules for markets. A market can only exist with the permission of law. Its operation is governed by law. The crises are the fault of the governments. And any excuse out there about funding not being available is simply nonsense. There is plenty of money out there. There is no shortage of money. There is a shortage of housing. And it does not matter much whether housing is built for profit or for “social” purposes. It matters that it is built. It matters that it is generally affordable.

NO-ONE in the Irish political scene has any desire to make housing widely available and generally affordable. The Irish ‘right’ (as it is) wants housing to stay expensive because it suits them. The Irish ‘left’ (as it is) wants housing to be socially controlled because that would give them power. No-one in the Irish political scene cares that there are more than half a million young people living at home when they should be living in their own place. No-one in the Irish political scene cares that there are hundreds of thousands of people renting who do not want to be renting (and many are immigrants, so the Irish political scene REALLY doesn’t care). No-one in the Irish political scene cares about families being put on the street with nowhere to go. Nowhere to go.


How do I know that they don’t care? Simple. Because if they cared they would have fixed the problem long ago. And they didn’t.


If the phrase “A plague on all their houses” was ever appropriate, it is appropriate in Ireland. If people in the Irish political scene were at risk of homelessness, they might care. But they don’t care. Because they’re not at risk of homelessness.

The Irish housing crises were and are deliberate and – until comparatively recently – popular. The fault is not immigrants, or “markets”, or cuckoo funds, or a shortage of brickies. It’s much closer to home than that – if you’ve got a home. It’s Irish people snug in their homes and not caring about others. If a generation ever had grounds for a revolution, it is this generation of young people.


Hugh Sheehy

Mis-remembering Irish History v2 - (March 2023)

A slightly edited version of a previous letter to the papers (never published).

Again, SF does not represent the possibility of change for the better.

SF presents itself as change for the better, often using the appallingly venal FF and FG as a benchmark. If challenged on their alliance with the murderous Provisional IRA they'll often respond by claiming something like "but sure all Irish political parties came out of violence".
First, that's simply not true. And second, even for the parties like FF and FG where it's kinda true, they came out of a very very different kind of violence.

SF doesn't want people to know that and most people don't know it. But SF and the IRA's violence was very different both in type and in scale.  



As FF and FG continue to demonstrate their cravenness and cruelty, letting Sinn Fein stand on the verge of government in Ireland, it seems important to point out that SF are getting away with two major lies about Irish history.

The first is that somehow the provos were good guys. In fact, during the Troubles, the IRA murdered three times as many civilians as the British Army, and more than the UVF and UFF combined. Not fewer than the UVF (including, let’s not forget, the Shankill Butchers), but more.  More than the UVF – a benchmark of brutality and horror.   Not fewer than the British Army (Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy included), but MORE. Three times more. 

The second lie is that FF and FG are somehow inheritors of the same violence and horror. Now it’s certainly true that FF and FG are corrupt and venal and useless (or worse). But they are not the inheritors of the same sort of violence and horror as Sinn Fein still claims was justified. Sinn Fein is allied with a level of brutality and murder that had never been seen before and which has educated many terrorist groups since, ISIS and the Taliban included. 

Despite SF’s constant claims otherwise, this pattern was NOT the case in the Easter Rising or the War of Independence. Except from the British Army, who were almost entirely the ones killing civilians. Let’s remember that – for instance - a major reason Padraig Pearse surrendered during the 1916 Rising was to save more civilians from being killed. Civilians almost entirely killed by British Army artillery and machine guns. And again in the War of Independence, it was primarily the various British forces that engaged in terror… to the extent that there was disgust even in Westminster. The British forces burned down entire cities and towns and killed all around them. The IRA of the time murdered civilians on some shameful occasions, but very rarely, and called out as shameful at the time. 


So let’s not fool ourselves. SF are both the actual allies of actual murderers and lying about Irish history. It is one thing to call for change. It’s another to call for change for the better. As someone allied with no Irish party, I know the difference between really bad (the traditional parties) and much worse (SF).

If we’re going to have SF in govt, at least let’s not close our eyes to the realities.


Hugh Sheehy


Mis-remembering Irish History v3 - (September 2023)

Finally, published in the Independent. 



As Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael continue to demonstrate their cravenness and cruelty, letting Sinn Féin stand on the verge of government in Ireland, it seems important to point out that Sinn Féin are getting away with two major lies about Irish history.

The first is that somehow the Provos were the good guys. In fact, during the Troubles, the IRA murdered three times as many civilians as the British Army, and more than the UVF and UFF combined. Not fewer than the UVF (including, let’s not forget, the Shankill Butchers), but more. More than the UVF – a benchmark of brutality and horror. Not fewer than the British Army (Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy included), but more.

The second lie is that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are somehow inheritors of the same violence and horror. Now it’s certainly true that FF and FG are useless at what they do (or worse). But they are not the inheritors of the same sort of violence and horror as Sinn Féin. Horror that the party still claims was justified.

Sinn Féin is allied with a level of brutality and murder that had never been seen before and which has educated many terrorist groups since, including the likes of Islamic State and the Taliban.

Despite Sinn Féin’s constant claims otherwise, this pattern was not the case in the Easter Rising or the War of Independence. Except from the British Army, who were almost entirely the ones killing civilians. Let’s remember that a major reason the men of 1916 surrendered was to save more civilians from being killed – civilians who were almost entirely killed by British soldiers.

Again in the War of Independence, it was mainly the various British forces that engaged in terror… to the extent that there was disgust even in Westminster.

British forces burned down entire cities and towns and killed all around them. The IRA of the time murdered civilians on some shameful occasions (although very rarely) and these acts were called out as shameful at the time. There were no bombs in pubs or murder of children.

So let’s not fool ourselves. Sinn Féin are both the actual allies of actual murderers and lying about Irish history.

It is one thing to call for change. It’s another to call for change for the better. As someone allied with no Irish political party, I know the difference between bad (the traditional parties) and worse (Sinn Féin).

If we’re going to have Sinn Féin in government, at least let’s not close our eyes to the realities.

Hugh Sheehy


Classic ‘whataboutery’ in defending Sinn Féin (September 2023)

In response to a reply to the above letter. (down the page a bit)



A reply to my letter about Sinn Féin’s attitude to and justification of mass murder was based on classic Irish “whataboutery” (‘No one political party has monopoly on murder and mayhem over the years’, Letters, September 16).

Your correspondent’s excuse for Sinn Féin standing by the mass murder of civilians was to accuse other government parties in Ireland of permitting: “The industrial schools system, corporal punishment, the perpetration and cover-up of child sexual abuse, forced emigration and garda brutality...”

All this is true. Irish governments have allowed bad things to happen. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who have governed Ireland for decades, have hardly done well.

One difference though (among many). No Irish government or political party in government is saying that any of that was “justified” or that there was “no alternative”.

No Irish government or party proudly celebrates child sexual abusers.

No Irish government or party proudly celebrates the Magdalene laundries.

Whereas Sinn Féin says that the mass murder of civilians was justified. Sinn Féin says that there was no alternative to putting bombs in pubs and blowing children to literal smithereens.

It was not justified. There was an alternative to murdering hundreds of civilians. That alternative was to NOT murder hundreds of civilians.

Until Sinn Féin understands that simple fact and stops being the actual ally of actual murderers, it is not fit to govern and it remains a stain on the history of Ireland every bit as bad as groups like the UVF. 

Hugh Sheehy

Dublin 4


Gaza, #MeToo, and Ireland (Oct 2023)

A letter to the papers. 



Watching the political parties on Gaza recently has been interesting. Sinn Fein has been particularly prominent in calling for urgent ceasefires. Ceasefires. 

I remember a time when the whole country wanted a ceasefire and for more than two decades SF and their buddies in the Provos kept murdering people. Hundreds of innocent people murdered. The Provos murdered three times more civilians than the British Army did - and more than the UVF and UFF combined.  More than the UVF. 

And while the Provos did finally stop, SF and their buddies in the Provos are still saying those murders were "justified", and that there was "no alternative".

Imagine, for a moment, Harvey Weinstein saying this: 

"No-one should ever rape or sexually abuse a woman ever again. I did it for decades....but when I did it, it was justified. There was no alternative." 

That's SF in Ireland. About murder. About the mass murder of innocents. And they're the most popular political party in the country. Shame on Ireland. Shame. 

It seems that we really do have no decency.


Hugh Sheehy



Renters are the lowest of the low. (April 2024) 

The newspaper didn't publish name and address, and they left out the section where I pointed out that renters were lower in the pecking order in Ireland than burglars.

Too close to the bone, I suppose.


Older ones....

There are some more older ones, which are here and at the bottom of the page on Housing Policy


I'm not a prominent public figure, but I can read. So I was warning about the housing crisis in Ireland from well before 2006. By 2006 I was getting pretty loud. 

As I often say, “letters to the paper are like puns – the lowest form of political expression other than supporting Sinn Fein” but for many people there has been no other medium where reality might intrude into the news.  

Here are some examples from over the years, mostly serious, many tinged with sarcasm.  

For more recent thinking (often me warning about the property crisis since 2012 or so) see  "Opinion Pieces".

Borrowing our way to a bright future” – Irish Independent March 25 2006

A Poor Excuse for expensive Housing” – Irish Independent June 12, 2006

Massive mortgages go to tax exempt” – Irish Examiner June 29 2006

Defining ‘key-workers’ is divisive” -Irish Examiner September 27 2006

Overturning the rezonings” – Irish Independent November 1, 2006

The mythical housing ladder” – Irish Independent March 28 2007 (bottom of page)

Be wary of ‘help’ for first-time buyers” – Irish Independent Sept 5 2008

Scale of our crisis must be realised” – Irish Independent August 7 2009

NAMA deal is a pig in a poke” – Irish Independent August 28, 2009

Don’t chase good bankers away” – Irish Independent Sept 7 2009

Apart from our historically bad housing policy, I was also disturbed by the spectacle of the public sector strikes in 2009 when the main unions held the country to ransom – a country that was obviously on the edge of catastrophe.

“Debt the only solution for SIPTU members” – Irish Examiner October 7 2009

€4 billion hole is just the tip of the iceberg” – Irish Independent October 26 2009

Strikers should try another viewpoint” – Irish Examiner Nov 26 2009

Also, for several years, I was a commenter on the www.irisheconomy.ie discussion group. My attitudes to economics, markets and finance are there for all to see, albeit in a more informal context.