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Portillo condemns ‘shocking’ role of Tory chief in new documentary

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One hundred years ago there was no US president willing to give a demarche (diplomatic warning) to the then British prime minister over policies on Ulster.

President Joe Biden’s public dressing down of current British prime minister Boris Johnson over his attitude to the Northern Ireland protocol has no precedent in US-UK relations.

A century ago, then US president Woodrow Wilson was against Irish nationalism, and his successor Warren Harding refused to interfere in what he regarded as the internal affairs of America’s war-time ally.

In 1921, Ireland was partitioned. According to former Tory secretary of state for defence Michael Portillo, much of the blame for this should be pinned on two Conservative party leaders – Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston, and Andrew Bonar Law, the Canadian-born son of an Ulster preacher.

It was Churchill’s exhortation that “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right” that first stiffened the resolve of unionists to fight against Home Rule in 1886.

His support for Ulster unionism was not based upon conviction, Mr Portillo believes, but on the belief that the “orange card is the one to play” in domestic British policies.

However, it was the behaviour of the Conservative leader Mr Bonar Law which Mr Portillo states was the most egregious when it came to Irish affairs.

Documentary series

Partition 1921 is the third in a series of documentaries Mr Portillo has made about the decade of Irish centenaries, along with 1916 Rising: The Enemy Files, and Hawks and Doves, about the War of Independence.

The latest documentary, which focuses on how partition came about, is particularly scathing regarding the behaviour of Mr Bonar Law, who was Conservative party leader between 1911 and 1921, and prime minister for just seven months, between October 1922 and May 1923, when he resigned on the grounds of ill-health.

Mr Portillo said Mr Bonar Law’s conduct in stating there was “no length of resistance to which Ulster will go, in which I shall not be ready to support them” in 1912, was “shocking from the leader of his majesty’s loyal opposition. He is contributing to armed rebellion.”

Seen from the point of view of the Conservative party then, the Liberal Democrats, propped up by the Irish Parliamentary Party, were a “band of rascals besotted with remaining in office”.

Mr Portillo compares 19th-century British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone’s conviction that home rule was right for Ireland with that of Herbert Asquith (prime minister from 1908 to 1916) and his government, who were only implementing home rule to stay in office.

“The historians who contributed to the programmes tended to think not just that the Conservatives were supporting what the UVF were doing; the UVF would not have developed in the way that it did without unionist support.

“It wasn’t just about Ireland. It was about the British empire. If Ireland moves towards independence, how do you defend the frontier against India slipping towards independence?”

The Curragh crisis of March 1914 ( also known as the Curragh mutiny) in which dozens of Anglo-Irish officers preferred to resign their commissions rather than operate against Ulster showed the British army could not be “replied upon to do the government’s bidding”, the former British defence secretary concludes.

‘Parliament has spoken’

This was a major constitutional crisis for Britain, he continues. “Parliament has spoken. Parliament has legislated for home rule and home rule is on its say.”

Mr Bonar Law’s calculations though were correct, Mr Portillo explains. “Bonar Law was absolutely confident … that the nerve of the government would crumble before their [the unionists’] nerve would crumble.”

The Home Rule Act was shelved in September 1914 and never implemented. It was replaced by the Government of Ireland Act (1920), which partitioned Ireland.

Among those who Mr Portillo interviewed for the documentary were former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Jonathan Powell – one-time adviser to former British prime minister Tony Blair – and former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who states in the documentary that the issue of partition was as live now as it was 100 years ago.

Mr Adams points out that the Government of Ireland Act was only repealed by the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

Mr Powell said he hoped the Belfast Agreement would make Northern Ireland politics boring and about bread and butter issues, but that Brexit had made it about identity again.

The documentary ends on a pessimistic note. Mr Portillo says British government policy in creating partition was intended to placate unionism.

“The Border is no longer permanent but contingent on referendums on either side of the divide,” he states.

“It is hoped that after so much bloodshed, the question of removing the Border is approached with more wisdom and sensitivity than at its creation.”

Partition 1921 is to be broadcast on RTÉ One at 9.30pm on Monday, June 14th.

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Johann van Graan non-committal on prospect of Conor Murray return

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Johann van Graan was somewhat less than adamant that Conor Murray will make his seasonal re-appearance in their United Rugby Championship (URC) fifth round match away to the Ospreys next Saturday night, which is just two weeks out from the first of Ireland’s November test series, with the All Blacks to follow a week later.

“He might possibly be involved next week,” said the Munster head coach after their latest act of escapology to beat Connacht 20-18 at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

Might possibly?

“We’ll see how the week goes. We’ve taken our time with his recovery, so if he comes through the week then we’ll make a call at the back end of the week whether we’re going to select him or not.”

Van Graan assured us that Murray is not injured.

“No, he’s good. He had non-23 training on Friday so really looking forward to getting him involved.”

Van Graan wore the smile of a relieved man after Connacht had pushed them to the wire with a clever, fired-up all-round display in a spicy derby, during which the lead changed hands five times.

“I think if you look at the table, it’s three Irish teams at the top. Connacht are always such a big team in the interpros and you’ve got to give credit to them. Last season they beat all three of the Irish teams away.

“That’s why the players and the coaches and the supporters, and everybody involved loves an interpro, because that’s what you get. It’s not a classic but for the purist it’s a battle.

“That’s what the game is about and that’s why Irish rugby is in such a good place because they have got four top teams and some very good players across the four teams. That was a grind from our side, and proud of the way we finished that with that try and the conversion,” he said in reference to Diarmuid Barron’s 78th minute try and Joey Carbery’s nerveless conversion.

His counterpart, Andy Friend, was left with immense pride in his team’s performance mixed with acute frustration at their infuriating inconsistency and key mistakes, not least at restart receptions, but also the key decisions that went against his team.

Most notable of these was the failure by TMO Brian MacNeice and referee Chris Busby to spot that Tadhg Beirne was clearly in front of the ball before hacking on Rory Scannell’s crosskick in the build-up to Chris Cloete’s 39th minute try.

“I’ve got to be careful here,” he said when asked if he felt Connacht don’t receive a fair rub of the green from officials. “I’ve been here three and a bit years, mate, and if it’s a 50-50 I rarely see it going our way.

“I know that, but listen we’ve got to keep pushing our limits and making sure that we’re trying to be as squeaky clean as we can with things. I’m just…. to me, that try and the missed offside there – that’s inexcusable. Whether it’s Connacht or somebody else, I don’t know, it’s just inexcusable.”

To compound his frustrations, nor does the URC have channels to go through.

“We don’t have a referees’ manager, so I’m assuming that URC will be looking at that and hopefully something happens to the TMO that missed it. But it doesn’t help us, mate.”

Putting his own team’s errors into perspective, Friend highlighted their lineout pressure, strike plays, kicking and defence.

“On the whole the majority was really good, there’ll always be elements we need to work on. Otherwise we’d be out of a job.”

With next Saturday’s home game against Ulster at the Aviva in mind, Friend said: “What we will use is that we know we’re a good football side.

“We’ve just pushed a good Munster team who haven’t looked like losing a game this year and have played some really good rugby.

“We’ve turned up at their home field, where we beat them last season, knowing full well there was going to be a kick-back and we pushed them all the way to their limits.

“So, we know we’re a good football side. Our blip last week (against the Dragons) was a blip. We just have to make sure we never drop to that again and we keep our standards high.”

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Irish man (24) who drowned in swimming pool in Marbella is named

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A 24-year-old man who drowned in a swimming pool near Marbella in Spain has been named locally in Co Clare as Irish Defence Forces member Gerard McMahon.

Authorities responded to a distress call at 10.25am on Friday. The alarm was raised by friends who found Mr McMahon lifeless in the pool.

Spanish authorities are treating the death of the holiday maker as a “tragic accident”.

Mr McMahon lived in the Killaloe area of Co Clare. Local priest Fr Jerry O’Brien confirmed he had met the family of the young man and expressed his sympathy on behalf of the community.

Ogonnelloe GAA posted a tribute to Mr McMahon who was well known and liked in the community.

“It is with profound shock and sadness that we learned today of the sudden passing of our young member and friend, Gerard McMahon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, Pat and Carmel, his sister Bríd, and all the McMahon family at this extremely difficult time.”

The club Facebook page posted a picture of Mr McMahon from 2016 when he and his team mates won the Division 3 League.

Scarriff Hurling also paid tribute to Mr McMahon who played for them at juvenile level. “Always with pride, great skill and giving all to the team and club.”

Meanwhile, local Fine Gael councillor Joe Cooney said the family of the young man were in the thoughts and prayers of the community.

Mr McMahon was a Private in the First Infantry Battalion in Renmore Barracks in Galway. St Patrick’s Garrison Church posted a message on Facebook asking for prayers for Mr McMahon and for his “family and comrades”.

A postmortem was expected to take place over the weekend at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga.

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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Don’t waste energy switching

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For years, Money Mail has urged readers to regularly switch energy supplier.

It wasn’t the most glamorous money-saving tip, but sticking with your existing provider meant you were almost certainly overpaying. 

And the return on this straightforward, mundane chore was lucrative, with households saving hundreds of pounds a year. But for now, you should forget all that.

The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices. And the market remains incredibly volatile, with experts struggling to predict what will happen over the coming months.

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers   

This means suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, are just not able to offer competitive fixed deals.

Some comparison websites are still running an energy switching service, but there are only a handful of tariffs listed. 

And, as we reported last week, some would cost the average household almost £3,000 a year.

So for now, your best course of action is to stay put.

If you are coming to the end of a fixed deal, roll onto your supplier’s standard variable tariff. 

These default deals are protected by the energy watchdog’s price cap — £1,277 a year for the average gas and electricity user — until April 2022. And there are no exit fees, so you are free to switch away the moment better deals return.

For those who signed up to ultra‑cheap deals a year or two ago, there is no getting away from the fact that your bills are going to rise. 

But locking into a new fixed deal now could mean you’re hit with even higher energy costs over the cold winter months.

To avoid adding to any confusion, Money Mail has temporarily removed all energy tariffs from our Best Buys tables. 

But rest assured, we are tracking the market closely and will update you as soon as something changes.

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can't offer competitive fixed deals

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can’t offer competitive fixed deals

Tip top!

While on the topic of rising bills, a big thank you to everyone for their top energy-saving tips after I publicly scolded my husband, Chris, last week.

Money Mail reader Molly Clark suggests leaving the oven open after cooking so not to waste the heat, using candles for softer lighting and ditching the dishwasher in favour of a good old-fashioned washing-up bowl. 

Another reader, Robert, goes a step further and washes his dishes with cold water. 

A small squirt from a 29p bottle of diluted white vinegar along with a dash of washing-up liquid on a little green fabric scouring cloth used in circular motions will ensure they are squeaky-clean, he assures me.

But I was most taken by Julie Priest’s suggestion of a fridge alarm that will go off when the door is left open.

Amazon has one with a ‘repeated siren’ mode — and if that doesn’t teach Chris to close it, I don’t know what will.

But at £21.99, I might stick to nagging for now.

Keep those tips coming!

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix's Squid Game)

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix’s Squid Game)

Need for Netflix

It’s fascinating to see how our spending priorities have changed since the pandemic.

Take the popular streaming service Netflix. Once a luxury, a monthly subscription is now considered essential, according to a report by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association published yesterday. 

One pensioner commented that their partner’s quality of life would just not be the same without it.

Another man from Wales said that he had not realised how important dining out was for ’emotional well-being’.

But as the cost of living soars, experts fear people could cut back on pension saving. With many already failing to put aside enough for the lifestyle they want in retirement, this could prove disastrous.

So if you have spare cash leftover at the end of the month, consider using it to give your future self a better life.

It could be me…

Inspired by a colleague, I bought my first ever EuroMillions lottery ticket last Friday. It was a rollover with a juicy £174million jackpot, and I was feeling lucky.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. But what fun I had daydreaming about what I’d do with such a windfall. 

And since no one scooped the prize money, I figured there was no harm in having one more go in last night’s record £184million draw. Who knows, I could be a multi-millionaire by the time you read this.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

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