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Special Rapporteur criticises Irish government on Gaza Fifteen years ago this month I led a Sinn Féin delegation on a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories. Our visit took place seven weeks after Israel’s assault on Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. In that attack Israeli forces killed 1400 Palestinians, including more than…
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Leo finally made the right call LEO Varadkar’s resignation from the office of An Taoiseach and as leader of Fine Gael caught observers by surprise. On reflection, however, it is very much in keeping with his personality. A bit petulant. Awkward. Impulsive. He had done his best by his own lights. And his best had not been good enough, by his own adm…
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Wear An Easter Lily I did not think Easter is almost upon us. It was our oldest lad’s oldest lad who remarked to me that Easter was early this year. I was bemused that a nine - almost ten - year old would know this and describe it in these words. Of course he is probably thinking of Easter eggs. For many people Easter also marks an important date i…
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International Women’s Day Last Friday was International Women’s Day – a day when around the world humankind celebrates the work of women who are active in their communities, in trade unions, voluntary organisations, business, politics, their families and across every facet of our society. Two formidable Belfast Women On International Women’s Day hi…
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The Commission on the Future of Ireland held successful public meetings in Fermanagh and West Tyrone on Irish Unity. Friends of Sinn Féin USA and various other Irish organisations held a successful summit in New York. Ireland’s Future released its ‘Ireland 2030’ proposals. Mary Lou McDonald & Pearse Doherty addressed the Irish Unity Summit in Coope…
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Casement I have spent many enjoyable afternoons in Casement Park watching countless football and hurling games and playing in some of them. I have lost count of my man of the match triumphs. Especially for St. Marys or Belfast Schools in hurling. Or on Sports Days. In the past the stand and terraces or raised mounds around the pitch provided a wond…
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Respect On Sunday last I spoke at the 40th Anniversary Commemoration of the killing by the SAS of IRA Volunteers Henry Hogan and Declan Martin in Dunloy County Antrim. Declan was 18. Henry was 20. I was also the speaker at the funerals in February 1984. At that time hundreds of RUC and scores of landrovers surrounded Henry Hogans wake house and mys…
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An appeal for Information In the 1970s the IRA shot dead and secretly buried a number of people. This is a terrible legacy of that period of our history. The families of those killed have suffered a grievous injustice. Republicans, including the IRA, recognise and have acknowledged this fact. What happened was wrong and unjustifiable. Israel’s War …
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Historic Change The restoration last Saturday of the political institutions and the election of Michelle O'Neill as First Minister marks an extraordinary turning point in the process of constitutional change for the North and for the island of Ireland. It is a significant new chapter in the transitional process of change that began with the peace p…
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Comhghairdeas Kneecap Comhghairdeas Kneecap as an rath a bhí ar bhur scannán ag féile scannán Sundance. Last August I travelled over to a studio close to Queen’s University to meet with Kneecap. The three west Belfast lads were busy putting the final touches to their movie which recounts – mostly i nGaeilge - how they were formed. That night they w…
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Time for Clarity. The question – will he or won’t he – has yet to be answered. Will Jeffrey Donaldson provide the leadership needed to persuade his party to go back into the Executive or, as Michelle O’Neill pondered at last week’s meeting of the Assembly, have we seen the final sitting of the Assembly? Irish government must recognise Palestinian S…
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WCNSFs – Wounded Child No Surviving Family Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza and the west Bank passed the 100 day mark at the weekend. By the time this column is published the number of dead at the hands of Israel’s war machine is likely to have passed 25,000, mostly women and children. That’s almost equivalent to the entire …
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Death of a Hero Just before Christmas my colleague Greg O'Loughlin, the Executive Director of Friends of Sinn Féin in the USA , gave me the sad news that veteran American Civil Rights leader King Hollands had died. I had the honour of meeting King and his fellow activists Rip Patton and Richard Dinkins during a visit to Nashville in November 2018. …
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This Land Is Your Land. I am a long time fan of Woody Guthrie. He is one of the worlds great song writers in the English language and many of his words are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. He was also an American activist who agitated and educated and sang for social equality, immigration reform, peace and fairness. He stood again…
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So, 2023 was a very busy year. Lots of activism. 2024 is already shaping up to be even busier. So, join the campaigns for a Citizens’ Assembly and for the unity referendums. Have your say on the future and help shape the new Ireland. A New Year Wish Bbliain Úr Faoi Mhaise Daoibhse Go Leir. I received this verse in a Christmas card. Very appropriate…
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A Boy named Jay I did a book signing for Christmas at An Fhuiseog’s stand in the Kennedy Centre. It was a pleasant hour of banter and craic, meeting old friends and making new ones. Gerry Kelly was there just before me but he escaped when I arrived. So it was just me and the punters. And RG and Maggie who was selling all matter of gifts for An Fhui…
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Shane: Last Friday I travelled to Nenagh for the funeral of Shane MacGowan. It was a sad and yet joyous event with family and friends lifting their voices and their hearts as a succession of musicians played some of Shane’s best known songs, including the exuberant Fairytale of New York, Cór Cúil Aodha, including Seán O’Sé and Seán O’Riada’s son Pe…
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Slán Shane Shane MacGowan was a friend of West Belfast. Back in 1988 in the wake of the killings of IRA Volunteers Mairead Farrell, Dan McCann and Sean Savage in Gibraltar, and the killing of other citizens at their funerals and the killing also of IRA Volunteer Kevin McCracken in Turf Lodge this community was subjected to a vicious full frontal ts…
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Where to for Loyalism? I have met many loyalists over a very long time. In prison. Out of prison. In secret or in private talks going back to the 1970s. And many times since then. I like to think that some of us became friends. Or at least we became friendly. Some loyalist leaders played a crucial role in the negotiations which led to the Good Frid…
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strength to strength Regular readers will know that Ionad Eileen Howell/St. Comgall’s was formally opened in June by the US Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy. It came after many years of fundraising, planning and hard work by all involved – not least Eileen Howell who the centre is named after. The project is designed to promote economic, educational, soc…
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Fr. Alec Reid Next Wednesday – 22 November – will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Father Alec Reid. It is a matter of wonderment that a decade has passed since he left us. Students of the Irish peace process will know that Alec was a central figure in our search for peace. He and Fr. Des Wilson were key to the beginning of that process. …
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The Unity Debate Seven key Irish-American organisations have announced an ‘Irish Unity Summit – For a New and United Ireland’ to be held in New York on 1st March next year. This major initiative – coming as it will just before St. Patrick’s Day and the visit to the USA of political leaders from Ireland – is being organised by the Ancient Order of H…
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Wolfe Tone’s Cordial Union Last week I attended an event in Parliament Buildings at Stormont, hosted by US Special Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy. There was a panel discussion on the impact of the Good Friday Agreement which involved myself, former DUP leader Peter Robinson; former Alliance Assembly Speaker Eileen Bell; Lady Daphne Trimble, President o…
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We are all Palestinians As I write this week’s column all of the scéal coming from the Israeli government and its international allies indicate that a ground invasion of Gaza is imminent. It will, according to some be a ‘surgical strike against Hamas’. From British government Ministers, to political pundits, to international allies of the Israeli g…
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Ireland Should Launch A Middle East Peace Initiative. Like many of you I have been shocked and distressed by the appalling events in the Middle East. The attack by Hamas fighters which targeted civilians cannot be defended. Mary Lou McDonald spoke for all of us when she unreservedly condemned these actions and called for the release of all hostages…
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Peace Talks Now The scale of the assault by Palestinian fighters into Israel last weekend is unparalleled. The scenes of death and destruction on both sides are heart breaking. But shock and despair at more violence in that region is not the answer. On Being Seventy Five. I published a version of this reflection when I was seventy two.Following my …
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David Ervine - The Man Who Swallowed A Dictionary Anyone who knew David Ervine or knows of him will appreciate the title of Bobby Niblock’s play - The Man Who Swallowed A Dictionary. In its humorous description of David’s style of speaking and wordiness it reminds us of a political leader who was an able and determined advocate for working class lo…
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We must listen to each other Efforts by the British government and the unionist parties to stymie the conversation on future constitutional change has actually brought a greater focus on the growing momentum around the upcoming unity referendum. The criticism of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar by the British Secretary of State and a range of unionist voi…
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Lough Neagh Seamus Heaney’s poem, published in 1969, captures much of what makes Lough Neagh unique. It has long been a place of myth and fable, where the palace of the Tuatha Dé Danann is supposed to lie beneath its waves. It is said that Lough Neagh was created by the giant Finn McCool who legend claims scooped out a huge chunk of earth and threw…
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Palestinian State Last week the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin visited Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. It was an opportunity for the Irish government to take a firm stand against Israeli aggression and its apartheid system of governance. Instead Mr. Martin became little more than a commentator on the ongoing and worsenin…
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Unique Robert Ballagh Moore Street Print As regular readers of this column know I have been involved for a very long time in the campaign to protect and develop as a historic and cultural quarter the Moore St. Terrace and its environs in Dublin. The entire terrace 10-25 Moore Street was occupied by the evacuated GPO garrison at the end of Easter We…
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The Road To Cork. In 1986 I gave a talk at a Sinn Féin conference which became known by activists of my vintage as The Road to Cork or The Bus to Cork. More of that at another time. Suffice for now to say that I made the journey to Cork a metaphor for the journey to the new republic. I am minded of that now as our car speeds south and I sit in the …
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Visiting the Hunger Strikers This column will be in Cork, le cuidiu Dia, to attend the National Hunger Strike Commemoration on Sunday. It’s the first time that this annual event will be held in Cork. It will remember the ten 1981 hunger strikers and Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg who both died in English prisons and those Cork republicans - Terenc…
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John Joe McGirl – an unbreakable Fenian In the course of almost 60 years of activism I have been very lucky to meet many wonderful, committed, compassionate republicans. On Saturday, in Ballinamore in County Leitrim, Republicans from Leitrim and beyond will gather to celebrate the life of one of these – John Joe McGirl. The annual John Joe McGirl c…
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Be An Activist I had the privilege of attending many of the debates and discussions which are a unique and vital part of Féile an Phobail. Well done to all the participants and in particular to the organisers and the stewards who ensured that everything worked smoothly. Thanks also to the venues which welcomed us all. I want to touch briefly on the…
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Frederick Douglass takes pride of place in Belfast A great crowd turned out on Monday morning in Lombard St. in Belfast City Centre for the unveiling by Belfast City Ard Mheara Ryan Murphy of a very fine statue of Frederick Douglass, escaped slave and human rights campaigner. It is a striking image of Douglass who is an iconic figure for his work o…
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Fly Me To The Moon. I am a longtime fan of Tony Bennett. News of his death at the fine age of ninety six brings an end to an amazing life and a wonderful singing career lasting over sixty years. In more recent times this column reviewed an album he did with Lady GaGa. Cheek to Cheek is an envigorating stroll through some old favourites like Anythin…
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Slán Irish Voice Two weeks ago Niall O’Dowd, founder of the Irish American newspaper The Irish Voice announced that it was to close after 36 years. The New York based Irish Voice and the Irish Echo were the principle sources of news for decades of Irish Americans and new Irish immigrants moving to the USA. Now the Irish Voice is gone. But a far sig…
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Britannia waives the rules – again Internment was introduced 52 years ago next month on 9 August 1971. In the early hours of that morning 342 men and boys from nationalist homes across the North were dragged from their homes. Many were badly beaten and forced to run a gauntlet of battle wielding British soldiers. 14 – The Hooded Men - were subjecte…
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Debate on Irish Unity steps up Two successful events on the future of Ireland were held in Belfast and Dublin last week. The atmosphere and enthusiasm at both events was mighty. The two events were part of the work of Sinn Fein’s Commission on the Future of Ireland which was established two years ago by the party to encourage dialogue. It’s about p…
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Threat to Neutrality must be challenged Last June Micheál Martin, the then Taoiseach attacked the decades long neutrality policy of the Irish state. He claimed that; “We need to reflect on military non-alignment in Ireland and our military neutrality. We are not politically neutral …,” And Martin cast aside any pretence that the people should have …
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Moore St The threat of demolition to parts of the Moore St Terrace - that played a central role in the Easter Rising - has increased significantly. Last month the Executive of Dublin City Council rejected a motion by Councillors that Number 18 Moore St should be designated a Protected Structure. The Councillors had previously passed a motion in sup…
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St. Comgall’s and Eileen Howell St. Comgall’s/Ionad Eileen Howell in Divis St. will be formally opened next week on Thursday the 22 June. In honour and memory of Eileen the refurbished building is being named after her. The multi-million pound project has been 21 years in the making. The transformation of what was for many years a derelict building…
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ON YOUR BIKE. I have given my good bike away. This marks a defining moment in my life. My good bike sat in the backyard for almost a year. That’s the last time I was out on it. A year ago. It was dawning on me that my cycling days were over except for occassional sorties on a Greenway in some secluded place. But I was reluctant to face up to that. …
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In March 1984 I was shot as I and four friends drove from Belfast Court. We were driving up May St. at the back of the City Hall when our car was fired on from a passing vehicle. Four of us – myself, Sean Keenan, Joe Keenan, and Kevin Rooney - were hit. Bob Murray escaped injury. I was wounded in the neck, shoulder and upper body. We were blessed b…
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Ar Slí An Fhirinne. It’s the age we’re at I tell myself and my declining peer group as we attend funeral after funeral this last wee while. The great wheel of life is now turning for our generation. This phase started with Colette’s sister Martha. Martha was eighty five. The matriarch of the Mallon family. A kind, strong, gentle woman who lived on …
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The People’s Priest: Fr. Des Wilson died in November 2019. I first met him in 1968. His long life was dedicated to helping people. During the years of conflict, he stood with the Upper Springfield community against the aggression and violence of the British state forces. He gave comfort and solidarity to those in need and was hugely respected and l…
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Candidatitis: This syndrome is capable of moving even the most rational aspirant or shy wallflower into a state of extreme self belief. It strikes without warning, is no respecter of gender, and can infect the lowly municipal hopeful, the aspiring Parliamentarian, as well as the lofty presidential wannabe. Solidarity with Palestinian people I want …
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Stardust families demand truth The inquest into the Stardust disaster opened in Dublin last week. The list of the dead from that terrible event in February 1981 is heartbreakingly long. The families of the 48 young people who died have been reading poignant pen portraits of their loved ones into the record of the inquest. All of those who were kill…
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