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The Duke of York The recent cold snap and the sniffles of many of my associates reminded me of when I was a young curate in The Duke of York pub in Commercial Court in Belfast in the mid 1960s. In those days a hot whiskey was the cure for colds of all kinds. In the Dukes a ‘Hot Coleraine’ was the much prized preference of hot whiskey drinkers wheth…
 
TREES I want to recommend that you make friends with a tree. Any tree. Pick one in your local park or glen or up on a mountain. Get up close and friendly with it. Or admire the very welcome trees now being planted along our urban roads and streets. Make friends with one of them. And you don’t have to be monogamous. You can love lots of trees. In lo…
 
BE PREPARED FOR MORE STUPIDITIES I considered ignoring the British Government’s exclusion of the Sinn Féin President from the recent talks. Then I thought why should I? Stupidity like this needs highlighted. For me it is proof, once again, of what democrats here are up against. This column could analyse the statements from the current British Secre…
 
Don’t Let The Old Man In I'VE been at a lot of funerals recently. It seems someone from my circle of friends, comrades, associates or neighbours is dying every week this last wee while. And sometimes more often than that. I console myself by reminding myself that it's the age I’m at. People were always dying. That’s part of the circle of life. But …
 
Beannachtaí daoibhse go leir. Have a great Christmas, dear readers. Thanks and benedictions also to the Belfast Media Group team. Christmas can be a sad and stressful time for some people. Be mindful of them, my friends. Reach out to neighbours and others who may not be as lucky as we are. I’m strongly against the commercialism of Christmas. I love…
 
A massacre in Instalments AS I write this column the number of Palestinians killed this year by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza strip is 207. By the time it is published in a few days time that number will have increased. Last Friday I watched online video of the last moments of Ammar Mufleh, aged …
 
Marie Ferris and Martin. A week or so ago on November 18 in Killarney 820 republicans broke bread together in honour of Martin and Marie Ferris. It was a great night. Marie Ferris is one of my heroes. A warrior woman. An activist. A mammy. A mamó. And the wife of Martin Ferris. Martin is one of my heros as well. He is as tough as old boots. As stro…
 
Words. In Ireland the English which we use is Hiberno English. We use Irish language constructions a lot as well as many Irish words or words based on Irish words. As part of the colonisation of our island people London tried to destroy our native culture, music, dance and language. They failed and we hibernised the language they forced on us. In U…
 
Thank You Briege and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Friends from far and near were in the Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan last Saturday night for a special testimonial event for my old friend and comrade Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Mary Lou McDonald was there to remind us of Caoimhghín’s long and distinguished life of activism for over 40 years. It was also an oppo…
 
Time to Extend Presidential Vote to North and Diaspora Last week I wrote about the threat posed to our world by climate change. The international climate change conference - COP 27 – which commenced in Egypt on Sunday is viewed by many as the world’s last real opportunity to reverse this threat. This year has been especially dangerous with a mixtur…
 
Good Advice? I thought I might pass on a random sample of some of the personal advice I have been given over the years. You dear reader might, like me, benefit from some of it. Or perhaps not. Brazil The successful election in Brazil of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (popularly called Lula) has raised hopes that the huge damage being do…
 
Conway Mill – 40th birthday Conway Mill has been at the heart of west Belfast for over almost 200 years. First as a hard place of work for generations of local people, mainly women, and then as a community hub providing education and employment opportunities. Last week the Mill celebrated its 40th birthday promoting, supporting and facilitating sma…
 
Wee Baby Brothers My mother, Annie, gave birth to thirteen of us. I am the oldest. Then came Margaret, Paddy, Ann, Frances, Liam, Jim and David, Sean and his twin Brendan, Maura, Deirdre and Dominic. We are probably not all listed here in proper chronological order. I rarely get anyone’s birthday right. It’s hard to keep track. We are now reduced t…
 
Cresslough I know Creeslough well. I have friends who live there. Outside the village. At both ends. My heart goes out to the families of the ten people who were killed last Friday. Same old Story Last Saturday’s DUP party conference saw it behave as unionist parties have usually behaved. Within their own little bubble. It’s the same old story. The…
 
Together we Can Ireland’s Future is well named. Its landmark event last Saturday in Dublin was all about the future. Saturday’s conference was an ambitious project. Over thirty participants addressed 5,000 citizens. Ten political parties with five party leaders along with leaders from civic society and the Arts talking about their desire to achieve…
 
We are not invisible” – Springhill families Last week the family of Loughlin Maginn settled a case against the British Ministry of Defence and the PSNI over his murder by the UDA in August 1989. While it had been widely accepted for the previous 20 years that collusion between the British Army, RUC and unionist paramilitaries was an integral part o…
 
The English Monarchy: A Tolerance of Differences At the same time I have no time for hierarchies, aristocrats or royalty, whether they are political, religious, secular or industrial. They are all about power for elites. No one should have an entitlement to a life of privilege and wealth because they are deemed to be divine rulers. I believe in equ…
 
Another British PM closer to Unity Liz Truss is now the leader of the Conservative Party and British Prime Minister. No real surprise there. She is the fourth leader of the Tories in six years. And as each has tried and failed to reshape Britain to a post Brexit world Tory government policy – especially under Johnson - has shifted further and furth…
 
Belfast People's Assembly Last summer Sinn Féin announced the setting up of a ‘Commission on the Future of Ireland.’ The Commission is a unique and ambitious initiative which includes a series of Peoples’ Assemblies under the broad slogan - ‘The New Ireland is for Everyone – Have Your Say.’ On 12 October - the inaugural first public meeting of the …
 
National Hunger Strike March Comhgairdheas to all of those who organised and participated in Sunday’s Belfast march to remember the hunger strikers of this and previous phases of struggle. Thousands came from all over Ireland to take part. I met comrades from Meath and Mayo and Dublin and Derry. The families of the hunger strikers had pride of plac…
 
The Women of Antrim. Congratulations to Antrim Ladies All Ireland Football Champions 2022 and Antrim’s All Ireland Camogie Champions. Na mná abú. The Women of Armagh. Last Friday, there was standing room only in The Felons as Richard McAuley and I were joined by former Armagh POWs Síle Darragh, Máire Cush and Martina Anderson for the launch of a ne…
 
A Windfall Tax urgently needed The cost of living crisis is taking a terrible toll on families. Food and energy bills are increasing at a phenomenal rate pushing more and more people into debt and poverty. The ready excuse trotted out by governments and most of the media to explain this dire situation is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing…
 
The Ark The Ark wasn't a big public house. Situated at the corner of Broadbent Street on the Old Lodge Road it consisted of a public bar, partitioned from a more discreet backroom and a snug. That was it. A backdrop of shelved whiskey bottles fronted by a no-nonsense wooden counter which separated myself and the only other barman from the clientele…
 
SWEETS I USED TO KNOW There was a Sweetie Shop across from Saint Finian’s School, just above Leeson Street on the Falls Road. It had a large advertisement for Blue Bird Toffees as part of its frontage. It was an attractive feature boasting an iconic Blue Bird in full flight. I call this fine establishment a sweetie shop because my recollection, whi…
 
I love benches. I like to spend as much time as I can outdoors. Now in case I give the wrong impression let me make it clear that I am not all the time walking or hiking. I do do that sometimes but mostly I just sit. That’s why I like benches. I have one I inherited from our old neighbour Billy McCulloch. Truth to tell I inherited only the metal en…
 
Scots set date for independence referandum. The Government of Scotland has moved decisively by setting the date for a referendum on sovereignty and independence. 19 October 2023 is that date. Its decision has already won support among Scottish voters. A poll published recently in the Times showed that those for and against independence are neck and…
 
Do Your Job Leo! Some of our political leaders in Dublin repeatedly reduce their offices to the status of an observer. This affects many matters which fall within their responsibility. Quite often we are treated to commentary from a government Minister on public services or the lack of them, homelessness or the cost of living crisis. It is as if th…
 
Bingo: My recollections last week on my successful battle against the dreaded nicotine, sparked, pardon the pun, similar recollections from some of my friends. Richard, who never smoked, reminded me of our old comrade Joe ‘Bingo’ Campbell. Bingo used to work in the old Sinn Féin office at the corner of Sevastopol Street. In those days the office wa…
 
The Collectors Story I have known Tom Hartley for 55 years. During that time he has given decades of service to the republican cause. He has been an organiser, a writer, a propagandist, a leader. During the anti-internment protests of the early 1970s, and then the H-Block/Armagh campaign he was in the front line No Smoking Back in the day my genera…
 
Three Books I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate an occasional column to books. We can return to Brexit, the Protocol and other such matters at another time. So in this column I am reviewing three books. United Nation by Frank Connolly. On The Blanket by Eoghan Mac Cormaic and International Brigade against Apartheid: Secrets of the People’…
 
Confronting sectarianism The posting online of a vile video showing members of the Orange Order mocking the murder of Michaela McAreavey has been widely condemned. Last week in another video Pastor Barrie Halliday appeared on social media describing Catholics as ‘rats that need to be murdered with rifles and grenades.’ A wedding and a strike James …
 
The Planter and the Gael. Last week US Congress member Richie Neal, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee on Capitol Hill, led a Congressional delegation from Washington to Brussels, London, Dublin, the Blasket’s, Derry and Belfast. The delegation met with a very wide range of political representatives including Government representatives as well a…
 
A referendum on the Future Sunday marked 24 years from the historic referendum in May 1998 that saw almost three quarters of people in the North vote in support of the Good Friday Agreement. Despite the twists and turns in the years since then the Agreement has proved resilient in maintaining peace and in plotting a course for constitutional, polit…
 
Lá Mór Dearg As this column goes to print Boris Johnson comes to visit our political leaders in Hillsborough. Whatever he may say or not say one thing is clear. We do not need him to govern us. But more of that anon. Employers must talk to workers Several trade unions are involved in industrial action in the public and private sectors in an effort …
 
A transformative election The overwhelming majority of citizens on this island want our future to be different from what went before. Those who voted last Thursday want those they have elected to represent their interests, to make power sharing work and to shape a new future. Attacks on Human Rights laws must be opposed The British government confi…
 
The Sun Is Setting. The legacy of empire, of colonialism and of slavery is for many still a matter of the present and not the past. This is especially true for many of the former British colonies in the Caribbean. Last November Barbados formally removed Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State. Since then the British government sent two groups of Br…
 
May 5th - The Peoples Day Less than one week to polling day and the pundits and pollsters are filling the airways and column inches with their take on who will be the big winners and who will be the losers. Who will emerge with more or fewer Assembly seats? Will the Protocol galvinise a so far lack lustre unionist campaign? Will the DUP/TUV and the…
 
THE MUSIC MEN My recent tales of singsongs in the H Blocks have triggered more reminiscences of other such events. Two in particular stand out. Both were after Long Kesh was burned down Rióísn Reimagined This column gives a huge cead míle fáilte to a new musical offering Re-imagining Roísín from Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and the Irish Chamber Orchestr…
 
Celebrating the Easter Rising Today Irish republicans across Ireland and globally will commemorate and celebrate the men and women who rose up against the British Empire and in favour of an Irish Republic, at Easter time 1916. A century later their extraordinary courage is often passed over by some, particularly in the political establishment in Du…
 
A Question for Jeffrey. The democratic question remains the key issue internationally. It has been so since people asserted their right to citizenship. At the heart of that is the entitlement to self governance. That is governance of the people, for the people and by the people. Without outside interference by others. This issue, or the denial of t…
 
UDR Declassified by Micheál Smith On 1 April 1970 the Ulster Defence Regiment of the British Army formally took its place in the ranks of the British Army. The UDR was a locally recruited militia established by the British government following its disbandment of the B Specials the previous year. When it too was disbanded 22 years later it had achie…
 
Moving Backwards? One unionist twitter account at the weekend posed the question; “How many different ways can the DUP tell us we MUST vote DUP no matter how incompetent or corrupt they have been?” The comment followed Jeffrey Donaldson’s claim that this election is the most important in a generation for unionists. He warned: “Sinn Féin will push f…
 
Irish Neutrality is not for sale The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to dominate the news agenda. Lines of tanks and armoured vehicles inexorably move toward Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Images of hospitals and family homes bombed and destroyed; of refugees, particularly children, the elderly and disabled, forcibly fleeing has led to a ma…
 
Write On! Last Thursday was World Book Day. This year is the 25th anniversary of the event. This reminded me of the volume of publications produced by former republican prisoners. Palestinians deserve our support also: There are two photographs in this week’s column. One is of a school. Totally destroyed. Levelled. Classrooms reduced to rubble. The…
 
Russia get out of Ukraine The big story of the moment is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Like many of you I have been watching the round the clock news reports emerging from what is now a war zone. The television images and photographs are distressing. Burning buildings, the skeletal shell of others already destroyed. Russian tanks and armed soldi…
 
The Game is Up The singular message emerging from the conflicting voices within political unionism at this time is their opposition to the election of a Sinn Féin First Minister. Whatever other differences there may be between the different strands of unionism on other issues like how to oppose the protocol, on this they are united. Maura McCrory M…
 
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