Mí: Meán Fómhair 2011

Martin McGuinness. The People’s Choice?

Irish journalist and media lecturer Harry Browne writes in CounterPunch on the presidential election, the panic gripping the Irish elites, and the reasons why Martin McGuinness may become the people’s president:

“Last Monday, the Irish state paid €1.465 billion (about $2 billion) to senior unsecured boldholders in Bank of Ireland, as part of its obligation under the blanket guarantee of Irish banks issued by the government three years ago this week. This was, according to the Bondwatchwebsite that is keeping a grim tally of these things, part of a total of €4.3 billion paid this month by a government that continues to impose crippling austerity measures on its people.

That’s a lot of bread being taken from our mouths and fed to international financiers. You’d think we’d be up in arms about it. But Ireland’s chattering classes love, above all other things, an election, and next month’s presidential election in the Republic is offering one hell of a circus to distract us from the beggaring of the people by the state, in partnership with the unholy troika of the EU, IMF and European Central Bank. The story of how we are bleeding into the coffers of the bondholders barely merits a mention.

The three frontrunners, according to bookies’ odds, all come, broadly, from the Left. Poet and politician Michael D. Higgins has been holding up the left wing of the Irish Labour Party almost single-handedly for many years — so many years that his age, 70, is seen as his chief vulnerability. No one calls him “Higgins”: he is always, mostly affectionately, “Michael D.” Left-wing campaigns have usually been able to count on his support even when his party leadership was not so sure; the slight downside, from campaigners’ point of view, was the passionate but long and rambling speech he was sure to make at your event. Few who were there will ever forget the night in 1989 when hundreds of solidarity activists filled the National Concert Hall to welcome Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. Michael D. seemed like he would burst with emotion as he made the main welcoming address, but it was anyone’s bet when it would finish so that Ortega could speak. (When Ortega did speak he was so dull that we were instantly nostalgic for the interminable passion of Michael D. — only the sight of Ortega’s beautiful wife Rosario Murillo sitting on stage in her spectacular blood-red dress kept our eyes from shutting.) As a government minister looking after the arts and communications for a few short years in the 1990s, Michael D. achieved real popularity with the constituencies who benefited from his department’s largesse.

Senator David Norris has never achieved even that degree of actual political power — the senate here being largely an irrelevant talking shop. A witty, entertaining lecturer on Anglo-Irish literature in Trinity College — I can recall him literally dancing across classrooms when I attended his lectures on Joyce in 1985 — his fame and popularity came about because he is gay. Back in those days it was often remarked that if you asked most Irish people what they thought about homosexuality, the reply would be: “Oh, I like that David Norris, he’s lovely.” Norris was more than lovely, he was important: he took the legal case to Europe that struck down Ireland’s anti-gay legislation, and despite his British colonial background (he was born in what was then Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo) and previous status as a leading “Irish friend of Israel”, he has moved steadily to the left over the last two decades, especially on international issues. He might even be counted as a friend of CounterPunch, having launched my book about activists who bashed US planes at Shannon Airport, Hammered by the Irish, not long after he launched my wife Catherine’s poetry collection, A Bone in My Throat — and must be one of only a handful of people who would and could do both those launches exceptionally well. Like Michael D., he might be accused of liking the sound of his own voice, but in Norris’s case there may also be an addiction to the gales of laughter that often interrupt it.

Norris would, it is claimed, be the world’s first openly gay head of state, and much of the independent left has supported him. But as an independent he has had to chase nominations from members of the parliament and from county councils, and in the midst of his efforts over the summer, controversy erupted. First, an old interview surfaced in which he appeared to favour, at least in principle, the ancient-Greek idea of a young man being sexually initiated by an older one. Then there emerged letters that he wrote in 1997 pleading for clemency for an ex-partner who was convicted in Israel of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy. The revelations in recent years about the Catholic Church have made many Irish liberals very illiberal indeed when it comes to sex with minors: there is no room, it seems, to consider the facts of a particular case, no room for debate about the principle and age of consent. In this context it is quite extraordinary that Norris has nonetheless, and just barely, got himself nominated in time for this Wednesday’s deadline, and that he generally leads in the opinion polls; but it could yet get ugly. And it would appear that his campaign’s revival at the last moment was at least in part inspired by the desire of some right-wing and anti-republican elements to support a candidate who could block the real political giant in this contest, the late-emerging Sinn Féiner Martin McGuinness, the race’s second Derry candidate, who has stepped down as deputy first minister in Northern Ireland so he can run for president in the Republic.

There is no doubt that the austere, largely teetotal McGuinness was a hugely important member of the ‘republican movement’, the formulation that takes in both the IRA and the Sinn Fein political party. When I first saw him speak in the late 1980s he was a compelling voice for an understanding of the Irish nationalist struggle in terms that were more broadly anti-imperialist, and revolutionary-socialist. Since those days he has clearly stood beside Gerry Adams in guiding the ‘peace process’ — veteran journalist Ed Moloney, in a definitive Irish Times article, recalls IRA hardliners who could say with confidence, “If Martin is for it, then so am I.” His own personal peace process progressed to the astonishing point where in recent years he formed a warm governing double-act, dubbed “the Chuckle Brothers”, with the Protestant bigot Ian Paisley. His candidacy has been endorsed by many of the sort of people the IRA tried to kill during the Troubles.

But since the Southern media is allergic to the realities of Northern politics, and given that the office of president isn’t a policy-making one anyway, the focus of the campaign will clearly be on unpicking McGuinness’s past, all the better to revive the partitionism and distaste for Northern nationalists that tend to dominate Dublin’s middle class. This revival is by no means sure to discredit and defeat him, since the distaste is far less prevalent among the population at large. The outgoing president, Mary McAleese, came from a Northern nationalist background. When she ran for the office in 1997, an influential newspaper columnist described her as a “tribal time bomb”, but this did not stop her from being easily elected then, and returned unopposed in 2004, all the time working to strengthen relations between her alleged tribe and the opposing one of Ulster unionism.

There is nonetheless a big difference between McAleese, previously a lawyer and academic, and McGuinness, who is seen, rightly or wrongly, as a leader almost without parallel of the Provos’ quarter-century armed campaign. To elect him, so that he would be president at the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016, would be arguably to accept the proposition that his journey from insurrection to the corridors of power is directly analogous to that of the generation of Irish freedom-fighters whose struggle led to the establishment of the State. He and his supporters spend a lot of time mentioning Eamon De Valera and Nelson Mandela, ‘terrorists’ who became the very embodiment of their nations. The assertion sticks in the craw of a middle-aged Dublin establishment who, while they have grown accustomed to Sinn Fein’s rise, have never liked it. After all, if there was even a little legitimacy to the Provisional IRA’s struggle on behalf of Northern nationalists against an oppressive British-backed state, then our children might well ask us what exactly we did during the war.

On the other hand, those of us who did nothing may gain some small measure of satisfaction, a sense of striking our first blow for the Republic, by voting for Martin McGuinness. The discomfort McGuinness brings to the political and media elites could, in these ugly days of crushing orthodoxy, be all the more satisfying. For all his good qualities, Michael D. Higgins, after all, represents one of the parties in the awful Dublin government. David Norris may be a noble friend of CounterPunch as well as a friend of Dorothy, but in this election — politics indeed making strange bedfellows — he is also on intimate terms with the reactionary Sunday Independent, where commentators who cheered the invasion of Iraq will tell us that McGuinness is an unacceptable man of violence.”

That promise of a “measure of satisfaction” may be one that many voters find hard to resist come election day.

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Panic Grips The Sycophants Of The Golden Circle

Ah, the fun of watching a terrified media establishment in Ireland working itself up into a panic at the prospect of Martin McGuinness being elected to Áras an Uachtaráin by the Irish people (the ignorant, lazy and mentally unstable Irish people, according to John Waters – who probably shouldn’t have a vote in the first place, hmmm, John?).

As the defenders of the Golden Circle have grown increasingly hoarse so too have their stories grown increasingly desperate. The latest, from the Herald, is a work of such tortured logic that it almost defies belief.

“MARY McAleese’s bridges with the Orange Order will be burnt if Martin McGuinness makes it to the Aras, a liberal Orangeman has warned.”

Okay, when you’ve stopped sniggering at the use of the phrase “liberal Orangemen” read on.

“John Laird said all the good work the outgoing President had done in building links with the Orange Order and other Protestant institutions in the north would be in jeopardy under a McGuinness presidency.

“He has never apologised for the past crimes of the IRA, he has not sought atonement for the murder of Orangemen during the Troubles,” Mr Laird said.

“In the past I had some trouble with Mary McAleese especially when she appeared to compare Protestants to Nazis and Catholics as Jews in Hitler’s Germany. That caused a great deal of hurt in our community. But to be fair President McAleese reached out to the Orange tradition, she invited our bretheren to Aras an Uachtarain, she visited an Orange hall near the border. There is no doubt that she tried to understand and respect our culture.”

Asked about the possibility of Martin McGuinness as president, Mr Laird said: “Those bridges Mary McAleese sought to build will be burnt. Even someone who holds liberal views within the Orange Order like myself could not bring myself in taking up any visit by a President McGuinness.”

So… According to the media establishment here, the pampered sycophants and buffoons of the Golden Circle elites, Martin McGuinness is not suitable for the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann because he is not from Ireland (i.e. the Republic), he is a foreigner, a nationalist, a member of Sinn Féin, a former Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, a sectarian bigot, an unwanted reminder of the past, and generally just everything the Establishment hates and rejects.

On the other hand, members of the British separatist minority in Ireland, British Unionists, who through violence and the threat of violence have thwarted the democratic wishes of the vast majority of people living on the island of Ireland for the last century are welcome in the Áras? Even members of an avowedly sectarian and racist organisation, an anti-Irish organisation, like the Orange Order? Seriously?

Sometimes reading an Irish newspaper is like reading some fantastical work of magic realism where things are not quite as they should be. An Ireland that you know, that you are familiar with, but somehow different. Somehow wrong.

Which really does make one ask: where do the men and women of the Irish journalistic classes come from? And how on earth did they arrive at the attitudes they have? Is it simply a case of our news media being made up of the same folk who control our political classes: the same families, the same schools, the same clubs – the same Golden Circle?

Democracy in the Saorstát? Maybe, for some: but most of us live in a Daorstát. Under-payed, over-taxed, struggling to survive, and dictated to by those who have reduced our nation to its sorry condition through their sheer bloody greed and venality.

So how will you vote? For the Golden Circle? Or against the Golden Circle? The choice is yours.

Language Rights Are Civil Rights

Seán Ó Cuirreáin, An Coimisinéir Teanga or the Irish Language Commissioner, is the person tasked with ensuring that our public services are available to the Irish speaking population in their own language (and given the hostility of some English speakers to their Irish speaking peers a monumental task it is). On Tuesday he announced the launch of a new civil rights information pack for all second-level schoolchildren in Ireland, outlining their constitutional and legal rights to converse in their native tongue. Despite this important new development the Irish Times was the only English language news outlet in the country to report the story:

“STUDENTS FROM Coláiste na Coiribe in Galway were told yesterday by the official Irish Language Commissioner that they were “guardians of an important and endangered aspect of world heritage”.

The students were present at the launch of a new information pack which is to be presented to every second-level school in the country by An Coimisinéir Teanga Seán Ó Cuirreáin.

The multimedia educational initiative developed by his office in An Spidéal, Co Galway, aims to give students an insight into language rights in the overall context of universal civil and human rights.

Bilingual lessons and projects on the theme will be taught as part of the Junior Certificate course in civil, social and political education, Mr Ó Cuirreáin said yesterday.

The initiative was also endorsed by Minister of State for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley.

The Junior Cert module will address the advantages and challenges of multilingualism, and explore the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[Mr Ó Cuirreáin] …explained that the module can be taught through Irish, through English or bilingually.

“More than anything else, this project should ensure that students are given a context for their learning of Irish in schools and that they understand and respect the concept of language rights,” he said.

Mr Ó Cuirreáin forecast that it could be “potentially the most important initiative undertaken by this office since its establishment, if it sees significant numbers of students each year being taught the importance of language rights”.”

Hopefully this initiative will do much to erode the discriminatory attitudes found amongst a minority of monolingual English speakers, attitudes that are usually inculcated at childhood from parents or the Anglophone media. Indeed it has been argued that the anachronism of anti-Irish racism in modern Ireland is in part down to  an influential core of English language newspaper journalists, editors and proprietors (leading to the biting characterization of this group as the “Angliban”). Given the casual racism one reads almost every week towards Irish speakers in Ireland’s English language newspapers it is an argument that it is hard to find fault with.

Casual or institutional bigotry towards Irish speaking citizens is one unwelcome colonial legacy most people in Ireland want to see the back of – along with its perpetrators. Let us hope that learning about respect and tolerance, as well as legal rights and freedoms, will raise a generation of Irish people whose minds are finally free of the poison of colonialism.

Irish Language Publishing – A Success Story

If one wants to hear “good news” stories about the Irish language, or something positive about Irish speakers, it is often better to look to our regional rather than national press. There one finds that the post-colonial mindsets of the many monolingual English speakers who control our national news media is often absent, along with their racist attitudes towards the nation’s Irish speaking community.

So it is from the Connacht Tribune that I highlight a story about Futa Fata, the award-winning bilingual publisher based in An Spidéal:

“Climbing the timber stairs to the top floor of a converted garage, along a narrow road just outside Spidéal, it doesn’t look like you are entering a publishing empire. And indeed maybe ‘empire’ is an exaggeration. But the small Irish language company Futa Fata, which publishes beautiful picture books for children, is beginning to make its mark internationally.

Two Futa Fata authors Bridget Bhreathnach and Ailbhe Nic Giolla Bhrighde have just had their stories – Lúlú agus an Oíche Ghlórach, and Cáca don Rí translated into Chinese and Korean respectively. Both of these stories are beautifully illustrated by Steve Simpson.

Ailbhe is also reading at this year’s Baboró Arts Festival for Children, as is Patricia Forde, another of Futa Fata’s authors, whose latest book, Binjí – Madra ar Strae has just been published.

Just two weeks ago Futa Fata launched its latest home produced book, An Coileach Codlatach. It was a poignant occasion, as the book’s author Nuala Nic Con Iomaire died last year, but it was also a happy one, explains the founder of Futa Fata, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin.

“It was a lovely night. Her daughter Iseult Harvey and her cousins read from the book,” he says.

Tadhg’s journey from his birthplace in Mayo to publishing in Connemara was an eventful one, taking in primary teaching, television and music along the way. During the 1990s, he presented RTÉ’s Irish language Cúrsaí Éalaíona. Throughout, he retained a keen interest in his own musical pursuits, releasing two CDs.

When he moved to Connemara over 10 years ago, Tadhg continued his involvement with TV, working on the TG4 series Ros na Rún. More recently he was co-creator of the TV series Aifric, writing several episodes.”

All these books are available from Litríocht, the “Irish Amazon”, with a bilingual website featuring a huge range of Irish books, e-Books, CDs and DVDs, all shipping internationally.

The Basque Country And A Peace Process That Spain Is Ignoring

There have been major disturbances in the Basque city of Bilbao following the destruction of “Kukutza”, a youth and culture centre associated with Basque Nationalist organisations, that had served the local community for some 13 years. From EITB:

“Officers from the Basque regional police force, Ertzaintza, arrested 31 young people in clashes after the demolition of “Kukutza” meeting place, based in a disused building in the Rekalde district of Bilbao.

Bilbao’s Court number 5 for Administrative Disputes on Friday, September 23rd issued a ruling to press ahead with an order to demolish the building which until now has housed the Kukutza Gaztetxe in the Bilbao district of Rekalde. Eviction of the property began on Wednesday morning.

The court reached its decision after a hearing held at the Basque Country’s Superior Court of Justice on Thursday in which they considered a petition presented by the Errekaldeberriz residents association to halt the planned demolition and maintain it as the youth centre Kukutza.

The Board of Directors of the Heritage Commission of the Biscay Delegation for the Basque-Navarre Architects Association said on Friday it was developing a report regarding the importance of the building and the urban situation affecting it.

The Basque Association of Industrial Heritage and Public Works stated that the building which houses the Kukutza gaztetxe is included among structures listed for preservation by municipal planning.

Basque police entered the Kukutza Gaztetxe at approximately 5.30am on Wednesday morning to carry out the eviction order. Faced with resistance from protestors, some of whom had slept the night inside the building, police opened fire with rubber bullets. According to witness accounts, a number of people were injured as a result.

Basque ombudsman Iñigo Lamarca announced later that day he would be opening an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the eviction based on a number of phone calls received by his office alleging that police had been overly heavy-handed with certain protesters during the eviction operation.”

Meanwhile the Spanish state has yet again rejected peace overtures from ETA, the Basque guerilla organisation, following on from last year’s ceasefire declaration. According to an AFP report:

“Imprisoned ETA members said Friday they would stick to the so-called Guernica agreement which last year called for an end to the banned Basque movement‘s decades-long violence.

Basque newspaper Gara said Friday that the prisoners had “announced their decision to join the Guernica accord”.

Most of the 700 Basque prisoners “joined the dozens of political, union and social forces to bring about a scenario of peace and solutions” in the Basque country, it said.

The October 25 accord signed by several pro-independence left-wing parties, unions and Basque nationalist movements called on ETA to agree to “a permanent and unilateral ceasefire that can be verified by the international community, as an expression of its will to definitively give up its armed struggle”.

Since January the group claims to have imposed a unilateral ceasefire but the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says ETA must renounce all violence definitively and unconditionally.

Meanwhile, several thousand people rallied in Bilbao on Saturday to protest the recent sentencing of Basque secessionist leader Arnaldo Otegi to 10 years in prison for trying to rebuild ETA’s banned political wing, Batasuna.

“No more trials. No more convictions. We need a democratic solution now,” said the large placard hoisted by supporters of 53-year-old Otegi, who was sentenced on September 16 by Spain’s National Court for belonging to a terrorist organisation.”

The jailing of Arnaldo Otegi is part of Spain’s decades-old policy of political repression in the Basque Country. As The Irish Times reported:

“THE 10-year sentence for ETA membership handed down by a Madrid court last Friday to Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the banned Batasuna party, has predictably drawn very different responses. The Spanish prosecutor-general, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, described the sentence as “a contribution to peace”. The Basque Nationalist Party, no supporter of Otegi but convinced his commitment to a peace process is genuine, said it was “an absurdity and a scandal”.

The irony is that Otegi and some Batasuna colleagues were on trial for their participation in the debate that led ETA to announce its current ceasefire. During the trial, Otegi said that “a bomb would destroy our strategy and leave us without credibility for generations”. He also said that ETA was now an “unnecessary hindrance”.

The court ruled that Otegi’s statements were merely tactical, a ruse to enable the greatly weakened group to re-arm while its political supporters make political gains. Bildu, a new coalition that endorses Batasuna’s shift towards peaceful methods, gained 25 per cent of the Basque vote in last May’s local elections.

The timing of the sentence, which will be appealed to the Spanish Supreme Court, is significant. Today the Spanish Constitutional Court hears arguments on the banning of Sortu, a Basque pro-independence party alleged to be the successor of Batasuna as ETA’s political wing. Meanwhile, Spain is approaching general elections, called for November 20th. All polls predict that the deeply conservative Partido Popular, hostile to any concessions to Basque radicals, will oust the current Socialist Party government.”

Despite the strong support shown for the pro-independence Bildu coalition in regional elections in the Basque Country earlier this year, which took commentators and the Spanish government by surprise, Spain has been unwavering in its refusal to engage in any substantive manner with the Peace Process. It seems it is still committed to fighting a war everyone else is trying to leave behind them.

 

DotAlba

I talked some time ago about the campaign in Scotland to register a new internet domain name for the Gaelic nation and the BBC reports some new developments:

“The Scottish government has sought fresh backing for the creation of an internet domain for Scotland.

Not-for-profit company Dot Scot Registry (DSR) was set up two years ago to push for the establishment of .scot.

The UK government, which has responsibility for internet governance, has been asked to support the bid.

The new effort to have .scot created follows an announcement that applications for new top level domains (TLDs) will be sought in 2012.

Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, said the Scottish government had been supporting DSR’s work.

He said: “I am sure the UK government with its responsibility for internet governance will want to support us.

“Across the board support would undoubtedly strengthen our hand and build momentum behind the bid.”

Mr Neil added: “DotScot will be a wonderful asset for establishing a distinctive online identity for many organisations and people who have been described as the worldwide family of Scots and want to demonstrate that identity online.””

The positioning of the SNP behind this new initiative to get the stalled DotScotland project rolling is undoubtedly yet another move in the long game Alex Salmond is playing to slowly re-establish a separate and distinct Scottish national identity in the areas of language, education, law, policing, social services and now even the internet.

But what about a DotAlba domain name in addition to DotScotland? After all Scotland is a bilingual nation and Scottish is its native language. I’ve made the same argument for the undoubted need for a DotÉire domain name for Ireland.

Time for a Dot Éire Registry?

The Sunday Independent – The Real Threat To Irish Democracy

Today’s Sunday Independent newspaper makes for incredible reading. There is one subject and one subject only; Martin McGuinness. And one clear strategy: keeping him out of Áras an Uachtaráin by any means necessary.

The vitriol directed towards McGuinness is simply astonishing. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it before, at least outside the pages of a right wing British tabloid newspaper. Almost every page, every news report, every commentary focuses or touches upon opposition to the Sinn Féin nominee in one way or another.

It’s as if the newspaper has become one single organism with one single purpose: destroying the McGuinness campaign for president. Everything is devoted towards that end. More astonishing still, outside of any legitimate concerns or questions about Martin McGuinness’ past history (political or military), is the almost pathological hatred for the man that the writers display. It’s like some strange atavistic switch has been thrown which has allowed the very worst instincts of the Irish media establishment, the incestuous club of journalists and opinion makers, to be given free reign.

This is Old Ireland, the Ireland of Partition and the Free State, the Ireland of the monster that was the Celtic Tiger, given full voice and expression. And it is terrifying to behold.

So, is this the Ireland we want? A nation of Regressives, holding us back, keeping us in servitude to our alleged “betters”? Are the hacks and cronies of the Sunday Independent to become the arbiters of our democracy the ones who will decide where our nation begins – and where it ends? Will we allow these mountebanks and charlatans, these pornographers of mediocrity and shallowness, to be the ones who will decide who is and isn’t Irish: who is and isn’t entitled to be of our Republic?

The choice is ours, not theirs. So let us choose for ourselves. And send a message to the Establishment elite who bartered away our nation’s sovereignty and independence to save their own worthless necks. You may have stolen our state: but you shall not steal our votes.

British Journalist Lectures The Irish People On “Democracy”. Laugh Now Or Laugh Later?

One presidential candidate, two journalists and two conflicting opinions.

The first journalist is Nick Cohen, a regular contributor to various centre-left publications in Britain, including the Guardian and Spectator. In a lengthy article for today’s Observer he writes:

“All the countries the euro crisis is ravaging can recall a time of dictatorial rule and revolutionary violence. Franco’s fascistic regime clung on until 1975, late in the day even by the lax standards of the 20th century. Portugal’s 1974 revolution against the Salazar dictatorship was a glorious moment of civil disobedience, but the carnage the revolution accelerated in the old Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola and East Timor continued for decades. Assassination attempts and naval mutinies preceded Greece’s revolution against the military junta in 1974 and terrorist groups carried on operating in Greece into the 21st century, as they did in Spain.

The first example of the “new politics” emerging from the wreckage of the eurozone is the campaign for the Irish presidency by Martin McGuinness, the butcher’s boy who became head of the IRA’s northern command. Ireland wasn’t a dictatorship in the 1970s, although the gerrymandered Protestant statelet in the north and the Catholic conservative republic in the south were not democratic models anyone else wanted to follow. The violence in Ireland was worse than anything southern Europe saw, however. Between 1968 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, more than 3,600 were killed, around 2,000 of them by McGuinness’s IRA.”

Ah yes. Nothing like having a British journo lecturing Irish people on our history or our democratic institutions. Because Ireland’s democracy was (is, Nick?) so much more inferior to Britain’s. Oh, hold on. That “gerrymandered Protestant statelet in the north”? Now, whose creation was that again? Erm. Let me think. It begins with a “B”. Big place. Near Ireland. Never very good at recognising other peoples’ rights or freedoms. Oh, it’ll come to me eventually.

Well, anyway, back to young Nicky.

“… the early polls say that far from viewing McGuinness as the candidate from the psychopathic edge of the lunatic fringe, Irish voters are taking him seriously. A scandal about his views on underage sex has stymied the chances of the best of his rivals, David Norris, who did more for Ireland than the IRA ever managed when he overturned the anti-homosexuality laws. Whatever virtues the rest possess, the failure of the economic system has discredited them, as it has discredited democratic politicians across the west.

One should no more go to men who once bombed businesses for an economic policy than seek the advice of the Taliban on the emancipation of women, but when the untutored and forgetful listen to Sinn Féin they hear plausible critiques of the European Union’s unbearable demands for debt repayment.”

Poor wee Nick, where has he been these last twenty years? He does realise that Martin McGuinness is the democratically elected Deputy First Minister of the North of Ireland and has been for quite a while? Actually, Nick’s a British journalist discussing Ireland, so the answer is probably no. But he has more pearls of ignorance wisdom to impart

“Too many Dublin journalists don’t demand answers but repeat the conventional wisdom that McGuinness and Gerry Adams deserve praise for becoming men of peace. Praise would indeed be due if the IRA’s leaders faced the past truthfully.

Their war was futile because the power sharing and cross-border institutions the IRA settled for in 1998 had been on offer since 1974. Sometimes, it seems as if the only person stating the obvious is the Guardian and Observer’s Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald, but his point needs repeating: the ranks of the IRA were filled with the world’s slowest-learning murderers. It took them a generation to realise their dream of uniting Ireland by violence was a malign fantasy.

As the remnants of the IRA rise in Ireland and nationalist anti-immigrant parties rise across Europe, we may be about to learn that recessions rarely bring anything but change for the worse.”

Really? So the last remnants of the British colony in Ireland would have democratized itself without the armed struggle of the Irish Republican Army? But it had decades to do so without an armed struggle by the IRA and it simply never happened: in fact things got progressively worse. Can you explain that, Nicholas? As for “Sunningdale for slow learners” (which is what Nicky means), sorry, but who brought down the 1974 Sunningdale Agreement? Why, none other than the British Unionist minority in Ireland with the connivance of right-wing British nationalists in the British government and military and Intelligence services.

Someone, get this man a history book, please.

By the by, would this be the same Nick Cohen, British journo and commentator who signed and vigorously promoted the Euston Manifesto? The same document described as a “Pro-Imperial Left Manifesto” and condemned by many liberal and centre-left writers and thinkers? By the hokey, I do believe it is! Yon Nicholas Cohen, he who supported the war in Iraq and numerous other “Western” escapades that involved lots and lots of, well, killing. But all in pursuit of political aims Nick agreed with. So that’s okay then.

Our second journalistic opinion is from Duncan Hamilton in the Scotsman and thankfully this time it is free of self-righteous hypocrisy:

“THE decision of Martin McGuinness to seek election as the next president of Ireland deserves to be recognised as a big moment in the history of modern Ireland.

Can a man who was second in command of the Provisional IRA in Derry at the age of 21, now seriously expect to be elected as president under a constitution he opposed as legitimate?

The answer to that lies in the hands of Irish voters. What is already apparent, however, is that the early predictions that McGuinness had no chance have given way to a sense that he just might pull it off. An RTE poll this week had him winning, and his early odds at the bookmakers of 33-1 have been slashed to 3-1, making him second favourite. More than that, his advantages in this campaign are real – he is the only real opposition anti-establishment candidate given that the others have close links to parties which are viewed with contempt by many Irish voters. In the wake of the banking crisis and amidst claims of political corruption, that matters. Interestingly, because Sinn Fein has only 17 TDs (Members of the Dail) and Senators, McGuinness needed the support of three more independent TD’s even to get on to the ballot. Having now reached the threshold of 20 with support from out with his own party, he can legitimately claim to be a candidate capable of reaching across party boundaries.

First, let me declare something of a bias. I have met McGuinness a few times – both in Boston when I was studying and more recently in Belfast as part of a Scottish Government delegation in 2007. I was hugely impressed by him. He is intelligent, engaging, funny, positive and politically astute.

The truth is that the people of Northern Ireland have accepted McGuinness as their deputy first minister for the last four years and before that as minister for education for the best part of a decade. That doesn’t mean everyone has forgiven and forgotten, but it does mean that he has a legitimacy of a democratic mandate and a track record of exclusively political leadership. He is now described by people like Jackie McDonald, the leader of the UDA, as “a man of peace”.

Critics also claim his election would send out a negative message to the international community. But this is a man praised by President Obama for his “outstanding leadership”. Do you see any other candidates in the race with that endorsement? McGuinness cites the fact that he has been invited to the White House by three US presidents and to South Africa by Nelson Mandela. Does that sound like a man the international community can’t deal with?

Yes, the role of president is largely symbolic and ceremonial. But that is exactly why the election of McGuinness might be a vital next step for Ireland. The Sinn Fein agenda and policy mix has always been viewed with suspicion. Electing McGuinness would be to embrace his positive and vital role in the peace process without adopting the full Sinn Fein agenda.

Ultimately, it may be a step too far for Irish voters. That is a matter rightly and entirely for them. But to the outside world, the feral reaction of some in the Republic to this candidacy serves only to present a country still not at ease with its past. If men like Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson can accept the conversion of McGuinness, maybe it is time that the people in the south did so too.”

Is anyone in our national media establishment listening? Probably not. They’re too busy reading the hysterical ravings of Nick Cohen who they’ll no doubt be quoting at length and soon in a newspaper near you.

Gay Byrne Claims Provisional IRA Were “Gangsters”. Sorry, That Should Read, Gay Byrne Claims Old IRA Were “Gangsters”

So, things are hotting up in the oul presidential to-an’-fro as that granddaddy of Irish media personalities, Gay “The Poppy” Byrne, wades in with his t’uppence worth of opinion (actually, being an employee of RTÉ he’s probably charging a hell of a lot more than a penny or two). According to a piece in the Belfast Telegraph, Uncle Byrne launched what it describes as an on-screen television “rant” against the candidacy of Martin McGuinness:

“Mr Byrne, who considered running for the presidency, said in an interview on TV3: “I’ve always been a hater of Sinn Fein and a hater of the Provisional IRA and everything they stood for — and they don’t like me either.

“I’ve interviewed Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams and they are so well disciplined and so well honed that no interviewer gets anywhere with them.

“You get nowhere with them because they lie.

“They lie all the time. They don’t mind lying and they’ve rehearsed their lies and they’ve been trained to lie, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Mr Byrne finished up the interview on the Midweek programme by saying that “like so many other Irish people”, he had lost interest in the presidential election.

He said that when he looks at Mr McGuinness, he does not think “statesman and politician”, but rather “former IRA man and former gunman”.

He went on: “Do the Irish people want this guy to be head of the armed forces and all those connotations?

“And under the Constitution there are many, many different things about which Sinn Fein, and he will wriggle, and weasel words as usual, because they’re very, very good at doing that.””

You go, Poppy! Of course Gay Byrne played prick-tease with the Irish political and media establishment for several days over the prospect of his own candidacy for the office of the President of Ireland, receiving worshippers and supplicants like any worth-while deity would, until eventually he grandly informed the nation of his indifference to the offer of high office. Good man, that’s the way to keep yourself in the spotlight.

Byrne, though officially retired from “entertainment”, frequently pops up in RTÉ television shows of dubious value (or indeed purpose) as well as enjoying regular gigs on Lyric FM. And if you’re now asking yourself what Lyric FM is, don’t worry so does 90% of the population (basically it’s a way for the boys and gals in Club RTÉ to give the “retired” dons of the organisation something to do at the weekends – and at our expense).

This is not the first time Poppy Byrne has offered opinions on all things Republican. He proudly boasts of hailing from a Dublin “army family”. That’s the British army, not the Irish one (Gay Byrne’s father, Edward Byrne, joined the British Army in 1912 – two years before WWI – and served in it for nearly a decade). Indeed, so loyal to his ancestors is Byrne that earlier this year on Newstalk Radio he bitterly complained about the lack of the upkeep on the memorial to the British military dead of WWI at Islandbridge in Dublin (which was rectified by the Irish government in the mid-1980s; that’s twenty-five years ago, Gay). He then went on to state that the “West Cork IRA during the war of Independence were gangsters”.

So, the men and women of the Irish Republican Army who forced the British to the negotiating table during the Irish Revolution, who made the British recognise the democratic and national rights of the Irish people, were “gangsters”? It would seem that Gay Byrne is not only opposed to Martin McGuinness or Sinn Féin. Some people are fighting a presidential election. But Gay Byrne and cohorts it seems are intent on refighting the War of Independence.

So to Irish author and commentator Jude Collins who had an, er, interesting encounter with Fintan “I Lead From The Back” O’Toole on BBC Radio Ulster:

“Since Martin McGuinness has announced his candidacy for the post of Irish President, I’ve lost count of the number of programmes and newspaper articles that have focused almost exclusively on his past in the IRA.

It happened again today. I was on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh’s The Stephen Nolan Show and that was where all the emphasis was placed – on McGuinness’s past. No, tell a lie – his distant past. The past twenty years and his work for peace? Perhaps mentioned but then hurried away from. Guest of honour for the day (pace Gregory Campbell) was Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times. Sad to say Fintan made his excuses (“I’m not being allowed to talk!”) and left before the rest of us. But while he was with us, he spoke yet again with the moral authority only available to him and a small  number of media gurus: if made President, ex-IRA man Martin McGuinness could be arrested as a war criminal, so the south had better not elect him.

Considering that Fintan is said to have a very big brain, that was an amazingly loopy thing to say.  Former IRA Chief of Staff Sean MacBride was appointed Minister for External Affairs in 1948 and went on to be awarded – uniquely – the Nobel Prize for Peace and the Lenin Prize for Peace. Former IRA man General Sean MacEoin was made Minister for Justice in 1948, and was twice the Fine Gael candidate for Irish President. Sean T O’Kelly and Eamon de Valera both were imprisoned by the British (Dev was sentenced to death for his part in the 1916 Rising, although Fintan says it was all a misunderstanding and Dev didn’t fire a shot).  Between them – O’Kelly and Dev – they occupied the Presidential post for twenty-eight years. So it looks like that O’Toole horse has just crashed at the first hurdle.

Fintan’s other Big Thing is that McGuinness would be open to arrest for war crimes, because the Geneva Convention forbids actions where non-combatants are tortured or killed. Are you listening? Yes, you – I’m talking to you – Tony Blair, George Bush, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Michael Collins, Winston Churchill…The list is endless. Armed conflict is a horrible, filthy business and in it non-combatants invariably suffer and die. In Ireland, in Germany, in England, in the US, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya…again, it’s endless.  If Fintan and his partitionist mates were to list in detail the pain and suffering and death inflicted by, say, Harry Truman alone, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we’d be here until the crack of doom.  I don’t know if Martin McGuinness was guilty forty years ago of breaching the Geneva Convention, but I do know that, if war criminals are all to be rounded up, starting with those who slaughtered most people, by the time they get to  McGuinness he’ll have died of extreme old age.

In the end it’s simple. There are commentators and media people – a powerful nucleus – who see Martin McGuinness’s candidacy as a threat to partition. Keep those pesky damned northerners out of sight and out of mind.  To block McGuinness they’ll do and say anything, usually four times, to persuade people that the Sinn Féin man is uniquely unsuited. They don’t mind unionists working with him in the north, in fact they insist on it. But Merciful Hour, don’t ask us Catholics in the south to have him in our Áras.”

O’Toole’s habit of arranging for the storming of the metaphorical Bastille, and then “forgetting” to set his alarm clock, are well known so no surprise in any of this. While Martin McGuinness may cry foul at the activities of those he characterizes as “West Brits” a more accurate description is simple “Partionists” (or Free State NIMBYs).

This is no better illustrated than the reference by Alan Shatter, Fine Gael’s Justice Minister, to Martin McGuinness’ “exotic background”. Is that “exotic” as in “foreign, external, alien”? In other words a man born, raised and lived his whole life in Ireland, a citizen of this Republic, but who in Fine Gael’s view is not really Irish?

Talking of underhand politics, here is an epic whizz from those paragons of democratic virtue, Fine Gael, reported in the Irish Independent:

“Fine Gael last night denied trying to manipulate a presidential election poll, which the party’s candidate Gay Mitchell claims was doctored by Sinn Fein.

Mr Mitchell only came third in the text poll on RTE’s ‘Liveline’ with Joe Duffy, which was won by Martin McGuinness.

The Fine Gael MEP subsequently dismissed the results, claiming Sinn Fein manipulated the text poll.

But his own party sent out messages to members and supporters before and during the show calling on them to vote for Mr Mitchell.

Fine Gael sent a message out half an hour before the show, alerting supporters to the topic being the presidency. The next text told them about the poll and the final text informed supporters of how to vote in the poll.

The party often uses text messages to artificially generate public support. The party has contacted members telling them to send in “messages of support” when Taoiseach Enda Kenny or another senior party figures were doing a major interview.

Meanwhile, Mr McGuinness also topped a poll on a Cork radio station. The SF candidate took more than 60pc of the votes.”

Tut-tut, Fine Gorm. According to a well placed source that contacted me earlier this week, a certain political party are now attempting to co-ordinate their online activities with the aim of “swamping” online commenting venues and polls with anti-McGuinness views in order to whip up controversy hoping it will benefit their candidate. The idea apparently came through discussions with PR and electoral “experts” from the United States and was given some tentative use during the recent general election.

Among the prime targets are the comments’ sections of the Irish Times, Irish Independent, RTÉ and the Journal. All have been chosen because of the high value placed upon their readerships, and the method in which comments can be graded or transmitted via social networks. I understand that several “sockpuppet” accounts have been set up on Facebook, Twitter, Google Profiles, Open ID, etc. to push the campaign.

I suppose I should now talk about David Norris, the “independent” candidate. But since he seems to be the RTÉ and Sunday Independent candidate, why bother? Vote David Norris and get Eoghan Harris, Kevin Myers and Ruth Dudley-Edwards. An attractive proposition I’m sure you’ll agree.

Ah, life in the Daorstát Éireann.

Fulminating West Brits Go Nuts – Or Fun With Martin And Co!

Ah, only a few days into Martin McGuinness’ presidential candidacy and the Irish media establishment, those paragons of right wing, unregulated free market capitalism (Celtic Tiger? Nothing to do wiv us, gov’nor!) and wannabe English, Neo-Unionist types have gone into a frenzy of righteous indignation. The Golden Circle is imperilled!

From your super, soaraway Evening Herald we have commentator-cum-television reviewer Andrew Lynch (quality…):

“Nobody should be fooled. McGuinness’s friendship with Ian Paisley may have caused them to be dubbed the Chuckle Brothers, but in fact one of his main characteristics is a total lack of humour. In reality, he is a cold-eyed, stone-hearted fanatic — and, barring a personality transplant, a completely unsuitable candidate to be the next President of Ireland.

McGuinness has also put forward the fiction that he left the IRA in the early 1970s, shortly after being imprisoned in the Republic for the possession of explosives. All serious historians of the Troubles agree that this is a total lie. As recently as 2005, justice minister Michael McDowell claimed that both Adams and McGuinness were on the IRA’s army council — suggesting that they were the military masterminds behind a campaign that eventually claimed over 1,800 lives.

The McGuinness for President campaign is based on the notion that Irish people have very short memories. Maybe, but they are surely not that short. If his sinister past is dragged out into the light where it belongs, then the Shinners may start wishing they had run a fresher face such as Mary Lou McDonald instead.

Martin McGuinness has got away with an awful lot in his life. Let’s not allow him to get away with fooling the people of Ireland as well.”

Nothing like the moral high-ground! Especially when you can assume it from a hundred miles down the road, in (relative) safety and you never experienced living with a foreign army on your streets. Well, you sort of did but hey, that was nearly a century ago and we don’t have it down here any more. But of course if we did you’d be resolutely opposed to it, right? Wouldn’t you Andy? Out there, resisting the enemy to defend Ireland’s democracy and freedom? Hmmm…

Then we have the wisdom of Ireland’s bravest of the brave intellectuals, Mr. Fintan O’Toole. Well, brave until it actually came to standing up for his beliefs and putting himself on the line in which case it all sort of fell apart. Nothing like talking the talk, Fintan, but when it comes to walking the walk? Well some men walk away. Of course Martin McGuinness didn’t, in his home town of Derry: in an Irish city in Ireland. He stood up for his beliefs. He (whisper it) actually fought for his beliefs. But according to fearless Fintan:

“I would like to think McGuinness is haunted by some of the obscenities to which he was a party. But shouldn’t that private grief manifest itself in a certain tact, a reticence about pushing things too far? Shouldn’t he feel extraordinarily blessed to have been allowed to escape the consequences of the deeds he has been party to? Shouldn’t gratitude for that blessing make him think twice about the hubris of putting himself forward as the leading citizen of this State, the embodiment of its better values?”

Hubris? As in “excessive pride, presumption or arrogance”? Sure, nothing you’d be familiar with, Fintan?

While it is perfectly reasonable for Martin McGuinness to be quizzed about his personal history, in all of its many facets, there is no doubt that there is an agenda here, a nasty partitionist one. The media establishment, a golden circle of journalists and commentators who spent the last forty years subverting and skewing journalistic independence and neutrality in pursuit of their own political aims and goals, are now out to undermine our democratic presidential election and they will use any means, fair or otherwise, to do so.

A fact that Martin McGuinness has recognised, as reported by the online Journal:

“Martin McGuinness has blamed “West Brit elements” in the media and in political parties for consistent references to his history of involvement in the IRA.

Speaking to Newstalk’s Chris Donoghue at the National Ploughing Championships in Co Kildare, McGuinness said he respected that there would be people who would “try to muddy the waters” regarding his previous activity.

“My faith is with the people… there are West Brit elements, in and around Dublin – some of them are attached to some sections of the media, others are attached to political parties and were formerly involved in political parties.I say to all of them: I go forward on my record. My record as a peacemaker, I think, is unequalled. Anywhere.

McGuinness added that he would not have been invited to the Oval Office, South Africa, Iraq, Sri Lanka or the Basque Country “if there were any question marks whatsoever over my work as a peacemaker.”

His previous involvement in the IRA, he said, had been “said by people who are hostile to my candidacy.”

In a nod to Fianna Fáil’s decision not to field a candidate of its own, the Sinn Féin MLA said he would be appealing to voters “who previously supported other political parties to rally to my flag.

“They have got a very important choice to make about who presents the new Ireland,” he said.

“I certainly do represent the new North – and I think I can represent all of Ireland in a way that brings great credit to the Irish people.””

I have outlined before exactly who those “elements” are. These people, the true subversives, are still there, gnawing away at the sinews of our democracy and our nationhood. It is time for the people of Ireland to stand up and to give the real Golden Circle in Ireland, the lying, cheating, deceitful two-faced men and women of our national news media who are implicit in the economic ruin of our nation the political bloody nose they so richly deserve.

Fáilte!

The Irish Times carries an article on an issue that I, and many others, have been shouting from the rooftops for many years now: the importance of the Irish language to our tourist industry. I have written numerous articles about the issue, and the benefits to be accrued from language and heritage tourism, so it’s good to see it being focused on in the mainstream media:

“HOW BEST to sense the soul of a foreign country? Once we land abroad, we begin to immerse ourselves in the local language, landscape, literature, music, food and culture. We imbibe the sense and sensibilities, rhythms and melodies of a place in so many varied ways.

In Spain, for example, we are engulfed in marimba music, flamenco dance, the lisping, lilting sounds of Españo l. It infuses us, along with the sashaying senoritas and taverna tapas. The same is true of France, Russia, Japan, but not Ireland. Here there is a disconnect. While one can trace a common thread through our music, landscape, dance and literature, our language is something different, a foreign entity with no echoes in the rest of our culture.

It must be confusing for tourists. How are they meant to make sense of the dichotomy? Like trying to understand Paris while surrounded by Japanese. It feels disloyal to English to point out that it is an alien thread, a strand of aluminium running through the tapestry of our national consciousness. But, it’s a fact that our music, dance, sports and myths were created by Irish speakers for Irish speakers – the rhythms and resonances of the language are in their very DNA.

Would it help if tourists engaged more directly with An Gaeilge ? After all, one returns home from an African safari with a smattering of Swahili, or from Italy with poco italiano – a taste of the country on our tongue: oleaginous Italian, tangy Spanish, tart German. At best, a visitor to Ireland learns fáilte, fir and mná – most don’t get to hear them pronounced properly. I always encourage tourists to spend a few days in the Gaeltacht. It is the quickest way to get a deeper sense of who we are – or were.

Oideas Gael in Gleann Cholm Cille has always been the best place to holiday as Gaeilge . For 25 years it has run language classes mixed with cultural and outdoor activities. The participants are about as far from the tweedy, fáinne-wearing whiskered Gaeilgeoirí as you can imagine. It attracts a wonderful, eclectic mix – press barons, rock-chicks, fashion models, film-makers and presidents, not to mention countless American academics and Japanese hibernophiles.

For tourists, we need to make our language more visible – have exhibitions, performances and events that are bilingual, or that try to convey the language in a non-linguistic way.”

As I have said before, we all know Ireland but how many of us know Éire? And it is Éire that will bring the tourists, the right kind of tourists, the ones that will aid our ailing economy not just for today but for tomorrow and every tomorrow after that.

Martin McGuinness – Uachtarán na hÉireann?

The politics of Ireland has been turned on its head with Sinn Féin’s announcement yesterday that Martin McGuinness MLA, the deputy First Minister in the North of Ireland, will run as a “Republican candidate” for the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann. The news confounded the expectations of many commentators that a lesser SF figure would enter the race for Áras an Uachtaráin and has stunned political circles in Dublin. As Reuters reports the story:

“Martin McGuinness’ journey from guerrilla commander to mainstream politician took a new turn on Friday when his Sinn Fein party said he would be put forward to run for president of the Republic of Ireland.

A hero among Catholics in Northern Ireland for helping to end three decades of sectarian bloodshed and give them an equal voice in a power-sharing government, McGuinness is a more controversial figure south of the border.

Left-wing Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the now defunct Irish Republican Army (IRA), has capitalised on anger in the Republic over its financial crisis.

In parliamentary elections in February, Sinn Fein more than tripled its number of seats to 14 in the 166 seat lower chamber to emerge as the Republic’s second largest opposition party.

Once an organisation whose members were officially banned from speaking on Irish media until 1993, a victory for McGuiness in the October 27 poll would crown Sinn Fein’s position in the Irish mainstream both north and south of the border.

While the role is chiefly ceremonial, Ireland’s president has the right to refer legislation to the Supreme Court, presenting potential difficulties for Prime Minister Enda Kenny should McGuinness get elected.

Sinn Fein has been a staunch critic of Kenny’s coalition government and its adherence to the tough fiscal targets under an EU-IMF bailout.

McGuinness’ main rivals will be Gay Mitchell, candidate for Kenny’s Fine Gael party and front-runner Michael D. Higgins who is representing the junior government Labour Party.

McGuinness’s selection as a Sinn Fein candidate will go for party approval on Sunday.

“I feel very honoured that I have been asked to stand for the Irish presidency,” McGuinness told BBC television on Friday, during a visit to the United States.

Once McGuinness has sealed the nomination, he would temporarily stand down as deputy first minister, Sinn Fein said.

A former trainee butcher, McGuinness abandoned his apprenticeship in 1970 to join the IRA when the guerrilla group began its 30-year campaign against British rule, swiftly rising to become a senior commander.

He was briefly jailed in the Irish Republic in the 1970s for membership of the IRA. Fellow nationalist inmates recall him as a fierce football player in the exercise yard.

Along with party leader Gerry Adams, he was instrumental in transforming Sinn Fein into Northern Ireland’s most powerful nationalist group and played a central role in talks leading to a 1998 peace deal that mostly ended the bloody period.

McGuinness spent years on the run. A devout Catholic, he is a keen fisherman and has written poetry.

If McGuinness wins the presidential race he would preside over the centenary celebrations of Dublin’s 1916 Rising, a failed attempt at revolution against British rule that proved the spark for a successful independence campaign.’”

It is clear that this is a win-win situation for Sinn Féin. Even if they don’t succeed in getting Martin McGuinness elected to the presidency a respectable vote will garner enough of a return for the party in terms of publicity and prestige that it’s hard to see any downside to the tactic. Indeed it is part of SF’s broader strategy to undermine both the Border and partition itself, portraying it as an anachronism in modern Ireland, a disastrous 20th century solution to a 20th century problem lingering on into the 21st century.

Additionally, with the outside chance of a Sinn Féin nominated President of Ireland presiding over the 2016 Commemorations of the Easter Rising of 1916 how could Republicans possibly turn down the chance of fielding their strongest player? And symbolising (and legitimising?) to the world their most recent struggle?

It has been argued that the general election of 1918, in which Sinn Féin won a landslide victory across the island of Ireland, retrospectively legitimised the insurrection of 1916 (something recognised by the British head of state at the Garden of Commemoration in Dublin, several decades later). Which begs the question: what would a Sinn Féin victory in the coming presidential election mean for the thirty years of armed struggle – the Long War? A retrospective mandate from the Irish people, not just from the northern nationalist community but from its southern counterpart too?

Perhaps what we are now witnessing is the emergence of a new All-Ireland body politic, where northerners can come south and southerners can go north, without remark or hindrance? If so it is a remarkable tribute to the overall strategy of Sinn Féin and the success of their policies over the last decade.

Some More Classic Cars

A little break from the usual mix of politics and culture. Urban Speed Car Meet, a reposting from Red Stripe Adventure, for all you classic car lovers out there. Okay, me!

No Irish Wanted Here!

Robin Swann MLA with Royal British Legion

A familiarly depressing report from the Associated Press in relation to the recent Líofa 2015 initiative launched by the North’s minister of culture. The aim of the project is to have 1000 new fluent Irish speakers in positions of influence in the North of Ireland, and the event was notable for the number of members of the PSNI (the paramilitary police force in the North) who publically expressed interest in joining the scheme.

However not everyone is so welcoming and several objections have been made by Robin Swann MLA, a member of the UUP, a “liberal” Unionist party (no sniggering at the back there!). According to the AP story:

‘Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann called for “parity of esteem” for Unionists and warned more should be done to promote Ulster Scots. He was criticising Líofa, a project to create many new Irish speakers.

He was speaking after a Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee meeting at Stormont during which culture minister Caral Ní Chuilin gave evidence.

Mr Swann said: “My personal opinion would be that Líofa was part of a Sinn Féin agenda. We know what Sinn Féin’s agenda is with regard to the Irish language, her actions actually would further politicise it and make it a segregated issue.”

Líofa 2015 is separate from the long-running political deadlock over securing legislative protection for Irish and Ulster Scots.

More than 100 police officers were among the first to sign up to learn Irish after the launch of a new project to support the language.

Representatives of the sporting bodies for Gaelic games, football and rugby also joined the minister at Stormont recently to launch the plan to create 1,000 new Irish speakers by 2015.’

For those of you who may be unaware of what exactly Ulster Scots is (that would be 99.99% of the population of the island of Ireland) the supposed “language” is in fact a dialect of the English language invented in the 1970s by a few crank academics in the British minority in the north-east of Ireland to give their community a greater sense of “ethnicity”. Indeed most of these self-same gentlemen also believed in the “secret history of the Ulsterfolk”, a bizarre tangle of 19th century occultism, religious fundamentalism and racial supremacy which preached that the British ethnic community in Ireland were one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Journalist Jason Walsh explored the matter further in Forth Magazine:

‘Some years ago I was employed in a production capacity by an Irish unionist newspaper and it was here that I first came head-to-head with the bizarre twilight world of Ulster Scots. As I came from the republican stronghold of west Belfast I knew little of this ‘language’ but a good friend of mine in the newsroom was responsible for laying-out ‘the Ulster Scot’, a free supplement all about this make-believe lingo.

At the time I thought it was nothing short of hilarious: clearly unionists were chafing at the sight of the Irish language undergoing a genuine (though frequently overstated) renaissance that was dragging it out of its comfortable romantic obscurity and into the modern world. What was the best thing to do about this, pondered unionist politicians, until one had the astonishingly grandiose idea of actually inventing their own language. Of course, synthetic languages like Loglan and Esperanto are difficult to learn and it’s even harder to persuade people to actually learn the damn things, so in order to facilitate rapid growth the new language of Ulster Scots would be simply the dialect of English spoken in North Antrim with a kind of dyslexic phonetic spelling system and a few inscrutable phrases pilfered from Lowland Scots dialect of English. If Ulster Scots is a language then so are the dialects used in Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’ or James Kelman’s ‘How Late it Was, How Late.’ When BBC Radio Ulster announced, sadly incorrectly, that the Ulster Scots term for mentally disabled children was “wee daftie weans” I almost fell over, so hard was I laughing at the antics of these clowns.

I later enjoyed, if that is the correct word, a further dunking in the stagnant waters of the unionist identity project when BBC Northern Ireland screened the execrable ‘On Eagle’s Wing’, an all-singing, all-dancing, and above all, almightily camp musical that appears to be a kind of ‘Ulster kulsher’ response to the dreadful Riverdance. Revelling in unionist victimology, ‘On Eagle’s Wing’ tells the story of the stout Ulstemen and their redoubtable womenfolk as they made their way to the New World in order to escape persecution from the British Establishment in Ireland. Tellingly, the so-called ‘Scots-Irish-Americans’ are virtually unknown today, not because they were unsuccessful, but precisely because they thrived, threw off the chains of their former identities and merged completely into American society – precisely the opposite of what their born-again boosters are now promoting.

Fringe stuff indeed, but the ‘Ulster Scots’ project is gaining acceptance in post-Belfast Agreement Ireland. Notwithstanding the fact that Sinn Féin has pioneered cultural politics, thus softening up the ground for this curious rehabilitation of unionism as a ‘national’ identity, elements of the old unionist establishment are beginning to get on board.”

Indeed they are and none more so than the bold Robin Swann. In fact Swann is the very embodiment of the kulturkampf movement amongst the British separatist minority in Ireland. He is a “Brother” of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (commonly called the Orange Order, a Masonic-like Protestant fundamentalist society which is virulently anti-Catholic), a “Knight” of the Imperial Grand Black Chapter Of The British Commonwealth (a more secretive fundamentalist grouping, higher than the Orange Order) and a member of the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry (another British anti-Catholic society).

Nelson McCausland, Brother Of The Orange Order Displaying His, Um, Culture

So no surprise then that this political representative of the British separatist tradition in Ireland supports the Tolkienesque fantasy dialect of Ulster-Scots while opposing the Irish language, and equality for the North’s Irish-speaking communities. After all a follow representative, the DUP’s Nelson McCausland, and another Ulster-Scots zealot is also an advocate for Creationism, as reported by the Guardian:

‘Northern Ireland’s born-again Christian culture minister has called on the Ulster Museum to put on exhibits reflecting the view that the world was made by God only several thousand years ago.

Nelson McCausland, who believes that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel, has written to the museum’s board of trustees urging them to reflect creationist and intelligent design theories of the universe’s origins.

The Democratic Unionist minister said the inclusion of anti-Darwinian theories in the museum was “a human rights issue”.

McCausland defended a letter he wrote to the trustees calling for anti-evolution exhibitions at the museum.

His call was condemned by the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, who said: “If the museum was to go down that road then perhaps they should bring in the stork theory of where babies come from. Or perhaps the museum should introduce the flat earth theory.”

Dawkins said it was irrelevant if a large number of people in Northern Ireland refused to believe in evolution. “Scientific evidence can’t be democratically decided,” Dawkins said.

McCausland’s party colleague and North Antrim assembly member Mervyn Storey has been at the forefront of a campaign to force museums in Northern Ireland to promote anti-Darwinian theories.

Storey, who has chaired the Northern Ireland assembly’s education committee, has denied that man descended from apes. He believes in the theory that the world was created several thousand years ago, even though the most famous tourist attraction in his own constituency – the Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim coast – is according to all the geological evidence millions of years old.

Last year Storey raised objections to notices at the Giant’s Causeway informing the public that the unique rock formation was about 550m years old. Storey believes in the literal truth of the Bible and that the earth was created only several thousand years before Christ’s birth.

The belief that the Earth was divinely created in 4004 BC originates with the writings of another Ulster-based Protestant, Archbishop of Armagh James Ussher, in 1654. Ussher calculated the date based on textual clues in the Old Testament, even settling on a date and time for the moment of creation: in the early hours of 23 October.’

This cult-like (or is it occult?) aspect of the culture of the British ethnic minority has been one of the driving forces in Unionism in Ireland for the last three centuries and no more so than in the last forty years. But the main story is the same one it always has been, the same old settler versus native prejudices.

You Don’t Have To Be Mad To Be British In Ireland – But It Helps

Fascists, Neo-Nazis And The British Unionist Minority In Ireland

During a Far Right gathering British and German Neo-Nazis show their support for the UDA – UFF, the largest British state-sponsored terrorist group in Ireland, 2009

Interesting review in the Belfast Telegraph of Mathew Collins’ book, Hate, which charts his journey through Britain’s nationalist and Neo-Nazi movements, including the decades old links to the British separatist minority in Ireland. Journalist Henry McDonald writes:

‘Recalling his days selling race-hate literature in London’s East End, Matthew Collins says: “We took the traditional Brick Lane Sunday drink with the BNP that day, watching strippers and eating a selection of mussels and whelks off the bar.”

All they would have needed was a Cockney-style sing-song of Horst Wessel Lied and Deutschland Uber Alles around the old Joanna and that would have topped off a perfect National Socialist Sabbath for Matthew and his comrades.

There are, however, more sinister segments of the book and they include his relationship with Ulster loyalists who had latched onto the NF and other neo-Nazi organisations in Britain.

Of these the most prominent is Eddie Whicker, a UDA member from Belfast who became somewhat of a personality on the London far right scene at the time Collins was an active fascist. Whicker was one of the most militant of the extreme right street thugs taking on leftists, some of whom marched in pro-IRA rallies in the UK capital and other British cities.

There can be no doubting the connections established from the early 1970s onwards between the NF, BNP and the more extreme Combat 18 to the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations. On a political and, dare one say social level, the disparate British far right were the only supporters of the Ulster loyalist cause in Britain.

Apart from their traditional allies in Scotland, particularly within the Orange Order and the Rangers football team’s support base, loyalism’s allies were few and far between.

While loyalists across the sea could feel very much at home in parts of Scotland’s central belt or the Ayrshire coast, your average working class Ulster Protestant would feel a greater sense of isolation in English cities, particularly the multi-cultural/racial conurbations.

As Collins attests to in his book, the NF and other rival organisations at least provided a home for an Ulster loyalist away from home but still in touch with the cause.

There were a number of gun running plots such as the one involving Frank Portinari, an English UDA member of Italian Catholic extract in direct touch with ‘C’ Company and a friend of the UDA killer John White.

Charlie Sergeant, for instance, crops up several times in Collins’ book as a prominent Combat 18 thug and strong supporter of Ulster loyalists. Yet after Sergeant was tried and convicted of stabbing a rival neo-Nazi to death it transpired he was also a police informant whose work included spying on any potential loyalist arms smuggling operations in the south-east of England.

The Ulster Volunteer Force did, of course, meet with the extreme neo-Nazi Belgian VMO in the early 1980s. The Flemish fascists were fascinated with the home-made engineering skills of Ulster loyalists who were manufacturing their own sub-machine guns. In return, the VMO promised to hand over plastic explosives, as long as the UVF attacked a Jewish target in Belfast.

On a propaganda level the activities of a handful of loyalists in England like Whicker was undoubtedly damaging. It only projected and solidified the notion that the average loyalist was as much a bone-headed, shaven, beery-breathed bigot as their neo-Nazi buddies smashing up Brick Lane.

Observers of the far right will point to the career of Johnny Adair, who started his politico-paramilitary career in the NF.’

Despite some attempts to downplay the links between the British terrorist organisations operating in Ireland and the far right in Britain there can be little doubt that Neo-Nazi groups like the National Front, Combat 18, the BNP and others provided a political, social and financial milieu in Britain in which Unionist terrorists could move.

The financial aspects of this support was to become particularly crucial in the late 1980s when the British terrorist groupings in the North found it necessary to look beyond the clandestine funding of the British state and became heavily involved in what is now described as narco-terrorism. The UDA, UVF and LVF became the dominant force in the drugs trade in the North of Ireland at this time, effectively controlling all smuggling, distribution and sales, and in the process amassing vast fortunes for some leading members.

Nick Greger, a leading British fascist, poses with the infamous Johnny Adair, a former senior British terrorist with the UDA-UFF terror group

Nick Greger, a leading British fascist, poses with the infamous Johnny Adair, a former senior British terrorist with the UDA-UFF terror group

The social and organisational ties with the British extreme right was crucial in the earliest years of this new criminal exercise especially in Scotland and northern England. It also helped Unionist terrorists forge ties with the intelligence services of Apartheid-era South Africa which eventually led to the pariah state supplying the British extremists in Ireland with substantial quantities of arms.

The British Far Right movement, the EDL, displays a flag showing their support for the British Neo-Nazi terrorist group Combat-18 and the UFF terror gangs in Ireland

The full history of British Far Right links to British Unionism in Ireland were described in a 2002 issue of ‘No Quarter’, the magazine of the group Anti-Fascist Action:

‘Links between Unionists/Loyalists in the North and British Fascists go back over 80 years. As far back as the 1920s the ‘British Fascisti’ set up a group in Co. Down which led a pogrom against Catholics and in the 1930s members of the Glasgow fascist gang the ‘Billy Boys’ visited Belfast to take part in sectarian rioting during the 12th of July weekend. However this article will focus on links in recent years.

The convicted UDA terrorist Johnny Adair, recently released from Maghaberry Jail, is a man with a background even more sinister than that of the average death squad commander.

In 1994 Adair pleaded guilty to ‘directing terrorism’ and was sentenced to 16 years, serving only five until he was released under the Good Friday Agreement. In an interview he admitted to being the loyalist known as ‘Mad Dog’ and boasted of being involved in the sectarian murders of 20 Catholics. While in jail Adair forged close links with Billy Wright, leader of the LVF, and the UDA carried out sectarian murders of Catholics to avenge Wright’s death in 1997. Adair and Wright were also linked by their prominent involvement in drug dealing in the North.

But Adair, who rose to leadership in the Belfast UDA/UFF in the early 1990s, has a far longer political pedigree.

Belfast National Front 1980s

In the mid 1980’s there were about 200 National Front supporters in Belfast, one of them the young Johnny Adair. In September 1983 a National Front March took place in Belfast, attended by about 100 fascist skinheads. Prominent in the parade was Johnny Adair, along with his sidekick Sam McCrory. This march became known as the ‘gluesniffers march’, because many of the skinheads were drunk on cider and openly sniffing glue from plastic bags as they paraded from the city centre to the Shankill chanting anti-Black and anti-Republican slogans.

In April 1983 a group of young Loyalist skinheads from a gang called ‘NF Skinz’ killed a homeless alcoholic on the Lower Shankill. Patrick Barkey, a Catholic, died after being beaten unconscious and hit on the head with a concrete block. Three skinheads, William Madine, Clifford Bickerstaff and Albert Martin were charged with murder. Madine and Bickerstaff pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got two years and eleven months at a young offenders centre. Martin was found guilty of GBH and got a 12 month suspended sentence. Press reports stated that the skinheads were provided with character references by [unnamed] Belfast Unionist politicians.

The Belfast NF broke up anti-racist and punk gigs in the city. The NF was active around football and sold their publications at Northern Ireland games at Windsor Park. The NF youth paper ‘Bulldog’ published a ‘league of louts’ – detailing the most racist fans – Linfield and Coleraine featured regularly.

In January 1998 Mo Mowlam visited the Maze prison to meet the leaders of the loyalist prisoners. The UDA/UFF leaders in the Maze were Adair and Sam McCrory, both from the Shankill Road. At the time of Mowlam’s jail visit the media reported that McCrory has ‘White Power’ and ‘Skins’ tattoos on his right hand.

Investigations by Anti-Fascist Action revealed that in the early 1980s both ‘Skelly’ McCrory and Adair played in a Belfast Nazi skinhead band called ‘Offensive Weapon’. This band played a few gigs on the Nazi skinhead circuit in Britain in the mid 80s. In August 1998 the Irish News printed a photograph of Adair and McCrory on the ‘gluesniffers’ NF March in Belfast in September 1983. With them was Donald Hodgen, another skinhead who also became a UDA member and later a prominent activist in the now defunct Ulster Democratic Party.

Nearly twenty years later the 30 to 40 young skinheads who led the National Front branch in Belfast in the 1980s now form the core of Adair’s ‘C Company’ of the UFF. They moved on to more serious sectarian violence but never left behind their ‘white power’ beliefs. From a small gang of teenage thugs they turned themselves into so-called ‘defenders of the people’, which involved murdering scores of innocent Catholics. In 2000 they tore their community apart in a savage feud with the rival UVF. They are a classic example of what happens if fascism is not forcefully opposed when it first appears.

The early 1990s, when Adair was leader of the UDA/UFF on the Shankill, marked a period of increased contact between Northern loyalists and Fascists in Britain as close links developed between the UDA and London based Fascists. Eddie Whicker and Frank Portinari were both ‘UDA Organisers’ in Britain. Portinari was jailed in 1993 for gun running to the UDA. Portanari was involved in C18 in the 1990s but now heads a pro-UDA group in London called the British Ulster Alliance.

Charlie Sargeant, the former leader of Combat 18 now serving life in England for the murder of a fellow fascist, often boasted of his personal friendship with Johnny Adair.

In the mid 1990s C18’s control of the Blood and Honour ‘music’ network allowed them to put on several gigs in the North. ‘Blood and Honour’ magazine boasted of Welsh band Celtic Warrior’s visit to Belfast and published photographs of Loyalist bandsmen playing alongside them at a ‘White Christmas’ gig on the Lower Shankill Road. ‘Blood and Honour’ magazine also printed photographs of two UDA prisoners in Long Kesh, who sent greetings to C18 and said that they were ‘dedicated to keeping Ulster British and white’ and the loyalists’ prison journal ‘Warrior’ also published pro-C18 articles.

C18/LVF and Portadown

The annual attempt by the Orange Order to march down the Garvaghy Road, and the 12th weekend generally, has become a point of pilgrimage as English fascists from different groups visit the North to link up with their loyalist friends.

In July 1999 Combat 18 brought 25 supporters from Britain to Portadown. Combat 18 members attended at the unveiling of a memorial to Billy Wright and he is also idolised on C18 websites. On July 11th 1999 a ‘Blood and Honour’ gig was held in a social club in Portadown. The English fascist bands ‘Razors Edge’, ‘Chingford Attack’ and ‘No Remorse’ played alongside loyalist flute bands. According to a C18 report on the event:

‘A spokeswoman for the Loyalist Volunteer Force, who hosted the gig, took the stage and thanked Combat 18 officially for the support shown to her organisation and its prisoners of war both in C18 publications and financially. All the profits from the gig were donated to the LVF Prisoners’ Fund and links between C18 and the LVF were strengthened on the evening’. C18 members also attended the Orange march in Portadown and the demonstration at Drumcree on July 12th.

In July 2000 another C18 delegation attended the Drumcree march. The fascists, from Bolton, Burnley and Preston in the North of England, stayed with LVF members in Portadown’s Corcrain and Brownstown estates. A TV documentary showed a prominent Orangeman from Portadown, Ivan Hewitt, displaying his ‘Blood and Honour’, ‘SS’ and other Nazi tattoos. David Jones, leader of the Orange Order in Portadown, claimed that he did not know Hewitt.

British Nationalism In Ireland – Racism And Sectarianism As The Orange Order Identifies With The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) – One Reflection Of British Anti-Irishness

‘Free Johnny Adair’

In September 2000 a group of UDA supporters and English fascists, including convicted loyalist gun runners Terry Blackham and Frank Portinari, took part in a National Front protest in Downing Street demanding the release of Johnny Adair. A similar protest took place in January 2001.

At the funeral of Steven McKeag, a major drug dealer, on the Shankill in September 2000 a large wreath was carried which read ‘C18′. McKeag, who had died accidentally from drink and drugs, was the notorious UFF gunman nicknamed ‘Top Gun’. He was known to be personally responsible for at least a dozen sectarian murders. He had been a teenage member of the NF and Adair’s right hand man, taking over command of the Shankill UDA when Adair was jailed in 1994.

Greysteel Killer and C18 

In July 2000 Stephen Irwin, a Loyalist convicted of the murder of seven people in a UDA attack on the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel, Co Derry at Hallowe’en 1993, was released from the Maze. It was Irwin who shouted ‘Trick or Treat’ before he opened fire. Just four months after his release Irwin attended a C18 ‘Remembrance Day’ event in London and was photographed shouting slogans and giving the Nazi salute. While in prison Irwin had corresponded with other fascists and sent out pictures of himself for their publications.

The LVF 

The Loyalist Volunteer Force website has the following ad in its merchandise section ‘Our best item by far yet is the Billy Wright CD Which has been produced by Blood & Honour Combat 18 & has been largely in demand, the CD consists of many songs by prominent Blood & Honour bands with songs dedicated to the Loyalist cause’.

There have been revelations in recent years of strong links between the LVF and Nazis in the North West of Britain. These include C18 members and supporters within the British Army. In May 1999 C18 members distributed leaflets at Blackburn’s football ground attacking Rosemary Nelson, the human rights solicitor murdered by Loyalists.

Ian Thompson, a former soldier of the Royal Irish Regiment, was the LVF’s main linkman with Combat 18, he organised the visits of British Fascists to Portadown. He was arrested in March 2000 on suspicion of involvement in the murder of Rosemary Nelson. The RUC found the personal details of Combat 18 leaders and scores of Nazi music CDs in his home in Hamiltonsbawn, Co Armagh. In 2001 Thompson was sentenced to 9 years for arms offences.

The internet guestbooks of many fascist groups contain support messages for the UDA, LVF, Orange Volunteers, Red Hand Defenders, etc. A support group called the ‘Loyalist Prisoners Welfare Association’ holds fundraisers and events in Britain.

The second leader of the LVF, Mark ‘Swinger’ Fulton, was found dead in his cell in Maghaberry prison in June 2002. A post mortem showed he had committed suicide. Within hours fascist websites carried tributes to him, including one from C18 which stated. “Mark Fulton. Rest in peace comrade, you were a loyal soldier and brave warrior in our struggle for freedom. You will never be forgotten. Valahalla will welcome such a great man with open arms! condolences sent from all C18 units worldwide! 14/88″.

National Front 

In July 2000 the ‘White Nationalist Report’, a National Front newsletter, printed a report and picture of NF members selling their literature in the Sandy Row Rangers Supporters Club. The photo included Terry Blackham, their ‘National Activities Organiser’, who runs the NF anti-refugee campaigns in England. In 1994 Blackham was jailed for 4 years for attempting to smuggle sub-machine guns, a grenade launcher and 2,000 rounds of ammunition to the UDA in East Belfast.

British National Party 

The British National Party [BNP] has also been active in the North in recent years. It sells a magazine called ‘True Brit’ at Orange rallies and at Linfield and Glentoran matches. It is based mainly around Newtonabbey and has also been involved in intimidation of Catholics in Kilkeel, Co Down. In December 1998 it held a wreath laying ceremony at the grave of George Seawright, the DUP politician best known for saying that ‘Catholics should be incinerated’. His brother, David Seawright, has been active in both the NF and the UVF in Scotland.

The Ulster BNP plans to run in South Belfast in the next general election in the North and say it’s platform will be a return of the death penalty and an end to ‘bogus asylum seekers flooding over the border into Ulster’.

Andrew McAlorie has recently reappeared as a BNP spokeperson in the North. McAlorie, a teacher, was last heard of in 1986 when as NI treasurer of the National Front he was jailed for two years for his involvement in the petrol bombing of RUC homes during the ‘Ulster Says No’ campaign against the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Ulster Independence Movement 

The UIM is a one man band led by David Kerr, formerly prominent in the Ulster National Front in the 1980s. The UIM supports the policy of the ‘Third Way’, an ideology that supposedly rejects both communism and capitalism. ‘Third Way’ is connected to the ‘International Third Position’ in Britain, a somewhat contradictory position as ITP leadership consists of traditionalist Catholics. The UIM also professes support for far right groups in America and sells pro-Confederate merchandise on its website. It also produces a magazine called ‘Ulster Nation’.

David Kerr ran as the ‘Ulster Third Way’ candidate both the General and local elections in June 2001. Describing himself as a ‘non-sectarian radical Ulster nationalist’, he gathered a less than spectacular 116 votes in West Belfast and a magnificent 28 in the council elections. His campaign may not have been helped by his stated policy of support for free over the counter sales of heroin and cocaine.

Conclusion 

The political, paramilitary and criminal links between Loyalism and Fascism should be no surprise, given that both ideologies are based on extreme right wing supremacist ideas. The regular exposure of such links lead to denials or tepid condemnation by loyalist politicians, but no serious attempt to end them.’

Right Wing Norwegian Mass Murderer Anders Breivik, Who Has Links To British Neo-Nazi And Terrorist Groupings

The links between British Neo-Nazis and the British separatist minority in Ireland coalesce around one of the most notorious assassinations in the history of the conflict, the killing of lawyer Rosemary Nelson. As the Guardian reported in 2000:

‘The names, addresses and telephone numbers of members of the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 have been passed to detectives investigating the murder of the Northern Ireland solicitor Rosemary Nelson.

Details of Combat 18’s links with the Loyalist Volunteer Force – the organisation which placed the bomb under Nelson’s car – were found during a search of the home of Ian Thompson, a loyalist who has been charged with an offence connected to the solicitor’s murder.

Thompson was arrested at his home in Hamilton’s Bawn, a Protestant village outside Armagh city, more than a fortnight ago. Senior RUC detectives said police in England planned to arrest and question several Combat 18 activists about their links with Ulster loyalists.

Along with the personal details of Combat 18 members, including their leader Bill Browning, a former British soldier from south London, the RUC found scores of race-hate CDs. The CDs of racist skinhead bands were being sold to raise money in Britain for the LVF. Browning has a conviction for assaulting a gay man and another for distributing race hate material.

Thompson, also a former British soldier who served in the locally recruited Royal Irish Regiment, was the LVF’s main link with Combat 18. He went to Wigan for an event organised by Combat 18 in 1998 which almost degenerated into a war between rival factions of the fascist group. Members from North-East England protested at Thompson’s plan to take over an LVF-aligned flute band to play at the function.

The North-East branch of Combat 18, organised principally around a core of Sunderland soccer hooligans, supports the largest loyalist paramilitary force, the Ulster Defence Association. When they learnt that an LVF-allied band was to play, they threatened to disrupt the social. The invitation to the band was quietly dropped.

The investigation into Combat 18’s connections to the LVF will focus on a nucleus of English fascists based in North-West England, particularly a group in Bolton. They include a tattooist who comes to Northern Ireland regularly to engrave the image of murdered LVF founder Billy Wright on to local loyalists.

It was Thompson who invited Browning along with 24 other neo-Nazis to Northern Ireland last summer for the loyalist marching season. While the Combat 18 delegation were staying in Portadown, the LVF’s Mid-Ulster stronghold, members of the neo-Nazi group attacked a Chinese family living in the town’s staunchly loyalist Corcrain estate.

One of the UDA’s English members, who was arrested on arms charges in the early Nineties, was Frank Portanari. Now out of jail, Portanari heads a pro-loyalist campaign group in London called the British/Ulster Alliance.’

BNP Politicians Giving Nazi Salutes At British War Memorial, Britain

The power and influence of the British terrorist organisations in Ireland has fallen considerably since their heyday at the height of the conflict when they were the cutting edge of Britain’s counter-insurgency war. Many have been abandoned by their old masters in the British state (or been turned upon). Yet, through renewed links to Neo-Nazi and fascist groups in Britain, they continue to exist and indeed may be on something of a comeback.

Racist And Neo-Nazi Propoganda Of The British Minority In Ireland, 2004