Béal Feirste (Belfast)

Five Thousand March For Irish Rights In Belfast

Dearg Le Fearg

Dearg Le Fearg

Last Saturday up to five thousand people took part in An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, a march through the city of Belfast in support of Irish language rights in the north-east of Ireland. Despite the disruptive presence of a small crowd of protesters from the British Unionist community (who waved British flags while making Nazi salutes, oblivious to the history of the nation they were supposedly expressing loyalty to) the demonstrators generally received a warm welcome. Following on from the ten thousand who attended a similar rally in Dublin, and with numbers again far exceeding the organisers expectations, it shows the level of demand for full equality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking citizens in Ireland, north and south. All political parties on this island nation need to acknowledge the failures of the past in relation to their language policies, policies that have fostered a system of institutionalised discrimination within the public services and government as a whole. Following on from nine centuries of violent ethnocide the nine decades of mealy-mouthed hypocrisy have simply added more damage to the cultural and social standing of Hibernophones in Ireland and encouraged a virulent form of Anglophone supremacism. As more than one observer has pointed out this expression of hatred towards all things indigenous in Ireland is simply a continuation of the anti-Irish racism that existed during the era of British colonial rule, a poisonous legacy of that disastrous period in our nation’s history that all right-minded people should oppose.

New times require new thinking. None of the political parties in Ireland have any substantive policies in relation to Irish language rights or the restoration of the Irish language as the spoken vernacular of our island nation. Even Sinn Féin, the most progressive organisation in this area, is still a long way behind international contemporaries like Plaid Cymru in Wales or the Parti Québecois in Québec. Indeed it is countries like Québec, Catalonia, the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, and many others that provide the templates that Ireland needs to follow. We could start with the Constitution of Ireland and the anomaly of Article 8.3 which permits the government to effectively dodge the constitutional primacy of the Irish language as the national and first official language of the state in favour of the English language. Article 8 presently reads as follows:

“8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

8.3 Provision may, however, be made by law for the exclusive use of either of the said languages for any one or more official purposes, either throughout the State or in any part thereof.”

Clause 8.3 above is the reason we have the Official Languages Act of 2003 (a legal mechanism to curtail the primacy of Irish language rights) and why the Supreme Court could rule that Irish-speaking citizens are not entitled to a trial entirely through the medium of the Irish language (in contrast to English-speaking citizens who do have such a right). We need a constitutional amendment along the following lines:

“8.1 The Irish language as the national language is the first official language.

8.2 The English language is recognised as a second official language.

8.3 Exclusive use shall be made of the national language for all official purposes throughout the State. However, where necessary and excluding recognised Irish-speaking communities, simultaneous use may be made of both official languages for any official purposes by the State though the primacy of the national language and the State’s requirement to facilitate its exclusive use must be demonstrated at all times.”

I’m sure others could arrive at better formulae than the above but it gives one an idea of what is needed if the first steps are to be taken in building true equality, equality that no government can ignore or downplay.

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An Lá Dearg I mBéal Feirste

An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, the Red Day in support of Irish language rights, gathering at 2pm outside Cultúrlann Mc Adam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road, Belfast, Ireland, 12th of April 2014

An Lá Dearg i mBéal Feirste, the Red Day in support of Irish language rights, gathering at 2pm outside Cultúrlann Mc Adam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road, Belfast, Ireland, 12th of April 2014

Following on from the mass demonstration held in Dublin eight weeks ago during which 10,000 people marched across the capital in support of Irish language rights another demonstration is planned for Belfast this Saturday, the 12th of April 2014. Gathering at 2pm outside Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiach, the Falls Road, in the west of the city the protesters will proceed to Custom House Square where they will be addressed by a number of guest speakers. Several hundred people are expected to attend but the more the better as the campaign to enact full equality between Irish-speaking and English-speaking citizens in Ireland (north and south) steps up a gear. So please participate in the day of action if you can or if you can’t please distribute the details to your family and friends on all your social networks. Remember, red is the colour of Irish language protests for Lá Dearg.

Arrested For Speaking Irish In Europe’s Darkest Corner

No blacks, no dogs, no Irish

No blacks, no dogs, no Irish

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is on an official state visit to Britain, the first by an Irish head of state in some nine decades of independence. This follows the first official visit by Britain’s head of state, Elizabeth II, to Ireland and is yet another step in the ongoing choreography of the “Peace Process”, a process that continues to dominate the news headlines at home and abroad (even if most of the British media prefer to ignore it, unable to come to terms with peace in Ireland when war without end seemed so much more easier to digest). However just how far has this process actually progressed? The Irish Nationalist community in the north-east of our island nation continues to suffer levels of discrimination in employment and the provision of public services far above its Unionist rival. Despite the perception that the Nationalists have the “upper hand” politically they still struggle to gain equality socially and culturally. The language they speak, and even they very clothes they wear, makes them objects of suspicion and persecution.

On Sunday the 6th of April 2014 Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, the national treasurer of Sinn Féin Poblachtach (a minor Irish republican party and off-shoot of SF), was arrested and charged under counter-terrorism laws in the city of Derry by members of the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in the north of Ireland. And the laws he broke? He answered in Irish to a question put to him in English. Yes, you read that right. An Irish citizen in Ireland was asked a question in English, he answered in the national language of Ireland, and for that he was arrested, charged and brought to court in Belfast under Britain’s counter-insurgency laws in our country. From the Belfast Telegraph:

“A man who gave his name and address in Irish when he was stopped by police has appeared at Londonderry Magistrates Court charged under anti-terrorism legislation.

Dermot Douglas (49) [ASF: that is Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais], of Mellows Park in Dublin, was charged with not giving his details to the best of his ability under the Justice and Security Act on March 6.

Defence solicitor Brian Stelfox told the court his client had come out of a house in the Creggan area of the city and had been stopped by police, and when asked for identification gave his details in Irish.

District judge Barney McElholm asked: “Was the sum total of this case — that he gave his name in Irish?” Mr Stelfox said Douglas had “quite happily” allowed the police to search him, and then gave his name and address in Irish and was arrested.”

Peace process? One is tempted to ask, what peace process? However we have an even more outrageous event, from Hogan’s Stand, a bizarre attack on the rights of men and women in Ireland to wear the clothes they choose to wear if those clothes are recognisably Irish, and made by the leader of the TUV, one of several extreme parties amongst the Unionist minority:

“TUV leader Jim Allister says students wearing GAA jerseys to university are “creating a substantial chill factor”.

More and more Catholic students are opting to don club, county and college jerseys on campus at the north’s universities and – claiming to have received complaints from students at University of Ulster – Allister says the proliferation of GAA jerseys in intimidating members of the Protestant community.

In response to the Traditional Unionist Voice chief’s complaints, UU is to review its policy of allowing students to wear GAA tops…”

Forgot the Taliban. This is the Uniban. And forget western Europe. This is Europe’s regressive fringe. And we are part of it.

Britain’s Very Own Own Crimea In Ireland

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland.

British terrorists of the UDA-UFF on parade in the north-east of Ireland. The organisation remained a legal grouping until the 1990s when Britain was forced by international pressure to ban it. However it continues to enjoy relative immunity from prosecution.

Military jeeps driven by masked men wearing combat fatigues drive through the darkened streets of a city while hysterical crowds scream “Bring out the guns!” before confronting local paramilitary police. A week later over a hundred masked and uniformed men invade a local community, ransack homes, setting some on fire, driving people onto the streets before again confronting paramilitary police officers this time with sustained violence.

The Ukraine? Crimea? Transnistria?

No, this is Western Europe and this is Britain’s rotten colony in the north-eastern corner of Ireland. A medieval anachronism in a modern world. So why do we put up with it when we know what the solution is? The same solution that ended the greater part of Britain’s historic colony on our island nation and centuries of misrule. “Northern Ireland” is simply the rotten afterbirth of British imperial ambitions and it is time to flush it into the sewer of history where it rightfully belongs.

Only A General Amnesty Will Yield The Truth

Jean McConville, a Belfast woman suspected of being a British Army informer, was arrested and executed by the Irish Republican Army in December 1972 and her body hidden as one of the so-called “Disappeared” until August 2003

As the impact of the arrest of the veteran activist Ivor Bell continues to reverberate within Republican circles there is a lot to agree with in this analysis by Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe:

“Ivor Bell is awaiting trial in Belfast on charges he aided and abetted the murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who in 1972 was abducted, shot, and secretly buried by the IRA after she was accused of being an informer.

Bell’s lawyer said Bell was innocent, but acknowledged that Bell was the man referred to as Mr. Z in a series of tape-recorded interviews made by a researcher hired by BC to compile recollections of republicans and loyalists who fought in Northern Ireland.

That researcher, former Irish Republican Army volunteer and prisoner Anthony McIntyre, told me from Ireland that he expects police to knock on his door any day. If they do, they’ll be wasting their time. “I wouldn’t even tell them hello,” he said.

Neither will Bell, 77, who was a senior IRA commander before his star dimmed…

Bell was among a group of IRA veterans who opposed the compromise accepted by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1998, effectively ending the Troubles.

Now, police would love Bell to implicate his former comrade turned foe, Adams, who has repeatedly denied involvement in McConville’s murder. Adams says BC naively allowed McIntyre, who openly opposed his leadership, to interview former IRA members who were inclined to implicate him for political reasons.

McConville’s children believe that Adams was behind their mother’s murder and insist he face justice. But this debacle has never been about justice. It’s about politics, specifically about sticking it to Adams and his party…

…the prosecution is so biased and politically motivated as to undermine all credibility.

The police in Northern Ireland have shown no interest in the other half of the oral history project: interviews with loyalists, who presumably could shed light on state-sanctioned murders they carried out with the covert assistance of the police and British military.

Ed Moloney, the journalist who oversaw the Belfast Project paid for and archived by Boston College, called Bell’s arrest “a cheap publicity stunt” by police and prosecutors who know that the oral histories, given to an academic by people who were neither under oath nor given legal warnings about self-incrimination, will not stand up as evidence in court.

As critical as he is of the authorities in Northern Ireland, Moloney said it wouldn’t have gotten this far if the US Department of Justice had rebuffed British authorities who asked their American counterparts to gain custody of the BC tapes, or if BC officials were willing to risk fines and even imprisonment to defy the government.

What a mess. An American university has been unwittingly and unwillingly used by a foreign government, with the acquiescence of the US government, to build a criminal case.

Oral history and academic freedom are dead and gone.”

The author Ed Moloney has suggested on several occasions that the pursuit of the forty-year old McConville case by Britain, and particularly by the PSNI or the British paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, has more to do with the settling of old scores than any concerns over justice delayed. During the Irish-British conflict from the late 1960s to the early 2000s the RUC, the much-feared predecessor to the PSNI, incurred thousands of casualties amongst its officers while combating the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army and others. Though that came to an end with the Peace Process of the late-to-mid 1990s the negotiated settlement also brought an end to the RUC. However despite promised reforms many hardcore RUC men were kept within the ranks of the new PSNI or subsequently rejoined it when the political spotlight moved on to elsewhere. Under their influence, and that of some senior British government officials, retribution upon former opponents has become a primary impulse of law and order in the north-eastern region of Ireland. This post-conflict vendetta is one that anti-Sinn Féin elements of the Irish and British media have proven eager to pursue with little thought for the consequences (which in this case is a not inconceivable eruption of renewed armed conflict). Nor is SF itself blameless. Elected members of the party, notably Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, have been less than honest with their electorates and the Irish people as whole. While there were good reasons for their obfuscation during and in the immediate aftermath of the war those reasons are looking increasingly threadbare now that we have had over a decade of (near) peace. Furthermore Sinn Féin’s willingness to see former, now rival, Republican comrades and colleagues thrown to the PSNI wolves is less than edifying.

All this is not to excuse the Republican movement of any wrongdoing when it comes to the central issue of Jean McConville’s death. It is clear that after a considerable debate McConville was executed/killed/murdered by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army on the orders of senior officers within the organisation, her body hidden and her relatives left with no (honest) account of what had happened. Repeated claims by the news media in Ireland and elsewhere that McConville was killed because she had lent aid to a British soldier wounded outside her home by a sniper are completely unfounded. It simply never happened, as a 2006 investigation by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan made clear. Indeed the belief that such a gesture of simple human decency would elicit the ultimate penalty says much about the wilful ignorance of the conflict by observers both in Dublin and London.

While the O’Loan examination went on to find no evidence of McConville communicating with the British Forces, and specifically denied that she was a known informer, it did reveal that the British Army had initially insisted that her disappearance was a hoax or later that she had willingly deserted her children and was living elsewhere in Ireland. Whether that reflected poor intelligence or something more sinister has never been established (certainly such rumours may have originated with the IRA in an effort to confuse any potential investigation though local people were aware of her execution and the reasons behind it within weeks). Unfortunately Britain has refused access by journalists and members of the McConville family to the regimental records of British Army units deployed in Belfast during this period which is why so much of the case remains in the realms of speculation. However we do know that no serious investigation was carried out by the RUC into her disappearance until some considerable time after her death (and that the subsequent investigation was thrown off track by the misinformation supplied by the British military despite the RUC’s more informed sources). The evident reluctance of the British to address the disappearance of Jean McConville in 1972/3 remains the subject of much discussion, both fair and unfair.

The Irish Republican Army is adamant in its counter-claim that Jean McConville was a known informer who had been warned about her activities until finally discovered in the possession of a concealed military radio transmitter supplied to her by the British Army. Though we cannot be sure it seems likely that she was seized by the IRA’s Belfast Brigade the day before her known disappearance, interrogated (perhaps beaten) and then released. That would match British military reports and statements from some of her family relating to the discovery of a woman likely to be McConville in streets near her home in a state of some distress and confusion the day before she was abducted. With the radio transmitter in its hands the IRA must have discussed what actions to take based upon the evidence gained, no doubt in part spurred on by fears that Jean McConville would be spirited away to safety by the British now that her cover was truly blown or that she had further knowledge to impart to the enemy (her son, Robert McConville, was a member of the Official IRA and detained in the infamous Long Kesh concentration camp at the time of her death. During this period the OIRA and PIRA were bitter rivals, especially in Belfast and McConville remained a committed Republican activist going on to serve with the insurgent INLA). This resulted in her arrest the next day by the Irish Republican Army and transport across the border to the spot where she was shot dead. Or at least we can suppose that is the sequence of events. The truth is, of course, that everything to do with the killing of Jean McConville is supposition. We simply don’t know what happened during that dreadful period some forty years ago. However, as yet, no one has produced a plausible reason for the controversial killing of a mother of ten from an intensely closeknit community beyond that offered by the killers themselves.

The only legitimate way to end yet more years of speculation and anguish for the McConville family is for the governments of Ireland and Britain to agree a general amnesty that will allow all participants to the conflict, willing or otherwise, to give truthful testimonies free of fear or repercussion. Only then will we learn the truth about Jean McConville. Or about Gerry Adams.

Anna Lo And British Government Agree On Colonial Ireland

Ireland the "colony" from "Scotland analysis, Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Scotland February 2013"

Ireland the “colony” from “Scotland analysis, Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Scotland February 2013″

With all the outrage vented over the last 24+ hours by some of the more historically-myopic members of the British Unionist community in the north-east of the country in relation to Anna Lo’s “anti-colonial” newspaper interview I thought I’d post the British government’s own official view on the matter from “Scotland analysis, Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Scotland February 2013”. It says it all really, doesn’t it?

Liberal Unionist Anna Lo Supports A Reunited Ireland

Liberal politician Anna Lo MLA of the Alliance Party, a moderate Unionist grouping in the north-east of Ireland

Liberal politician Anna Lo MLA of the Alliance Party, a moderate Unionist grouping in the north-east of Ireland

When a senior politician from a party representing the moderate British Unionist or pro-Union vote in the north-east of the country publicly acknowledges the colonial origins of “Northern Ireland” and the logic of Irish reunification then you know that we are truly progressing towards a better future. From the Irish Times:

“Unionist parties moved quickly today to exploit what they viewed as a pre-election gaffe by Anna Lo, an Alliance South Belfast Assembly member and the party’s candidate in the May European elections in Northern Ireland.

Ms Lo was upbraided by the DUP, the Ulster Unionists, the Traditional Unionist Voice party and the Northern Ireland Conservatives after she said she supported a united Ireland created by consent and further implied that Northern Ireland was a colony.

Ahead of Saturday’s annual Alliance conference and also ahead of local and European elections in two months time she told today’s Irish News that a united Ireland would be “better placed economically, socially and politically”.

She said it was “very artificial” for Ireland to be divided up and for “the corner of Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom”. She added that she was “anti colonial” while insisting unity could only be achieved through the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.

While Ms Lo is viewed as a straight-talking politician her comments did cause surprise and unease among several Alliance members. The party adopts a so-called “agnostic” position on the union with Britain, although the majority of its support is viewed as coming from centrist unionists.”

The Chinese-Irish member of the regional assembly in Belfast has been subject to repeated racial attacks by Unionist extremists, most recently at an International Women’s Day event in the city.

The Crimea-Of-The-West

Meanwhile in the “Crimea-of-the-West” militants from the British separatist minority in the north-east of Ireland have staged another of their weekly demonstrations at the so-called Twaddle Twaddell Protest Camp in the city of Belfast. Several marching-bands carrying British military and terrorist banners gathered on the Crumlin Road to take part in a parade headed by military-style jeeps driven by militants wearing masks and British-issue combat uniforms. Amongst the marchers were bands from the Orange Order, a once-powerful British and Protestant fundamentalist organisation associated with sectarian and racist views. Accompanied by calls for weapons to be produced or displayed the gathering moved up to the line of officers from the PSNI, the British paramilitary police force in the north of Ireland, where they were halted. Despite the conspicuous presence of paramilitary uniforms, masks and flags, all of which are illegal in the north-east of the country, no effort was made by the PSNI to detain or arrest any of the participants. Though several prominent politicians from the British Unionist minority have attended demonstrations in the past none were present last night, the role falling to members of more extreme Unionist parties like the PUP whose leader, Billy Hutchinson, recently claimed in a newspaper interview that his participation in the murders of two “Catholic” civilians in the 1970s helped prevent the reunification of Ireland.

So ends another night in Britain’s micro-colony on the edge of north-western Europe. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have done any better.

These Unionists in Ireland... I like their style!

These Unionists in Ireland… I like their style!

British Spooks Seek Irish Hookups

In recent years MI5, Britain's Security Service or SS, has significantly expanded it's clandestine intelligence operations in Ireland despite the Peace Process of the late 1990s and early 2000s

In recent years MI5, Britain’s Security Service or SS, has significantly expanded it’s clandestine intelligence operations in Ireland despite the Peace Process of the late 1990s and early 2000s

It seems that the Irish-based spooks of MI5, Britain’s Security Service, are growing ever-more brazen now that the dangers of staring down the business-end of a Browning automatic pistol have (almost) gone away. From a statement by Phoblachtáigh do Aontiú or the Republican Network for Unity (PA – RNU), an independent Irish Republican political party:

“British Intelligence agents today made an overt daylight approach to a recently released Maghaberry POW in Belfast City Centre, less than 6 days after he lost his job in a call center due to ‘security reasons’.

The target of the approach (who for personal reasons does not want to be identified) was taking a walk as part of the daily routine he has adopted to help him adjust to life on the outside.

While making his way across Queen’s Bridge he noticed a man who he did not know gesturing in his direction as if to attract his attention.

Choosing to ignore this individual the ex-prisoner walked on a few steps before his path was blocked by two more men who had previously been leaning across the bridge looking into the river.

Both men in English accents then identified themselves plainly as ‘MI5′ before attempting to speak to their target about his RNU membership, as well as the ‘tough week he had’.

The ex-prisoner who is a member of the Nora Connolly Cumann Belfast and participated in the ‘dirty protest’ of 2010, calmly and confidently told both spooks that he had ‘done six years for keeping his mouth shut and wasn’t going to start talking now’.

After threatening him with future imprisonment and insinuating that he ‘could make money by helping them’, both spooks were told in no uncertain terms where to go.

Later in the afternoon he received a phone call from a man with an English accent who identified himself as ‘Adam’ and ‘the man on the bridge’, again he was told where to go. The number provided by the spook is 07840907802.”

Below is an audio recording of a phonecall from the eponymous British Intelligence agent “Adam” posted by the PA – RNU to their YouTube channel.

Ah, bring back the good old days. They haven’t gone away y’know! So for “Adam” and all the lads an’ lasses up in the Monkey Palace (aka. Palace Barracks) a blast from the past.

Some Cock And Bull

Female Irish Republican activists on parade in Dublin, Ireland

Female Irish Republican activists on parade in Dublin, Ireland. Do Islamic insurgents wear miniskirts?

First off we have some serious (if highly improbable) cock-waving by Resistance Republicans via a rather bland report by the BBC:

“Dissident republicans claim to have used newly acquired Semtex in a bomb attack on police in west Belfast.

A mortar was fired from a tube attached to railings at the City Cemetery at around 22:30 GMT on Friday.

It was detonated by a command wire. A family escaped injury when their car was hit by debris.

It was not possible to verify the claim that a new batch of Semtex was used as the police would not comment on the nature of the device.

It is understood the mortar device contained a conical-shaped warhead designed to penetrate armour.

Dissident republicans claim the mortar contained the military explosive Semtex and a commercial detonator.

They claim both were newly acquired – in other words, not from old supplies previously under the control of the Provisional IRA.”

I think there was also some stuff in there about magic beans but I stopped reading after a while…

Next up is some serious bull (of the ordure kind) carried in a suitably alarmist report by the Unionist-leaning Newsletter:

“Dissident republicans are attempting to forge links with Islamic extremists in an effort to bolster their terrorist capabilities, Jeffrey Donaldson has warned.

The DUP MP, who sits on the Commons’ defence committee, was responding to BBC claims that the bomb used to attack police officers in west Belfast on Friday contained newly-acquired Semtex explosive.

When asked if the UK’s security services were alerted to the possibility of dissidents attempting to access weaponry through Islamic extremists, Mr Donaldson replied: “Absolutely.””

Ah yeah. As in absolutely desperate to create a false analogy between the conflict in Ireland and the conflict in the Islamic world in the hope of eliciting some sympathy for the tattered remnant of Britain’s first and last colony. Again

Princes Of The Church

Princes of the Church

Princes of the Church

Since launching An Sionnach Fionn I’ve written relatively little on the scandalous record of the Roman Catholic Church and the state in Ireland in relation to the abuse and exploitation of children and the vulnerable in the care of both from the 1920s to the 1990s (and later). The horrific stories have been covered adequately by the major media outlets in the country and there is little one can say beyond repeated expressions of outrage and disgust. If one sought a reason for one’s revolutionary republican beliefs the incestuous abuse of authority and influence, the negation of legal and civil rights for ordinary citizens that arose from the axis of power between Church and State would be enough to sustain any amount of radicalism. The winners of Ireland’s Civil War were the ones who laid the groundwork for what befell the Irish people in the decades that followed. We lived under the dark shadow of Cosgrave and McQuaid rather than in the bright light of Mac Piarais and Ó Conghaile; the theocratic Irish Free State of 1921 instead of the pluralist Irish Republic of 1916.

Did someone say an unfinished revolution?

In any case like much else the north-east of Ireland and the tattered remnant of the British colony that formerly exercised rule over all of our island home was in some ways simply a mirror image of the greater Irish nation, albeit retaining the extremes of colonial-era racism and sectarianism that the rest of the country slowly divested itself of (almost…). Under the one-party authoritarian regime at Stormont over a third of the population lived as second-class citizens with second-class rights, rights defined by nationality and religion. As with the Dublin government, regardless of party or background, the princes of the Church made allies where they could, supping from long spoons with devils of whatever hue or creed. That is illustrated by this searing report from Al Jazeera on the still hidden scandal of institutional abuse involving the Roman Catholic Church and the Unionist regime in Belfast that blighted the lives of Irish citizens of both communities in the north-east of our country for decades.

“Sitting opposite me in a hotel room in the town where she was brought up, Katie Walmsley quietly described her childhood. Her parents were splitting up, a priest suggested to her dad that the best place for her would be a children’s home for girls. The nuns would keep her safe and well.

“I held on to my daddy’s trousers,” at the door of the big, imposing building, she said. The nuns pulled her in, and within ten minutes she was sitting with her sister in a bath mixed with jeyes fluid (a toxic industrial detergent people normally use nowadays to get congealed fat out of drains).

Katie will give evidence to Britain’s biggest ever inquiry into systematic abuse next week. She will tell the inquiry what she told us here; that the congealed pig fat – slops, she called it – was scooped up in a tablespoon by the nun when she vomited it up and she was forced to eat it again.

That the nuns made her clean the excrement from toilet bowls with her bare hands, and pick bits off the walls with her fingernails.

That the priest told her she didn’t need to pray because she had been good in God’s eyes. Instead he “took me round the back”, made her go down on her knees between his legs and by the time she was 12 he had done worse still to her.

Our conversation took place in Derry, to use the name Katie and other Catholics have for it.

How could nobody know?

Jon McCourt, now a peace campaigner but who was himself a ‘home boy’, abused in the town’s boys’ home, is adamant the authorities knew and didn’t want to act.

At the time, he explained, housing policy in Derry/Londonderry was linked to having a vote.

The more Catholics who got state housing, the more votes they would have, and that could have upset the political balance of power in the town. The more boys and girls in homes for years and years, the fewer houses needed for Catholic families.

Well-known journalist Eamon McCann goes further. He believes the Catholic Church was only too keen to work with the Protestant political leadership to take poor kids off the streets and put them in homes.

Why? Because it kept them off the streets, away from the hands of Republican dissidents, and out of sight.

…here in divided Derry/Londonderry, what’s emerging isn’t only a story of shocking abuse. It’s the allegation of the Catholic Church taking children in a way which suited perfectly the interests of the pro-British, Protestant political elite which is so outrageous and tragic.”

The failure of the post-partition states north and south is the failure to implement the ideals of the Irish Revolution. An Ireland divided will always be, economically, socially and culturally, an Ireland broken.

Death Squad Killers In The Land Down Under

Maria McGurk murdered by British state-controlled terrorists at McGurk's Bar

12 year old Maria McGurk, murdered by British state-controlled terrorists in 1971 at McGurk’s Bar, Belfast, Ireland. Another victim of Britain’s dirty war in Ireland

An update on the revelations late last year by a BBC news documentary examining the murderous activities of the British Army’s covert Military Reaction Force (MRF) during the early days of the conflict in the north-east of Ireland. From 1971 to 1973 the unit carried out a series of terrorist attacks against the civilian population and suspected Irish Republican activists, largely confined to Belfast, as well as acting in concert with various British terror factions (notably in the atrocity known as the McGurk’s Bar Bombing which took the lives of fifteen men, women and children). Now reports are coming in from Australia of attempts to bring former gunmen of the MRF living under assumed identities in the country to justice. From an article in WAToday:

“A member of a violent and secretive unit which allegedly hunted IRA members in Northern Ireland in the 1970s is thought to have fled to Queensland.

Former sergeant Clive Williams was a member of the Military Reaction Force, a group of undercover soldiers, who were active mainly in nationalist west Belfast in 1972.

He is understood to now be living in Queensland under another name, and the Australian government is being urged to investigate.

The MRF carried out a series of drive-by shootings in which two civilians were killed and 12 others were injured – even though there was no evidence that any were armed, or IRA members.

They included Patrick McVeigh, a 44-year-old father of six and 18-year-old Daniel Rooney, who was shot on St James Road.

Some members of the unit told a recently broadcast BBC Panorama program they ‘‘were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group”.

The MRF say they sometimes acted as bait, goading the IRA to come out and fight.

In the Panorama program, Mr Williams was confronted by reporter John Ware in Brisbane, but refused to answer questions.

In 1973, Mr Williams was put on trial at Belfast Crown Court accused of attempted murder, for shooting four unarmed men on the Glen Road in west Belfast.

Mr Williams claimed they had fired at him first. No guns were found at the scene and forensic tests on all four proved negative. None were members of the IRA.

Mr Williams told detectives he had fired from a standard army issue gun, but when confronted with evidence of bullet casings he said he had used a Thompson sub machine gun – a weapon frequently used by the IRA at the time.

He was subsequently promoted, left the army with the rank of captain and a military medal for bravery.”

From the late 1960s onwards the former subject territories of the British Empire have served as a convenient bolthole for British soldiers, paramilitary police, spies, informers and civil servants who participated in some manner in Britain’s dirty war in Ireland. At the expense of British taxpayers new lives and new identities, frequently in some splendour, were provided for those who needed to be placed beyond the reach of the law or journalistic endeavour. While members of the British Unionist minority in Ireland invariably choose Canada, South Africa or New Zealand, those from Britain favoured Australia. One wonders how many other former death squad killers, official or unofficial, are living the good life in lands faraway from those they brought such pain and misery to?

Europe’s Shame, The Last Colony

British Nationalism in Ireland - no place for the "natives"

British Nationalism in Ireland – no place for the “natives”

Today the Irish Times newspaper carries an opinion piece from the academic Richard Irvine analysing the restrictions on the flying of the British national flag over Belfast City Hall, arguing that they are perceived as an attack on the British identity of the Unionist community in the north-east of the country. In the article there is no real acknowledgement of the Nationalist community’s right to express its Irish identity nor any call for the establishment of genuine equality between both traditions. Instead we are regaled with the historical reasons as to why the descendants of British “settlers” on the island nation of Ireland must, perforce, be allowed to fly their “battle” flag over a city that is still culturally divided between “settler” and “native”.

“In Dervock and Ballybogey, Bushmills and Ballymoney, and all across north Antrim the Union flag still flies. Four hundred years after a Scottish king authorised the plantation of Ulster the descendants of those settlers still mark out their territory, assert their difference and signal their defiance.

For the citizens of most nations, a flag, if thought of at all, is a taken-for-granted source of pride. Travelling through Britain or the Republic one rarely notices the flag, and when one does it is usually in a happy context, a symbol of inclusiveness, of welcome, of openness. Here in the Black North it is all quite different.

The tattered flag lashed to a lamppost in Rathcoole, or flying proudly over Ahoghill Orange Hall, does not speak welcome but survival. Outsiders trying to understand why the Haass talks were necessary and why, of all the issues it encountered, the flag proved so intractable, need to understand this: the Union flag for many in the North is not just a symbol of political sovereignty, it retains the original purpose of a flag – it is a battle flag.

Four hundred years is a long time to fight a war. All our politicians grew up in it, were formed by it – many even participated directly in it. To bring down the flag then, to restrict its flying to designated days or places, to have to apply for a licence to fly it, speaks not of success or even acceptance but of defeat and humiliation.”

Or perhaps reducing the flying of that divisive flag speaks of a desire for equality and peace in a contested region? Or does this report from the Belfast Telegraph display the true roots of British nationalist ideology in Ireland, as an officer with the PSNI paramilitary police force faces a disciplinary review for wishing a happy new year to the people he serves in a language other than that of the long-ago settlers:

“Writing on the PSNI Newry and Mourne social media feeds, the officer wished residents a happy, healthy and safe New Year from their local police.

The post also included a New Year’s message in Irish, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian…

The greeting received 95 ‘likes’, with many commending the officer for effort.

However, the officer ended up apologising after some voiced anger over use of the Irish language…

One Facebook user posted: “Why can’t you just speak in English? once again trying 2 make it a cold house 4 loyalist’s (sic)”.

Meanwhile, over on Twitter there was also a swell of criticism, including: “PSNI are a one sided force bowing to their Sinn Fein masters” and, “to get respect you must first earn it, the RUC earned it long ago, these cowboys can’t compete, useless!”

P_U_L_Views wrote: ‘…hardly any need for the foreign language. What about the Ulster scots tradition? A police service for all?’

Among the critics on Twitter was Manya Dickinson, a victims’ campaigner whose father Kenneth Graham was killed by the IRA for supplying building materials to the security forces.

She queried the New Year post, asking: “why the irish?? I dont think u serve in the south???”

The officer said the languages used reflected the languages officers had heard in the area that year, and stressed there had been no political motives.

“I included these languages as there is such a diverse community in Newry & Mourne. I used languages that I personally have come across folk that have spoken to me in those languages.””

In other words people in the local area where the officer works speak in English, Irish and other languages while none use the regional dialect of English known as Irish-Scots. So what is the type of British Unionism shown here but the culture of colonial settlers hating all that they perceive as indigenous maintained across four hundred years into 21st century Europe?

Irish In Belfast, Not The Full Story

No Irish

No Irish

There’s an interesting if at times clichéd article on the Irish-speaking community of Belfast in the Economist magazine. While it makes several valid points in relation to the growth of Irish in the city there are also some quite debatable ones, including the claim that official backing in the north-east of the country for the right to use Irish could adversely affect its popularity. In fact the example of Ireland’s 2003 Official Languages Act as well as numerous international comparisons have long proved that language rights are inextricably linked to legal rights. One cannot exist without the other. The feature also glosses over the determined opposition of the political leadership of British Unionism in Ireland to the very existence of the Irish language let alone those who speak it. No mention is made of the racist and colonial-era roots of that opposition nor that the British state itself impedes the rights of Irish-speakers, including banning the use of Irish in the locally administered court-system in violation of Britain’s agreements with Ireland and the European Union.

“THE fabric of Coláiste Feirste, a secondary school on a hill overlooking the Falls Road in the Catholic heartland of West Belfast, ranges from faded elegance to decrepitude. Tagged on to the main building, an 18th-century linen-merchant’s mansion, are concrete classrooms. Dilapidated mobile homes are parked in a huge yard. There are no sports fields. Chemistry is taught in a store-room, drama in the foyer of the technology department; 563 pupils are being educated in space designed for 380, yet their performance is well above average for an all-ability school.

The principal, Micheál Mac Giolla Ghunna, is not your average tweedy pedagogue. Like many of the school’s parents and governors, he is a veteran of Northern Ireland’s armed struggle. He took his second degree, in political science, in prison; on his release he became head of the cultural arm of Sinn Féin. Once the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, Sinn Féin is now a partner in the uneasy power-sharing arrangement between pro-British and Irish-nationalist parties in the province.

Another unusual feature is the medium of instruction and conversation in the school—Irish, an Indo-European language as distant from English as Lithuanian. Maths, physics, film studies, all subjects are taught in Irish; when a class debates the 19th century, pupils talk not of independence but of neamhspleáchas, not of laws but of reachtaíocht.

Coláiste Feirste is the showpiece of a drive to revive a language whose use in everyday speech virtually died out in Northern Ireland in the mid-20th century.

…Since peace and the devolution of power, the status of the language has changed dramatically. Across Northern Ireland nearly 5,000 children receive Irish-medium education. That is still less than 2% of the total school population—but the figure understates the profile and political muscle that Irish-medium teaching enjoys. Two of Belfast’s past three lord mayors have been Sinn Féin activists associated with the school.

The project has an economic as well as a cultural rationale. Clive Dutton, an English pundit on urban renewal, recently presented the latest version of his plan to turn the Falls Road into a tourist magnet based on Irish language and culture to a gaggle of VIPs at the school. In this vision, the battle-scarred streets of West Belfast would became a “Gaeltacht Quarter”, where businesses would operate as happily in Irish as in English.

The language’s proponents intend to go further. They want to see an Irish Language Act, similar to the Welsh Language Act of 1993, which would create fresh entitlements to use Irish in all interactions with officialdom; like the Welsh law, it would force the creation of many more jobs for fluent speakers. The British government had agreed in principle to such a law but since devolved government was restored in 2007, the measure has been vetoed by Sinn Féin’s coalition partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Despite that logjam, both supporters and sceptics freely acknowledge that there is now huge momentum behind the language movement.

Mr Mac Giolla Ghunna insists that Irish-language education is not sectarian. In his establishment, secular leftism, not piety, defines the mood. Red stars, not crucifixes, adorn the wall; pupils do not begin the day with prayers. There are parents of many backgrounds, from lapsed Catholics to lapsed Protestants to migrants.

Most other Irish-medium schools are similarly secular, and in principle a child of any background could attend one.

Irish has flourished in Belfast through years of opposition and hardship. Now it has official backing and resources. That sounds a blessing but may prove a greater challenge: warm air can breed complacency.”

As always read the full article for yourself but it certainly dodges the hard questions on the hostility to the Irish language from within the political elites of British Unionism on this island nation, hostility that stems from far deeper roots than disingenuous concerns about supposed “sectarianism” in the education system.

Patrick Joseph Crawford – A Wrong To Be Righted

The mass-card of Patrick "Paddy Joe" Crawford, Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade, (Provisional) Irish Republican Army

The mass-card of Patrick “Paddy Joe” Crawford, Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade, (Provisional) Irish Republican Army (Íomhá: The Crooked Elbow)

Some have accused the broad Republican movement in Ireland of being deaf and blind to its own injustices, its own ill-considered actions and, yes, its own crimes too. The killing of Patrick Joseph Crawford in the earliest chaotic days of the Long War is one of many stains on the modern historical record of all those who claim the name of “Republican”. It is also a reflection of an Ireland long past, one where in the north-east of the country Britain’s terror-state and the Catholic Church’s para-state vied for control over some local communities in circumstances that now seem beyond contemporary understanding.

Patrick Crawford served as a Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army until April 1973 when he and eleven others returning from a military training camp through the town of Newry were stopped by British soldiers of the infamous Parachute Regiment. After a lengthy interrogation at the Castlereagh torture-centre by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Britain’s then paramilitary police force in the north-east of Ireland, he was imprisoned without trial in the Long Kesh concentration camp.

While accounts differ about what happened next it seems likely that during his debriefing by the camp intelligence officers Crawford admitted that he had “broken” during his interrogation by the RUC, almost certainly while under violent duress by the paramilitary police. While on the face of it this may seem a serious matter during this period many Volunteers succumbed to physical or psychological torture and it was common practice to accept this as an inevitable by-product of arrest or detention. However during this same period the Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army had suffered a series of successive military setbacks with the loss of members and munitions, and this was to have fatal consequences for Crawford when news of his “confession” was eventually communicated back to the city’s increasingly frantic Brigade HQ Staff.

Sixty-four days after his confinement in Long Kesh on Sunday the 3rd of June 1973 the then twenty-two year old Patrick Crawford – without charge or court-martial – was executed by hanging, his a death presented to the other POWs and camp authorities as a suicide stemming from despair at the deplorable conditions in the prison. Only four or five hand-picked IRA Volunteers were aware of what had happened or that the order for Crawford’s execution had come all the way from the GHQ Staff in Dublin, a staff struggling to keep abreast of events on the ground and which would soon find itself sidelined.

A wall mural in Ireland depicting several local female guerilla fighters including Anne-Marie Pettigrew, a Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, killed in 1973

A wall mural in Ireland depicting several local female guerilla fighters including Anne-Marie Pettigrew, a Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army, killed in 1973

Though widely suspected in some Republican circles the truth about the brutal killing remained hidden for decades until it gradually emerged through the accounts of other POWs. At the same time it was revealed that Patrick Crawford, an orphan who has passed though the hands of the Roman Catholic Church at a time of widespread institutional neglect and abuse, was in fact the illegitimate son of Catherine Crawford, a single woman from the Nationalist community who been forced by her family to place her child into care. She later married and had ten children, all living and growing up in much the same district of Belfast as her son who she kept an eye on despite the non-cooperation of the church authorities. Just three months after Patrick Crawford was killed by a group of his comrades in Long Kesh nineteen year old Anne-Marie Pettigrew, a Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army and Crawford’s half-sister, suffered horrific injuries in an explosion at an IRA arms-factory in the University area of the city, dying nearly fourteen days later on the 1st of September 1973. Though they knew each other from serving with the Republican Army neither were aware of their relationship. Unlike Patrick Crawford young Anne-Marie Pettigrew was buried in a full military ceremony and is named on the Roll of Honour of the Irish Republican Army.

If revolutionary republicanism in Ireland in all its manifest forms is to progress forward it must learn from the past. It must recognise its failures as well as its successes. The dead, as much as the living or those yet to be born, deserve better of those who seek to lead them. And those young men and women who gave so much, by their own violation or through the persuasion of others, must be remembered and in remembering honoured. “Paddy Joe” Crawford deserved more from those he served with, from the army he gave his oath of loyalty to, than to be made a scapegoat for the failures of others or sacrificed to the wayward gods of war. The onus of responsibility for what happened to him, from breaking under torture as all human beings eventually break under torture to his unwarranted and barbaric murder is ultimately that of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army.

The time to recognise and apologise for his death is long overdue.