Saturday, 19 May 2018

Sinn Fein - bitter and twisted

There has been worldwide interest in the Royal Wedding and it is certainly not surprising that RTE broadcast the event in the Irish Republic.  They did it because there is a lot of interest in the British royal family, even in the Republic, and furthermore the programme was provided to them by the BBC.

Some republicans were clearly annoyed by this and one Sinn Fein TD, John Brady, who represents the constituency of Wicklow, made his view very clear with this tweet.

.At the age of 44 he is not one of the veterans of the republican movement and he is younger than his new party leader Mary Lou McDonald.  He was only elected as a councillor in 2014 and then as a TD in 2016 and that was after electoral defeats in 2007 and 2011.

However there is a bitterness about his tweet and a very twisted understanding of history that says a lot.  Indeed it probably shows usw what a lot of Sinn Feiners in the Republic actually think.

Declan Kearney MLA, the Sinn Fein chairman, has this programme of engagement with unionists and talks about a New Ireland built on 'national reconciliation' but beneath the honeyed words and the polished performance there is a a very different reality.

Moreover Sinn Fein can't keep up the pretence for long as we have seen with Barry McElduff, Mairtin O'Muilleoir, Martina Anderson and now John Brady.  Even the language of 'raping Ireland', the choice of words, shows the depth of the bitterness.  

With people like that representing Sinn Fein in the Dail and with leaders who continue to eulogise IRA murderers, Declan Kearney's carefully crafted narrative of 'national reconciliation' and a New Ireland with equality for all lacks any credibility

Friday, 18 May 2018

Eamonn Mallie's tweet - is it not smug, arrogant and patronising?

Eamonn Mallie
Eamonn Mallie has just posted the following on Twitter and Facebook and it is based around a comment from Professor Jim Dornan on the future of the Union and his view of that future.

#Brexit/NewIreland ....I’ve been uniquely saying thinking Unionists share Prof Jim Dornan’s view. “There is a lot of people nowadays, not just me, who are saying ‘you know what, if somebody offers me a better deal and somebody offers me a good deal, then I would go for it’."

So Eamonn is 'unique' in saying that 'thinking Unionists' share the view of Jim Dornan about the Union and the United Kingdom, a view which could be described as ambivalent or even agnostic.

So as someone who does not share that view I must be, according to Eamonn Mallie, an UNTHINKING UNIONIST.

Is there not something rather smug about a commentator dismissing so many of us as UNTHINKING?  Is there not something rather arrogant about dismissing the overwhelming majority of unionists as UNTHINKING?  Indeed is there not something rather patronising about describing us as UNTHINKING?

I don't know if Eamonn is actually 'unique' in saying this, which is what he claims, but if he is .... then he is uniquely wrong.

I disagree with Professor Dornan but I have no objection to the tone of his comments.  It is the way that Eamonn Mallie has tweeted about it that is the problem.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Bookshops are on the rise

A new report by PWC highlights the winners and the losers among shops on High Streets across the UK.

I was pleased to see that coffee shops, tea rooms and ice cream shops are on the rise and especially pleased to see that there has also been an increase in the number of book shops.

Meanwhile there has been a fall in the number of estate agents, banks, travel agents, convenience stores and pubs.

At one time there were so many predictions about the demise of the book and its replacement by the internet.  In fact I find the internet complements the book but those predictions have proven to be unfounded.

Yes some people will order books over the internet but there is no substitute for the pleasure of browsing in a bookshop.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

The Celtic fan who runs Politics Home

Earlier today I was looking at a report on the influential political website Politics Home, which is edited by Kevin Schofield.  I wondered what newspapers he had worked with before taking up his new post in 2015 so I checked out his Twitter account and was shocked.

For those not familiar with Kevin, here is how he describes himself on his Twitter account:
'Ex-Herald, Scotsman, Daily Record and Sun.  Now editor of, Husband, dad-of-two and lifelong Celtic fan.'

So there we are, what is the world coming to?  One of Britain's most influential political websites ... edited by a 'lifelong Celtic fan'.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Strengthening the Union

Policy Exchange, which is probably the UK's leading think tank, has organised a conference in London on Monday 21 May on The Union and Unionism - Past, Present and Future.  

There are political speakers from across the United Kingdom, including Michael Gove MP, Ruth Davidson MSP, Arlene Foster MLA, Lord Murphy of Torfaen and Jim Murphy, former leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

There are also contributions from historians and commentators, including two from Northern Ireland, Professor Lord Bew of Donegore and Arthur Aughey, Professor Emeritus at the Ulster University.

Some weeks ago Sinn Fein organised a United Ireland conference in London,  This time Policy Exchange is organising a United Kingdom conference and it certainly looks to be a much more substantial event.

It is right that pro-Union politicians and parties should engage with historians and others to reflect on the Union and how we can strengthen it.  We also need to do more to sell the benefits of the Union to those who are ambivalent and indeed the two go together - we strengthen the Union when we sell the benefits of the Union and convince the waverers and the unconvinced.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Ulster-Scot who founded Cliftonville Football Club

The actions of the Cliftonville Football Club players and supporters on Saturday were demeaning to the oldest football club in Ulster, and indeed in Ireland.  Their behaviour was also disrespectful to those who founded the club and guided it through many decades.

As a teenager in the 1960s I supported Cliftonville, as our local team, and it was a team that drew support from across north Belfast.  There were Protestants and Roman Catholics among the supporters and there were Protestants and Roman Catholics on the team, including such notables as Dr Kevin McGarry.

Unfortunately the photograph of the players and manager, standing together on the pitch on Saturday, with their heads bowed during the national anthem, sent out a message that today this team only fields nationalists.  Whether that is true or not is irrelevant.  That was the clear message on Saturday.

Such antipathy to the Queen and the national anthem would certainly have horrified the founder of the club, John McCredy McAlery (1849-1925).

As well as founding Cliftonville Football Club in 1879, McAlery was also the man who introduced football to Ulster.  He had seen the game played in Scotland and when he introduced it into Ulster it was played under the rules of the Scottish Association.

John M McAlery
McAlery was also the moving force behind the formation of the Irish Football Association in 1880 and became the first secretary of the IFA.. In 1882 he was the captain of the Ireland team in their first international match, which was against England, although a 13-0 defeat must have highlighted the fact that they had a lot of work ahead of them.

J M McAlery was also a successful businessman and much more.

He was a devout Presbyterian, with a keen interest in the Bible and in biblical prophecy.  His wife shared his views and she was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

At that time there was a strong temperance movement in Ulster and McAlery served on the council of the Irish Temperance League which advocated total abstinence.  He also served on the board of the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The latter part of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century covered three home rule crises and saw the emergence of a strong Ulster unionist movement to preserve the Union.  McAlery was a convinced Ulster unionist and he was active in support of the West Belfast Division in Belfast, as well as a member of the Orange Order.

I think it would be fair to assume that the founder of the club, who was a royalist as well as a unionist, would have been horrified by what happened on Saturday.

There is a short biography of McAlery on the website of the Ulster History Circle's Dictionary of Ulster Biography.  It records in some detail his contribution to football and mentions his business interests but unfortunately omits any reference to the other aspects of this notable Ulster-Scot.

Another of the early members, William Kennedy Gibson (1876-1949), played for the club and also played thirteen international games.  Later he became president of Cliftonville Football Club.  Like McAlery, Gibson was a strong unionist and was elected to Belfast Corporation as an Independent Unionist, with the support of the Belfast Citizens Association.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Patricia MacBride - republican commentator

This morning I was interviewed on the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster, along with Patricia MacBride.

The presenter was Vinny Hurrell and he started the interviews by saying: 'Let's discuss with the commentator Patricia MacBride and the former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland.'

How contributors are introduced on the programme is something I had raised before with  the presenter and so today he very courteously asked me if I was content to be described as 'a former DUP MLA'.  'Nelson, I can't remember, do you like it or not like it when I refer to you as a former DUP MLA?

I replied, 'Well I'm not a person who would have any difficulty with that, obviously.'

Vinny then responded by saying, 'I think you told me off before.'

I responded, 'I did but we should give everyone's political background and I think it would be fair to say that if I was described as a unionist, Patricia MacBride might well be described, I'm sure she wouldn't disagree with it, as a republican.'

Vinny asked Patricia MacBride, 'Are you happy with that?' and she replied 'Oh, absolutely.'

Vinny said, 'Oh, fair enough' and I added, 'That perhaps shows a better approach in future.'  This part of the exchange ended with Vinny saying, 'Note taken, thank you Nelson' and I also thanked him.  So there it was, a 'unionist' commentator and a 'republican' commentator, and that's balance.

The word commentator is a neutral word that carries no political connotation.  It is a soft and neutral term that almost suggests impartiality.  So the original introduction suggested 'unionist politician' versus 'neutral commentator' and that was of course a misrepresentation of the situation.  In reality it was a 'unionist' commentator on one hand and a 'republican' commentator on the other.

On her twitter account Patricia describes herself as 'Law and policy, political commentator.  Working on human rights, refugees, victims and policy/public affairs.  Fond of horses and hurling.'  

Indeed down through the years she has been introduced on BBC radio and television programmes in various ways, as a 'commentator'. a 'legal affairs consultant' and a 'former victims' commissioner'.  So I hope that the message will spread across the BBC that Patricia is indeed a commentator but she is a republican commentator.

Antoine Mac Giolla Bhridghe (Anthony MacBride)
Patricia grew up in a republican family.  Her brother Anthony MacBride, also known as Antoine Mac Giolla Bhridhge, was a member of the Provisional IRA.  He served a prison sentence for terrorism and was shot dead by the SAS on 2 December 1984 when he was a member of an IRA gang 'on active service'.

Another brother, Lughaidh Mac Giolla Bhridghe, was a Sinn Fein councillor and according to an article in  An Phoblacht Anthony learned his republicanism from his grandmother, who had fought in the War of Independence.