Sunday, 31 March 2013

Ardoyne Fianna commemoration parade 2013

On Easter Saturday 30 March 2013 the Republican Network for Unity and the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band held its annual Fianna commemoration.  The event has taken place every year since 2009 and is organised by dissident republicans.
According to the Ardoyne Republican Blogspot this is held 'to pay tribute to four young Na Fianna Eireann Activists, Josh Campbell, Davy McAuley, Bernard Fox and Joseph McComiskey, all of whom lived in Ardoyne and died tragically on Active Service in 1972.'
The commemorative march started at 3pm outside the Glenpark Social Club in Ardoyne Avenue and made its way to the Fianna Mural at Berwick Road, where there was a speaker, Paul Crawford from South Down RNU, and a wreath laying ceremony.
The Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band notified the PSNI and according to the website of the Parades Commission they stated on their 11/1 form that there would be three bands and 700 participants in the parade with 500 supporters.  The website also records that this was a late notificiation.
The parade was not identified by either the PSNI or the Parades Commission as being contentious but I think most people will find that surprising.
A report on Ardoyne Republican blogspot has two photographs of the parade, one of which shows three very small children dressed in what appear to be Fianna uniforms, with white shirts, black berets and neckscarfs.

Even more disturbing is a short video-clip on youtube (Ardoyne Fianna 2013) which appears to show a masked man in a paramiltary uniform firing a handgun in front of the Fianna mural during the commemoration.  This is particularly alarming in view of the number of times that guns have been used by dissident republicans in Ardoyne over the past year, including the attemped murder of police officers.
One other point worth noting is that the notification for the parade was for 1,200 people.  The video-clip and the two photographs do not suggest a parade of anything like that scale.  Obviously they did not attract the crowds they were hoping for.

So then, what needs to be done?

1. The PSNI should explain their approach to this parade.
2. The PSNI must investigate the apparent firing of a weapon by a dissident republican gunman.
3. The use and abuse of very small children in such a paramilitary display is worthy of investigation by the PSNI and the Parades Commission and also by the Children's Commissioner.
4. In view of this evidence the PSNI and the Parades Commission must never again treat a parade by either the Republican Network for Unity or the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band as anything other than contentious.
5. In view of the use of material obtained from social media by the BBC and UTV, they should now highlight this particular incident.

Those points will now be taken up with the relevant agencies.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Sean South GAA Club

This morning the Irish News reported a campaign to retain a small rural primary school in county Armagh.  St Michael's Primary School is at Clady and is a Roman Catholic maintained school.  It has just 44 pupils and falls well below the figure of 105 pupils for rural schools, as set by the Department of Education.
One of those supporting the school was Karen Savage, secretary of the Sean South GAA Club.  She said, 'Our community is stunned at this news.  We live in a very rural farming area.  Our football club is part of that community as is the school.  The two go together.  If one isn't there the other will disintegrate and disappear.  We need both these links to keep our community alive.'

The name of the GAA club took my attention because Sean South was a famous and indeed infamous member of the IRA during the Border campaign that started in 1956.  He is eulogised in the Irish republican song Sean South of Garryowen.  I checked out the website of the GAA club and this gives the name as Clady GFC Sheain Sabhat.  The club uses the Irish Gaelic form of Sean South.  There was a GAA club in the area back in 1888 but clubs seem to have come and gone and Sean South GFC was formed in 1957. 

Sean South was born in Limerick in 1928 and was educated in a school run by the Christian Brothers.  He was a member of the Gaelic League and Sinn Fein and according to his biographer Mainchin Seoighe he was also a member of the Fascist party Ailtiri na hAiseirighe.  This is sometimes disputed but he was certainly familiar with their publications and their views.

On 1 January 1957 fourteen IRA men mounted an attack on Brookeborough police station in county Fermanagh.  They were well armed but the attack failed and two of the IRA men were killed, Sean south and Fergal O'Hanlon.  Their bodies were taken across the border into the Irish Republic and there followed what J Bowyer Bell described as 'a week of all but national mourning'.

Vast crowds lined the route of Sean South's funeral cortege to Dublin and many local authorities passed resolutions of sympathy with the families of the two dead IRA terrorists.  At midnight on 4 January twenty thousand people, including the mayor, waited in Limerick for the hearse and the next day fifty thousand people attended the funeral.  Within a week of his death the song Sean South, which is a eulogy to the IRA gunman, appeared in the Irish Catholic, a weekly Roman Catholic paper

As well as being a militant republican, Sean South was a staunch Roman Catholic and he was at oneRosc
time a member of the Legion of Mary and the Knights of Columbanus.  He was also a member of Maria Duce (Mary our Leader), an ultra-right wing Roman Catholic organisation led by Fr Denis Fahey of the Holy Ghost Order in Dublin.  South established the Limerick branch of Maria Duce and between August 1954 and January 1956 he published a whole series of articles promoting Maria Duce teaching in the Gaelic League monthly newspaper

Fr Denis Fahey was closely involved with Fr Edward Cahill's An Rioghacht study group and wrote a number of books including The Rulers of Russia (1938), in which he argued that Communism was a conspiracy organised by Jews and Freemasons.  This was a view they shared with Hitler and the Nazis.  Following the death of Cahill in 1941 An Rioghacht became more moderate and so in 1945 Fahey founded Maria Duce, which was stridently anti-Protestant and anti-Semitic.  This was the organisation of which Sean South was an enthusiastic member.

Sean South was an IRA terrorist and a member of a Roman Catholic society that was anti-Protestant and anti-Semitic and which believed that Roman Catholic governments should suppress Protestants.  That is the truth about Sean South but you won't find it on the GAA club website.

The Clady GAA club was formed in the year that Sean South died and was named in honour of a man who was an IRA terrorist, a religious bigot and an anti-Semite.  We have seen some changes in the GAA and those changes are welcome but there is still some way to go, especially at a local level where there are clubs and competitions named after IRA terrorists.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

More on St Patrick's Day in Belfast

Throughout this week there have been a number of reports of sectarian behaviour in the centre of Belfast by Irish nationalists 'celebrating' St Patrick's Day.  Most have come from Protestants who were in the city centre and were offended by what they saw and heard.  There are also photographs of a large crowd of nationalists gathered at Arthur Square and I understand that the PSNI had to deal with trouble at that location.
There is another report on what happened but this one is rather different in that it came from someone who was down to watch the parade because his child was participating in it.  He is a Scot who lives in Belfast, a keen advocate for the Irish language, and the author of a blog entitled The Blether Region, from which the following is taken:
The Blether Region attended two Saint Patrick's Day events in Belfast yesterday, the parade itself, and an Irish-language service at Saint George's in High Street.
The News Letter ... has a report of 'drunken and sectarian behaviour' that relies heavily on the uncorroborated evidence of a single shopper.
Although the story in question might not give a particularly rounded picture of what was a long day (the shops didn't open until the parade was over, after all), there is relatively little doubt that it represents the true experience of the person interviewed.
Remaining in lock-step with that part of the parade in which Junior was participating, the Blether Region found itself keeping company with a group of young people draped in tricolours, drinking from beer cans and shouting 'F... the PSNI'.  Whether that behaviour meets the dictionary definition of 'sectarian' is open to debate, but readers will, one hopes, agree that it was boorish, juvenile and offensive - not to mention cowardly, taking advantage as it did of the cover of a crowd in which few would have been up for cross-community fisticuffs.
Perhaps the most depressing thing about the incident was the fact that the offenders were noticeably middle-class, probably students of some kind ...

 That is a very clear and independent confirmation of the way that some nationalist youths behaved in the centre of Belfast during the parade.  What does chanting vulgar slogans about the PSNI have to do with St Patrick?  What does a tricolour with IRA written on it have to do with St Patrick?  Is it any wonder that Protestants tend to avoid the parade?

Monday, 18 March 2013

The McMahon Murders

The murder of the McMahon family in Belfast in 1922 is often highlighted by nationalist and republican writers as an example of sectarian murder.
Owen McMahon lived with his family at 3 Kinnaird Terrace and owned a public house in Ann Street.  He was also a director of Glentoran Football Club.  Early on the morning of 24 March 1922 the door of their house was broken down with a sledge hammer and a number of armed men entered the house.  Five men were shot dead - Owen McMahon, three of his sons, Thomas, Frank and Patrick, and Edward McKinney, a barman who lived with the family - and several others were wounded.
The year 1922 was a terrible year in Belfast with many sectarian murders and other outrages, including the murder of William J Twaddell, an Ulster Unionist MP. 
Vengeance and revenge were the order of the day and in the case of the McMahons, Roman Catholic revenge was swift and sure.  A bomb was thrown into the hame of a Protestant family named Donnelly and this was followed by a hail of gunfire.  Two children were killed and the mother injured.
The reason I have raised his incident is that I came across an interesting angle on the McMahon murders in a book entitled Assassination, which was written in 1961 by Rex Taylor, an English author who was sympathetic to Irish nationalism.  The book is an account of the murder of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson MP, outside his home in London, by two IRA gunmen but in it Taylor wrote a short section about the McMahon murders.
He followed the usual nationalist line and attributed the murders to a secret squad led by District Inspector Nixon but he also added the following, which I have never seen before:
But soon a few astonishing facts came to light, though none of them tended to lessen the degree of Nixon's guilt.  It was found that the late McMahons were the paymasters for the IRA trouble-makers in the North, a fact proved by a leakage from the banks of the necessary funds.  With the deaths of the paymasters there came also, for a time at any rate, a sudden lull in Belfast.
I was surprised by this as I have read quite a number of articles about and references to the McMahons but this is something I have never seen before.
I intend to look through the local papers from 1922 to see what they reported about this but in the meantime I wonder if anyone else has seen any references to this allegation?

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Patrick - Apostle of Ulster

Saint Patrick wasn't Irish.  He wasn't born in Ireland.  He wasn't sent to Ireland by the Pope.  He didn't wear a mitre and vestments.  He didn't use a shamrock to explain the Trinity and he didn't drive the snakes out of Ireland.
Much that is popularly believed about Patrick is simply fiction and fantasy.
Patrick is known primarily from his two short works, his epistle and his confession, and we can piece together from them an outline of his life.  Beyond that there are some strong traditions, such as the association with Slemish.  However the medieval lives of Patrick are largely spurious and propagandist, filled with distortion, exaggeration and invention.
Patrick was the son of a British churchman and grew up in a Christian home on the west coast of Britain, probably in south-west Scotland or the north-west of England.
When he was sixteen years of age he was captured by raiders who sold him into slavery and he spent six years as a slave in Ulster, looking after animals on the slopes of Slemish mountain in county Antrim.  There he remembered what he had been taught as a young boy and he was convicted of his sin and converted to Christ.  Later he excaped and made his way back to his home and family.
Some years after this, he heard the call to come across to the island of Ireland and preach the gospel.  He landed in Strangford Lough and after the conversion of a local chieftain he established his first church at Saul.  His ministry lasted about forty years and covered the length and breadth of Ulster.  Through his preaching many people turned from their pagan faith and became Christians.  Churches were built and men of god were ordained to minister in these churches.  This was God's work, done in God's way and thereby Patrick secured the permanence of his work in Ulster.
According to the historian Dr Jonathan Bardon: 'Most places traditionally associated with Patrick ... are in the northern half of Ireland and it was probably in Ulster that he did most of his work.'  This is also the view of Professor Hugh Kearney: 'The likelihood is that he confined himself to the kingdom of the Ulaid (Ilster) with it capital at Emain Macha (Armagh).'
In trying to ascertain the teaching of Patrick, we must go to his own writings as the direct and supreme source of information.  From that source we find that the message that Patrick preached in ulster was a biblical, evangelical and Trinitarian message.  It was the same message that the Apsotles had preached four centuries earlier, it was the message which the Reformers preached a thousand years later and it is the message which evangelical Protestants preach today - We are saved by grace, through faith, in Christ.  Patrick had a profound knowledge and understanding of the Bible and his writings are full of quotations from Holy Scripture.
Finally, turning to the myths about Patrick:
1. Patrick was sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine I - there is no evidence to link Patrick with Rome.  His mission was sanctioned by God, not by Rome and the ancient church in the British Isles was independent of Rome.
2. Patrick was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church - Patrick was never canonised by Rome but he was a saint in the true Biblical sense for he was a true Christian.
3. Patrick wore a mitre and vestments - this is the usual depiction of Patrick but it is an anachronism.  The mitre and vestments were not introduced until centuries after the time of Patrick and the first printed depiction of him in this way appeared in 1624.  This was an attempt by the Roman Catholic Church to claim Patrick for themselves.
4. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity - this story did not appear in print until 1727.  At about the same time the shamrock seems to have acquired its use as an emblem of Ireland.  This is a myth created about a thousand years after his death.
5. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland into the sea - ancient writers confirm that there never were snakes in Ireland.
6. Patrick performed many marvels and wonders - these spurious stories were invented by the authors of the medieval lives of Patrick.
7. Patrick converted the High King of Ireland - there wasn't a High King of Ireland in the time of Patrick.
8. As regards turning buildings green for St Patrick's Day or drinking green beer in New York, this has nothing to do with Patrick at all.  The traditional colour associated with Patrick was blue.  The greening of Patrick was part of the hijacking of Patrick by Irish nationalism, something which is expressed also in the use of the Tricolour on St Patrick's Day.  The right flag to use is the red saltire, the Cross of St Patrick, which can be traced back to 1612.  The Tricolour is the flag of the Irish Republic, not St Patrick.
Patrick was brought as a slave to Ulster, was converted in Ulster, returned to Ulster, ministered in Ulster, died in Ulster and was buried in Ulster soil - Patrick was God's man for Ulster, the Apostle of Ulster.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The GAA and Hill 16

On 23 September 2012 TG4 broadcast a history of Hill 16 at Croke Park, the home of the GAA, in Dublin and it set right one of the myths about Croke Park.
There is a patriotic tradition that Hill 16 was built from the rubble left behind after the British Army shelled Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. 
However this story is a complete fabrication as Hill 16 was built a year before the 1916 Rising as an embankment for spectators and was originally called Hill 60.  Moreover that original name came from a hill in Gallipoli on which members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers suffered heavy casualties in 1915.
That original name stuck throughout the 1920s and 1930s until senior figures in the GAA decided that it was inappropriate to have a section of Croke Park named after a battle involving the British Army.  So Hill 60 became Hill 16, a name that would link it to 1916, and the story began to circulate that it had been built from the ruins of O'Connell Street. 
This story gained widespread acceptance and when the ground was redeveloped archaeologists were on hand to sift through the rubble, presumably in the hope that they might find some relic of 1916, perhaps a bullet or a fragment of the GPO.

The truth however is that the for several decades the hill bore the name of a place associated with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and commemorated their service in the First World War!

A 'love affair with alcohol'

Every day I receive copies of newspaper cuttings relating to the work of the Department for Social Development and I was struck by the content of the five cuttings I received yesterday.  One was from the Belfast Telegraph and was about benefit fraud and another in The Guardian was about the welfare reform changes in Great Britain.  However three of the five were about the abuse of alcohol.

Recently in an airport I noticed a group of young women heading off for a hen party and wearing tee-shirts with the slogan 'On it till I vomit'.  They probably thought of it as just a joke but it does say something about the love affair that many people have with alcohol.  So back to the three newspaper articles.

A report in the Belfast Telegraph noted the discrepancy between the amount of alcohol sold in Britain and the amount actually consumed.  It seems that the amount of alcohol sold is twice that reported by people when they are asked about their own consumption.  This means that, on average, people are consuming twice as much as they acknowledge or admit.

The second article was in the Daily Mirror and was about a grant of £250,000 to help young people make better choices over drink and drugs.  The article carried the headline 'Joby's pal's crusade to tackle alcohol deaths' and thsi was a reference to the young man who drowned last year in Belfast after consuming a large amount of cheap alcohol in a nightclub in the Odyssey.

The third article was from The Guardian and was entitled 'Doctor's: urgent action on alcohol needed.'  It reported that British doctors want graphic warnings on alcoholic drinks so that people are aware of the dangers of excessive consumption.

The current culture of excessive alcohol consumption is having a serious effect on the health and well-being of many people and needs to be addressed.  Education and legislation both have a role to play if we are to develop a more responsible attitude to alcohol in Northern Ireland and indeed across the British Isles.

We cannot afford to ignore the warnings from doctors and other experts about the health problems and social problems associated with increased alcohol consumption.  They are the people who see at first hand the damage caused by binge drinking and by regular excessive drinking and those problems are occurring in younger folk more than ever.  It is not about being a spoil sport, it is about highlighting the physical harm caused by alcohol abuse, harm that is in many cases irreversible.