Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Duncan's Flow - an Ulster-Scots placename

I came across an Ordnance Survey map for east Antrim yesterday and was impressed by the number of placenames with Ulster-Scots elements in them, such as Moss Bridge, Blair's Moss, Rigg Moss, Burnside, White Brae, Brae Nook, Knowehead, Braetown, Glenburn and Braepark.

However there was one I was less familiar with and that was Duncan's Flow.  The word flow' appears in the Dictionary of the Scots Language as meaning 'a wet peat bog', 'a swamp' and 'a low lying piece of watery land'.

So what do we know about Duncan's Flow?  

Well back in 1876 it got a mention in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland., which carried a lecture that had been delivered to the Institute band had been written by G H Kinahan MRIA.
During a short stay in the co Antrim, my attention was called by J Wyley Esq, of Drumadarragh House, to an unrecorded ancient roadwaythat for centuries has been buried under an accumulation of peat, and only in recent years has been discovered while cutting turf.  The bog called Duncan's Flow, in which this road or cash (casan, a path) is buried, is situated near the west boundary of the townland of Ballyalbanagh, co Antrim (Ordnance Survey Map, sheet 39), and about four miles north of the small town called Ballyclare.
Before that it was mentioned in an article by Abraham Hume in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology in 1853 as 'Duncan's Flow in Glenwherry'.  The article also mentioned Mather's Flow at Dromore.

I assume that the Drumadarragh House referred to in relation to J Wyley was the house near Doagh, which is about ten miles from Glenwherry.

But who was the Duncan of Duncan's Flow and was it the surname of an earlier owner of the land?

Many of our townland names have their origin in Irish but there are also many placenames that have their origin in Ulster-Scots.

Monday, 30 January 2017

The GAA and the Secretary of State

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State attended the 2017 final of the McKenna Cup, a GAA trophy that was presented by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher, Patrick McKenna, back in 1927.  The match took place on Saturday in Newry and the teams taking part were Tyrone and Derry.

Although the game was between two teams from Northern Ireland and took place in Northern Ireland the event included the playing of the national anthem of the Irish Republic, known as The Soldier's Song.

The McKenna Cup competition involves teams from the old nine-county province of Ulster, the six counties of Northern Ireland, and the three southern border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, so it could be argued that there should be two anthems, The Soldier's Song and God Save the Queen, reflecting the fact that the participating teams are drawn from counties in both the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom.  However only The Soldiers' Song was played, as set out in the constitution of the GAA.

Irish version
Amhrán na bhFiann
English version
The Soldiers' Song
Sinne Fianna Fáil,[fn 1]
atá faoi[fn 2] gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
thar toinn do ráinig chugainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith saor
Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.
Anocht a théam sa bhearna baoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil,[fn 3]
Le gunna scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Seo libh canaídh amhrán na bhfiann
Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the "bearna baoil",
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon's roar and rifles' peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song

James Brokenshire arrived after the anthem had been played and has now been criticised for this by Labour MP Conor McGinn, who said his action was 'regressive'.  However this incident highlights the inherent Irish nationalism of the Gaelic Athletic Association and illustrates why it is an organisation that excludes unionists.

Back in December the GAA president Aogan O Fearghail was asked if the GAA would change its position on flying the Irish tricolour and playing The Soldier's Song at at home games and he was quoted in the Irish News (5 December 2016) as saying:
I replied we wouldn't, that it was very much part and parcel of our culture, it was very much valued by us and that it was a key part of our heritage, and it will remain.
He also went on to reaffirm the political stance of the GAA and spoke about 'the future we all aspire to, certainly within the GAA, to a new unified Ireland.'

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Theresa May's tribute to a great Ulster soldier

Theresa May and Donald Trump
Theresa May had a very successful two-day visit to the United States of America.  She addressed senior members of the Republican Party and met with President Donald Trump.

She also went to the American National Cemetery at Arlington and I was delighted that, as well as laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown,  she also laid a wreath at the grave of a great Ulster soldier, Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill (1881-1944), who was born in Lurgan.
During the Second World War he had an important role with the Chief of Staffs committee, which included members from the UK and the USA and supported unity of action between the Allies.  

President Roosevelt described Field Marshal Dill as 'the most important figure in the remarkable accord which has been developed in the combined operations of our two countries.'

Her action was a tribute to the memory of the Ulster soldier and also highlighted the 'special relationship' that was so important in the war against Hitler and the Nazis.

There is a blue Ulster History Circle plaque at his birthplace in Lurgan as well as a Dill Avenue and one of the seven tower blocks in the New Lodge area of North Belfast was formerly named Dill House but has been renamed.  

There may be some other modest reminders and memorials Field Marshal Dill but surely, as we approach the 75th anniversary of his death, it is time to consider how we might better honour a fine Ulster soldier.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Gerry Adams - 'extra tax credits for learning Irish'

Should parents get extra tax credits if their children learn Irish?  Well Gerry Adams thinks so!

On 18 May 2016 Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams TD spoke during a Dail debate which followed a government statement on the Irish language.

Here is a short extract from that speech which contain's one of Sinn Fein's proposals for promoting the Irish language.  Gerry Adams said:
In Sinn Fein’s budget last year we put forward some recommendations at a cost of €10 million in total which could have a positive influence on the Irish language. Among those actions, was an increase of €5 million of the capital fund of Udaras na Gaeltachta and an increase of €0.75 million in the fund for community schemes and a tax credit for parents whose children were attending Gaeltacht courses.
This related to a budget they had proposed for the Irish Republic but Sinn Fein are a cross-border party.  We can only conclude therefore that Sinn Fein envisage extra tax credits for parents in Northern Ireland who send their children to Gaeltachts to learn Irish

At present children from Northern Ireland can visit Gaeltachts in the Republic but Sinn Fein's demand for an Irish language Act included the creation of Gaeltachts in Northern Irelan.  When she was asked about this on a Talkback programme, former Sinn Fein culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin said that they were developing a Gaeltacht in West Belfast. 

So will Sinn Fein be demanding tax credits for parents who send their children up the Falls Road to learn Irish?

And if you lived in the West Belfast Gaeltacht and sent your child to an Irish medium school, would you be able to get the tax credit as well?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

John Ralston Clements

This is the story of an Ulsterman who wrote  more than 5,000 hymns.

John Ralston Clements (1868-1946) was born in Newry on 28 November 1868 and he was the son of John Clements and his wife Elizabeth Mains.

The Clements family emigrated from Ulster to America in 1870 and settled in Liberty, New York.

John was converted to Christ in 1886, at the age of eighteen, through a sermon preached by the famous evangelist D L Moody at the First Baptist Church in Binghampton, New York.

Clemens went on to write many hymns and the first was Man the Life-Boat.  The music for this hymn was composed by Daniel Towner, the song-leader for D L Moody.

He was the first president of the Practical Bible Training School in Lestershire, now Johnson City, New York, and he held that position for from 1900 to 1914.  The school had been founded by his friend Rev John A Davis and in 1914 Davis succeeded Clements as president.  It was later renamed the John A Davis Memorial Bible School and is now Davis College.

His hymns include No night there, If thou shalt confess, Jesus leads, Lord send us forth and Service is our watchword.

He also published Songs of Redemption and Praise and was co-editor, with Ira Allen Sankey, the son of Ira D Sankey, of Best Endeavour Hymns, which was published in Chicago in 1907.

J R Clements died in Johnson City, New York, on 1 January 1946 and he was buried in Floral Park Cemetery.

When we come to consider the literary heritage of Ulster, it is important not to forget our hymnwriters, including John Ralston Clements.

Michelle O'Neill and the Loughgall ambush

The eight members of the IRA gang who were killed at Louggall

Sinn Fein have posted a video of their new leader in Northern Ireland', Michelle O'Neill, and in it she refers to Loughgall.  'The Loughgall ambush happened and eight people lost their lives.'

On 8 May 1987, thirty years ago this year, a gang of Provisional IRA terrorists set off to attack the RUC station in the little village of Loughgall.  Their intention was to blow up the station and murder any police officers and they came well armed.  That's the background to Michelle O'Neill's 'Loughgall ambush'.

Weapons used by the IRA gang
However the security forces were aware of the impending attack and members of the SAS were waiting for the terrorists to arrive.  There was an exchange of fire and eight IRA men were killed - Patrick Kelly (32), the IRA commander in East  Tyrone,, Declan Arthurs (21), Seamus Donnelly (19), Michael Gormley (25), Eugene Kelly (25), James Lynagh (31), Patrick McKearney (32) and Gerard O'Callaghan (29).  It was the IRA's single greatest loss in the Troubles.  Sadly a civilian, Anthony Hughes (36), was also killed and his brother badly wounded when they were caught up in the crossfire.
Loughgall RUC station was destroyed by the IRA bomb
It was often alleged that the SAS had opened fire first but then some new information emerged in 2011 when it was reported that an HET investigation had concluded that the IRA men had opened fire before the SAS.

In January 2016 Peter Corrigan, a solicitor for the families of the IRA men, claimed that the SAS should have arrested the terrorists when they were entering the village and he called for a reopened inquest to be held speedily.  This would be one of the so-called 'legacy inquests'.  He said: 'The reason for the promptness and expedition is so that there is no perception in the public that the state are colluding or acquiescing in an unlawful act.'

Now no one doubts that the Army had prior information about the attack, otherwise why would the SAS men have been waiting for the gunmen to arrive.  Moreover that information could only have come from a source or sources within the Provisonal IRA and that brings you into a murky world of informants and IRA double agents.

The leader of the IRA gang was Patrick Kelly who was a member of the IRA Army Council and in 1986, the year before the ambush, he had crossed the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Kelly had attended the IRA Army Convention where the main topic of discussion was the old republican principle of abstentionism.  It was the point where the republican movement was being edged toward abandoning that principle and Gerry Adams and others argued that they drop the rule and move into constitutional politics.  Kelly voted against the rule and a rift with the majority of the IRA Army Council ensued. 

So could there be a connection between that rift and the death of Patrick Kelly the following year?

The IRA was riddled with double-agents in its ranks, right up to the highest levels as illustrated by the case of Denis Donaldson, who was exposed as an informer and then murdered by republicans.  Indeed in September 2016 a BBC Spotlight programme reported the claim that the murder of Donaldson had been sanctioned by Gerry Adams.

Was it one of those double agents who passed information about Loughgall to the security forces and if so why?  

Could it have been a way of removing someone whom the Sinn Fein leadership might see as a threat?  Loughgall certainly got rid of Patrick Kelly and removed someone who might have become more problematic, a thorn in the side of Gerry Adams and the anti-abstentionists.  So who passed on the information about the planned attack and for what reason did they pass it on?

Monday, 23 January 2017

Michelle O'Neill's 'republican pedigree'

Michelle O'Neill MLA
Sinn Fein MLA Michelle O'Neill was born in Clonoe in county Tyrone on 10 January 1977 and was educated at St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon.  Afterwards she became a constituency worker for Francie Molloy MLA.  She was elected to Dungannon and South Tyrone Council in 2005 and then elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in March 2007 in the constituency of Mid Ulster.  Michelle comes from a family with a strong republican pedigree but it is something about which very little is written, except in the pages of An Phoblacht.

She was born Michelle Doris and was a daughter of the late Brendan Doris and his wife Kathleen.  Brendan Doris, who died in January 2006, was a Sinn Fein councillor and member of the Provisional IRA.  At the time there was a tribute to him in An Phoblacht by Francie Molloy, for whom Michelle worked, and it helps to explain what is meant when some journalists refer to her 'republican pedigree'.
Brendan like many other joined the IRA.  He was arrested and spent time in Crumlin Road Jail on remand, Armagh Jail for a short time, Long Kesh and Magilligan.  Brendan was not easily deterred and was regularly involved in confrontations with the screws.
Brendan was released in 1976 and returned to the struggle.  He married Kathleen and had two children, Michelle and Brian, of whom he was very proud.
He was elected to the Dungannon Council along with Volunteer Martin McCaughey. 
So as well as being a Sinn Fein councillor her father was a member of the East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional IRA, which was one of the most active units of the terrorist organisation.

Paul Doris - NORAID
For many years her uncle Paul Doris was the chief-fundraiser for NORAID, the Irish-American support group for the IRA.  He became national president of NORAID in 1996 and in 2016 he was chief marshal for the St Patrick's Day parade in New York.

On 26 March 1997 a member of the Provisional IRA threw a bomb at the RUC station in Coalisland. During the attack Gareth Doris was shot and then taken to hospital where he was arrested.  He recovered and was sentenced to ten years in prison before being released in 200 under the Belfast Agreement.  Gareth Doris was a cousin of Michelle's father Brendan Doris.

Tony Doris, another relative, was a member of the Provisional IRA.  On 3 June 1991 he was a member of a three-man IRA murder gang on its way to shoot an off-duty member of the UDR.  However the three terrorists were killed by the SAS at Coagh while they were on their way to shoot the part-time member of the UDR.

Yes I think we can agree with Eamonn Mallie when he wrote that 'Michelle O'Neill comes from a pedigreed republican Tyrone family'.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sinn Fein's successor to Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness has announced that he will not be standing at the forthcoming Assembly election.  That decision has been prompted by poor health but it has faced Sinn Fein with a choice.  Who will succeed him?

Conor Murphy and Michelle O'Neill
The speculation from the media and the commentariat is that it will be either Conor Murphy from South Armagh or Michelle O'Neill from Mid-Ulster.  It has also been suggested that Michelle O'Neill is the preferred candidate of Gerry Adams and one can understand why.

Conor Murphy is fifty-three, has an IRA past and was also mired in controversy when he was Minister for Regional Development.  In spite of attempts at rehabilitation those things have not been forgotten.  In 1982 he was sentenced to five years in prison for IRA membership and possession of explosives.  Then in 2011, as DRD Minister a tribunal found that during his tenure there was 'a material bias against the appointment of candidates from a Protestant background.'  Murphy had appointed Sean Hogan to the position of head of Northern Ireland Water and afterwards a Protestant candidate, Alan Lennon, was awarded £150,000 damages for religious discrimination.

On the other hand Michelle O'Neill has just passed her fortieth birthday and does not have a record of involvement in the IRA  As a result she is seen by some nationalist commentators as the face of  'new Sinn Fein'. 

Michelle O'Neill at a commemoration for Luke'Dynamite' Dillon!
There will be questions over her competence and as yet she has not really been properly tested but she is younger, female and free of  any charges of IRA membership.  When she was appointed DARD Minister in 2011, Eamonn Mallie wrote: 'She comes from a pedigreed republican Tyrone family.' He didn't explain the pedigree there is no evidence of any paramilitary involvements in her past. and she is seen by some as the Northern Ireland version of Mary Lou McDonald.

On the other hand such is the nature of Sinn Fein that all of their politicians, including those who were not involved in terrorism, cannot distance themselves from the Provisional IRA and from endorsement of its terrorist campaign.  The Easter Rising commemorations and the calendar of local IRA commemorations require speakers and provide a platform for Sinn Fein politicians and aspiring politicians.

So Michelle has had to do her round of Easter Rising platforms, reenactments and other commemorations.

She came in for some flack in 2010 when as the Sinn Fein mayor of Dungannon she hosted a reception in honour of IRA man Martin McCaughey, who was a Sinn Fein councillor as well as a member of the IRA.  McCaughey was shot dead by the Army on 9 October 1990 while he was collecting an AK47 rifle from an IRA dump.

O'Neill was the speaker in 2012 at Sinn Fein's 'national hunger strike commemoration' in Dungiven.  There is an interesting film of the event on youtube, produced by An Phoblacht News, and it includes an interview with Michelle O'Neill as well her speech.  During the interview she says: 'The British Government can make a start by butting out of our country.'

In 2013 Michelle O'Neill was the speaker at the Easter Rising commemoration at Edendork.  She told the gathering: 'It is the task of this generation of Irish Republicans to make our vision of a United Ireland a reality.  This is the best memorial to all of Ireland's Patriot Dead.'

That speech was given at the republican plot in the Edendork graveyard where some of Ireland's 'patriot dead' are buried or commemorated.  Among those buried in the plot at Edendork is Patrick Joseph Kelly, who was the commander of the notorious East Tyrone Brigade of the Provisional IRA.  This was the most active unit in the IRA and the most extreme but Kelly's terrorist career was ended on 8 May 1987.when the SAS ambushed an IRA murder gang at Loughgall.
Luke 'Dynamite' Dillon -
Irish republican bomber in both England and Canada

In April 2014 Michelle O'Neill even spoke at a commemoration in Pennsylvania. for Luke 'Dynamite' Dillon, who took part in the Fenian 'Dynamite' campaign in England in the 19th century.

In March 2016 she spoke at the Easter Rising commemoration in Coalisland.

A few days ago Martin McGuinness said that he did not regret his terrorist past and of course if you were to believe him Gerry Adams 'has no terrorist past to regret'.

But Sinn Fein want to expand their electoral base, especially in the Irish Republic, and that is the reason for the elevation of someone like Mary Lou McDonald in the Republic.  Sinn Fein may well look on Michelle O'Neill in the same way and she may or or may not be elevated to replace Martin McGuinness but until Sinn Fein abandons this fixation with the past and what Patrick Pearse called 'our Fenian dead', we will continue to see young nationalists radicalised and drawn into the ranks of the terrorist force of the day.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Caitriona Ruane and the 'Mayo library case'

Caitriona Ruane
Caitriona Ruane did not put her name forward for selection for the next Assembly election.  When I heard that it brought to mind an Assembly debate exactly ten years ago this month.

On 22 January 2007, during a debate on an Equality Commission report Caitriona Ruane:
Perhaps we will hear an acceptance and an acknowledgement from unionists that the 'six counties' were developed as a Protestant state for a Protestant people; that they were built and maintained by systematic discrimination against Catholics.
As I listened to her I could not help but recall three things.  The first was that Caitriona Ruane was originally from County Mayo.  The second was that she had once said that she had never heard of discrimination until she came up to Northern Ireland.  The third was that County Mayo was the scene of one of the notorious cases of discrimination against the Protestant minority in the Republic.

Later in the debate I responded to what she had said:
I think that I am right to say that Ms Ruane comes from Mayo.  If one were to think about discrimination, what county would come to mind more than County Mayo?  The Mayo library case has gone down in the history of this island.
I remember listening to Ms Ruane on the radio telling us that she had never known discrimination until she came to Northern Ireland.  Obviously the events in County Mayo, where the political and public communities agreed with the council's decision not to appoint a Protestant librarian, have slipped her mind.
 This was a case in which politicians and Roman Catholic churchmen in county Mayo rejected the appointment of a Protestant woman as the county librarian.  They believed that only a Roman Catholic should be in charge of library services and the selection of library books in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic county!  In the end they won the day and a Roman Catholic librarian was appointed instead.  The Protestant woman was then sent off to a post in Dublin.  The year was 1930 and the Protestant librarian was Letitia Dunbar-Harrison.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Damien McLaughlin on the run

Damien McLaughlin, - on the run from terrorism-related charges.
This morning I met the Chief Constable George Hamilton, ACC Stephen Martin and Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, along with Keith Buchanan MLA.  We were meeting them as members of the Policing Board for an update on the case of Damien McLaughlin.

McLaughlin is facing charges in relation to the murder of prison officer David Black who was shot dead by republican terrorists as he was travelling to work at Maghaberry in November 2012.  

The charges are of preparing terrorist acts, aiding and abetting murder, belonging to a proscribed organisation and possession of an article for use in terrorism.  McLaughlin first appeared in court on 20 December 2012 and remained in custody until 2 May 2014, when he was granted bail.  The bail conditions included an electronic tag, a night-time curfew and daily reporting to the police.

In December 2014 and in spite of previous problems around bail conditions, the court ordered the removal of the tag.  Later there was a reduction in the number of times in the week he has to sign at a police station.

His case was in the newspaper last year when a court varied his bail conditions to allow him to spend a holiday at a spa hotel in Fermanagh.  Then later the address he was to live at was changed from the Ardboe area to West Belfast.

McLaughlin absconded in December, after moving to West Belfast, and within hours he may well have been across the border.  The PSNI are searching for him and police services across Europe have been notified of his details.

There were failures on the part of the PSNI and they have acknowledged that.  However cases such as this raise other serious issues, in particular for the court service: (1) the length of time it is taking to get these cases into court (2) the laxity of the bail conditions (3) the leniency of the sentencing regime.

There is a marked difference between what happens here and what happens in Great Britain and it has been that way for many years.  There cases are heard much quicker, those charged are kept in prison and the sentencing regime is tougher.

The Ombudsman has announced that he is to look at the case and that must include not only the way that the PSNI enforced the bail conditions but the actual conditions they were asked by the Courts to enforce.

In Great Britain, anyone facing serous terrorism-related charges such as this would not be out on bail, never mind having the bail conditions relaxed to facilitate his holiday arrangements.  We are not talking here about some minor misdemeanor, we are talking here about murder.

Damien McLaughlin is not some misguided teenager.  He is 40 years of age and has a previous conviction back in 2009 for possession of a weapon in suspicious circumstances.  Yet his bail was changed to suit his holidays and his bail conditions were such that he was able to attend republican rallies.

Damien McLaughlin on the right, at a republican rally in West Belfast
It was a useful meeting with the PSNI and we will continue to monitor this case.  We willl also be raising it at the Policing Board in a few weeks time.  We want to see the lessons learned and changes implemented.

Finally, I was astounded to find that he was out on bail with two sureties of £750!  Even that is amazingly lenient.  It's time for a crackdown on this lenient approach by the courts.