Monday, 2 July 2018

Ulster-Scots excluded once again?

The Thomas D'Arcy McGee International Forum will take place in Carlingford in August and I was interested to receive an e-mail with information about the programme and an invitation to attend..

The e-mail came from the the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF), who are organising the event, and the funders and partners include the ICUF, Air Canada, Dublin City University, and Element Fleet Technology Ireland.

The ICUF was founded in 1993 and seems to be part of the Republic of Ireland's international 'soft power' project, linking the Republic and Canada.

Thomas D'Arcy McGee
Previously known as the Thomas D'Arcy McGee Summer School, it is named for Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825-1868), who was born in Carlingford.  A Roman Catholic and Irish nationalist, he eventually settled in Canada and became the Father of Canadian Confederation.  He was assassinated in 1868 by Patrick James Whelan, who was believed to be a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, and so this year in the 150th anniversary of his death.

Summer schools can provide an opportunity to hear new things and explore new ideas and I can recall speaking at the summer school back in 2013.  

I was therefore interested to receive an e-mail from the organisers about the 2018 event, especially so when I noticed that the subjects for consideration included 'reconciliation', 'minority languages' and 'identity',

The reference to 'minority languages' was especially significant as we have two indigenous minority languages, Irish Gaelic and Ulster-Scots, both of which are recognised in the Belfast Agreement as part of our 'cultural wealth'.  I wondered who had been selected to speak about the two 'minority languages'.and started to scroll down the list of speakers on the programme.

Professor Regina Ui Chollatain - Irish language academic
The first name I came to was that of Professor Regina Ui Chollatain.  Her brief biography stated that she is head of the School of Irish and Celtic Studies at University College Dublin, has a special interest in Irish language media and is head of the Royal Irish Academy committee for Irish language scholarship.
Linda Ervine - Irish language activist
Beside her photograph and biography were a photograph and biography for Linda Ervine from east Belfast.  She was described as a 'language rights activist' and indeed she has been a strong advocate for an Irish Language Act.  It also stated that she had established the Turas Irish language programme and described her, rather disingenuously, as 'a supporter of the Gaelic Irish language and Ulster-Scots.'

The truth is that on the programme that is being circulated there are two committed Irish language speakers, one a senior academic and the other a community activist.  Meanwhile there is not a single Ulster-Scots advocate about the place.  There is no Ulster-Scots language expert, there is no Ulster-Scots activist and there is no Ulster-Scots enthusiast.

The organisers may turn up a token Ulster-Scot, very belatedly, or they may choose to just ignore us altogether but either way it shows a lack of respect for one of the 'minority languages' they are purporting to consider.

The way forward has to be the way of a 'shared and better' future, based on such principles as equity, diversity and interdependence.  Cultural exclusion is not the way to build that future but it seems that some people have still not learned that lesson.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Sinead Travers and Sinn Fein sectarianism

Earlier today Sinead Travers tweeted the following nasty and sectarian opinion.

On her Twitter account Sinead describes herself as : 'Irish Republican - Barrister - Feminist - SF activist - Free Palestine. Music + Poetry are my Gra. Our revenge will be the laughter of our children. Bobby Sands MP.  So we know that she is a barrister and a Sinn Fein activist.  We also know that her spelling leaves a lot to be desired with 'triumphilism', 'imperalism' and 'riddence'

Sinead Travers 6
That is from sineadtravers6 but there is also a sineadtravers account, without the 6.  This Sinead describes herself as: 'Sinn Fein - Proud Irish Republican - Economic Policy Adviser - Barrister - Writer - Poetry, Music and Law are my passions.'  Her location is given as Beal Feirste, Eire.

Another source tells us that the Sinead who wrote the tweet is an 'economic and political advisor on the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in the European Parliament' based in Brussels.  She is therefore employed by the European Parliament, not by Sinn Fein, but is a Sinn Fein activist. and has been for many years.

Mary Lou McDonald and Declan Kearney can say all they want about respect and reconciliation but their words are merely window-dressing.  Sinead Travers has shown us the sort of sectarianism that is really at the heart of the party.

Declan Kearney has talked about the future of the Orange Order in a united Ireland but this is what one Sinn Fein activist sees as the future of Sinn Fein and I am sure she speaks for many others.

It was ironic that she was tweeting from county Mayo - the county that gave us Caitriona Ruane and the county whose history was for ever tarnished by the Mayo library case - one of the most notorious examples of discrimination against Protestants in the southern state.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Cavehill Temperance LOL 1956 - parade gets the go-ahead

The Parades Commission has given the go-ahead for the forthcoming parade by Cavehill Temperance LOL 1956, with no determination and no restrictions.  

This will no  doubt be welcomed by the unionist community in the Kilcoole and wider Ballysillan areas.

One of the allegations by Sinn Fein and some other political parties was that there had never been a parade in the Kilcoole area before.  However the Parades Commission has confirmed that there was a similar small parade in 2016 and three similar parades in 2013.  

A quick check on the Parades Commission website would have made Sinn Fein aware of that fact but they preferred to attack the Orange Order with dishonest arguments and misinformation.

The Commission said organisers had assured it that 'the lodge's first steps to address residents' concerns had been made in good faith.'  'This included shortening the parade route and organising a leaflet drop informing residents about the parade'.

The Orange brethren and their political representatives deserve credit for the way in which they dealt with a problem manufactured largely by nationalist politicians.

This will be a small event for the 'floating of the lodge banner' and will involve just one lodge and one band.  

It is not a mini-Twelfth or district parade, which would be much larger.  Moreover it follows on from previous similar parades in Kilcoole, for which there were no objections, no determinations and no complaints.

This will be the first 'floating of the banner' by the reconstituted lodge and for that reason it has special significance.  Well done brethren!

The Parades Commision decision can be read at Parades Commission

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Newton Emerson and his 'class-based insult' of the Orange Order

The Irish News, Northern Ireland's leading nationalist paper
Last Saturday the columnist and commentator Newton Emerson devoted part of his column in the Irish News to the arrangements for an Orange lodge to transfer its banner to the home of the incoming Worshipful Master.  In so doing he described Orange brethren as 'plebeians' and suggested that their middle-class 'betters' would laugh at them,
Irish News columnist Newton Emerson

I blogged about this and said that it was a 'class-based insult' and now Emerson has admitted that 'of course it was a 'class-based insult' and that it was intentionally a 'class-based insult'.

Newton Emerson has returned to the subject in the Irish News today and has written:
The Orange lodge mentioned in last week's column over a planned parade through a mixed residential neighbourhood in north Belfast has been in touch to clarify reports.  Cavehill Temperance Lodge says it is not new but a reconstituted lodge last open in 1976, there have been parades in the area before, this one is not so much a parade as processing a banner to the lodge master's house and it has nothing to do with the flagging of lampposts in the area.
With master appointed annually, processing of banners by reconstituted lodges looks like a way of pulling 'traditional routes' out of thin air.
At least the brethren are not that bothered about me calling them 'plebeians', unlike tribune of the people and former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland, who has demanded I acknowledge this was a 'class-based insult'.  Of course it was a class-based insult. I really don't see how I could have made that any clearer.
Emerson has summarised the clarification from the Orange lodge, albeit with no acceptance or admission on his part of previous error.  He has then gone on to introduce in the second paragraph something that is purely the product of his own fervid imagination.  However my previous post was primarily about his use of the word 'plebeian', which I described as a 'class-based insult'.

Today Newton Emerson has confirmed that he intended his words to be a 'class-based insult':  He wasn't 'mis-speaking' it was an intentional insult.  Here again is what he says:
Of course it was a class-based insult, I really don't see how I could have made that any clearer.
So the 'smug snobbery' of his original column shines through again this week and it is still extremely unpleasant, albeit typical of many in a 'liberal elite' which is thoroughly illiberal.

I was then amused by Newton's description of me as a 'tribune of the people, a term that in the original Latin was 'tribunus plebis'.  Newton really does have a fondness for that word 'pleb'.

Newton also says that I had demanded he 'acknowledge' his words were a 'class-based insult', which he does but in fact I had demanded that he 'apologise' for it.
Unfortunately there is no apology and so the culpability is compounded.

Finally Newton has assumed that because the clarification from the Orange lodge was about the 'floating of the banner', 'the brethren are not that bothered about me calling them plebeians'.  That is a big assumption and I suspect an erroneous assumption. 

The focus of the brethren and their political representatives will have been on countering the unfounded criticisms from Sinn Fein, along with the Alliance Party, SDLP, Workers' Party and Green Party.  In that situation the opinion of Newton Emerson or any other columnist matters very little.  It is of secondary importance.

However I have spoken to several members of the lodge who said they do deserve an apology and they are absolutely right.  

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Are Sinn Fein behind the Union flag court case?

A legal case has been taken by a Tyrone nationalist to prevent the flying of the Union flag on court houses on designated days.  The person taking the case is named Helen McMahon.

In making her case she argues that the flying of the Union flag from Omagh Court House on designated days, as set out in the Flag Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 goes against the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

The case has now been extended to include all court houses and if she were to win, depending on the judgment, the same arguments could then be applied to all public buildings.

Martin O'Rourke QC told the High Court that the flying of the Union flag on the set days defies a commitment to ensure equality for the identity, ethos and aspirations of each of the two main communities in Northern Ireland.  He then referred to the nebulous 'parity of esteem' phrase in the Belfast Agreement.

Now there may be many people named Helen McMahon who live in and around Omagh.  For all I know there could be dozens of them, although I doubt it.  So let us park the Union flag court case for a moment and move on.

Here are some pictures that appear on the Facebook page of a woman named Helen McMahon, who was educated at St Brigid's High School in Omagh. and who may or may not be the woman behind the legal case to take down the Union flag.  We simply don't know. 

On 28 March 2018 this Helen McMahon updated her profile picture to the above but that is not the only affirmation of her political views.

She is clearly a supporter of the Sinn Fein MP Orfhlaith Begley, who represents West Tyrone and who was elected  on 3 May 2018 in the by-election that followed the resignation of Barry McElduff.  The day before the by-election Helen McMahon changed her Facebook profile picture and stated her intention to vote for the Sinn Fein candidate.  So this Helen McMahon is not only a republican but also a Sinn Fein voter, or so she says.

But there's more about this Helen McMahon. Here she is now out in May 2016 with a team of Sinn Fein election workers, during an Assembly election.  Such was her enthusiasm about working for Sinn Fein that she changed her profile picture to feature a selfie taken by Sinn Fein MLA Declan McAleer.  That is Helen in the middle of the row behind Declan.

There's another photograph on her Facebook page just before that one and it's dated 4 April 2016.

So here are some people dressed up in republican re-enactment uniforms and there is Helen in the back row behind the three teenagers?

Helen McMahon's interest in Irish republicanism even stretches back to 19 March 2011 when she posted a video of IRA hunger strikers, one of a number of videos about members of the Provisional IRA.

Now this Helen McMahon from Omagh is also someone with an ear for music and her choice is extensive and varied.  As well as the pop and country she has an ear for Irish rebel music, including the Irish Brigade singing The Sniper's Promise and the SAM Song, one about an IRA sniper and his armalite rifle and the other about an IRA rocket.

Now we don't know if this Helen McMahon, a Sinn Fein activist from Omagh. is the same person as the nationalist Helen McMahon from Omagh who is taking the court case.

Neither do we know who is funding the judicial review and if the applicant received legal aid.

However it would be interesting to know more about it because it would help us to understand whether the court case is a further attempt by Sinn Fein to poke unionists in the eye, which is how unionists and many others will see it.

The Sinn Fein position is that the Union flag should only be allowed to fly on public buildings if there is an Irish Tricolour beside it.  Their alternative is no flags at all, with the Union flag removed from all public buildings in every part of Northern Ireland.  

Poking unionists in the eye seems to be a fair description of what Sinn Fein are about.

The advent of Mary Lou and Michelle hasn't made much difference.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Orange Walk

An Orange parade at Shaftesbury Square in Belfast in the 1920s
Orange parades in Scotland are often referred to as 'Orange walks' and I wondered if that term was ever in general use in Ulster.

The thought was prompted by some words written by the Irish republican socialist James Connolly when he watched the Twelfth parade in Belfast in 1913.  He wrote:
The Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is celebrated in Belfast by what is locally known as an Orange Walk.
That led me to look back at some old newspapers and it soon became clear that the term Orange Walk was once used more generally in Ulster.

The Northern Whig (8 June 1957) reported an Orange demonstration in England and this was headlined:
To-day is Orange walk day in Birmingham
A report in the Northern Whig (21 April 1954) about a Junior Orange demonstration in Bangor was headed:
Orange walk and car rally big attractions - EASTER 'DOUBLE' DREW CROWDS TO BANGOR
The Northern Whig (22 July 1927) contained a letter to the editor, which began:
No single phenomenon of our great 'Orange walk' has provoked more lively discussion than that unique instrument 'the big drum'.
Reference to an Orange walk in Castleblayney appeared in a report in the Northern Whig (17 July 1908):
What did Finnigan mean when he said, 'Let them alone until tomorrow?' - That meant he would be at the Orange walk in Castleblayney.
An earlier reference to an Orange walk appeared in the Northern Whig (13 July 1870):
There was, he said, present that day a lady who was at the first Orange walk in the County Down, when the Orangemen walked to Kilmegan Church with the Earl of Annesley at their head.
The Northern Whig (28 August 1868) reported a court case in which a witness said:
I never saw either a party riot or an Orange walk.  I was in this town on 1st July.
All the newspaper report above were from the Northern Whig but other newspapers used the term as well and this is from the Belfast Weekly News (26 July 1879), reporting on the Twelfth in Castlecaulfield:
So long as the law of the land sanctions processions they will have their Orange walk.
There seems to be overwhelming evidence of the widespread use of the term 'Orange Walk' here in Ulster as well as in Scotland. ... but any other references you may have would be appreciated ... perhaps from books, or songs or poems, as well as newspapers.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Irish News columnist describes Orange brethren as 'plebs'

Irish News columnist Newton Emerson
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly  has objected to an Orange lodge parade in the Ballysillan Road area of North Belfast.  The parade has been organised by Cavehill Temperance LOL 1956 and will make its way from Joanmount Gardens up to Kilcoole, where some of the Orange brethren live..

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly
In stating his objection, Gerry Kelly argued that there had never been a parade in the area, which is totally untrue.

In fact there have been similar parades in the past by Orange lodges and bands and that is not surprising.  There have been Orange brethren living in the estate since it was built and parades to or from the home of the Worshipful Master of a lodge are quite common.  

Kelly's claim was false.  It's what they call 'fake news' or in this case 'republican propaganda'.

Unfortunately the Irish News columnist Newton Emerson seems to have accepted what Gerry Kelly said as being the truth, obviously without checking its veracity. In his Saturday newspaper column he described the application as 'a ludicrous application by a new lodge ... where there has never been an Orange parade before' and he said it was an 'attempted act of intimidation'.

These are just two of the errors in what Gerry Kelly said and in what Newton Emerson has written and those errors will be addressed in due course but there was something else in Newton Emerson's article which I found grossly offensive.  He wrote:
However, the brethren still have a problem.  Their proposed route includes some of the steepest streets in Northern Ireland, of a gradient the modern plebeian will struggle to climb unaided.'
Having described the area as 'mainly middle-class' he then refers to the route as being problematic for the 'modern plebeian', a word which is often shortened to 'pleb'.  Newton Emerson's choice of that word is very revealing

Andrew Mitchell MP
was at the centre of 'Plebgate'
The word plebeian comes from ancient Rome where the common folk were the plebeians and the elite folk were the patricians.  

The modern significance of the word was highlighted a few years ago in the case of the Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, who was alleged to have described a policeman as 'a pleb'.  The controversy became known in the media as 'Plebgate' and the use of the word 'pleb', which Mitchell disputed, was interpreted in the media and by many others as a class-based insult.

The difference here is that Newton Emerson can't dispute his use of the word 'plebeian' because it is there to be seen in black and white in the pages of the Irish News.  

As regards its current meaning I will defer to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary which explains both  plebeian and the abbreviated form pleb: as 'a member of the lower social classes.

The descriptions 'pleb' or 'plebeian' are generally recognised as 'derogatory' and all of this raises the important question:

If it was a class-based insult to call a London policeman 'a pleb' is it not a class-based insult when the word 'plebeian' is applied to members of the Orange Order?

I understand that Newton Emerson now lives in North Belfast and will therefore be familiar with the topography of the area, hence his reference to the steepness of the streets.  However he is not that well acquainted with the area or else he might not have written the paragraph.

The members of the Orange lodge, some of whom live in Kilcoole, are very well aware of the steepness of the streets.

As local residents themselves they know the area, better than Newton Emerson or Gerry Kelly, and they are used to walking around those streets, whether coming home from work, or going out with their families or visiting neighbours and friends.

As if the use of the word 'plebeian' was not bad enough Newton Emerson then wrote:
Should this attempted act of intimidation proceed past the drawn blinds of suburbia, marchers might just hear the distant laughter of their betters - for a Protestant, the most devastating residents' protest of them all.
Well that makes it perfectly clear that this is a 'class-based insult'.  The members of the Orange lodge are 'plebs' and other people are 'their (middle-class) betters', who will laugh at them.  

I looked up that word 'betters' in the dictionary and it was defined as 'one's superiors in social class' - so there we have that word 'class' again.

What Newton Emerson has written just oozes a smug snobbery that is extremely unpleasant.  

He describes himself as a 'liberal unionist'  but the use of the word 'pleb' or 'plebeian' seems to be the very antithesis of genuine liberalism, as is the suggestion that 'their betters' might laugh at them.

That brings me back to the phrase 'class-based insult' and an arrogant mindset that is prevalent in the ranks of the 'liberal elite'.  

The members of the Orange lodge and indeed the members of the Orange Order deserve an apology.