Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Seamus Heaney and the Union flag

Yesterday (28 January) The Times carried an exclusive interview with the poet Seamus Heaney.  The front page of the section was a photograph of Heaney over which the newspaper had printed one sentence from the interview.  That sentence was:
There is never going to be a united Ireland so why not let Loyalists fly the flag?
Seamus Heaney was born in county Londonderry in 1939 and is a poet, playwright, translator and lecturer.  He was the professor of poetry at Harvard and Oxford and his work was recognised in 1995 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Although he was born in Northern Ireland, Heaney has lived in Dublin since 1972 and he once wrote: 'Be advised my passport's green.  No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen.'
It is that background which makes his comment about the Union and the Union flag all the more important.  The sentence on the front page comes from the following paragraph:
'Loyalism, Unionism or Protestantism, whatever you want to call it,in Northern Ireland it operates not as a class system, but a caste system.  And they have an entitlement factor running: the flag is part of it.  There's never going to be a united Ireland, you know,' he says plainly.  'So why don't you let them fly the flag.'
Heaney recognises that there will NEVER be a united Ireland and I just wish that nationalist politicians would also recognise this fact.  Yes they have a right to hold an aspiration for a united Ireland but they should be honest enough to admit that it will never happen.

Many public speakers in Northern Ireland, including some nationalist and republican politicians, use quotations from Seamus Heaney.  However I doubt very much if this will be the one they use.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Tabasco sauce - the Ulster connection

Tabasco sauce was invented by Edmund McIlhenny (1815-1890), a fourth generation American of Scotch-Irish descent. 
According to tradition the family came from Argyllshire in Scotland and settled in county Donegal, near Milford, where they remained for several generations.  In the 1740s four brothers emigrated from Donegal to North America, as part of the great Ulster-Scots exodus.  One of them, Ezekiel, settled in Pennsylvania, near its border with Maryland.  His son Robert McIlhenny was an attorney in Adams County.
Edmund McIlhenny was born on 15 October 1815 at Hagerstown, Maryland.  His father was the owner of McIlhenny's Tavern, which sat on the northwest corner of the public square, and he was also the mayor of Hagerstown.
In 1841 Edmund McIlhenny moved to New Orleans, where he worked as an agent for the Bank of Louisiana.  Later he became an indpendent banker and in 1857 he purchased five branch banks in southern and central Louisiana.
He was now a wealthy man and in 1859 he married Mary Eliza Avery, daughter of a prominent jurist in Baton Rouge.  Her family owned a sugar plantation on an island, Avery Island, and when the American Civil War started the Averys and the McIlhennys sought refuge on the island.  However the plantation was destroyed by Union soldiers.  The families fled to Texas and Edmund became a civilian employee of the Confederate States Army.
After the war had ended, McIlhenny found himself with few prospects.  The economy of the South was in ruins and his millions of Confederate dollars were worthless.  He had no choice but to return with his wife to her family home at Avery Island.
There he began blending red peppers, salt and vinegar to create the Tabasco brand pepper sauce.  McIlhenny then sent 350 bottles of his pepper sauce to selected wholesalers and soon the 'Famous Sauce Mr McIlhenny Makes' became extremely popular.
Edmund McIlhenny died on Avery Island on 25 November 1890 but his eldest son John Avery McIlhenny took over the business with the assistance of his mother.
When the Spanish American War broke out in 1898 John joined the First US Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the 'Rough Riders', and his brother Edward (Ned) Avery McIlhenny (1872-1949) took over the running of the Tabasco business.  He was also a naturalist, conservationist, world explorer and the author of several books.

Today the McIlhennys still own Avery Island and still make Tabasco sauce using the same formula that Edmund invented all those years ago.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

O'Neill & Allsopp Memorial Flute Band

Yesterday afternoon there was an annual parade in the New Lodge area of North Belfast to commemorate two members of the Fianna Eireann, the youth wing of the IRA.
The two youg men were James O'Neill and Robert Allsopp and the march consisted of eight bands, including the local O'Neill-Allsopp Memorial Flute Band.
The annual commemoration also included a function on Saturday night in St Kevin's Hall, featuring the republican band Shebeen.
According to the North Belfast News (26 January), 'Fian Robert Allsopp was killed on March 23, 1975 and Fian Jim O'Neill on February 26, 1976.'
Robert Emmanuel Allsopp was just fifteen years old when he died and his entry in Lost Lives states:
A member of the Fianna, the junior wing of the IRA, he was found lying in his house in the New Lodge area of north Belfast with a bullet wound to the head.  He was discovered by a neighbour who had gone to the Allsopp home to visit the boy's mother.  On receiving no reply to her knock at the door, the woman entered the house and saw the teenager lying on the ground, his head inside the kitchen, his feet stretched out into the yard.  There was no movement and he did not respond to the woman when she spoke to him.  An ambulance was called and the boy was taken to hospital where he died.
Detectives who went ot investugate his death were attacked by a crowd, returning later with an army escort.  The youth had apparently been shot in the head at close range, police indicating they believed his killing may have been accidental.  The gun had been removed from the scene.  The teenager's mother told the inquest that she had gone to work that evening leaving him some money to go to a local disco.  She was later told that he had been involved in an accident.  The police said no weapon was recovered at the house and their appeals for a 13-year-old girl who was seen there around the time of the shooting to come forward went unanswered.
The other young man was Jim O'Neill.  The North Belfast News gave the date of his death as 26 February 1976 but Lost Lives gives the date as 13 February, so presumably the North Belfast News got it wrong.  O'Neill was seventeen years old and an apprentice joiner.  The entry in Lost Lives states:
His badly burned body was found in a warehouse on the Antrim Road, next to the home of the SDLP leader, Gerry Fitt.  It was reported that he was attempting to burn down the home of the MP, which was attacked on numerous occasions, during rioting which followed the death on hunger strike  of Frank Stagg.  A detective told and inquest that petrol had been scattered around the warehouse before it was set on fire.  He was identified by dental records and two medallions round his neck.  According to death notices he was a Fianna staff officer.  'Parlo', as he was known, was from Duncairn Parade, and he is listed in the republican roll  of honour as a member of Fianna Eireann.  His uncle, Michael Kane, also an IRA member, was  killed in a premature explosion in 1970.
One of the organisers of the parade, Leo Morgan, said, 'These were two young people from the New Lodge who died for Ireland. Their example is one of leadership for the young people of this area, and the flute band shows republicanism in a positive way.'
A fifteen-year-old boy shot himself accidentally with a gun and a seventeen-year-old was burned to death while trying to burn down the home of a nationalist MP.  Did they really die for Ireland?  Were they really 'examples of leadership for the young people' of the New Lodge?  No they were just two young people who lost their lives for nothing as a result of their membership of the Provisional IRA.  These were wasted lives and the Provos were responsible for the deaths of the two young Roman Catholics.
There is also an interesting angle on the death of  Jim O'Neill's uncle.  Michael Kane was killed on 4 September 1970 when a bomb he was handling exploded prematurely at Newforge Lane off the Malone Road, where he was attempting to destroy an electricity transformer.  Afterwards copies of the Voice of the North newspaper were found in his car.  This was produced in Monaghan by Seamus Brady, a member of Fianna Fail.  When the possibility of a split emerged in the IRA, the newspaper, which was funded by the Fianna Fail government, fanned the flames which eventually led to the formation of the Provisional IRA.  The role of the Fianna Fail government in the formation of the Provisional IRA is something that both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein would prefer to forget.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Carnation Day - the Ulster connection

Eddie McIlwaine's page in the Belfast Telegraph is something I look forward to reading and today he highlighted something I had not heard of before, Carnation Day, 29 January.
The carnation was the favourite flower of William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States of America, and he always wore one on his lapel.
McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio, on 29 January 1843 and died on 14 September 1901 after being shot by an anarchist assassin.
After his death Lewis G Reynolds of Dayton, Ohio, wrote to the New York Herald Tribune suggesting that on McKinley's birthday each person wear a carnation in his memory.  The idea was adopted and Carnation Day was first observed in the United States of America on 29 January 1903.
The Ulster connection is of course that President William McKinley was a Scotch-Irish American with Ulster-Scots ancestry.  His first Ulster forebear was James McKinley, who came from Perthshire in Scotland.  In 1690 he fought for the Protestant cause under King William III, Prince of Orange, earning the nickname 'James the Trooper'.  Afterwards he settled at Conagher, near Ballymoney, in county Antrim.  In 1743 James McKinley emigrated from Ulster to America and his son David, born around 1730, fought in the Revolutionary War.  This David McKinley was the great-grandfather of the future president. 

During the Civil War William McKinley served under Colonel Rutherford B Hayes, who was later to become president, and he was a a major in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  Hayes made McKinley his aide-de-camp and subsequently encouraged his political career.  McKinley was elected to the United States Congress in 1877 and served for fourteen years to 1891.  He continued to build his political base as governor of Ohio, from 1892 to 1896, in addition to serving the Republican Party nationally.

McKinley was elected president in the election of 1896 and served from 1897 to 1901.  The greatest event in his presidency was the intervention of the United States to secure Cuba's independence from Spain.  He was returned to office for a second term but he was shot by an assassin at Buffalo on 6 September 1901 and died on 14 September.

President McKinley ewas a member of the Scotch-Irish Society of America and in 1893 he welcomed the 5th Scotch-Irish Congress to Springfield, Ohio.  Also that year he attended the Columbian World's Fair in Chicago and told the members of the McKinlay clan, 'Your ancestors of the McKinlay clan came to this country directly from Scotland, while mine came from the North of Ireland, but we are probably of the same original covenanter stock.'    In 1897 F A Claypool published a book entitled The Scotch Ancestors of William McKinley.

Martin O'Hagan and the Workers' Party

Over the last few days there has been media coverage of the decision by the PPS not to pursue prosecution of a number of men for the murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan on 28 September 2001. 

His murder was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders but this was sometimes a cover-name for the LVF and the Sunday World has named five members of the LVF as responsible for his murder.
It is believed that he was shot because of articles he had written about loyalist paramilitaries.  He had previously been abducted and questioned by the Provisional IRA because of other articles in the Sunday World.

Before turning to the subject of this post let me be absolutely clear - human life is given by God and murder is a sin - it is always wrong and those who are guilty of murder should be punished.

Owen Martin O'Hagan grew up in Lurgan and his father and grandfather served in the Brish Army but the family also had strong links to the republican movement.  His cousin Dr Dara O'Hagan was elected as a Sinn Fein member of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and now works for Sinn Fein as a senior adviser.  Moreover her father, Joseph B O'Hagan, was the Provisional IRA quartermaster-general in Northern Ireland.
According to an obituary in The Guardian [1 October 2001] Martin O'Hagan joined the Official IRA 'as a teenager'.  O'Hagan was born in June 1950 and ceased to be a teenager in 1970.  Since the Provisional IRA split from the IRA in December 1969 he must have joined the IRA before the split or else he joined the Official IRA shortly after the split.  Whatever the precise time he was certainly a socialist republican and on the other side of the split from his cousin and uncle.
O'Hagan was interned in 1971 and then after his release he was charged with transporting guns for the Official IRA and sentenced to seven years in prison.  The Official IRA declared a ceasefire in 1972 but continued to exist as an armed paramilitary organisation and it had an important role as a criminal fundraiser for the Workers' Party.
After his release in 1978 he studied sociology at university and in the early 1980s he was given a largely unpaid position with 'the left-wing Irish political periodical Fortnight'.  This was to be his entrance into a career in journalism.  In The Lost Revolution: the story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party, Brian Hanley and Scott Millar comment:
Despite the WP's poor electoral showings, the party's politics had an impact on wider understandings of the conflict.  Fortnight magazine regularly carried articles by writers and journalists associated with the WP, including Martin O'Hagan, John Hunter, Kathryn Johnston and Robin Wilson.
In this way the Workers' Party was able to influence public opinion and public debate.  They were never going to achieve their goal by electoral politics and neither could they mount a successful revolution but they could influence society and change it incrementally by having their members work in the media and in civic society.  This was the theory of the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci and I can well recall Robin Wilson, during a conversation in the Community Relations Council, expressing his admiration for Gramsci.
Martin O'Hagan then began casual work for newspapers and eventually joined the staff in the Belfast office of the Sunday World.  The brash tabloid newspaper was based in Dublin but at that time the Belfast office was under the editorship of Jim Campbell.  Of this newspaper Hanley and Millar comment:
The Sunday World remained an outlet for WP publicity and its populist analysis of the political situation was often in line with the party's positions.  The paper steered clear of any reference to the actvities of Group B [Official IRA], but its exposes of criminal activity by other loyalist and republican paramilitaries was not without its costs: its Northern editor, Jim Campbell, was badly wounded in a UVF shooting in May 1984.
The silence of the Sunday World about the criminality of the Official IRA contrasted sharply with its focus on the criminality of other paramilitary organisations and is therefore all the more remarkable.  Moreover this was no accident.  There were people on the staff of the Sunday World who were or had been members of the Workers' Party or the Official IRA.  Are we to believe that they had sources of information about every other paramilitary organisation but no sources of information about the Official IRA?  I think most people will find that rather hard to accept!
The question becomes all the more interesting in view of a document written in 1989 by Sean Garland to the Communist Party in East Berlin, admitting that the Officials were engaged in criminality to raise money for the party.  The recent discovery of this document by the Irish Times sheds a new light on that era of the Officials and the journalists and others who were at various times associated with the Official republican movement.

'Bereft of justice'

Allison Morris
This morning in the Irish News, journalist Allison Morris discussed the decision by the PPS not to pursue the prosecution of a number of men in relation to the murder of reporter Sunday World Martin O'Hagan in 2001.
She ended her analysis by saying: 'Meanwhile, the family of the investigative reporter, who spend his career exposing the nefarious activities of men who later killed him, have been left bereft of justice.'  That final phrase 'bereft of justice' caught my attention.
I thought of so many terrible atrocities perpetrated by paramilitary organisations during the Troubles and yet so many remain unresolved, with no one prosecuted, no one convicted and no one held to account - La Mon and Bloody Friday are just two of many such atrocities.
Sinn Fein and a number of republican campaigning groups have been to the fore in demanding justice but they have not been to the fore in delivering justice.  They demand  Gerry Adams and many other senior figures in Sinn Fein could deliver justice for many families by telling us what they know about the murders and the atrocities perpetrated by the Provisional IRA.
In the meantime, we may not be able to extract the information locked away in the minds of Sinn Fein politicians, but there is one thing we must do and that is prevent them rewriting history.  The carnage perpetrated by the Provisional IRA and encouraged and eulogised by Sinn Fein must not be forgotten.


Dolours Price (2)

Dolours Price came from a thoroughly republican family.  Both her parents were IRA veterans but the greatest influence on her was her mother's sister, Bridget 'Bridie' Dolan.
Dolan was born in 1911 into a strongly republican family in Belfast and along with her sisters she joined Cumann na mBan, the women's IRA.  They had their first brush with the authorities when they refused to remove their Easter lilies while returning home from a 1916 Easter Rising commemorative mass in St Patrick's Chapel in Donegall Street.  The group were sentenced to prison terms of between two weeks and one month and they served their sentences in the women's prison in Armagh.
Bridie Dolan was badly injured in 1938 when a package of grenades exploded as she was moving them from one IRA dump to another.  Both her hands were blown off, her face was hideously disfigured and she was blinded.  This was the period when the IRA was working, through its Irish-American associates, to prepare for another terrorist campaign and to secure the help of the Nazis.
In spite of her injuries she continued to dedicate her life to Irish republicanism and attended republican events throughout the rest of her life.  At the funeral of Joe Cahill on 27 July 2004, Gerry Adams gave an oration and in it he mentioned Bridie Dolan as another one of those who 'came forward' in 1969, giving her support to the Provisional IRA.
Bridie Dolan died on 9 February 1975 and she was given a full republican funeral 'with military honours'.  Her name appears in republican publications as Volunteer Bridie Dolan of Cumann na mBan.
Much of the above information is copied from a memorial tile in the IRA garden of reflection at Moyard House, home of the Roddy McCorley Club and Irish Republican Museum, in West Belfast.  This tile gives the date of the accidental explosion as the 1940s rather than 1938 but in either case the explosion happened in the period when the IRA was collaborating with the Nazis.
There are several things that strike me in the story of Bridie Dolan and her niece Dolours Price.
(1) It is interesting to see how many of the leading Provisional IRA activists came from strongly republican families which had been involved in militant IRA republicanism for generations.
(2) Bridie Dolan was an example of the fanaticism of militant republicanism.  In spite of the injuries she received in the accidental explosion all those years ago she remained totally dedicated to the cause.  Neither did the explosion deter her two nieces Dolours and Marion Price from joining the IRA.  They had seen at first hand the awful effects of terrorism but they too became committed terrorists.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Dolours Price (1)

The death of Dolours Price has brought a renewed focus on her statements that Gerry Adams was her commanding officer in the Provisional IRA.  As a result it is damaging to Sinn Fein's attempt to rewrite the history of the Troubles.
Dolours and her sister Marian were born into a staunchly republican family in Belfast and were the daughters of Albert Price.  There is an interesting reference to Albert Price in Tim Pat Coogan's book on The IRA:
The Provisionals or Provos as they became generally known, began to group in the Falls area generally.  For instance, the Andersonstown branch of Sinn Fein, the Rodger McCorley Cumann, split from the Official IRA of Cathal Goulding when the section led by Albert Price - father of the Price sisters, Dolores and Marion, who went on hunger strike in Brixton prison after being sentenced for their part in the London bombings - differed from the socialist policy of the rest of the Cumann and reverted to the traditional Republican aim of getting the British out of occupied Ireland.
My attention was taken by the name of the Sinn Fein cumann of which Albert Price was a member, the Rodger [sic] McCorley cumann.  So who was Roger McCorley and why did Sinn Fein name the Andersonstown cumann after him?
Roddy McCorley was a Presbyterian farmer and a United Irishmen.  He took part in the 1798 rebellion and then afterwards went on the run.  McCorley attempted to emigrate from Ulster to America but was arrested and executed at Toome on 28 February 1800.  Later he was reburied at Duneane Presbyteran churchyard.  He was generaly known as Roddy McCorley but at his trial and execution he was referred to in the press as Roger McCorley.
However there was another Roger McCorley and one who had a much closer connection with West Belfast.  This Roger McCorley was a great-grandson of the earlier United Irishman.  He was a member of the Belfast Brigade of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence, 1919-1922.
McCorley was commandant of the 1st Battalion and in August 1920 he was one of four IRA men who murdered Detective Inspector Oswald Swanzy, a member of the RIC, as he left Christ Church cathedral in Lisburn.  On 26 January 1921 he was involved in the murder of three men in their beds in the Railway View Hotel in Belfast.  McCorley and another IRA man, Seamus Woods, organised an Active Service Unit to carry out attacks without the approval of the IRA leadership.  He personally led the gang in the murder of three Black and Tans and his men carried on a 'savage underground war'.  In April 1922 he became leader of the IRA in Belfast.  Under his leadership they murdered William J Twaddell MP, a Belfast businessman.  Subsequently he fled south of the border and took the side of the Free State against the Anti-Treaty republicans.
In March 1940 Roger McCorley was a founding member of Coras na Poblachta, a political party which sought a United Ireland and economic independence from the United Kingdom.  It also called for greater prominence for the Irish language and took a pro-fascist position during the Second World War.  Also in attendance at the inaugural meeting was Seamus O'Donovan, an IRA leader who was the architect of the IRA bombing campaign in Britain and collaborated with the Nazis.  Such connections between Irish republicans and the Nazis must be a source of embarassment to Sinn Fein!
Today the name Roddy or Roger McCorley is best known in West Belfast in connection with the Roddy McCorley Social Club.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Gerry Adams and 'the past'

Sinn Fein want to rewrite history and to eradicate the IRA's responsibility for so many murders and so much destruction.  They also seek to operate a 'factory of grievances', generating more and more investigations into the actions of others, while refusing to acknowledge the wrong-doing of leaders such as Gerry Adams.
Unfortunately for Sinn Fein, the truth keeps coming back to haunt them.  This morning Newton Emerson wrote in his 'look back at this week' in the Irish News:
Sinn Fein has pompously demanded that CNN refer to Gerry Adams by 'his proper title' after the American news network called him 'a former IRA paramilitary commander'.  Cue guffaws of laughter all round.  So what might have caused this unusual lapse in Sinn Fein's media judgment?  Last May, CNN screened a documentary on the Boston College tapes dispute by its international correspondent Nic Robertson, which repeated IRA commander Brendan Hughes's allegation that Mr Adams 'had control' over the murder of disappeared mother-of-10 Jean McConville.  Mr Adams refused to be interviewed for the programme.
Meanwhile Gregory Campbell, the DUP MP for East Londonderry has tabled a motion in the house of commons calling for Chief constable Matt Baggott to ensure that if soldiers are to be questioned regarding Bloody Sunday then republicans should be too.  'If there is to be an investigation now  by the police then it must also look at the role played by senior Provisional IRA personnel including Martin McGuinness in the weeks and moths prior to January 30, 1972,' he said.

Sinn Fein must not be allowed to forget the bloody history which they used to report and eulogise in their 'War News' column in Republican News.  'War News' has gone but Sinn Fein still eulogise those who perpetrated murder and mayhem during the republican terrorist campaign.

I welcome the fact that they now condemn the same actions when they are carried out by dissident republican terrorists but they are inconsistent when they continue to eulogise Provisional IRA terrorists.  The murder of a policeman is wrong today, just as the murder of a policeman or the murder of Jean McConville was wrong in the past.  Murder is always wrong.
Moreover, the eulogising of Provisonal IRA terrorists is an encouragement to dissident republican terrorist, who rightly point out that they are only doing what the Provos used to do.
It is therefore imperative that Sinn Fein are not allowed to rewrite history and that will require determination, perseverance and above all, a coherent strategy.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

'On the ground'

One of the phrases that I have heard used in some circles in recent days is 'on the ground'.  And the context of its use is important.  Listening to the media and looking at FaceBook posts some people say that they are 'on the ground' and then go on to say that politicians are not 'on the ground'.
But what does that mean and is it true?  Well I can only speak for myself but here is how I see it.
I don't live and work on another planet and I am not detached from the community in North Belfast. In the course of my work I meet constituents and talk to them every day.  In the past week, along with party colleagues such as Nigel Dodds, I have met community activists, including a group of protest organisers, and tonight we attended a pan-unionist meeting involving the North & West Belfast Parades Forum and the Loyal Orders.  There are more meetings with constituents, community groups and sports organisations planned for next week.
We have four DUP offices in North Belfast and they are open five days a week, with people calling in and phoning in about all sorts of issues.
Outside of work I meet people in the constituency every day of the week, whether it be walking round Tesco doing the shopping, or having a cup of coffee in the Abbeycentre, or whatever, including the church hall and the Orange hall.  People do stop to talk and politics is often on the agenda.  I also engage with people by e-mail, my blog and FaceBook and all engagement, whether it be in the course of work or in the course of everyday life is extremely valuable.  I wish I could do more but there are only 24 hours in the day.
If that isn't being 'on the ground' I don't know what is and that is how I have always lived.  But just as important as being 'on the ground' is working 'on the ground'. 
Moreover it is not simply a matter of hearing the views of others and talking to them.  Time and time again the things that I hear, the concerns, the frustrations, the hopes, the aspirations etc are the same concerns, frustrations, hopes and aspirations that I hold myself.
We are all human and we all have our shortcomings but those three things really matter - being 'on the ground', working 'on the ground' and having a passion for Ulster in my heart.

I speak for myself and my party colleagues in the constituency I represent but the same is true for many other politicians.  Last month I was up in Lisburn to see community projects in the Old Warren estate and to provide support for them and it was very clear that the DUP MLAs and councillors have a high level of engagement with the loyalist community in that estate - a good example of good practice.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The rather unequal Equality Commission

Last month the Equality Commission published A Profile of the Monitored Northern Ireland Workforce (Monitoring Report No 22), which covers the year 2011. 
I have only just read the report but once again the most interesting figures are those for the Equality Commission itself.  This is the body that was set up many years ago to promote equality in the workplace.  So how is it faring in regard to its own workforce?

In 2011 there were 147 staff in the Equality Commission and of these 50 were Protestant, 93 were Roman Catholic and 4 were non-determined.  Setting aside the 4 non-determined, the report gives a breakdown of 65% Roman Catholic and 35% Protestant, which is certainly at odds with a representative workforce.

Back in 2006 the figure was 38% Protestant and 62% Roman Catholic, so instead of improving the balance in its workforce between 2006 and 2011, the Equality Commission has ended up with a more imbalanced workforce.  Once again the Equality Commission has fallen short of the standard it sets or others.
It seems that the Equality Commission's approach is 'do as I say, not do as I do'.  Perhaps it is time to rename the organisation the Inequality Commission!

More on the Donegal Daily and Belfast Daily

This series of posts started yesterday morning with the Belfast Daily 'story' that the PSNI had hired in riot squad officers from the Irish Republic.  It then moved on to the Donegal Daily Ltd, which appears to be the parent company of both the Belfast Daily and the Donegal Daily.

I have mentioned already two of the directors but a trawl on the internet reveleaded a third name, Gregory Patrick Harkin, who was secretary for one year from January to December 2011.  Obviously he was long gone before this recent 'story'.

The Donegal Daily is based at the Co-lab building of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT).  I came across this institution towards the end of last year as they are one of the partners in a new cross-border North-West Regional Science Park and it seems that the Donegal Daily operates from space rented from them.
It would be helpful if the Donegal Daily would acknowledge that they got it wrong and dangerously wrong.

In the Irish News this morning, Justice Minister David Ford confirmed that the Belfast Daily report was 'completely false'.  He then added, 'Simply because somebody posts something on the internet does not make it true.'  David Ford is right that just because something appears on the internet does not make it true.  The same is also true of the printed page.  However we do have a right to expect printed newspapers and online news sites to check their sources.  Even the BBC has learned that lesson.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Belfast Daily and their 'senior security source'

I am grateful to those who contacted me with the answer to the question, who runs the Belfast Daily website?

I have been informed that it is run by the company Donegal Daily Ltd, which also operates the Donegal Daily website.  The company is based at Tullygay, outside Letterkenny, and is run by Stephen William Maguire and Brenda O'Neill.   According to a directors website 'Stephen William Maguire is Irish and was born in 1970.'  The company was established in January 2011 and this was his first directorship.  Brenda O'Neill was born in 1967 and joined the company at the end of December 2011.

That leaves us with a second question.  Who was the 'senior security source' who provided them with the erroneous story and did they attempt to check out the information he gave them before publishing it?  Even the BBC has been reminded in recent days abotu the importance of checking cources.

I am also grateful to those who have suggested who the 'source' may have been and indeed it is quite possible that it is someone with a grievance against the PSNI.

Finally. now that their story has been refuted and is clearly untrue, what do the owners of the Donegal Daily and the Belfast Daily intend to do?  Will they publish a retraction and will they avoid in future someone who was clearly an unreliable source?

So who runs Belfast Daily?

Yesterday a news website, Belfast Daily, carried a headline report that 'The PSNI has drafted in 200 Garda oficers to bolster riot squad numbers in Northern Ireland.'  The report went on to claim that 'the deployment of Irish police specially trained in public order duties followed telephone discussions between PSNIChief Constable Matt Baggott and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in recent weeks.'  According to the article the information came from a 'senior security source'.

The report described the Garda officers as 'highly trained' and claimed they had been hired in because the PSNI was stretched to the limit.
The internet news report was then picked up and circulated widely through social media, drawing a wide range of comments.  All sorts of accusations and blame followed and fingers were pointed at various politicians as having approved the involvement of Garda officers.
Then later in the day the PSNI denied it and while the story is still on the Belfast Daily website it has not been reported by any of our mainstream media. 
Clearly it is untrue but in an already volatile situation it was utterly irresponsible for the Belfast Daily website to publish such a headline story, which is untrue.  And that raises a number of questions about the Belfast Daily.
They operate from an e-mail address and that is how they can be contacted but there is no office address and no name of an editor or reporter.  So who runs the Belfast Daily website?
Some of the reports they carry are factual and that makes their website appear credible but there can be little credibility with a website that publishes articles that are clearly untrue.  So did the Belfast Daily attempt to check out or corroborate their 'senior security source' by asking the PSNI before publishing?
Perhaps the person or persons behind Belfast Daily will provide some answers ... or maybe not.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Robert Burns exhibition

For those with an interest in Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, there will be a Burns and Burnsiana Exhbition in the Linen Hall Library from 7 January to 1 February. 
The Linen Hall Library's Burns Collection is the largest in the world outside of his homeland of Scotland.  It was collected by Andrew Gibson, a Scot who settled in Belfast, and it was purchased for the library by public subscription in 1901 for £1,000, which was then a considerable sum of money.  Additional items were then presented to the library by Burns' great-granddaughter, Mrs Eliza Everitt.  This should be well worth seeing.
There will also be a talk about The Ayrshire Ploughman in the library on Friday 25 January at 1.00 by John Erskine.  He will trace the first decade of Belfast's reaction to the works of Burns and how he became part of the cultural fabric of Ulster.  The talk is free and if you are free on the day I would certainly recommend it.