Monday, 24 February 2014

North Belfast housing need (3)

Question time at Stormont
Today I had Oral Questions in the Assembly and the first question, from Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney, was not about his own constituency of Foyle but about social housing in North Belfast.  He asked: 'The minister for Social Development to outline the analysis used to reach a determination of equal Unionist and Nationalist housing need in north Belfast.'
For many years nationalist and republican politicians have claimed that the social housing waiting list in North Belfast is overwhelmingly nationalist and Roman Catholic.  That became the nationalist narrative about housing need and was repeated so often that it came to be accepted more generally, by journalists, academics and commentators.
One part of the narrative was that there was a young and growing Roman Catholic population in North Belfast and the other part of the narrative was that the Protestant community was older and declining.  As a result, according to the nationalist narrative, the social housing waiting list was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.  But is that narrative true?
Well Sinn Fein got their answer and here it is:
I have stated a number of times now that the need in both communities in the North Belfast Constituency is roughly the same.  This is not my view or interpretation of the figures, it's the facts that speak for themselves.
The figures are the Northern Ireland Housing Executive's and are based on housing waiting list figures for the North Belfast Assembly and Parliamentary constituency.  They are the Housing Executive's totals for the number of applicants for social housing and transfer applicants who self-identified as either Protestant or Roman Catholic within each Common Landlord Area in the constituency.  The latest figures I have received from the Housing Executive, from 31st December 2013, again speak for themselves with 1,994 Protestants and 1,988 Roman Catholics on the waiting list in the North Belfast Constituency.
Previously, I had quoted the figures from September  2013 and they were 2059 Protestants and 1,986 Roman Catholics but we now have the most up-to-date figures available.
There are fluctuations from day to day and month to month but the general pattern is that the number of Protestants on the waiting list in North Belfast and the number of Roman Catholics on the waiting list are roughly the same.
The reaction from nationalist politicians and the supplementary question from SDLP MLA Alban Maginness demonstrated that they had not accepted the facts.  The nationalist narrative is so deeply embedded in the minds of nationalists that they find it very difficult to accept the facts, even those provided by the Housing Executive. 
The claim that the waiting list is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic is untrue but it has become almost an article of faith for nationalists.  The only answer then is to keep repeating the facts and challenging the myths.
I also had the opportunity today to explain how nationalists were able to manufacture their myth about social housing and here is the explanation.  The North Belfast Constituency covers all or part of four Housing Executive districts - Shankill, North Belfast, Newtownabbey 1 and Newtownabbey 2.  One of these districts is more nationalist than unionist whereas the others are more unionist than nationalist.  Nationalists however simply took the figures for one of those areas, the one that is most nationalist, and ignored the figures for the areas that are most unionist! 

For example, in the case of Rathcoole CLA there are 432 people on the waiting list and of these 222 are in housing stress but that need was simply ignored by nationalists.  Nevertheless that figure shows just how much new social housing is needed and I am glad to say that more new social housing is programmed for Rathcoole.
I will return to this in future posts because the issue is very complex and is best dealt with in bite-sized chunks.  Today's chunk is the basic fact that the waiting list for Protestants and the waiting list for Roman Catholics is roughly the same.
Meanwhile another Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann asked a written question about social housing in the Lower Oldpark area.  He asked: 'The Minister for Social Development to detail how the refurbished houses in the Lower Oldpark were allocated, including whether they were allocated to people within the area by transfer or allocated from the housing waiting list.'
My answer to this was:
Clanmil Housing Association, who own the properties in question, has advised that properties continue to be allocated in accordance with the Housing Selection Scheme.  They have handed over five properties in Manor Court and four in Mountview Street.  These nine properties have been allocated to applicants whose area of choice was the Lower Oldpark area; this includes one transfer.
This is the first stage in the regeneration of Lower Oldpark and I was delighted to be able to report that houses which had previously been derelict were now fully refurbished and occupied.  Clanmil can now move on to the next phase of the refurbishment programme.  Alongside this the Housing Executive have programmed a number of new build social houses for a vacant site below Century Street.  This shows that a community such as Lower Oldpark, which was neglected for so many years, can have a bright future, with a growing population and good quality houses.

Lower Oldpark is one of the six areas selected for the new Building Successful Communities programme and in this case it is off to a good start.  No longer will people be condemned to living amongst dereliction and decline.  That is simply unacceptable.


More alcohol incidents at the Odyssey

Box nightclub
Two of our local papers on Saturday (22 February) carried front page stories about the Odyssey in Belfast.
The Irish News led with the headline Night out at drink-promo club almost kills teenager.  Robert Kelly (19) was found unconscious with hypothermia in the car park at the Odyssey complex just after 2.00 am having been ejected from the Box nightclub where £1 shots and half-price wine were being sold.
Robert Kelly is a cousin of Joby Murphy who died after falling in to the Lagan on 26 January 2012.  He had been drinking heavily at another nightclub offering similarly cut-price drinks.
The Thursday night promotion in the Box nightclub is advertised as LOKO THURSDAYS and Robert Kelly was ejected from the nightclub around 1.00 am.  A spokesman for the Box said, 'We had 450 people there last night.  A couple of people were asked to leave for having consumed too much drink.'  An hour later Robert was found outside lying on the ground.  Robert's father John Kelly said, 'There's going to be another one.  The next boy won't be so lucky.' 
The Belfast Telegraph lead with the headline Terrified kids caught up in Odyssey fights.  Their report started - 'Families fled in terror as drink-fuelled fights broke out during a rowdy darts tournament hosted in the Odyssey Arena.
One person at the event said, 'It was all just drink-fuelled, everybody was quite drunk towards the end of the night.'  Another said, 'It was a bit of a rough and ready atmosphere and the amount of booze at it was unreal.  I saw one guy take on about seven bouncers.'

These incidents come just days after the night when around 100 young people at the Odyssey were heavily intoxicated with some requiring hospital treatment.
A responsible retailing code has been introduced and health minister Edwin Poots has commissioned research on the benefits of setting a minimum price for alcohol but clearly there is nothing responsible about serving alcohol to someone who is so drunk that he has to be ejected and is soon unconscious.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Republican Flute Bands and their Volunteers

Vol Sean McIlvenna RFB colour party with paramilitary uniforms.
Members of the Vol Sean McIlvenna RFB with 'replica' weapons
The Volunteer Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band glorifies IRA terrorism but it is not the only republican band to use the word VOLUNTEER in its name and thereby associate itself clearly and unequivocally with an illegal organisation, namely the IRA.

There is also the Volunteer Martin Doherty Republican Flute Band, based in Glasgow, which is part of Cairde na hEireann and thereby aligned with Sinn Fein, as indeed is the Volunteer Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band.  Martin Doherty was shot dead on 21 May 1994 by a UVF gang who were attempting to plant a bomb at a pub in Dublin.  The pub was being used that night for a fund-raising event for IRA prisoners.  Doherty had joined the IRA in 1981 and the following year was given a 7 year prison sentence for terrorism.  In August 1994 the IRA shot dead Martin Cahill, a member of the Dublin underworld, who was said to have helped the UVF carry out the attack.
Cairde na hEireann has produced a CD of republican flute bands with such interesting tunes as 'Say Hello to the Provos' by the Volunteer Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band and 'Armalite Mary D' by CRFB, presumably Coatbridge Republican Flute Band.  For those not familiar with 'Say Hello to the Provos', the words of the chorus are - Say hello to the Provos, say hello to the brave, Say hello to the Provos, and Ireland shall be saved.

The Volunteer Ed O'Brien Republican Flute Band from Wexford commemorates a member of the IRA who died 'on active service' on 18 February 1996.  He was killed after a bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely on a London bus.  Two other passengers and the driver of the bus were also injured and when police searched O'Brien's home they found 15 kg of semtex.  The inquest into his death heard that O'Brien was probably responsible for planting a similar bomb in a London telephone box on 15 February but it was deactivated by the police.  These explosions came just days after the London docklands bombing (Canary Wharf bombing) on 9 February, in which 2 people were killed

The Volunteer Billy Reid Republican Flute Band was named after Billy Reid from the New Lodge area of North Belfast.  He was killed on 15 May 1971 during a gun-fight with soldiers.  According to local sources he was the IRA who shot Robert Curtis, the first soldier to be killed by the IRA in the Troubles.  The band was formed in Scotland 1978 but has now been renamed the Parkhead Republican Flute Band because of disagreement with Sinn Fein and mainstream Irish republicanism.  Apparently the family of Billy Reid still back mainstream republicanism.

The Volunteer Patricia Black Memorial Flute Band was formed in the Garngad area of Glasgow in 2010, with the approval of members of Patricia Black's family.  According to a report on the Newry Republican blog, it is 'politically aligned to Eirigi, the Irish republican socialist political party'. 

The report also contained this observation: 'At a time when republican flute bands seem to be dwindling, it's uplifting to see a new RFB on the road, it's also a welcome development for Eirigi who are growing from strength to strength.'

It has also been referred to as the Volunteers Patricia Black and Frankie Ryan Memorial Flute Band - Black and Ryan were Provisional IRA volunteers who were killed on 15 November 1991 when a bomb they were handling exploded prematurely.  The two terrorists were killed by their own bomb.

The practice of incorporating the word Volunteer in the name of republican flute bands seems to be restricted to Scotland and the Irish Republic but such bands do come across to Northern Ireland and should be subject to the same rules as other bands, that they should not carry or wear anything that associates them with proscribed or terrorist organisations.  This is an issue that the Parades Commission has ignored for far too long.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Volunteer Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band

The Volunteer Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band is named after a member of the Provisional IRA.  Just in case there is any doubt about it the band include the word 'volunteer' in their name.
So who was Sean McIlvenna (1951-1984)?  He was born in the Docks area of North Belfast and grew up in Fortwilliam Park before settling on the Antrim Road.  After marrying Pat Burns he moved across the border to Dundalk and the couple had seven children.
He was killed on 17 December 1984 during a gun battle with the RUC in county Armagh.  McIlvenna was part of an IRA unit that had undertaken a landmine attack on a UDR patrol vehicle, with the intention of murdering the soldiers in it.
Today he is commemorated by the Vol Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band and the Sean McIlvenna Celtic supporters Club in Dundalk. 
As regards the band you can get a flavour of their activities on two Facebook pages.  The band's own page is entitled VSM - RFB
There is also a page for the 'Vol Sean McIlvenna - Female Cumann'.  It says, 'We are the first all female cumann and part of the Vol Sean McIlvenna Republican Flute Band and are based in Glasgow.  We work within Cairde Ne hEireann and are currently looking for new girls to join our cumann in 2012.'  One of their announcements (15 May 2013) is that the band has produced a new badge to raise funds and they kindly provide a picture of the badge, incorporating two rifles of the kind often used by the Provisional IRA.
This is the advertisement for their band practices and it is interesting that they are able to secure the use of a Roman Catholic secondary school for their band practices.

You can also visit the website which provides a history of the band and a picture of another badge, which incorporates a depiction of a masked IRA terrorist.  The website notes that 'the band has also enjoyed a special relationship with the close knit community of Bawnmore in North Belfast.'

Every Easter, for a number of years, the band has visited North Belfast for a Saturday parade down the Whitewell Road, past two Protestant churches and past an Orange hall, on its way to the republican memorial in Bawnmore.
This is not a parade that is solely within a nationalist community but rather it is a parade which passes places of worship and an interface.  Moreover it is a parade with which Sinn Fein has a close association.

That brings us to two questions.
1. Will Sinn Fein or the organisers of the Whitewell parade, who are clearly aligned with Sinn Fein, book Volunteer Sean McIlvenna RFB again this year for their Easter Saturday parade?  The very name of the band links it to a member of the Provisional IRA.

2. How will the PSNI and the Parades Commission respond to the parade this year?  Will they place any restrictions on the band and in particular as regards those things that associate the band with IRA terrorism and glorify IRA terrorism?

Time will tell .......

As regards the republican memorial in Bawnmore this commemorates republican activists who died in the Troubles and especially three IRA men who died on 7 April 1972.  They were preparing a bomb in a garage in Bawnmore Grove when the bomb exploded prematurely and they were killed instantly.  The three IRA men were John (Jackie) McErlean, Samuel Hughes and Charles McCrystal and the memorial was built in 2004.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Irish - 'a bullet in the freedom struggle' (3)

Belfast Media Group

In a recent post I exposed the claims put forward by the columnist Squinter in the North Belfast News (8 February) about the origin of the notorious phrase that 'every word spoken in Irish is another bullet in the freedom struggle'.  Squinter claimed that it was invented by someone in Thiepval barracks, a reference to the British Army, presumably as some sort of black propaganda.

However I was able to point out that in fact one of the first examples of the phrase, if not the first, was in a Sinn Fein publication, produced back in 1982, more than thirty years ago, at the point where Sinn Fein took to using the Irish language as a weapon in its cultural war.  It was an official Sinn Fein publication, reporting the proceedings of a Sinn Fein seminar and with an introduction by a young Sinn Fein cultural officer, now Belfast lord mayor, Mairtin O'Muilleoir.

The Belfast Telegraph reprinted my post as a platform piece in the newspaper and it was amusing to see that not a single nationalist or republican came back to rebut what I had reported.  Of course they couldn't rebut it or refute it because it was simply the truth.  Instead they kept their heads down and hoped it would soon be forgotten.  However the information is now accessible on the internet, rather than buried in the Sinn Fein archive or the shelves of a reference library.

Squinter logo
I thought that the North Belfast News might have had the honesty to print a correction in the next issue on 15  February but no.  Squinter got two pages in the paper but there was no mention of the matter and no correction. Clearly Squinter prefers to stick to the traditional republican line of 'blame the Brits' and ignore the fact that it was Sinn Fein strategists and propagandists who concocted and disseminated that ugly phrase and the equally nasty strategy behind it.

I wondered if it was pressure of space that prevented Squinter owning up and perhaps there might be something the next issue of the North Belfast News.  However that issue appeared tonight and there is no correction, no retraction and no apology.
Of course, if Gerry Adams can't remember being in the IRA, then perhaps Sinn Fein have really forgotten that they launched a cultural war with the Irish language as their main weapon!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Sinn Fein and their Nazi collaborator

McElduff & McGuinness hold the print of McGarrity
I must confess that I am not a regular reader of the various Sinn Fein constituency websites and it was purely by accident that I came across a post on the West Tyrone Sinn Fein website from 17 September 2010.

The report concerns the Sinn Fein cumann (branch) for the Carrickmore and Creggan area of Tyrone and its efforts to raise awareness of an Irish republican named Joseph McGarrity, who was born in Carrickmore.
According to the report: 'The Frank Ward Sinn Fein cumann which serves the Carrickmore and Creggan area has decided to add the name of Joe McGarrity formally to its title in recognition of his historical contribution.'
Then secondly the branch produced 110 framed prints of McGarrity and these were on sale at £40 each.
Sinn Fein also organised a talk on McGarrity, which was given in Carrickmore by a local historian, Damien Woods.  He had already given a talk on McGarrity earlier in the year at the local St Colmcille's GAA Club.
The article recommended a book entitled The McGarrity Papers, by Sean Cronin, which 'tells much about the life of Joe McGarrity (born in 1874) and his central role in pursuing the cause of Irish republicanism in the United States of America'
The picture above shows Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff handing one of the prints over to Martin McGuiness and indeed McElduff seems to be at the heart of this initiative for the commemoration and indeed glorification of Joe McGarrity.
Joseph McGarrity collaborated with the Nazis
Yes McGarrity was a central figure in Irish republicanism for many years.  He was born in Carrickmore in 1874 and emigrated from Tyrone to America in 1892 at the age of 18.  McGarrity settled in Philadelphia and the following year he joined Clan na Gael, the American sister organisation to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  Clan na Gael provided support to the IRB in pursuing violent action to advance the republican cause of Irish separatism and independence.
For example Clan na Gael devised the Fenian dynamite campaign (1881-1885) when republican bombers attacked targets in Great Britain - a strategy that the IRA and then the Provisional IRA and Official IRA were to take up in later years.  Clan na Gael provided the IRB with money, arms and ideas.
However by the time McGarrity arrived in Philadelphia in 1892 republicanism was in poor shape.  In America Clan na Gael was stagnant and back in Ireland the IRB was moribund.
McGarrity certainly breathed life into Clan na Gael and remained the leading figure in the organisation and an unrepentant physical force republican for the rest of his days. 

He helped to finance the 1916 Easter Rising and later he continued to supply arms and ammunition to Irish republicans during the Irish War of Independence.  McGarrity is also remembered especially for his role before and during the Second World War.  In 1939 McGarrity worked with IRA leader Sean Russell in implementing the S Plan, a terrorist bombing campaign in Great Britain.  For McGarrity, Britain's difficulty was always Ireland's opportunity.
Hermann Goring
McGarrity also collaborated directly with the Nazis and sought their support for the IRA.  Indeed he was the initial link between Irish republicanism and the Nazis.  He met Nazi agents in America and travelled to Berlin, where he met the senior Nazi Hermann Goring.

This led on to Plan Kathleen, a plan for a German invasion of Northern Ireland, which would be supported by the IRA.  The plan came to nothing because the Nazis recognised that the IRA was a small, weak and incompetent organisation.  Nevertheless the IRA chief of staff at that time, Sean Russell, was another collaborator and so the IRA in Ireland and Clan na Gael in America were both controlled by men who were happy to collaborate with the Nazis.
While Ulstermen and Irishmen, Protestant and Roman Catholic, were fighting the Nazi war machine on the battlefields of Europe, Joe McGarrity and Sean Russell were happy to work with the Nazis and seek their support.
The way in which Sinn Fein has celebrated Sean Russell has been the cause of much criticism, because of his cooperation with the Nazis, but so far the parallel glorification of McGarrity has gone under the radar. 

However the decision by Sinn Fein in Carrickmore to name their cumann after a Nazi collaborator is now on the radar. 
The report on the Sinn Fein website ended by stating that 'The Frank Ward/Joe McGarrity Sinn Fein cumann has also pledged to undertake a commemorative project in the near future based on the historical contribution of another famous Carrickmore Republican, Dr Patrick McCartan' but that is a subject for another day.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Leo Green resigns from post in Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein know how to put on a polished conference but behind that polished fa├žade Sinn Fein is a party in disarray.
They don't know what to do about issues such as welfare reform and education reform and there is clearly a lot of bitterness and struggle within the ranks of the organisation.
Ken Reid has just tweeted that Leo Green is not at the conference because he has resigned from the party.

Green was a very senior republican who belonged to a thoroughly republican family. 

He was convicted for the murder of a police officer and according to the West Belfast Sinn Fein website:
Lurgan man Leo Green went without food for 53 days during the 1980 hunger strike.  He is currently working as part of Sinn Fein's Assembly support team at Stormont.  Leo was arrested in 1977 and sentenced to life imprisonment.  He spent over 17 years in prison.
Three of his brothers spent time in prison, two in the North and the other in the 26 counties.  One of them John Francis, was interned, escaped in 1973 and was later assassinated by loyalists working in collusion with the SAS in a farmhouse just across the border in Co Monaghan.
The escape of John Francis Green in 1973 was noteworthy in that he managed to escape by exchanging clothes with his brother Fr Gerard Green, a Roman Catholic priest, who had come to visit him.

But back to Leo Green himself.

Leo Green was at the very heart of the republican movement but has now resigned from the party.  Was his resignation due to a personal dispute or an issue of policy or is it part of a wider unrest in the ranks of republicanism?
Now that I think about it I haven't seen him in the corridors at Stormont for the past few weeks and indeed the more that I think about it he is not the only Sinn Fein advisor who has been noticeable by his absence.  So clearly all is not well in the world of Sinn Fein. 
Well done to Ken Reid for highlighting the departure of Leo Green.

Perhaps journalists will now question Sinn Fein and Leo Green himself about his departure and the reasons for it.  We could expect that Monday's newspapers will carry extensive coverage of the resignation of such a senior party member but full scrutiny and analysis but then that may be too much to expect.  You can well imagine the coverage there would be if a senior party member resigned from the DUP and indeed we have seen the coverage when significant figures have left other parties.  Even a minor difference within another party can merit a full page or more in a tabloid newspaper.  So how much coverage will the resignation of Leo Green receive?

Earlier this week Sinn Fein moved quickly to remove from their websites a number of articles about Sinn Fein Councillor Catherine Seeley - I wonder how long the interview with Leo Green, from which I quoted, will stay on their website.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Irish - 'a bullet in the freedom struggle' (2)

Squinter devoted his entire column in the North Belfast News (8 February) to the Irish language and some recent comments about the language.

In it he said:
The most common argument among those who oppose the learning of the Irish language is that it has been politicised by republicans.  And to back up that argument they threw about with gay abandon a line that vividly backs up their thesis: 'Every word of Irish spoken is another bullet fired in the struggle for Irish freedom.'  It's hard to imagine a turn of phrase more likely to send you average Prod into paroxysms of fear and anger.  But wait a minute.  Just who was it that said these dread words?  When were they said?  Where?  Why?  The truth is that nobody knows.  The line just seemed to appear from nowhere ... The line - colourful and inflammatory at the same time - has all the hallmarks of the Thiepval barracks Christmas press party , when blokes in green jumpers would feed sloshed journos with the most outrageous propaganda which would find its way unchecked on to the page and on to the airwaves and thus into the public discourse.
So Squinter claims that 'no one knows' who used 'these dread words' or when or why.  Then secondly Squinter suggests that the sentence was concocted by the British Army in Thiepval barracks - blame it on the Brits!

I find that disappointing because, although some Sinn Fein MLAs do read my blog, clearly Squinter didn't bother.  If he had read a post from Wednesday he would have the answers to his questions.  It was not invented by the British Army but was used at a Sinn Fein cultural seminar back in 1982 and then published later that year in a Sinn Fein booklet.

Once again Sinn Fein are trying to rewrite history.  In those days back in 1982, when the Provisional IRA were bombing and murdering in a wholesale campaign of terrorism, Sinn Fein found it perfectly acceptable to say that every word of Irish was like a round for an armalite rifle.  But now, when they are trying to become more mainstream they want to distance themselves from such 'colourful and inflammatory' rhetoric.  Unfortunately they put in in print back in 1982!  This was not some British Army invention but an example of the crude and inflammatory nature of Sinn Fein's cultural war, in which the Irish language was their primary weapon.  

Someone might suggest that the Andersonstown News has forgotten about the 1982 Sinn Fein booklet but that doesn't really stand up as an excuse since Mairtin O'Meuilleoir, who has had a long standing association with the Andersonstown News, wrote the forward to the booklet that contained the phrase.  Perhaps he or one of the Sinn Fein MLAs who read this blog will take the opportunity over the weekend to pass the word on to Squinter!  However I won't be holding my breath on that one.

Towards the end of his column Squinter also wrote:
In other words, and to use a fine Ulster-Scots phrase that surely George would approve of, it's all a lot of ballix.'
Well Squinter, it doesn't seem like Ulster-Scots to me so here is a genuine Ulster-Scots phrase for 'the numpty wha scrieves the airticle' - 'ye wudnae hae a gleed o wut, wud ye!'

So if anyone wants to see the full background to this inflammatory phrase and its roots in Sinn Fein, they have only to look back to my post from Wednesday.

North Belfast housing need (2)

During oral questions in the Assembly on Monday I responded to a recent statement by Dolores Kelly (SDLP) about housing need in the North Belfast constituency.

Nigel Dodds also issued a press statement with a detailed breakdown of the waiting list for social housing in North Belfast, figures which had been obtained from the Housing Executive.

In both cases we rejected and refuted the myth about waiting lists which has been manufactured by nationalists and republicans.

Now the North Belfast News, a sister paper of the Andersonstown News, has devoted much of page 6 to the subject.  One article carries a lengthy statement from Sinn Fein's Caral Ni Chuilin in which she asks for more 'evidence' but nevertheless goes on to say, 'These attempts by the DUP to gerrymander the housing figures in North Belfast and claim a majority of people in need are Unionist, beggar belief.'

In fact we did not manufacture or massage any figures, we merely used the figures provided by the Housing Executive". Moreover. We actually said that the waiting list and the stress list for both communities was roughly the same.

The newspaper then included some material from a recent post on this blog, which explained how nationalists and republicans had manufactured their myth that the overwhelming need is among Roman Catholics.

In the article Ms Ni Chuilin's stance was supported by Practice and Participation of Rights (PPR), which is supposed to offer help to both unionists and nationalists but which has actually lobbied against the interests of some of the most marginalised and neglected unionist communities.

The fact is that in relation to the North Belfast waiting list, SDLP and Sinn Fein politicians and their allies have been completely exposed by the DUP and they don't know what to do.  Hence Sinn Fein has issued a statement which is big on bluff and bluster and short on facts!

It is absolutely essential that the truth is repeated again and again until nationalist and republican propagandists are forced to face up to the truth and abandon their manufactured myth about the housing need being overwhelmingly nationalist.  The need in the two communities in North Belfast is roughly the same.

For years Sinn Fein have talked about waiting lists in the North Belfast constituency and about the numbers who are in housing stress.  Now the whole basis of their propaganda has been swept away and exposed for the sham that it really is.

There is a need for social housing among both unionists and nationalists and that need should be addressed, along with the need elsewhere in Northern Ireland, but there has been no discrimination against nationalists and if anything the discrimination has been against unionists.  Thankfully those days are over. 

Diane Dodds - 'Dublin armed the IRA'

The following article appeared in the NewsLetter yesterday (6 February):

Dublin armed IRA, says MEP

A Northern Ireland MEP has told a European Parliament discussion on the arms trade that the Irish state armed the IRA.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds was speaking the day after her party leader Peter Robinson called on the Irish government to face up to its “hidden history” in what the DUP said was “founding and arming the Provisional IRA”.
Mrs Dodds was responding to the Arms Trade Treaty voted upon by the European Parliament yesterday, which seeks to regulate the trade in weapons.
In her official statement she said: “Mr President, it is right that this Parliament is today debating the proposed Arms Trade Treaty, which has as part of its scope the aim of eradicating illicit trade in weapons. However, for many living in my own constituency, Northern Ireland, this discussion and this treaty will serve to remind innocent victims of the role played by the Irish government in founding and arming terrorists of the Provisional IRA.
“The First Minister of Northern Ireland recently called on the Irish government to face up to its “hidden history”.
“I repeat that call and it is time that government opened files relating to the arms trial of 1970 for public scrutiny.” Dublin wished “to draw a blind” over certain issues, she added.

It is right that when the EU is discussing the arms trade, an Ulster MEP should remind the nations of Europe that one of their member states, the Irish Republic, had a central role in forming and arming the most violent terrorist organisation to emerge in Europe in the past fifty years, the Provisional IRA.

The Irish Republic and especially Fianna Fail must be confronted with that truth, again and again, until they acknowledge that fact, apologise for what they did and open up the files that relate to the birth and the arming of the Provisional IRA.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Irish - 'a bullet in the freedom struggle'

I have a particular interest in minority or lesser-used languages and regard them as part of the cultural wealth of a people.  However here in Ulster the Irish republican movement has, for more than a century, used the Irish language as a cultural weapon.
In the current post I want to show when and how the Provisional republican movement came to that position of turning a cultural wealth into a cultural weapon.
In 1982, in the wake of the IRA hunger strikes, Sinn Fein formed a cultural department to promote the use of the Irish language.  In the years that followed it was very active in promoting the language for political ends and it became part of the Sinn Fein strategy of 'broadening the battlefield'.  This was a strategy which regards republican activity in the political, cultural and social fields as complementing the 'armed struggle' of the Provisional IRA.
As part of its programme Sinn Fein organised a 'Public Seminar for People Learning or Planning to Learn the Irish Language' and it was held in Conway Mill on the Falls Road on Saturday 26 May 1982.  The first speaker was Padraig O'Maoicraoibhe, a Sinn Fein cultural officer and a teacher in Belfast (later Cathaorieach of Scoil Ghaelach Bheal Feirste).  He told those who were present at the seminar:
I don't think we can exist as a separate people without our language.  Now every phrase you learn is a bullet in the freedom struggle.
Padraig O'Maoicraoibhe also said that the restoration of the Irish language was part of the process of the decolonisation of Ireland.
The process of decolonisation will have stopped half-way if, the day we succeed in driving the English from our shores, what is left behind is an Irish people possessed of the language, culture and values of the English.
Here he linked the learning of the Irish language to the campaign to 'drive out the Brits'.
The second speaker was Gearoid O'Caireallain, later editor of the Irish language newspaper La.
These speeches were followed by four workshops on Irish and the National Struggle, Why Learn Irish?, Irish and the Community and Difficulties with Learning Irish.
At the workshop on Irish and the National Struggle:
Everyone was agreed that there was a definite link between the National Struggle and the Cultural Revival.
Indeed the chairperson of that workshop, Sinn Fein activist Tarlach MacIonractaigh, joined together IRA terrorism and the Irish language when he said that:
The armed struggle is the highest point of the cultural revival.
Afterwards and in order to give the content of the seminar some permanence, Sinn Fein produced a bilingual booklet entitled Learning Irish - a discussion and
information booklet.  It had an introduction by another Sinn Fein cultural officer Mairtin O'Muilleoir, the speech by Padraig O'Maoicraoibhe, including the quotes given above, and reports on the workshop discussions.
The author of the introduction, Mairtin O'Muilleoir has gone on to greater things.  He was a Belfast councillor, went off to head up the Belfast Media Group and the Andersonstown News, and has now returned to Belfast City Council, serving one term as lord mayor.  Thirty years have elapsed but he was a central figure in the birth of Sinn Fein's cultural war and provided the introduction for the booklet which helped to launch that cultural war.
The author Camille O'Reilly makes reference to a variant of the notorious 'bullet' statement in her book The Irish Language in Northern Ireland, which was published by the Ultach Trust in 1997.  There she reports a prominent member of Sinn Fein, who was also an Irish language activist, as saying that:
Every word of Irish spoken is like another bullet being fired in the struggle for Irish freedom.
The inclusion of the 'bullet' phrase in the booklet and the reference in O'Reilly suggests that the phrase was fairly widely used at that time by republican Irish speakers.
Earlier this week I heard a presenter on Radio Ulster question a unionist politician who had quoted the phrase about 'a bullet in the freedom struggle'.  He asked the politician who had said it.  Well here is the answer about the origins of the phrase and if anyone wants to check it out, the little Sinn Fein booklet is long out of print but there are still copies of it in various libraries and collections.
There has been a lot of comment on the Irish language in the media in recent times, some of it well-informed and some of it ill informed.  This is just the first of a number of posts on various aspects of the Irish language and I hope that readers will find them to be informative.

Monday, 3 February 2014

North Belfast housing need

On Saturday 1 February the North Belfast Civil Rights Association marched from the Antrim Road down through the New Lodge area down to the University of Ulster building in York Street.
There is a report on the Ardoyne Republican blog, which is associated with Martin Og Meehan and the Republican Network for Unity, and there is also a youtube film of the event.  The film lasts 17 minutes and is of very poor quality but it is worth watching if you want to get a sense of the NBCRA event.
The NBCRA is a front for some of the smaller republican groups in North Belfast and is chaired by Paul Little of the Irish Republican Socialist Party.  It is also supported by the Republican Network for Unity and the Sean MacDiarmada 1916 Society.
Although the organisers notified that there would be five bands, it was a small ramshackle parade with just two bands.  One of these was the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band, which is aligned with the RNU.  The other band was impossible to identify.
The organisers had estimated that there would be 500 participants but by the time they reached York Street the bands had disappeared and the group that remained for the speeches appeared to number around fifty or sixty.
The two main speakers were the two 'dissident' republican candidates in the Oldpark area in the forthcoming council elections in May - Sammy Cusick of the RNU and Dee Fennell, who is to stand as an Independent Republican.
Their speeches complained of discrimination and the main slogan was 'One family, one house'.  Cusick read his speech, poorly, and Fennell is clearly the more articulate of the two.  He attacked Sinn Fein and other politicians as well as myself, claiming discrimination in housing and leisure provision, and denouncing welfare reform.
This was simply part of the election campaign for the two republican candidates but must have been something of a disappointment.  They will certainly be hoping for more voters than there were marchers.
The truth is that there is no discrimination against Roman Catholics in housing in North Belfast - the number of Protestants on the waiting list is roughly the same as the number of Roman Catholics - but the myth of discrimination is so deeply embedded in the nationalist and republican narrative that it will take some time for the truth to prevail.

According to figures obtained from the Housing Executive the waiting list for the North Belfast constituency in September 2013 was 5304 with 2059 people self-designated as Protestants and 1986 designating as Roman Catholics.  There were also 28 people registered as mixed, 140 as no religion, 239 as other, 9 refused to answer and a further 917 were unknown.  So of those who designated as Protestant or Roman Catholic, 51% were Protestant and 49% were Roman Catholic.

This is very different from the nationalist and republican myth of a constituency where the waiting list is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and nationalist!  The number of Protestants waiting for houses is roughly the same as the number of Roman Catholics and the when it comes to considering the number in housing stress (over 30 points) the numbers are again roughly the same - 48% Protestant and 52% Roman Catholic.

So how did these nationalists and republicans manage to manufacture their myth about housing need?

The North Belfast constituency is served by four Housing Executive offices - Shankill, North Belfast, Newtownabbey 1 and Newtownabbey 2.  They simply took the figures for the North Belfast office, which includes large nationalist areas such as Ardoyne, New Lodge and Ligoniel, and presented them as being for the whole North Belfast constituency.  They ignored other areas such as Woodvale, Mid-Shankill, Rathcoole, Rushpark and Queen's Park, where the need is overwhelmingly Protestant.  They manufactured their figures by ignoring many Protestant communities and then peddled their myth about housing need.

Well at last the truth has been established and the myth has been exposed.