Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Glengormley housing scandal

The real story of social housing in the North Belfast constituency is gradually emerging and on Tuesday Paula Bradley MLA asked an important question during Oral Questions in the Assembly. 
She asked me about housing need in the Glengormley area of North Belfast.  Here is the answer I gave to her question:
In March 2014 there were 233 applications on the waiting list for  Glengormley of which 156 were deemed to be in housing stress.  In the 12 months to March 2014 there were 37 social housing allocations.
There have been no new social housing schemes built in the Glengormley area since 1999.
There is a combined projected social housing need of 116 units identified for Glengormley for the period 2013-2018.  This can be broken down as: Glenvarna 74 units, Queen's Park 30 units and Hightown 12 units.
Over the past fifteen years not one single social house has been completed in the Glengormley area, in spite of the fact that there is a significant housing need and in spite of the fact that there has been a significant housing need! 
However, on further investigation it now seems that the past record of the Housing Executive is even worse than that.   The housing that was completed in 1999 was for 20 units of supported housing accommodation for residents with mental health problems.  This was specialist accommodation and residents for such accommodation come from a wide area.  These units were not built to meet local need in areas such as Queen's Park and Glenvarna.

So we have to go back beyond 1999 and ask when the last general needs social housing was built in Glengormley. 

I got the answer to that question yesterday and the answer is 1972 to 1974, when Glenvarna was built. 

Since the completion of Glenvarna in 1974, not one general needs social house has been built at Glengormley!  That is forty years ago and so in spite of a significant general housing need at Glengormley the Housing Executive has not completed a single house in the past forty years! 

Of course it could be argued that there was no land available but in fact there has been land available.  Over the past four years many private housing schemes and commercial developments have taken place in Glengormley.  There was land available for them so clearly that excuse does not stand up to scrutiny.

Not one new family home in forty years.  Is it any wonder that a DUP representative described the system as 'broken'?

I welcome the fact that Clanmil are now building 21 units at 369-371 Antrim Road but this is designed as accommodation for residents over 55.  Even now, in spite of the identified need for 116 units, there are no new family homes being built in the Glengormley area!

This is a situation that requires immediate and resolute action by the Housing Executive and that is what the North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds has demanded.  It is time to address the failure of the past forty years and that must be done without delay.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mossley - is this an Irish name?

Mossley Mill
The village of Mossley, in Newtownabbey, is dominated by the old mill, which now accommodates the offices of Newtownabbey Borough Council.  I have a certain affection for the place because my grandfather worked in the mill, his family lived in Mossley, some of my aunts and uncles worked in the mill and my father was born and grew up in Mossley.
Recently I was looking at the Wikipedia page for Newtownabbey and came across the following statement about the origin of the name Mossley.
The following housing estates have Irish-derived names ... Mossley (likely from Maslai).
In fact the name probably arose from the town of Mossley in Lancashire and a family named Grimshaw.  Nicholas Grimshaw was born in Lancashire in 1734 and there he learned about the cotton industry.  He came across to Ulster and in 1776 he advertised in the Belfast Newsletter, promoting new techniques for linen, cotton and calico printing at Greencastle, three miles north of Belfast.  By 1800 he was one of the most important men in the cotton industry
On his death in 1805 his sons Thomas and Edmund carried on his well-established business at Whitehouse.  They also took over other mills in the area and Mossley was one of them.  Edmund continued the printing business until 1834 when it became more lucrative to convert to flax spinning.
As confirmation of the real origin of the name I refer to A Dictionary of Ulster Place-Names by Dr Patrick McKay:
The name Mossley has been imported from England where it is found as the name of a town south-east of Oldham in Lancashire.  The name means 'clearing by mossy land', from OE mos 'peat-bog' + OE leah 'clearing'. 
The earliest record of the name in reference to the village in Ulster is in 1839.
Two things strike me about this and one is of course the unreliability of Wikipedia.  It is useful but needs to be treated with caution.  The second thing is that there is a tendency on the part of some Irish cultural enthusiasts to claim everything as Irish and try to find an Irish origin or association for everything, even when it isn't there.  This is another example of that tendency.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Dissident republican groups

The world of dissident republicanism is a complex world and I have written this post to provide a short description of most of the dissident republican political groups.

The term 'dissident republican' is not a new one but was coined in the mid-1970s when the Official IRA was engaged in a shooting war with the fledgling INLA.

Republican Sinn Fein emerged in 1986 after a split in Sinn Fein but it sees itself as the true Sinn Fein, maintaining an 'unbroken continuity' with past.  According to its national website:

Republican SINN FEIN Poblachtach was founded in 1905.  In 1969 following the reformist/revolutionary split Sinn Fein reorganised as Provisional Sinn Fein upholding the Sinn Fein constitution.  In 1986 Provisional Sinn Fein under a misguided leadership decided to take their seats in a British  imposed parliament, namely the 26-County Parliament Leinster House.  The movement split.  Sinn Fein reformed again out of the walkout of the 86 Ard-Fheis led by the true Republican leadership, who saw the failure of the new Provisional leadership's decision to enter into a partitionist assembly.  This as predicted led to a greater erosion of Republican principles, to the acceptance of entering a new Stormont and an acceptance of British Partition.  Republican Sinn Fein uphold the right of the Irish people to oppose continued British occupation in Ireland.
RSF is regarded as the political wing of the Continuity IRA although this is denied by RSF.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement was founded on 7 December 1997 at a meeting in Finglas in Dublin.  Most of the founder members had been members of Sinn Fein and some had been expelled from the party.  Bernadette Sands McKevitt, a sister of Bobby Sands and wife of Michael McKevitt, was a prominent member of the group. 

Michael McKevitt was a founding member of the Real IRA and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is often referred to as the political wing of the Real IRA, the organisation that carried out the Omagh bombing in 1998.  In 2003 Michael McKevitt was sentenced in the Irish Republic to twenty years in prison on two terrorist charges, 'membership of an illegal organisation', the Real IRA, and 'directing terrorism'.

Councillor Gary Donnelly
Gary Donnelly, a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement was elected on the first county to the new Derry and Strabane Council.  He topped the poll in the Bogside and Creggan area of Londonderry.

Another prominent member of the organisation, Marian Price, was jailed in the 1970s for the Provisional IRA bombing of the Old Bailey in London.  Later she turned against Sinn Fein and has been a strong critic of Adams and McGuinness.  Earlier this year she admitted participating in a Real IRA Easter commemoration in April 2011, during which she was pictured holding a statement which was read by a masked man in a Londonderry cemetery.  At the time of her arrest she was secretary of the 32 CSM.  She also admitted a charge of buying a mobile phone used by the Real IRA to claim responsibility for the murder of two soldiers in Antrim in March 2009.
Eirigi was formed in Dublin in April 2006 as a campaigns group and the name means 'arise'.  At its first ard fheis in May 2007 it voted to become a political party and today it claims to have branches in counties Antrim, Armagh, Cork, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Sligo, Tyrone and Wicklow.

The chairman of the party is Brian Leeson (Dublin) and the vice-chairman is Rab Jackson (Belfast).  The general secretary is Brendan McKenna (Breandan MacCionnaith), who was the leader of republican opposition to the Orange parade from Drumcree parish church.

At the 2014 election to Belfast City Council Eirigi fielded two candidates Maire Drumm and Padraic MacCoitir but both were unsuccessful.

The party is not believed to have a paramilitary wing but in November 2012 Ursula Ni Shionnain, a prominent member of Eirigi, was arrested in County Offaly and remanded in custody for possession of two handguns and ammunition.
The Republican Network for Unity (RNU) was formed in 2007 after Sinn Fein voted to support the PSNI.  It was originally named the Ex-POWs and Concerned Republicans Against RUC/PSNI & MI5 but later changed its name to Republican Network for Unity.

Some commentators view the RNU as the political wing of Oglaigh na hEireann, a splinter from the Real IRA, although this has been rejected by the RNU. 

In 2011 Carl Reilly, the RNU chairperson, gave an ambiguous denial that the RNU is the  political wing of the RNU.  He said, 'We don't speak for or explain the actions of Oglaigh na hEireann.  That is a matter for that organisation.'  However at its 2011 ard fheis the RNU voted to send 'comradely greetings' to the ONH.  It also 'asserted the right of Irishmen and women to use disciplined resistance to defend the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916.'
The RNU fielded two candidates in the recent local government elections, Sammy Cusick in Oldpark and Tommy Doherty in Court, which now includes Lower Falls, but neither was elected.

Martin Og Meehan, son of the late Martin Meehan, is a prominent figure in RNU.  He is also the author of the Ardoyne Republican blog.
The 1916 Societies are an Irish Separatist Movement and believe that the Irish Republic should be a Sovereign Independent State.  According to their website they 'believe that a party political strategy will not unite Ireland.  They have no intention of engaging in an electoral strategy to partitionist institutions.'  'Individual members may favour or indeed be involved with political organisations but the 1916 societies as a collective body will remain independent.'

Each society is named after a major republican leader and that in Ardoyne is named after Sean MacDermott (Sean MacDiarmada), one of the seven leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. 

Dee Fennell speaking at a Sean MacDiarmada Republican Society event
The 1916 Societies website has a photograph of Dee Fennell speaking at a Sean MacDiarmada Republican Society event.  Fennell is of course a spokesman for the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) and was an independent candidate in the Oldpark DEA in the recent local government elections.

The 1916 society in Carrickmore is named after Joseph McGarrity, an Irish-American republican who collaborated with the Nazis and initiated the IRA collaboration with the Nazis.  For much of his life he was the leading Irish-American supporter of the IRA.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party has a somewhat different origin in that it was a breakaway from the Official IRA rather than the Provisional IRA.  The IRSP was formed on 8 December 1974 by former members of the Official Republican Movement, independent socialists and trade unionists.  A paramilitary wing, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was founded on the same day, although its existence was kept secret for some time.  Seamus Costello was elected as the party's first chairperson and the first chief of staff of the INLA.  He had been expelled from the Official IRA following a court-martial and also from Official Sinn Fein.

The politics of the IRSP are far-left republican socialism and have been variously described as Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist.

Three members of the INLA died in the 1981 hunger strike - Patsy O'Hara, Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine and in the same year party members Gerry Kelly and Sean Flynn won seats on Belfast City Council in a joint campaign with the People's Democracy but neither councillor served a full term.  One went on the run after being implicated during the supergrass trials and the other resigned after becoming disillusioned with the IRSP.

The headquarters of the IRSP is Costello House on the Falls Road in West Belfast but it has no elected representatives.  It fielded candidates in the 2011 local government elections in Northern Ireland, its first foray into electoral politics in almost thirty years, but none of them secured a seat, although a candidate in Strabane missed out by just one vote.  In Oldpark DEA in North Belfast the candidate was Paul Little.

The INLA declared a ceasefire on 22 August 1998 and the following year it stated that 'there is no political or moral argument to justify a resumption of the campaign.'  In October 2009 the INLA began decommissioning its weapons.



Saturday, 14 June 2014

Seamus McLoughlin - IRA terrorist (2)

Yesterday several reports named Oglaigh na hEireann as the terrorist organisation responsible for staging the paramilitary display at the wake of Seamus McLaughlin in Ardoyne.  The incident involved two masked and uniformed gunmen firing shots over the coffin in the front garden of a house in Butler Place.
Today the Irish News (14 June), which gives the surname as McLaughlin, carries an update on the story and provides some background on the organisation involved:
The paramilitary group calling itself the 'IRA' has said it fired shots over the coffin of a veteran republican in north Belfast this week.  The 'IRA' claimed the 76-year-old was a member of the organisation and had given 'full approval' for the paramilitary display.
The organisation announced its formation in 2012 after a merger between the  Real IRA, Direct Action Against Drugs and independent republicans in mid Ulster.
It is understood a volley of shots was also fired in his memory in Dublin.
Mr McLaughlin died in Dublin on Sunday and his remains were returned to north Belfast earlier this week.  He was buried on Thursday after Requiem Mass at Holy Cross church in Ardoyne.
It is believed the veteran republican had been living in the Republic where he had been on the run for four decades.  He had previously been linked to the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings which killed 21 people.
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said they were investigating the shots.  Earlier reports had claimed they were fired by Oglaigh na hEireann.
I may be wrong and if so I am happy to be corrected but so far there has been no condemnation of the paramilitary display from Sinn Fein or from any of the dissident republican spokesmen, including those linked to GARC and those who stood in the recent council elections, Dee Fennell and Sammy Cusick.  Their silence has been deafening.
Belfast's new lord mayor Nichola Mallon represents the area, as does Alban Maginness MLA, but there is no statement of condemnation on the SDLP website.
The funeral mass for Seamus McLoughlin was conducted in Holy Cross church but there has also been silence from the local parish priest, even though the incident took place a short distance from Holy Cross.
Why have the media not demanded responses from republican politicians and spokesmen, both mainstream and dissident, and indeed from the broader nationalist community?  The failure of the media to do so says a lot about the media.  Oh well, perhaps we'll get a full hour on the Nolan Show on Monday ... or perhaps not.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Seamus McLoughlin, IRA terrorist

The appearance on the internet of a photograph of terrorist funeral in Ardoyne has attracted considerable comment.  The photograph of the tricolour draped coffin, the black beret and black gloves and the masked republican gunmen is a stark reminder of the days when the Provisional IRA staged such funerals.  It is also a stark reminder, if such were needed, that extremist republican terrorists are still active in Ardoyne.
The coffin was that of Seamus McLoughlin and the incident took place on Wednesday evening at the home of his daughter Hilda in Butler Place.  The following day it was claimed that shots had been fired by members of Oglaigh na hEireann.  The funeral mass took place on the Thursday morning at 10.00 am.
According to newspaper reports McLoughlin was 'a native of Ardoyne' and as a member of the Provisional IRA he took part in terrorist attacks on British soldiers.
In 1974 he was living in Birmingham and was a senior officer in the Provisional IRA.  He planned the Birmingham pub bombings in November 1974, in which the Provos murdered 21 innocent people.  Subsequently McLoughlin, who was known as 'Belfast Jimmy', went on the run.  He settled in the Irish Republic but it seems that there was never any attempt to extradite him.
Seamus McLoughlin died in Dublin earlier in the week and his body was brought north to his daughter's home in Ardoyne for burial.
It is not clear if he had a connection with any of the so-called dissident terrorist groups but clearly someone has a connection with Oglaigh na hEireann.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Dee Fennell - 'Greater Ardoyne Resident'?

Last month Dee Fennell stood as an Independent Republican in the Oldpark DEA for the recent elections to Belfast City Council.

On his nomination form he gave his address as Duneden Park, which is in Ardoyne. However two years ago, when he appeared in court as Damien Fennell, in connection with his part in a protest organised by Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, his address was given as Linden Gardens.

Now Linden Gardens lies between the Cliftonville Road and the Waterworks and it is well over a mile away from the Crumlin Road. So Damien or Dee certainly did not meet the requirements for membership of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, as he was NOT a resident of Greater Ardoyne.

I realise that Fennell likes to stretch the term Greater Ardoyne to its limits but no matter how much you stretch it residents of Linden Gardens are not residents of Greater Ardoyne. If you were to accept that proposition residents of Glencairn and Woodvale would also be residents of Greater Ardoyne!

But Dee was not a man to let a little thing like that deter him from describing himself as a resident of Greater Ardoyne, even if he wasn't, and he wasn't going to let the fact that he wasn't a resident prevent him from speaking as a 'resident'.

Of course all that has now been rectified and the GARC protestor and spokesman is now living in Duneden Park.  Well at least he won't have as far to go to be offended.

However this does illustrate something we already know, that GARC is not really about the rights of residents ... it is simply about giving verbal and violent expression to a crass sectarianism which will not tolerate Orangemen on the Crumlin Road.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sunday Sequence

I don't listen to Sunday Sequence on Radio Ulster a regular basis but I did happen to hear a discussion this week about the Human Trafficking Bill, which is making its way through the Northern Ireland Assembly.  The bill has been promoted by Lord Morrow and deals primarily with human trafficking but it would also make it illegal to purchase sex from a prostitute.  This aspect of the bill was discussed on the programme under the title 'The ethics of prostitution'.
The discussion involved the presenter, William Crawley, and three women, Laura Lee, Julie Bindel and Harriet Long.

Laura Lee is a prostitute who lives in Scotland and is from an Irish Roman Catholic background.  She is a spokesperson for the International Union of Sex Workers.  She is opposed to the bill as she believes it interferes with her business as a prostitute.

Julie Bindel is an English writer, radical feminist and co-founder of Justice for Women.  She is a lesbian and refers to herself as a political lesbian feminist.  During the programme she also described herself as a secularist.  In January 2009 she wrote about the radical lesbian feminism of the 1970s and 1980s and ended with an invitation to heterosexual women to become lesbians!  Bindel supports the Human Trafficking Bill and believes it should be illegal for a man to purchase sex from a prostitute.

Harriet Long is also English but has been living in Belfast for some years and is an advocacy officer for the Rainbow Project in Belfast, a homosexual, bisexual and transgender organisation.   She was described on the programme as being 'from a Christian background' and was formerly a youth worker with the East Belfast Methodist Mission.  On her blog she identifies herself as a feminist and says that she 'lurks around the congregation and leadership council of the East Belfast Mission'.  Harriet Long is opposed to the Human Trafficking Bill.

It was not altogether surprising that the prostitute opposed the bill and the core of the discussion was really between the gay rights activist, Harriet Long, and the radical gay feminist, Julie Bindel.

Harriet described Northern Ireland as 'religiously, socially and politically conservative' and  spoke of an 'evangelical crusade' while William Crawley spoke of a 'new Puritanism'.  However there was no one there from an evangelical perspective to respond to those comments - so much then for the BBC's commitment to balance.
Sunday Sequence has been broadcast on Radio Ulster since 1980 and was originally presented as 'religious broadcasting' but in more recent years the religious content in the programme has been greatly reduced.

Every Sunday in Ulster many thousands of evangelical Christians will worship God in their church of choice and there is a strong and vibrant evangelical community in Ulster.  However it is a community which is marginalised by Sunday Sequence.  It will home in on something controversial but otherwise it is a community which is airbrushed out of many discussions.

Oh and back to the discussion on the Human Trafficking Bill - a prostitute from Glasgow, an English radical feminist who is a lesbian and a secularist, and an advocacy worker from an organisation for homosexuals - perhaps someone in the BBC can explain how they came to select the panel.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Gerry Carroll - Belfast's Trotskyist councillor

Councillor Gerry Carroll
This is Councillor Gerry Carroll who has just been elected to the new shadow Belfast City Council to represent Blackmountain DEA in West Belfast. 

He was elected as a member of the People Before Profit Alliance, which was described by Irish News columnist Newton Emerson as 'a wholly owned subsidiary of the Socialist Workers Party'.

Most people will not be familiar with Gerry Carroll or the PBPA or indeed the Socialist Workers Party, so it may be helpful to provide some background on these organisations and their new Belfast councillor.

The People Before Profit Alliance was formed by the Socialist Workers Party in October 2005 and is active in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.  It is a far-left alliance and is dominated by the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Two PBPA candidates were elected to the Dail in the Republic's 2011 general election.  They were Richard Boyd Barrett of the SWP and Joan Collins but in April 2013 Joan Collins left the Alliance to form United Left, a political party, with former Socialist Party TD Clare Daly.  The PBPA fielded 43 local government candidates in the Republic in May 2014 and gained 14 seats.

In Northern Ireland they have not achieved the same level of success.  People Before Profit ran only one candidate, Sean Mitchell, in the 2007 Northern Ireland Assembly election.  He polled just 774 first preference votes in West Belfast and was unsuccessful.

At the next Assembly election in May 2011 they ran four candidates and won 5,438 first-preference votes but no seats.   Eamonn McCann was their candidate in Foyle, where he took 3,120 first-preference votes.

In June 2011 Gerry Carroll stood for People Before Profit in the West Belfast by-election that followed the departure of Gerry Adams and he gained 1,751 votes (7.6%).  He also stood in the 2011 Assembly election and took 1661 votes (4.8%).  Those two election campaigns provided the basis for his 2014 bid for Belfast City Council.

So much for the 'party' which is really a front for the Socialist Workers Party but what about Gerry Carroll himself.

Gerry Carroll was educated at St Mary's Christian Brothers Grammar School.  He has been a political activist for some years and he was arrested in December 2010 while taking part in a student protest against fees.  He was charged with committing a provocative act, resisting police and obstructing lawful activity in a public place and appeared in court on 5 January 2011. 

A Facebook page relating to this case described Carroll as an 'SWP member and anti-cuts campaigner'.  So then what is the SWP?

The Socialist Workers Party can be traced back to 1950 when it was founded as the Socialist Review Group by Tony Cliff (1917-2000).  This tiny group of Trotskyists adopted a strategy of 'entryism' in the Labour Party in order to reach a wider audience and recruit new members.  It became the International Socialism Group at the end of 1962 and around 1965 it abandoned the strategy of 'entryism'.  According to the group's historian Ian Birchall, the position of the International Socialists was one of 'unconditional support for the IRA in the struggle against imperialism'.  In 1977 the group was renamed the Socialist Workers Party.

Meanwhile in Ireland the Socialist Workers Movement was formed in 1971 by members of the International Socialists who were living in Ireland and who had previously been members of the People's Democracy and several other minor groups.  The SWM argued that it was the duty of revolutionary socialists to support republicans in fighting against 'British imperialism'.  They supported IRA prisoners and some of their members were active in anti-H Black committees.  The SWM also encouraged people to vote for Sinn Fein.

At its conference in 1995 the SWM was renamed the Socialist Workers Party and it argued that the Sinn Fein leaders were moving to an accommodation with imperialism.  It was time for them to strike out on their own and in 1997 the SWP began contesting elections in the Irish Republic.

On 25 February 2006 there were riots in Dublin against a planned 'Love Ulster' parade and the SWP issued a statement in which it expressed full support for the actions of the republican rioters - 'Socialists do not join in the condemnation of young working class people who riot against the police - especially given the wider context'.

In Northern Ireland from 2003 to 2008 the SWP operated as part of the Socialist Environmental Alliance, which was led by Goretti Horgan, the partner of Eamonn McCann.  However the SEA dissolved in 2008 and the SWP now operates under the banner of the People Before Profit Alliance.

Gerry Carroll was elected with the votes of a hard core of votes from Trotskyists and others on the far-left but he also got the votes of some middle-class nationalists who were disillusioned with Sinn Fein and the SDLP, particularly over issues such as Casement Park.  They were not going to vote for a dissident republican candidate but they felt able to vote for Carroll.  In time they will be able to decide whether they made a wise choice.