Saturday, 13 February 2016

Dromintee GAA and 'Strictly' Sinn Fein

The recent Sinn Fein version of 'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted a lot of attention ... and even more ridicule.  It even had its own dedicated Facebook page, which was hosted by Mickey Brady MP.  As well as hosting it he posted on it and one of his posts was about the official launch of this Sinn Fein event.

Sinn Féin Does Strictly will be officially launched tonight in Dromintee GAA Club at 7.30pm. Music, dancing and refreshments will be available so feel free to come along and get a taster of what's in store on February 6th!
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Dromintee GAA Club
This was clearly a party political event, organised by Newry & Armagh Sinn Fein, and the promotional video, which featured several Sinn Fein politicians, explicitly linked the competition to the forthcoming elections in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.  Yet it was launched in Dromintee GAA Club.

Sean 'The Surgeon' Hughes

That official launch in the GAA club was filmed and this became the basis for the promotional video which featured, as well as Sinn Fein politicians, another Sinn Fein figure who was identified as Sean Hughes but is generally known as Sean 'The Surgeon' Hughes.

Now the GAA have stated that GAA premises should not be used for party political events so it seems that Dromintee have simply ignored the rules of their organisation.

Of course we shouldn't be surprised by that for the home of Domintee GAA Club is Pairc Ui Luachra agus Mhic Cathmhaoil.  This is the.Irish translation of Lochrie and Campbell Park for the grounds are named after two Provisional IRA terrorists, Jim Lochrie and Sean Campbell, who were killed when a land mine exploded prematurely at Kelly's Road, Killeen, on 6 December 1975.

The GAA speaks of 'reaching out to unionists' but any gestures in that direction are contradicted by situations such as that in Dromintee.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Ulsterman who designed the National Museum of Scotland

Captain Francis Fowke (1823-1865)
The National Museum of Scotland dates back to 1866 and this year it is celebrating its 150th anniversary.  

The National Museum was formed in 2006 with the merger of the new Museum of Scotland with the adjacent and much older Royal Museum.  The two connected buildings stand beside each other on Chambers central Edinburgh.

There is an Ulster connection with the museum and in particular with the original building of 1866 because it was designed by an Ulster-born officer in the Royal Engineers, Captain Francis Fowke (1823-1865).

He was born on 7 July 1823 in the townland of Ballysillan, which was then in the countryside, north of Belfast, and he was the son of an English army officer named John Fowke and a young Ulster-Scots woman named Jane Ferguson.  She was the daughter of John Stevenson Ferguson, a Belfast linen merchant.
National Museum of Scotland - Royal Museum

Francis Fowke was educated at the Royal School, Dungannon, and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and then joined the Royal Engineers.

The Royal Scottish Museum was originally established in 1854 as the Industrial Museum of Scotland  and Captain Francis Fowke worked on the plans for the building from 1859 to 1860.  Construction work started in 1861 and the foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert, who had been a driving force in the movement to open museums and galleries.

Royal Museum - Main Hall
The east wing and part of the main hall were opened to the public in 1866 as the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art and thereafter work proceeded in phases.  In 1904 the institution became known as the Royal Scottish Museum and it was Scotland's first national public building.

Captain Francis Fowke also designed public buildings in London and Dublin including the Royal Albert Hall, parts of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery in Dublin.

He was primarily an engineer and architect but he was also an inventor and his inventions including an early folding camera.

Captain Francis Fowke died suddenly in London on 4 December 1865 and he was buried in Brompton Cemetery.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Gaelic League and Irish republicanism

Sometimes the mask of the Irish language movements slips and we see how much it is political as well as cultural.

There was a letter in the Irish News (8 February 2016) from Fionntan McCarry in Ballycastle and it was a reminder of some of the history of the oldest and foremost Irish language organisation in Ireland, the Gaelic League, otherwise known as Conradh na Gaeilge.
This is the text of the letter:
I'm requesting some assistance in putting together an exhibition on the Gaelic League commemorations of Roger Casement held in Murlough, Co Antrim, throughout the 1950s and 1960s.  Casement's requested grave site  was deciated by Eamon de Valera on his first visit north as taoiseach at the inaugural Casement Sunday on August 2 1953, as part of the campaign for repatriation that led to the state funeral in Dublin in 1965.  I have a lot of the official photographs that were left with us, as well as the advertising materials, a programme signed by Sergeant Kavanagh and The Irish News reports.  What is missing though are photographs taken by those in attendance, as around two dozen cameras can be seen in the press photographs.  Any photographs or memories of subsequent years would be most welcome.

Fionntan McCarry, Ballycastle
I look forward to this exhibition, which will confirm what many of us have been saying about the Irish language movement for some time, and I hope that those behind the project get plenty of photographs and plenty of information.
Today it is often said that Sinn Fein politicised the Irish language but it was politicised long before Sinn Fein took it up as the main weapon in their cultural war.  Yes it was Sinn Fein that coined the slogan 'every word spoken in Irish is another bullet in the freedom struggle' but the association of the Irish language with Irish nationalism and republicanism goes back long before that.
If we go to the start of the Gaelic revival and the formation of the Gaelic League in 1893, it was clear even then that the Gaelic League was an organisation dedicated to the advancement of 'cultural nationalism' and not just culture.
It is not really surprising therefore that the annual Casement Sunday event at Mulough Bay in north Antrim was a 'Gaelic League commemoration'.
Roger Casement is one of the heroes of Irish republicanism and Irish nationalism and he was executed in 1916 in Pentonville prison for 'high treason'.  His body was then buried within the prison walls.

The campaign to repatriate his remains to Ireland was one the issues on which Irish republicans campaigned and the annual commemoration at Murlough was an opportunity for participating organisations, including the Gaelic League and the GAA, to assert their nationalism.  Participants also included the Old IRA and later these organisations were joined by the Wolfe Tone Society, which was a front organisation for the contemporary IRA.
They hoped that Casement could be buried in Northern Ireland, at Murlough, but in 1965 the Labour government of Harold Wilson sent his remains back to the Irish Republic.  After a state funeral organised by the government of the Irish Republic the remains of Roger Casement were reburied at Glasnevin.

The forthcoming exhibition will tell the story of the annual Casement Commemorations at Murlough Bay and will serve to expose the true nature of the Gaelic League in those years after 1953.  This was not simply an Irish language organisation, it was an Irish nationalist organisation as well.

The letter-writer in the Irish News states that on 2 August 1953 the gathering was addressed by Eamon de Valera.  However he omitted to say that it was also addressed by Sean MacBride and Frank Aiken, two men who had something in common - they were both former chiefs-of-staff of the IRA.