Friday, 29 April 2016

Sinn Fein don't see the ironies

There is an irony about Sinn Fein placing an election poster on the front wall of the derelict Casement Park.  The dereliction is actually a testimony to the incompetence of the Sinn Fein machine.  What on earth led them to put the advertisement on what is a constant reminder of their failure?

However there is another irony about this poster.  The main message is that Sinn Fein provides 'A BETTER VOICE'.  However the truth is that the '4 MPs' mentioned on the poster cannot contribute to the voice.  

They refuse to take their seats in the United Kingdom House of Commons, to which they have been elected, and therefore they do not speak in the House of Commons.  Sinn Fein has NO voice in the House of Commons and West Belfast goes unrepresented.

The third irony is that the Sinn Fein advertisement is beside another advertisement, for a Jobs Fair.  Casement is a major project and it was argued that it would create many construction jobs.  However there has been no construction and therefore no jobs.  Another failure for Sinn Fein.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Freddie Scappaticci

Freddie Scappaticci (1974)
Some time ago I was in the Newspaper Library in Belfast and came across a new item in the Irish News (25 February 1964).  It reported that four youths had been involved in a street fight in Belfast in which a policeman's leg was broken.

One of the youths was named as Frederick Scappaticci, aged 18, an apprentice bricklayer of Castleton Gardens in Belfast.

There cannot have been too many people in Belfast named Freddie Scappaticci so was this the same Freddie Scappaticci who was a double-agent in the Provisional IRA, the person named in the media by the code-name 'Stakeknife'?

Well the details confirm that this is the same Freddie Scappatici named in the newspaper report.  He was a bricklayer of the same age and the same job.

The Irish News report stated that Scappatici was fined £10 and bound over for a year on a charge of disorderly behaviour.

The newspaper report also stated that he had had a month-long trial with Nottingham Forest and that West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion were also said to be interested in him.

You never know what you will come across in the old newspapers and that's what make them so interesting.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Republican Socialist marchers break the law

Yesterday there were two republican parades up the Falls Road to the republican graves at Milltown Cemetery.

The first of these, which was organised by the Republican Socialist Commemoration Committee, left Dunville Park and set off at 11.30 am.  It preceded the larger parade organised by the Easter Rising Commemoration 1916.

According to the Parades Commission website the organisers of the first parade notified that there would be four bands, 500 participants and 100 supporters.  

The four bands were Martyrs na hEireann, James Connolly Republican Flute Band, Parkhead Republican Flute Band and Pollock and Thornliebank Republican Flute Band.  So three of the bands were from Scotland and there was just one local band.

Declan McGlinchey, who died last year and was a son of the notorious INLA terrorist Dominic McGlinchey, was instrumental in setting up the Martyrs na hEireann band.

The Republican Socialist parade was led by a colour party and by a company of men in black paramilitary uniforms.  Each of them had a five-pointed red star on his beret, the same five-pointed star that is so popular with the INLA.  The uniforms were also identiical to those worn by INLA marchers in Londonderry.

This morning I spoke to the PSNI about this and was assured that they had carried out an 'extensive evidence gathering operation' during the parade.  Indeed they would start examining the evidence today.  They will then forward their information to the Public Prosecution Service.

Under section 13 of  the Terrorism Act (2000) it is illegal to parade in a uniform associated with a proscribed organisation and it is now up to the PSNI and the PPS to ensure that everything is done to bring the culprits before the courts. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Mount Lennox

Mount Lennox, a fine old house at 683 Antrim Road in North Belfast, has been put forward for listed status.

In recent years it has been used by the Irish School of Ecumenics, which is associated with Trinity College Dublin.

The house was built around 1898 and has been put forward for B2 listing.

A quick search on the internet revealed that it was for many years the home of the Knox family, including William Knox, a Belfast merchant, who died on 25 July 1930.  The executors of his will were William Lennon, described as a gentleman, and Henry Knox, who was a grocer.  These two men were probably relatives of William Knox

Mrs Jennie Knox, who was probably the widow of William Knox, lived in the house after him and she died on 11 February 1946.  The executors of her will were Robert W Lennon, a retired merchant, and Thomas H Mayne and Joseph K Curran, who were farmers.

According to the 1901 Street Directory William Knox was a general merchant and was living at Mount Lennox, Ashley Park, Belfast, so it seems that he was the first occupant of the house, that it was built for him and that he named it Mount Lennox.

There is a possible connection between the names Lennon, Knox and Lennox, and it possible that the name Mount Lennox was based on a combination of Lennon and Knox.

So who were the Knox family?  With the name Knox they were clearly Ulster-Scots but what can we find out about the family history?

Conor Sheridan and Labour Alternative

Labour Alternative is the name of a new 'political front' organisation, similar to People Before Profit.  In this case it is a front for the Socialist Party, a Trotskyist party formerly known as Militant.

Two of its three candidates are members of the Socialist Party but if it isto give some credence to the myth that it is not a 'political front' it needs a candidate who is not from the Socialist Party and that candidate is Conor Sheridan.

In the constituency of East Antrim a 24-year-old student named Conor Sheridan is standing as a candidate under the banner of Cross-Community Labour Alternative, although he will appear on the ballot paper as 'independent' since the new organisation did not manage to get registered in time for the election.

Conor is an accountancy student from Larne and a former pupil at St MacNissi's, Garron Tower.

Back in January he announced that he would be standing as an Independent in East Antrim and gave an interview to the Larne Times (28 January 2016).  As part of his pitch he said that he would:
Continue to support our war veterans by injecting more cash into Help for Heroes.
That was his policy back in January but now that he has thrown in his lot with the Trotskyists, is that still his policy and what do Labour Alternative think about it?  So over to you Sean Burns and Courtney Robinson.

At the age of 24, Conor Sheridan is actually the oldest of the three candidates being fielded by the Labour Alliance.  Sean Burns, the candidate in South Belfast and a socialist activist., is aged just 19 and Courtney Robinson in East Belfast an 18-year-old call centre worker, having previously been president of the Students Union at the Belfast Metropolitian College.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Allison Morris's analysis

Irish News journalist Allison Morris
Journalist Allison Morris has  written a report on the North Antrim constituency for the Irish News today (21 April).

At the bottom of the page is a list of all the North Antrim candidates and there are four DUP candidates - Paul Frew, Phillip Logan, David McIlveen and Mervyn Storey.

However just beside that Allison has written:
The DUP optimistically ran four candidates in 2011.  However only the three MLAs who were office [sic] last time around will be contesting May's election again.
No Allison there are four DUP candidates in this election too!

I don't know how Allison Morris managed to get it so wrong ... I can only suggest that she must have other things on her mind at present.

Will UNITE's Newry branch be in Dublin republican parade?

On Easter Saturday some members of the UNITE trade union in Newry took part in a republican Easter rebellion parade from the notoriously-named Raymond McCreesh Park to the republican plot in St Mary's cemetery.

I highlighted this issue in in my Belfast Telegraph column and on Facebook and I know that many union member's were alarmed by what had happened.

Subsequently the union's Northern Ireland regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said that there would be an 'internal review' of what had happened.

As well as deciding to carry a UNITE banner in the republican parade on Easter Saturday, the UNITE Community branch in Newry also decided to take part in a commemoration in Dublin this Sunday.
Our invite was considered within our branch and it was unanimously agreed that we would attend the ANAM 16 commemoration [in Newry]; and two further commemorations that are to be held in Dublin and Belfast on the 24tth/25th of April.  The latter of these has been organised by Unite, which will commemorate both The Somme and 1916 Rising in a play.  All three of these commeorations are non-political.
This Sunday there will be a major event in Dublin, organised by the republican National Graves Association.

So there are several questions that need to be asked:

  1. Is the 'internal review' complete, what conclusion was reached and what action does UNITE intend to take?
  2. So what do UNITE rules say about branch members participating as branch members, with or without their union banner, in a republican parade?
  3. What event did the Newry branch members agree to attend in Dublin and is it the National Graves Association march through Dublin to rededicate a republican monument at Glasnevin Cemetery?
The senior officials in Northern Ireland probably knew nothing about what happened in Newry until it was highlighted but this time they know in advance about what is proposed for this coming Sunday. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

'Drumming service' or 'drumhead service'?

Drumhead service in Edinburgh to mark the start of World War 1
Last week the North Belfast News carried an article by Liam Murphy on events in Belfast in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rebellion in Dublin.  In it he wrote:
Norman Porter, director of the Evangelical Protestant Society, suggested that the Orange Order engage in a drumming service or a rally in the King's Hall to coincide with the Casement Park event.  'The motto of the true Ulster Protestant is still: For God and Ulster.'
The term 'drumming service' caught my attention because there is no such thing as a 'drumming service'.  There is however a 'drumhead service' and that is something with which members of the Orange Order and those in military service would understand.

The following link will take you to a short video clip about drumhead services, especially in the context of the First World War.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Scottish settlers in Fermanagh

Terwinney Methodist Church was erected in 1870 and closed in 2005.  I can remember preaching in it many years ago when it was part of the Irvinestown Circuit.

Unlike Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches, whoich often have cemeteries attached to them, Methodist graveyards are rare.  Terwinney is one of only twenty-four Methodist churches in Ireland to have a graveyard attached to it.

Families associated with Terwinney include Moffitt, Simpson, Armstrong, Dalton, Barton, Chittick, Walker, Knox, Johnson, Johnston, Colvil, Acheson and Marshall.

It is worth noting that quite a number of these names are of Scottish origin, alongside those of English origin.  The Moffitt, Simpson, Armstrong, Knox, Johnston, Colvil and Acheson families will almost certainly have been of Scottish origin and the Armstrong name is particularly associated with the reiver family of that name from the Scottish Borders.

The Irvine family, which gave its name to the town of Irvinestown and the Methodist circuit, was also of Scottish origin.

Many folk may not think of Fermanagh as a place of Scottish settlement but evidence such as this and the story of the deportation of reiver families from the Scottish Border in the early 17th century helps us to appreciate that more Scots settled in Fermanagh than is often reckoned.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Labour Alternative and the Socialist Party.

In Northern Ireland People Before Profit is effectively a front for the Socialist Workers Party and now the Socialist Party, another brand of Trotskyism, has its 'front' organisation as well.

A report in The Socialist (April 2016), the paper of the Socialist Party, refers to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party and then turns to the Northern Ireland Assembly:
In this context and in advance of the election the Socialist Party has helped to initiate a new organisation: Cross-Community Labour Alternative.  It will contest in three constituencies in the upcoming elections (East Belfast, South Belfast and Fermanagh and South Tyrone).  The two candidates in Belfast, Socialist Party members Sean Burns and Courtney Robinson, are both under 20 and are raising the need to build united movements of young people and workers across the sectarian divide, Protestant and Catholic working-class people need an anti-sectarian working-class alternative.

Labour Alternative launched its Assembly election campaign on Thursday 7 April in a city-centre hotel in Belfast and announced three candidates - Courtney Robinson in East Belfast, Sean Burns in South Belfast and Conor Sheridan in East Antrim.  Sheridan seems to be standing in East Antrim instead of a candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Conor Sheridan, Courtney Robinson, Ruth Coppinger TD and Sean Burns
The two guest speakers at the launch were Ruth Coppinger, the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD for Dublin West and John McInally, National Vice- President of the civil service union PCS and an 'anti-austerity activist'.  It was stated that McInally was there in a personal capacity but nevertheless his role in the trade union was highlighted.  Advance notices of the meeting seemed to omit any reference to the fact that McInally is also a leading member of the Socialist Party.  The presence of Ruth Coppinger TD is therefore especially significant as she is also a member of the Socialist Party.  

This has its roots in the expulsion in 1989 of the Militant Tendency from the Labour Party.  Those who were expelled formed Militant Labour and in 1996 it became known as the Socialist Party. It is an all-Ireland party with a northern region and a southern region.  In  the Irish Republic three of its members, including Coppinger, were elected to Dail Eireann in 2016 as Anti-Austerity Alliance TDs.

The Socialist Party is also 'the Irish section of the Committee for a Workers' International, an international socialist organisation in over 40 countries on all five continents.'

Now as regards the three candidates named by Labour Alternative:

Courtney Robinson, from East Belfast, is president of the Students Union at the Belfast Metropolitan College and a member of Socialist Youth, the youth section of the Socialist Party.

Sean Burns, from South Belfast, is also a member of the Socialist Party and in fact an organiser for Socialist Youth.

Conor Sheridan is a 24-year-old accountancy student from Larne and a former pupil of St MacNissi's Garron Tower.  Back  in January he announced that he would be standing as an Independent in East Antrim but he has now thrown in his lot with Labour Alternative.

Socialist Party protest in Belfast
In Dail Eireann there is a partnership between the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit and on the basis of candidates announced so far for the Assembly election it seems that there is to be no electoral battle between Labour Alternative and People Before Profit, with Labour Alternative running in East Belfast and South Belfast and People Before Profit running in West Belfast and North Belfast.

Although they are campaigning as Cross-Community Labour Alternative, it is unclear whether the 'party' is registered and recognised, and if not the three candidates will appear on the ballot papers as Independent.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

UNITE to hold 'internal review' of union banner in republican parade

UNITE banner being carried in a republican parade in Newry
In this week's column in the Belfast Telegraph (7 April) I highlighted the fact that a banner of the UNITE trade union had been carried in a republican parade in Newry.  The parade, to commemorate and celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising, took place on Saturday and was organised by the Armagh, Newry and Mourne Centenary Committee (ANAM) 1916.

The march assembled at the notoriously-named Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry and proceeded from there to the republican plot in St Mary's Cemetery.  The marchers were led by a republican flute band from Kilkeel and the UNITE banner was directly behind the band.

ANAM 16 ceremony at the republican plot in Newry
When the marchers reached the cemetery, wreaths were laid at the republican plot.  The event also included speeches by former Provisional IRA member Tommy McKearney and former Sinn Fein politicians Pat McNamee and Davy Hyland.

In the column I asked who authorised the carrying of the UNITE banner in the republican parade?  I also asked if this decision was taken by a local branch in Newry, how the leadership of the trade union viewed it and what are the rules of the trade union about such situations?

'The inclusion of a UNITE banner in a republican parade is damaging to the reputation of a trade union that draws its members from right across the community in Northern Ireland and there is an urgent need for UNITE to reflect on such incidents and take some action.  Trade unions have an important role in representing the interests of their members and what happened in Newry undermines the inclusivity of one of our leading unions.'

It was clear from comments and statements on social media that many members of the union were alarmed by what happened in Newry but later that day the Facebook page of 'Unite the Union Newry' defended the participation of union members with the UNITE banner in the march.

There are in fact two Facebook pages with the name Unite the Union Newry.  One is a 'Community Organisation' and carries the logo 'Unite Community Membership'.  The following statement was posted on this page:

Newry Unite community branch make no apologies for attending a recent 1916 commemoration event, that was organised by ANAM 16.
This event was non political and part funded by our local council. Invites were sent out to the broader community e.g. political parties, Trade Unions, community groups and sporting bodies.
Our invite was considered within our branch and it was unanimously agreed that we would attend the ANAM 16 commemoration; and two further commemorations that are to be held in Dublin and Belfast on the 24th/25th of April. The latter of these has been organised by Unite, which will commemorate both The Somme and 1916 Rising in a play. All three of these commemorations are non political.
Newry Unite community branch, have been to the fore in fighting austerity, sectarianism, racism, gender inequality, workers rights, disability rights and have been strong advocates of egalitarianism. Our branch members are from a wide spectrum of people; anyone can join regardless of religious, ethnic,political or sexual orientation . 
The Newry area has a long held tradition for Trade Unionism; two of the "Three James's" e.g. Jim Larkin and Jim Fearon hailed from our town and are both depicted on our branch banner. 
The Newry Unite community branch, is not ashamed of our Trade Union forefathers, nor will we apologise to a little, bigoted, excuse for a politician; who exudes nothing but hatred and sectarian division.
The personal abuse at the end of the union statement is pathetic and indeed almost amusing but I must pick up on the claim that a republican Easter Rising march is 'non political'!  What on earth do they mean by that?  They are actually claiming that Irish republicanism is 'non political'!

That initial post was then shared to the other Unite the Union Newry Facebook page, which has 164 members and for which the administrator is Crick Morley, otherwise Christopher Morley,  On the Facebook page he describes himself as 'chairman' and indeed he is the chairman of UNITE in Newry. He is also a dedicated republican socialist and during March he change his personal Facebook cover photo to  the image on the right.

The person who shared the post was Martin McKeown, otherwise Mairtin Mac Eoin,, who is variously described as the UNITE Community spokesperson in Newry, the UNITE Community chairman in Newry and the UNITE Community coordinator in Newry.

The Facebook post is significant because it confirms that the decision to march in the ranks of the republican parade in Newry was a formal decision taken at a UNITE Community branch meeting.  It was not a case of a few members borrowing a banner and taking part unofficially.  The marchers were there with the endorsement of the Unite Community branch.

Mreover the banner carried in the Easter republican parade was indeed an official union banner and since the 'community branch' logo is in the bottom left corner it seems to be the banner of the Newry 'community branch' of the union.

I was pleased to see the reaction to the issue from many members of UNITE.  Some I spoke to personally and I also followed the reaction on social media. What happened in Newry

Jimmy Kelly, UNITE regional secretary
Then on Friday the UNITE Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, issued a statement on the Newry banner:
Unite will conduct an internal review on presence of branch banner at Easter Commemoration.  
We wish to reiterate our strong commitment to inclusive, non-sectarian working-class activism.  We will conduct an internal review into the presence of one of its branch banners at a recent Easter commemoration.  
Unite has a proud record of opposing division and bringing workers together for mutual benefit from all sides of the community in Northern Ireland.
I welcome the announcement of an internal review and look forward to the union announcing the outcome and any actions that may flow from it.

This is particularly important because as they said in their statement the UNITE branch also decided to participate in a Dublin commemoration on 24 April.  As regards the nature of that commemoration, it is advertised as above on Martin McKeown's Facebook page and will be organised by the republican National Graves Association.  Any internal review will have to be completed quickly or the damage and division caused by the Newry incident could well be repeated and exacerbated by a similar situation in Dublin on 24 April.  The union has really just two weeks to deal with this.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Silverstream & Tyndale - Finlock gutters

Faulty Finlock gutters, showing how water penetrates the walls
I have now received written confirmation from the Housing Executive about progress on replacing the faulty Finlock gutters on houses in Silverstream and Tyndale.

Phase one with 113 houses is due to start in earnest on Monday morning at 188-194 Ballysillan Road. and is due to be completed in 15 weeks, which means that it should be completed around the middle of July.

Phase two is being tendered separately and should commence in late June or early July.  This phase will also take 15 weeks.  Originally they had talked about 25 weeks but it is now down to 15.weeks and therefore should be finished by November.  Housing Executive staff will be 'commencing engagement with the owner-occupiers in phase two shortly'.  When this is completed they will move on to the phase three properties.

It has taken a long time to get the Housing Executive to admit the cause of the dampness in these estates but perseverance and persistence have paid off.

I am pleased that work on phase one is actually starting and will continue to meet regularly with the Housing Executive to see how phases two and three develop.