Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Carol Cullen - another "IRA prisoner-poet"

Carol Cullen (now Caral Ni Chuilin)
According to the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht (12 August 1999), 'Prisoner Day at the West Belfast Festival proved to be one of the most popular events of the Festival'  Hundreds of people braved the sweltering heat and crammed into the Felons Club in Andersonstown to meet former and current prisoners and view an exhibition of their artwork'.  

One of the events during the day was the launch of a new book, Executed: Tom Williams and the IRA, which had been 'written by serving prisoner Jim McVeigh' and the launch was chaired by Carol Cullen of Tar an Nall.

This was followed by a series of readings by and and about prisoners, given by a number of leading republicans and according to the Sinn Fein newspaper 'recently released prisoner Rosie McCorley read out Carol Cullen's beautiful poem of solidarity to a fellow prisoner'.  It's a short poem about female IRA prisoners in Armagh:

By yourself, alone with your dread, but not for long.
Eight in all held you down.
We couldn't hear you calling for us
But we share, we share your anger,
Those of us spared the degradation this time.
Each of us individually comfort you,
Our comradeship consoling you,
Each of our hands making a fist,
Showing our white knuckles,
Our strength, our sisterhood.
So Bobby Sands wasn't the only 'poet' in the ranks of the IRA and perhaps republicans can now look forward to the publication of a volume of poetry by Carol Cullen.

Of course that volume would now have to appear with the name Caral Ni Chuilin, because some time after 1999 Carol Cullen 'Gaelicised' her name to Caral Ni Chuilin.

Nevertheless her talent as a poet, something on which there will be a variety of views, may help to explain why she was appointed by Sinn Fein as Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure ... or maybe not.  That is for others to decide.

However Carol or Caral is not the only poet in the ranks of Sinn Fein in North Belfast.  Indeed the North Belfast constituency must be unique in having two Sinn Fein MLAs who are both poets.  Yes Gerry Kelly is a poet too.  Now I haven't had the opportunity of reading any of his work but according to a reference in Contemporary Irish Republican Prison Writing: Writing and Resistance:
In his poem 'On the Boards' Gerry Kelly recounts his harrowing experience of the punishment cells of the H-Blocks during the winter of 1976-77.
The poem seems to have been published in Words from a Cell, a little volume of poetry that was written by Gerry Kelly and published by the Sinn Fein Publicity Department in 1989.  It runs to 65 pages but anyone looking for a copy should be aware that on Amazon used copies are selling for $65 plus postage and a bookseller in Limerick recently sold a copy for 70 euro!  That works out at around 1$ per page!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Its those Scotch-Irish again!

Today J D Vance is an investment executive and principal at Mithril Capital Management in San Francisco and the author of  a New York Times bestseller.  He is only 32 but his autobiography Hillbilly Elegy is a bestseller!

Vance grew up in a poor family in the city of Middeltown, Ohio.  His mother struggled with drug addiction and a series of broken relationship and he was raised by his grandparents.  He writes of those days: 'I grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember.'

Beyond Ohio his family roots were among the Scotch-Irish folk of Kentucky and Vance identifies
himself as 'Scots-Irish'.
I may be white but I do not identify with the WASPs [White Anglo-Saxon Protestants] of the Northeast.  Instead I identify with the millions of working class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degrees.'

Those were the people among whom he grew up but he served in the Marines from 2003 to 2007 and was educated  at Ohio State University and Yale Law School.

During the course of the American presidential election campaign we have heard much about the 'Rust Belt' and the 'Scots-Irish'.

I do not intend to comment on the election or the Trump phenomenon but I do want to highlight the fact that there are so many Americans, who identify as 'Scots-Irish' or 'Scotch-Irish'.  They are certainly to be found in many of the post-industrial communities of the Rust Belt but also in Kentucky, Virginia and the Carolinas and down in the South as well.  Indeed they are to be found in most states of the United States of America.  Those who imagine that the term Scotch-Irish has disappeared are much mistaken.

Some years ago James Webb wrote about the Scotch-Irish in his book Born Fighting and now the story of a Scotch-Irish family has been told in Hillbilly Elegy.  Moreover it is a story about which many people in America must want to read because his book has become a New York Times bestseller.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Is an IRA 'recruitment poster' illegal?

'Join the IRA recruitment poster
On Sunday 5 April 2015 a North Belfast republican addressed an Easter Rising commemoration event in Saint Colman's cemetery in Lurgan.  The event had been organised by the Irish Republican Prisoners' Welfare Association and the speaker was Damien 'Dee' Fennell,

Fennell told the small gathering, which included some primary school children: 
It isn't enough to shout 'Up the IRA'.  The important thing is to join the IRA.  As you leave here today, ask yourself is it enough to support republicanism or could you be a more active republican?
Dee Fennell speaking in Lurgan
Some days later Dee Fennell was arrested and charged with encouraging acts of terrorism, inviting support for the IRA and addressing a meeting to encourage support for the IRA.  All three offences were dated 5 April 2015 and all come under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The case is ongoing but I thought about it today in relation to the current situation in Londonderry where someone has erected a recruiting poster for the IRA.  It depicts an IRA terrorist and carries the message:
Unfinished Revolution, Unfinished Business, Join the IRA.
I would have thought that if it is an offence to say 'Join the IRA', then it must also be an offence to erect a poster that says 'Join the IRA'.  What is the different between a recruitment speech and a recruitment poster?

However this morning the Belfast Telegraph reported a PSNI spokesman as saying: 'At this stage no crime has been disclosed therefore it has not been recorded as a hate crime.'

I'm not sure what the PSNI spokesman meant when he said, 'No crime has been disclosed'.  I would have thought it was fairly obvious what the crime is - encouraging people to join a prohibited terrorist organisation.

If Dee Fennell is being prosecuted for such an offence in Lurgan then surely the PSNI should be seeking to identify the person who erected the IRA recruitment poster?

Moreover, if it is a criminal offence to encourage membership of the IRA, then the PSNI should also remove the recruitment poster.

At a time when several republican terrorist organisations that call themselves the IRA are still active and seeking to murder and maim, it is particularly disappointing to hear such an equivocal statement from the PSNI.  It is incumbent on senior officers to clarify the situation and reassure the public that they will remove the IRA recruitment poster and pursue those responsible for erecting it.,