Monday, 27 August 2018

Richard Sullivan - Sunday World scribbler

Yesterday someone told me that a journalist had just attacked me in a newspaper,   Later on I discovered that they were wrong on two counts.

It wasn't a journalist, it was someone called Richard Sullivan and it wasn't a newspaper, it was the Sunday World.

Richard's column in the Sunday World was a reaction to the column I had written last Thursday in the Belfast Telegraph about the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Coalisland to Dungannon march in August 1968.

However this clearly irked Richard Sullivan  who failed to address anything of what I had written and simply got down to the level of:
To read former DUP MLA Nelson McCausland's haughty remarks this week was like consuming a poison from a bygone age. 
Nelson, who likes to describe himself as a commentator but who has never been anything other than the intellectual mouthpiece of extreme intolerance, likes nothing better than to look down on a movement he shamelessly connects with murder.
His diatribe in a newspaper column this week linking the Civil Rights Association with communism and bigotry while condemning the proponents of civil rights as 'incendiary' are the words of a man uncomfortable with the truth.
No doubt I will be the target next week of a pseudo-intellectual character assassination at the point of Nelson's pen.
Apart from the personal abuse he homes in on the word 'incendiary' and claims that  I condemned the proponents of civil rights as 'incendiary'.

What I actually said was that the speeches given in Dungannon that night by Gerry Fitt and Austin Curry were 'incendiary'.

Well that was the night when the late Gerry Fitt told an angry crowd, 'If one of those black bastards of the Northern Ireland Gestapo puts a hand on any man here.  I'll lead you through.' 

He described the RUC as the 'Gestapo' and as 'black bastards' and surely it is not unreasonable to describe that as incendiary.  Or is Richard Sullivan going to describe that language as perfectly acceptable?

Finally, just in case he thinks I am making up those words and attributing them to Gerry Fitt, which he might do, since he thinks I am 'uncomfortable with the truth', the words are copied from The Price of My Life by Bernadette Devlin, who was there on the night that Gerry Fitt said it.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

'Black Saturday'

'Black Saturday', the last Saturday in August, is the big day for the Royal Black Institution and is sometimes seen as the end of the big summer parades.

Yesterday the County Down demonstration was in Newtownards and the town was packed with members of the institution, bands and spectators who had come along to watch the parade.

The parade was well organised, there were many excellent bands and in his sermon Sir Kt Rev Ron Johnstone faithfully preached the gospel.

Of course there's always a social side to the day and it's an opportunity to meet up with people I probably haven't seen for months, or in some cases since last year.  I talked to people that I knew, including politicians from both the DUP, of whom there were quite a few, and the UUP, and got the latest news on what is happening in different Protestant denominations.

There was plenty of time in the field to speak to people and as I had parked my car some distance away there were conversations with people sitting or standing at the side of the road.  It's a relaxed day and people are more than ready to stop and talk.

As well as people I know, I also talked to quite a number of people I don't know personally but who were keen to chat about all sorts of issues including the current political impasse, education and social trends. Overall it was probably a fair reflection of what is sometimes called 'middle Ulster', and affords an opportunity to assess what 'middle Ulster' is thinking.  

That is not the reason I walk on the Twelfth and Black Saturday,  I joined the Orange Order in 1975 and the Black in the early eighties so these days were part of my annual calendar long before I entered politics.  However it is one of the benefits of those days for anyone interested in assessing public opinion.

Social media have their place but it is the conversations in the shopping centre, the community centre or on days such as the Twelfth and Black Saturday which provide the best understanding of mainstream unionist thinking.  You can't beat a 'face to face conversation'.

Monday, 20 August 2018

So what happened to Jude Collins' newspaper radio spot?

If you tune in to Radio Ulster on Saturday mornings from 8.00 am you can hear the Kim Lenaghan programme and one of the features in that is the review of the newspapers, around 8.30.

Kim's programme is presented as a way to start the weekend with 'great music and conversation' and the newspaper review is fairly light-touch, suitable for an early hour on a Saturday morning

The programme has a variety of newspaper reviewers and they tend to follow a pattern, so for the past month or so it was 21 July Jude Collins (yes that Jude Collins who doesn't think that the victims of the Omagh bomb were murdered, or indeed the victims of the Shankill bomb), 28 July Dan Gordon, 4 August Liz Kennedy and 11 August Esther Haller-Clarke.

Then yesterday 18 August it was Dan Gordon again.

We might have expected it to be Jude Collins, if the previous pattern was being followed, but no, it jumped to Dan Gordon, who had been on just three weeks earlier.

Of course an appearance by Jude Collins would have come in the same week as his outrageous blog post about the Omagh bomb - a post which caused offence and outrage across much of the community and a post which must have caused deep hurt to the families of the victims.

It would also have come in the wake of so many calls for Collins to be sidelined by the BBC.

So is this a sign that the BBC is going to rest or remove Jude Collins from his Saturday morning spot?  

Of course it could be that he was ill or on holiday and the BBC has said nothing, so I suppose we will have to wait and listen over the next few weeks.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Professor Richard Rose and the Ulster-Scots

Professor Richard Rose

Professor Richard Rose is a political scientist at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.  

He was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1933 and after completing his primary degree in America he moved to England.

He completed his doctorate at the University of Oxford in 1960 and has been Professor of Politics at Strathclyde since 1966.

Professor Rose wrote this about the Ulster-Scots and Scotch-Irish.

'In the eighteenth century, economic and religious pressures encouraged thousands of Ulster migrants, especially Scots, to try their fortune a second time by moving on to America.  The Scotch-Irish became almost the prototypical White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.'

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Jude Collins and the BBC

Image result for jude collins

Jude Collins has attracted widespread condemnation for his assertion that the deaths of so many innocent victims in the Omagh bomb were not murder.  Not only did he make this appalling statement but he made it on 15 August, the 20th anniversary of that terrible atrocity.

However we should not be surprised.

Jude Collins made a similar assertion about the Shankill bomb, stating that this atrocity was not murder.

He also made a similar statement about the Provisional IRA murder of Ann Travers and stated that it was not murder.

He has made many other controversial statements, such as comparing the Boys Brigade to dissident republican terrorists, but such controversies pale into insignificance beside the far greater offence of denying that the three terrorist attacks were indeed murder.

Those words must have cut through the hearts of the folk who lost loved-ones to the murderers behind those atrocities.

Jude Collins was formerly a lecturer at the University of Ulster but is now retired and has written a book titled Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew.  He was also employed recently by Feile an Phobail to interview Gerry Adams so his area of expertise seems to be Sinn Fein.

He describes himself, on his blog, as a 'writer and broadcaster'. and he is also described as a 'media commentator'.  In that context of 'media commentator' he is sometimes invited by the BBC to contribute to discussions on the Nolan Show and Talkback.

He is also used by the BBC as one of a number of newspaper reviewers on the Saturday morning Kim Lenaghan programme on Radio Ulster.

Surely after this latest outrage it is time for the BBC to reflect on his future with them.  I know they like controversy but there are some things that are just 'beyond the pale'.

In any case he can still keep himself busy writing for the Andersonstown News.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

'Drag queen storytime' for children in Belfast

Image result for electra la cnt
Controversial drag queen Electra La Cnt, wasn't just to the fore at Stormont
or at the Gay Pride Parade -
Electra was also one of the readers for a Gay Pride storytime for toddlers in a Belfast Library

A 'drag queen' who performs under the name of Electra La Cnt has been in the news as a result of the recent Alternative Queer Ulster event at Stormont.  

Footage of the event shows drag queen Electra swearing loudly into the microphone during a speech.  At one point Electra shouts: 'I am going to be ... queerer than queer and I f*****g love it'  Then at the end of the speech Electra shouts, 'Up the f*****g queers', while punching the air.  This performance was greeted with rapturous applause from the LGBT audience.

The event was organised by the section of the Green Party who call themselves 'Queer Greens' and was one of the main events during Gay Pride Week.

There is however another aspect to the central figure in this story, Electra La Cnt.

Last year Framewerk Gallery in Belfast organised a Drag Queen Storytime for small children in Holywood Arches Library.  This was part of the Gay Pride Week and was facilitated and promoted by Libraries NI.  Framewerk is based on the Upper Newtownards Road, a short distance from the library.

There were four readers in 2017, Electra La Cnt, Lady Portia, Captain Pink Beard and Sassie.  

Afterwards drag queen Electra La Cnt said, 'Reading to children in drag has been the highlight of my career so far.  It was lovely to get a chance to shape the future.'

Drag  queen Electra La Cnt in Holywood Arches Library in 2017.
The organisers of the storytime event were named as Framewerk Gallery but within Framewerk there is a strand named Queerwerk.

The Drag Queen Storytime was repeated this year for Gay Pride Week but with more publicity and initially it featured on the Libraries NI Facebook page but was removed before the event took place.

LGBT books in Holywood Arches Library, Belfast,
as well as a Gay Pride flag during Gay Pride 2018
However the Framewerk page (Saturday 28 July 2018) has this photograph of the library prepared with a Gay Pride flag and books about families with same-sex parents.  Indeed Framewerk were so pleased that they encouraged people to enter the library for a Belfast Pride Festival Award.

This photograph on the Framewerk blog features two drag queens and a drag king and has the caption: 'Thank you to everyone who made it to Drag Queen Storytime at the Holywood Arches for Pride 2018.  Another beautiful event filled with love,'  

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Onya Becks, Electra La Cnt and Chef Bon Bon
For those unfamiliar with Framewerk it is a framing business in East Belfast that also runs arts classes and describes itself as a '100% Queer Ally'.  That's why it was organising 'Print with Pride' the previous Saturday.

This was facilitated by local artist Zipporah Reynolds, who is described as a 'Belfast-based queer artist', and here is some of their handiwork.

Queerwerk Printing Workshop with Artist in Residence Zipporah Reynolds.
#artsni #framewerk #framewerkbelfast #artgallery #artist #art #art___sharing #artinfo #photogram #photoday #photobooth #photooftheday #photography #installationart...

The picture above, from the Framewerk blog,  shows some of the work produced by Queerwerk  and illustrates a 'Queerwerk Printing Workshop with Artist in Residence Zipporah Reynolds'.  

Yet this is the organisation which organises the 'Drag Queen Storytime' for toddlers in Holywood Arches Library.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Francie Molloy: civil rights was about 'bringing down' the state

Francie Molloy MP
Yesterday I heard it straight from Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy.  When he was marching or marshalling a civil rights march back in 1968 his heart was set on 'bringing down [the state] through civil rights'.

Of course that is what most unionists have always believed about the civil rights movement but some nationalist politicians and commentators have denied that this was the intention of many of the marchers.

On this occasion Francie Molloy simply confirmed that unionists were right in their assessment of the republican movement and the Northern Ireland Civil rights Association.

I was taking part in a panel discussion about the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.  This year is the 50th anniversary of the first Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association marches and the discussion about 'Civil Rights - Missed Opportunity?' of the a series of events at which this question is being asked.

The event was part of the West Belfast Festival - Feile an Phobail and the other panelists were Hugh Scullion (Workers Party). Francie Molloy MP (Sinn Fein) and Brid Rodgers (SDLP).

There was much discussion about the real aims of the marchers and both Hugh Scullion and Brid Rodgers said that the aim was 'reform' of the state.  However Francie Molloy, who was a steward at the first NICRA march from Coalisland to Dungannon in August 1968, was quite clear that his aim was 'bringing it down through civil rights'.

It reminded me of Gerry Adams comment about equality.  He asked how anybody could be against 'equality' but stated that it was really Sinn Fein's 'Trojan horse' to break the b......s.' -

It was just the same with the civil rights movements, because there were some participants who wanted to 'reform' the state but it was really Sinn Fein's 'Trojan horse' to 'bring down' the state.

I will accept that it was not accurate to say that CRA = IRA or IRA = CRA but it was absolutely right to say that the IRA was a large part of the CRA.

Francie Molloy, Bernadette McAliskey & Michelle O'Neill
in Coalisland in August 2008
And Francis Molloy should know.  He told us that he was a member of Sinn Fein and had been at 'training' in 1966.  Indeed we already knew of his role in 1968 because for the 40th anniversary in 2008 he joined Michelle O'Neill and Bernadette McAliskey at the unveiling of a commemorative  stone in Coalisland.

Danny Morrison wasn't on the panel but he was in the front row of the audience and he took opportunity to speak at some length about the wrongs of the British state.  He even went as far back as partition, along 100 years ago, and spoke about the number of Roman Catholics who had been killed by loyalists and the police.

There was no mention of the number of Protestants who were murdered by republicans on both sides of the border and that gave me the opportunity to ask him about a Sinn Fein booklet, The Good Old IRA.

When I asked him he confirmed that he was the author of the booklet and I pointed out that it had been written to justify the worst acts of Provisional IRA terrorism by recalling the atrocities perpetrated by Irish republicans during the War of Independence and the Civil War.

The discussion was wide-ranging and there was mention of the role of the Communist Party and the the role of the Trotskyites in the People's Democracy.  The Communists prefer to forget that while they were demanding 'civil rights' in Northern Ireland they were also supporting the Russians who had just driven their tanks into Czechoslovakia to put down dissenting democratic voices there.  Their loyalty to Russia was greater than their love for civil rights.

This was my first visit to St Mary's University College, which is part of Queen's University Belfast and I was struck by the ethos of the building. As we were sitting at the front of the lecture theatre we were faced by a wall which had a large crucifix on one side and a portrait of the pope on the other side.  I wasn't in any of the other rooms but in the the corridors I saw a quite a number of statues of
the Virgin Mary.

I am not familiar with the differences between the status of Saint Mary's and its relationship with Queen's University, and the status of the Presbyterian Union Theological College and its relationship with Queen's University.  However recently there was some controversy about the ethos of the Presbyterian College and there was to be a review.  I just wondered if this will have any implications for the ethos of Saint Mary's, which is a college of the university.

Finally. there was a number of talks and discussions underway in St Mary's yesterday and the place was very busy but I must say that when I arrived I felt as if I had walked into a meeting of a Sinn Fein cumann.  But then Feile an Phobail is very much a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sinn Fein.