And here is the Weather Forecast: Primo.

     And here is the Weather Forecast……………..Primo.




Northern Ireland in fairness has just skipped a severe bout of weather. Between the icy cold conditions in Scotland and the snows of middle England we have done well to escape the extremes of our changeable and ever present companion. 

In the cages of the Kesh we had more to worry about than the weather but on reflection we lived a lot closer to the weather than many of us do today.  Leaving the Crum aside for a moment I am talking about the cages the Nissen huts fo Long kesh. A look at this pages photo stream or a simple google search will giv ena idea of the type fo building we lived in for most of us over a decade of our lives. The catch from 1975 onward was that the huts were a quick ‘throw up’job after the big fire of October 1974. When the Kesh was burned literally to the ground except for cages 19 mainly UVF and cage 16 mainly UDA.  In terms of a thermal insulation rating which most homes are rated by today I can confidently say the huts rated zero on any scale. They were most definitely not built for comfort. To simplify we froze in winter and roasted in summer.       The basic hut was a semi round structure with 2 layers of tin corrugated iron.  Inside these layers was what was pinkish spongy stuff called insulation.  This trades descriptions act did not apply in the Kesh.

     The main weather element which seemed to be there all the time was rain. But I’m sure that’s a trick of the memory. But when it rained in the Kesh (and the blocks) it did absolutely nothing to lift the atmosphere. On a dark, cold winter night with the rain being lashed across the compound there was every sane reason for staying indoors. But some brave souls would walk the wire before lock up. A lot of people did a lot of running so inevitably you would be running in the rain. At times this was OK. A soaking is a soaking as long as there is a shower afterwards. That’s if theres hot water for the shower! Then there were football days. We had to leave our phase,  pass through the big gates and into Phase 5 where there 2 large all weather gravel pitches. These where front of the Provo cages.  Many good games where played here over the years but there was one day, a summer day! It rained so hard that the pitch became a puddle. The ball couldn’t bounce so it turned into one big mess about.  The other main time that the rain impacted out lives was night time. Locked up we had one TV per 30 men. The half hut , where the brass lived, had it easy. One TV per 15 men. Anyone under corrugated iron during rain will get some idea of the din that can be created. During a really heavy shower you could not hear the TV or people talking. It was like being inside a noise box. (hailstones were even worse). At other times it was quite relaxing being in the hut studying or painting and hearing the rhythmic patter of the rain against the windows.  Many nights I drifted off to sleep with that noise.

    During the cold months there was not a lot of heat about the cages. No sure who came up with the idea of 3 small panel heaters hung from the ceiling of the hut. Total effect? Nil. One was taken down turned upside down and used as a toaster. Strange but true. Unlike the H Blocks and the Crum there was no integral heating ie pipes running the length of the hut.  It was a case of make do as best you can. In later years the prison spoiled us  and gave each room or cube a single bar electric radiator which was mounted high up on the wall. It never really sank in to the prison powers that heat rises. We had no food storage facility so our food lockers were actual tin or wood lockers hung on the outside of the windows. One year during a particular cold spell I recall every thing being frozen in the locker. Milk, tomatoes, apples,  meat whatever was there. The Long kesh site seemed ideally suited for cold to settle and stay there.  There was one morning that I scraped the ice of the  window. The inside of the window. Truly brass monkey weather. But we looked on the bright side. It helped us getting up quickly and getting active as soon as possible.  The cold also gave the screws some issues. The actual wire fence round the cage had gaps of about half an inch. With a hoar frost these gaps would fill in giving the impression of a pure white wall. We couldn’t see out and they couldn’t see in. God forbid. Of course, one of the best times of the year was the transforming power of snow.  It didn’t happen a lot through the 80’s but when it did it was great. Snowball fights. One of the times that the tension between us and screws lessened was during this time. The grey was temporarily lifted,  the gloom was transformed and there was a different feel to the place. One of the happier memories was when the screws had to run the gauntlet. And while that may sound bad it really wasn’t. Each cage had a screws hut which was staffed through out the day. There were shift changes and sometimes individuals would walk through the prison to get to their station. The side of Compound 21 ran alongside a long wall separating the 2 phases.  The screws would enter our phase through this wall by means of a small wicker gate. They then had to walk half the length of the wall maybe the length of a football pitch go through some other gates and into the hut. While walking along that wall they were fair game during snow time. There was a sterile area between out cage fence and the path but this meant we could get a good throw at them. It was good crack. The screws would walk along dodging the snowballs that came their way. There was no malice here. Just the fun of seeing them duck and weave. In fairness to them they seemed to enjoy it all the while keeping their eyes on us the whole way up to avoid the barrage of snowballs. I think it only happened once when one inattentive screw had his cap nicely knocked off his head. An excellent shot. Or maybe just lucky. A cheer went up from us. Only on one occasion did one screw get into the swing and starting snowballing us. Class.

 On the down side the ice that formed inside  the cage was a real problem for the runners. You didn’t so much run as tiptoe around maybe using the wire fence to keep you from falling. And if the all-weather pitches iced up enough then we were not allowed out to play football.  So much for being all weather. Interestingly once we moved over to H2 there was a problem regarding the heating pipes that went through all the cells up and down the wings. Put simply some men wanted the heat on and some wanted it off. It could not be controlled on a cell by cell basis. Plenty of ‘debates’ there.

       On the opposite side of the winter were the hot summers. There were, in my memory, a couple of wash out summers which was depressing. But some summers were memorable for various reasons. Of course this was the time to get absolutely and utterly sunburned. Which I did myself on just one occasion. Never to be repeated.  Mattresses and chairs would be taken outside, a quiet spot found and people caught the rays between meals and training. Shorts and sandals were the dress code from morning  til night. Often wondered how the screws coped with their uniforms. No shorts there.

      The opposite now applied. How to keep food and the likes of milk from spoiling. In short you could not. This was the time of the tea strainer. While used for tea leaves it also served to sieve out the lumps in your daily pint of milk when it started going off. Through those warmest days all the windows and doors would be open. Of course, night time was a problem after lock up. The tin did act like a massive overhead radiator. We sweltered. There were no fans so we just endured. Sleep was restless and despite the great weather tempers could become short as people got used to another extreme.

  The one weather that caused the prison more problems than us was fog. Good old-fashioned pea soup fog. The lights that adorned our wire fence were poor.  The fog produced an eerie atmosphere. Noise was muffled and the rest of the prison would disappear. We couldn’t even see each other walking around the cage. So when the fog settled in the screws would hit the panic button. The all seeing  watch towers could not see what we were up to.   So, what happened was that 2 pairs of screws would walk round the outside of the wire fence. They would walk in opposite directions so ensuring a reasonable chance of catching us going over the wire. The overtime must have been sweet.  So the weather was a ever present for us in special category in the Kesh. Leaving some good memories to recall whenever we meet up. 




An Ulster Education: Chris Thackaberry

Another worthy poem from the pen of Dublin Loyalist Chris Thackaberry.





An Ulster Education


Kings 3: 24-25


”And the king said. Bring me a sword 

             and they brought a sword before the King”


“And the King said. Devide the living child in two 

             and give half to one and half to the other” 


Slashing deep

             upon the faith line


Quarter out the best

             and marinate the prime 


Binning the rest

             kinda, kind, kindling


For our sectarian 

              sacrificial  fire


“Let it be neither mine or thine 

               but devide it” 


This child of mine. 



Finucane campaign highlights the hypocrisy at the heart of republicanism’s legacy propaganda

30 years on from the killing of Pat Finucane and republicanism continue to ignore the hypocrisy at the heart of their legacy campaign. Until they are told Maggie Thatcher was driving the car and Douglas Hurd was the gunman, it is unlikely they will ever be satisfied. This weekend marks 30 years since the killing of republican solicitor Pat Finucane by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) in Belfast, who said in a statement at the time that they had not killed Pat Finucane the solicitor but “Pat Finucane, the IRA officer”. Read more »


Irish Journalism Finally Wakes Up: The GFA Says Nothing About Hard Or Soft Border

It has taken how long? Several months at least but finally a journalist covering the Brexit story, in this case John Campbell of the BBC, has gone to the trouble to actually read the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) to check whether Leo Varadkar is correct in stating that a hard Border would offend the GFA.

And his conclusion, as readers of will know full well, is that GFA says nothing – nada – about the nature of the Border, ‘hard’, ‘soft’ or middling and all those politicians, from Varadkar to Mary Lou have either been pulling the wool over our eyes or have themselves failed to complete the simplest of due diligence.

As for the hacks, it takes about 30 minutes to read the GFA so one can readily understand why so many journalists have failed to read the document at the heart of this controversy. I mean, that’s half an hour that could be better spent fiddling one’s expenses.

Anyway here is the BBC article. Read more »


Stakeknife: British agent Freddie Scappaticci faces child sex abuse lawsuit

A BELFAST woman is suing British agent Freddie Scappaticci for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a child.

Court papers seen by The Irish News reveal that the IRA member is accused of assaulting the woman between 1976 and 1978. She is claiming for personal injury, loss and damages.

The woman is believed to have been a teenager at the time. It is understood the allegations were reported to police. Read more »


The Michael Stone judgement has wide ramifications- Unionist Voice argues for his right to appeal

The recent Divisional Court judgement which stipulated that Michael Stone must stay in prison until at least 2024 has wide ranging ramifications. He is a loyalist who has been left behind. He deserves political and community support.

This week Belfast High Court will rule on an application by lawyers acting for Michael Stone seeking certification of an appeal to the Supreme Court. This follows last week’s decision by the Divisional Court, with Mr Justice McCloskey and Mr Justice Colton sitting, to rule that Michael Stone must remain in prison without parole until at least 2024. Read more »


Judicial Review into police powers raises important constitutional law and journalistic privilege issues

Belfast High Court will hear a Judicial Review challenge into the PSNI’s unlawful seizure of journalistic material beyond the scope of their search warrant in a gross act of bad faith. The judgement will have ramifications for a wide range of activists and journalists.

The upcoming Judicial Review (JR) I have brought before the High Court raises important issues around the exercise of police powers and the issue of journalistic material being seized beyond the scope of warrants. It will, naturally, affect me as the applicant- but more importantly it will have ramifications for a wide range of people, including those who create journalistic material. Read more »



On this Stormont map we have lost the place of working politics.

Yes Parliament Buildings still stands at the top of the Stormont hill – but in name only; and, in a week, when Martin McGuinness and David Ervine were remembered, there is no sense that the brokenness can be mended; certainly not yet and not now.

“I think that courage was a characteristic of both Martin McGuinness and David Ervine that is sadly lacking in many of today’s politicians,” Dr John Kyle of the Progressive Unionist Party told this website. Read more »


Loyalist killer Michael Stone should not be considered for release until 2024, court told

The Milltown Cemetery bomber is set to go before Parole Commissioners next week in a bid to be freed from jail.

But lawyers for the sister of one of his victims claimed he should be made to serve nearly six years more behind bars on a sentence imposed to punish and deter him from any future offences. Read more »


The prospect of prosecutions over the Stakeknife record underlines the need to enact a Legacy Bill

Wisely, the usual knee jerk reactions from politicians and commentators  committed to one side or another in historical cases have  been held back after the sudden announcement from Jon Boutcher the chief constable of Bedfordshire running Operation Kenova that he has gathered evidence  to prosecution standard. It remains  to be assessed by the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions.

The prospect of state servants being charged over the record of Stakeknife cuts through the deadlocked debate on dealing with the past. Read more »