Time for Change: Rodney Gardner

Time for Change

What type of world do we live in?
It’s going from bad to worse
What can we do to change it?
Instead of going downhill, out it in reverse.

Poverty and hunger-people left to die
Why is nothing being done to help them? Why? Why? Why?
Some people do their best, others don’t even care
No wonder so many people, hang their heads in despair.

Governments do a little but waste so very much
They think they are wonderful but they’re really out of touch
Listen to the people-give them what they ask
Show some honesty for a change. No more lying masks.

Broken promises-empty-worthless words
Time to fly like an eagle and not a flightless bird
Prove you’re worthy of our votes on election day
Actions speak louder than words is all I have to say.

We live in hope, that someday things will change
They had better, or a new government, we shall arrange
Do your job properly and stop ripping off the people
Stand up tall under heaven, just like a church steeple.

We are fed up with squabbling and neglect
Time to support our people and a strong government resurrect
Think of the future as a new generation comes along
It’s time for us to do something right, to make up for all the wrongs.


Rodney Gardner



Seasonal Greetings from Bush House


On behalf of all UVF/RHC prisoners in Bush 1 and 2, Maghaberry Prison, could I extend Christmas greetings to all our families, friends, comrades and supporters across the UK and wish them all a prosperous New Year.  The support you have given us all over the years has been truly welcomed and long may it continue.  Special greetings to ken Wilkinson and family-the PUP and all the staff at EPIC.  To all the ACT Area Action groups we wish the same.

Christmas greetings to my fiancée Carol and children, Cheryl-Linzi-Kurtis-Billy-Christopher-wee Travis and wee Ella.  Have a great Christmas and New Year in the knowledge that I will be thinking about you all.  It won’t be long until we are together again.  Ivan.

To my family, friends and all those who have supported me over these last few years could I convey my heartfelt thanks and wish you all a good Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Special greetings to Terry-Eddie-Ron-Plum-Warren-Ricky-Hec-Jimmy-Tinker-Chrissie and Davy-all the guys in the Royal Bar and those in the rangers and Barrington Street clubs for their generous efforts on my behalf.  An extra special thanks to William and Beano-friends for so long who have always been there for me.  Greetings to all those who contribute to longkeshinsideout-great reading for all of us-and to those who supported ‘etcetera’ theatre company—keep it up.  Bobby.

To Sandra, David, Michelle, Rachel, my 6 sisters and 2 brothers, Bradley, Adam. Charlie, Cody and Sam, Nigel, Cookstown, Jemo, Steve Irwin, Players and Staff at Lincoln Court Football Club and all the guys in the office plus any other firends…Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a happy New Year.  Thanks for all your support and hopefully it won’t be too long until we are all together.  Po.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my darling wife Linda, children James, Chris and Aine, Stephanie and Mark..and grankids Priya, Abbie and Caleb.  Have a nice Christmas. Xoxoxo.  Stevie McConnell.

To all my friends and family, wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Thank you for your constant support throughout the years from myself and all the men in Loyalist Bush House/Hotel Maghaberry.  Have a good one and remember to drink a few for us too!!  Ha! Ha!  All the best—Stevie B—East Belfast.



Editing God out of 1916 is risible: Proclamation’s Ideals ignored: Dr. John Coulter


Editing God out of 1916 is risible: Proclamation’s ideals ignored


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Many republicans need to ‘wise up’ and actually read the 1916 Proclamation.

Just as secular society has changed the true meaning of Christmas by editing Christ out, republicans are guilty of editing God out of the Proclamation of Poblacht na hEireann, issued during the failed Rising.

It’s a mirror image of Unionists who ridicule the Irish language by conveniently forgetting it was Presbyterians who kept the gaelic tongue alive in past centuries – so stick that in your curry and yoghurt!

The Proclamation opens: “In the name of God …” How can republicans go on about returning to the Proclamation’s ideals when many don’t even believe in God?

I can understand a fundamentalist Catholic such as PH Pearse signing the Proclamation, but why would a hardline Scottish communist like James Connolly?

The moral crisis facing republicans is simple – either they fully embrace the 1916 Proclamation and its clear references to God, or the Shinners have the guts to write a new secular Proclamation in 2016. Either you keep God, or you dump God. You can’t be an atheistic Marxist republican and still pledge allegiance to Him!

Since the early 1970s, the Shinners, INLA and all the dissident republican terror factions have made a mockery out of a core passage in the Proclamation.

It states: “The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts …”

So much for the Protestants slaughtered by the IRA at Tullyvallen and Kingsmill, or butchered at Darkley Mission Hall by an INLA faction, and so much for all the women and children massacred at Omagh.

And what about all the Catholics ‘disappeared’ over the years? Guarantees of ‘religious and civil liberty’ are now nothing but empty rhetoric and modern republicans are only making tits of themselves by swearing allegiance to the 1916 Proclamation.

It gets worse for the 21st century republican movements. The Proclamation goes on: “We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God …”

When was the last time these so-called republicans attended a religious service where they genuinely prayed to God for protection?

Perhaps forgiveness for the movements for the pain and suffering they have inflicted on the Irish nation would be a better sentiment to pray for.

And embarrassment for republicans just gets deeper with the Proclamation wording: ” … we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity or rapine”.

Given the number of alleged sex abusers the republican movement has hidden or moved over the generations, the time has come for republicans to face a bitter truth.

Modern republican morals bear no resemblance to the ideals of the original Proclamation.

Either tear it up and start again in 2016, or get back to 1916 basics and return God to His proper place in republican thinking.

December 17, 2014________________


This article appeared in the December 15, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.


Dear Mr. Cameron, come take a walk with me: Julie- Anne Corr Johnston

Julie -Anne is a member of the Progressive Unionist Party and a councillor for the Oldpark Ward in North Belfast

One of the major local headlines last week was that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny had “cleared their diaries” to lend their support to the inter-party talks at Stormont. It seems that no Stormont talks are complete without a crisis intervention from a Prime Minister, President, or some other person of note. We all remember Sir Reg Empey receiving his phone call from Hilary Clinton in 2010 over the crisis around the devolution of justice powers, and when this didn’t work, former US President George was tempted out of retirement to make another transatlantic telephone intervention by calling David Cameron. One wonders whether the crises are real crises at all, or just an opportunity for our publicity hungry politicians to have global leaders run after them, chalking up another anecdote for future reminiscence. One can hear Sir Reg remarking, “Did I ever tell you about the time David Cameron AND Hilary Clinton AND George Bush chased after me?” to which an eager researcher will respond, “No way!”

While our politicians are concocting ever more elaborate crises to get world leaders running after them (Will they really be happy that only David Cameron and Enda Kenny are in a panic and that President Obama isn’t warming up the White House phone in anticipation?), the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s autumn statement was setting the context for increased austerity, with The Guardian headline stating, “Osborne moves to cut spending to 1930s levels in dramatic autumn statement.” Inevitably, this will affect the poor the most, and just as some overzealous evangelical preachers blamed the debaucheries of the poor in Sri Lanka and New Orleans for the devastation caused by natural disasters, so the poor are blamed for the current economic crisis – it’s caused by immigrants, lazy people on benefits, the idle and feckless. It’s nothing to do with greedy bankers and speculators bringing down the world economy. Bankers and speculators have been bailed out and seemingly learned nothing – while the poor and vulnerable are left to pick up the pieces, increasingly relying on food banks and charity to get by. While the stock markets approach apparently record levels, the poor are begrudged an extra bedroom in their homes.

I sometimes wonder how world leaders achieve the seemingly remarkable and get our politicians to reach agreement – do they dance, do they sing, or prostrate themselves like prophets in the Old Testament and cry out and beg. Perhaps it’s all three, or just maybe the decisions our politicians have to make aren’t that hard at all and they just like to see a little cabaret. As I write this, David Cameron is probably picking his tunes – will he sing The Smiths? Deciding on his costume – a hat or a tiara? Will he do a duet with Enda Kenny? I’m sure it must be nerve wracking. He’ll want to get the performance just right. If it takes a song and a dance to get someone to listen, then maybe I should prepare something for his arrival. Perhaps I can convince him that the poor aren’t idle, feckless and undeserving after all. Just maybe George Osborne’s budget statement is his own version of a political crisis in Northern Ireland, it’s not really that bad, and with the right song and dance everything will be ok. It’s worth a try.

I wonder what music will work best? Perhaps I could start with a line from Pink, “Dear Mr Prime Minister, come take a walk with me. Let’s just pretend we’re just two people and you’re not better than me.” Then I could maybe break into Tracy Chapman (“Here in Subcity, life is hard”) or some Gil Scott-Heron (‘You never dig sharing, always had to have the most”). Perhaps not, this will just depress him. Maybe I’m no good at show business. I’ll take him on a walking tour of the Shankill Road and ask him – “Do you really think these children, older people and hard-working families struggling to make ends meet are the cause of all our economic woes. Do you really think they are less deserving that the wealthy and multi-national corporations?” I’d also ask him to tell Ian Duncan Smith to stop using the language of social justice to mask his sustained efforts to reduce the living standards of the poor and to make their lives worse – “being poorer is good for you – it makes you appreciate things more.”

If I did take him along Belfast’s Shankill Road, what would he see – social deprivation, educational under-attainment, isolated and vulnerable pensioners, unemployment and physical dereliction? I could introduce him to my friend Joe Bloggs, a single man living in a small flat who can’t afford to heat his house in the winter; or there is Mrs Smith who took the bus to the bargain store to buy a canvas to hide the damp on her walls that a private landlord wouldn’t repair. Mrs Smith’s daughter wants to be a doctor when she grows up – the closest she’s come to achieving her dream is being a community care worker on a zero hours contract for £6.31 an hour. Mr Jones is an electrician by trade, but he needs surgery on his knee and is working through pain. The NHS is supposed to be sending him to private care but the funds have dried up and his knee is getting worse. He can’t understand why the private clinic is operating out of the local NHS hospital. Surely the TTIP agreement hasn’t led to the NHS being sold off just yet? I think Mr Cameron will have had enough by then, “Take me home, this is more depressing than The Smiths. Can we please avoid the war veterans sleeping rough, I don’t think I can take another look.”

I doubt he would reflect much on his walk through Shankill as he is taken on the journey to Stormont, it’s much easier to sing for our politicians at Stormont than it is to stand up to the wealthy and say the poor aren’t to blame after all. It’s also easier for our politicians to exacerbate fake crises of their own making, sling some mud at each other, then settle down for a good old cabaret courtesy of the British and Irish Governments. A few songs, a few dances, a stand-up comic and some good wine, everything is ok and they are all getting on again. “I didn’t really mean it when I asked if you could put curry in my yoghurt” and “Our leader was only joking when he called you all bastards.” However, while the behind the scenes chumminess resumes, greased up by a good old sing-a-long chorus, the poor are still the poor – whether they live in Shankill or Falls – and they are still left wondering who is going to come and sing and dance for them and do something to make their lives better. “Did I ever tell you about the time…………..?”

This article first appeared on sluggerotoole


Between The Ears



A documentary first aired on BBC Radio in March 2002 and featuring interviews with 2 former political prisoners.  Eddie Kinner of the UVF and Brendan “Bik” McFarlane.



Gerry’s the Trojan One: Shinners best Strategy: Dr. John Coulter


Gerry’s the Trojan one … Shinners’ best strategy


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Sinn Féin must continue with its policy of using Trojan Horses if it is to become the Irish king-maker by the centenary of the Rising in 2016.

In ancient mythology, the Trojan Horse was the cunning plan which the Greeks used to break into the heavily defended city of Troy and capture it from the inside.

Unionists really have their Orange knickers in a real twist over Shinner boss Gerry Adams’ comments on the use of equality as a political Trojan Horse to achieve the party’s final goal.

This is no big secret. What is surprising is that Unionism and the British have, time after time, allowed Sinn Féin to give them a whole stable of Trojan Horses since the late 1960s.

Basically, Unionists fall for the republican Trojan Horse at every jump! Their jibes at Adams’ so-called republican mask slipping is a pathetic attempt to defect attention away from the reality that the Shinners have been duping Unionists for decades.

Look at what republicans have achieved using the Trojan Horse tactic.

After the disastrous IRA Border campaign of 1956-62, republicans infiltrated the Civil Rights Movement to give the Provos a terror springboard across the whole of the North and not just the border counties.

Republicans persuaded the Brits to scrap the B Specials militia, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the RUC, and axe the original Stormont Parliament, effectively leaving Unionists powerless.

The backbone of Unionist rule in the North for generations was the Protestant Marching Orders, especially the Orange.

That Trojan Horse was the network of republican-dominated nationalist residents’ groups objecting to traditional parades.

That succeeded – as at Drumcree – in driving a wedge between the Orders and the Protestant middle class who abhorred the violence now associated with such contentious marches.

Now a second Trojan Horse has been delivered to the Unionist stable – objecting to loyalist band parades, such as Rasharkin in Co Antrim.

The aim of this ploy is to drive another wedge between working class Protestants, and the police and Parades Commission.

The ultimate aim of the Sinn Féin stable of Trojan Horses is not about securing equality for republicans, but about isolating Unionism politically, socially and culturally.

The worst thing Sinn Féin can do is to abandon the concept of using political Trojan Horses now that Unionists have worked out how republicans have always stayed several steps ahead of them for decades.

In the Republic, Sinn Féin must use the Trojan Horse of its anti-austerity stance to convince voters the party should be a coalition partner in the next Dail.

And in the North, it must continue to encourage more draft-dodgers into its ranks. These are young republicans who have never served an apprenticeship in the IRA.

This Trojan Horse enabled Sinn Féin to heavily eat into the SDLP’s traditional middle class Catholic vote.

But yet another Trojan Horse is needed here – to ensure middle class nationalists do not abandon the Stoops completely and set up a new moderate party.

Yet more Trojan Horses which the Shinners need to urgently create are one to combat the threat from the dissident republican movement, given the dire warnings coming from the police.

Sinn Féin can take a giant leap towards Irish unity if it ditches abstentionism at Westminster and becomes part of a coalition Government with Labour boss Ed Miliband.

This Trojan Horse is used to fool republican hardliners within Sinn Féin ranks that the party has not joined the British Establishment, but taking Commons seats is part of a clever plan.

As for Trojan Horses from Unionism, there’s no chance. Unionism’s stable is full of blind donkeys ready for the political knackers yard!

December 9, 2014________________


This article appeared in the December 8, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.


17 in Belfast: James

17 in Belfast.

It is late June 1974. I have just turned 17. I live in the middle of Belfast. In the middle of the troubles. This is just some memories of one year.

July. It is a great month although its wetter than usual.  Still doesn’t stop us enjoying the bonefire on the 12th.  The 3 Degrees are belting it out and the Osmonds have hit the UK.  While I’m not a Liverpool supporter Bill Shankly has resigned. This is sad because I like him as a person.

The Provos have set a bomb in London killing one policeman. There is madness in South Belfast.  A woman is beaten to death by loyalists with her child outside the room. I recall sitting having breakfast before school when a report on the radio says a woman’s body has been found on the side of the M1.  It is all women and one man who are lifted for it.  The victim is Ann Ogilby. It is basically a fight over a man.   We hear sirens all the time now.  Im not into rugby but we have been  watching the famous British lions team (the Invincibles) play in south Africa. It’s the dirtiest  play I’ve ever seen in rugby.   Players from here are Mike Gibson,  Willie John McBride, McKinney, Milliken and Grace.

August. It is a lazy warm month although half inch of rain falls on the 10th.  One of them heavy,  summer plumps.  I mess about not doing much. I kick ball on the street but the young ones are out and they annoy me.  They are children. I am grown up now. There are daily riots around Belfast but they are so common they are not reported unless,   a) there is a foreign news crew or b) it is a slow  news day.  There are only 13 people killed this month due to the troubles.  One is a 13 year old school boy.  Wearing a school uniform is a problem these days. It can identify you to the ‘other side’. Arnotts shop in town closes. My mum is sad. I remember us going  shopping there.   There are regular bomb scares these days.

September.  I start my new school.  I am not happy. No friends and strange new routines.  I do not know anything about social class until now. It is made obvious that I am regarded as coming from a poor family and a poor place. I got a scholarship to be here but that does not seem to matter. It ends up with me fighting. I blacken the guys eye real good. I’m in front of the headmaster but I soon have friends who tell me that the bully deserved his punching.  At the same time Karl Douglas is singing away to the number 1 spot with King Fu Fighting. So after the Bruce Lee period a while back, everyone is out in the street giving it loads of karate chops and flying kicks.

October.  It is a busy month. We are having a second general election this year.  Big John Parkes runs a shop in the Donegall Pass. While he is a DUP man, all shades of Unionist are helping the Rev Robert Bradford keep the South Belfast seat.  Leaflets are given out and posters put up.  He keeps his seat but that night there are numerous Provo  bombs about Belfast.   It is a cool but dry month but the nights are getting chilly. Homework’s are starting to pile up for me.   One evening the news carries a story of a fire in the long Kesh prison outside Lisburn. I know one of the guys in there. No one knows what is happening.  The UDA mobilises and big patrols are out on the streets. I see a patrol of about 30 UDA men on the Shankill road. People are afraid. But David Essex is Gonna make us all stars.  My dad,  friends and I watch Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle on our black and white TV.

November.   It is a violent month even by our standards.  Bombs explode in pubs in Birmingham killing a lot of people. The government rush in new anti-terror laws.  Everyone is my street is angry.  The killings continue here, over 40 troubles deaths.  A doorman, a catholic,  is killed at the Club Bar on the University Road.  A man, a Prod, who worked in the Markets is found  shot dead in a car in Apsley Street.  A man, a Catholic, is shot dead at Carolyn Road  at the top of the Ormeau Road.  Barry White,  the big black dude with the white suit is crooning all over the charts.  It is a cold month but very windy.

December.  Getting ready for Xmas. Still watching Blue Peter and seeing how their charity appeal is coming along. There is a feeling of fear at this festive time. If you go shopping in the city centre you are assured of searches, bomb scares and maybe even a real bomb going off.  Army and police jeeps race about the streets.  If not in school uniform I wear my black DMs,  skinners  and bomber jacket. I love my Orange Widows badge. I am stopped often for a ‘pat down’.  The dark cold nights and troubles mean people stay in their homes.  The Monty Python TV show is finishing.

At least Top of the Pops is still on.  Thursday night is usually a good TV night. Mud will be at number 1 this Christmas with Lonely this Christmas.  Mud,  a name that they wanted to  stick. A catholic man who was shot at the City Hospital in October dies on Christmas Eve. Won’t be a great Xmas for that family. A woman is accidentally shot dead in a club.  I know the man who is charged. He is mentally wrecked. It was his friends wife. His friend has forgiven him and knows it was a terrible accident. We have a traditional family dinner with one invited guest.   There are fewer toys in the house now that we are all growing older. Clothes are more usual now.  No white Xmas,  more like cloudy  grey.


January. The year starts off with Status Quo and ‘Down,  Down’. Excellent. I already have one of their LPs.  My collection of 45’s is growing. I get my pocket money on a Saturday and it is down to the Gramophone shop in the city centre.  Back to school. It’s a long slog until June. We are told about our mocks this year.  Only 9 people killed in the troubles this month.  A young catholic is shot dead off Great Victoria Street. He is 17 years old. Same as me. The FA Cup starts for real on the 4th. Still love reading Shoot! The mighty Everton are held by little Altricham at Goodison. Liverpool win as do Leeds but Man United only draw with Walsall only to be beaten in the replay.  After a local church youth club on a Saturday night I go home to watch Match of the Day along with buttered bread and a bowl of Dads vegetable soup. Happy days.

February. It is turning out to be a mild winter. No snow.  Steve Harley and his Cockney rebel are going up to see the Number 1 spot.  Some woman called Thatcher has taken over from Teddy Heath as leader of the Tories.  A Catholic and Protestant are killed on the Ormeau Road.  Merlyn Rees is the Secretary of State. He’s annoying the Unionists. I always think of Harry Worth the comedian when I see him.  I have taken up playing squash through school.  Not a working class game but good fun.  Leeds and Arsenal look strong in the F.A . Cup.  But neither make it to the final.

March   The Shadows represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest . They sang ‘Let me be the One’. Instead they were 9th.  Another young catholic is shot dead off the Ormeau Road. The loyalists are having a deadly feud. 15 people die this month. The first policewoman dies in the troubles,  killed by loyalists  in Bangor.  My favourite bald, lolly sucking, American policeman, has made it to the top of the charts.  IF he would only  stick to catching baddies.  ‘Who loves ya baby’? One of my grand uncles has died.  It is a country funeral in a small country church. He was a happy go lucky man. I will miss him. Our whole family are at the funeral. It is good to see them all but sad that we only meet when someone dies.  Leeds and Ipswich go on a marathon tie needing to play 4 matches before Ipswich win out. Bryan Hamilton who plays for N. Ireland scores one Ipswich goal.

April.  I have backed Red Rum this year in the National after backing him last year when he won. We are a once-a-year betting family. My mum gets L’Escargot.  We all put a shilling each way.  Its nice to win. Especially when we haven’t a clue about horse racing. We banter Dad. His is still running somewhere.  I am putting in a lot more revision for the class tests. Although,  I am coming to hate maths.  The teacher knows that I am struggling with it. Mud are back at Number 1 with Oh Boy.  Fulham and West Ham win their semis to book a place at Wembley in May.  5 Prods die in the IRA bombing of the Montainview on the Shankill. It is one of the bloodiest weekends in Belfast. 13 men die in the space of 3 days in Belfast.  The army shoot dead a young Shankill man after a bar is attacked in Lavinia St.  The leader of the Sticks is shot dead on the Falls.  A man is shot  dead behind the City Hospital.  Rangers win the league in Scotland. Some of their best players  are Jardine, Johnston,  Jackson, Mclean and Parlane (top scorer)

May.  I have to go away on a residential with school. Feels very odd being away from family. And its only a  weekend. Only 11 dead in the troubles this month. Tammy Wynette is standing by Her man and West Ham win the FA Cup.  Man United are promoted from the second division back into the First Division. We watch Leeds being beaten in the European Cup final by Bayern Munich. Then the riot starts. There is an election to a Convention.  It was doomed from the start.  Another grand uncle dies. I am aware of a generation moving through and that we are all mortal. Even my generation today will be old at some time. And then?

June. I will be 18 this month.  Childhood has gone.  Summer holidays then one more year in school. What will I do then? All my mates have jobs. I see less of them.  A storm blows in at the start of the month. My birthday is a non-event.  It’s more about getting the card with the money inside and then a spending spree.  I think about a job and money of my own.  The killings carry on unabated.  A 3 year girl dies in her daddy’s booby trapped car in the Ormeau Road. The Daily Mirror headline screams ‘Bastards’.  A Protestant man is shot dead off the Ormeau Road. A 16 year old is shot dead in north Belfast. His killer is aged 16. It’s a warm and dry June but probably will be a long hot summer.   What will I do with my life? What can I do. Where would I go? I have never left this island. People just seem to plough on and hope for the best.  Wonder what the next year will bring.






A Law for the Rich and A Law for the Poor?

One law for the rich another for the poor?

   I am not surprised in any measure about the revelations of Kiernan Conway that the Provos had contacts and assistance from inside the Garda in the 1970s and even later.  I not surprised about help going to the Provos  from the politicians or businessmen. I was puzzled by the reference to him as a barrister.  Reading the articles in the press it says he came from an upper middle class family in south Dublin. But it clearly says that he was jailed in the Crumlin Road prison after being caught by the army in Londonderry.  He even went on hunger strike for political status.

“The ex-IRA intelligence officer turned Dublin barrister”


So how does someone with such a conviction walk in the hallowed halls of justice?  As an ex paramilitary prisoner one thing that has dogged me since my release is the constant discrimination shown in job selection procedures and interviews.  Maybe it’s OK to get a Diplock conviction then move south and there’s no problem?  Did the legal eagles down there vet his application to the bar? Or maybe it’s more a class thing?  Maybe Conway’s family and friends moved in the right circles that could get things sorted? No harm in sliding him in if you were also turning a blind eye to the slaughter that was going on in Belfast and the border?

But what of working class loyalist men and women who decided to stand up in the ‘70s? Maybe our ideas then about collusion between the Irish government and the Provos were correct?  And in some ways thank heavens we stood up for what was right.  But ordinary loyalists have struggled to get good jobs to look after their families upon release from prison and long after they had left their organisation.  Some of the discrimination I encountered was from middle and upper class unionists.

And not only loyalist ex-prisoners. I have followed the case of two ex-republicans who wanted to work in a homeless place in west Belfast. Bottom line. They cant.  So if you are from the Shankill or the Falls i.e. working class, and not upper middle class, you cannot, and never will be,  a barrister or such like.  After such a revelation is it any wonder that ordinary loyalists do not, and will not, go into a United Ireland? What sort of life awaits us there?


Working class Prod and Diplock court sentenced.


Fifty Questions For Irish Republicans: William Ennis

Fifty questions for Irish Republicans

  1. Do you disagree with the media practice of referring to Republicans who oppose the peace process as dissidents, a reference which cleanly divorces them from pro-peace Republicans, given that this courtesy is not extended to pro-peace Loyalists?
  2. Is Sinn Fein’s desire to slash corporation tax, arguably to the cost of public services, a betrayal of James Connolly?
  3. With the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) acknowledging the British identity of those within our communities who cherish it is Brits out still an appropriate slogan?
  4. Many Irish Republicans supported the Scottish Yes campaign.  Is this an acknowledgement that two states can be a peaceful solution upon One Island?
  5. Can you think of a campaign you’d like Loyalists and Republicans to undertake together?
  6. Do the differing attitudes toward Loyalist culture in the Republic of Ireland (where opposition to orange parades is almost unheard of) and Northern Ireland (were many Loyalists understand it to be cultural within Republicanism) deepen partition?
  7. Is ringing the bell to start trading at the New York Stock Exchange consistent with a Socialist Republic?
  8. To what degree do the reasons cited by dissident Republicans for splitting from main stream Republicanism differ from the reasons cited by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) for doing so in the 1970’s?
  9. Re-read question 5…  Can you name another?
  10. Should trustees of a building/organisation to which rent is being paid from the public purse be aware of such transactions?
  11.  If Irish Republicans oppose hierarchy of victimhood why don’t they campaign on behalf of PIRA victims too?
  12. Why did the PIRA not accept power-sharing in the 1970’s given that its format was very similar to our power-sharing arrangement today?
  13. How much consideration was given within the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community to the effect the Belfast City Hall flag removal would have upon w/c Protestant areas before that action was undertaken?
  14. Does the Republican understanding of a shared future refer to a future shared between Catholics, Protestants and other faiths, or between Nationalist, Unionist and other ideologies?
  15. Any theories as to why so few Ulster Protestants have been recruited to the Irish Republican cause in Northern Ireland?
  16. During the conflict as Irish Republicanism battled what it considered British oppression of the Irish people, what steps did it take to combat the now clear oppression which was perpetrated upon the Irish people by the Church (via laundry prisons for young women and clerical child abuse)?
  17. With almost unanimous agreement that the Irish language should not be politicised, does it belong in the manifesto of any political party?
  18. Does Irish Republicanism advocate separation of church and state?  If so, given the special position De Valera gave to one religious faith above all others, when did that policy change?
  19. What things would you, as a Republican, like to see happen in Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist areas which aren’t happening at the moment?
  20. Why have SF agreed to implement the austerity plan of the Conservative party?
  21. Do you believe Loyalism has a right to exist?
  22. Do you believe Loyalism has a right to practice its parading tradition?
  23. Do you believe Loyalism has a right to practice its parading tradition in areas which are not Protestant?
  24. Do you support segregated living as two separate communities?
  25. Why are some Republicans still engaged in armed struggle?
  26. To what extent do currently violent Republicans (known in the media as dissidents) influence the policies of Sinn Fein?
  27. With Scotland coming within six per-cent of leaving the UK without a bullet fired, a bomb planted or a prisoner self-starved, has any reconsideration been cast upon Irish Republicanism’s past tactics?
  28. Why is partition a blight of Ireland but a goal in Spain?
  29. Are the Irish people who fought in the two world wars less Irish than those who didn’t?
  30. Was De Valera correct to refuse Churchill’s offer of Irish re-unification in exchange for Ireland’s official recruitment against Nazism?
  31. Is it credible for a party to be anti-austerity in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) whilst implementing austerity in Northern Ireland?
  32. Did the Enniskillen bomb benefit Ireland?  If so, how?
  33. Any theories as to why the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) focused their enquiries overwhelmingly on ex-Loyalist paramilitaries and anti-SF Republicans but very rarely on PIRA paramilitaries?
  34. With the EU bringing together states through trade and dialogue doesn’t this render the 32 county state arguments obsolete?
  35. Would a SF government in the ROI withdraw Ireland from the EU, or set in motion the referendum to do so?
  36. Was the conflict here a legitimate war, or a terrorist campaign?  If the former, why complain when your enemy fired back?  If the latter, why support terrorism?
  37. Why didn’t the PIRA apologise to all innocent victims at the calling of its ceasefire, as Loyalists did?
  38. Loyalist protesters were recently fired upon by police using rubber bullets.  Is it fair to say that Republican protest at their use is not as vociferous as was the case in past generations when the same tactics were deployed against protesting members of the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican section of the community?
  39. If South Africa and India (to name two) can rejoin the commonwealth why not Ireland?  Would it not be the ultimate olive branch to the British section of the community in Ulster?
  40. If you could change one thing (just the one mind) about Loyalism, what would it be?
  41. Would the Parades Commission be legal in the Republic of Ireland?  (see article 40.6.1.ii of the Irish constitution)
  42. If you could change anything about Irish Republicanism, what would it be?
  43. Is mocking the pronunciation of certain words by another working class section of the community consistent with the Socialist Republic?
  44. Is it wrong to say that Sinn Fein’s opposition to super-grass trials is much weaker today that the targets of the tactic are usually Loyalists, than it was in the 1980’s, when the targets were often Republicans?
  45. If Northern Ireland is an occupation then presumably as a Unionist I must be a collaborator of some sort.  In the event of the Republican Ideal of a thirty-two county sovereign Island state, how would my charge sheet read?
  46. Considering the petition of concern facility at Stormont, what are the chances of legislating for a united Ireland referendum?
  47. Is the creation of companies for the purpose of acquiring invoices to draw expense claims from the public purse in keeping with a Socialist Republic?
  48. Will the re-emerging tactics of bombing banks, shooting policemen etc benefit Ireland?  If so, how?
  49. Why did Sinn Fein capitulate to the DUP on the recent budget?
  50. I don’t mean to embarrass the guy, but on the several occasions I have met and conversed with Connor Maskey I found him to be genuinely engaging and progressive.  Have you ever engaged with a Loyalist were the exchange became hopeful rather than adversarial?

Some Unionists may find this list tame or lacking in venom, as some Republicans may find some of the questions cheap and predictable, yet picking a row is not their purpose.  Some of the questions came from frustrations I sense within the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist section of our community and others were born solely of my own curiosity.

Dialogue is never a bad thing.

William Ennis is a Progressive Unionist activist/East Belfast



Unseen,Unspoken-A Long Kesh Tunnel: Digger




My back is aching, my shoulders burn the palm of my hand feels like a hole is being driven through it. In some ways that’s exactly what is happening. I have a towel wrapped round my hand and I a digging a blunted metal knife into the soil which is inches from my face.  It is freezing  down here but I am sweating with the exertion. I dig as much soil as I can before putting it into a large metal pan or Dixie. It has handles each end.  I tug the rope and the pan is pulled away. I hold the rope tied to my end. I feel a tug. I pull the pan back up to me and start the process again.  Dig in at the bottom. Work up.  I didn’t suffer claustrophobia but this space is enough to worry anyone. Its  maybe 18 inches square.  Its not like the movies. I will never watch the Great Escape again. The clay sticks with an oily cold feel. We lie on the mud which  mixes with the condensation from our breath.  The biggest fear is a cave in.   There is always one man behind. Close enough to pull the digger back in case of a collapse.  I was never into geography at school but now we become experts on soil nature and alluvial clays.  For the record one of our smart alecs says the Kesh is built on  ‘Upper Oligocene clays . Personally I would call it shit because it’s a bastard to dig through.  We take turns doing the face work, the pulling out work and then the disposal work. A team of men are set aside to clean every bit of earth and  clay from the floor. Getting rid of the bloody stuff is a real problem. Just watch the movies. True enough. Some days I get a good patch. Firm, no stones and heavy. Other days it is gravel and stones nearly like a concrete mix. Deadly on the hands.  Some days its mushy. Its the worst. How do you shore that up? We use anything and I mean anything to line the sides and especially the roof. We are only 6 or 7 feet down but that’s  a lot of earth above your head. It doesn’t take a lot to trap a person and hold them.  .  It only take minutes to suffocate.  Every so many feet we dig a sump or pit to take the excess water.  We joke about asking Arthur Scagill for some pit props from the pits  Maggie is closing. But we don’t know how to get them through security.

When we started it seemed so easy. But each day it got a bit longer and so our speed slowed with the pulling in and out.  I don’t like the crawl up to the face. Im not the smallest guy here. I crawl using my elbows fearful of knocking out a prop and causing a cave in.  One of the guys has devised a ventilation system. Thank heavens otherwise I couldn’t do this. The serious effort burns up the limited oxygen. we pour out the carbon dioxide.  I sometime would still feel faint.  The light is strung from the sides. Very small and weak light. We whisper when down here but doubt if anyone overhead would hear. At times we have felt  via tremors people above but cannot hear the voices.

Compound 18 is a UVF/RHC  cage set in a corner of the Long Kesh prison camp. Our numbers are dropping and soon we fear this cage will close because of its proximity to th e external wall. A decision was made to escape. We have some men serving out at least 35 years many 25 years minimum. Many of us know we will be here for  along time. We are going to get out or maybe die trying. Same difference.

I hate it when I eventually get back to the surface. The day light seems dazzling. But the air is so fresh.  My legs wobble a bit. And my back still aches. At first I didn’t care about my hair but I would get a shower quickly and found both clay and stones sticking tightly to my scalp. I got our resident barber to shave it all off. Far easier to clean now.  I wrap a towel around my head,  change into clean clothes and take my shorts and t shirt to the shower to wash away all the clay. This is important as tell-tale signs and be picked by an inquisitive screw. Some of them are sharp bastards.

We fall into a routine and pattern.  Debate starts about who will go when the time is right. We have worked out the line of sight of the towers. We will have help on the outside but it will be a bit of a turkey run. Even getting a few men away will be a victory. We talk in code in case the huts are bugged.  We walk the wire and talk. If we go then we leave our parents and families. You cant exactly go home and hope no one notices. I prefer Scotland.  We have good support there.  We have no guns. An army helicopter periodically flies low and slow over the compound. Someone says that they have special radar that can detect hollows below the ground. We wonder. And wait.  Another bright spark talks about ground sensors that picks up vibrations. He has seen it in a movie?


The screws have just told the cage C.O.  that we are moving.  We are being split between cages 19 and 21. We have not dug at night but we will now.  Ironically one of the giveaway signs was smell. That stale dank smell of freshly dug earth.  We were worried that screws coming in for the morning head count would wonder what the odd smell was. Even Big Rabs night time farts couldn’t cover that smell.

The only time I ever experienced digging holes and fresh clay was at funerals. I have a growing respect for grave diggers. We try harder to dig faster while staying safe. It is difficult to estimate the distance accurately but we guess that we will fall short of the high wall.   There is a hurried plan to  get out on the ground and scale the wall with rope. Hardly ideal but needs must.  Night time. Quietly. Overcast with no moon. We are all fit and lean. We all have a great motivation to go. We are putting the screws off with every lame excuse possible. But we cannot risk them thinking that an escape is about to take place.  Our hand is forced. We are given a date to leave.

We pick our time.  The first batch is ready to go. The man at the front will go upwards and then the debris will be ferried back along a chain of hands. It is inevitable that clothes will get some dirt but it cant be helped and it is 3am. Co incidentally,  things are happening in Belfast and elsewhere to keep the peelers and brits occupied.  The dig up seems to take forever. This is it. No more digging after this.  We all did the good luck thing before we started down.

The knife breaks the surface. There are grass roots. The smell of fresh air. The orange glow from the security lights.  A sudden stop. Waiting for a shout,  a siren. A searchlight. Everyone is quiet and tense. The rope is passed up to be used quickly and quietly. The lead has to chance a look. He gets a hoist up from the man below. He looks left. The space seems huge after his confinement. He looks right.  Good heavens above. A screw and dog are walking away from the hole.  They show no signs of having heard anything. The lead man drops down and whispers the news. Two minutes earlier and they would have walked in on the mass escape attempt. We have to wait.  We need at least 5 minutes good time to the rope up secured and men starting to scally up. But the longer the team sits the odds increase of another dog patrol. The lead man eases gently up just peeking out. He does a 360. All clear. And then voices. He ducks down. What fucking now. A near by gate has a wicket gate in it. Two screws are talking. We hear them crystal clear in the cool still air. One is gurning about his sore big toe. He thinks he has gout. Then we hear a shout. A screw in a lookout tower is shouting down. Bantering. I think, ‘Why don’t you all come down here and have a fucking party’.  This is unusual. We had men stay up all night to monitor and record what activity there was. Yes there were dog patrols. Most of the men in towers just closed the trap door and slept.  Did they know or suspect something? We all wait. Tension and excitement are starting to dissipate.

Nerves are jangling. Fraught. The absolute silence is a killer. One man has a watch. The time is 4.05am. I look at Barry,  the driving force behind this undertaking. The eyes say it all. No need for words. It is summer time. It will be light soon. Daybreak. Dawn. Our chance is slipping away second by second.  All the hours of digging, pain, drudgery,  dirt and wet cold shivering will be for nothing. We wait until we can wait no longer. The screws gossip about their bosses and who earns what.  Another doggie patrol is seen. There is no room for debate. There is an order.  Return. Now.  And quietly. Not a word is said. Plenty of time later for regrets.  The screws will go berserk when they find this enterprise as they will. My back is still breaking. But that’s nothing compared to how my heart is.