Time To Wind Up The Stoops: Dr. John Coulter

It’s time to wind up the Stoops

 

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Ireland needs a new moderate nationalist party and it’s time to wind up the Stoops.

The SDLP needs to face the bitter reality that its days of being the top dog in republicanism are over.

A new party is required to reclaim middle class Catholic nationalism back from the Shinners’ clutches.

Sinn Féin has been able to play the high wire act of holding onto its traditional working class republican heartlands, while now roaming at will into middle class Catholic areas which were once SDLP bastions.

The Stoops have committed political suicide by steadfastly remaining a Northern-only party and have not demonstrated the courage to merge with one of their Southern counterparts, such as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Irish Labour.

With the Shinners now scooping up seats across the island, why would Northern nationalists waste their vote on a ‘not an inch outside the Six Counties’ republican party?

The Stoops will also be lucky to hold onto their three Commons seats in next May’s poll, especially if Sinn Féin drops hints it could abandon abstentionism.

That would allow Sinn Féin to team up with Big Alex Salmond’s Scottish nationalists as well as the Welsh nationalists to give Prime Minister Dandy Dave Cameron a right political migraine at Westminster.

Sinn Féin is eclipsing the SDLP in the same way the Stoops under Fitt and Hume wiped out Eddie McAteer’s old Stormont nationalist movement.

 

 

 

So today, I’m formally launching my moderate Nationalist Party of Ireland (NPI), which I hope will replace the Stoops as the voice of sensible, caring, all-island politics.

But time is not on the side of moderate nationalists. While fingers can be pointed at the IRA pasts of top Shinners like Adams and McGuinness, a new generation of clean-cut republican is being groomed with no links to the Provos.

And these well-heeled, eloquently-spoken, degree-educated middle class Shinners are slowly but steadily beginning to dominate the corridors of Stormont.

It’s only a matter of time until their presence is effectively felt in the Dail. Before you can say ‘where are the alleged IRA sex abusers hiding?’ Southern Shinners will follow their Northern counterparts into government at Leinster House.

To get into power, if Sinn Féin has to formally ditch the ‘RA, take Commons seats, run Stormont, and abandon its hardline socialist brand, the republican movement is a cynical enough organisation to implement this.

However, it will take time to sell dropping abstentionism at Westminster to republican hardliners. That won’t buy time for the Stoops as jungle drums suggest the SDLP is split into three factions.

There are those loyal to party boss Big Al McDonnell in South Belfast. The rural brigade supports popular Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone, and the socialist wing is rallying behind the banner of outspoken Foyle MLA Colm Eastwood.

The Shinners also enjoy a core fanatical vote which no matter what the scandal engulfing the party, they’ll turn out in their thousands to vote Sinn Féin.

Moderate nationalists have to come to terms with the reality that the SDLP simply isn’t worth saving and it’s a case of back to the drawing board.

And it’s not as if this has been suddenly sprung on middle of the road nationalists. The SDLP has ignored warnings about Sinn Féin for years.

I recall an interview I did with the nationalist visionary, the late Paschal O’Hare, in the mid-1980s. Even then, Paschal was advising about the need for a new nationalist party. Hopefully, my NPI will fulfil that ambition.

November 19, 2014________________

 

This article appeared in the November 18, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

Share

A Very Irish Hypocrisy: Ceartas

A Very Irish Hypocrisy

 

What do people believe? I have been following the Maria Cahill story like so many other people but I have been more fascinated by the people who support and vote Sinn Fein.  As an old loyalist I can understand (but oppose) the IRA stance of fighting to get the ‘Brits’ (that includes me and my family) out of N.Ireland. I have studied how historically violence has been used to achieve political aims. It produced the Irish Republic, the State of Israel. It drove the French out of Algeria and defeated the Argies on the Falklands.  Violence drove the British out of America.  Violence took the land from the Native American Indians.  And as an ex prisoner,  I understand the Republican ‘hunger strikes’.   It was an amazing testament to the belief and ideals of those Republican prisoners.  There was principle and sacrifice. Even if they were on the opposite side to me.

But more importantly I understand the need and principles for defending woman and children from sexual predators.  Forget for a moment politics and dogmas and culture. Before I explain my puzzlement, I clearly note that there are predators everywhere. In ‘Prod’ districts, in the middle classes, in ethnic minority groups, in the security forces, etc.  Even famous T.V. celebrities from the ‘70s. Prods have only to look at the examples of Margaret Wright (1994) and Ann Ogilby (1974) and know that not all the monsters are in Republican districts.  But during the madness of the ‘70s Catholic/nationalist victims of sexual assault could not go to the RUC because of the prevailing feelings and attitudes within their community. A young woman or child from say ‘Andytown’ would be in the horrible position of not being allowed to go to the police and perhaps the police would not exactly be overzealous in wishing to help them. It fell upon the Republicans, ‘the Provos’, to do something. I am sure they took some men out and beat them, kneecapped or whatever.  But where it all falls down is when the Provos protect themselves and leave their victims without any meaningful recourse. Totally defenceless. Is it not somewhat ironic,  that after the all the years that Sinn Fein have criticising  the RUC and Army about protecting themselves, withholding information,  dragging feet,  being obstructive, twisting the truth, etc., that they themselves have been doing exactly the same thing.  A very Irish hypocrisy.

But what of the electorate, the ordinary Nationalist person in the Republican stronghold? Or the Irish Republic? The ability to turn a blind eye, to turn logic on its head?  Do Sinn Fein voters say; my political loyalty overrides disgraceful actions against my own people?  I can live with that? Ask yourself if you recall in the ‘70s or ‘80s a newspaper headline;  ‘Provos claim they have buried a tout?  They didn’t ‘fess’ up until they were pushed. Their leader still denies that he was a member of the Provos which still beggars’ belief. Maybe his jaunt over to Downing Street in 1973 was an administrative error? It’s still an insult to all who know the truth. Maybe Gusty wasn’t really in the UVF?

Do people know how many punishment shootings the Provos carried out on their own members for alleged sexual offences? Let’s face it, a person is shot in both knees, the police ask; what was this is for? Can you imagine someone saying; ‘I raped that woman’? I suspect the standard answer is; I don’t know why. And would the police chase down this kneecapping; one of thousands?  Unlikely.

So, as I see it, thousands of Nationalists will put their vote to Sinn Fein when the opportunity arises and turn a blind eye to all this “propaganda”. But what does it mean for other non-Sinn Fein Nationalists and Protestants? I have met many Nationalists and Republican ex-prisoners. They are as decent and straight a people as you could meet. Same with Loyalists, Security Forces, etc.   Good and bad everywhere.  But if Sinn Fein got into power in the Republic then that population can expect this type of behaviour to continue. Shinners always right; everyone else wrong.

The right to criticise them will be severely curtailed if not extinguished. For Loyalist and Protestants in the north the idea of Sinn Fein in power in a United Ireland is truly frightening.   If they can excuse some of their own brutalising of their own community in a sexual way then what can the rest of us expect?  Anything British will be slowly expunged. People will be forced to leave the country. Killings would start again (Look to the precedents in history). Any wrong  that Sinn Fein would do could be explained or lied away. ‘It’s the Brits fault’.  This monster in power would assume totalitarian and dictatorial proportions. Any criticism from non-Sinn Fein Nationalist or British would be snuffed out.   If Sinn Fein can’t be honest to nationalist victims about its own predator members how would it be honest and fair to anyone who wasn’t of their way of thinking?

The last point about the electoral blindness concerns Germany in 1930.  The Federal election saw the rise of Hitler’s party to second place in the Reichstag. There was much wrong about that land in those days and the woes are well recorded elsewhere.  But on the back of rhetoric, on the back of fears about Communism, on the back of the promise to give jobs to all, the people started voting in mass for this party with disastrous consequences.  But even at that time the electorate had been ignoring uncomfortable truths.  Turning a blind eye didn’t help anyone and created a monster that took the world to the brink of hell. Could the blind-eye electorate do the same for the people of Ireland?

 

                          “If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow,

                         and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts

                          through it will blow up everything in its way.”   Emile Zola.

 

Ceartas.

 

 

Share

James Orr-The Bard of Ballycarry

James Orr-The Bard of Ballycarry

 

James Orr was born in the town land of Ballycarry in the year 1770.  He was th only child of elderly parents and was tutored and taught at home. He was a prolific writer as a young man and wrote both in English and Ulster-Scots.  He was a contemporary of Rabbie Burns, who he was compared to.  Indeed in more recent times John Hewitt claimed that indeed Orr was a better poet than Burns.  Quite a claim.  Orr was foremost of the group of Ulster Scots poets who became known as the Ulster Weaver Poets—or rhyming weavers.
Orr joined the nationalist Society of United Irishmen as a 21 year old.  Much of his poetry from that time first appeared in The Northern Star—the journal of the United Irishmen.  In 1798 Orr took part-with the United Army of Ulster-in the failed attempt to capture Antrim town from the Royal Forces.  A biographer of the time says..” his conduct will long be remembered in having been actively employed in preventing his companions committing acts of cruelty”. He along with many others fled and went into hiding.  Their leader Henry Joy McCracken was captured and hanged in July of that year but Orr fled to America, where he remained, working for a newspaper before returning to Ballycarry under an amnesty in 1802.

He applied to join the Yeoman—a part time militia-who apparently were in existence to fight the UI threat.  He was turned down because of his still radical views. Orr took over the running of the family farm after his father’s death taking again to weaving as a trade and he self published the one book that appeared during his lifetime…Poems on Various Subjects.  In later years alcohol played a big part in Orr’s life although he remained close to many of his literary friends.  It was they who published The Posthumous Works of James Orr of Ballycarry in 1817.  Orr had died the previous year aged 46.  At Orr’s request all proceeds from the sale of the book would be used to hopefully relieve poverty in Ballycarry.
In The Passengers Orr tells the story of the exiles after the ill fated 98 rebellion and particular the Battle of Antrim Town.

 

How calm an’ cozie is the wight,
Frae cares an’ conflicts clear ay,
Whase settled headpiece never made,
His heels or han’s be weary!
Perplex’d is he whase anxious schemes
Pursue applause, or siller,
Success nor sates, nor failure tames;
Bandied frae post to pillar
Is he, ilk day
As we were, Comrades, at the time
We mov’d frae Ballycarry,
To wan’er thro’ the woody clime
Burgoyne gied oure to harrie:
Wi’ frien’s consent we prie’t a gill,
An’ monie a house did call at,
Shook han’s, an’ smil’t; tho’ ilk fareweel
Strak, like a mighty mallet,
Our hearts, that day
This is my locker, yon’ers Jock’s,
In that aul creel, sea-store is
Thir births beside us are the Lockes
My uncle’s there before us;
Here hang my tins an’ vitriol jug,
Nae thief’s at han’ to meddle ‘em
L—d, man, I’m glad ye’re a’ sae snug;
But och! ‘tis owre like Bedlam
Wi’ a’ this day

Aince mair luck lea’s us (plain ‘tis now
A murd’rer in some mess is)
An English frigate heaves in view,
I’ll bail her board, an’ press us
Taupies beneath their wives wha stole,
Or ‘mang auld sails lay flat ay,
Like whitrats peepin’ frae their hole,
Cried ‘is she British, wat ye,
Or French this day?’
‘Twas but a brig frae Baltimore,
To Larne wi’ lintseed steerin’;
Twa days ago she left the shore,
Let’s watch for lan’ appearin’;
Spies frae the shrouds, like laigh dark clouds
Descried domes, mountains, bushes;
Tha exiles griev’t – the sharpers thiev’t –
While cronies bous’t like fishes
Conven’t, that day
Whan glidin’ up the Delaware,
We cam’ fornent Newcastle,
Gypes co’ert the whaft to gove, an’ stare
While out, in boats, we bustle:
Creatures wha ne’er had seen a black,
Fu’ scar’t took to their shankies;
Sae, wi’ our best rags on our back,
We mixt amang the Yankies,
An’ skail’t, that day

 

Beano

 

 

Share

Shinners Cannot Re-Write History-Republicans Died for UK

Shinners can’t rewrite history: Republicans died for UK

 

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Why is Sinn Féin so pig-headed about insulting the memory of Ireland’s true republican dead?

And that’s not taking into account the tens of thousands of republicans with Irish ancestry who herald from Commonwealth nations, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Then there’s the hundreds of thousands of republicans of Irish-American descent who served, were wounded, maimed or were killed fighting for the Allied powers.

On Armistice Day, on 11 November 1918 at 11 am, the guns of World War One finally fell silent.

If you were to believe some Shinners’ accounts of the two World Wars, no Sinn Féin member or supporter ever fought for the Allied cause, let alone died in battle.

For an organisation like Sinn Féin which takes so much pride in remembering its republican dead, its stance on republicans who died wearing Allied uniforms is hypocritical, if not downright baffling.

Is Sinn Féin seriously trying to tell the people of Ireland it is snubbing thousands of dead republicans simply because the party doesn’t like the British Army?

Sinn Féin’s desire to ‘disappear’ these republicans from Irish history reeks of shame at its underhand actions during both world wars.

While thousands of republicans were being slaughtered by German bombs, bullets and shells, Sinn Féin was secretly in league with the tyrant Kaiser Bill to get guns for its ill-fated Easter Rising.

The Irish Catholic Church actively encouraged republicans to join the fight against the Killing Kaiser because the bishops knew what kind of tyrannical society this German nutball would create in Ireland if he defeated Britain.

An even bigger shame was the republican movement’s secret dealing with Nazi madman Adolf Hitler.

As with World War One, thousands of republicans signed up to fight the evil of fascism. As republican blood flowed, the IRA sneaked into bed with Hitler.

How many Irish people would have been slaughtered like the Jews of Europe had Hitler defeated Britain and Ireland had become a Nazi satellite state?

The best way Sinn Féin can honour its true republican dead is to use Armistice Day to issue a public apology for the IRA’s links to Kaiser Bill and Hitler.

And it wasn’t just republican servicemen and women who died in the world wars. Both conflicts also claimed the lives of dozens of republican civilians who died during the Zeppelin and Gotha raids on Britain in the First World War, and the Nazi Blitz on British cities during World War Two.

Given the IRA’s links to Kaiser Bill, was it any wonder that the pro-Treaty Free State Forces got stuck into the IRA during the Civil War, executing more IRA men than the British during the War of Independence.

Sinn Féin should use Armistice Day to announce that it is striking a medal which it will present to the families of republicans who fought for Britain.

In terms of a hard body count, more republicans have died fighting for Britain against Germany in the two world wars than have been killed fighting against Britain in terror campaigns.

It’s time for Sinn Féin to grow up and honour Ireland’s true republican fallen.

November 11, 2014________________

 

This article appeared in the November 10, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

Share

WILFRED OWEN:DULCE ET DECORUM EST

WILFRED OWEN—DULCE ET DECORUM EST

 

 

 

Wilfred Owen was born on the 18th March 1893 in Oswestry Shropshire.  He lived there for a short period of time before the sale of the family home forced them to move into lodgings in Birkenhead where his father worked on the railway.  After spending a short time there they moved back to the West country to Shrewsbury.  It was here that Owen attended school and by his late teens he was a pupil/teacher in Wyle Cap before graduating to the University of London.  At a young age Owen developed a great love of the Bible and he carried this devotion throughout his short life.

In October of 1915 Owen enlisted in the Artistic Rifles Training Corps and by the following year-in June-he received the commission of Second Lieutenant into the Manchester Regiment.  Within a short period of being on the front line Owen was blown out of the trench in a mortar attack.  He lay for a long period outside the trench before rescue and was suffering badly with shell shock.  He was transferred from France to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh and it was here he first met his friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon.  When he was deemed to be fit for duties once more Owen was transferred to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon in Yorkshire.  He spent the summer of 1918 here and at nearby Scarborough before once more moving back to the War in France and the front line, in August.  During his time here Owen took part in a great deal of action and on one occasion led an attack that overpowered a German machine gun post-earning him the Military Cross.  However the award wasn’t processed until 1919.
Wilfred Owen was killed in action on the 4th November 1918 exactly one week before the Armistice.  His death took place while trying to cross the Sambre Oise Canal.  He was promoted to Lieutenant the following day and his mother received news of his death on the 11th November when the church bells in Shrewsbury were ringing out in celebration of the ending of the War.
Wifred Owen was buried in Ors Community Cemetery.

Owen was the author of many fine war poems.  Where poets like Rupert Brooke captured the patriotism of War, Owen was seen as an anti-war poet and the poem below—perhaps his best known relates the futility of War and the notion that it is a glorious thing to serve and die for one’s country.

 

Dulce et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen

 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

 

Beano

Share

Rupert Brooke: The Soldier

Rupert Brooke: The Soldier

                                                                       

 

Rupert Brooke was born in Rugby, Warwickshire in August 1887.  He was schooled at Rugby Independent School before taking up a residency at Kings College Cambridge.  Whilst there he was elected president of the Fabian Society.  Quite quickly he became an established poet and subsequently became part of both the Bloomsbury set and the Georgian Poets.  By1914 he had also become known for his war poetry.  In early 1915 he was given a commission as a temporary Sub Lieutenant within the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He sailed to the Mediterranean as part of the British Mediterranean Expedition Force.  He was bitten by a mosquito and developed sepsis from which he never recovered.  He died on the 23rd April on board a French Hospital ship whilst on route to Gallipoli.  The boat had been moored near the island of Skyros.  Because the ship had to sail immediately Brooke was buried in an olive grove on the island.
Brooke’s younger brother William was a Second Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion of the London Regiment.  He had only been with the battalion for 3 weeks when he was killed in action at Le Rutiore farm in Northern France in June 1915-two months after Rupert’s death.
Rupert Brooke is remembered as one of the greatest of World War One poets and below is possibly his greatest poem.

Rupert Brooke

The Soldier

IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Beano.

 

Share

Who Shall Unite Us?: Cicero

Quae Iungant Nos

Who Shall Unite Us?

 

 

It was a warm summer. It was the year the Queen was in Belfast as part of her Jubilee celebrations. Man United where beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.  The Peace People were up and running. But I was in the Crum. It was packed and gone were the segregated wings. C wing was loyalist in 1974 when I was there for a sleepover.  The Crum was mad at the best of times but this was an eventful year.  The place was packed due to Paisleys failed strike. The Shankill butchers were in.  And Lenny M was coming down from the Maze. We were packed 3 and 4 to a cell.  The heat made for long days. There was a massive search of the prison for explosives.  There had been an explosion in one cell.

The routine was day in day out. What that meant was with republicans we alternated the 3 periods of getting out. One day we were out 3 times,  the next day we were locked up all day in the cells while they got out.  But news would come in from the outside.  We had heard of the deaths of two loyalists. It was decided to hold a joint event for both.Tommy- ‘Da’ -Mawhinney was a serving UVF prisoner in the Kesh compounds. He was from the Woodvale.  Tommy was an extremely popular person, both inside and outside the jail and the nickname was testimony to this.  Being one of the older generation, he was someone many of the young volunteers looked up to.  It was a simple heart attack and he was dead.  On the outside a UDA volunteer from Monkstown, William Hobbs, died from burns after a bomb  exploded prematurely.
It was the afternoon session and we all trooped out to the ‘C’  wing yard. The sun struggled to find its way into the yard but it was warm.  We started walking round in the usual way. Suddenly an order was barked out and we all went into the centre of the yard. ‘Line up in threes’.  Many of us had experience of marching. There were over 300 of us and we filled the yard.  When you get the order heads will bowed for 1 minute. QUIET! Suddenly the yard was very quiet. We knew that the Provos on the north side of C wing could watch. Some prisoners from A wing at our backs were also watching.  Our heads were bowed to remember our dead. From the screws box I could hear them talking. They were reading out all the names of the men taking part ‘in an illegal parade’. We didn’t care.  We would all be punished. We were all remand but under Diplock we were guilty under proved innocent. It was long minute. UDA standing side by side with UVF and Red Hand.  In fairness to the Provos and ODCs they didn’t cat call or show disrespect. With head bowed I studied the ground beneath my feet.  I heard the cooing pigeons on the roof and then the chatter of a starling.

‘Heads up.  Dismiss’.
And suddenly we went back to our normal routine. Walking and talking.  It was a change to a boring routine. A remembrance of the troubles outside and what the cost was to ordinary people. This was a show of solidarity.  It’s now 37 years ago.  Remember them also next week .   Remember when loyalists stood together.

Cicero.

Share

Alan Seeger: I Have A Rendezvous With Death

 

Alan Seeger was born in New York City in 1888.  His family moved to Mexico City when he was 10 years old and it was this period of his young life that was to influence much of his poetry.  By the time he was eighteen Seeger had enrolled in Harvard University.  Seeger’s brother Charlie was the father of the famous Seeger siblings…Pete, Mike and Peggy..pioneers of the American Folk music scene.

In late 1914 and at the start of the First World War Seeger enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in order to fight for the Allies..the US hadnt entered the War at this stage.  On the 4 July 1916 Seeger was wounded a number of times by machine gun fire at Belloy en Santerre..it is claimed that he continued to shout encouragement to his fellow troops as they mounted an offensive-despite his grave wounds.  he died from those wounds.  All of Seeger’s poetry was published posthomously-his first book being published in December 1916.  By the next year his most famous poem was released for the first time and remains a standard almost one hundred years later.  By now the quality of his poetry attracted great acclaim and drew comparison with the great British poets of the time, in particular Rupert Brooke.
In 1923 the French government erected a monument to the 24 members of the French Foreign Legion who died during the conflict between 1914-18.  On the monument are inscribed these words..from the pen of Alan Seeger……….

They did not pursue worldly rewards; they wanted nothing more than to live without regret, brothers pledged to the honor implicit in living one’s own life and dying one’s own death. Hail, brothers! Goodbye to you, the exalted dead! To you, we owe two debts of gratitude forever: the glory of having died for France, and the homage due to you in our memories.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

Alan Seeger
I have a rendezvous with Death   
At some disputed barricade,   
When Spring comes back with rustling shade   
And apple-blossoms fill the air—   
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.   

It may be he shall take my hand   
And lead me into his dark land   
And close my eyes and quench my breath—   
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death   
On some scarred slope of battered hill,   
When Spring comes round again this year   
And the first meadow-flowers appear.   

God knows ‘twere better to be deep 
Pillowed in silk and scented down,   
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,   
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,   
Where hushed awakenings are dear...   
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,   
When Spring trips north again this year,   
And I to my pledged word am true,   
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Beano
Share

Inside Man:by William Plum Smith-a review by Balaclava Street.

“Inside Man” by William “Plum” Smith: a review

1412153997

Inside Man, the prison memoir of former Red Hand Commando and Progressive Unionist Party chairman William “Plum” Smith is, foremost, a necessary book. The fact that it is the first, and indeed only, serious-minded first-hand account from a loyalist paramilitary perspective is evidence enough of that. Until now the only available accounts have come in the form of decidedly less credible offerings, tabloidesque cash-ins from the pen of ghostwriters “without whom this book could not have been written”. Johnny Adair’s Mad Dog reads more in the style of true crime, with its focus on vendettas and reliance on a persecution narrative where the protagonist is endlessly threatened by enemies out to get him. None Shall Divide Us gave us a frequently less than reliable version of Michael Stone’s life story, as when playing urban myth as straight fact with its the hoary tale of Stone having to execute a German Shepherd Dog to pass initiation into the UDA (the story usually involves the US Marines or SAS).

With a 200-year history of incarceration, the republican as prisoner is a well-established archetype, a vital component of the movement’s self-image and one which is carefully guarded (Bobby Sands dinnerplates notwithstanding). IRA prisoners were held, and continue to be held, in high favour within the communities from which they came due not just to support for the actions which led to their imprisonment, but because a republican’s deportment within prison was seen as noble in itself. Resistance to authority, education in confinement, and maintenance of The Army’s discipline were the ideals to be upheld. Depressingly, however, the regard held by republicans for their paramilitary prisoners is often accompanied by a tendency to denigrate or outright dismiss the experiences of their loyalist counterparts. For example, the elderly bigot Jude Collins flatly refuses to believe that loyalist prisoners were even capable of attaining qualifications. Indeed if certain individuals are to be believed republicans floated out of Long Kesh in the lotus position, preaching enlightenment in fluent Gaelic, weighed down with degrees and doctorates and ready to perform brain surgery or build particle accelerators. Loyalists meanwhile are alleged to have passed the time heaving weights and gobbling steroids like Dolly Mixture, while reading materials were supposedly restricted to publications of the one-handed variety. This is a foul and pernicious lie, and one which Smith successfully challenges.

 

Read more »

Share

Football in the Compounds: Reminisces of a Hankie Ball Player

Football in the Compounds-Reminisces of a Hankie Ball Player

 

 

There was no Queens Park Strangers.  Certainly no Borrussia Munching Barnbrack.  And definitely no Real Madrid Street.  What we did have was Compound 21…or 16..or 18B…and the immortals—at least in their own minds– 19A.  In Magilligan, because compounds were given letters instead of numerals we had, on occasions AA playing against CB..or HB up against FA .  The Crumlin Road set-up was different again-less formalised football meant no leagues against other wings.  So it may have been landing against landing or just 2 teams made up from within whatever particular Wing being occupied at any one time.  In the early days football was a very haphazard affair.
You got it infrequently and there was little or no organisation involved.  Basically two teams were picked to play and it was more about getting out of the compound..sometimes in order to visit someone else at the wire.  There were always good players of course.  Some would have been known from outside before their incarceration.  As time moved on and football did become an important factor in jail life then of course it became more serious.  Too serious at times.
If someone was in remand who had a reputation of being a good footballer there was an effort from the different camps within the Kesh-or Magilligan-to get him in to a certain compound.  Now and again a mix would have been put in though and someone who was rumoured to be the next Charlie George and eagerly waited on turned out to be more like Charlie Drake when it came to football.  It was around 1976 that the soccer became a big thing in Long Kesh.  This was the year of the first inter-compound football tournament.
In Magilligan a similar venture had been in place from late 75.  Four Loyalist compounds-2 UDA and 2 UVF-formed 8 teams and played a league.  It was ultra competitive and had a record number of sending-offs.  The four elected sports reps-1 from each compound, myself included-took up the refereeing duties and this was a job in itself.  A bookie-in fact a number of them was in place in Magilligan-and this too made for some very combative and spirited encounters.  If I’m not mistaken the A team from Compound A-UVF-won that first tournament, finishing ahead of E compounds first team-UDA-and they had a number of good players in the team.
Some of those who spring to mind from the victorious A team were Bobby Rodgers-Victor Thompson-Rab McIntyre who had been for trials at Old Trafford and Davy Barr..who had been with a number of Irish League clubs including Portadown.  The other cages held other good players..Shane Hamilton (Chico ) and Guffer Liggett out of E–Danny Black and a couple of Rathcoole guys from Compound C and Jim Rossborough –a rumbustious and marauding centre forward out of H.  If this inaugural tournament was a success the initial one in the confines of Long Kesh was less so.

After many months of wrangling between the jail authorities and the representatives from the compounds the go ahead was given to commence.  Barely minutes into the first game in which the pre tournament favourites were playing each other-19 against 16—UVF against UDA—a deliberate tackle broke a players leg and the game was hastily abandoned—as was the league.  Although inter compound football continue in Magilligan until it’s closure in October 1977 it would be a long time before the idea was resurrected in Long Kesh.  In Magillgan in particular—perhaps because many of the matches were being bet on—there was a great interest from outsiders.  It wasn’t unusual to see the pitch ringed with a large number of screws—who of course would have had their own bets running—or indeed the IRA prisoners—lined along either D compound wire or along the fence of the other pitch-F.
Eventually it did kick off again and although there was the usual problems it never got out of control and by and large it was quite successful.  Spectator numbers were limited in an attempt to quell potential trouble and the notion that the next major incident could stop the mixed soccer for good seemed to work.

 

The truth is there was only a few inter compound leagues or cups in total and dwindling numbers—people getting out and the advent of the H Blocks which stopped others coming to the cages-meant that no longer could compounds field 2 teams.  By the time the mid eighties came around each compound was dependent on recruiting other players from different compounds to make the numbers up, otherwise the football would have ceased completely.
I played football behind many walls and wires in a “career” that stretched from 1973 until early 1990.  Many a professional would have been proud of that or the fact that conservatively those of us who served a heavy sentence and played an average of 2 games a week—EVERY week-would have racked up around 1500 appearances!!  Some going on all weather pitches—and many of us still have the scars and bumps-bruises and limps to show for it.  There was many hankie ball players but very few prima donnas in those days.  The stick would have been too much to take.  Magilligan led in many ways by supplying us with good quality kits and on occasions the proper balls.  For a long while Long Kesh trailed behind in this department and many of the kits were threadbare..hand me downs and distinctly second rate.  Boots were almost nonexistent for many years and unless you had your own sent in you were reduced to playing in trainers—old fashioned gutties—or at the start of proceedings just whatever you had.  Eventually, after many years the jail started supplying cheap Mitre boots and these became like gold dust.  They also went missing quite a bit so became much sought and looked after items. They also at one time supplied a brand of “trainer” that I believe were manufactured in D Wing in the Crum, and these were deadly.  They were the nearest thing you could get to a steel toe capped trainer and a hefty boot on the shin with one was sure to put you out of action for the next few matches.
Despite all these obvious drawbacks-manufactured or otherwise-many’s a good player graced the—well not turf—but the hard core of Long Kesh.  It is impossible to remember let alone mention them all but there are quite a few stick out in my mind.  Everyone will have a particular favourite and always with good reason.  There was the stylish players—the ball players—the Hardmen—the psycho’s who thought nothing of slide tackling on the gravel—or the goalkeepers who had to be mad to dive full length on basically concrete.  Then there was the dribblers—the selfish players—one’s it was rumoured you would need a Board paper to receive a pass from—the dry weather players—the ones who were legends—in their own mind.  There was huffers-and puffers and slabbers and wasters.  There was strokers and jokers and big girls blouses.  There was dead eye dicks and those who couldn’t hit a cow on the arse with a banjo.  But to all those who crossed the line thanks for all the memories.  I recently conducted a wee straw poll.  Contacted between thirty and forty ex prisoners—those fortunate enough to still be alive—and asked a simple question-“ Who was the best player you seen in prison”  To me the result wasn’t surprising.  I knew a lot of different names would crop up-and they did.  I knew a couple of names would appear near the top—and they did. Not surprisingly.  In the end only a vote or two separated two great footballers.  I was lucky enough to play with-and against-both.  One for far longer than I would have liked.. But-that’s Life.
The person who finished top of the pile in this particular poll was Geordie McKimm.  Geordie was only there for a couple of years but whilst he was he stood out-head and shoulders.  In modern day football he would be called a box to box man—he was a fantastic passer of the ball..great vision and could basically do what he wanted with the ball.  He was only a young man-20/21 and extremely fit.  A worthy winner I feel.  Only a vote or two behind was Jimbo Tipping.  Jim was a Shankill Road man and had passed through Magilligan before arriving in Compound 19.  It’s no exaggeration to say that Jimbo was one of the best strikers of the ball I have ever seen.  When he hit them they stayed hit.  In the end it was hard to get goalkeepers for the other team when Jimbo was playing!!  Jim was strong—six foot plus—and a great header of the ball.  He had a superb all round game and for want of a better word was extremely “competitive”.  These two were comfortably clear of the rest of the field in the poll.  There were many other mentions but I would prefer to do is pick the eleven players who I think would make up the best team..going by the many hundreds of players I played with or against during my time behind the wire.  It is a personal opinion and is not definitive–neither right or wrong.  I stand to be challenged and would welcome some debate on it.  So here goes.  11 men..no subs.

Eddie Martin. Former goalkeeping apprentice at Notts County and went on to play for 5 Irish League clubs…as a striker.

Rab. McCreery.  Glentoran legend.  His brother Paul was also a smashing player..but no room for him in this team.

Clifford Healey.  Powerful centre half..very aggressive and unbeatable in the air.

Victor Thompson.  Assured and steady..could play as stopper or sweeper.

Cliff Whiteside.  Classy full back-great left foot and impossible to get past.

Bobby Rodgers.  Two footed—Good in the air for a small man-and great goalcorer.

Jimbo Tipping.

Geordie McKimm.

Shane Hamilton.  Hard to get the ball of..good passer and fantastic ball skills.

Colin McCurdy.  Colin went on to play for Linfield-Fulham and Northern Ireland.  Great athlete and super finisher.

Sammy Frickleton.  Sammy was a Scotsman I remember from the Crum.. He had played for Ballymena before imprisonment and went on to play for East Fife and Sligo Rovers—despite having a large King Billy tattoo on his chest!!

 

*** The poll also included some ex Block men and the names put forward there included Noel Large and the aforementioned Guffer Liggett.

 

“Beano”

 

Share