Category Archives: Current Affairs







The Middle Hut.

    The middle hut in Compound 21 also known as Passchendaele.  Here was Special category Status in Long Kesh. All the huts had place names from the First World War. (There was also the end hut and the half hut) Can anyone recall what the other huts in 21 where called?  Had not seen this photo before so it brought a back a few memories.  Stayed here for a decade of my life. On the left would have been Flints cube when I first arrived.  On the right (I think) were Davy Mc and Ginger Top the footballer. LOL. The chairs in the foreground, handmade by the men from whatever scraps and material they could glean.  There were some craftsmen and tradesmen in that place.   We painted this hut on the inside and kept it very clean.  It’s a fond memory when I think back to taking the bars off the windows, painting and then putting the bars back on. Read more »


Why on Earth are we still talking about restoring the Executive? : Cllr: Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston

Why on earth are we still talking about restoring the Executive?




The 16th of January 2017 marked the fifth suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly since its inception merely twenty years ago. Attempts to secure its operation on a permanent basis have been exhausted and frustrated by disagreements. Describing the different types of Executive we have had since December 1999, Political Commentator Alex Kane said that we have had “one with the UUP/SDLP/SF and the DUP neither in nor out. Then one with the DUP/SF/UUP/SDLP. Then one with the DUP/SF/UUP/SDLP/Alliance. Then the UUP left. Then the latest one, with DUP/SF/Claire Sugden. And all of them, every single one of them, has included walkouts, in/outs, suspensions, show downs, crises, instability, threats of legal action, emergency talks, potential collapse and round-the-clock briefing against each other.” 

Which begs the question; Why on earth are we still talking about restoring the executive?

Besides broken relationships, calls for Direct Rule (or as we’ve recently heard ‘Joint Authority’) suggest that there is a consensus that the present system of devolved governance – mandatory coalition – is not only broken but beyond repair. 

Let’s be honest. The institutions envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement were a compromise, agreed at a time when an honourable outcome and stability were desperately needed. However, those structures were not designed to last forever. They were specific to their context and, just like the devolution of justice or an extension of fiscal responsibility, the institutions grow and change as the political landscape does.

With speculation that the agreement is dead in the water, perhaps now there is opportunity for the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to uphold its content and exercise the review legislated for under strand one section thirty-six. It reads “After a specified period there will be a review of these arrangements, including the details of electoral arrangements and of the Assembly’s procedures, with a view to agreeing any adjustments necessary in the interests of efficiency and fairness.”   

Perhaps now as we begin a new year, we can have conversation about new beginnings, a new system of governance that deinstitutionalises sectarianism and paves the way for a truly progressive and pluralist Northern Ireland.

A new devolved legislator formed in the image of successful institutions where delivery is the rule not the exception.

Cllr Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston

Progressive Unionist Party N.I.


Prof. Pete Shirlow’s speech at Sinn Fein Conference


University of Liverpool Logo

Prof Peter Shirlow’s speech at Sinn Fein annual conference

Published on

Peter Shirlow


Professor Peter Shirlow FAcSS, Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, addressed Sinn Fein’s Ard Fheis (Annual Conference) earlier this month, speaking on the theme of sectarianism. As Prof. Shirlow is from a unionist community background, such invitations are rare.

His talk focussed on themes including; the idea that being pro-union is inherently sectarian is not only wrong it is inherently sectarian and asked questions such as; ‘How could the treatment of Catholics in the North and Protestants in the South not make us suspicious of each other?’ and ‘How could the violence of the past not make us fearful of each other?’

Prof. Shirlow said;

“Although my family circle and I have been affected by republican violence, I saw this invitation as an important part of a wider healing process. I have worked for many years in the area of anti-sectarianism and I hope that sharing my critical thoughts has helped embed such endeavours.”

Find out more

Download Prof Peter Shirlow’s speech (pdf)









Why Maze film should act as a timely reminder not to trust republicans: Jamie Bryson

Editorial: Why Maze film should act as a timely reminder as to why we must never trust republicans

By Jamie Bryson


The Maze 1983 film is an opportunity for the Unionist community to remind ourselves of the sheer folly of ever trusting the republican movement or their pretence of ‘reconciliation’.

After the Hunger Strikes a new strategy emerged within the jail. It was conceived by the prison leadership which included current senior Sinn Fein members such as Bik McFarlane, Gerry Kelly and Bobby Storey.

The strategy was slow and painstakingly disciplined. It involved republican prisoners pretending that they had accepted the regime. They smiled and got along with the prison guards; they relaxed the whole system by pretending they were happily operating within it. The account of their strategies is outlined in various accounts of the escape and in even more detail within the book ‘Nor Meekly Serve My Time’.

Read more »


To be opposed to the ‘Peace Process’ is not to be opposed to ‘Peace’: Jamie Bryson

To be opposed to the ‘Peace Process’ is not to be opposed to ‘Peace’ – By Jamie Bryson


This article first appeared on Eamonn Mallie’s Blog



In recent days the debate around dual Nationality and dual citizenship has been re-ignited, following revelations that BBC presenter Stephen Nolan has obtained an Irish passport to compliment the British one already held.

This issue goes much wider than dual Nationality, which was freely available prior to the Belfast Agreement.

This poses the key question in relation to the intent- in a contested state- of availing of such.

The Belfast Agreement went much further than reaffirming the right to hold dual nationality, and instead provided for parity between Britishness and Irishness and the right to hold citizenship in relation to both.

The Belfast Agreement was sold to Unionism under the plainly false assumption that Nationalism would prioritise their equality agenda over the constitutional issue and would accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, providing that they felt they were able to play a full and meaningful role.

There was the false notion, fed because the agreement meant all things to all people, that dual citizenship would create the environment whereby Nationalists could live happily and play a meaningful role in a settled state.

Of course Nationalism never had any intention of dividing their ‘equality’ agenda, of which the citizenship  strategy is a key part, from the constitutional question.

The rightful rejection of this equality agenda by Unionists is framed as ‘bigoted, sectarian and hard line’.

This is part of Sinn Fein’s strategy to use rights based language to advance political aims and present Unionism as regressive on the International stage.

Unionism’s resistance to the equality agenda is based upon the quite correct realisation that rather than Nationalism’s ever growing list of demands being part of a settlement for a stable Northern Ireland, it is a Trojan horse designed to undermine the legitimacy of the state and feed into the much larger Nationalist political aim of Irish unity.

The equality agenda is the art of dressing up political aims as civil rights.

The majority of people pursuing Irish passports do so in order to assert their rights as Irish citizens living in what they believe is an illegitimate state.

Some Unionists however have obtained Irish passports for cultural reasons because they identify with certain aspects of Irish culture, as is their right. If one holds two passports then this is a de-facto acceptance of the Nationalist position that Northern Ireland is neutral.

The next logical step is that if you accept the citizenship parity between Britishness and Irishness, then so too would you have to accept that the Irish national flag should be held in equivalence with the sovereign Union flag.

Of course to follow it right through to its logical conclusion, if you accept the aforementioned then the only end position is acceptance that- at the very least- Dublin and London should have joint-sovereignty over Northern Ireland.

The issue of citizenship is so crucial in a contested state because it provides those seeking to undermine the state with an avenue to demand parity of esteem for minority political aspirations.

It seeks to place an obligation on the state to recognise Irishness in parity with Britishness.

It is a demand not for parity for people, but rather for political aspirations. At its most basic level it is a demand that the minority aspiration of Irish unity be afforded equal standing with the democratic  wishes of the majority to remain British.

It is not only a back-door way of undermining the principle of consent, but is part of the overall trajectory of the ‘peace process’.

A process by its very definition has a beginning and an end. Therefore to discover the end of the peace ‘process’ it is only logical to look at the primary agreement underpinning it, and what end is envisaged within it.

The Belfast Agreement allows for only one ending, the trajectory leading only one direction, and that is towards a referendum on Irish unity followed by a continuous cycle of referendums every seven years until the Northern Ireland electorate decide they want to join a United Ireland. This is the end game, the end of the process.

To be opposed to the peace process is not to be opposed to peace.

All our political battles must be underpinned by a commitment from all that never again must violence take the place of democracy.

Peace must be an absolute commitment, not a commitment to peace only within the confines of the ‘process’.

Liberal Unionism labours under the false notion that granting dual citizenship rights and embracing Nationalism’s ever broadening ‘equality’ demands will reduce Nationalist hostility to the state and thus politically stabilise Northern Ireland.

This is a fool’s paradise. Northern Ireland is a contested state, the name of which Sinn Fein cannot even utter.

Unionism must be alert to the fact that citizenship and equality are not stand alone rights based issues, but rather the key battle ground in Nationalism’s overall political objective of achieving Irish unity.


It Is Tempting To Conclude That SF Has No Strategy: Patrick Murphy

“it is tempting to conclude that SF has no strategy…”

on 9 July 2017 , 3:46 pm 31 Comments | 1,018 views
From yesterday’s Irish News, Patrick Murphy, once again, making direct contact with the head of the nail.



While the DUP’s future role in Westminster is far from predictable, it is easy to understand. Sinn Féin’s strategy, however, is less clear. Indeed it is tempting to conclude that SF has no strategy, other than to prolong the talks and hope for a lucky break, similar to the one the DUP received in Westminster.

Sinn Féin collapsed Stormont because of the RHI scandal. But this issue rarely appears on their current wish list. Instead they have a list of demands ranging from the vague but reasonable (Irish language recognition), through the distracting (equality, but not for the poor) to the downright silly (demanding respect).

Respect has to be earned. In view of the years they spent chuckling with Paisley, Robinson and Foster, some might suggest that if they did not respect themselves, they cannot reasonably expect others to respect them.

SF’s claim that nationalists were failed by Stormont is untrue. Stormont failed everyone, but because SF relies on nationalist votes, it re-wrote the assembly’s performance as having failed only nationalists and then expanded that claim into the current list of demands.

They have raised nationalist expectations, but it is difficult to see them getting all they seek. So are they deliberately making demands which they know will not be met, or will they re-write their shopping list in the autumn and settle for less? Re-writing has served them well in the past.

So the bad news about the talks breaking up this week is that our politicians missed watching the Irish Open on television in the comfort of Stormont Castle. But the talks prospects for the rest of July are good. Their agenda items will presumably include watching the Tour de France and possibly the Ulster Football Final.

This article first appeared in The Irish News 8th July.



When did it become unacceptable to bomb Manchester?

This article by Eilis O’Hanlon first appeared in the Belfast Telegraph.

So, Michelle O’Neill, just when did it become unacceptable to bomb Manchester?

Sinn Féin leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, speaks to the media after signing a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall which was opened up for the victims of the bomb attack in Manchester5050

Sinn Féin leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, speaks to the media after signing a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall which was opened up for the victims of the bomb attack in Manchester



Sinn Fein’s northern leader is delusional if she thinks people don’t see through her ‘that was then, this is now” whataboutery, writes Eilis O’Hanlon.

The late Cardinal Cahal Daly called it “the commonest form of moral evasion in Ireland today”. He was referring to whataboutery, the familiar practice of deflecting criticism of acts of violence by groups with which one agrees by immediately pointing to acts of violence by those with whom one disagrees, and loudly demanding: “What about this? What about that?”

Like all good definitions, though, it’s become misused, to the point where anyone who exposes the hypocrisy of certain speakers when they condemn violence, despite having enthusiastically supported it in the past, is also accused of engaging in whataboutery, when all they’re actually doing is struggling to reconcile two entirely contradictory points of view.

That tendency has emerged again following the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester Arena on Monday night, which killed 22 people. Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams called it a “shocking and horrendous attack on children and young people”. The party’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill signed the book of condolence at Belfast City Hall, calling the attack “unthinkable”, and saying she’d watched events unfold with “shock and horror”.

“I condemn it,” she added, with none of the ifs and buts that generally accompany such statements.

O’Neill did all this only weeks after attending yet another commemoration for Provisional IRA members killed on so-called active service. Defending that decision, the Co Tyrone woman described those who died at Loughgall as “Irish patriots”.

The terrorists that Michelle O’Neill proudly celebrates murdered children too, and far more than were killed in Manchester. The “patriots” whose memory she venerates indiscriminately slaughtered people quietly going about their business in public places.

Just because the men she celebrates did it for a united Ireland, and the Manchester bomber most likely for a worldwide Islamic caliphate under Sharia law, doesn’t make it any more acceptable.

The only difference is there was no 24-hour news back then, and certainly no social media. Atrocities did not unfurl in real time; people at home didn’t see the full horror for themselves. If they had, the IRA may have been shamed into stopping sooner.

Irish republicans would have us believe that their terrorism was different. That their bombs were nicer. They look at the suicide bombers and insist: “We’re not like Themmuns.” Are they sure about that?

Isis may carry out more of what the IRA used to call “spectaculars”. Even so, homegrown jihadists would have to significantly intensify their operations to come anywhere near to matching the more than 2,000 killed by republicans and more than 1,000 by loyalists.

How do Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Adams have the gall to express sympathy for a city which the republican movement itself devastated with the largest bomb in Britain since the Second World War, showering people more than half a mile away with glass and debris?

That a warning was given that day in 1996, and the area evacuated in time, is no excuse. It was pure luck that no one died. Only a sick mind expects credit for luck.

“Martin McGuinness was not a terrorist,” declared Adams during a graveside oration for the former Deputy First Minister. But what was the proxy bomb that murdered civilian chef Patsy Gillespie and five soldiers if not an act of terrorism? What were Claudy, Enniskillen, Bloody Friday, Harrods, Brighton, Warrington?

Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Adams should feel disgraced that the republican movement whose memory they paint in rosy colours was an early adopter of the nail bomb, as witnessed to barbaric effect in Hyde Park, years before Monday’s bomber, who used the same type of device to kill and maim, was probably even born.

The dead are no less dead because the cause in whose name they were murdered is one that Sinn Fein shares. They may delude themselves that the IRA didn’t target civilians, but its volunteers were prepared for civilians to die, and were reckless with innocent life.

Only last year, former hunger striker Pat Sheehan – who was jailed as a teenager for trying to bomb a cash and carry store, of all things – said that moving on from the past “may mean an apology” for the 1996 attack in Manchester, but he added that the British government would need to accept its responsibility for conflict in Northern Ireland in return.

That’s not how repentance works. You’re either sorry or you’re not. Turning an apology into a negotiation is politics, not ethics, and that’s what is once again on display this week from Sinn Fein.

Politicians who supported terrorist violence in the past, and condemn it when it happens now, just expect us to be too polite and diplomatic to point out their hypocrisy.

At the very least, they should answer why the violence which they backed is any less reprehensible, because you can’t take the credit for moving away from violence without also accepting it was wrong in the first place.

Why keep bringing this up? That’s what some people will say, frustrated that those who suffered at the hands of terrorists in Northern Ireland won’t conveniently shut up and let those who supported it then, and continue to justify it in retrospect, reap the electoral benefits of joining the chorus of condemnation.

It’s because of a suspicion that they’re not being honest, and not saying what they really think.

The same goes for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who cosied up to Sinn Fein for decades, and now fervidly rewrites history to make it seem as if he was a behind-the-scenes negotiator for peace.

It also goes for Dianne Abbott, who’s lined up to take charge of tackling terrorism as Home Secretary in any Labour government after June 8, who once hailed the fight for Irish unity as “our struggle”, saying “every defeat for the British state is a victory for us all.”

Like Adams and O’Neill, they cry foul when their past words are thrown back at them, as if it’s unfair to expect them to either withdraw or stand over them.

What really goads them is that they can’t. It’s their own words that are the problem, not the fact others refuse to forget.

“When you’re in a war situation, I’m not saying ethics are put on hold, but I think you have a different template.” That’s what Pat Sheehan once said.

Those who bombed Manchester this week, 21 years after the IRA set the same example, would totally agree.

Republicans were far closer to Themmuns than they like to believe.




Donal Billings: A Memory by Ronnie McCullough

Last week “Extreme” Republican Donal Billings was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for a plot in which he intended to kill either the Queen or another member of the Royal family in 2011.
Former Loyalist prisoner Ronnie-Flint-McCullough remembers meeting Billings for the first time 44 years ago in Long Kesh prison camp.




Donal Billings



One lazy sunny afternoon in 1972, after returning from our remand appearance, to compound  7, we stood motionless to see one of the most curious republican remand prisoners (Donal Billings) standing in the middle of our compound.  


Under normal circumstances, republicans would not be deliberately placed in a loyalist cage.  It seemed more than unusual.


As he stood, alone and in a defiant posture, fists gripped tight together, with a black plastic bag at his feet, we wondered.


It soon emerged that the republican had defied the screws and had suffered physical assault from them. He was bloodied and bruised yet defiant, as he stood motionless, glaring towards us.


Some loyalists proposed that we should attack him because he was an alleged member of the Saor Eire movement, which was a hard-line southern-based republican group.

He was a known republican extremist whose distinct ginger hair and beard was well known amongst us. Whilst on remand in Compound 8 he was inclined to walk around the perimeter of the cage on his own.  It seemed that he did not mix readily with the other republicans in the compound.


We discussed the situation and found that a visit from an external humanitarian group similar to Amnesty International were due to visit the camp and inquire on conditions. It became clear that the screws were hoping that, should we attack him, we would be the perceived as the perpetrators of the assault, which caused him earlier injury.


In so doing the screws could state that his visible injuries were received at the hands of loyalists thereby clearing them of their involvement.


I approached him and told him he had nothing to fear from loyalists given the circumstances.

He seemed perplexed, yet tense and prepared to defend himself.  We walked away.


Once the screws realised that we would not attack him they waited for a while before removing him to his proper compound.


Later that evening he beckoned me to the wire from compound 8 and stated, “That’s one favour I owe you boys!”


Sure enough, less than a month later, a lone loyalist was being driven back from the visiting area in the back of a van containing no less than eight republicans including the notorious Ballymurphy provisional leader, Jim Bryson.  At that time there was no policy of non-aggression between the loyalists and republicans.


It was a tense moment when several of the republicans moved towards the loyalist. Suddenly a ginger-haired republican stood between them and made it clear, “I owe these fella’s a favour, so stand back!” Donal Billings honoured his earlier promise.






The above account is an extract from the memoires of Ronnie McCullough whilst serving ten years in Long Kesh.






Regressive Policing: Jamie Bryson

The below piece by Jamie Bryson first appeared in the Irish News on 25 November 2016:


 On 16 November the Secretary of State announced a consultation on the potential to further extend the use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland. This legislative mechanism came to fruition in 2007.

 The April 2003 joint-declaration clearly gave commitments to repeal the Northern Ireland- specific parts contained within Section VII of the Terrorism Act 2000.

  And, in 2006, the Government announced they were to phase out the use of Diplock courts.   There are two issues that arise from the provisions the Secretary of State is now reviewing. The first is whether- in the context of a ‘Fresh Start’- that such emergency provisions are still required to deal with terrorist-related offences, or whether this draconian practice actually strengthens dissident republican terrorism by bestowing upon them a ‘political’ status, rather than simply dealing with them as criminals.

The second issue is how this provision has been used in cases in which no terrorist related charges have been brought, and a certificate has been issued simply on the basis of ‘soft intelligence’, which given Section 7 of the Act cannot be challenged by or within a court.


There is also an argument around at which stage Article 6 of the Human Rights Act becomes engaged and whether the mode of trial falls under the protections of Article 6, namely “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

 Given that the prosecution alone make the decision to issue a certificate, removing one of the basic tenets of British justice- to be tried by a jury of your peers- how can this be described as an ‘independent and impartial tribunal’? 

 I believe the answer to both the aforementioned issues, which are generally related but distinct points of debate, is that there is a clear and compelling case for an end to non-jury trials per se.


 If there was any jury tampering then the Criminal Justice Act 2003 has provisions to allow for the suspension of a jury trial. This should be sufficient.

 In the case of terrorism related charges I believe that that bestowing conflict-related provisions upon dissident republican terrorism is actually bolstering their propaganda efforts to present their actions as being politically motivated, rather than simply criminal.  

 Most seriously, however, is what I believe is prosecutorial overreach in terms of issuing non-jury certificates, on the basis of uncorroborated ‘soft intelligence’ that wouldn’t reach either a civil or criminal evidential threshold, for charges totally unrelated to terrorism.

 A political fresh start cannot go hand in glove with a regressive policing and justice strategy.


 Jamie Bryson


Fresh Start-The Past Cannot Be Allowed To Police The Present: Jamie Bryson

Fresh Start- The past cannot be allowed to police the present. 



The Fresh Start agreement provides a unique opportunity for genuine transformation initiatives. The opportunity is there for loyalism to create positive pathways in order to bring previously disengaged communities or organisations into the realm

of purely democratic activism, undertaken in the spirit of lawfulness. 


It is a chance for current loyalism to leave future loyalism on a sound footing; equipped to fight effectively on a lawful community, civic and political battlefield. It is also a chance to provide care and help for those suffering from mental health or other issues as a result of the conflict. 


This positive work should not, as has often been the case, be viewed by loyalism as simply an opportunity to access money. Endless funding streams may benefit a select few gatekeepers, but it does nothing to build the capacity of the grassroots.  

Read more »