Monthly Archives: April 2013

Indicative of the Divisions in our Community. Ulster Star

           Mixed ReactionTo MLK Plans.

THERE has been a mixed reaction to the plans for a new Peace and Reconciliation Centre at the site of the former Maze Prison.


Planning permission was granted last week for the scheme, which will see the start of the major redevelopment of the site.

The proposals have been publicly supported by many politicians, however, some local people have mixed feelings about the design of the building.

Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn said: “The redevelopment process of the Maze site has faced many delays over several years, so I welcome the decision to grant planning permission for this project.

“Despite the controversy, this has the potential to be a major tourist attraction and information centre, much as other redundant prison sites such as Alcatraz, Robben Island and Kilmainham have become.

“By having a peace building and conflict transformation centre, we can have a focal point for all those who wish to visit Northern Ireland to learn about our peace process, as well as being a valuable information source for students.

“This should provide a central location for all the expertise we have built up in peace building, especially in our community and voluntary sector.

“There has been an increasing interest in this redevelopment and with the granting of planning permission I hope that the development can move ahead to satisfy this interest.”


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Struth’s Diamond Ring, A Bowler Hat and A Labour of Love.



Struth’s Diamond Ring, a Bowler Hat and a Labour of Love: Interview with David Mason (Official RFC Historian)

By  Gary Havlin

In a year that saw an SPL Commission fail to ‘steal’ Title wins from our history books, and a campaign by supporters of lesser clubs’ to have the Advertising Standards Agency rebuke the club for advertising ‘140 years of History’, never has it been more important to celebrate and educate Rangers fans on the heritage and traditions of our wonderful club.

From the Founders Trail and the Gallant Pioneers Website to articles written on various Fans’ Forums, from the sterling work done by the Rangers Media Team to brilliant books on all facets of Rangers history, it’s clear that Rangers fans have an insatiable interest and a deep sense of pride in the story of the Rangers, from the Founding Fathers to the present day.

David Mason, the Official Club Historian, has played an enormous part, spanning nearly 3 decades, in ensuring that the history of Rangers is maintained and historically significant artefacts are brought back to life, whilst enabling those who strive to tell the Rangers story to a wider audience to do so with great accuracy.

David will be familiar to us all this season as the Club Official who led the Toast to Her Majesty at The Loving Cup Ceremony, and led the Blue Room guests in a rousing rendition of our National Anthem, a tradition which David himself decided to bring back after many years of being omitted after the toast!

With some spine-tingling tales, what better person to tell us of his favourite Rangers artefacts, anecdotes and life as a Rangers fan…
GHWhat was the first Rangers game you can remember going to and were you a regular at Ibrox before being appointed Club Historian?

DM– I can’t recall the first game I went to because, quite simply I was just a baby, but my father told me it was Rangers v Third Lanark at Cathkin. There then followed another at Firhill. The first matches I recall were at Ibrox when I was about 7 and then the first big match that really turned my head was the 1964 Scottish Cup Final. I can recall standing down by the wall on the track, in the enclosure under the old Grandstand. I remember the goals and the Dundee keeper Bert Slater who had a great match. However, what remains vivid in my mind is the lap of honour the team took – with Davie Wilson sporting a bowler hat. Ironically, I was to receive that same bowler hat some years later, from Jimmy Millar and today it hangs in the Manager’s office at Ibrox.

The hat worn by Davie Wilson, now hanging in the old Managers Office


End of an era?

Historical is a term rather loosely applied in Northern Ireland; I have lost count of the ‘Historical events’ of the last thirty years. However as I stood outside Long Kesh on Friday 28th July 2000 I sensed that I was witness to a truly historic occasion – the beginning of the end of this symbol of conflict. If ever a place can truly epitomise the tragedy of the last thirty years then surely the Compounds and H-blocks of Long Kesh must rank high.

While waiting on the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Red Hand Commando (RHC) prisoners to emerge I had time to reflect on my own experience of the H-blocks where I spent the majority of my thirteen years in prison. I thought of my family, particularly my wife, who had made countless treks to this most depressing of environments over many long years for the benefit of a half-hour visit. From I entered its confines in 1981 it was to be almost five years before any sense of ‘normality’ existed. It was one crisis after another; the Republican dirty protest and hunger strike, the Loyalist protest for segregation and the IRA escape spring to mind. Long Kesh was the catalyst that fuelled and prolonged the conflict for many years.


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The Ulster Volunteer Force: Negotiating History: Roy Garland 1997

An article first produced by Roy in 1997 makes very interesting reading today–16 years on.  Bear in mind his assertions were made before the Good Friday Agreement.

Seeking a Political Accommodation

The Ulster Volunteer Force: Negotiating History.

Roy Garland. A Shankill Community Publication, 1997. £1.50.

The author of this pamphlet is an Ulster Unionist councillor on Lisburn Borough Council. Mr Garland is a member of the Shankill Think Tank and a regular columnist in the Irish News. He explains in his preface that when the troubles started he was an evangelical Protestant and high up in the Unionist Party and the Orange Order. Today he is a well-known spokesman for the liberal wing of the UUP and a further education lecturer in sociology, religion and politics. He is ‘happy’ to be a ‘positive’ Protestant with an Ulster identity and UK citizenship but he also rejoices ‘that I have found a means to reflect and enjoy my Irishness.’

This is an interesting clue that Councillor Garland has not entirely rejected his own roots. Mr Garland neglected to mention in his preface that he first found a means to ‘reflect and enjoy’ his ‘Irishness’ when he was second-in-command of Tara – an evangelical Protestant paramilitary group with a strong ‘Irish emphasis’ – which took its name from the seat of the ceremonial High Kings of Ireland.

Although there have been many books written about the IRA and its history very few have dealt with the history of the loyalist paramilitary groups. Steve Bruce has written two useful studies, The Red Hand and At the Edge of the Union. Ulster’s Uncertain defenders, the only other study, appeared a decade earlier in 1984. The last book on the UVF was published in 1973!

This concise booklet is an edited version of an earlier dissertation for a university degree, The UVF: Negotiating Identity. This has been serialised in Progressive View, the journal of the Progressive Unionist Party. Would-be readers can be thankful that this booklet has been heavily abridged. The unreadable purple prose and tortuous sociological jargon which marred the original has been eliminated.

Mr Garland takes us from the foundation of the modern UVF in the mid-sixties up to 1976. A short appendix looks at the situation from 1991 to the present day. This work looks largely through the eyes of Gusty Spence, the UVF’s veteran political guru. Spence claims that the UVF was set up by rightwing elements of the Unionist Party to undermine Terence O’Neill, the Prime Minister. O’Neill banned it under the Special Powers Act after two brutal murders in May 1966. Spence and two others were convicted of these killings.

Garland traces the growth of the UVF after the outbreak of the present troubles and its short-lived relationship with Tara. This broke down in a welter of mutual recriminations and bitterness after 1971. Garland observes that the Shankill UVF were working class men who – unlike Tara – did not see themselves as fighting a religious war, but as ‘serving Ulster’. He quotes Spence in support of his belief, that nevertheless, this did mean that the organisation was fighting Catholics. In their efforts to strike back at the IRA, ‘If it wasn’t possible to get at the IRA then some thought “we’ll get those who are harbouring them, succouring them, comforting them and supporting them” – a completely erroneous theory.’ This pamphlet largely ignores the UVF’s military activities and killings and concentrates on the organisation’s attempts in the mid-seventies to find a political rôle for itself.

The supporters of the UVF resented their portrayal in the media as a ‘privileged’ community. As Spence observed, very few working-class Protestants were politically aware, and they felt helpless in the face of constant attacks and misrepresentations in the media. Spence and others found time to reflect on all these things in prison. ‘We had seminars on everything… The men were ready, not for indoctrination, but to be set in pursuit not only of truth but of some form of political ideology.’ Similar soul-searching was taking place inside the UVF outside the prisons. In the UDA, a parallel debate led to that organisation espousing negotiated independence for Ulster as a means to transcend the religious divide and offer a common focus of allegiance for the communities.

In the UVF, Garland argues that the ‘concensus seemed to favour conciliation, and a form of Democratic Socialism which retained the link with the United Kingdom.’ This is partly true, but it was also open to other more radical opinions. The first political group to speak for the UVF was the Ulster Loyalist Front in 1973. Some of the material which emanated from that source was very positive. ‘Its policies included a “return to democracy” and increased use of referenda, workers’ partnership schemes, and although in favour of private enterprise it wanted to curb “international monopoly capitalism”.’ Despite what Garland seems to think, this talk was not socialist but was common at that time in the radical Britain First wing of the National Front. Indeed, articles from NF publications were occasionally reprinted in the UVF’s journal Combat.

The UVF’s first foray into politics ended in failure with a violent resumption of bombings and killings in October 1975. Garland puts this down to an apparently all-embracing conspiracy between Tara, rightwing unionist politicians, the RUC and the British security services to destroy ‘the independent and Socialist thinking of working-class Loyalists.’ There is no doubt that the UVF did come under a lot of criticism at that time but it often gave as good as it got in reply. The simple truth is more likely that loyalist voters seemed to have decided that politicians do politics and paramilitants do war. However, Ken Gibson’s statement in 1974 that ‘organisations such as the UVF will no longer allow themselves to be used by politicians who will not listen to their views’ set out an attitude that has remained constant in the UVF and UFF ever since.

There can be no doubt that traditional unionism is a dead doctrine and it needs to be swept aside if our Ulster homeland is to survive, let alone thrive. In this, Garland, Spence and the ‘new thinkers’ in the UVF of the mid-seventies were spot-on. It is a shame that they chose the blind alley of socialism. Socialism promises much but delivers equality of impoverishment to all except the party oligarchy.

The New Ulster Political Research Group were much nearer the mark in 1979 when they advocated an independent Ulster with social justice for all. Spence is right. Ulsterfolk do need to be guided by some form of political ideology. That ideology ought not to be socialism – which is just as much a reactionary dead-end as traditional unionism – but radical Ulster-nationalism. Mr Garland, who is a liberal-leftist member of the UUP, will probably never admit this, but perhaps some of the people he has written about will. That said, buy this book. It’s well worth £1.50. Copies are available from Clancy’s Bookshop, The Haymarket, 16 Gresham Street, Belfast BT1 1JN.


Continuing Harassment of Former Loyalist Prisoners by Press.

Once again the Alliance party supporting Belfast Telegraph, is attacking the Loyalist Working Class, this time through the pages of its Sunday rag, the Sunday Life.
The political parasites of the Belfast Telegraph/Sunday Life, who are still exploiting the past for financial gain, have absolutely no problem with convicted IRA murderers being employed as members of parliament and political advisors, all at the expense of their innocent taxpaying victims.
While at the same time these same discredited parasitical rags, publish totally sensationalised and unsustainable allegations against ex-Loyalist Prisoners, as they seek to deny them the right to participate in commemoration parades in memory of the original Ulster Volunteers, or to participate in peaceful protests in defence of our National Standard.

Charlie Freel.


Why A Peace Centre Can Help Us Move On: William Plum Smith


On the 28th March 2013, I had the privilege to introduce the launching of the Loyalist Ex-Prisoners Art Exhibition in Crumlin Road Gaol. I opened the occasion with the following speech.

“First of all on behalf of the Ex-Loyalist Prisoners Community I would like thank you all for coming to the initial the Launch of the Ex-Loyalist Prisoner Art Exhibition.

EPIC (Ex-Prisoners Interpretative Centre) is an organisation that represents the constituency of RHC/UVF Ex-Prisoners. Over the course of the conflict more that 10,000 Loyalists ended up incarcerated in the Prisons and Prison Camps of Northern Ireland and beyond. Almost every one of them passed through the gates of this prison at some time. Each one has their own story, their own experiences and each had their own way of dealing with the sentences handed down to them from the courts.  Many political prisoners took up various positive and constructive pastimes and careers while they were incarcerated including, music, arts, writing, handicrafts and education. Some, like Danny Strutt and Tommy Cull, were even more creative by designing their own early release scheme when they escaped from these walls in 1973.

Today we present a small example of the work of three ex-loyalist prisoners who took up art and honed their talents by painting and sketching their way through their years of imprisonment. Upon their release they continue to paint and sketch, some as a pastime and some as a profession.

Their art is also a record of their time in prison a pictorial history captured by vivid imagination captured by the stroke of a pencil or the swish of a brush. There is an ocean of talent and exhibits hidden within the wider ex-loyalist prisoner community and by launching this exhibition we hope to stimulate more of the ex-loyalist prisoner community to come forward and display whatever creativity or talent they developed while they were imprisoned during the conflict.

Today I can see ex- loyalist and ex-republican prisoners in the audience as well as the general public. I think both ex-prisoner communities can agree for the benefit of the general public that it certainly wasn’t like this when we were last in here. The samples of art you will see here covers over three decades of the conflict and a message and lesson to us all.

As 16th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement has just passed the beauty of these paintings and sketches also tells the story of thousands of young men, thousand more young families and loved ones who endured the suffering and penalties of incarceration during the course of the conflict. We must all tell our stories whether it be through art, literature, poetry or whatever medium so that future generations will never have to endure the suffrage of our generation.”

The Launch was attended by over 100 people and was on display for 4 weeks during which time 200 people viewed the exhibition. Seven Thousand Tourists visiting the Gaol for tours also were able to view the exhibition. Every comment from people from Northern Ireland and all around the World were positive and praiseworthy.

EPIC is a non-political organisation and will continue to collect stories, artefacts and promote the positivity of the ex-Loyalist prisoner community. I would encourage all ex-loyalist prisoners to come forward to their relevant bodies with any references or accounts of their experiences and opinions while they have been incarcerated over the decades of the conflict. The 10,000 ex-loyalist prisoners and the 40,000 plus families and loved ones who made that weekly trek to Crumlin Road, Magilligan, Long Kesh and the Maze must make sure that their experiences are not airbrushed or minimised from the annals of history, propaganda or political manipulation. That appeal also goes out to Prison Officers, Soldiers, Policemen, Victims and General Society. Everyone must be afforded the avenue and ability to express their feelings in a mature and constructive manner.

However, as we must remember the past and we must not forget the past, also the greater must is that the future must not be held hostage to the past. The unscrupulous politicians and opportunists who deliberately create a kneejerk reaction to every imagined and real emotion offer nothing to our children or the future.

Our youth and our children are our future and they must supersede the anguish of the past. The millstone of the past must be lifted from around our children’s necks by us the adults from whatever community, the politicians from whatever political party or we all become complicit in condemning future generations to a purgatorial country with a past but no future.






Ask My Mate Marty If I’m A Liar.

                                                 ASK MY MATE MARTY IF I’M A LIAR.

They have to be the funniest comedy duo since, Stan and Ollie.  Peter and Marty were at their pompously belligerent best, as they farcically attempted to justify their ludicrous decision to retain the ugly eyesore H-Block and equally ugly Prison Hospital at Long Kesh, as tourist attractions in the interests of their sham peace and non existing reconciliation pact.

Peter— red faced and with eyes bulging, nearly burst all his blood vessels in his bumbling efforts to assure us all that, his new mate Marty and the IRA, don’t really want the H Block and the hospital to become a memorial to the IRA hunger strikers.   Marty,  equally red faced and sweating, blustered and bleathered, without ever actually confirming Peters ludicrous statement.
It was hilarious to witness the totally discredited leader of the totally discredited, Never, Never, Never, Grand Old Duke of Yorkers, defending the aspirations of the IRA, in the face of opposition from The innocent Victims of terrorism, the RUC, the Prison Service, the PUP, UVF/RHC  Ex- Loyalist Prisoners and all the other Unionist Parties.
It is therefore pretty obvious to everyone except the comically belligerent, Stan and Ollie that, if the remainder of Long Kesh  isn’t bulldozed, then the only people participating in their farcical  Sham-Peace and non- existing reconciliation centre, will be the Never,  Never, Never DUP and  the Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie, IRA.

Charlie Freel.


Republicans Need A New Drill Instructor: John Coulter

Republicans should get some new drill instructors


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

The notorious Ardoyne Dander by dissident republicans over Easter has got to be one of the most embarrassing episodes in nationalist history.

What was supposed to be a dignified commemoration to four dead Fianna members turned into a public relations disaster.

This was NOT because of children on parade in supposed paramilitary gear – it was because republicans proved they physically cannot march.

I am a former staff sergeant in the Christian Boys’ Brigade movement where drill was a compulsory part of parade nights. I passed BB exams in square-bashing and I know how to march.

What we witnessed in the Ardoyne was not competent drilling, but a pathetic dander along the road where many of the so-called marchers were out of step with an inability to use their arms.


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ACT Initiative Event


Can A Man With A Beard Tell A Bare Faced Lie?

Apocryphal: of questionable authenticity…( Oxford English Dictionary ).

The difficulty is that the more lies you tell the harder it is to stop.  And when you have honed and mastered that skill over many years the task becomes nigh on impossible.  Gerry Adams is quite adept at telling lies.  He does so on a regular basis and has perfected the Art of doing so with a relatively straight face.  His porkies are of legendary status  The list is lengthy..His non membership of the IRA–his non involvement in the many instances of the Disappeared, in particular that of housewife Jean McConville–and the little white one about the message that never came from Thatcher–a note that could have saved the lives of six Hunger strikers in 1981.  And not to disappoint he has come off with his latest.  And as Frank Carson might have said–” It’s a cracker”!!
The Sinn Fein president has been giving evidence in the trial of his younger brother Liam who has been accused of sexually abusing his daughter Aine when she was a child.  Gerry at various stages during the trial has claimed that he had no knowledge of conversations that took place between him and the girls mother–that he never said he would have hit his brother with a hammer if the allegations were true–he claimed that he had a problem with “exact timelines”–and he refuted the suggestion that he had contacted the PSNI on the matter in 2007 in order to save his political career.  Note.  Not that he didnt have a problem in giving information to the Police whenever it suited him.  How ironic is this when he was involved in many cases of disappearing innocent Catholics whose crime was giving information to the RUC.
And this is the man who as recently as last week in an article for the Irish News is urging us to invest in a Truth and Reconciliation process to help heal the wounds of the past!!

” Nobody speaks the truth when there’s something they must have”.
Elizabeth Bowen