Monthly Archives: July 2013

PUP Planned Protest for Stormont.

Progressive Unionist Party Statement, Monday 15th July 2013 at 14:15*** Regarding: Planned Protest at Stormont Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 16th July 2013 at 0930

During recent events the Progressive Unionist Party have felt the hurt and pain that has been visited on the Unionist community in Northern Ireland, specifically, around recent decisions about parading, but also set against a wider context of the failure to recognise Loyalist Culture as part of our shared future and also the lack of political will to properly deal with the contentious issues of the past.

Once again, the PUP finds its activists on the frontline, showing leadership at local level, encouraging peaceful and lawful protest, while attempting to articulate the views and concerns of the community. At the forefront of this, playing a major role, have been the Women’s Commission of the Party. As the first step of our strategy to deal with the current issues, this group within the PUP plan to lead a Protest at the seat of power in NI tomorrow, on the run up to the special sitting of the assembly to talk about parades commission determinations. We call on all like minded groups and individuals to join us in a Peaceful, Lawful and dignified protest, where we plan to challenge our elected representatives by handing over a letter outlining our concerns. Those intent on violence will not be welcome and we cannot emphasise enough the importance of the Peaceful and Lawful nature of this protest in order to properly articulate our genuine and rightful concerns politically.

As always the PUP will put our People and Country before Party. Further statements and outline of intent will be made in due course, but it is our intention to step up to the mark and provide the kind of leadership that is essential during these difficult times.

*Statement Ends*


Leadership: Not Much of it About: Billy Joe.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

In the aftermath of the debacle that was on show in the evening of the annual 12th July celebrations–for once, due to the weather we did have a Glorious Twelfth–questions are again raised about the calibre of individuals at the heirarchy of the Orange Institutions.  In the immediate wake of the preposterous and illogical decision from the Parades Commission to ban the Ardoyne Lodges from the second leg of their parade along the Crumlin Road, the Orange Order called for peaceful protests.  As is their right.  However–and not just in retrospect–it is inconceivable that those who formulated that response, surely must have realised that the chances of peaceful protests actually happening were minimal. 
Take into account the occasion–the heightened tensions around the ban which is only the latest in a long line of rebuffs towards the Protestant/Loyalist community–the amount of marchers and spectators who would attend any such protest whether they were asked to or not.  And dont forget in the early years of Drumcree and subsequent protests the Orange Order have been glad of assistance from non OO members.  Indeed in the case of Drumcree only for the “help” of outsiders the official protests would have dwindled into the letter presenting sham that it eventually became after the initial year.
Predictably after the first nights rioting at the Woodvale and to a lesser degree in East Belfast the Orange Order showed their immaturity and ineptitude by firstly claiming that The Twelfth would never be over until the Ardoyne Brethern had returned home.  When I visited the flashpoint in the early hours of the 13th morning there were stil plenty of protestors about but predictably no Orangmen–at least not in an official capacity.  And many of the rank and file Orangemen who were there expressed a frustration and anger at the lack of leadership being shown.
Earlier, in East Belfast, I witnessed at first hand the shameful attack launched from the Short Strand towards a road that was jam packed with men, women and many hundreds of childrem who were doing what they did very year on the same day–watch Number 6 District return from Edenderry.  Much has been said in this past few days about the battles between Loyalists and the PSNI–plus its imported heavies–in the wake of the Republican assault on the Newtownards Road–but the reality is that the peopkle who were there on Friday evening should be commended for their restraint.  For a couple of hours before this parade was due to return rumours abounded about the nature of the OO protest.  In the end their was none.  There was also a lack of reponse from the Orange Order on the events–despite there also being quite a number of elected representatives within the ranks.  This was an opportunity to tell the media what exactly happened AND to explain how the Orange would respond.  But.  Silence.  And silent it has remained since their utterances on Saturday that they were suspending all protests.  Quite a back down from their original stance.  The upshot of the events over the weekend will, in all likliehood, mean thet the Ardoyne Lodges will NEVER return by their preferred route again.  It may well be only a matter of time before the morning leg is also banned.  Either the Orange Order are up for talking to residents groups–however distasteful they find them–and no matter who those groups really represent–or they are not.  They should state unequivocally that they are prepared to enter talks with ANYONE on any of the contentious marches–or else declare that they will NOT.  If they agree to the former time is of the essence.  By entering into discussions with many of these groups–either Provisional IRA or Dissident fronted–they have an opportunity to expose them as the sectarian bigots they are.  It will allow outsiders to see that all the rhetoric around a shared future is nothing but hollow drivel aimed at painting a different vista.
On Saturday Martin McGuiness, Gerry Kelly and the unfortunately titled Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin regaled the massed press with the familiar party lines.  Again their was no response from thos at Schomberg House.  It is a commonly held belief that the Orange Order senior officers are elderly and intransigent and collectively hold the notion that they will only communicate or speak to those who they deem inferior when it suits their agenda.  Is it time for change within the Orange Institutions?  Are there forward thinking and more dynamic members willing to grasp the nettle?  If so, now is the time to step forward and show the Leadership required from this once proud organisation.

Billy Joe. 


Reflections on the 11th. and 12th.: Dr. Dave Magee

Ross Kemp won’t tell you this: Some reflections on the 11th and 12th

By Dr Dave Magee

University of Aberdeen



In the past I have described some forms of Loyalist masculinity as ‘the elephant in the peace process’.  We saw that again on the 12th and 13th July, when violence broke out in response to the Parades Commission’s decision to block the return march up the Woodvale Road for certain sections of the Orange Order and bands.  For some, trouble was almost inevitable.  Indeed, Ross Kemp was here from England to capture what happened on film for a TV show.  He won’t have been disappointed.

In this post I want to talk about another type of Loyalist masculinity that does not make for such good headlines, and one that neither Ross Kemp nor Stephen Nolan will be making programmes about anytime soon.

On the 11th night I did a tour of several bonfire sites in communities I am familiar with.  Often, in local communities, many (but not all) of these bonfires are organised by either UDA or UVF aligned groups.  Early in the evening, when I was walking towards a UVF bonfire, a local resident I have known for many years shouted over to me, ‘Make sure you come down to the UDA one later!’  We both laughed at the absurdity of it all.

I won’t name the area, but one of these bonfires was organised jointly by a local UVF ex-prisoners group and a community association.

The main attraction of the night was a local rock tribute act, which went down brilliantly with the couple of hundred local men, women, and children who attended.  There were burgers, beer, and (mostly bad) dancing.  The event was free but there was a collection taken for a charity that works with people who have learning disabilities.  The only hint of trouble was when one guy – he was from out of town and spoke with an English accent – who had too much to drink was told by security to go and take a five minute walk and calm down.  When he returned there were smiles and handshakes.

After the music was over, instead of a bonfire there was a beacon.  This was, simply put, a metal cage shaped like a pyramid and filled with wood pulp.  The organisers explained to me how proud they were that their beacon was eco-friendly.  I mention this because it is unlikely that Stephen Nolan is going to run a show anytime soon on Loyalists who are concerned about the environmental impact of bonfires on their communities.



Given the publicity certain bonfires received in the past week it’s worth noting that there were no statues, no effigies, and no Irish flags to be seen.  The only way you would have known where you were was by a few Union flags and UVF flags scattered around the estate.  However, there was one Irish flag in the area.  If you did want to see it you would have to go to the UVF ex-prisoners community office, where it hangs on the wall, alongside a copy of the 1916 Irish Proclamation.  And it’s not there to throw darts at, it’s part of a history project that is run in the centre.

This, of course, is not the face of Loyalism that is portrayed in the media.  It is progressive, tolerant, and focused on peace.  After the antics of the Orange Order and the rest over the past couple of days they would do well to take notice of the example of these Loyalist ex-prisoners.

So what of the violence seen then on the 12th day?  For those of us who work for peace all the year round, such violence is not just an inconvenience or an embarrassment.  It leaves us with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomach.  It’s like a knife through the heart.

If we can conclude one thing from the history of conflict on this island, it is that violence will get us nowhere.  It is a never ending spiral of pain and destruction.  There are no easy answers to deeply rooted complex problems.  We need community leaders and politicians with courage and creativity.  The question is: ‘Do they have what it takes?’  There is much work to be done.  Perhaps instead of blaming others we can all start by taking a good look at ourselves and ask, ‘What can I do that will make a difference?’

This article first appeared on Monday 15th July on….


The 4 x 2′s: Jason M.

4 x 2′s

One element that is underwritten by us and our prison life is about the people men who actually locked us up, turned the keys and either made life easier or harder for us. I know some people still are scarred by the experiences at the hands of the screws. And I know many officers are scarred by their experience at the hands of the prisoners. I will be talking about my experiences, stories and recollections of screws in the Crum and the compounds of the Kesh. To be clear,  this article is not going to say all are bad. Nor will it paint them as all angels. I will give examples of both. No names appear in this article!

The first usual point of contact is the reception in the Crumlin Road prison. I have since revisited the Crum and done the tour with guide. Be under no illusion, the tour is nothing like reality. I found the few times I was in reception there was an underlying tension. This was a meeting of worlds. The screws would know who was who i.e. paramilitaries or ODCs!  And if a screw wanted to give you a hard time here, well maybe he could be seen later in a situation where he would have less control and backup. The Crum had a regime and procedure which, with good will, worked. When good will was withdrawn the protests started and that’s another whole story on its own.

While on remand in C wing a prison officer was shot dead as he left the prison. We were in the rec (recreation) room. A system worked whereby the loyalists and republicans organised ‘day about’. One day they got association and walks the next day the situation was reversed. While sitting in the rec room we knew there was something happening. You soon learn to read situations and atmospheres to know something bad had occurred. The screws came in to us and said ‘lock up’. This was before our allotted time. We were not happy and less so when we heard the news. A rumour quickly raced round that one of the officers had been shot at the front gate hence the high tension within the staff. It transpired that it was a PIRA job (They had already shot dead some staff including Crum staff) We were annoyed because we got part of the backlash and we felt that why punish us if the PIRA done it? Go and punish them.

The Crum was a not a place to show humanity or be nice. I personally hated it. The staff done their jobs. Lock and unlock doors. Requests. Escorts to visits. Searches. However while awaiting to return to the Kesh after my trial  2 heavies came to me and said ‘put on the prison uniform’.  I said ‘no, I was a Special Cat(egory) man’. Pure intimidation.  Conversely while I and another young prisoner were locked up waiting to go to the Kesh one officer went out of his way to get us to a bath. We had been simply side-lined. Forgot about. He was polite, caring and wanted to do his job. As this point I have to make a huge difference between the prison staff. There were local men and then you had the English, Scotch and Welsh who had come over for the good money. This screw was a jock.  And I appreciate his help and decency when it was in short supply.

I was told a story of two loyalist prisoners humiliating and intimidating a local prison officer in the early days of the Kesh when things where a bit madder. Later that night under the cover of darkness a number of prison officers came into one of the huts and dragged the two men out. They proceeded to give them a kicking. They were then delivered back to the cage. Both the men refused to make a complaint as it was part of the fabric of the prison at that time. There is one story of a loyalist prisoner who attacked a Governor in the H blocks. He used a screwdriver. (As a strict rule the loyalist ‘special cat’ prisoners did not attack staff unless ordered to. The H Blocks was a different story. ) The man in question, a lifer, was taken to the punishment cell. Where, in a fracas he sustained a fractured skull. I can’t help but recall the case of Barry Prosser, an ordinary prisoner, in England who died in Winson Green prison,  Birmingham after 3 prison staff entered his cell. No finding has ever been held on his death. No one has been convicted of any offence in relation to his death which had left him with horrific injuries according to a local newspaper?

Once in the Crum I witnessed a piss pot being poured over a prison officer who was standing on  the ground floor. Humiliating and embarrassing. I didn’t feel comfortable with that even if he was a bad screw.

During my time in the cages no prison officer was attacked or hurt by loyalists. And while there were tensions there were often funny and humane moments. I seen a staff member throw the keys of the compound to Billy Mitchel to let himself back INTO the cage. Billy came in, locked the padlocks, then threw the keys back over the wire to the staff. One day a prison officer (English) was invited in to have a game of table tennis with our best player. I went down to watch it and it was very competitive. Hand shakes at the end. What the prison system didn’t realise was that by building up relationships and communication we were less likely to attack staff doing their job. There are a couple of staff I would love to meet again and have a cup of tea for the decency and respect they showed to my parents.

On the other hand, there were staff who had poor attitudes, personal issues and a chance to exert power over people. I hope, I do not meet them. One story that is pretty sad is that one screw took the money belonging to the families of dead prison officers. (Who had been killed by PIRA). After spending it in the USA he returned home, took his punishment in court and then topped himself. Given the number of prison staff, the hostile climate and the pressures involved it was no wonder there were rotten apples. However I was dismayed recently by a senior prison officer who has been convicted of child porn offences. Not great for instilling trust and faith in people with a huge responsibility. I personally spoke several times to the senior officer who betrayed his colleagues to the republicans and ended up in prison where he eventually died through a progressive disease.

One situation where I have mixed feelings concerned a screw asleep on his post. I was sitting in the sun studying.  At the back of the cage away from the front gate was a wood and glass booth where, through the day, the screw would sit or patrol about. This beautiful summer day the man had his cap down over his eyes. His feet were up on a crate and the chair was balanced back against the booth. He was fast asleep. Over to his right the wicker gate opened in the large steel gate. In stepped a governor, an assistant governor and chief officer in uniform. They would do a walk about every now and then. Had it been a screw I liked I would have shouted over but I decided to let the situation develop. The small group walked up to the sleeping screw. The chief was the most displeased looking. They obviously knew I was looking on.

The chief kicked the crate away from his feet and the screw shot forward. Talk about waking up. His face was a picture of shock first (had we got out and attacked him?) Then he looked at the Governor and the face got redder and redder. Then he was plain scared. Then the embarrassment set in. He was told to stand at his booth and soon a replacement came to relieve him. We heard later he was ‘half sheeted’. The first stage of their punishment process.

I have met many of the officers since my release. We have had many amiable discussions. My attitude is, that was then, this is now. Its gone as far as I’m concerned. They were victims and players in the game like the rest of us. One way that the screws had to really annoy prisoners especially, the paramilitaries, is through the parcels. One common way of messing us about was through interfering with parcels. These contained food, books and clothes. Just prior to my trial my parents left in suit, shirt, tie, etc. Some unknown person poured a lovely dark liquid over my shirt. Nice one. Another favourite opportunity for the nasty brigade was search time. Usually once a week sometimes more, we got herded to the canteen and the screw team where left on their own in our rooms /cubes. Many times we returned to find our place wrecked. All in the name of security, so that makes it OK.

One excellent way of judging the screws was to be on punishment. I was on the boards 3 times in all for 3 days. It is as plain as day to us off the attitude that a screw brings to the cell door. There were good screws that did their job. There were others who were enjoying every moment of our situation and seeing what they could do to make the experience more painful. I recall on my third spell of punishment that a principal officer was arguing for me. The assistant governor, a real Mr Nasty, was just wanting me locked up as quick as possible. Fair play to the officer for standing up.

Towards the end game of our time Special Cat prisoners moved over to the H Blocks. It was obvious that all of us, staff and prisoner, wanted an easy time. We certainly were not going to escape knowing that release was around the corner. Many of our number had been released between 1985 and 1988. It was a strange situation. We talked with staff we had got to know well. We exchanged banter and talk. However that all changed when I went to the Crumlin Road prison to get released. (That reception again!) It was like going back to the start of my sentence. It was not pleasant. Again there were very good prison officers who would pertain to be professional. And then there were others. I recall being woke one night during my pre-release phase at 3am. He wanted to see if I was there?? Not great for getting someone ready for the real world. Nor does it leave a good memory. But overall the unit staff were good at their job.

There are many other (funny) stories to tell but maybe not in this forum. I would love to hear some of their stories and recollections, both good and bad.

Jason M.





The Perennial Parading Issue: Billy Joe

The Perennial Parading Issue

Orange Lilies bloom—pallets rise towards the sky—anybody with a bit of sense heads off on a foreign holiday.  These are the signs that July is upon it.  Add to these “givens” the perennial parading issues.  It is difficult to imagine a summer here without the same old arguments.  And undoubtedly this particular soap opera will run for a few episodes yet.  Drumcree now seems like a distant memory—something that we can look at and recall in the archives.  Tensions have been high around parading in North Belfast for many years.  It seems like only yesterday we were watching Gerry Kell in his Shell Suit rather than his usual attire of Armani suits nowdays.  But in reality there are relatively few contentious parades considering the amount of legitimate marches that take place in Northern Ireland within a calendar year.  And that is commendable—to residents groups and organisations and individuals involved.  The problems around Ardoyne run deeper than the acceptance of a minor part of a larger parade passing along a stretch of road for 100 yards.  A small number of people adhering to all the draconian restrictions laid down by the Parades Commission—year after year.
This year the PC in its wisdom laid down the law that the OO accompanied by a band and a limited amount of followers would NOT be permitted to take part in the return journey on the evening of the 12th July.  Seemingly this was acceptable to the Greater Ardoyne Residents Committee—a cover name for a dissident controlled body within the Republican powder keg that is present day Ardoyne.  So, in reality this “ residents” group who see sectarian marches along “their” stretch of road as totally insulting are only insulted after six o’clock at night.  It’s okay for the same people in the same uniforms with the same followers adhering to the same PC rules to walk down “their “road in the morning—but not at night.  They are even picking the time of day they wish to be insulted!!  Whilst being, personally no great lover of the Orange Institutions, I feel that apart from a few minor misdemeanours in recent years, by and large they have abided by measures as instructed through the inept Parades Commission.  Where failings have occurred—St.Patricks and the Famine Song of 2012-the Orange Order can hardly be held to account.  In fact much to the dismay of many other Protestants/Loyalists— OO members or not—the acquiescence from that organisation at times have raised the question as to whether they are testicularly challenged.  What is seen here in 2013 is that violence pays.  Where the GARC and supporters are more than happy to go along with the PC decision this year last year was a completely different story.  Before, during and after the minor parade there were disturbances.  A battle raged for four hours in the wake of the peaceful law abiding return procession.  A battle between Republicans of all hues and the PSNI where petrol bombs, and blast bombs were thrown and shots fired.  This behaviour seemed to have worked in light of the puzzling and illogical decision of two days ago.  Indeed the day before the PC decision protestors during a white line protest on Crumlin Road carried placards proclaiming-No Parade..No Violence.  So the mixed messages –for the Orange Order–emanating from the PC are apparent.  Do as you are told or we will punish you.  Do as you are told and we will still punish you.  This year for the first time the OO engaged orally with the Ardoyne residents—albeit at a late hour—but hardly the fault of the Orange alone.  A good sign?  On the face of it –yes.  But the reality to me is much more clear.  If the OO do not engage—and we know they are reluctant because they see most residents groups as tools of the different IRA factions—they will be punished.  When they do engage AND toe the line—they are punished.  So, why engage?  They cannot win.
What has become abundantly apparent in all of these machinations is this—the various residents groups, whoever they are a front for, have an agreed bottom line—NO PARADES.  Full stop.  The latest attempt at dialogue has proven this once again.  The groups are sectarian in nature and intolerant of Protestant/Loyalist culture and identity.  Many Protestants/Loyalists feel the need to express their anger and vent their fury at this latest decision from the PC and probably rightly so.  But I feel that this is the time for the Orange Institutions to prove to us all that those nasty rumours of emasculation are unfounded.


The Orange Lily’O

And did you go to see the show, each rose and pink a dilly, O!
To feast your eyes, and view the prize, won by the Orange Lily,O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

The Viceroy there, so debonaire, just like a daffadilly, O. With Lady Clarke, blithe as a lark, approached the Orange Lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

Then Starting back, he cried good luck, some say he looked quite silly, O!         Oh! deed of woe, must I bestow the prize upon the lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky

What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

Sir Charley, too, looked very blue, while laughed the Horse Master Billy, O!         To think his EX – a flower should vex, and that an Orange Lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

A fairer Flower, throughout the Bower he sought, but willy nilly, O!
With moistened eyes, he gave the prize to Erin’s Orange Lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

The lowland field may roses yield, gay heaths the Highland hilly, O!
But high or low, no flower can show, like Erins Orange Lily, O.

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

Let dandies fine in Bond Street shine, gay nymphs in Piccadilly, O!
But fine or gay must yield the day to Erin’s Orange Lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

The elated muse, to hear the news, jumped like a Connaught Filly, O!
As gossip fame did loud proclaim the triumph of the Lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!

Then come, brave boys, and share her joys, and toast the health of Willy, O!         Who bravely won, on Boynes red shore, the Royal Orange Lily, O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie         With Erins Orange Lily’O!

Heigh ho, the lily’O! The royal, loyal lily’O! Beneath the sky
What flower can vie With Erins Orange Lily’O!


It’s A Hell Of A Long Way To Tipperrary Now For Republicans.



How could they be so offensive and disrespectful, especially on a Sunday?

Last Sunday those heartless, bowler hat carrying militants, of the Orange Order, defied the parades commission by converging on the outskirts of Saint Patricks Chapel, playing that notoriously bitter sectarian and highly offensive orange tune.  “It’s a Long Way To Tipperary.”

Needless to say, the local republican residents and their republican friends, who had travelled from far and near to take full advantage of their inbred, cultural Irish republican right to wallow in exclusive victimhood, were devastated with joy at discovering a new hatefully sectarian reason to feel offended.

Obviously these poor self alienated republicans, who had been forced unnaturally, to get out of their beds before tea time or else miss out on their pre-12th dose of offense, realised the significance of this dastardly sectarian Orange tune.

It was obviously the Orange Orders way of reminding republicans that, even after the IRA’s 35 year campaign of totally pointless, bloody sectarian slaughter, Tipperary is now even further away from republicans, than it was in 1970.


This year let us reach out yet again, to these poor obviously misunderstood, republican professional victim groups that have flourished so successfully in Northern Ireland since partician. They unlike their Protestant counterparts in the Republic of Ireland, have not been nearly totally ethnically cleansed, by orchestrated State, Church and Educational discrimination.

No, our perpetually whinging, republican victim groups, have been allowed to develop and fine tune unhindered their culturally traditional republican need and insatiable yearning for oppression and victimhood to such an extent that, I now believe republicanism is probably a recognised serious medical condition.

Sufferer’s of republicanism are probably automatically entitled to claim DLA, which then enables them to have the spare time and money, to travel all over Northern Ireland in search of their next quick fix of oppression, to satisfy their inbred habitual need to feel offended.

As Protestants we have a duty to find out, just exactly what it is that so obviously offends our ultra-sensitive, poor republican fellow Northern Irelander’s, because their perpetual need to protest, is in serious danger of turning them into Protestants.


Could the cause of their ultra- sensitivity possibly be, that highly explosive Sash that my father wore? Probably not, if that exploded the only head to get blown off, would be my aul Dads.

Could it possibly be the actual words of The Sash? probably not, because on examination of the actual words, I believe that even most Protestants would find them a bit naff, so I can’t see that being of much use to a professional republican whinger.

Maybe it’s those mostly portly, wee Orangemen, with their very highly fashionable bowler hats, but to be honest I believe that most strangers to orangeism, would find them more amusing than offensive.

The first thing that always springs into my mind, when I see them coming into view is of course, Laural and Hardy.

Could it possibly be those big banners that, usually depict a scene and a verse from the Bible? Possibly after all, if we had also spent our innocent childhoods at the mercy of, the likes of Father Brendan Smyth, then I don’t think that we would be too fond of Religion either.


Anyway, I think that this year, us aul Protestants should make a special effort to assist our poor perpetually whinging, republican fellow Northern Irelander’s.


This year, let us beat the drums louder, raise the flags higher and make the bonfires bigger, so that our poor perpetually whinging republican neighbours can wallow in as much self-indulgent offence and self pity as their little green heart’s desire.

 Charlie Freel.   



This article first appeared on

In this exclusive and provocative article for Open Unionism, Radical Unionist commentator and former Blanket columnist DR JOHN COULTER maintains the new NI21 party should also look to the Republic as a hunting ground for voters, positioning itself as the New Progressive Democrats.

Look South! That’s the clear future direction MLAs Basil McCrea and John McCallister must aim to take their new NI21 party.

With the demise of the once popular Progressive Democrats in the Republic, there is now a gap in the Southern political market for a centrist party which is not dictated to by the Irish Catholic Bishops.

And if Northern Ireland can successfully negotiate both this summer’s Marching Season and the Maze shrine debate, the peace process could be stabilised for a generation in spite of sporadic dissident republican terrorism. If NI21 is not to join other moderate parties such as the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland and the Irish Nationalist Party in the dustbin of history, it must re-brand itself as an all-island movement.

Provisional Sinn Fein is currently the only political movement realistically having some degree of influence in both the Dail and Stormont. The Green Party did have some limited success, until the establishment parties began stealing the Greens’ environmental policies. Sinn Fein will most likely use its all-island status to electorally obliterate the moderate nationalist SDLP in Northern Ireland, unless the latter merges with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail before the centenary of the failed Easter Rising in 2016.

The clerical abuse scandals have decimated the influence of the Irish Catholic Church. The power it enjoyed during the Eamon de Valera era has completely evaporated. The Irish Catholic Bishops can no longer choose whether Fine Gael or Fianna Fail should be the main party of government in Leinster House.

In spite of being one of the oldest parties on the island, Irish Labour has suffered with the collapse of the once-unstoppable Celtic Tiger economy. Irish Labour has also made the serious tactical error of not organising in Northern Ireland and contesting elections.

Sinn Fein under party president and former West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has been remodelled as a secularist and anti-austerity movement. Yet there are still many parts of Ireland where families remember the bitterness of the Irish Civil War, where former comrades during the so-called Tan War became fanatical enemies.

This has meant that Sinn Fein does not enjoy the same popularity in the South, which it wants to join, than in the North, which it wants to leave. In spite of turning in its best electoral showing this century under Adams in the last Dail poll, Sinn Fein is still regarded with much suspicion by many Southern nationalist voters who see the movement either as the political apologist of the IRA, or a hardline Marxist party using nationalism as a cover.

NI21 has marketed itself as a pluralist moderate movement developing the notion of being ‘Northern Irish’. Its first major test will be next year’s European poll, where it will face a tough battle for the middle ground with the Alliance, the Green Party and the Tories.

McCrea and McCallister must give serious consideration to using the European elections as a launching pad for a similar SI21 movement – Southern Ireland 21 – perhaps eventually merging NI21 and SI21 into a simple I21 (Ireland 21) party.

I have made no secret during my journalistic career of wanting to see Unionism expand beyond the boundaries of Northern Ireland into the South. Ideally, I want to see the Republic back in the British Commonwealth of Nations. At the very least, the South should join the influential Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

I fondly remember holidays in the South as a primary school pupil, and especially the many Sundays I travelled with my father as he preached in the numerous Presbyterian churches in Donegal. Southern Irish Orange annual divine services were a particularly enjoyable experience and my wife hails from Limerick.

During my time as Editor of the Carrickfergus Advertiser and East Antrim Gazette, I had the pleasure of teaming up with my counterparts in Limerick to mark the Tercentenary of the signing of the Treaty of Limerick. It was, of course, in Carrickfergus that King William III landed en route to his victory at the River Boyne in 1690.

I have often regarded partition as the great betrayal of the Southern Unionist and Protestant tradition. It was wrong of Carson and Craig to leave many Southern Protestants to their fate.

Less than a century after partition, with the Southern economy in tatters and its people becoming its greatest export, the utopian visions of the nationalists can be seen through at last. For the sake of the people of Southern Ireland, the 26 counties would do well to come back under the political umbrella of the United Kingdom.

That is easier said than done. What is now needed is a realistic political process to bring this about, given that the republican myth of a democratic socialist republic ,as outlined in their Proclamation of 1916, is a complete pipe dream.

This ideology I have termed Revolutionary Unionism in recognition of the Glorious Revolution of the 17th century which brought on the Protestant Ascendancy and laid the foundations of the Union and United Kingdom. (It is also known as neo-unionism, Ed.).

However, it would be realistic to think that it would be incredibly difficult for an Irish Unionist Party, or Commonwealth Unionist Party, to become an influential force in the Dail so that Southern Ireland voted to rejoin the CPA. I deliberately use the term ‘rejoin’ as Ireland was a founder member of the CPA in 1911, when it was then known as the Empire Parliamentary Association and the entire island was under British rule.

If McCrea or McCallister did physically move into the South, they would not be the first Northern-based politicians to successfully develop this agenda. The Louth TD Gerry Adams is the current holder of this mantle. Others have included Austin Currie, who became a Fine Gael TD after serving in the 1973 and 1982 Assemblies for the SDLP. Former Alliance leader John Cushnahan became a Fine Gael MEP.

McCrea and McCallister must bank on a massive backlash against the Peter Robinson-led DUP and the total collapse of the UUP under Mike Nesbitt to ensure that NI21 is in a prime spot for a position of influence in the next Assembly, or in the 11 proposed super councils. This is assuming NI21 can replace Alliance as the main centrist party in Northern Ireland. As the majority of Alliance elected representatives rely on transfers from the Unionist parties, the Belfast City Hall Union Flag debacle could deliver a fatal blow for the Alliance.

The message booming out from Unionist Forum and People’s Forum meetings is clear – don’t transfer to Alliance and wipe the party out at the polls. As the majority of Unionists do not support gay marriage, only those Alliance politicians who openly oppose gay marriage can be assured of the evangelical Christian vote.

Bearing this last statement in mind, it may seem that NI21 is a non-starter, given McCrea and McCallister’s open support for gay marriage. How can a pluralist party which backs gay marriage hope to attract votes from evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics who traditionally oppose gay marriage?

The answer lies in NI21 becoming a ‘buffer’ party, especially by Unionists, who traditionally in the past transferred to Alliance to keep out republicans and nationalists. If Unionists will no longer transfer to Alliance in such significant numbers, then they may opt instead to give their transfers to NI21.

With such a crowded centre market in the North, NI21 may be better placed to move south of the border. NI21 must also remember that the Robinson-led DUP is also hunting the centre voter. The DUP under Paisley senior overtook the Ulster Unionists by stealing the UUP policies and moving onto the Centre Right ground traditionally held by the UUP. The UUP will only survive if it moves to the Radical Right territory once held by the DUP. Ironically, the Maze shrine debate has created an unofficial coalition of the UUP, Jim Allister’s TUV and David McNarry’s UKIP.

It could also be suggested that a DUP, led by Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA and Stormont Executive Minister Arlene Foster ,could eventually swallow up the UUP, leaving NI21 to become a ‘small u’ Unionist party. It is interesting to note how many former UUP members now hold key positions in the modern DUP. Conspiracy theorists might be forgiven for thinking it was a deliberate ploy to take over the DUP from within!

NI21’s biggest barrier to clear is to get people to both register to vote and vote on polling day. In this respect, it faces the same problem as the established parties in Northern Ireland.

In the South, an Ireland 21 party could pip Sinn Fein as the radical alternative to the established parties because it has no paramilitary or historical baggage. Its real breakthrough in the South could come if the UK votes to leave the European Union in any future referendum. Re-positioned as a staunch Eurosceptic party, Ireland 21 could become an even bigger vote winner in the South than in the North.

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A Kingdom of Pallets: Beano Niblock

A Kingdom of Pallets

 Timber stacked high—an edifice to the sky
A labour of love—months in the making
Blood—and sweat-and tears-and tears- and fret
And frayed clothes and nerves and backs ready for breaking.

Like ants we scramble to the summit and review
Our wooden kingdom distended far beneath
And marvel at the effort and endeavour
Basking in the glory of the Empire at our feet.

Proficient in the skills required to build
A structure that won’t stand the test of time
A configuration of lumber, sticks and kindling
A mountain—that is ours alone to climb.

We linger in defiance of the moment
Rebel against the once appointed time
Stall in an instance of non compliance
And postpone the sure and downward climb.

And gaze from a distance when finally grounded
Eyes moist and faces still as figurines
Despondent that our realm should turn to ashes
Downhearted –thinking of our smouldering dreams.


The Battle At Oldbridge: Beano Niblock

Battle at Oldbridge


On the slopes of Tullyallen at a bend in the River Boyne
Thirty thousand true and loyal men with William did enjoin
To face and fight rebellious might, no thoughts that they might die
They stood as one with pike and gun on the Eleventh of July.

Assembled on the other bank the Jacobites prepared In Oldbridge town their plans laid down and offered up their prayers
As night wore on toward a sunny dawn in God they placed their trust
When the warm mist cleared and judgment neared James waited on the thrust.

On the stroke of ten from a wooded glen six pounders paved the way
In Greenhills’ field, forced to yield, the Papish army fled
In disarray and with much dismay James tried vainly to recoup
Brave Schombergs’ troops—a valiant group—were intent to win the day.

As James ran scared bold William dared to consolidate his rank
He sent his best to Slane due west to confuse and to outflank
The Blue Guards forded the shallow stream, advanced as one, complete
They stood their ground while Papish hounds retreated towards Duleek.

The flintlocks roared, the twelve bore scored and bullets found their mark
The Orange camp did not relent and dashed the Papist horde
A dark brown horse traversed the course—William led the day
And James he fled—white paper splayed–with dead along the way.

In mid July, the battle cry was for Country and for King
And proud to fight for Williams’ cause, and wear that sprig of green
The battle raged, they did engage, they held their standards high
They fought the fight and gained the Right—on the Twelfth day of July.