Monthly Archives: November 2014

Reunion Night for an Old Friend: Charlie Freel

Reunion Night for an Old Friend.




A reunion night has been arranged in support of an ill ex-Loyalist Prisoner of the Seventies. It will be held in Toye Orange Hall, this Saturday the 29th of November AT 7.30 PM. All visitors will be made welcome–a small admission fee of £5:00 will be charged and there will be a small auction of Long Kesh Loyalist memorabilia in support of the night.

Toye Orange hall is situated about a mile from Killyleagh, on the right hand side of the road travelling from the Comber direction. It sits down off the road beside a small row of terraced cottages.  Please be there to support an old comrade who was always right up there on the front line for us, in times of conflict.  It is important that we as former comrades support each other to the best of our ability when required.  Simply by turning up at this small event will mean a lot to the person who is at present suffering ill health.  Your support means everything to him.






Charlie Freel.



Tales From The Gulag: Beano

Tales From The Gulag

 A Loyalist Prisoner tells of the last few hours spent In Magilligan Camp before being transferred to Long Kesh in October 1977.  Magilligan compounds had been opened as an alternative to the Maze in mid 1974 and at one stage there was 8 full cages-4 Republican and 4 Loyalist….2 UVF and 2 UDA 




A Sunday in October.  The second or third.  Doesn’t matter which.  Bright.  But cold.  And where we were-cold.  Always cold.  Coats were the order of the day in this neck of the woods.  Sometimes you had to get dressed to go to bed.  Summer- there was some improvement.  A little.  But generally cold.  The wind blew like nobody’s business.  All year round.  Occasionally a warmish wind, but a wind none the less. In the winter the gusts cutting through the wire at times sounded like a cabal of demented banshees.  We crouched almost at forty degrees headlong into the gales when we walked the wire-hands stuffed in our pockets and talking –loudly-out of the side of our mouths.
There was thirty odd of us.  The remains.  The remnants.  We didn’t have much.  Not to start with.  And even less now.  Our meagre possessions had been wrapped and tied and bundled and tagged and dispatched before us.  We awaited the order.  To move out.  By mid morning we had overdosed on tea and coffee.  The game of Continental—the last on this turf—was being played by five bored and coated souls-surrounded by a dozen spectators.  Double deck piled before them.  Small talk was done.  Finished.  Last night seen to that.  There was an acceptance now.  A stillness.  A realisation that the point of no return had been crossed.  A threshold.  Of sorts.  Each time the end door opened a collective swivel of heads-a craning of necks-an expectancy-to be dashed by the appearance of one of “us”.  The odd one lay on top of the bed-waiting.  A few still “ bouled” the wire.  Talking the inane talk of incarceration.

The door opens.  A shout.  That’s us.  The sound of vans engines running-more than one.  Can’t be for visits—its Sunday don’t forget.
Finish the hand is the order-the card players resume.  There’s nothing at stake.  This time.  But credibility.  A win’s a win.  Everyone else drifts away from the table.  Last minute stuff.  Mental check lists.  Psyche yourself up.
An apprehensive looking P.O. appears and calls for our C.O.  Joe is one of the card players.  He doesn’t answer. But studiously takes a card from the pile of dirt.  Lays down a run to the ten-three sevens-three two’s and his last card for the dirt saying-Count them ladies.
As Joe heads towards the P.O. the other four Mavericks simultaneously throw their cards in the air.  A last defiant, pseudo-rebellious gesture.  We await the word from Big Joe.

Right lads…he says on his return.  It’s alphabetical order—form up in the canteen and wait to be called.
No use me rushing then, I’m well down the list-probably the third run.

Time for another coffee.  Most of our stuff has been forwarded on..we are only left with enough personal stuff to less than fill a brown paper bag.  Hope it doesn’t rain.
The canteen has small groups standing about.  Chatting-smoking-wondering-all in a rather muted fashion.

At the open doors stand a posse of screws-plenty of brass in amongst them.  More than one has clipboards.  An argument ensues.  The P.O. wants us searched.  Joe refuses.  And threatens that we won’t be

A group of UVF prisoners in “H” compound 1975

going anywhere.  The compound had been thoroughly searched the day before.  A conflab.  We wait.  Resigned to—whatever.
No search..first eight names are called out by the P.O. and repeated by Joe.
—–They troop off to board the mini bus.  Outside the canteen the yard seems filled with screws.  Like a search team waiting to pounce.
Some light hearted banter lifts the subdued atmosphere-somewhat.
“Got your bucket and spade Ronnie”?
“ Bring us back a rock, Lulu”.
Very quickly it is my turn.  I board the bus with a miserable brown bag as do seven others.  Our names are checked –Martin–McClean—McClelland—Niblock—leaving the canteen and again boarding the bus twenty yards away . They’re taking no chances.
From H to the Army camp was a short drive-less than five minutes I’m sure.  The other cages blurred past..merging into the pages of the past already.
There was an equal amount of screws on the bus as there was us.  We were packed in and it was uncomfortable.  Through the countless gates and into the unknown.  None of us had seen this side of the fence before.  It was a different world.  The bus entered a shed..perhaps a garage.  The tall double doors closed behind us.  Suddenly the weak midday sunshine was blocked out and we were encased in complete blackness.  The bus engine was turned off and the silence became perceptible.
It was difficult to see anything.  An odd cough or muttering was all that could be heard.  Seconds later as I gradually adjusted to the darkness I could make out shadows-outlines of figures-I could feel the men on either side of me-one a screw but couldn’t recognise them.
The side panel of the van sliding across noisily invaded our silence.  One by one we dismounted from the van.  The screws on alighting all turned to the right-seemingly a pre-planned manoeuvre.  By the time the last of our crowd had stepped down my vision had returned enough for to make out a semi-circle of British soldiers in firing stance each pointing an SLR in our general direction-no more than eight feet away.  It was slightly disconcerting.  Although there were overhead lights it was dark and gloomy.  We remained silent.  The noise of the big doors sliding open distracted us.  Another-different noise assailed an ever increasing wind-building fiercely in tempo-but unseen.
A P.O. emerged from the gloom.  A different one from H.  And indeed one I hadn’t seen about much before.
He carried an arm full of handcuffs.  These he gave to the waiting screws before calling us forward one at a time to be shackled.  In file we left the hangar each handcuffed by the left hand to a screw.  Outside the hangar we were into the teeth of a hurricane and assailed by a deafening roar.  We turned right and in front of us stood a Wessex helicopter-surrounded by armed soldiers-and with the side door open.
Once on board we were met by another senior prison officer again carrying handcuffs.  By the time he had went round us all we were either handcuffed by both arms to either a screw or fellow prisoner, or in my case to a screw and a steel post.  All the Army personnel on board wore ear protectors.  Prisoners and screws were exempt.
It was useless trying to strike up a conversation such was the crescendo so we each leaned at various angles to see out the door which remained open for the entire journey.  Almost as soon as we were airborne it became teeth chattering cold.  Most of us had either light jackets or pullovers on and soon realised why the screws to a man wore overcoats.
The journey was short-less than half an hour-and completed for the most part at low level.  We could clearly see the traffic on the country roads-the sheep and cattle on the hillsides.  When we came to Lough Neagh it was as if we were literally skimming across the surface of the water.  The cold intensified.  We longed for the journey to end.
It did.  Within moments the screw to my left nudged me and nodded towards the open door.  There, framed in the doorway and looking just like an aerial photograph was Long Kesh camp-The Maze….Our destination.  It quickly came to us and with a different pitch and rising of decibels our chopper hovered momentarily before touching down on a pad within the Army camp.
Soon we were processed and en route to our designated compounds-in my case 18.  Whatever we had thought before coming to here or whatever plans we had worked out were simply ineffectual now.  We had had our destiny –at least in the short term—worked out for us from on high.  We had departed the Gulag on the Coast and arrived-without a fanfare-to the Academy—The Spence University–The Shankill Sandhurst-and life was about to change—for each of us-but dramatically for some.




Inside Man: A Review by Danny Morrison.


By William ‘Plum’ Smith

Reviewed by Danny Morrison


Some years ago I was on a panel in the Waterfront Hall along with Billy Hutchinson of the Progressive Unionist Party. We were discussing a play we had just watched, The Chronicles of Long Kesh. Billy and other loyalists in the audience took great exception to the depiction of their prisoners in the play, and objected to prison experience and indeed the conflict generally being monopolised as mainly a dominant republican story (on stage, in literature and in film).

Of course, the required response was for loyalists to take control of their own story and write their own accounts. That process was already underway, for example, in such a work as Reason To Believe by former loyalist lifer, Robert Niblock, a play which was well-received and reviewed.

I was thus glad to hear a few weeks ago that former UVF prisoner William ‘Plum’ Smith had written a book and I went along to the packed launch in Crumlin Road Prison. I have to say, I was very impressed and enjoyed Inside Man, about Plum’s five years in prison for the attempted murder of a Catholic, Joseph Hall, whom he shot in Unity Flats. ‘Enjoyed’ might be misinterpreted as mischievously delighting in the woes and suffering of an opponent. But what I mean is that his is a very honest, human account, and at times a very funny account, of life in prison and his life before that: what made him a loyalist who was prepared to go beyond parading and take up arms against what he perceived to be the enemy (however I disagree with that description).

It is a book that nationalists and republicans should read in order to learn about the loyalist mindset which is too easily dismissed and stereotyped. Obviously, I would take issue with his analysis of what was happening in 1968 and 1969 because I think unionism misread the Civil Rights Movement and was fairly complacent because it had power and could exercise that power. That power had worked for fifty years so why change tack, why reform, why make any concessions? But once we were plunged into violence then every past slight, every insult, every act of past discrimination and every memory of injustice, and the greater sense of alienation, would feed the explosion that was to become the IRA and its long campaign.

Plum Smith was born on the Shankill Road in 1954, so he and I are almost coevals (I was born in Andersonstown in 1953). His father often had to go to Scotland or England when work was slack in the North, as had my own father and neighbours.

Seventeen-year-old Plum was first arrested during a riot in June 1971 and was subsequently sentenced to six months in Crumlin Road Prison. There he was attacked by republicans who outnumbered the loyalists. He was only out seven months when he was rearrested and this time convicted of the attempted murder of Joseph Hall and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

“The IRA, Nationalists, Republicans or Catholics were killing people in the Protestant Community and I was retaliating in kind. I had neither sense or remorse, nor a sense of loss of freedom or how long I would lose that precious freedom. I had no regrets, nor did I contemplate what the future would hold.”

In August 1972 he was among nine loyalist prisoners placed in a remand cage in Long Kesh which the year before had opened as an internment camp. In the cages around him were up to 500 republicans. He was to return to the Kesh as a sentenced prisoner with political status where the undoubted leader and major influence was Gusty Spence. Initially, loyalists from different groups were all mixed together but later, as factionalism arose, each group (UVF, UDA) demanded its own cages – a development that Plum Smith regrets because he believes it led to even more feuding between the groups.

Earlier in 1972, as a result of an IRA hunger strike, the British government had introduced Special Category Status which was political status or POW status in all but name. It was perhaps the most progressive penal concession made by the British during the conflict and was to lead to ‘relative’ calm in the prisons. (No prison officer had been shot during this time.) It was withdrawn by the British in 1976 with devastating consequences that led to a blanket protest and the hunger strikes and deaths outside and inside the prison – only for the British government, years later, to again concede political status after its disastrous experiment failed.

This memoir is a mine of information about the discussion papers produced and the level of debate which went on inside the loyalist cages. They advocated a Bill of Rights, reform of the RUC, integrated education, cross-border cooperation in non-contentious areas (tourism, regional development, agriculture, etc) and instead of power-sharing, ‘Equal Responsibility’ (which was probably power sharing!). Whether the workshops, the literature, amounted to anything of substance in the end is open to opinion, but he establishes the fact that there was a culture of political engagement and self-examination.

Looking at old photographs and sometimes scratchy silent Super 8 film of these men in prison, what I do find alien (and perhaps it is just me) is the apparent fetishism with military discipline and military display within loyalist cages.

I am not sure of the degree of militarism (marching, parading, saluting, bed and hut inspections) that went on inside the cages of republicans serving prison sentences. What I do know, is that among us internees at the lower end of the camp, the drilling that went on in Cage 2 bored me and the majority of others to tears. We’d rather watch Top of the Pops and M.A.S.H. than practise drill in a freezing Nissan hut. But from Plum’s account the prisoners, apparently willingly, enthusiastically, were up for marching at the crack of dawn and had the best polished shoes in Ireland! (Sorry, the UK!)

He also reminds us of escapes by loyalists – of which I was unaware – the first of which was in 1972 from Crumlin Road Jail.

He epically tells the story of the republican burning of the camp (which was now huge, consisting of 21 cages) from the loyalist perspective and of the incredible degree of cooperation (a non-aggression pact between prisoners) that existed that night. The gas affected every area and the republicans were surrounded and being beaten by overwhelming numbers of riot troops.

“Republicans began moving their injured out of the football fields back into Phase 6, just outside our compound. We used the wire clippers to cut the fences and make entrances into C19. Those who we thought were the most seriously injured we brought into our compound, into the wooden study hut and gave them first aid using the medical supplies we had procured the night before.”

The following day he watched as soldiers beat prisoners: “I have never seen such brutality in all my life.” The republican prisoners were to be given two pieces of bread and milk but the soldiers put the bread and milk in a heap, tramped and spat on them and then made the prisoners run a gauntlet of batons to get their food.”

A loyalist rescue party, incredibly, also took prisoners to safety.

Three years later, after the withdrawal of political status, loyalists were on the blanket protest for a time but came under pressure to call off the protest because of its identification with their enemy – the IRA. I wonder what would have happened to the prisoners had they pooled their opposition to the withdrawal of status? Would the British government have folded earlier than they did? Would the prisoners have found common humanity in common ground? Would it have helped bring down the walls that separated them a little?

There was, of course, the establishment of a Camp Council in the early 1970s made up of all republican and loyalist factions. Whether this had potential to mature into something significant – a lobby, finding consensus, engaging in acts of conciliation – we will never know because it was thwarted by the NIO who were moving towards the strategy of ‘criminalisation’.

I can absolutely identify with Plum’s graphic descriptions of life behind the wire, the raids, the deceptions employed to get ‘one’ over the governor and staff, including the smuggling into the jail of a transmitter! He captures the atmosphere, the personal suffering, the death of a prisoner through medical neglect, his learning of the Irish language, loyalist involvement in further education, the joy of comradeship but also the travails of imprisonment, especially the difficulties for one’s loved ones.

They made long journeys, visited week-after-week, waiting for long hours, often experiencing humiliating searches for a half-hour visit which was often cut short at the whim of a prison officer who alleged that smuggling was taking place (often a bit of tobacco, the historic currency of prisoners). Families lost their breadwinners and the prisoners often ‘lost’ their spouses and their children, especially those prisoners serving lengthy sentences.

Released in 1977 Plum Smith became a shop steward with the ITGWU, remained a determined advocate on behalf of loyalist prisoners and in 1994 chaired the press conference when the loyalist ceasefire was announced. These might have been the golden days for the Progressive Unionist Party when it looked like it was on the verge of making a major and sustained breakthrough but through numerous mishaps, and the tragic death of the talented David Irvine, the party’s support fell, and with it, I suppose, came disillusionment and some internal chaos.

Plum Smith has always been amiable and accessible and prepared to cross the peace line. He has been an honest witness but also a reflective protagonist. After the signing of the Good Friday Agreement he was one of his party spokespersons selling the deal to the public and addressed a meeting at a women’s centre in Belfast. After his contribution an elderly woman got up to speak in favour of the Agreement and swung many doubters in the room.  He writes:

“A few weeks later I met the woman who had organised the meeting and I asked her who the lady was, did she know her? She said to me, “Plum, that man you shot all those years ago was her son.” I was taken aback. She then said that the lady had expressed her joy that I had been so positive about the agreement and supported me in the work I was now doing. What can you say to that? Her face never haunted me, it humbled me. Her dignity and compassion was so elevated. She was someone’s mother and my victim was someone’s son.”

Plum Smith in 1971 went inside as a kid. But he came out a man. A man dedicated to his community, to reconciliation and peace.


*Danny Morrison is a former prisoner who was Sinn Féin’s National Director of Publicity, 1979-1990. His prison memoir is titled ‘Then The Walls Came Down’


Shinners Could Sweep The Board: Dr. John Coulter

Shinners could sweep board: Unionists face poll massacre


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

A Nationalist Coalition of Shinners, Stoops and Alliance could snatch up to a dozen of the North’s 18 MPs in next May’s Commons showdown.

Republicans would do well to remember the impact of the Unionist Coalition of 1974 a few months before loyalist street muscle brought down the power-sharing Sunningdale Executive.

Three Unionists parties – the UUP, DUP and Vanguard came together to form the United Ulster Unionist Council, commonly known as the ‘Treble-UC’, or Unionist Coalition.

It allocated the single unionist party best placed to win, resulting in 11 of the North’s 12 constituencies returning Unionist MPs, leaving Gerry Fitt as the sole nationalist in West Belfast.

Not since the 1918 General Election immediately after World War One has nationalism the chance to take the majority of Irish seats in a Westminster poll.

Unionist infighting and Protestant voter apathy has gifted nationalism a potential May massacre at the polls, but it will require more than a mere pact in selected seats to guarantee this Commons whitewash.

Republicans would do well to remember the opinion polls in Scotland which show the Scottish National Party poised to snatch most seats north of the English border.

This could leave the SNP holding the balance of power in Westminster, especially if the staunchly anti-European Union Ukip gives Prime Minister Dave Cameron a real bloody nose in traditional Tory heartlands.

The sums are simple for republicans – there are 18 Northern seats, so 18 nationalist candidates should run under the banner of the Nationalist Coalition.

This Coalition must include the Alliance Party. Alliance is now a soft republican party.

If nationalists hold fast to the ‘one seat, one runner’ Coalition, Unionists will crawl back to Westminster with only six seats – five held by the DUP, and Sylvia Hermon holding her North Down bolthole.

Unionism will be wiped out in Belfast, with leading DUP MP Nigel Dodds losing his North Belfast bastion to the Shinners.

Okay, so Stoops boss Big Al McDonnell has dumped a bucket-load of cold water on an electoral pact with the Shinners.

But given the impending leadership coup within the SDLP, Big Al may not be party chief much longer, especially if he wants to retain his South Belfast Commons seat.

It’s been a rough few months for the Shinners as they have tried to cope with the fallout from the sex abuse allegations.

If Sinn Féin is smart, it will use talk of a Nationalist Coalition to reclaim the moral high ground among middle class nationalists.

The hard reality is that Sinn Féin is wasting its time talking about an electoral pact with the Stoops while Big Al’s faction runs the SDLP.

The only pact Sinn Féin should enter is with the SNP and Welsh Nationalist MPs. The stark choice for Sinn Féin is simple; fight next May as a single party and hold its five seats, or form a Nationalist Coalition with the Stoops and Alliance and return to London with 12 MPs.

Unionists used coalitions to rule the North for over eight decades. If republicans are serious about a united Ireland, then the Nationalist Coalition is the only way forward. Anything else is just meaningless lip service.

November 25, 2014________________


This article appeared in the November 24, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.


Paddy Joe and Me: Harry

Paddy Joe and Me.

Part 1.

Life can be a bowl of cherries. Whoever said this should have  a good kick in the hooray henrys .  This story is definitely one of two halves.  It starts in the early troubles. You’ve heard the usual story of the young paramilitary,  boy gets involved,  defends his country,  blah, blah, blah.  I won’t bore you with all crap that but sufficient to say that as a team of four, we were pretty lethal.   Me. I lived on the street to escape an alcoholic father who loved using his fists on any of us. I spent more time out of school than in. The beaky officer just loved me. His toughest case. My ‘father’ didn’t give a shit and my mum just cried.  The last words I spoke to my so called father was when I turned on him after he started hitting me. I got stuck in with everything.  I had honed my fighting on the street and caught him a lovely right hook.  I put the boot in a few times. As he lay there cowering like a true bully I spat out to him that he would never lay another finger on me gain. I walked out.  Thank heavens I had a bucket load of aunts and uncles.

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Time To Wind Up The Stoops: Dr. John Coulter

It’s time to wind up the Stoops


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2014________________


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


A Very Irish Hypocrisy: Ceartas

A Very Irish Hypocrisy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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






James Orr-The Bard of Ballycarry

James Orr-The Bard of Ballycarry


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

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


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

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






Shinners Cannot Re-Write History-Republicans Died for UK

Shinners can’t rewrite history: Republicans died for UK


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2014________________


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







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

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

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


Dulce et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

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

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

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

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

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

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

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

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

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

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.