Monthly Archives: December 2014

Fifty Questions For Irish Republicans: William Ennis

Fifty questions for Irish Republicans

  1. Do you disagree with the media practice of referring to Republicans who oppose the peace process as dissidents, a reference which cleanly divorces them from pro-peace Republicans, given that this courtesy is not extended to pro-peace Loyalists?
  2. Is Sinn Fein’s desire to slash corporation tax, arguably to the cost of public services, a betrayal of James Connolly?
  3. With the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) acknowledging the British identity of those within our communities who cherish it is Brits out still an appropriate slogan?
  4. Many Irish Republicans supported the Scottish Yes campaign.  Is this an acknowledgement that two states can be a peaceful solution upon One Island?
  5. Can you think of a campaign you’d like Loyalists and Republicans to undertake together?
  6. Do the differing attitudes toward Loyalist culture in the Republic of Ireland (where opposition to orange parades is almost unheard of) and Northern Ireland (were many Loyalists understand it to be cultural within Republicanism) deepen partition?
  7. Is ringing the bell to start trading at the New York Stock Exchange consistent with a Socialist Republic?
  8. To what degree do the reasons cited by dissident Republicans for splitting from main stream Republicanism differ from the reasons cited by the Provisional IRA (PIRA) for doing so in the 1970’s?
  9. Re-read question 5…  Can you name another?
  10. Should trustees of a building/organisation to which rent is being paid from the public purse be aware of such transactions?
  11.  If Irish Republicans oppose hierarchy of victimhood why don’t they campaign on behalf of PIRA victims too?
  12. Why did the PIRA not accept power-sharing in the 1970’s given that its format was very similar to our power-sharing arrangement today?
  13. How much consideration was given within the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community to the effect the Belfast City Hall flag removal would have upon w/c Protestant areas before that action was undertaken?
  14. Does the Republican understanding of a shared future refer to a future shared between Catholics, Protestants and other faiths, or between Nationalist, Unionist and other ideologies?
  15. Any theories as to why so few Ulster Protestants have been recruited to the Irish Republican cause in Northern Ireland?
  16. During the conflict as Irish Republicanism battled what it considered British oppression of the Irish people, what steps did it take to combat the now clear oppression which was perpetrated upon the Irish people by the Church (via laundry prisons for young women and clerical child abuse)?
  17. With almost unanimous agreement that the Irish language should not be politicised, does it belong in the manifesto of any political party?
  18. Does Irish Republicanism advocate separation of church and state?  If so, given the special position De Valera gave to one religious faith above all others, when did that policy change?
  19. What things would you, as a Republican, like to see happen in Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist areas which aren’t happening at the moment?
  20. Why have SF agreed to implement the austerity plan of the Conservative party?
  21. Do you believe Loyalism has a right to exist?
  22. Do you believe Loyalism has a right to practice its parading tradition?
  23. Do you believe Loyalism has a right to practice its parading tradition in areas which are not Protestant?
  24. Do you support segregated living as two separate communities?
  25. Why are some Republicans still engaged in armed struggle?
  26. To what extent do currently violent Republicans (known in the media as dissidents) influence the policies of Sinn Fein?
  27. With Scotland coming within six per-cent of leaving the UK without a bullet fired, a bomb planted or a prisoner self-starved, has any reconsideration been cast upon Irish Republicanism’s past tactics?
  28. Why is partition a blight of Ireland but a goal in Spain?
  29. Are the Irish people who fought in the two world wars less Irish than those who didn’t?
  30. Was De Valera correct to refuse Churchill’s offer of Irish re-unification in exchange for Ireland’s official recruitment against Nazism?
  31. Is it credible for a party to be anti-austerity in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) whilst implementing austerity in Northern Ireland?
  32. Did the Enniskillen bomb benefit Ireland?  If so, how?
  33. Any theories as to why the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) focused their enquiries overwhelmingly on ex-Loyalist paramilitaries and anti-SF Republicans but very rarely on PIRA paramilitaries?
  34. With the EU bringing together states through trade and dialogue doesn’t this render the 32 county state arguments obsolete?
  35. Would a SF government in the ROI withdraw Ireland from the EU, or set in motion the referendum to do so?
  36. Was the conflict here a legitimate war, or a terrorist campaign?  If the former, why complain when your enemy fired back?  If the latter, why support terrorism?
  37. Why didn’t the PIRA apologise to all innocent victims at the calling of its ceasefire, as Loyalists did?
  38. Loyalist protesters were recently fired upon by police using rubber bullets.  Is it fair to say that Republican protest at their use is not as vociferous as was the case in past generations when the same tactics were deployed against protesting members of the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican section of the community?
  39. If South Africa and India (to name two) can rejoin the commonwealth why not Ireland?  Would it not be the ultimate olive branch to the British section of the community in Ulster?
  40. If you could change one thing (just the one mind) about Loyalism, what would it be?
  41. Would the Parades Commission be legal in the Republic of Ireland?  (see article 40.6.1.ii of the Irish constitution)
  42. If you could change anything about Irish Republicanism, what would it be?
  43. Is mocking the pronunciation of certain words by another working class section of the community consistent with the Socialist Republic?
  44. Is it wrong to say that Sinn Fein’s opposition to super-grass trials is much weaker today that the targets of the tactic are usually Loyalists, than it was in the 1980’s, when the targets were often Republicans?
  45. If Northern Ireland is an occupation then presumably as a Unionist I must be a collaborator of some sort.  In the event of the Republican Ideal of a thirty-two county sovereign Island state, how would my charge sheet read?
  46. Considering the petition of concern facility at Stormont, what are the chances of legislating for a united Ireland referendum?
  47. Is the creation of companies for the purpose of acquiring invoices to draw expense claims from the public purse in keeping with a Socialist Republic?
  48. Will the re-emerging tactics of bombing banks, shooting policemen etc benefit Ireland?  If so, how?
  49. Why did Sinn Fein capitulate to the DUP on the recent budget?
  50. I don’t mean to embarrass the guy, but on the several occasions I have met and conversed with Connor Maskey I found him to be genuinely engaging and progressive.  Have you ever engaged with a Loyalist were the exchange became hopeful rather than adversarial?

Some Unionists may find this list tame or lacking in venom, as some Republicans may find some of the questions cheap and predictable, yet picking a row is not their purpose.  Some of the questions came from frustrations I sense within the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist section of our community and others were born solely of my own curiosity.

Dialogue is never a bad thing.

William Ennis is a Progressive Unionist activist/East Belfast



Unseen,Unspoken-A Long Kesh Tunnel: Digger




My back is aching, my shoulders burn the palm of my hand feels like a hole is being driven through it. In some ways that’s exactly what is happening. I have a towel wrapped round my hand and I a digging a blunted metal knife into the soil which is inches from my face.  It is freezing  down here but I am sweating with the exertion. I dig as much soil as I can before putting it into a large metal pan or Dixie. It has handles each end.  I tug the rope and the pan is pulled away. I hold the rope tied to my end. I feel a tug. I pull the pan back up to me and start the process again.  Dig in at the bottom. Work up.  I didn’t suffer claustrophobia but this space is enough to worry anyone. Its  maybe 18 inches square.  Its not like the movies. I will never watch the Great Escape again. The clay sticks with an oily cold feel. We lie on the mud which  mixes with the condensation from our breath.  The biggest fear is a cave in.   There is always one man behind. Close enough to pull the digger back in case of a collapse.  I was never into geography at school but now we become experts on soil nature and alluvial clays.  For the record one of our smart alecs says the Kesh is built on  ‘Upper Oligocene clays . Personally I would call it shit because it’s a bastard to dig through.  We take turns doing the face work, the pulling out work and then the disposal work. A team of men are set aside to clean every bit of earth and  clay from the floor. Getting rid of the bloody stuff is a real problem. Just watch the movies. True enough. Some days I get a good patch. Firm, no stones and heavy. Other days it is gravel and stones nearly like a concrete mix. Deadly on the hands.  Some days its mushy. Its the worst. How do you shore that up? We use anything and I mean anything to line the sides and especially the roof. We are only 6 or 7 feet down but that’s  a lot of earth above your head. It doesn’t take a lot to trap a person and hold them.  .  It only take minutes to suffocate.  Every so many feet we dig a sump or pit to take the excess water.  We joke about asking Arthur Scagill for some pit props from the pits  Maggie is closing. But we don’t know how to get them through security.

When we started it seemed so easy. But each day it got a bit longer and so our speed slowed with the pulling in and out.  I don’t like the crawl up to the face. Im not the smallest guy here. I crawl using my elbows fearful of knocking out a prop and causing a cave in.  One of the guys has devised a ventilation system. Thank heavens otherwise I couldn’t do this. The serious effort burns up the limited oxygen. we pour out the carbon dioxide.  I sometime would still feel faint.  The light is strung from the sides. Very small and weak light. We whisper when down here but doubt if anyone overhead would hear. At times we have felt  via tremors people above but cannot hear the voices.

Compound 18 is a UVF/RHC  cage set in a corner of the Long Kesh prison camp. Our numbers are dropping and soon we fear this cage will close because of its proximity to th e external wall. A decision was made to escape. We have some men serving out at least 35 years many 25 years minimum. Many of us know we will be here for  along time. We are going to get out or maybe die trying. Same difference.

I hate it when I eventually get back to the surface. The day light seems dazzling. But the air is so fresh.  My legs wobble a bit. And my back still aches. At first I didn’t care about my hair but I would get a shower quickly and found both clay and stones sticking tightly to my scalp. I got our resident barber to shave it all off. Far easier to clean now.  I wrap a towel around my head,  change into clean clothes and take my shorts and t shirt to the shower to wash away all the clay. This is important as tell-tale signs and be picked by an inquisitive screw. Some of them are sharp bastards.

We fall into a routine and pattern.  Debate starts about who will go when the time is right. We have worked out the line of sight of the towers. We will have help on the outside but it will be a bit of a turkey run. Even getting a few men away will be a victory. We talk in code in case the huts are bugged.  We walk the wire and talk. If we go then we leave our parents and families. You cant exactly go home and hope no one notices. I prefer Scotland.  We have good support there.  We have no guns. An army helicopter periodically flies low and slow over the compound. Someone says that they have special radar that can detect hollows below the ground. We wonder. And wait.  Another bright spark talks about ground sensors that picks up vibrations. He has seen it in a movie?


The screws have just told the cage C.O.  that we are moving.  We are being split between cages 19 and 21. We have not dug at night but we will now.  Ironically one of the giveaway signs was smell. That stale dank smell of freshly dug earth.  We were worried that screws coming in for the morning head count would wonder what the odd smell was. Even Big Rabs night time farts couldn’t cover that smell.

The only time I ever experienced digging holes and fresh clay was at funerals. I have a growing respect for grave diggers. We try harder to dig faster while staying safe. It is difficult to estimate the distance accurately but we guess that we will fall short of the high wall.   There is a hurried plan to  get out on the ground and scale the wall with rope. Hardly ideal but needs must.  Night time. Quietly. Overcast with no moon. We are all fit and lean. We all have a great motivation to go. We are putting the screws off with every lame excuse possible. But we cannot risk them thinking that an escape is about to take place.  Our hand is forced. We are given a date to leave.

We pick our time.  The first batch is ready to go. The man at the front will go upwards and then the debris will be ferried back along a chain of hands. It is inevitable that clothes will get some dirt but it cant be helped and it is 3am. Co incidentally,  things are happening in Belfast and elsewhere to keep the peelers and brits occupied.  The dig up seems to take forever. This is it. No more digging after this.  We all did the good luck thing before we started down.

The knife breaks the surface. There are grass roots. The smell of fresh air. The orange glow from the security lights.  A sudden stop. Waiting for a shout,  a siren. A searchlight. Everyone is quiet and tense. The rope is passed up to be used quickly and quietly. The lead has to chance a look. He gets a hoist up from the man below. He looks left. The space seems huge after his confinement. He looks right.  Good heavens above. A screw and dog are walking away from the hole.  They show no signs of having heard anything. The lead man drops down and whispers the news. Two minutes earlier and they would have walked in on the mass escape attempt. We have to wait.  We need at least 5 minutes good time to the rope up secured and men starting to scally up. But the longer the team sits the odds increase of another dog patrol. The lead man eases gently up just peeking out. He does a 360. All clear. And then voices. He ducks down. What fucking now. A near by gate has a wicket gate in it. Two screws are talking. We hear them crystal clear in the cool still air. One is gurning about his sore big toe. He thinks he has gout. Then we hear a shout. A screw in a lookout tower is shouting down. Bantering. I think, ‘Why don’t you all come down here and have a fucking party’.  This is unusual. We had men stay up all night to monitor and record what activity there was. Yes there were dog patrols. Most of the men in towers just closed the trap door and slept.  Did they know or suspect something? We all wait. Tension and excitement are starting to dissipate.

Nerves are jangling. Fraught. The absolute silence is a killer. One man has a watch. The time is 4.05am. I look at Barry,  the driving force behind this undertaking. The eyes say it all. No need for words. It is summer time. It will be light soon. Daybreak. Dawn. Our chance is slipping away second by second.  All the hours of digging, pain, drudgery,  dirt and wet cold shivering will be for nothing. We wait until we can wait no longer. The screws gossip about their bosses and who earns what.  Another doggie patrol is seen. There is no room for debate. There is an order.  Return. Now.  And quietly. Not a word is said. Plenty of time later for regrets.  The screws will go berserk when they find this enterprise as they will. My back is still breaking. But that’s nothing compared to how my heart is.




Protestants Vital in Rising: Republicans Hi-Jack Heroes: Dr: John Coulter

Protestants vital in Rising: Republicans hijack heroes.


If Shinners really want to suck up to the pro-Union community after Gerry Adams’ disastrous ‘b’ word gaffe, then the party should encourage Unionists to commemorate Protestant nationalists associated with the Easter Rising.

Many events, such as St Paddy’s Day and the Somme battle, have been claimed by both sides in the sectarian conflict as ‘our wee commemoration’.

It has taken almost a century for republicans to recognise the thousands of nationalists who fought and died for the Crown in World War One.

But with the centenary of the doomed Dublin Rising in 2016, there is an urgent need for Unionists to honour the historic role of Protestant nationalists.

Unionists need to follow the example of Queen Bess when she laid a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance which honours those who fought against Britain.

Republicans should not try to rewrite Irish history to give the impression that only fundamentalist Catholics and diehard socialists fought in the Rising.

The bitter medicine which republicans must swallow is that the Rising failed because of the inept military strategy of Catholic hardliners and fantasy communists.

If they had listened to leading Protestant nationalists – many of whom wanted the Rising postponed until after World War One ended – then the rebellion would have been a success.

Irish rebels should have waited another two years until the war ended and thousands of trained nationalists would have been returning from the trenches.

Essentially, the wrong people were in charge of the Rising. It should have been Co Antrim Anglican Captain Jack White, the founder of the Irish Citizen Army, and Lisburn Presbyterian Ernest Blythe, who was in jail at the time.

Blythe was an expert military strategist who eventually ran the fascist Blueshirt movement.

Another high profile Protestant nationalist, Bulmer Hobson, a founder of Fianna Eireann, strongly advised against a coup in 1916.

Other key members of the unofficial ‘Protestant Nationalist Militia’ were Roger Casement, who attended my old school Ballymena Academy; Sam Maguire who recruited Michael Collins and after whom the famous GAA trophy is named.

There is also the gun-runner Erskine Childers and Constance Markievicz, both from a Protestant heritage.

Had these Protestants been running a Rising in 1918, especially after Sinn Fein’s stunning victory in the Westminster General Election that year, a Christmas Coup would have worked.

Just as it has taken decades for Unionism to acknowledge the vital role which Irish Presbyterians played in the 1798 United Irishmen’s rebellion, Unionists must have the courage to commemorate those Protestant nationalists.

They are just as big a part of Protestant heritage as the Catholic troops who fought for King Billy at the Boyne in 1690.

Republicans have already hijacked many Protestants from history, such as Wolfe Tone, as ‘their own’.

Unionists must be wary that the Rising centenary does not become another republican Trojan horse.

This article was first published in The Irish Daily Star.