Monthly Archives: May 2015

Scapegoating: Billy Mitchell

This article by the late Billy Mitchell first appeared in Lion and Lamb in 2002.


In Old Testament times the itinerant Hebrew nation had a novel way of cleansing itself of any guilt arising from social sins. The religious leaders laid hands on a goat and ceremoniously transferred the guilt of the people to the goat, which was then driven outside the camp of Israel into the wilderness. From this ancient ritual we have developed the practice of scapegoating.
When something goes wrong in society and it is perceived that this is due to corporate wrongdoing we look for a scapegoat. We usually pick on the eccentric, the minorities and the unlovable. Someone has to bear the guilt for society.s ills so that the rest of us can rest easy in our own sense of self-righteous well being.
In Northern Ireland we have ready made scapegoats in the paramilitaries. Like every other part of the United Kingdom and Ireland we have a problem with drugs. But it is not our fault. The paramilitaries are to blame. We still have the most ancient trade in the world – prostitution – but it is not really society’s fault. It is all down to the paramilitaries. We are plagued by anti-social behaviour, petty crime and organised crime – just like many other cities. But in Belfast it is not our fault. If it wasn’t for those damned paramilitaries Northern Ireland would be a great wee place to live in. At least that appears to be the analysis of politicians, clergy and other civic leaders.
Let me make it quite clear. I am not an advocate for para- militarism, nor am I about to suggest that they are paragons of virtue. I used to be one myself and am not blind to what goes on within paramilitary circles. At the same time I refuse to make them the scapegoats for society’s ills.
Like many of my former comrades I have moved on. But I have not moved away from those who remained nor turned my back on the new generation that came after me. Because I know that there is a better, less violent and more democratic way in which to resolve Northern Ireland’s problems I have a duty to work with others of a like mind alongside my former organisation in the hope that we can be an influence for change. I believe that we are being successful.
One would have thought that the slow but steady move towards politics and the steady reduction in violence would have been welcomed by so-called constitutional politicians and church leaders. But not so. Raise the issue of drugs, rackets, prostitution and other forms of criminal activity and my former organisation is automatically blamed (along with others). No evidence is ever produced. No names are ever linked to specific criminal acts. Nothing tangible is ever presented. Yet the organisation as a whole is painted with broad black brush strokes. The ritual of scapegoating does not require evidence, it just requires a prejudiced mind and a willing press.
Scapegoating is as pernicious an evil as any of the sins that are ceremoniously heaped on the heads of our vicarious victim. It is first of all an exercise in self-righteousness. As a society we can cleanse ourselves of all guilt for our social ills. So long as we can point to the scapegoat we have no need to look at ourselves.

Secondly, it is an exercise in social exclusion and marginalisation. Just as the scapegoat was driven outside the camp into the wilderness so we attempt to drive our scapegoats outside the parameters of respectable society into the margins of a supposed mafia sub-culture. We demonise, vilify and marginalise others so that we can enjoy the smug satisfaction of our own self-righteousness. We fail to recognise that members of paramilitary organisations are members of our own communities – that they are husbands and sons, brothers and fathers. They are not animals like the Hebrew scapegoat, they are flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone.

Scapegoating saves the media from having to investigate the true origins and nature of society’s ills. It is a lot easier to lay the blame on a ready-made scapegoat than having to look for real identifiable culprits. Blaming unincorporated organisations which have no legal remedy against slander and libel is a lot safer than naming individuals and having to face them in court.

Politicians use the paramilitaries as scapegoats to cover up their abject failure to establish a just, equitable and peaceful society in which all citizens can enjoy a life free from crime and deviant behaviour. The clergy use the paramilitaries as scapegoats to cover up their failure to build a bridge between a world of hurting humanity and the love and compassion of a healing Saviour. Locked away in their holy huddles and spiritual bunkers they have lost the significance of incarnational theology and forgotten the true meaning of kenosis.

In the wake of recent events within loyalism some of these clergy have emerged from their cloistered hide-aways to present themselves as potential mediators. How people can present themselves as credible and impartial mediators, while still engaging in the prejudicial art of scapegoating the very people between whom they wish to mediate, is beyond my understanding.

Whatever the faults of paramilitarism may be – and there are many – they ought not to be used as the scapegoats for society’s ills or as a cover for the failure of civil society to address its own problems.

Billy Mitchell was a member of the Progressive Unionist Party Executive and Programme Manager of LINC resource Centre, an inter-community development initiative based in North Belfast.


The Crisis Within: Eddie Kinner

The following piece was written in 2002 and first appeared in the Christian magazine Lion and Lamb.


The Crisis Within


AS A LOYALIST I would challenge the view that Loyalism is in crisis and argue that the crisis lies within Unionism because of lack of strategic leadership. Loyalists have always looked to Unionism for leadership and guidance: leadership and guidance that Loyalists have been conditioned to depend on but which has frequently failed them and their constituency.

Unionism could not provide security and defence of working class Loyalist communities through the security forces in 1969 when the conflict erupted into intercommunal violent confrontation. This led the Loyalist community to give birth to the current Loyalist paramilitaries who themselves supplied the security and
defended the community against Republican aggression. While the Unionist leadership publicly condemned Loyalist actions, they privately congratulated them and encouraged their activities.

In October 1969 the first police officer was killed on the
Shankill Road when Loyalists rioted with police and security forces over the disbandment of the B Specials and proposals to disarm the police. My father was arrested and charged with being a riot ringleader. He was found not guilty of the charge, and was subsequently released. However, during the period my father was held on remand, the family minister produced a massive food parcel, the like of which we had never seen, and likely wouldn’t ever have seen, had my father not been arrested. To me at that point in time, the signal from that action was not one of supporting a destitute family, but one of tacitly supporting
what my father was being held in prison for, and was privately encouraging the actions of Loyalism.

All sections of Unionism and Loyalism lack self-confidence. Because of historic circumstances, Unionism has depended on leadership from the British government, a government that they distrust immensely, and with just cause. It was that government who betrayed Carson and partitioned Ireland; that government who signed the Anglo-Irish agreement; that government that was having secret meetings with the IRA. The insecurity of Unionism and Loyalism has been vulnerable for exploitation by their enemies and by the government which they mistrust so much.

Loyalists have seen themselves prepared to take the IRA on in a military capacity, and prepared to accept the consequences: death, imprisonment and its impending hardships, while their Unionist leaders have sought protection from government, seeking others to take on the IRA.

Unionists have never shown the leadership to take on their enemy in the same way Carson did. They have attempted to emulate him but have never shown the willingness to endure the same sacrifices he displayed. Nor have they been prepared to take full control of their own destiny since Carson.

Loyalism received a level of empowerment during the negotiations to the Good Friday Agreement, when they were consulted and received communications about the negotiations. The Confidence-building Committee was the vehicle used for this purpose and it was successful in developing confidence and security during the negotiations leading to the Agreement. However, Unionism failed to take confidence and security from the principle of consent enshrined in the Agreement and by so doing failed to take control of their own destiny. The principle of consent should have given Unionism the confidence and security to embark on removing the inequalities and injustices of history and assisted to secure the Union. The established Unionist representatives failed to take this opportunity to
cement the Union and have allowed Unionist insecurity and lack of confidence to be exploited both by their enemies and anti-Agreement rejectionists.

Following the Agreement, the Civic Forum was stablished.
It was intended to be a vehicle for consultation and communication with all sections of the community in the same manner that the Confidence-building Committee had been during the negotiations. Instead, it has been highjacked by civil servants who control and dictate its role and functions. There is insufficient community representation on this forum, thereby dooming it to fail in
achieving its intended objectives.

Established Unionism, instead of embracing these two
elements, of the principle of consent and the establishment of a genuinely representative Civic Forum, and taking Sinn Fein on politically, embarked on seeking ways to avoid taking on traditional enemies and sought to have them removed from the Executive by running to London and Dublin, making demands of the two Premiers. This displayed a lack of leadership and a reluctance to take control of our destiny. Our traditional enemies exploited this insecurity by making their own demands and creating a circumstance where Republicans appear to be benefiting more from the Agreement than Unionists and denying any Unionist fault or responsibility in this process.

Those of us within Loyalism are frustrated with established
Unionism’s reluctance to take Sinn Féin on politically. It is all the more frustrating that they are preventing us from developing Loyalism to take on the task which Unionism is shying away from. They want the credibility of being elected representatives, but will not accept the accountability such a role demands. Established Unionism has been an obstacle to Loyalist development to take up this political role.

The formation of the Loyalist Commission is the most positive step that has taken place within Unionism for many years. It has the potential to develop Unionism constructively, but it is important that it does not become a version of the Combined Loyalist Military Command representing solely Loyalist paramilitaries. The Commission consists of political, religious and community
representatives in addition to representatives of the Loyalist paramilitaries.

For the first time in our existence a group has been established that can bring Unionism and Loyalism together. An opportunity now exists to learn from each other, to strategise for the benefit of the Loyalist and Unionist community and to secure the Union by putting the past inequalities and injustices behind us and persuading those from the Nationalist community that our objectives are to their benefit as well.

Eddie Kinner is a former UVF political prisoner and was an active member of the Progressive Unionist Party at the time of writing.  He is no longer politically active.


The War Behind The Wire: A Book Review by Primo

The War behind the Wire’

John Lewis Stempel.

Phoenix 2014.

    I have read many excellent accounts of the first World War and the role of the Ulster men (and Irish men ) in that conflict.  I have walked the ground that the Ulster men fell on, and disappeared into, on that fateful 1st July morn 1916. I have walked past the many hundreds of uniform grey headstones in the Somme valley. One of them belongs to a family member. I had the pleasure and privilege to speak face to face with a veteran of the trenches.  However it was only recently that I learned of a large group of men who did not have the banner and victory parade treatment unlike other wars and conflicts. They are not immortalised in song and popular culture.  After 1919 these stories were not taken up by the press because there was a feeling of not upsetting the Germans and everything would be OK.  It only took 20 years for that particular idea to be proved so terribly wrong.   This book is about the British (and other nationalities) who were prisoners of war under the Germans in WW1.

This is an amazing book which must have taken years of research.  The stories are rich and unbelievable.  The book is a roller coaster of colliding feelings and emotions. From the virtual torture of captured prisoners including executions (war crimes) to the humane and lifesaving  treatment of British, Irish, French and Russian prisoners by ordinary German soldiers.  The book covers the class system that ran throughout both British and German society and armies, the ignoring of the rules regarding captured enemy soldiers during hostilities and making captured prisoners do manual work not related to the war effort.

The author tries to get away from the shallow and blasé notion of the second world war films around Colditz that it was a jolly good idea to have a go and escape. Getting home to the UK was a ‘home run’ and all that. The reality for many was terrible. Left to freeze without adequate food or medical assistance. Worked to death in mines.  Locked in railway carriages without food or toilet.   Reminiscent of what was awaiting the Jews (and others) in the Second World War.  The Germans had a particular dislike for the captured Canadians.  They thought them interfering and over paid. Despite the real risk of execution some  prisoners made escape attempts, some successful, some quite bizarre and for some it was their death knell.

This book is not a novel nor is it easy reading. The pages are full of real people, ordinary people, in unreal circumstances. There is heroism and there is comradeship.  There are things that are just wrong. Like Germans convicted after the war, of letting prisoners,  caged and weak from malnutrition, die without help. These Germans would be tried in a German court  and be given a soft 6 months in open prison conditions.

One story of a British POW stands out for its grossness.  The Germans realised that the Irish prisoners had issues with the British at home. The Irish would be released if they left the British army. To their credit only 54 out of 2500 jumped ship to the Germans. One of the Irishman, Corporal R Dempsey , refused to jump ship. He was tied to a post in the snow as used as spitting practice as Germans walked past. (P.102) Imagine the humiliation,  and then, when he returned home he would be regarded as a traitor.

And what of the Ulster men who endured these conditions?  There is very little written about the returning soldiers. Remember that the Ulster Division (and many other divisions) were decimated and worse. It is now over  100 years (9th May) since the 36th Ulster Division, the pride of Ulster, marched past the City Hall to go and train in England before making their way to Thiepval and immortality. However the price of that sacrifice was huge. The depleted Ulster Division would be supplemented by the English, Scottish and Welsh.   It is difficult to say who got home first, the volunteers or the released prisoners.  Some prisoners died on their way home having tasted freedom but not deliverance. They left Ulster with pride but on arriving home in 1919 or 1920 they came home to political upheaval, changes in social attitudes,  huge changes in Ireland, an uncertain future and now with the prospect of deep  civil conflict at home.  And what of the injured – both physical and mental? How where they treated?  How do you live in a society with no social security?  Who supported them?

Who were these unfortunates? Henry Atkin from the Shankill, wounded and taken prisoner;  J Anderson rifleman from the East Belfast, H Bailie,  a private from Frome street,  who died while a prisoner of the Germans and S. Lyttle , a private with the Munster Fusiliers from the Donegall Pass. These four names of over 700 men listed as PoWs. But Ulstermen from all parts of Ulster would end up at the Kaisers ‘pleasure’.  The book dispels the notion of the stigma of being captured, or even worse surrendering,  in order to get away from the atrocious trench conditions. In one German camp there was a higher death rate among soldiers than at the front line of the Somme.

The names of the prison camps are strange, lost to history and certainly not in the public consciousness.   Doberitz, Limberg, Zossen, Holzminden, and many more. (See for a handy list)  Some were hellish places were the worst aspects of the human nature were  expressed. Lamsdorf was one of the largest camps with  90,000 men including British, Russian and Italian. Over 7000 men would perish there.  So why are these names not remembered  the same way as Colditz and Auschwitz ? At the end of World war 1 a  British public, weakened by war and sickened by the grim reality of the eyeless and legless shells that masqueraded for men on their return,  meant they had no appetite and no cause for jingoistic language afterwards.  If you read this book you will learn of a hidden,  forgotten world. But these men, all of them, deserve to be remembered every bit as much as the men who suffered in the trenches. This book is thought provoking, humbling and disturbing in places.  It is a book I will be keeping on my shelf for a long time.

Remember them also.



Assembly on the Brink: Scheme could stop Meltdown: Dr. John Coulter

Assembly on the Brink


Get the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies along with the Dail to foot the welfare reform bill at Stormont – and save the Northern Assembly from meltdown tomorrow.
And in return, Brit Prime Minister Dandy Dave Cameron gives more tax-raising powers to Scotland and Wales, and increases the clout of the cross-border bodies in Ireland.
Ever since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the people of Ireland – and especially the North – have been subjected to constant brinkmanship from the Stormont parties.
The prophets of doom take us to the very edge of chaos and collapse, only for a last-minute magic solution.
None of the Stormont parties want to implement the austerity which approving welfare reform will unleash.
At the same time, refusal will spark a Stormont election, which neither the DUP or Shinners want, and possibly even the total shutting of the Assembly with all powers going back to London.
The Shinners don’t want another Northern poll this year as their primary focus is getting into power in Leinster House.
Robbo’s DUP equally don’t want a poll given the resurgence in the rival UUP under Mickey Nesbitt.
With all the sabre-rattling, no one seems to have picked up on a wee announcement by the new DUP health boss at Stormont, Simon Hamilton.

He quietly unveiled that his new health department has reached a deal in principle with the nationalist-run Scottish Parliament that payments to the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in the North will be administered through the Scottish ILF infrastructure it is setting up.
While this will only affect about 600 Northern citizens, Unionists sources are hinting this will be a dry run for the Scottish National Party to have a bigger say in helping Stormont pay its way.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP boss, the Welsh nationalists of Plaid Cymru and a few folks On The Hill may have been listening to my solution of a Celtic Alliance involving Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
There will also be a pay-off from the English royal heir, the new bonnie Prince Charlie and his missus, touring Ireland last week.
The historic handshake between Prince Charles and Shinner boss Gerry Adams could well have been the grip which sealed the deal on another era of Anglo-Irish relations.
It’s a trial run for bigger things to come. If the SNP can make a good job of running the North’s ILP, the nationalist reward for Scotland will be increased tax-raising powers.
If the Scots get these, so will the Welsh. It could also prove to be a tempting carrot for any future English regional assemblies.
The deal is simple – you help the Irish out of their cash crisis at Stormont, and you get more control over you own finances. This means Scottish and Welsh Home Rule as well as English regional devolution by the back door.
It also prevents a dangerous political vacuum emerging in Ireland which could be filled either by dissident republicans or militant loyalists.
So what does the Dail get out of this? Okay, Leinster House doesn’t have the dosh to pump into the Stormont welfare reform rescue plan.
But the Brits could squeeze a few million quid here and there to increase funding to the cross-border bodies.
Dave may even be able to screw some extra cash out of the European Union before the crunch 2017 In/Out referendum to boost the powers of the British Irish institutions.
If the ILF works, I wonder what other schemes the Tories have to keep Stormont in business? Watch this space!

John Coulter


The Ashers Verdict: Becoming “Generous Minorities”: Sophie Long

The Ashers Verdict: Becoming “Generous Minorities”


I am offering my comments on the recent Ashers legal case, and subsequent “guilty” verdict, because I believe that both have consequences for community relations here in Northern Ireland, and also because I have a broader interest in what a diverse, tolerant society might look like.

The events which preceded the court hearing, and yesterday’s decision, have already begun to polarize opinion, with some heaping blame upon those with an “aggressive gay rights agenda” and other, socially conservative Christians, framing themselves as victims of “political correctness gone mad”, and perpetuating the idea that modernity, secularism and liberalism are incompatible with religious tolerance.

Such perceptions, whether misplaced or otherwise, should give us little cause for celebration. If the aims of the LGBT ’community/communities’ are respect and equal rights, the Ashers verdict might appear to be an all-out victory, but in the broader scheme of building an inclusive society, I believe it might represent a long-term, strategic failure.

Of course, as is often the case in Northern Ireland, the loudest voices aren’t the only voices. Some others, who may describe themselves as fairly liberal, and who support equal marriage, are troubled by the verdict, and its implications for religious tolerance, and are quietly questioning the logical limits of the legal decision.

Whichever side you fall on, I believe that the 19th May 2015 may have been a short-term victory for equality, but one which simultaneously created a long-term obstacle to tolerance and understanding. The case has been dissected multiple times, and my own analysis adds little to what has already been said.

However, it is worth considering how an order for a cake has caused such deep, social and political tremors. Tremors which might become fault lines if they are not critically addressed.

From what I can gather from their official website, Asher’s market themselves as a bakery, with the only discernible evidence of any religious leanings being found in the ‘About Us’ section of the site. They state this:

“Why Ashers? Well, contrary to popular opinion we are not called Mr. & Mrs. Asher. Our name comes from the Bible. Asher was a tribe of Israel who had many skilled bakers and created bread fit for a king.”(Ashers online).

I see no issue with this; it is not uncommon for businesses to explain their branding and provide some insight into their heritage. It personalizes the company, providing a Unique Selling Point in a competitive marketplace. However, nowhere on the website do Ashers suggest that this short, Biblical reference has any implications for the products which they are willing to offer.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume, when visiting the website, that Ashers are a professional bakery, keen to solicit custom, as all for-profit organisations are, and who make only scant reference to the private values which might lie behind the branding. The same ‘About Us’ section ends with:

“It just so happens we love to bake. On any given morning, you’ll find our home kitchen filled with the aroma of freshly baked scones or cinnamon swirls as we try out new recipes or experiment with new flavour combinations.

So why not pop in for a visit, we’d love to see you.” (Ashers online).

Based on this information, placing an order for a cake, with the now infamous, pro-gay marriage “Bert and Ernie” decoration, from Ashers, should not necessarily have resulted in a legal battle. Ashers appear to specialize in hand-decorated cakes, and encourage would-be customers to get in touch:

“Looking for something more personal, why not order a custom-made cake in store with our friendly folk behind the counter or build your own at our online shop Build-a-cake.

However, as has been outlined in various media discussions on the case, Ashers accepted the order, before contacting the customer to explain that they would be unable to fulfil the request. Following this, and, it appears, due to the connections and/or political persuasion of the customer, a lengthy dispute took place, with all of the associated claims around discrimination and tolerance which this sort of issue inevitably raises.

These are important, social and moral topics, and deserve our consideration. We are no longer a society with a clear majority, whose wishes could, under democratic, majoritarian voting systems, secure such wishes, and in doing so, perhaps oppress a range of minority groups.

Instead, Northern Ireland is a society of minorities. We all want different things, and have different, but equally firm, ideas about how best to organize society. Ashers was a small, tangible example of the new, Northern Irish pluralism, and all of the issues which that pluralism raises.  I’d like to offer a suggestion for how all sides, the “victors”, “victims” and concerned onlookers might move forward.

The verdict was met first with glee from some areas (DUP and TUV), who quickly re-adjusted their response once they realized that the “not guilty” rumours were unsubstantiated. It was then met with triumphant statements from others (LGBT groups for the most part), who celebrated the “common sense” approach of Judge Brownlie in recognizing discrimination when she saw it. This series of divergent, but equally passionate reactions, are what caused me to reflect on what the Asher’s debate might mean for Northern Ireland.

Ashers are a for-profit, professional business, operating in the centre of a capital city. Unless you know the family personally, it is nearly impossible to glean their religiosity from the company website. It is therefore, as I have said above, not unreasonable to expect that they would fulfil an order for a product which contains a pro-equal marriage message.

However, and this is a contingent statement, there have been murmurings that the customer in question was keenly aware of the family’s religious beliefs, and deliberately chose Ashers as a bakery, in order to provoke a reaction. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as they are, as I have outlined, operating in a public space, as business. Indeed, provocation can often be necessary for encouraging uncomfortable conversations.

Yet I can’t help but feel there are more respectful, and less overtly combative, ways to progress LGBT causes. We now have a legal decision which prevents businesses discriminating against customers, and this itself is a positive step. Yet we also have a substantial number of Christians, and others, who feel threatened by the ways in which this dispute was conducted.

These Christians, and those ‘others’ who are uncomfortable with the Ashers case, do not, of course, have the right to prescribe how others live their lives, and this extends to the debate over equal marriage. Yet they do have the right to feel part of our society, and it seems that we are rapidly alienating many of our fellow citizens.

It is not for me to advise LGBT groups on how to secure rights and protections, nor do I wish to belittle the very real and ongoing cases of discrimination which many LGBT citizens unjustly suffer, but there is a general piece of advice which we all might take on board, as we adjust to the new, increasingly secular Northern Ireland.

Yesterday’s ruling means that pro-gay rights groups can order similar products from Ashers, and reasonably expect the order be fulfilled, lest another fine be levied. However, and this is my argument: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Ashers, as far as I am aware, are not engaged in any actions which harm or threaten the rights of the LGBT community. They should obey the law, and obligated to comply with equality legislation. Yet the temptation to exploit yesterday’s ruling should be avoided. We would like to be respected as equal citizens in Northern Ireland.  We should extend the same respect to others.

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” can be applied to a number of contentious areas of life in Northern Ireland. Just because you can parade up a road, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can stop a parade, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you can vote to change a flag policy, doesn’t mean you should.

If we are to live together, in a genuine spirit of tolerance, we must transform the zero-sum attitude of “defeating” the other, in order to progress our own agendas. Justice matters, and the struggle should not end, but we should think in terms of twenty, fifty, one hundred years ahead, and build relationships, not future battles.

In short, to paraphrase a local Green politician, to move beyond such fraught, short-term battles, and create a tolerant, respectful society, we must all become “generous minorities” and consider the rights of all, not just the few, when we engage in these debates.

Sophie Long




The Visit: Primo

The Visit.

  I wake at 6am. My husband is sleeping sound. I hear the rain on the window. But I don’t need the blinds up to know its another rainy November day. I always wake up early – a left over from my days as a house maid. I have to be up early to get everything ready especially today. I’m seeing my son up in the Kesh. I go down stairs and get the porridge on. I set the fire for later. Some newspaper, sticks and coal. I put on the single bar electric fire. It does all right but its very hard on the electric. Hubby has the works van home and he will be in extra early to get his days load on and out. But he has an extra delivery today.  Sometimes these early dark mornings remind me of that morning 10 years ago when the police came to the door and took my son, our son,  away.  My beautiful boy becoming a man in that god forsaken place.  We didn’t even know he was ‘involved’. 

I wake in the darkness bar the orange light shining through the wired glass. It is deadly quiet. The tin Nissen huts are freezing. It’s a Thursday in mid-November. In Long Kesh prison Camp. Compound 21. The doors will open at 7.00. Today is different. It’s a visit day. Instead of getting up and doing chores, then studying and some craftwork,   I will train first ( a 5 mile run) and get ready for the half hour visit with my mother. My weeks allowance. Even though I’m in the 10th year of imprisonment these visits are still special. The only good thing about the 10 year mark is that I’m half way through my stipulated sentence. I’m on the home straight. I may be 27 but I’m still mothers youngest.  I’m more proud of her each year that passes. I thought she would never get over my arrest and sentence. But each year she seems stronger, more confident. Assertive. She was never like that at home.

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What Loyalism Means To Me: Pash Pashler

What Loyalism Means To Me: Pash Pashler


In brief, My Loyalism, is a love for my country, a love for my kin, my family and fellow’s a respect for other loyalists who dared to do what I didn’t or didn’t have the shoulders for, to carry the weight they carried or carry, so no apologies for the past will be forthcoming from me.
Why apologise to those who wish to end my Loyalism and push me off my country into the sea.
Loyalism is branded as a bad word now, a dirty word, Is it a dirty word ? associated with criminal behaviour as some would have you believe ie racism and terror as propagated by social media left wing assassins and indeed mainstream media with their own agenda of self loathing and hypocrisy. I even see other loyalists trying to mainstream the meaning of the word, trying to appear more acceptable to those who really don’t care about us. Stop ! are we not who we are or Have we become the stray dog under the table waiting for a crumb to fall, waiting for acceptance and a pat on the back…Loyalism is a strong masculine word, it’s your da or your uncle and your grandad, your brothers. It’s a history, a good history that kept the UK together when called upon. I could deliberate over every word here so as not to offend anyone but that is not my Loyalism, my Loyalism is a good, a force to end the bad, I’m proud of my Loyalism, if I’m the lion in the jungle why would I want to be the mouse, Loyalism is a strong chin, never backing down from what’s right. it’s a strong word, upstanding and steadfast.
Accept my Loyalism or don’t, I care not, it’s my country and I’m going nowhere, we are going nowhere. 




You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It: Jamie Bryson

You can’t have your cake and eat it- Critique of ruling in Gareth Lee v Ashers


Today’s ruling in the Gareth Lee V Ashers bakery case sets a dangerous precedent and it feeds those activists pursuing an aggressive gay agenda with more ammunition with which to persecute their war on freedom of conscience and also upon religious and moral principles and beliefs. The gay rights activists do not seek equality; they seek to pervert the true meaning of equality to use it as a weapon to enable their ‘rights’ to trump the rights of those who object to their practices or sexual preferences on religious or moral grounds. The ruling, in my mind, is a flawed one which is open to appeal on many levels. The Judge has allowed the rights of the “gay activists”, who purposefully and maliciously targeted a Christian run bakery, to trump the rights of those who hold deep religious and moral convictions. In delivering her judgement the judge made reference to a disputed ‘fact’- that she believed the bakery knew or had reason to suspect that the plaintiff was gay, this is a flawed and illogical assumption because the greater number of those who describe themselves as “LGBT activists” are not actually themselves gay. Therefore the judge has based a key issue, which she drew heavily upon as part of a balancing exercise between competing rights-which the judge herself acknowledged existed- upon a flawed and misinformed assumption that because a person is a gay rights supporter or activist that it would be ‘reasonable’ to believe that the person was gay. This reasoning stretches the boundaries of the law and goes far and beyond the protections that are offered, it effectively means that you can discriminate against not only a person but an idea or a belief- that is dangerous territory for any society to enter and it could quite realistically open the floodgates for not only an assault on Christianity but also upon a whole range of political, religious and moral beliefs and convictions. It creates a de facto right not to be offended by the back door. Ashers bakery did not refuse to bake a cake for the plaintiff because they suspected he was gay, they refused to bake the cake because they disagreed with the idea or belief the slogan on it espoused. As a matter of fact they disagreed, based on deep moral and religious convictions, with the gay rights propaganda message that the cake was to carry. It is also worth pointing out that gay marriage is unlawful in Northern Ireland, so it is also an issue that Ashers have been punished for refusing to produce propaganda supporting an illegal act. How bizarre that the Courts, at the behest of the publicly funded equality commission, would persecute a Christian family run business for refusing to provide propaganda promoting illegal activity. Some may say that is an unrealistic stretch of the law, well given the stretch in the law that Judge Brownlie made today I believe that the law is now open to be stretched in a whole manner of bizarre and illogical directions. Equality has no logical trajectory, boundaries or parameters. It provides for an anything goes society, as long as it makes anyone happy. It will corrode and destroy every moral fibre of society because society will be expected to accommodate every immoral act based upon the fatally flawed notion of equality.

What if a man decides he wants to have three wives? Should marriage be re-defined again to allow for three consenting women to be married to one man? If we following the trajectory of equality then most certainly a man should be allowed three wives so the question I then pose is where does ‘equality’ stop? What does ‘equality’ actually mean? It appears to me that equality is a weapon to be used to coerce and force people to promote or accept practices, causes or beliefs that they oppose for religious, moral or general conscientious reasons. Let’s look at just one example of the logic of todays ‘equality’ ruling in relation to businesses. Sean Kelly, the IRA Shankill bomber, could walk into a bakery on the Shankill Road and ask for a cake to be made commemorating fellow Shankill bomber Thomas Begley. Providing the message on the cake did not breach the prevention of terrorism act by encouraging future acts of terrorism and only ‘glorified’ terrorism in a historical/past tense then the bakery would be duty bound to make this cake or face being brought before the courts for discrimination on political grounds. Freedom from discrimination on political grounds is offered the same protections within the law as discrimination on sexual orientation. Now in my mind, and in the mind of any right thinking person, the Shankill bomb was not a political act but it was an act of pure terrorism but Sean Kelly was afforded, by the perverse Belfast Agreement, political status by being released as a ‘political prisoner’ on the basis of an internationally backed political agreement, therefore following the precedent set today a Republican could ask for a cake glorifying the Shankill bomb or any other act of republican terrorism and hide under the cloak of freedom from discrimination on political grounds to force the business into complying or face a discrimination case. That is the reality of the bizarre and outrageous possibilities opened up by this outrageous ruling. There is also an illogical and bizarre argument put forward, quite often by those who support the devolved Stormont institutions, that gay marriage should be allowed because it is allowed in the rest of the UK and therefore it would be anti-unionist to oppose it here in Northern Ireland. This nonsensical argument once again tries to ride two horses- firstly those who are devout supporters of Northern Irelands ‘special circumstances’ and devolved powers, which allows the assembly to make their own mind up on gay marriage and other issues, want to override the ‘special circumstances’ and slavishly follow the ‘mother parliament’ to force through gay marriage legislation. Secondly most Unionists would trace our heritage back to the signing of the Ulster Covenant and the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, which later became the 36th Ulster Division fighting as part of the British Army, yet those who perpetuate the argument that we should follow the mother parliament wish to cling to the legacy of our forefathers that framed and signed the convent whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that the Ulster Volunteer Force/36th Ulster Division was formed to resist the mother parliament, by all means necessary, in relation to the Home Rule bill. What is clear is that those celebrating today’s ruling cannot ignore the possibilities for an opening of the floodgates for all sorts of bizarre cases and indeed whilst it is the right of freedom of conscience that has been trumped on this occasion, there is a flip side to that coin which means that gay businesses could quite reasonably be forced to produce merchandise, cakes etc. which condemn gay marriage and which may carry slogans that while being totally lawful, a gay person may find deeply offensive, such is the can of worms that has been opened. You can’t have your cake and eat it!

Jamie Bryson


Ashers Cake Row: Charlie Freel



Today in the courts sadly mistaken Judge Isobel Brownlie, drew a line in the sand from which the fight back for Civil and Religious Freedom and the defence of basic human moral decency, here in Northern Ireland begins. It took this Judge weeks to arrive at her, self proven flawed judgement, proved flawed by her statement that, “Baking a cake is merely obeying the law and providing the plaintiff with a service.”


Ashers bakery were not refusing to bake a cake, they were refusing to write upon that cake, a slogan supporting something which was spiritually and morally offensive, to both them and their sincerely held Christian Faith, as well as not being a legal practice here in Northern Ireland.


Regardless of this silly Judge and her flawed judgement, Ashers bakery have overwhelmingly won their case in the courts of Public opinion and in the courts of basic Human Moral decency. Thereby ensuring that the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland, will no longer be willing to sit idly by, as their rights of Civil and Religious Liberty are trampled over by noisy, in your face, intolerant, minority exponents of an anything goes, morally bankrupt society.


Charlie Freel. 


Why Gerry and Al Have to copy SNP: Dr. John Coulter

Why Gerry and Al have to copy SNP: Scots show way forward


(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Irish republicans must follow their Scottish counterparts and form a single nationalist party if they want to snatch the coveted Stormont First Minister’s post from DUP boss Peter Robinson.

At the very least, republicans need to copy their Unionist counterparts and form a Pan Nationalist Front between the Shinners and Stoops.

Unionists have already proven in the recent Westminster election that a poll pact worked in Fermanagh South Tyrone and East Belfast.

And Tartan Nicola’s Scottish National Party romped to London with 56 of the country’s 59 MPs because nationalists fought under the banner of a single nationalist movement.

With the electoral rebirth of Mikey Nesbitt’s UUP in the Commons showdown, there’s already talk in Unionist branches of the need to reform the 1970s Unionist Coalition which represented at least four different Unionist parties.


But nationalists make take some comfort that while overall, its Westminster tally fell by one to seven MPs, Unionists are still split over the idea of electoral pacts.

Liberal Unionist Danny Kinahan’s victory in South Antrim was the result of a direct head to head between the DUP and UUP, while the UUP’s Tom Elliott and the DUP’s Gavin Robinson have the Unionist pact to thank for their seats.

Northern nationalism has to follow the SNP route – and that means Sinn Féin and the SDLP burying their rivalries and creating a single movement to represent all shades of mainstream nationalist thinking – The Nationalist Party.

Okay, for decades a party by that name was the lapdog to the Unionist majority government at Stormont.

But a merged SF/SDLP movement could mark the centenary of the Northern state in a few years’ time by becoming the largest party at Stormont, thereby laying claim to the First Minister’s post.

Maybe nationalists are a wee bit timid about suggesting a single nationalist party after what happened former SDLP MLA Declan O’Loan of North Antrim when he put forward that constructive idea in 2010.

The time has come for Shinners’ president Gerry Adams and the Stoops’ Big Al to initiate a Nationalist Forum with the long-term aim of a single party.

It’s only a matter of time before the Southern parties, especially Irish Labour and Fianna Fáil, begin contesting Northern elections.

With rumblings that the number of Westminster MPs and Stormont MLAs will be cut in elections to come, there is an urgent need for republicans to unite under the banner of a single party.

Such a single nationalist party could also have enough influence in the Catholic community to prevent radical republicans drifting to the political apologists for dissident republican terror groups.

The UUP’s Jim Molyneaux used to boast about it being a broad church. The new single nationalist party needs to be a broad chapel for all shades of republican thinking.

And it could spread into the Republic, swallowing up Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to provide a majority Nationalist Party government in Leinster House.

But the real secret to making a single Nationalist Party project work is compulsory voting.



This article appeared in the May 18, 2015 edition of the Irish Daily Star.