Monthly Archives: July 2016

Changing times?

On my recent trip to France with the Green and White Army to support Northern Ireland one topic kept raising its head: the national anthem.

For all of my life the singing of God Save The Queen (plus the wee No Surrender bit) at Northern Ireland matches was sacrosanct; not anymore. More and more GAWA are arguing for a neutral anthem and I am one of them. The sight of the team lining up before a game with the prods mumbling away and the micks looking nervously at the ground is not a unifying or inspiring time for the players. Sure the Scots have Flower of Scotland and Wales have Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, while the Irish rugby team have the unifying Ireland’s Call so surely the time has come to get our own anthem. And while we’re at it why not get a new flag? There is no great desire, north or south, for a united Ireland so why not get on with making our wee country less hostile to the non-British that live here. I don’t need flags or anthems to remind me of my nationality. The NHS and the pound in my pocket do a better job of that. A neutral anthem and flag is a no-brainer for me. The IFA will be discussing it soon so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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The Annual Bonfire Debate: Jamie Bryson


Today, with only 6 days until the 11 July bonfires, once again debate raged around the yearly cultural events. 


There has been a long term agenda to bring all bonfires under the umbrella of a statutory enforcement scheme, which would have eventually sought to neutralise and finally eradicate bonfires.


I have written extensively about this in the past as well as successfully  raising legal points challenging the validity of statutory led schemes. This led to a reversal in North Down and Ards- some articles can be found here;


During today’s debate we consistently heard the Alliance party’s Paula Bradshaw mention the need for regulation. This was echoed by commentator Chris Donnelly. Mr Donnelly’s call for regulation stems from his desire to eradicate bonfires per se. Looking at the success Nationalists have achieved using the Parades Commission to wage war on Unionist culture, they see the benefit in statutory regulation and therefore are continually attempting to bring flags and bonfires under such a remit. 


Such statutory regulation, which again would be designed to limit and police the cultural expressions of primarily one community, must be strongly resisted by Unionism. 


Any form of racism is absolutely disgraceful and should not be tolerated. You, quite simply, cannot be a loyalist and a racist. Therefore, it is in this context that I say the racist slogan on an East Belfast bonfire is not  reflective of loyalism. 


Given the widespread agenda to demonise bonfires and to find some mechanism of opening the door to statutory enforcement, I am not wholly convinced that the racist slogan wasn’t placed there by an agent provoctetour in order to give an excuse for statutory intervention and thus opening the door for a precedent being set for the PSNI to remove items from bonfires. 


The East Belfast Act initiative deserve credit and praise. As soon as it became apparent the slogan was on the bonfire, East Belfast Act representatives had it removed and, I understand, will continue in discussions with local residents and bonfire builders about a range of issues pertaining to that particular bonfire. 


I believe such positive leadership within loyalism should be showcased and promoted. Often the positive deeds within loyalism go unnoticed, perhaps due to a reluctance to engage positively with the media 


Chastising the media for covering stories about bonfires and flags will only serve to deepen the alienation and isolation of loyalism. Instead loyalism must engage and challenge the negative narratives, whilst promoting the positive work being undertaken. 




The Battle Of The Somme And ‘An Englishman’s Betrayal’….

As most readers of this blog will know, tomorrow, July 1st, is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, perhaps the bloodiest and most pointless occasion of slaughter during the First World War.

For the North’s Loyalist community, this date is on a par with the Nationalist celebration of the Easter Rising, to be celebrated with pride and militaristic manifestations. July 1st, known in Belfast as ‘the Wee Twelfth’, regularly witnesses some of the most rumbustious Orange parades of the marching season.

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Remembering and learning at the same time

I found it by accident.

My great aunt didn’t speak in much detail of her two brothers who were both dead except to say that they were soldiers who had died during World War One.

In fact this was not quite right. One brother, Thomas, a sergeant in the Inniskilling Fusiliers died in action on the 1st July 1916. Sergeant Thomas Bailey it says on the card that bears his name and photograph. It has a black border and a small black ribbon on the front and it was this that I discovered in a box of items kept in a drawer. I wasn’t looking for it.

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Listening to the quiet voices of The Somme


on 1 July 2016 , 12:20 am 0 Comments | 72 views
Poppy edited 2As a child I was forever fascinated by a random collection of oul ‘things’ in a rarely-approached cupboard at home.

It was the sort of place where unflattering school reports and old medical cards lay alongside broken spectacles and stringless yoyos, the theory being that they might some day be read, repaired or resurrected.

There were a few medals – the full relevance of which I never discovered – but what especially caught my imagination was a bloodstained Nazi armband, taken from a soldier at Dunkirk by a Lurgan man who brought it home as a memento of battle.

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