Monthly Archives: January 2018

Music in The Kesh ( Continued )

Music in The Kesh-( Continued ).



To the uninitiated, Long Kesh-and I suppose the other correctional establishments of the time had a certain vernacular they could lay claim to inventing.  Common phrases of the time include…
“ Do your whack”-Be content in serving your sentence.
“ Do the beef”-Administering a sharp instrument to one’s wrists.
“ Dry your lamps”-Please refrain from crying.
“ On the box”-Staring into space and oblivious to all surroundings.

There are more of course.  Too many to mention here.  There are also abbreviations that outsiders-i.e. non jailbirds would wrinkle their brow at.
The big ‘A’-usually mentioned in a conspiratorial whisper and referring to the one thing that was hoped-and prayed-for the most, which proved to be mere wishful thinking-Amnesty.  Big ‘A’ must not be confused with the most common abbreviation-at least during my tenure in the various penal institutions.  The big ‘D’s-synonymous with feeling low, a plummeting of self esteem, missing of a visit-an expected but undelivered letter-or much worse-an Unexpected but delivered letter-the dreaded Dear John. 
Yes-the big ‘D’ stood for Depression.
If a fella closed his curtain and pulled a blanket over his head, ostensibly for an innocent afternoon nap-for all intents and purposes he was suffering from a bout of the big ‘D’s.
Another sure sign of the big ‘D’s was to see someone boul-walk-around the compound on their own.
  A dead giveaway for sure. 
But the biggest indication of an approaching double dose of the D’s was to glimpse someone stroll nonchalantly past with an LP under their arm-the cover portraying a gap toothed wholesome Texan or a bouffant laden Southern gal, who, if given the chance would relay their tales of pitiful woes to us.
It’s a well known fact-apparently-that if you were to play a country and western record backwards you get your job your wife and your dog back.  When a colleague is in the throes of the big D’s and his chosen elixir is a caterwauling country artist, you know you’re in for a couple of hours of tear inducing-toe curling and teeth gnashing renditions that could conceivably have you reaching for 
Blue Gillette yourself.
By the time Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner had strangled the last ounce of sentiment out of Jeannies Afraid of the Dark, you felt like sticking your toe up wee Jeannies hole.

And if you weren’t Crazy when you started out listening to Patsy Cline’s warbling you sure as hell were by the end of it.  And let’s be honest-if you seriously gave a fuck when Old Shep’s peepers were growing dim then I’m afraid all hope had been long abandoned.  You’d have been closer to turning the shotgun on yourself never mind the demented canine.
Should it be Hank Williams aiming to melt your Cold Cold Heart or the delectable Freddie Fender advising you what to do just Before the Next Teardrop falls, the feelings are just the same.

And to paraphrase our great leader of the time-A. A. Spence-true and abject misery.
This isn’t to make light of the bouts of darkness that overcame some of the guys during those long days and nights. No.
This isn’t to poke fun at those who felt that the best refuge in those downbeat hours was in the grooves of a lamentable dirge. No.
this isn’t to make little of those who sought solace in the comforting tones of a seasoned country performer. No.
When the exponents of this dispiriting and dismal form of popular culture were wallowing in their individual misery, I only wish they’d thought of the rest of us.
And, in deference to that country stalwart and he of countless, melancholic refrains-Hank Williams-when he claims, There’ll be No Teardrops Tonight-well-I for one beg to fucking differ!!



Why on Earth are we still talking about restoring the Executive? : Cllr: Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston

Why on earth are we still talking about restoring the Executive?




The 16th of January 2017 marked the fifth suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly since its inception merely twenty years ago. Attempts to secure its operation on a permanent basis have been exhausted and frustrated by disagreements. Describing the different types of Executive we have had since December 1999, Political Commentator Alex Kane said that we have had “one with the UUP/SDLP/SF and the DUP neither in nor out. Then one with the DUP/SF/UUP/SDLP. Then one with the DUP/SF/UUP/SDLP/Alliance. Then the UUP left. Then the latest one, with DUP/SF/Claire Sugden. And all of them, every single one of them, has included walkouts, in/outs, suspensions, show downs, crises, instability, threats of legal action, emergency talks, potential collapse and round-the-clock briefing against each other.” 

Which begs the question; Why on earth are we still talking about restoring the executive?

Besides broken relationships, calls for Direct Rule (or as we’ve recently heard ‘Joint Authority’) suggest that there is a consensus that the present system of devolved governance – mandatory coalition – is not only broken but beyond repair. 

Let’s be honest. The institutions envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement were a compromise, agreed at a time when an honourable outcome and stability were desperately needed. However, those structures were not designed to last forever. They were specific to their context and, just like the devolution of justice or an extension of fiscal responsibility, the institutions grow and change as the political landscape does.

With speculation that the agreement is dead in the water, perhaps now there is opportunity for the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to uphold its content and exercise the review legislated for under strand one section thirty-six. It reads “After a specified period there will be a review of these arrangements, including the details of electoral arrangements and of the Assembly’s procedures, with a view to agreeing any adjustments necessary in the interests of efficiency and fairness.”   

Perhaps now as we begin a new year, we can have conversation about new beginnings, a new system of governance that deinstitutionalises sectarianism and paves the way for a truly progressive and pluralist Northern Ireland.

A new devolved legislator formed in the image of successful institutions where delivery is the rule not the exception.

Cllr Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston

Progressive Unionist Party N.I.