Monthly Archives: November 2018

Sinn Fein activists win no prizes for spending Halloween dressed up a ‘civic nationalists

Sinn Fein activists spent Halloween calling themselves ‘civic nationalists’ as part of a carefully contrived political stunt. It was little more than a blatant attempt to sectarianise civic society and build a ‘nationalist bloc’ within the professional sectors.

“If I was to write a letter on behalf of loyalists and unionists and flaunt myself all over the media promoting it, I would be shunned and drummed out of the profession.” That was the view of one astounded legal professional speaking to me in recent days about the ‘Leo Letter’. Read more »



It was if a rewind button had been hit and what followed was a playback into conversations that have spanned two-plus decades.

The panel discussion in north Belfast on Tuesday was on tackling paramilitarism; the question: How can government and civil society work together?

We now have an Independent Reporting Commission – established under the Fresh Start Agreement of 2015 to report on progress towards ending paramilitary activity.

Our processes and our conversations travel in circles. Read more »


John Downey case once again shines a spotlight on OTR scheme

WHILE the issue of the so-called ‘On the Runs’ was managed quietly by Tony Blair during a challenging time in the peace process, the ‘nod and a wink’ process always had the potential to end in controversy.

In 2006, there was an attempt to introduce legislation to cover the OTRs, however, this was shelved in the face of widespread opposition.

Sinn Féin initially supported but later rejected the plans, because it would have also covered the British Army and RUC. Read more »


Donegal Orange Hall reopens after destruction in 2014 arson

A restored first World War memorial damaged when an Orange Hall in Co Donegal was destroyed by arsonists has been unveiled in the newly rebuilt property.

A ceremony to mark the opening of the refurbished Newtowncunningham Orange Hall has been held exactly four years on from the blaze that gutted the building.

The memorial tablet dedicated to Donegal Orangemen who died in the 1914-18 conflict was repaired as part of the restoration project. A Bible found among the charred debris has also been saved and reinstated in the new-look hall. Read more »


“When the army arrived in Northern Ireland, why was peace and stability not restored?”

Interesting letter in the Irish News from my old friend Trevor Ringland, reproduced here without further comment:

The deaths of 11 people In Ballymurphy during August 1971 were a tragic consequence of the events that led to the army being deployed on our streets. I sincerely hope the families are successful in their quest to establish the truth about what happened. Read more »


Belts and Boots to Bombs and Bullets

Just a reminder about this event for next Thursday night at the Ballymac Friendship Centre-Pitt Park.



The on-mic/on-the-record commentary was bad enough – but what was whispered on the sidelines of Thursday’s Stormont talks was all the more telling.

“Shit show” was one summary. “Complete bollocks” another. “Bloody awful” yet another two word put down of this all-party meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

When you think things are as bad as they can be on the political hill, they just get worse. Read more »


‘Dark tourism’ booms at Northern Ireland’s Troubles museums

The tourism industry in Northern Ireland has been flourishing in recent years – visitors from around the world flock to the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast and filming locations for TV series Game of Thrones.

But there’s another side to the tourist trail. Troubles-related conflict tourism is booming as thousands queue up to visit places they’ve seen on TV or read about in books. Read more »


Gerry Adams’s IRA Years

Gerry Adams’s IRA years: An insider’s account

With the din of combat now long silent a picture has emerged of the Provisional IRA having fought an unwinnable war in pursuit of an impossibilist goal. Despite the narrative of a hugely tendentious establishment the North’s conflict was not a one-sided war with a sole aggressor unleashing terrorism against a society protected only by its government. The war was a relational one in which the other major participant was the British state. Whatever may be said of the IRA campaign, and there is ample reason for detraction, one facet of it was a war against British state terrorism.  Read more »

Unearthing what happened to Jean McConville

The ‘disappearance’ of a widowed mother of 10 remains one of the most shocking IRA killings of the Troubles. In this extract from a new book, Patrick Radden Keefe of The New Yorker inquires into the Price sisters’ role in her death

Jean McConville was 38 when she disappeared and had spent nearly half her life either pregnant or recovering from childbirth. She brought 14 children to term and lost four of them, leaving her with 10 kids ranging in age from Anne, 20, to Billy and Jim, the sweet-eyed twins who were six. Read more »