I Am A Victim Of “Cancel Culture”

It would be hard to find a person more “woke” and “right on” than me. So I find it odd that a comment I made on Slugger O’Toole has been deleted.

There is an excellent post by Ms Kellie Turtle. She is described as a feminist activist and PhD researcher. So she is a professional full time feminist, not just one who does Feminism at the weekend or in her spare time. Therefore her views are worth considering.

This is a really good post. For the benefit of American readers, Doug Beattie is the current leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. I have always doubted his (relatively) liberal credentials but Slugger O’Toole and the letsgetalongerist dominated media have spent years looking for a liberal unionist who will somehow secure the “union”. Mike Nesbitt, Robin Swann, Steve Aiken…even Peter Robinson…and now Doug Beattie.

But thanks to an ill-judged Twitter joke and even more historical tweets, Beattie’s reputation as the reforming unionist has been shredded. Doug Beattie is now Doug Beaten-Docket. A worthless bet.

What to do?

Well certainly people who NEED a liberal unionist will certainly think in terms of “Doug, what on earth possessed you to say THAT?” or maybe try and re-habiltate Doug.

I actually made a very sensible comment on the thread. Upticked by six readers.

“I was reminded of former politician Ed Balls doing a documentary on care homes or those life swap documentaries where posh teenagers have to live on benefits.

What indeed have we all learned?
Doug Beattie seems to be the sort of UUP man who could only come from Portadown, Dungannon, Lurgan and Cookstown and that’s different from being UUP in obviously nationalist or obviously unionist areas.
A frontiersman.
As I am a frontier nationalist, I have watched with some surprise that the man I see when I am passing on the bus is different to the press conference man, the man in the Stormont Chamber, the man on the View.
I am struck that rather than being more than meets the eye, Mr Beattie is actually less than meets the eye…or he is just what he is.
And anything that I have learned in the last few days has not changed my mind. Indeed only those who invested some hope in Beattie will be left to wonder.
How Beattie is seen in the Stormont press gallery or in NIO or academia is one thing…but why not ask the people in Killycomaine, Brownstone, Garvaghy, Mourneview, Taghnevan (Catholic and Protestant areas in his Doug’s constituency)
Good, Bad, indifferent.

As the feminist anthem “I am Woman, hear me roar”, tells us that part of the journey is “make my brother understand”. Many of us get it. We never heard our mothers, grannys, aunts, sisters tell stories of toxic men.
But we have heard our wives, cousins, sisters in law and female friends and many have honoured us and trusted us enough to tell us some of their pain.

We want to make d**n sure we don’t hear it from daughters, granddaughters, nieces.
Yeah…we get it.
And what we all need to get is that “toxic” knows no boundaries in terms of genre.

Would I like to hear Doug “communicate” ?
Well…frankly no.
Two years ago or two weeks ago, Doug Beattie or “when the time is right”, Doug Beattie has never said anything or will say anything that I want to hear.”

But was this later comment of mine too frivilous

“I am a new man….it makes me a babe magnet”

Those who know me as a wee, old, fat baldy man will know me well enough to know that I am not by any traditional or other metric “a babe magnet”. But I do hint at a serious point that women should be as wary of men who PROFESS to being a “new man” or “woke”.

Yes there are Dinosaurs. And there are Dinosaurs in sheep’s clothing.

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Doug Beattie…It’s The Way He Tells Them!

Apparently Doug Beattie, UUP Leader who we keep being told is a modern kind of unionist has made a very unfunny joke about Edwin Poots and Mrs Poots. I have not heard the joke and I do not want to hear it.

Beattie has apologised. Is he fair game for criticism?

There is really two responses …reject the apology and milk Beatties “joke ” for political advantage (as the other parties would do) OR say Beattie has apologised and we should “move on” (the likely UUP response).

The worst phrase in politics is “we should move on”. Typically we have had two months of this from the Tories.

There is a tendency for politicians who have behaved badly or unwisely to apologise and rush to the high moral ground putting the onus on those offended to forgive and forget.

I do not buy that. And certainly not in election years. Part of the process is to accept the consequences of wrong or unwise actions. And if the offended do not want to accept the apology and would rather milk it, then that is a consequence.

Barry McElduff offended a lot of people (probably including Doug Beattie) with that Kingsmill “joke”. McElduff paid a political price (resignation) despite initial Sinn Féin “let’s move on” defence.

What exactly is fair in politics? Should a politician be reminded that they were once a member of another party? Should a politician be reminded of a criminal conviction, such as a road accident?

I do not know. But I look forward to the inevitable (????) post from the moralist on Slugger O’Toole, who have perhaps hyped Doug Beattie and liberal unionism.

If they are hesitating because they need some kinda real or false Equivelance…well there is the McElduff incident and his resignation.

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Downing Street: Whaddya Know?…Whaddya Say?

We do of course live in the “New Normal”.

At first the Pandemic seemed like Science Fiction. Mysterious killer disease that started in Asia.

For the record, I had the worst flu I ever had (at times I could not breathe) in December 2019, a full three months before Covid 19 was announced.

I am of course more than two years older now. I have not (so far as I am aware) been infected by Covid. But my energy levels are very low. I spend too much time sleeping.

Do I have “long Covid?” To be honest, I do not want to know.

Lockdown?

To be honest, it did not really affect my wife and myself. We are retired and elderly. We are not “social”. I certainly missed almost 18 months without my free travel and the one moment of genuine anger I had was in October 2019 when I deleted three years worth of “travel” Blogging site I had…..and it cannot be retrieved. That was the one week of genuine mental anguish.

We are an extended family of ten living in three houses. One son, wife and three children were on furlough. Their biggest sadness was the death of a much loved mother/grandmother. And only 15 people at the funeral. Our other son and wife are both key workers and as such, we gave day care to their son. We also interacted quite a lot with both families. We obeyed the law, kept mostly to the rules as long as they did not interfere (too much) with our family life.

So we are going thru the pandemic as three inter related “bubbles”. I think that is a reasonable approach. Famili es…our ONE family of ten and TWO families of five and three have different comfort levels. But we are getting thru it. One adult and two children have had Covid.

One thing I never believed was the mantra that “we are all in this together”. Nor did I feel heartened with children painting rainbows and displaying them to cheer up health workers. Nor did I feel “Baked Potato” would see us thru nearly two years of misery.

The corruption in the British government. The mendacity has been obvious from the early stages.

Somehow they have got away with it.

Until this last month or so.

PartyGate.

Well what do you expect? They are after all Tories. To be honest, I can’t keep up with the Timeline but I do know this all came to light when the video of the rehearsal for a press conference came to light about six weeks ago.

Allegra Stratton said “I went home” and that means she went home to her hubby, the editor of the Spectator….did she not tell her hubby that there was a party in Number 10…is he annoyed at missing that scoop?.

And that party the night before the Dukey Embra funeral was for a departing PR man about to become Deputy Editor of The Sun…..wow that guy really missed a scoop, It could have been all over The Sun on Monday morning.

It seems really strange that as the news of PartyGate broke in December, journos in The Sun did not ask their Deputy Editor about the Downing Street culture.

It seems reasonable to think that a lot of journalists in broadcast and print journalism were always aware of these parties and just decided the general public had no need to know.

The nature of the Media is that it mediates between what is happening and what the public is told. Two reasons. One is political bias. One is the nature of the job that requires “access”.

As James Cagney used to say in gangster movies “Whaddya know?, Whaddya say?”

I suspect that the journos analysing the latest bombshell revelations are commenting on things they were aware of months ago.

The price Journalists pay for Access is Discretion, Secrecy. “Lobby terms” might well have a place but covering up potential criminality is not acceptable. It is not “lawyer-client” privelege.

You might say that Journalists have Ethics. But if you say that I would laugh….I would laugh loudly.

I almost feel sorry for the government ministers sent out on the media round to defend the latest indefensible revelation. Some like Nadhim Zadawi can appear very sincere. I do not know if he really believes the rubbish he is talking or whether he is like me…..a person who can fake sincerity. Others like Grant Shapps are not very good at sincerity….and of course it is amusing that other cabinet ministers (Truss, Sunak among them) with Prime Ministerial ambitions are appearing loyal while also distancing themselves from Boris Johnson….others are hopeful of a better cabinet post and others like our beloved Brandon Lewis and Nadine Dorries would be booted out. Jeremy Hunt and David Davies would be back in….”In again out again in again out again” (Lanigans Ball) or The Vicar of Bray that changes sides with every regime change.

But if I was a politician on early morning TV and interviewed by Beth Rigby and Kay Burley, I might be inclined to remind them of their own lockdown partying (and suspensions from our TV screens).

It must be horrendous to realise that Piers Morgan is on the high moral ground.

This Access versus News is not unique to “political journalism”. A decade ago the scandal about MPs expenses was largely ignored by political journalists. The revelations and public anger were driven by “news journalists”.

It is the same with Sports Journalists. The journos embedded with (say) Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal have Access and “sources”…official and otherwise. They are privy to the teams boozy nights out in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, The dressing room bust ups, the womanising …and its very much a case of suppressing some information. But its the “news journalists” who will spill the beans.

The Police and the Parties

I do not really understand the Police having difficulty in finding witnesses to crimes that they themselves witnessed. There are security gates with armed police. There is a policeman at the door, police inside, and probably one on the roof of every building in Whitehall.

There is CCTV and presumably a system for logging in and out every person who enters or leaves Downing Street. And presumably the privately educated, over privileged Tory advisers did not actually clean up after their parties. I daresay that the cleaning staff at Downing Street could be more helpful to Sue Grey and her crack team of investigators.

One of the odd things about the Rich and Powerful is that they do not even realise that ordinary people exist. Andrew Windsor said as much in his interview with Emily Maitlis. And one of the interesting parts of the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was that servants were instructed not to look at Jeffrey Epstein and his rich and famous guests.

The answer to Downing Street probes is not to be found in emails and text messages sent by ministers and officials to each other. Take a look at the invisible people…the plebs.

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JeffreyMandering

Dual Mandate or Double Jobbing? They mean the same thing but one is much more perjorative than the other.

This means a person being a member of two legislative Assemblies at the same time…ie Westminster Parliament and the regional Assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Norn Iron. The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Douglas Ross is a member of the House of Commons and the Scottish Assembly.

The practice of Dual Mandate/Double Jobbing was discredited in Norn Iron and for some years now, it has only been possible to be a MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly at Stormont) OR a MP (Member of Parliament at Westminster).

In many ways it can be seen that Stormont is “minor league” and Westminster is the “major league” and often the case that ambitious politicians cut their teeth at Stormont before moving on to Westminster.

Of course, it is the voters themselves who make the real choices.

So why then would Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Norn Iron seek to introduce legislation to bring back the Dual Mandate. And to do so in time for the Assembly Elections in May this year, meaning that Westminster MPs could seek election to Stormont.

Double Jobbing, as the name suggests is unpopular. But not universally unpopular. A reasonable person might see it as a bit greedy. Or that a legislator cannot be part time in Belfast AND London.

Four of the five major parties…Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and UUP have condemned the British proposal. DUP have welcomed it.

The official reason for the British decision is that it merely brings Norn Iron into line with the rest of the disUnitedKingdom. It creates a level playing field and all parties here are free to decide whether to stand a MP as a candidate in May.

As too often, the British are being disingenuous.

For a start, UUP are not represented at Westminster. So they are unaffected.

Sinn Féin have seven seats at Westminster but as abstentionists, they do not take an oath of allegiance and do not actually take up seats. They are effectively place-holders (and as I am fairly neutral on abstention) I see their point that the Mother of Parliaments is not all it claims to be. For SF, Westminster is largely irrelevant and with the exceptions of Chris Hazzard (South Down), Michelle Gildernew (Fermanagh-South Tyrone) and possibly Paul Maskey (West Belfast), they tend to show more contempt for Westminster by sending four second-raters to London.

In Sinn Féin terms, Stormont (and of course Dublin) is where the action is.

SDLP hold two seats at Westminster. Colum Eastwood (Foyle) and Claire Hanna (South Belfast). Both romped home in 2019, in part due to Claire reaching out beyond traditional nationalist support and SF withdrawing to support the leading anti Brexit candidate.

In five seat per constituency Colum might be a big enough hitter to bring in a third SDLP MLA. Claire might be a big enough hitter to bring in a running mate.

To be clear….this wont happen. SDLP has already picked three candidates in Foyle and two in South Belfast. And are optimistic that a seat can be gained.

Alliance has one Westminster seat (Stephen Farry in North Down) and has one of the five Assembly seats there. Farry might be a big enough hitter to help gain a targeted seat there. But s strongly against Dual Mandate/Double Jobbing.

To be clear to the voters of these parties, Dual Mandat/?Double Jobbing is discredited.

But the DUP. They hold eight seats but are in danger of losing their position as the biggest Assembly party and with it, the position of First Minister to Sinn Féin. The Party has been doing badly in opinion polls.

So it is tempting to repatriate Sammy Wilson (East Antrim), Ian Paisley (North Antrim), Gavin Robinson (East Belfast) and Gregory Campbell (East Derry) to head their Assembly ticket.

And “Sir” Jeffrey Donaldson…….now there’s a thing. A few months into his leadership of the DUP, he is the MP for Lagan Valley. Currently he would have to resign his seat and stand for Assembly if he is to become First (or Second) Minister. And the problem there is that DUP might lose that seat if the other parties rally behind the Alliance candidate, Sorcha Eastwood. Actually I think it is ONLY possible if other parties back Eastwood. She is certainly a firm believer in her own ability and threat.

Would DUP voters tolerate Double Jobbing?

Yes, they would. Partly because it might help them keep First Minister position. But also because many evangelical voters believe that Greed is actually an aspiration. Riches are a blessing. They have no shame about Money in the way that many voters in other parties do.

Of course, it is hardly a coincidence that the British government is doing something that obviously helps DUP….they have abandoned any pretence at being neutral in Norn Iron affairs.

Of course any DUP MP winning an Assembly seat can always resign and be replaced by a co-option.

Everyone (in the DUP at least) is a Winner.

I am looking forward to the condemnation of British policy on Slugger O’Toole.

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Royally Screwed

I do not like rich people. The main reason is that I am not rich.

I do not like Monarchy or the Royals. It is more a philosophical dislike. But there are trappings that I like. For example, I quite like the idea of a footman, funky squeezing toothpaste out of a tube while I stand in the bathroom with my toothbrush extended.

Bliss. Never having to do anything for myself….well I am a married man so I am kinda used to doing nothing for myself.

The thing about being rich…mega rich even….is that Money is an aphrodisiac. The very best aphrodisiac. As a Premiership footballer, a rock star, a property tycoon, Royal…..not to mention a few castles, a New Mexico ranch, a ski lodge in New Hampshire and an island in the West Indies and a private plane, I could be quite a catch.

As we know, rich people can’t get into Heaven. Those of us who live wholesome Boy Meets Girl, Boy marries Girl….we get a heavenly reward

Those who live their lives like it was a never ending orgy, on a line between the socially unacceptable, the taboo, the illegal, well their after life might be different.

All facilitated by being surrounded by people (servants) who are trained to divert their eyes and by people (the population of the entire world) that the mega rich are trained not to notice.

It is not unknown for previous generations of royals to live like there is no consequence to their actions.

I can actually remember “Prince” Andrew being born in 1960. He was second in line to the English throne. Charles was the heir, Andrew was the spare.

But really his history is one of being increasingly irrelevant. Behind Charles, William, Charlotte, another one, Harry, Archie, a wee girl…Randy Andy as he was known in his 20s ….is no longer a “spare”. He is just “surplus”.

And therein lies a problem. A “Prince” is meant to be 21. A “Prince” is not meant to be 61. Dashing young man to dirty old man in just four decades.

Andy’s Troubles…won’t bring down the English monarchy. The institution and family are too well liked by too many people. For just as many people, the Monarchy is a sniffy Guardian column or a punch line on “Mock the Week” but the point is that English republicans have no clout.

so Andy’s problems are just a sideshow. Accused of a crime in a (civil) American Court, he appears to have few options.

He can fiercely deny the charges in a courtroom. He may well be innocent but even in innocence, a lifestyle that many would consider debauched.

He can settle with his accuser out of court. But even with no liability admitted and non disclosure agreements, paying out a large sum of money as recompense for a crime that was not committed.

But the curious mix of “monarchy” and “family”is always absurd. To preserve an institution, individuals are cast aside to live in luxury in no man’s land.

There are moments in Royalty…..weddings coronations, funerals, when the constitution and family coincide.

Andrew could become a non-person on two levels.

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Life Skills Required To Be A (Despised) Minority

I have spent some of the Pandemic researching my own family History. The despicable comments by (Lady) Kate Hoey have angered a lot of people in the nationalist community.

At this point, I do not want to go into much detail about Hoey. Others are much more eloquent than me. I am angry. And Family History is a sore point at the moment.

The Fallout from Hoey’s comments.

In response to Hoey, there are a lot of angry educated successful, people (nationalists or from a nationalist background) who have been telling their own “rags to riches” story over three or four generations. If we look closely at an rish family history, we are not far away from poverty and degradation.

This is maybe the most important lesson from the Civil Rights Movement and the last sixty years. We demanded RESPECT and for the most part got it (even if it required legislation in fair employment). To some extent, it is a matter of choice for unionists to give or withhold Respect. But Self Respect is in our own hands…you cant take that away.

There is of course a downside. Any oppressed people……Irish, Jews, African Americans, colonised people have a kinda quota of people who are Self-Loathing. They take on a second class role for themselves siding with the Oppressor. It is not a pretty sight.

It is of course a matter of choice that a person born into a nationalist family re-appraise their background. An absolute right to choose to be British, unionist, conservative. But there are too many from a nationalist/Catholic background who boast so much of their conversion that they have a self-loathing.

Self-Loathing is not a pleasant condition. In Norn Iron, some people fall over themselves to reject Irishness and embrace Britishness.

I attended a funeral recently for a cousin from the maternal side of my family. And their story …my story is not a lot different from those being told on social media as a rebuttal of Hoeys remarks and perceived intent.

My maternal grandparents were John (from County Cavan) and Kate (from County Monaghan). They married in 1889. John was a railway labourer on the railway and Kate had a small dowry from her farmer father. They settled in County Armagh, a small tenant farm and John worked in a mill owned by the local big house aristocrat and unionist politician.

Between 1891 and 1912 (my mother), John and Kate had 11 children, one died in infancy. Two boys (unmarried) died from illnesses in the 1930s.

My grandfather was killed in a work-related accident when my mother was 9 years old. My granny who I can remember died in 1956.

So in my lifetime and in the 1950s, 1960s and some of the 1970s, I knew three uncles and four aunts and 15 cousins, all but one older than me plus one younger sibling. As a tendency, my cousins were teenagers or in their 20s when I was born.

The three uncles (one childless) worked in the mill where their father died and they had rented fields off the aristocrat to raise some cattle.

The aunts (two childless) were “homemakers” or “carers”…..and the two married aunts had railway worker husbands. My father was a Belfast man and a barman.

In its own way, it is not a case of Rags to Riches…..more a case of Not Very Good Clothes to Not So Bad Clothes.

But that generation was the force behind the Third Generation….my generation.

What happened the 15 cousins?

The Boys(five) …….a priest*, a railway worker, a creamery worker, a taxi driver, a junior civil servant*.

The Girls (ten) ….nun/teacher*, civil servant, teacher* nurse, nurse. nurse, ,factory worker, factory worker, factory worker, factory worker.

The * indicates university education.

This is social progress.

Only three of my cousins (83, 74, 66) plus my sister (67) are still alive. I obviously don’t have a lot of contact with most of THEIR children and spouses……but the occupations include nurses (now requiring university education), police forensics officer*, Sports journalist/producer* teachers*, bus drivers, speech therapist* ,shop workers, blood specialist in a hospital lab*, chef, civil servants………and I suppose the rest are a mix of occupations.

It is a long way from Granda and Granny on a tenant farm in County Armagh.

Kate Hoey

So who is Kate Hoey? Well she is a 75 year old retired Labour (!!!) Member of Parliament for Vauxhall in London. She retired in 2019 after over thirty years in the Commons. She is now in the “House of Lords”, a traditional retirement sinecure for veteran MPs.

She was one of the few Labour politicians to campaign for Brexit in 2016.

It was a long way from her 1970s posturing as an International Trotskyist. Having said that, it is not unusual for teenage and leftist politicians to flirt with fringe political groups before finding a home (and a safe seat of course) with the mainstream Labour Party.

But we need to go back further in Hoey’s life …she was born in South Antrim in the 1940s and did not leave for England until the 1970s. For Hoey, British nationalism (versus European Union) is the same as British nationalism (versus Irish nationalism) in Norn Iron.

In her later years in Parliament, she was so identified with unionism that she was known, sarcastically as “the DUP member for Vauxhall”.

In the House of Lords, she has become even more identified with unionism and lends a certain respectability to unionism. She is a celebrity I suppose and it reminds me of the move of Enoch Powell from the Conservative Party to Ulster Unionist Party in the 1970s.

What to make of her? I would say two things. She was a medium sized fish in a very big pond and is now a very large fish in a very small polluted backwater. Or……..you can take a girl out of Mallusk, County Antrim but you can’t take Mallusk out of the girl.

Jamie Bryson

Hoey’s story is linked to that of Jamie Bryson, a 30 something wannabee politican from North Down. Currently an outlier and a “blogger”. Vehemently anti-Protocol and a thorn in the side of established unionist politicans in DUP and UUP. He might well be a candidate in the Assembly Elections in May this year. His shtick (gimmick) is that he is poster boy for the loyalist underclass.

He Said…She Said

So what is the fuss all about?

Well He is poster boy for the loyalist on the street. A blogger and he runs a loyalist think tank” (sic). He writes.

“Unionism must weaponise the mechanisms and procedures of the institutions (for so long as they remain in existence) to benefit unionism.

“There can be no goodwill or balance; unionism must ruthlessly and relentlessly exploit the institutions for the benefit of unionism…

“And those provisions should be weaponised without a hint of shame or embarrassment; it is simply returning the serve.

“It cannot, and will not, be the case whereby nationalism can weaponise the Agreement and the law more generally, without the inevitable political and legal retaliation.”

There are buzz words and dog whistles. “weaponise” “no goodwill” “ruthlessly” and perhaps more tellingly “retaliation”.

Bryson’s contention is that there are now so many nationalist professionals in the law, media and academia and more nationalists in university education that they are effectively a fifth column working against the “Union”.

It is certainly true that a lot of students from a Protestant or unionist background choose to go universities in England or Scotland. A lot of this “brain drain” or “chicken run” is their parents realising Norn Iron is a basket case and any advantages their children might have had in the 1950s and 1960s are now over. There is also the fact that industries like ship building and manufacturing industry (where fathers and sons worked) are now gone.

Bryson is talking about my childrens generation.

Of course Bryson is not exactly a traditional politician. We can more or less ignore him. But Hoey has amplified his views and as a real life Lady given them a veneer of respectability. She writes as a foreward to his latest “report”.

“I support the increasingly strategic activism of young (and not so young) people within the pro-Union community, who are coming together in various ways to develop networks and sharing of ideas…

“I also entirely support the ongoing work to encourage those, especially from working class loyalist communities, to engage in education and to seek entry to professional vocations such as journalism, law, and public service.

“There are very justified concerns that many professional vocations have become dominated by those of a nationalist persuasion, and this positioning of activists is then used to exert influence on those in power.

“The work of UVPS is crucial, both as a network for the sharing of pro-Union ideas, and for the development of policies, legal arguments, and political strategies.”

Both are perceived as attacks on individuals.

The contradiction is that it is somehow acceptable to use education, influence and position to advance unionist views but somehow unacceptable to do so to advance nationalist views. Again Dog Whistle words…..”positioning activists”.

It is of course offensive to suggest that nationalists lack the integrity to be fully committed to their chosen profession in an unbiased manner.

Letter to Leo

A consequence of the growing Nationalist demographic and confidence has been the Letter to Leo (Varadkar) a few years back.

Essentially a letter from Irish citizens from many fields including, Law, Sport, Music, Business etc has been a catalyst. I myself have signalled my support for the “Ireland’s Future” Movement. Many of the signatories have now become reviled figures. They have had the temerity to want progress to Irish unity to accelerate.

Some unionists choose to interpret nationalist confidence as a “threat”. They fear a “pan nationalist front”….the Irish Government, southern political parties, SDLP, Sinn Féin, Catholic Church, Gaelic Athletic Association etc as some kinda conspiracy against them.

It is all I think, about Visibility.

When I visited my father in hospital in the 1970s, he pointed out the nurses “that girl is from Newry” “that girl is from Omagh, indicating they were Catholics. He contrasted this with being in the same hospital in 1952 and there were no Catholic nurses. In the 1980s, he was also pointing out the nurses from the Republic of Ireland…entitled to employment in the north because of membership of the European Union.

Of course as my father (a nationalist) saw this as progress, another father (a unionist) on the other side of town might see it as a threat.

In Norn Iron, we are all a little like that. At school in the 1950s, we were mostly given neutral sounding forenames…John, James, Thomas, Anne , Mary, Margaret ………sometimes Catholic sounding names Kevin, Theresa, Anthony, Deirdre ….which might have an adverse effect on future employment chances.

Now in the 21st century, my grandchildren have “Irish” names and two have names that I had not even heard of before they were born. Yes I get a buzz going into a bank or supermarket and seeing name tags like Oisín, Roisín, Sinéad, Gearóid, Laise and best of all Saoirse (Freedom). If I am 69 years old and getting a buzz out of something that appears so childish, then you can bet your life there is another 69 year old man seeing these name tags and longing for the good old days when people like me and mine knew our place. Croppy lie down.

Being a minority…often despised……requires a set of skills. It is not 1970 and no co-worker can call me a “sewer rat” and it is not 1975 and no policeman can shout “Fenian bastard” from the back of a land rover.

Not openly of course. Legislation and Decency has sent that kinda thing underground.

I think my maternal family ……uncles, aunts, cousins, wife (!!!) sons, daughters in law, neices, nephews, sister, …they mostly had that set of skills required to be a minority.

I think that is the fear in the Protestant/unionist community. As the demographics change, I am not sure that they have the skill set required to be a minority. I suppose in the interest of stability or even decency, I should care about their fears. But I …don’t.

THIS IS CIVIL RIGHTS.

“They call me….MISTER Tibbs.

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Three Decades of Half-Centenaries

When I became an active blogger over ten years ago, the”big theme” was the Decade of Centenaries.

As regular readers will know, I prefer private remembering to public remembrance. We are entitled to remember our history as we wish. I really do not understand officialdom getting involved in our personal histories.

If you look around Norn Iron (England, Wales and Scotland also) you will see a lot of Cenotaphs. I have no idea how many there are. Quite possibly, there are only four in the disUnited Kingdom and the memorials in Portadown, Liverpool, Doncaster, Swansea etc are merely war memorials.

The point is that the great and the good and old soldiers, parade, fall silent, lay wreaths, say something about the “going down of the Sun” play the British anthem…….and forget about it all until next year.

The First World War was all about lions led by donkeys. Officialdom distracted the bereaved, wounded, crippled and the angry and hid behind memorials.

That is what Conflict Resolutionists tried to do in our Decade of Centenaries.

Distract us into re-evaluating the Ulster Unionist Covenant, First World War, Easter 1916 as a faux exercise in our “shared history” and “shared future” so that we do not think about the much more relevant events of 1969 et seq.

Like it or not, the shared history and shared future 1969-1998 is very very real.

Somehow, the Conflict Resolutionists deem it helpful to re-consider the events of a century ago. But it is unhelpful to think about events that occurred just fifty years ago. Sometimes when I visit Milltown cemetry (and the same would be true of Roselawn), I see elderly people tending graves of their children or husbands. I see children brought to graves of grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts that they never actually knew.

The pain never really goes away.

We are now in the first days of 2022. Fifty years ago …1972…………was the most deadly year of the Troubles with 480 people dying. There are big anniversaries coming up …Bloody Sunday, Bloody Friday. Claudy but I do not think we should concentrate on events. There are individual pains which are just as relevant as the “community” pains. There will even be a few anniversaries that are personal to me.

Never Forget!

But just as importantly…DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL US HOW TO REMEMBER!

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Working Man Blues …The Troubles 1969-1972

This is a re-written/edited version of an article I wrote for a USA-based academic website a few years ago.

I started work aged 17 on 29th September 1969. My parents were deeply disappointed that I had decided to leave school at the start of my final year at a grammar school. This was just nine months away from completing my “A” levels and getting into university.

At that time, my parents did not know that I had actually been playing truant from school for several months. My first working day was therefore just six weeks after the Troubles are generally accepted as started (August 1969).

So in a very real sense, there is a dividing line between my schooldays (pre-Troubles) and working life (post-Troubles).

So I applied for a few jobs in the summer of 1969. The target was being a clerical officer or clerical assistant in Belfast Corporation (now known as Belfast City Council). I had seven “O” levels (two more than I needed to be a CO and five more than I needed to be a CA.

I went for an interview and was appointed as a Clerical Officer.

So…Belfast City Hall….and maybe twelve new recruits in the Corporation Chamber. And we were given our Oath Of Allegiance (to “Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors”) to sign. Incredible as it seems now, this Oath had to be signed before getting employment in any government or semi government job.

Maybe the “Oath” acted as a deterrent to committed republicans not to apply for such jobs. Maybe naive of Belfast Corporation to think that the “Oath” actually meant anything to the Catholic recruits. Maybe it was just a form of ritual humiliation.

But was it really an Oath?

It was actually a sheet of paper A5 size with text on each side. One side was a formal oath, “I swear to Almighty GOD” and the other side was less formal “I solemnly promise”. Catholics signed the promise and Protestants signed the oath. No Catholic/nationalist would ask GOD to witness that nonsense.

So when I get to Heaven…as I surely will….GOD will not hold it against me.

The Corporation had a lot of Departments….Parks, Town Clerk, Surveyors, Gas, Electricity etc. I was assigned to the Belfast Corporation Electricity Department. It was on the Albert Bridge (over the River Lagan). In 2021, nothing remains of the building except a small stone wall opposite Lanyon Railway Station.

The River Lagan divides the city of Belfast. The city centre shopping areas are on the west bank and West Belfast is mostly Catholic, North Belfast and South Belfast are mixed and across the Lagan East Belfast is almost all Protestant. There was a small Catholic enclave (Short Strand) just over the Albert Bridge.

As the name implies, the Electricity Department ran the electricity supply in the city of Belfast….reading meters, connecting services, selling immersion heaters, washing machines, installing supply to new buildings etc. A a clerical officer, my job was converting the readings taken by meter inspectors into quarterly bills.
The higher ups were all Protestant but the clerical staff (lower orders like me) were mixed. For the most part, the Protestant clerical staff lived in the Castlereagh area. Indeed one went on to be UUP Mayor of Castlereagh.

My father had long warned me about Freemasons and their influence in the City Hall. When we paid our Rates or Electric Bill and walked away from the cashier, he would ask me if I noted the man’s lapel badge or the outsize ring he wore….so when I started work I was already primed to note the sub-sect of masons, respectable middle class men who were cosy with each other…and their funny hand shakes. Probably the least secret “secret society” in the entire world.

Although I had lived in a “mixed” street all my life, working was a strange introduction into the various religious and class structure within Belfast Protestant and unionist culture.

Mrs Smith, the anti-Catholic religious woman who left little religious tracts on my desk. As I did not drink, smoke or curse, she viewed me as not being a real Catholic. I could easily be saved if I abandoned my Catholic Puritanism for Protestant Puritanism.

There was Bob, a sergeant in the B Specials. He lked to ask questions. I was fore-warned by Catholic co-workers. “he will be vetting you”.

So the strange mix of “respectable” masons, Orange and loyal order men, religious freaks, anti-sectarian (but unionist) trade unionists, “B Specials”, the downright sectarian thugs in the non-clerical workforce and the handful of Protestants who seemed to prefer the company of Catholics….it was all there.

The Catholics lived in the Falls area.
The Laganbank Road (at the back of the main building) was the area for non clerical staff. Almost exclusively Protestant, (one section had 61 Protestants and just 1 Catholic but oddly that solitary Catholic was not abused…most abuse was heaped on the Protestant married to a Catholic and who lived on the Falls Road) and they mostly lived in Newtownards Road. These were meter inspectors, repair men, installers, drivers, electricians etc.


It was a hassle at times. There was a long corridor, decorated with pictures of Mrs Windsor and Dukey Embra going back to the Coronation. It was a kinda gauntlet of abuse, especially for female Catholic workers. And it accelerated as the Troubles got worse.

The odd thing was that from late 1969 thru to Easter 1970, it looked at times that the genie of Violence could be put back into the bottle. I remember feeling very grown up about going to a party in a nice new house…a housewarming I think….in Carnmoney, in the North Belfast suburbs.. The first occasion I had ever seen alcohol in a private house. And later in Dermott Hill, about 200 metres from my house, where we all listened to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” .

We had a football match …….Boys versus Girls…we even got our photo in a local newspaper. And had a concert for charity in St Georges Hall. All very normal.

But it all went wrong at Easter. There was rioting between our estate, New Barnsley (mixed) and Ballymurphy (Catholic) and in the aftermath, the Protestants left New Barnsley and this had a chain reaction thru the city….as the anti Catholic pogrom had less than a year before.

Any doubt that the violence was unstoppable was resolved in June and the Battle of St Matthews in the Short Strand. There are two narratives for the Battle of St Matthews. One is that the tiny Catholic enclave was attacked by a loyalist mob, determined to burn the church to the ground and repulsed by a small determined IRA unit. The other narrative is that peace loving loyalist Orangemen were provoked into an an IRA trap. Whatever…the IRA won the battle.

Short Strand enclave was just over Albert Bridge from the Electricity Department. In the aftermath, Catholic workers were forced to leave the Belfast shipyard and there were rumours that the Catholics in the Electricity Department would also be forced to leave. It was curious…the Protestants in the workshops were sullen and angry. The Catholics had a strut.

A few days after the Battle, I spent my lunch hour wandering around the streets in Short Strand…Seaforde Street, Madrid Street, Bryson Street etc…I had never been in the area before.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary was re-organised. One of my Catholic co-workers joined up. He continued to live in West Belfast. He was maybe 28 years old. a kinda mentor to us who were in our late teens or slightly older. He had been at both those parties. He played in that football match.

A post-script……I was out with my first girlfriend, Theresa about a year later. And we were on Shaws Road at Andytown and we heard three shots in the darkness. I got her home. One of those shots hit my old co-worker in the head and put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. I only saw him once again…..when I was walking thru the Outpatients in a hospital and he had an appointment.

He died just over a year ago in 2020. Fifty years in a wheelchair after less than a year in RUC, he was convinced his West Belfast neighbours would not do that. There was not a bad bone in his body.

Theresa…she is part of the narrative. She had gone out with my friend Harry in 1970 and when he dumped her, I seemed to spend every lunch time, hoping I would accidently bump into her outside her office in Corporation Street. Eventually she did go out with me but dumped me in October 1971 because I was too serious. She got engaged to somebody else a few months later.

See…that is the thing about the Troubles. It was civil war. But it was also about Boy Meets Girl. Girl Dumps Boy. It was about new music…”In the Summertime” (Mungo Jerry in 1970), various T Rex and Slade to “Maggie May” (Rod Stewart in 1971). t was also about Sport…Manchester United were in decline from winning the European Cup in 1968 and would be relegated in 1973.

Nobody ever went out. All we had was Television…….British shows like Cilla Black, Generation Game, Black & White Minstrels, Top of the Pops and American shows like Mary Tyler Moore, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, Ironside.

As the killings mounted, the Troubles were here to stay. They were not even a talking point in the offices. Or if there was talk…Catholics talked to Catholics and Protestants talked to Protestants. Early in 1972, I went to a funeral of someone I had been at school with. His 50th anniversary is next week.

But Belfast Corporation Electricity Department (the city utility) was about to be merged with other electricity providers into the new NIES (Norn Iron Electricity Service). This meant re-deployment into other Corporation departments or the new Norn Iron wide body. I don’t think that the full merger took place until 1972 but re-deployments and transfers took place in the summer of 1971.

In August 1971, one NIES employee was killed when the headquarters at Malone Road was bombed by the IRA.

I chose to remain in the Corporation and was transferred to the Surveyors Department. Sounded good but it was the Cleansing Section.

The Cleansing Section……….Bins. Dustbins. Bin lorries. Road Sweepers. Bulk Waste, Incinerator. All in the days before Re-Cycling Centres.

At least it was clerical.

What does a Clerical Officer in the Cleansing Section do?

Well every household in the city had a bin….or trash can as the Americans would say. And they were emptied weekly by bin lorries, operating out of sixteen yards, administered by Inspectors (former binmen).

And we had great big ledgers with every address in the city and the date on which the bin had been issued to them. Bins were hired at five shillings a year, either by the householder or estate agents on behalf of landlords. Really nobody ever paid five shillings and while there was technically a possibility of bins being taken away for non-payment, it never happened.

A householder could have a replacement bin after eight years. And we updated the ledgers. And if your bin was missing or damaged we would send an Inspector out to find it or check on its condition.

Often an Inspector would report that the bins had been damaged by the householders themselves. Banging bin lids was the traditional way of alerting the neighbourhood that the Brits were raiding.

Christy Moore explains this better than I can.

It was not without controversy. If we said we could not deliver a new bin to an address in Sandy Row or Tiger Bay, irate householders would tell us “you would not say that if I lived on Falls Road or Ardoyne…..those Fenians get everything” And of course we would get the same abuse from the other parts of the City.

The clerical staff were aware at how farcical working in the Cleansing Section was.

But I was a 19 year old man of some importance. If you wanted a bin, I could get you one. My parents……Uncle Jackie/Auntie Mary….some neighbours……and of course Auntie Sheila/Uncle Charlie. Auntie Sheila used to invite her neighbours in to see the bin her influential nephew had got her. Yes my beloved auntie Sheila kept her bin INSIDE her house. She never used it as a bin……she kept her shoes in it for the rest of her life.

Whatever the farce, there was a war going on outside.

On 9th August 1971, Internment was introduced. In less than a week, 24 people would be dead. The most notorious incident was the Ballymurphy Massacre, a few hundred metres from my home. Nobody in the “official” media would believe or report what happened.. It took 50 years for the Truth to be told.

In December 1972, loyalists killed 15 people in an explosion at McGurks Bar in the New Lodge area. Again it took 40 years for the Truth to come out. RUC seriously spun it as an IRA bomb that had gone off prematurely.

By 1972, it was not phoney. It was very real. Bloody Sunday (January) 14 were killed by British Paras in Derry. More lies that took nearly 40 years to reveal the Truth.

But let’s be honest, working in the “Bin Office” of the Cleansing Section of Belfast Corporation had a kinda stigma. I was applying for other jobs. Trying to get into the Norn Iron Civil Service.

And …20th March 1972, the IRA dumped a bomb into one of our bin lorries. And it went into Donegall Street, the binmen unaware of their cargo. A phone warning was given but it was misleading. The RUC directed civilians into the path of the bomb. It exploded…….killing seven people. Two policeman were blown to pieces. So were the three men on the bin lorry crew. And an Inspector who had just retired and stopped for a chat with the crew.

A week later, the Stormont government was abolished and the British imposed Direct Rule.

Farce. Tragedy. LIES.

I suppose I used the experience of the two Corporation jobs as a learning curve. I was banking things that I had learned.

So I got out of the Corporation and into the Norn Iron Civil Service in May 1972. But the biggest lesson I ever learned was that leaving school before “A” levels was the biggest mistake of my life.

I have always said that an arc of events in 1972/73 was the most significant part in my evolution as a person. I had not realised just how connected it all was to my working career.

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Mass Rocks (Dungeon, Fire & Sword?)

American academics who are interested in Civil Rights rarely understand that integrated education (Catholics and Protestants) was not a basic demand in Norn Iron. Educating black and white children together was a prime demand by Civil Rights activists in Alabama and Mississippi so why was it not an issue in Armagh and Fermanagh?

Well I think it is fair to say that in my lifetime, the Catholic grammar schools were just as good as the State (de facto Protestant) grammar schools.

Grammar schools might be perceived as elitist but the reality was that Catholic pupils were scholarship boys and girls, who had earned the right to attend thru passing the “11 plus” exam. I was one such pupil (1963-1969) and my only sister was one (circa 1966-1973). We were not elite.

But the education at grammar schools was the pathway to university, professions like Law or Medicine or at worst clerical and secretarial jobs.

Our schools run by Christian Brothers or nuns like the Dominicans and Sisters of Mercy were acutely aware that Education was our path out of the Ghetto and of course we were the pathfinders for subsequent generations.

So our schools were at least equal to the State system.

Of course “Integrated Education” has been a talking point for decades. More so since the Good Friday Agreement. Some see it as helpful to the long term future of Norn Iron. Some see themselves as outside the traditional Catholic and Protestant tribes.

Teaching History in Norn Iron

In any school, 1 plus 1 equals 2….and the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square on the other two sides. The real bug bear is History.

In my Christian Brothers grammar school in September 1963…that first year was the Tudor Years, beginning with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and Henry VII and ending with the death of Elizabeth in 1603. So as we went thru those years learning about Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor, the Reformation the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Pilgrimage of Grace, “Saint” Thomas More, “Saint John Fisher, Edward VI, Cranmer, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, Spanish Armada….we were already taking sides. English History in Tudor Times is basically a century of Protestant versus Catholic.

The Reformation

The nuances of Martin Luther, the selling of Indulgences, the corruption at Papal courts was lost on us.

We were after all Catholic and the Reformation was a very bad thing…so the Christian Brothers said. And if Henry VIII and his son Edward VI went about cutting the heads off “Saint” Thomas More and others, then clearly that was a very bad thing. Mary Tudor (vaguely one of us)..well she was just as bad of course with a penchant for burning Protestant martyrs at the stake. But Elizabeth I…..Good Queen Bess…she was worst of all. It was our priests after all who were being drawn to Tyburn and other places, hanged and cut down before death, various body parts cut off, cut open entrails burned before their eyes and of course their limbs cut off and heads placed on a pike.

It was the barbaric fate that awaited political conspirators like Anthony Babington and religious missionaries like Saint Edmond Campion. And of course, there was a link between these types of martyrs.

Of course Elizabeth I was a heretic…we were told. But 16th century religious fanaticism has a very modern parallel.

Take Guy Fawkes, a Yorkshire Catholic at the centre of the Gunpowder Plot against James I. He fought in European religious wars, educated alongside Catholic emigrés who were educated at Catholic institutes in France and Flanders and came back to England to establish Catholic dominance. And he and others advocated the violent overthrow of Good Queen Bess.

Now that does not seem a lot different from 21st century men from Yorkshire who go to fight a religious war in the Middle East and are educated at a madras in Pakistan and come back to England to establish a caliphate and sharia law. Not always by peaceful means.

Protestant heretics. Christian infidels. Not a lot of difference. Does this mean that our Catholic martyrs are just the same as Islamist terrorists?

The Irish Dimension

But the curious thing about our first History book in 1963 was that English History was the main event. And Irish History was the second feature. So Silken Thomas, Hugh O’Neill were like the second theatre of the Culture Wars.

And of course that study of History continues in 1964, 1965, 1966 and so on. The pattern is that British History was mainstream and Irish History a very large footnote. There is ALWAYS an Irish Dimension. Whether it is the Spanish Armada in 1588 or the Brexit Disaster (2016 et seq), Britains Danger is Ireland’s Opportunity.

But when History overlaps with Politics or Nationality, it ceases to be Academic.

An academic might say that the Reformation was a good thing, long term for Europe. That it was the forerunner to Enlightenment, Democracy and Freedom.

The problem for 36 Catholic schoolboys in 1963 is that we were on the wrong side of History in terms of “religion” but were we on the wrong side of History in terms of national freedom.

English Catholics Are Not Friends of Ireland

Initially the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland was not a Protestant-Catholic thing. And effectively in 1155, the Papal Bull “Laudabiliter” gives ownership of Ireland to England. The Pope had maybe a vested interest. He was Pope Adrian IV, the only English Pope. Whether this is a Papal Bull or Papal Bullshit as the late Cardinal O’Fiaich described it is problematic but to this day, the aristocratic English Catholics regard it as valid. In historic Catholic terms England OWNS Ireland.

In 1973, I was part of a SDLP delegation from SDLP in West Belfast who met the local Brits in a barracks. The officer we spoke to was a Catholic (Ampleforth-educated) and downright hostile to us. It was our duty to be loyal to the Crown.

And even in the mid 16th century, Mary Tudor was expanding the conquest of Ireland in the midland counties Queens County (modern Laois) and Kings County (modern Offally). So those Catholic martryrs who suffered under Elizabeth I were not overly sympathetic to the Irish.

Which brings me to the Victorian hymn “Faith of Our Fathers” originally written for an English audience. But later adopted in Ireland

1Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
2Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
And blest would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them should die for thee:
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
3Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
4Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

We learned this hymn in primary school, maybe at 9 years old. It is pretty graphic. At that age, I did not fully comprehend “forefathers” in historic terms but rather saw “father” as a contemporary family word…my own daddy chained up in a dungeon because he would not say Protestant prayers.

At the time of Confirmation (February 1961 in St Peters) denying “our Faith” was a big thing. In my understanding, if a Protestant jumped out from the very dark wall at the Dominican Convent (it was the darkest place I knew) and held a knife to my 8 year old throat and demanded “are you a Protestant or Catholic?” then the only reply I could give was “Catholic”. I was obliged to die for my faith, as my forefathers had done ……..in Drogheda, Wexford, Limerick etc during the Cromwellian and Penal Years

The video (if it works)…..shows images, St Patricks Cathedral, Armagh, holy well, Marian grotto, Penal Cross (shaped to be easily hidden), Mass Rock (where Mass was said in secret places), Knock Basilica, Matt Talbot, Irish saints…and the preserved skull of executed Archbishop Oliver Plunkett (hanged, drawn and quartered in 1681). Religion (Catholic) and Irish nationalism are connected.

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfn3cSF6-X0

Of course as the 1960s progressed and the Troubles were “before my time” and I was crossing Sandy Row and Shankill Road to play football in Botanic Gardens and Woodvale Park, it never dawned on me that the “Catholic or Protestant” thing would ever be relevant in my life.

The 1970s……I lived in fear of the likes of the Shankill Butchers and other nakedly sectarian murder gangs who would happily torture me to death.

“Denying Faith” is not uniquely Catholic. Or unique to Norn Iron. But it is not about Religion it itself. It is as much about the historic baggage that comes along with it.

It is perfectly reasonable for a person born into the Jewish faith in New York City to re-examine his or her committment as an adult. But at least part of him might be wary of turning his or her back on the history right thru to the Holocaust.

So it is perfectly reasonable for a 20 year old Catholic woman in Ballymurphy or a 30 year old Catholic man in Coalisland to say “ya know what…………I just don’t believe this any more.”. It might be because of a deep philosophy or it might be revulsion at 20th century scandals of Abuse, Magdalene laundries and Tuam babies.

So why then are these new athiests (Sinn Féin and SDLP voters mostly) not at the forefront of calling for Protestant and Catholic children to be educated together? Well in part it is historic. There was a time when the Catholic religion was banned and a time when Catholics were educated in “hedge schools”. It is hard to turn your back on History, especially the suffering of our forefathers.

Well the simplest answer is that integrated education is NOT about RELIGION. Integrated Education is about POLITICS.

Catholics may learn a lot about Religion at schools but we learn much more about Politics. I did not become a Catholic thru going to Catholic school. I became a Nationalist and a Republican and maybe even a Socialist.

Of course there are “State” schools which might be described as “neutral” but the reality is that in terms of the attendees and atmosphere, these are de facto “Protestant” schools.

The third block “Integrated Education” educates children from both backgrounds in what purports to be a more genuine neutral environment.

But in Norn Iron, neutrality……..the space between Nationalism and Unionism……is in itself a (unionist) political stance. A stance that says we can live together as a homogenous society. No wonder the Alliance Party endorse it.

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New Years Honours List (Norn Iron)

About two months ago, up to 150 people in Norn Iron will have got letters from a department within the Cabinet Office in Downing Street.

They will have been told that “Her Majesty the Queen” (sic) has decided to award them a peerage, knighthood, CBE, QPM. OBE, MBE, BEM …and they will have been asked to treat the correspondence as confidential and to reply indicating their acceptance or if they decline.

In England itself, the word “Empire” is not exactly acceptable in some circles. Many leftists or people from ethnic minorities decline an honour simply because of the word.

What I find more curious is that quite a lot of lefties and people from ethnic backgrounds are happy enough to take a bauble.

Norn Iron is no different. The letters will have gone out to folks here.

It is not exactly Cold Calling and Junk Mail. People are “sounded out”.

For example, a midwife who has spent 40 years of her life delivering babies in County Down will be recommended for a MBE or whatever. Her discerning boss will have a good idea if she is likely to accept. And the elderly lady who runs the charity/good will shop in County Tyrone…her charity committee will have a fair idea of whether the lady is unionist or nationalist.

It is not straightforward to say that unionists accept honours and nationalists refuse. I know a Catholic nurse and a Catholic teacher who have accepted the honour they were offered. And I know another Catholic civil servant who received the Cabinet Office letter and went straight round to Human Resources to confront the official who recommended him.

That’s how it goes. There are always Uncle Toms in the Republican and Nationalist community. But the point is that in order for the final published Honours List to appear balanced, more Catholics have to asked to allow for the Catholics who tell the Cabinet Office to shove their letter where the Sun dont shine.

As a general rule, nationalist politicians do not accept honours. It is bad for business. Gerry Fitt went into the House of Lords in 1983 but he had left SDLP some years before. In 2019, Margaret Ritchie joined the House of Lords but left SDLP to so do. Her decision to accept a peerage sent shock waves thru the SDLP. She now sits in the Lords as a member of the (British) Labour Party.

At this time of year…the dog days between Christmas and New Year, I always get nervous that a SDLP politician might accept a peerage or other honour. Likewise any celebrity (entertainer or sports man or woman) So hopefully not this week.

Have I any predictions?

Well could Arlene Foster, former First Minister ousted by DUP “colleagues” this year get into the Lords .”Lady Foster” is almost certain.

Or David Ford former Alliance Leader and Minister for Justice get a knighthood. “Sir David Ford”?

“Dame Deirdre Heenan”…..hopefully not.

Archbishop Eamonn Martin….I wouldn’t put it past him.

Quintin Oliver…..who knows? …”Quintin Oliver OBE?”

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