“Anti-Royal Visit” Protest in Belfasto

I am on my way home from a Éirigí organised protest at the visit of Charles Windsor to Ireland. Of course Éirigí and I are hardly soul mates but I think it was important for a republican-nationalist socialist like myself to attend.

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I have to say I was disappointed at the turnout. It deserved better. This is maybe evidence of the extent that Sinn Féin prevails in West Belfast. Now effectively a one-party State. Thru Politics and “community groups”, Sinn Féin is dominant. Just one year ago, Sinn Féin organised a protest at this very spot….The International Wall at Divis Street to protest the detention of Gerry Adams for questioning by PSNI.

Talk about priorities.

Shortly after I took this photograph, the small group of protesters…I say no more than fifty people moved across the road and gathered at the traffic light (foreground) where just one person spoke. I wont name him as I dont have his permission to so do.

Obviously Éirigí are protesting the very presence of “Prince” Charles in Ireland. And indeed drew attention to the long tradition of British “Royal” intervention going back to 1169. And indeed the negative and homicidal and genocidal role that the British Empire has had on the world. There were at least three coffin-shaped placards labelled “Iraq”, “Afghanistan” and “Ireland”. The short speech concluded with the words of James Connolly.

The protestors will be dismissed as cranks….or in Sinn Féin terms “enemies of the Peace Process”. But in this instance they deserve better.

I heard nothing thaat a republican of any nuance including SDLP and Sinn Féin could disagree with. Of course there was criticism of the Sinn Féin Leadership.

But I think beyond Éirigís position there are plenty of other issues. The spin put on that “handshake” by the English Media paints Charles Windsor in a much better light than Gerry Adams. Thats to be expected but the image remains of a noble and grieving man who dutifully shook hands with the bloodsoaked hand of a “terrorist”. Thats not the image Sinn Féin sought and very naive of their strategists to think they would come out of the photo opportunity looking as good as Charlie.

My own basic objection is that this was …like the visit of President Obama…little more than “optics”. Dutifully these VIP visitors …Obama, Elizabeth Windsor, Charles Windsor and the rest of us patronise us with a few words in Irish, a verse from Seamus Heaney or WB Yeats, sip a Guinness, watch a performance of Riverdance and go home.

And further this was not about Peace with Justice.

Gerry Adams has no right to be talking to Charles Windsor, the unapologetic Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment before the issue of the Ballymurphy Massacre is addressed. And purely from a unionist point of view there will be bewilderment at their future Head of State of Britain selling them out.

Gerry Adams needs to reconcile himself with less prominent people than Charles Windsor.

Likewise Charles Windsor needs to recomcile himself with less prominent people than Gerry Adams.

Once again ORDINARY people are sold down the river in the name of Conflict Resolution.

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Charlie Meets Gerry

If “Prince Charles” was at my front door, I would not go out and meet him. I dont think I can be more clear that I am not a big fan of the English “Royal Family” or Monarchy in general. There is nothing quite as irritating as a “Royal Visit” and no doubt the Brown Thomas has been doing a roaring trade as every West Briton in Dublin 4 over-spends on the credit card to look really good fawning over Charlie and Camilla.

Conflict Resolution! What crimes are committed in thy name!!

That handshake today with Gerry Adams is an odd thing. Charlie seemed to enjoy it less than Adams. Gerry needed that handshake. A further step to Establishment respectability.

Much is made of the fact that Charlie is Commander-in-Chief of the notorious Parachute Regiment, infamously involved in The Ballymurphy Massacre and Bloody Sunday (to name but two epoisodes). There is a degree of pageantry involved but Charlie takes the role seriously.

As I have said in other posts…the Ballymurphy Massacre was one event which shaped who I am today. What I saw, what I heard…and even what I did, will stay with me until the day I die.

Injustices like Ballymurphy, McGurks, Bloody Sunday, Springhill Massacre….all led me in a certain direction. The Claudy Massacre and Bloody Friday led me back from where I was going. Of course there were events before (the Falls Curfew and the Battle of St Matthews in 1970) and after (the Miami Massacre, Kingsmills, Shankill Butchers)….but for me that year 1971/72 was what really formed me.

We now know the truth of Bloody Sunday and McGurks. Justice was delayed and maybe even denied. But I lived in the Greater Ballymurphy area and thats the one that haunts me. Thats the one where I feared the most. Thats the one where I HATED the most.

I was not brought up to HATE…and thats what I hate the Conflict for doing. It made me …HATE.

The Ballymurphy Massacre needs to be dealt with. Dealing with Bloody Sunday and McGurks and leaving this event aside is a travesty. Yes, there is a nod and a wink that Ballymurphy was one of those things like La Mon (an attrocity committed by IRA) or the Dublin-Monaghan Bombs (Loyalist Glenanne Gang with British Intelligence) or Jean McConville or indeed Omagh Bomb, where it is better to draw a veil.

We have moved to Reconciliation. But without addressing Justice.

Thus Charlie (on behalf of the British State) can dutifully shake hands with Gerry Adams. Thus Gerry Adams can enthusiastically shake hands with Charlie. It is deemed a matter of State and/or Politics.

I am not entirely sure that Charlie (on behalf of the British State) has a right to reconcile with Adams without facing the truth and reconciling with (say) the victims in Ballymurphy. Likewise Adams has no right to reconcile with Charlie without facing up to other truths.

Neither act for me.

Hypocrisy is the order of the day.

If Charlie as expected goes to Mullaghmore in County Sligo to visit the spot where his uncle “Earl Mountbatten of Burma was killed in an IRA bomb in 1979….then he might do well to remember that his uncle (an unlovely old imperialist bastard) was unforgiving of the Japanese. In 1971, he dodged a State Banquet for Hirohito in London (yes he did meet him privately  later).

And Gerry Adams might do well to remember that his successor as MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey was showing “support” for the Ballymurphy victims at a protest today. Sinn Féin (and the British) can certainly “do” Hypocrisy very well.

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“Je Suis Jenny Palmer”

Councillor Jenny Palmer and her husband, John have left the DUP.

Councillor Palmer was a member of the Board of the Norn Iron Housing Executive. Two years ago she alleged that Stephen Brimstone, highly paid Special Advisor to Minister Nelson McCausland (DUP ) phoned her and asked her to vote (in accordance with the Ministers wishes) on a NIHE matter.

A prolonged Assembly Committee investigation has found in her favour. DUP, unsurprisingly and unconvincingly dissent from the findings. Brimstone is still a highly paid Special Advisor, now in the office of First Minister and DUP Leader, Peter Robinson.

It is Government at its worst. As Councillor Palmer was apparently told by Brimstone , “the Party comes first”.

It is proper that Councillor Palmer has resigned.

I dont suppose she shares many of my political leanings but it is right to pay tribute to a woman who is clearly more honourable than her Assembly colleagues.

And its further proof of just how bad Politics here has become.

I look forward to Patrick Corrigan joining me at Belfast City Hall. No doubt he will have his “Je Suis Jenny Palmer” placard….or maybe she is not the right kinda victim.

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Would The Real Editor of Slugger O’Toole, Please Stand Up

I am a bit worried about Mick Fealty. He no longer appears to know what is going on at Slugger O’Toole and yet he is the Editor.

Still grieving the loss of Naomi Long and comforting themselves with predictions about how badly SDLP will do next year or in five years time is understandable. Its how Slugger works. No Election is ever a “real” Election. Fantasy Elections are more palatable on Slugger.

Does SDLP get a fair deal on Slugger O’Toole. I am inclined to think “no”. But thats ok. No big deal.

But as a cartoon appears on Slugger O’Toole …an unflattering one of Alasdair McDonnell, I wonder aloud if the raised right arm is in some way a Nazi salute. I ask the question. I do not know the answer. But neither does Mick …and he is the Editor. In fairness, he is asking questions. But some four hours later, there is still no answer.

I dont for copyrite reasons reproduce the cartoon here. But I do publish the exchange I have had with Mick on Facebook.

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When I asked if it was a Nazi salute, Mick didnt know the answer, referring it to the cartoonist (and hes no Walt Disney is he?). While Mick states its a cartoonist job to insult, he seems a bit unsure as to just how insulting it was.

The “Charlie Hebdo” comment is an amusing distraction. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists took on Islamic extremism which is a brave if foolish thing to do. I dont think Sluggers cartoonist would take on Islamic extremism. Nor do I think that Mick Fealty would publish a cartoon that offended Muslims.  It is not good for a bloggers health. But more importantly, it is wrong to gratuitously insult people.

I do not know whether it is a Nazi salute or not. Neither does Slugger O’Toole’s editor.

But is it fair comment. The Leader of SDLP posing as a Nazi. Is that really the kinda discourse that Slugger wants to promote?

Would it be a step too far?

Would it be “playing the man”?

I call on Mick Fealty to establish whether it is a Nazi salute. And if it is, to either stand by his cartoonist or disassociate Slugger O’Toole from this form of discourse.

 

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Westminster Election 2015: South Belfast

The Results:

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South Belfast is a strange consituency. At Assembly level, the six seats are held by five different parties. The sixth seat is held by SDLP.

Much has been made of the fact that Alasdair McDonnell has won the seat with the worst mandate of all 650 MPs. He has the lowest percentage of votes but the term “worst mandate” is a nonsense. The man holds the seat “against the head” as he puts it and doesnt seem to get the credit.

The political reality in the constituency is that it will be won narrowly…by any winner.

And certainly a seat where some people forecast he would lose. A surprise perhaps that there was no unionist pact. But unionists seemed to rally round Jonathan Bell. Realistically a unionist pact would have produced a  reaction on the nationalist-progressive side and “soft” Sinn Féin votes and “soft” Alliance votes would have gone to SDLP.

It was the last result to be declared in the Kings Hall and few folks stayed for the Declaration. The result was known relatively early. Early tally returns gave hope to SDLP and DUP but as the night progressed it was evident that Alasdair was going to win.

Jonathan Bell smirked and probably knew that within 72 hours, he would be a full member of the Executive as Minister for Trade and Enterprise.

Paula Bradshaw and Ian Parsley her husband, seemed semi-detached from other Alliance people. In fairness most Alliance members were tallying the East Belfast Count. Interesting that a senior Alliance figure agreed with me that Ms Bradshaw might well be a candidate in East Antrim next year, rather than South Belfast.

I was standing near some TV type people when the word went round that “Máirtín is here” and Mr Ó Muilleoir entered the Kings Hall bathed in TV lights, rather like a boxer entering the arena. Odd that more senior fugures did not get the same welcome.

Frankly this was not a good election for Ó Muilleoir. On three seperate occasions he has re-defined “poll topper”. He has maybe been carried away by his own re-tweets but he is basically an over-hyped beaten docket. If the strategy was “build it up, talk it up” he failed miserably.

Obviously Bell and DUP had a reasonable expectation of winning.

But Bradshaw, Ó Muilleoir and Clare Bailey (Green Party) had no real expectation of winning but all would have been happy at de-capitating the Leader of SDLP. It seemed too many people were waiting for a “Portillo Moment” that just didnt happen.

Impressed as I am with Clare Bailey…I first voted for her as a student at Queens University in 2006…I was unimpressed by the Green Party tactics. All of the people who signed Clare’s nomination papers were women. They included Dawn Purvis formerly PUP MLA and now happily re-inventing herself as a LetsGetAlongerist and feminist who like Clare, has/had connexions to the Marie Stopes Clinic…Nuala McKeever of Platform for Change (comedienne and columnist)….and Bronagh Hinds (formerly of the Womens Coalition).

Highlighting womens issues is not of course sexist but I dont like the Green Party playing the “womens card” to this extent. Insofar as none of the mainstream parties is highlighting these issues, then they are on safe ground in adopting it…expanding beyond saving whales, riding bicycles and recycling paper.

This incremental expansion by the Greens is interesting. I detect the hand of John Barry rather than Steven Agnew.

If Alasdair McDonnell is unloved by the Bloggerati, who were busy demeaning his performance before the Declaration, he did at least get a testimonial from Bob Stoker UKIP. In his speech, Bob praised Alasdair as a politician who had worked tirelessly for ALL of the people of South Belfast and indeed all the politicians on the platform, who sought to do the same….”we just have different ways of doing it”.

Odd and refreshing that on a night, we had seen DUP at its most vitriolic that a UKIP politician would remind us what it is all about.

 

 

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Westminster Election 2015: Newry & Armagh

The Results:

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Mickey Brady of Sinn Féin won but it seemed as much to do with Incumbency than anything else. In the early part of the campaign, SDLP felt they were making a lot of progress but ultimately the Unionist Pact, where DUP stood aside for Danny Kennedy (UUP) was the deciding factor. The fear that a single unionist could come thru to win may not have saved Brady but it was certainly a factor.

Justin McNulty and SDLP will be reasonably confident of taking a second seat in 2016.

 

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Westminster Election 2015: North Down

The Results:

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Easy for Sylvia Hermon. Her voters come from all “Assembly” Parties. Its almost as if North Down has decided to be apolitical…at least at Westminster level. If Sylvia Hermon endorsed a candidate in 2016, the candidate would certainly get a quota but I think she values her Independent status too much.

Only DUP can be reasonably satisfield with their performance. It is certainly a quota. But well short of the three seats they hold in the Assembly.The UUP did not stand and probably there is a quota hidden within the Hermon’s vote.

But Alliance and Greens, both of whom have Assembly seats are well short of a quota. A wake up call that their supporters basically prefer the apolitical stance of Sylvia Hermon.

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