News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

July 23, 2005

Ervine: Feud Will Get Worse

News about Ireland & the Irish

BB 07/23/05 Feud Will Get Worse Says Ervine
BT 07/23/05 Border Gardai In Walk-Out Threat
BB 07/23/05 IRA Statement 'Could Emerge Soon'
BB 07/23/05 Dublin Pledges Peace Fund Support
BB 07/23/05 DUP 'Needs Time To Trust In SF'
BT 07/23/05 Opin: Kelly Top Exhibit As New Window Opens
IE 07/23/05 Opin: Heath Ignored Lessons Of History
BT 07/23/05 Bakery: New Slice Of Life For Ormeau
BT 07/23/05 Family Falls Foul Of US Passport Rules
BT 07/23/05 Ballymena Gets Bum Rap As It's Mocked Online
IO 07/23/05 Shell Breaches Terms Of Corrib Construction
BT 07/23/05 Books: Lack Of Understanding Is Evident
NH 07/23/05 Books: History Of Catholic Belfast 1850-1950

(On July 23, 2004, Joe Cahill, a founding father of the
modern Irish Republican Army, died in Belfast at age 84.)


Feud Will Get Worse Says Ervine

Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine has
predicted that the UVF-LVF feud is going to get worse.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Inside politics, Mr Ervine
also revealed that the UVF has stopped debating whether it
will follow the IRA into a new mode.

He said the UVF had been consulting on its future but has
put the debate about going into a new peaceful mode on

The East Belfast assembly member said the organisation was
intent on "dealing with" the LVF.

Two lives have been claimed in the dispute between the
paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and Loyalist Volunteer
Force groupings.

Mr Ervine said the UVF suspected the LVF was being
controlled by the intelligence services which are
"deliberately agitating" within unionism.

He also condemned the Independent Monitoring Commission
which has recommended sanctions against his party for
failing to stop the violence.

The PUP leader dismissed the IMC as a "sick joke".

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has said he intended
to withhold the PUP's assembly allowances for another year
because of its links to the UVF and Red Hand Commando.

Mr Ervine accused the government of trying to push the
party out of politics.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/07/23 08:20:11 GMT


Border Gardai In Walk-Out Threat

By Elaine Keogh
23 July 2005

GARDAI in one of the most strategic border stations say
they will walk out at the end of this month because of
fears for their health and safety.

The 24-hour station at Dromad is on the main Dublin-Belfast
road and is just 200 feet from the border at the rear of
the building.

In recent years gardai in Dromad have been shot at and been
the target of an attempted car bombing by loyalists but it
is the construction of the EU-funded Newry to Dundalk dual
carriageway that has left them most at risk at the moment.

The gardai station, as well as land and buildings beside
it, were the subject of compulsory purchase orders to
facilitate the 14-kilometre road and for the last three
years gardai have been waiting for the Office of Public
Works to find them an alternative home.

The construction of the road is on schedule and while their
neighbours moved out they remain in the rundown and
vulnerable semi-detached building.

In April large trees and bushes which gave them natural
protection from prying eyes were cut down in advance of the
earth-movers which are due to arrive on the first of

The biggest threat is from a laneway that previously ended
forty feet away from the rear yard. Now it runs all the way
into the yard from a busy road in Jonesboro, South Armagh.
It is an area of Northern Ireland rarely if ever policed by
the PSNI.

The lane also gives access to three adjoining sheds; two of
them are in the South but the third is in the North.

"There may be a peace process but the private cars of the
gardai are constantly under attack and have been broken
into at least five times by people who can walk right up to
them when they are parked at the rear of the station," said
one source.

Just eight feet separates the building from a field from
where large rocks have been thrown at cars ? earlier this
year they smashed a patrol car windscreen

"It is open season on the gardai because now you can stand
in the North and attack the station and the property of the
state and of station members is being attacked on a weekly
basis. The security is totally inadequate," said Garda
Representative Association spokesman detective Garda
Michael O'Driscoll.

It has also emerged that if the gardai are forced to remain
where they are that they will effectively be on an island
during the peak of construction and after it will be
landlocked on three sides.

"To the south there will be large turning erected just ten
feet from the public office, to the west and just 100 feet
away will be the dual carriageway and to the east will be
what is the main road at the moment. This is a ludicrous
situation," another garda said.

The other half of the semi-detached building is the now
closed bureau de change where millions of pounds - the
proceeds of crime, mainly smuggling - were laundered. The
Garda investigation into it led to the sentencing of a
local man to five years.

The chief superintendent for the Louth/Meath division,
Michael Finnegan, said he had been "put on notice that the
members are vacating it on July 31 for health and safety


IRA Statement 'Could Emerge Soon'

There are new suggestions that a statement from the IRA on
its future could emerge soon.

The organisation has been conducting an "internal debate"
since Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams called for it to
"embrace democracy".

BBC NI security editor Brian Rowan said there were new
indications that the IRA's response could come within days.

He said he understood that discussions were continuing both
inside the IRA and between Sinn Fein and both governments.

"There was speculation that the IRA statement could come
before the marching season, it didn't, and now there are
new suggestions of a significant development within days,"
he said.

Mr Rowan said that although this meant there could be a
statement from the organisation, there was still no
certainty at this stage.

"General de Chastelain has been in Ireland for a number of
days now and it's my understanding that he intends to stay
for a while longer," he added.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/07/23 13:21:15 GMT


Dublin Pledges Peace Fund Support

The Irish government is committed to supporting an
extension of the Peace II funding programme, its European
Affairs minister has pledged.

Noel Treacy was speaking in Belfast where he met separate
delegations from the SDLP and Sinn Fein who were pressing
for more funding.

The current Peace II programme began in 2001 but runs out
next year.

It is aimed at achieving economic renewal and social
integration in areas most scarred by the Troubles.

Mr Treacy said the Special EU Programmes Body and the Peace
II programme were an "integral part of the overall peace

Budgetary discussions

Pledging the Irish government's support for a further
extension, he said he was encouraged by recent EU budgetary
discussions on the matter.

Sinn Fein MEP Bairbre de Brun said her party wanted to
secure continued support for projects between 2007 and

She said the party had held discussions with "groups
working on the ground, tackling disadvantage, the legacy of
the conflict and on conflict resolution and peace building,
often with the support of EU peace funding".

"The current Peace II extension will end next year and this
will place much of this important work at risk unless plans
for the future are made now," she added.

SDLP assembly member Patricia Lewsley said continued peace
funding was vital to consolidate the reconciliation work
done over the last decade.

"The work will have to continue for a long time, so that
future generations can create the integrated community that
we all want to see," she added.

Peace developments

Last month, EU commissioner Danuta Hubner announced
Northern Ireland would receive a further £97m in a two-year
extension of Peace II.

The extra funding followed sustained campaigning from
various groups in Europe and Northern Ireland.

Beginning in 2001, the Peace II initiative followed on from
the five-year Peace I, which distributed 500m euros. Peace
I was established in the wake of peace developments in

Peace II covers Northern Ireland as well as the border
counties in the Irish Republic.

Groups applying for Peace II grants must demonstrate their
proposals will address the legacy of the Troubles and show
how they will promote reconciliation and mutual

More than 5,300 projects have been funded by the programme.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/07/22 16:15:22 GMT


DUP 'Needs Time To Trust In SF'

It could take years before the DUP is prepared to enter
government with Sinn Fein, the party's chairman has said.

Maurice Morrow said it took years for the IRA to give up
violence so no-one should be expected to believe within a
short time it has gone away for good.

He said unionists would welcome the end of paramilitary and
criminal activity, but "we must be sure that it is real".

He asked why it was fine to have Sinn Fein in government in
NI if they were deemed unfit for office in the south.

"In the Republic of Ireland, politics is not placed on hold
until Sinn Fein are fit to take a place in government yet
we are held to ransom in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Why should we be asked to wait?"

He was speaking on Friday at the MacGill Summer School in
Glenties, County Donegal.

It was also addressed by Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin
McGuinness, SDLP leader Mark Durkan and Ulster Unionist
assembly member Alan McFarland.

'Certainties of conflict'

Mr McGuinness claimed in his speech that unionism was "more
comfortable with the certainties of conflict and division
than with the challenges of negotiations, of compromise and
of peace making".

He pointed to former UUP leader Lord Molyneaux's remark
that the 1994 IRA ceasefire was the most destablising event
since partition.

Mr Durkan told the conference that it was time to unfreeze
north-south cooperation following the suspension of

"It can deliver benefits to all of us: as consumers, as
public service users, as workers, as entrepreneurs and
investors, as service providers and as taxpayers," he said.

Mr McFarland said the DUP underwent the "fastest political
U-turn in history" when it negotiated last year's "failed
comprehensive agreement" to restore devolution with Sinn

He said "rebuilding trust and confidence within the
unionist community is essential for political progress in
Northern Ireland".

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/07/23 08:21:21 GMT


Opin: Killer Kelly Top Exhibit As New Window Opens

Eric Waugh
22 July 2005

There were two carrying the bomb into Frizzell's fish shop
on the Shankill Road in Belfast that Saturday afternoon,
October 23, 1993. Sean Kelly lived to tell the tale. His
accomplice, Thomas Begley, aged 23, drummer and flautist
with the Carrick Hill Martyrs' Band, was blown to pieces.

A caller at the Begley home in west Belfast later noticed
but one book in the room they entered, an incredibly dog-
eared copy of the account of the evil career of the
Shankill butchers, the loyalist gang in the 1970s which
specialised in the sadistic torture and murder of

Begley's father said his dead son had been reading and re-
reading the terrible tale. The young republican's funeral
was duly disfigured by scenes of the same gut hatred which
had occasioned it.

The widow of a Royal Irish Regiment soldier later was to
claim that she had recognised Begley as one of the gunmen
who had killed her husband, home on Christmas leave from
Cyprus, in the hallway of his north Belfast home, the
previous year.

Private Stephen Waller, also aged 23, was watching
Neighbours on television when the two IRA gunmen burst in,
one smirking according to his widow and each armed with an
AK-47 automatic rifle.

Twenty years before, Waller's father, Archie, was a member
of Lenny Murphy's Shankill Butchers' gang.

I recall this tortured fragment to underline just how
futile it is to expect blanket acceptance to follow any
such measure as that which provided for the early mass
release of Northern Ireland's terrorist prisoners.

Politicians, of course, spend their time fiddling with the
law for partisan purposes; but the provisions governing
prisoner release in the Belfast Agreement were asking for

It was denied they amounted to an amnesty. But that is what
they were - and are: even if the whole edifice was not
entirely unprecedented.

Terrorist killers had been getting out early since 1983. By
the time of the Agreement in 1998, 450 "lifers" were
already back on the streets. Half of those left were due to
get out by 2000 in any case, Agreement or no Agreement.

But to present the 1998 measure as a logical continuation
of what had gone before would have spoiled the political
dressing of the shop window for the terrorists,
particularly the republicans.

The challenge for Blair, in seeking to sell the Agreement
to the law-abiding majority, was to dress a second shop
window for it.

This was where he waded into mischievous shoals, lost his
footing and is still awaiting rescue.

A week before the 1998 vote on the Agreement, in a speech
at Balmoral, the Prime Minister pledged that those standing
to benefit from early release or ministerial posts would
not do so unless there was "verifiable" commitment to non-
violence, including "an end to bombings, killings and
beatings... to targeting and procurement of weapons and
dismantling of paramilitary structures: there can be no

Six days later, on the University campus at Coleraine, he
inscribed his five pledges on the whiteboard in the lecture
room in which he was speaking.

Two of them were: "Prisoners kept in unless violence given
up for good" and "Those who use or threaten violence
excluded from the Government of Northern Ireland."

On the very morning of the vote, May 22 1998, in a
newspaper article, he repeated the pledges, adding that
they would be enshrined in law and applied with progressive

("Trust me, as your Prime Minister, to deliver what the
Agreement promises.")

Of course it did not happen. The five pledges were adroitly
watered down in the legislation (the Northern Ireland
(Sentences) Act, passed on July 23, 1998) so that all
depended upon the Secretary of State's discretion.

If there was evil, republican or loyalist, he - or she -
was free not to see it, an option of which each took full

There was no assurance that the "war" was over. Beatings
went on. Bombs were laid. Arms were bought, recruits sought
and organisations maintained.

Accordingly, if many look with jaundiced eye upon the
killers who roam the streets, if as many feel even more
deeply for their victims' families, one does not have to
look further than this.

It is Sean Kelly's misfortune to be the fall guy. A third
shop window is being dressed and he, back in chains,
figuratively speaking, is exhibit number one.


Opin: Heath Ignored Lessons Of History And We've Been
Paying For It Since

By Ryle Dwyer

ARE the British learning, or is the charging of the British
soldiers with war crimes in Iraq just a cosmetic exercise?
In this country it seemed the British did not learn from
their mistakes.

Some of the British media accused former Prime Minister Ted
Heath, who died this week, of having engaged in the longest
sulk in British history. He never forgave Margaret Thatcher
for ousting him.

He seemed to be remembered more fondly as the man behind
the Sunningdale Agreement, the first real attempt to settle
the problems of Northern Ireland.

The truth is that Heath was often obstinate, rude and
obnoxious. As far as Ireland was concerned, he was a slow
learner. He ignored the lessons of history, and we have
been paying for his mistakes ever since.

Back in 1919 Michael Collins devised a plan to undermine
British rule in this country by emasculating their
intelligence system.

He considered detectives of the Dublin Metropolitan Police
to be the eyes and ears of the Dublin Castle regime, and he
believed if the republicans knocked out those detectives,
the British would retaliate blindly, hit innocent
individuals, and drive the Irish people into the arms of
the republicans.

"The sooner fighting was forced and a general state of
disorder created through the country," Collins told the
Sinn Féin executive in March 1919, "the better it would be
for the country.

Ireland was likely to get more out of a state of general
disorder than from a continuance of the situation as it
then stood. The proper people to take decisions of that
kind were ready to face the British military, and were
resolved to force the issue. And they were not to be
deterred by weaklings and cowards."

Collins was not asking his colleagues to back his plan; he
was telling them what he was going to do. "For himself he
accepted full responsibility for the announcement, and he
told the meeting with forceful candour that he held them in
no opinion at all, that, in fact, they were only summoned
to confirm what the proper people had decided. He was
certainly candour itself," Darrel Figgis noted. "For all
the hostility between us, I found something refreshing and
admirable in his contempt of us all. His brow was gathered
in a thunderous frown, and his chin thrust forward, while
he emphasised his points on the back of a chair with heavy
strokes of his hand," Figgis added.

The British retaliated against the shooting of policemen by
sacking a number of towns and villages around the country.

The blind reaction reached its nadir on Bloody Sunday,
November 21, 1920, when in reaction to the killing of 11
undercover agents and three others that morning, the
Auxiliaries raided Croke Park during a football game
between Dublin and Tipperary and fired into the crowd.
Major-General GF Boyd, the officer commanding the British
Army in Dublin, concluded that firing was both
indiscriminate and unjustifiable. Fifteen people were
killed, or fatally wounded, including a 10-year-old boy,
Jeremiah O'Leary, who was shot in the head; John Scott, a
14-year-old boy was also killed, along with Jane Boyle who
had gone to the game with her fiancée. They were due to
marry five days later.

There were ugly scenes in the House of Commons next day.
Joe Devlin, a Nationalist MP from Belfast, provoked uproar
by asking why members, upset about the deaths of the
officers in the morning, were ignoring what had happened in
Croke Park in the afternoon "Sit down!," members shouted.

"I won't sit down," Devlin replied. "I want to know from
the prime minister why the House had not been made
acquainted in this recital with the entrance of the
military into a football field of 15,000 people, the
indiscriminate shooting, and the ten men killed. Why have
we not heard of this?"

Members were on their feet shouting at Devlin to sit down.
When he said something to Major John Molson on the
Conservative bench below him, the major grabbed him around
the neck and tried to drag him into the row below. A
violent scuffle ensued as Devlin broke loose and traded
punches with government MPs.

"Kill him, kill him," members from all sides of the house
shouted. Other members rushed to break up the scuffling.
Devlin's coat was pulled off him in the struggle as two
members tried to restrain him from behind.

"This is a fine specimen of your English courage and
chivalry - to attack one man among 600," Devlin taunted his
attackers. The speaker suspended the session amid the

FEW remember those events, but many remember Bloody Sunday
in 1972 when British soldiers fired into another crowd.
They, too, claimed they were fired on that day. There was a
comparatively similar ugly scene in the House of Commons
next day when another Devlin - the diminutive Bernadette
Devlin - mauled Reginald Maudling, the Home Secretary, when
he defended the behaviour of the British troops in Derry.

Jack Lynch had tried to warn Ted Heath of the likely
consequences on the night of the killings, but Heath did
not want to know. When he did develop the good sense to
listen in the following months, it was too late. The damage
had been done; the British had driven the nationalist
people into the arms of the Provisional IRA.

This week the British announced that Col Jorge Mendonca and
six of his men will stand trial in relation to the death of
Baha Mousa, a young hotel receptionist who died while in
British custody in Basra in September 2003.

A post-mortem found strangulation marks on Mousa's body; he
also had a broken nose and three broken ribs. But instead
of being tried by the war crimes court in The Hague, the
accused are being tried by courtmartial in Britain. Why?

Members of the British security forces were charged with
crimes, even murder in Ireland in 1920s and the 1970s. For
instance, James Murphy and Paddy Kennedy were arrested on
February 9, 1921 by Auxiliaries, brought to Dublin Castle
and slapped around, before being taken to Drumcondra, put
up against a wall and shot.

The Auxiliaries said both were "trying to escape," even
though the evidence indicated their backs were to the wall.

Murphy survived long enough to make a death-bed statement
in hospital. They were not IRA members.

Three Auxiliaries were charged with murder, but they were
acquitted when the courtmartial refused to admit Murphy's
statement in evidence.

Unless the British courtmartial convicts the soldiers, it
will look like a whitewash, which will only add insult to
injury in Iraq, as it did in Ireland. That is no way to run
a system of justice. If the Blair government is serious
about tackling war crimes, the men should be tried in The
Hague, like others suspected war criminals.

Will they ever learn?

Ryle Dwyer's new book, The Squad and the Intelligence
Operations of Michael Collins, will be published next week
by Mercier Press at €12.99.


New Slice Of Life For Ormeau

By Claire Regan
23 July 2005

A WELL-known Northern Ireland property developer has
applied for planning permission to transform the landmark
Ormeau Bakery building into a residential and retail

Barry Gilligan, of the Belfast-based Cobra Estates, is
planning to turn the historic south Belfast building into
154 apartments with associated parking and ground floor
retail units.

The proposals were advertised by the Department of
Environment yesterday as part of the planning application

If successful, Mr Gilligan - who recently purchased the
former bakery from RHM Bakeries for an undisclosed sum -
hopes to regenerate the 130-year-old bakery, which has lain
empty since April 2004.

RHM bought Ormeau Bakery three years ago, but subsequently
closed the site and switched production to an existing
plant on Belfast's Apollo Road, which was already producing
Mother's Pride.

Mr Gilligan said that he was determined to retain the
building's famous red brick facade which overlooks Ormeau
Park from its location on the Ormeau Road.

"There has been a lot of local concern about what our plans
with the building may be but I want to assure the community
that we will be retaining the bakery's front. It will not
be demolished," he said.

"The bakery isn't a listed building but I will be treating
it as if it is. Our intention is to bring the building back
to life. This is an opportunity for significant
regeneration for the area.

"The development is going to add considerably to the
growing vitality of the Ormeau Road. People like the
building, and they like the history of it."

A number of new apartment buildings have sprung up on the
Ormeau Road in recent years, including the Bell Towers
development - constructed on the site of a former

Ormeau Bakery is a key part of Belfast's architectural
heritage. It was opened in 1875 by Robert Wilson and the
bakery thrived on the site for 90 years, under three
generations of the Wilson family, until Andrew Mills
acquired it in 1980.

The exterior of the building has changed little during this
time except that in the 1930s the ground floor on the
Ormeau Road contained a row of shops.


Warning As Ulster Family Falls Foul Of US Passport Rules

By Debra Douglas
23 July 2005

PASSENGERS travelling from Northern Ireland to the US were
last night urged to make sure they have valid passports
after one local family's trip was delayed by 24 hours.

The family arrived at Belfast International Airport on
Thursday for a flight to New York with Continental Airlines
but were forbidden from boarding when it emerged the
children were on the parental passports and did not have
their own.

Although the airline and the US Consul in Belfast managed
to "pull out all the stops" to get emergency visas,
allowing the family to fly out yesterday, it's a warning to
others to ensure they have correct documents.

A Continental Airlines spokesman said: "The US Government
introduced rules in October 2004 that all travellers under
the Visa Waiver Programme must have a machine-readable
passport and children cannot travel on their parents'

"The family that arrived at Belfast International Airport
had a family passport and were unable to fly, but they went
to the US Consul and got visas to enable them to fly the
following day.

"When booking flights, there is an explanation of the
requirements, and as very few people still have family
passports, it is not something that happens often."

A spokesman for the US Consul said: "It is essential that
people travelling to the US on the Visa Waiver Programme
check to ensure they are in possession of a valid machine-
readable passport. Those travelling without a machine-
readable passport must apply for a visa before travelling
to the US.

"Also, all children listed on their parent's passport must
apply for a visa regardless of whether the parent's
passport is readable or not."

There are 300,000 children in the UK who are still on
parental passports, but the number is decreasing.


The Bible belter!

Ballymena Gets Bum Rap As It's Mocked Online

By Maureen Coleman
23 July 2005

THE Co Antrim town of Ballymena has been ridiculed in the
biggest open access encyclopaedia on the internet.

Wikipedia, an on-line encyclopaedia written, edited and
maintained by its readers, currently carries about 50,000
articles, including one which features mocking references
to Ballymena.

The article states that Ballymena is considered the heart
of Northern Ireland's Bible Belt equivalent, but also has
the worst per capita heroin problem in Europe.

In a satirical comment about two of the town's
disadvantaged housing estates, it reads: "It (Ballymena) is
famous for having two of Europe's best kept housing

"Overseas visitors are urged to visit the green and gentle
pastures of the Doury Road and Ballykeel."

The entry says of the town's drugs problem: "This is
largely due to the pervasive influence in the town of
unionist paramilitary groups who raise most of their funds
through the heroin trade."

The article also contains a history of the town right up to
the present day, with references to actor Liam Neeson and
the DUP leader Ian Paisley.

The entry highlights that anyone can edit Wikipedia.

Opponents claim it is not properly controlled and therefore
cannot work, while supporters say it is informative and

Encyclopaedia Britannica's executive editor Ted Pappas
said: "The premise of Wikipedia is that continuous
improvement will lead to perfection. That premise is
completely unproven."

The Mayor of Ballymena Tommy Nicholl has dismissed the
suggestion that the town was the heroin capital of Europe
as "ludicrous and not true".

"Certainly this town has its problems but for a start, it
is not the heroin capital, that's just ludicrous," he said.

"The people from both sides of the community work well
together and socialise together, and I've no idea why
somebody would want stir up trouble by writing this.

"We're doing all we can to help those caught up in drugs,
but nine times out of 10, dealers aren't even from
Ballymena. Why doesn't whoever wrote this highlight good
things about Ballymena?"


Shell Accused Of Breaching Terms Of Corrib Construction

23/07/2005 - 13:30:16

Noel Dempsey, the Natural Resources Minister, has accused
the company behind the controversial gas pipeline in Co
Mayo of breaching the consents given to it to carry out
work at the site in Ballinaboy.

A letter sent to the chairman of Shell Ireland today, on
behalf of Noel Dempsey, says that works, including the
welding of parts of the pipeline, represent what he calls
"a departure from the terms'"issued to the company.

Shell has been preparing to build a €300m gas terminal at

The letter follows a visit to the site by officials from
the Department this week.

Mr Dempsey says the breaches are "very serious" and has
called on Shell to respond immediately.


Books: Lack Of Understanding Is Blatantly Evident . . .

Northern Protestants - An Unsettled People by Susan McKay,
Blackstaff, £12.99

By Steven King
23 July 2005

THIS must be one of the most successful and influential
books published about present-day Ulster. First released in
May 2000, it has been reprinted six times.

If you are one of the select few who has not read it yet,
you should know that the first updated edition, just
issued, sports a new cover and contains a fresh
introduction, written in the light of this year's election

The latter revision adds little to the work and appears
rather hastily put together. Anyone so frequently asserted
to be an authority on her subject who believes that there
is a 'Carlton Street' Orange Hall in Portadown - as opposed
to Carleton Street - should be a little sheepish.

McKay, a Derry-born Protestant who has lived in Dublin for
many years, interviewed over 60 Protestants for the book.
Unfortunately for her - and for her readers - she somehow
failed to find anyone to talk to that you would want to
spend 10 minutes with.

The ones she liked - mainly the liberal intelligentia -
were either smug, or guilty. There were the loopers, the
bigots and the religious maniacs, from whom anyone sensible
would stay well away. And the few ordinary, well-adjusted
people came across as unappetisingly dreary and parochial.

That is not necessarily the interviewees' fault: in the
course of her research, McKay spoke at length to several
individuals I know, and in every case presented them in the
worst possible light. Perhaps they were just having off
days, or is it McKay who is having an off decade?

Where are all those wonderful people I know in the Northern
Ireland Protestant community, with whom I have wonderful
conversations and countless laughs? Invisible to McKay,
that's for sure - even when they're sitting in front of

Some of the interviews, in fairness, are genuinely
sensitive: one with a woman in Portadown left widowed by
the IRA comes to mind. Most, however, unless the subject
denounces unionism, border on the sneering - crude attempts
to kick people when they are down.

The interviews are commonly interspersed with
unreconstructed historical commentary. The hoary old
chestnut about Craig proclaiming: "We are a Protestant
Parliament and a Protestant state" is trotted out without
mention of De Valera's boast that Ireland was a Catholic
nation and always had been.

IRA involvement in Civil Rights agitation is dismissed as a
"conspiracy theory" when, though not at the forefront in
the initial stages, the IRA had been mobilising and
weapons- testing in the mid-60s in preparation for a new

There are the sins of commission and the sins of omission.
Collusion between the security forces and loyalist
paramilitaries is regularly alluded to without any
reference to Garda/IRA collusion. That many nationalists
opposed the MacBride Principles is forgotten. Catholics in
Portadown being "beaten", "flung", "bruised" and "bloody-
headed" by the security forces is graphically recalled
without any mention of similar treatment being meted out to

Exception is also taken to Tom Paulin's hardly unorthodox
assertion that the IRA campaign of the last 30 years was
out of all proportion to the discrimination and
gerrymandering of the Stormont era.

While McKay distances herself from unionist assertions -
that Martin McGuinness was on the IRA Army Council, that
discriminatory practices disadvantaged working-class
Protestants as well as Catholics, that there are 'two
tribes' in Ireland - she is a little eager to exculpate the
IRA from blame at times. Apparently, loyalists used throat-
slitting more than the IRA.

So what? That republicans killed twice as often as
loyalists is left out.

People might have "well-founded objections" to unionism and
Catholics might have "reasons" to be bitter, according to
McKay - and, of course, she is right - but objections to
nationalism or Protestant bitterness are never so

Frequently, reference is made to people being "killed" by
the IRA, whereas the IRA men shot by the SAS in Loughgall
were "murdered".

If this criticism of McKay's book seems ceaseless, it is
because 'Northern Protestants' is ceaseless in its
denigration of unionists.

While it doesn't do to underestimate some Protestants'
sectarianism and bloody-mindedness, no crime is too trivial
to escape McKay's humourless gaze.

In the space of two pages, McKay describes cows milling
about and Orangemen milling about. Pretty unsubtle.

Giving community relations money to the Orange Order is
"controversial". Unionist attempts to maintain Partition
are an "obsession". Majority Protestant villages are
"hard". The atmosphere at the annual burning of the Lundy
in Derry City is "debauched". Majority-unionist councils
are "dominated"; nationalist councils are merely "run". And
so it goes on.

In her final paragraph, McKay claims Protestants have "much
to be proud of". On the evidence she presents, I'm left
wondering what on earth it could be.

I can only conclude that if you write a book about
Protestants in a vacuum, the result is bound to be vacuous.

You don't understand a community by interviewing people
here and there for a couple of hours. You have to spend
enough time with them to achieve a level of intimacy and
trust and form deep friendships. But then, to do that, you
need to like the community you are learning about. Susan
McKay doesn't - and it shows.


A Past Apart: Studies In The History Of Catholic Belfast

Hepburn, A. C.

Studies in the history of Catholic Belfast, 1850-1950. The
book examines the ethnic minority in the Irish context and
compares the experience with others.

Like ethnic minorities in other divided cities, the history
of Belfast Catholic community is quite distinct from that
of the local majority. A Past Apart is the first book to
focus directly on that history. It explains how Belfast
Catholics came to feel that they had more in common with
their co-religionists in the South that their neighbours in
what was, by 1900, the fastest-growing City in the British

On a broader front, the experience of Belfast Catholics is
compared with those in Glasgow, and with an intriguing
variety of European and American examples. The conflict
that arose between nationalists and the Catholic Church,
and the political role of the Ancient Order of Hiberians,
are assessed. And, of course, the almost traditional
rioting for which Belfast became notorious, exemplified in
the fierce riots of 1935, is described and analysed.

Other chapters use demographic and statistical evidence of
residential and job segregation based on research already
described by one of the Ireland's foremost historians, D.
H. Akenson, as "ground breaking". The first chapter
considers how social and economic change has affected that
conflict in the past and it likely impact on the future.
This book will inform a general as well as an academic
readership and will contribute to a more meaningful
understanding for both the major traditions in trouble-torn
Belfast of how they came to share.

Published: 1996
Pages: 260 ISBN: 0901905755
$ 20.95
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?