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 14, 2006

Talk and Walk Go Hand-In-Hand: Adams

News About Ireland & The Irish

DI 07/14/06 Talk And Walk Go Hand-In-Hand: Adams
DI 07/14/06 Paisley ‘Rant’ Damaged Chances Of Any Progress
DI 07/14/06 Video Nasty
BT 07/14/06 Hunger Strike Sports Shirts Spark Fury
DI 07/14/06 UDA Statement On Its Future Expected Soon
DI 07/14/06 Opin: Ofcom Welcomes Targeting Of Community Workers
DI 07/14/06 Opin: Twelfth Virgin Gets A Noseful
IN 07/14/06 Opin: DUP Is The Thorn In The Side Of The GFA
IN 07/14/06 Opin: AOH - It’s A Brave New World
BB 07/14/06 Poet Nominated For Forward Prize


Talk And Walk Go Hand-In-Hand: Adams

Sinn Féin leader says dialogue is the key to peaceful
future Twelfth parades

By Mick Hall

Talking and walking should go hand in hand when it comes
to Orange Order parades, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams
said yesterday.

Mr Adams welcomed the largely peaceful Twelfth parades in
the North this week.

However, he stressed that dialogue between Orange Order
leaders and nationalist communities was vital to ensure a
similar outcome in future.

“Sinn Féin’s goal is to ensure a peaceful Orange marching
season. Forcing triumphalist Orange parades through
nationalist areas is wrong. That is the lesson of
yesterday’s successful outcomes. Dialogue works,” he said.

Mr Adams praised the efforts of nationalist residents and
republican activists in ensuring peaceful outcomes to
parades in a number of contentious areas on Wednesday.

He said there were also a number of “very worrying trends”
this year in relation to the parades.

“These include the role of the Parades Commission, which
has shown a very clear political bias in relation to key

“Their decision to force contentious parades through
nationalist areas put a huge strain on local communities
and the political process.

“There were also a series of unacceptable sectarian
incidents, including the erection of a flag in the
Ballymena area referring to Michael McIlveen, a young
Catholic man killed in a sectarian attack only two months

“Orange bonfires across the North burned images of the 1981
hunger strikers, Sinn Féin representatives and banners with
slogans such as ‘Kill all taigs’.

“And on Wednesday night on the Ormeau Bridge, members of
the Orange Order, wearing sashes, held up five-finger
salutes to mock the five people murdered by loyalists in
Graham’s bookie’s on the Ormeau Road in 1992.

“The silence of unionist political leaders in relation to
the majority of these incidents speaks volumes.

“In contrast, Sinn Féin has proactively condemned attacks
on Orange Order property.

“Such attacks are totally wrong. Sectarianism from whatever
quarter is unacceptable and plays into the hands of the
bigots,” said Mr Adams.

The DUP’s Gregory Campbell insisted his party had been
involved behind the scenes for a number of years in trying
to ensure a peaceful parading season took place.

“While republicans have been creating the difficulties, we
have been trying to resolve them so any criticism from that
quarter will be treated with contempt.”

Mr Campbell also rejected Mr Adams claims that unionist
leaders had remained quiet about a number of disturbing
sectarian incidents over the past few days.

The DUP MP said his colleague, Ballymena councillor Tommy
Nicholl had condemned those behind the insults to the
McIlveen family.

“We not only condemn this but over the past 35 years we
have asked people to give any information they have to the
police so the perpetrators can be brought before the courts
and dealt with properly so justice can be seen to be done,”
he said.

“That approach is in very stark contrast to the approach
from Gerry Adams and those in Sinn Fein can’t bring
themselves to condemn some incidents and can’t go the
second mile and say that information should be given to the

The SDLP has claimed that east Derry and south Belfast are
the worst area for illegally erected flags in the run-up to
the Twelfth parades.

The party last week launched a Flag Watch section on its
website to monitor the erect of flags throughout the North.

East Derry SDLP assembly member John Dallat said the
response to the initiative had been excellent and provided
useful information.

“This demonstrates that the public are sick, sore and tired
of the ‘theme parks’ of flags that dominated several parts
of the North during the Twelfth, rubbishing any claim that
the Twelfth could be construed as a tourist attraction
rivalling Bastille Day or other international events.”


Paisley ‘Rant’ Damaged Chances Of Any Progress


Democratic Unionist leader the Reverend Ian Paisley was
yesterday accused of harming the prospects of political
progress at Stormont after he said Sinn Féin would be in
government over loyalists’ dead bodies.

In a hard-hitting speech to members of the Independent
Orange Order in Portrush, Co Antrim, the DUP leader said:
“Compromise, accommodation and the least surrender are the
roads to final and irreversible disaster.

“There can be no compromise.”

The north Antrim MP insisted there could be no
accommodation or surrender.

On the issue of power-sharing with what he called IRA/Sinn
Fein, he said: “It will be over our dead bodies.

“Ulster has surely learned that weak, pushover unionism is
a halfway house to republicanism.”

His comments were criticised by Sinn Fein leader Gerry
Adams and by senior nationalist SDLP negotiator Sean

Mr Adams said the DUP leader’s remarks were offensive.

“Can anybody really be surprised?” the West Belfast MP

“They are a challenge, not to us, but to the two
governments and a challenge particularly to the British

“What Ian Paisley has in common with us is we have

“We respect his and he should respect ours.”

With British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern insisting that the North’s Assembly members must
agree to power-sharing by a deadline of November 24, Mr
Farren warned the speech may have damaged any progress
being made at Stormont.

“This rant by Paisley, and there is no other name for it,
is the politics of the roadblock once again,” the north
Antrim SDLP Assembly member said.

“Phrases like ‘over our dead bodies’ simply set everyone
back, including the elements in the DUP that are plainly
keen to see devolved government within some sort of
reasonable timetable.

“It is ultimately for the electorate and not Ian Paisley to
decide who is fit for government.

“Let us hope that when the Twelfth is behind us once more,
when the annual rush of blood to the head has worn off,
wiser counsels will prevail once more in the DUP.”


Video Nasty

EXCLUSIVE: Footage mocks murder victim

By Connla Young

A sick video has been made mocking the brutal sectarian
murder of a 15-year-old boy in Co Antrim earlier this year.
The video shows footage of Michael McIlveen standing with
friends and is subtitled with the words “Fuck Micky Bo”.
The teenager was nicknamed Mickybo.

Michael McIlveen died on May 8, a day after being attacked
and beaten by a group of people armed with baseball bats in

One section of the video shows a still picture of the
teenager with the subtitled words: “Murder inquiry: please
contact someone who gives a Fuck — Three kicks to the head
and I was dead hi ho hi ho — Fuck Micky Bo.”

The words “Who killed Micky Bo” are followed by images
associated with the Ulster Defence Association.

The video has been distributed around Ballymena via mobile
phone. It contains scenes of a floral tribute laid outside
the teenager’s home in the days after his death.

A man wearing a soccer jersey with the words “Fuck Micky
Bo” emblazoned on the back features at the beginning of the

One obscenity-riddled line in the loyalist song
accompanying the footage of the murdered teenager states:
“I’d hate to be a Fenian because they’re bastards and
they’re sly. They are all dirty fat fuckers and they are
two-faced slimy c**ts. They should be burnt out and sent to
Dublin to spend their fucking punts.”

Details of the sick film came to light after it had been
sent to a Protestant friend of the dead teenager.

The emergence of the video came just days after loyalists
had placed a Tricolour bearing the words “Fuck Mickey Bo”
on an 11th night bonfire in Ahoghill, near Ballymena.

North Antrim assembly member Philip McGuigan yesterday said
he was shocked at the mentality of those who had made the

“It goes against the boundaries of all decency,” he said.

“This young person was killed because he was a Catholic.
There is no other reason or justification.

“This kind of moronic behaviour can only be described in
those terms.

“These people are glorifying the death of a 15-year-old by
the sentiments they expressed around the 12th of July in

“This depth of behaviour would not have been seen in the
southern states of America by the worst elements of the Ku
Klux Klan.

“There’s no thought for a grieving family or community

“I would like to see the same elements who castigated Mary
McAleese after she made her ‘Nazi’ remarks to explain the
contents of this video.

“What this shows is there’s a sizable element in the
Protestant community who are anti-Catholic.”

Tommy Nicholl, the former Democratic Unionist Ballymena
mayor who visited the McIlveen family in the wake of
Michael’s death, has called for the PSNI to investigate the

“It’s disgusting. It’s the first time I have heard about it
but, if it’s circulating, it’s about time the police did
something about it and removed the images from circulation.

“This is something no one from the unionist community would
be in favour of at all.

“Unionist people want to live in peace with their
neighbours, and that was a theme I promoted when I was

“There is no hope for this country if people are festering
that sort of hatred.

“The majority of Protestant people are not anti-Catholic.
The majority of people in the Protestant community believe
in civil and religious liberty for all.

“That’s what the Twelfth is about. It’s not about one
section of the community lording over another.”


Hunger Strike Sports Shirts Spark Fury

By Lisa Smyth
14 July 2006

Controversial GAA-style shirts designed to commemorate the
hunger strikers should be removed from sale in the
interests of community harmony, a DUP MP claimed last

The official supplier of GAA shirts, O'Neill's, has
launched a commemorative jersey to mark the 25th
anniversary of the campaign which led to the deaths of 10
republican prisoners.

The jerseys are currently available to buy in O'Neill's
west Belfast shop on the Anderstown Road.

However, Jeffrey Donaldson called for the immediate
withdrawal of the shirts from sale and said he was
extremely disappointed that O'Neill's have produced a shirt
which has the potential to prompt violence.

"These shirts create a direct link with the IRA and their
murder campaign over the last 30 years," he said.

"What kind of signal does that send out to the unionist

Mr Donaldson said commemorative plaques to the hunger
strikers at various locations throughout Northern Ireland
had been vandalised and he feared that there could be
violence if people wear the commemorative shirts in public.

"The hunger strikers were, and continue to be,
controversial figures who were members of an illegal
terrorist organisation and I don't think it does O'Neill's
any good to join in on the glorification of terrorism in
any way," he said.

A GAA spokesman refused to be drawn on the matter but
stressed that the jerseys were not in any way connected to
the sporting organisation.

He explained: "They are not GAA jerseys and the GAA is not
associated with the jerseys on any official basis so it
isn't for us to make comment.

"What I would say, though, is that people have the right of
freedom of expression."

No-one was available from O'Neill's to comment on the


UDA Statement On Its Future Expected Soon

By Ciarán Barnes

The largest loyalist paramilitary organisation in the
North may make an announcement next week about its future,
it was claimed last night.

According to loyalist sources, the Ulster Defence
Association is expected to make a public statement next

The exact details are not known but it is understood the
statement may outline the UDA’s future amid mounting
pressure on loyalist paramilitaries to move away from

Speculation about the expected statement emerged last night
as members of a group aligned to the UDA met Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern in Dublin.

Mr Ahern held talks at Goverment Buildings with the Ulster
Political Research Group, which provides political analysis
to the UDA.

The delegation arrived in a red minibus with blacked-out
windows and heavy Garda security amid speculation that the
group contained senior UDA figures.

Afterwards, Mr Ahern described the meeting as “positive and

He said the UPRG delegation had briefed him on the group’s
conflict transformation initiative in loyalist areas.

Mr Ahern said he welcomed ongoing efforts to bring about
genuine transformation within loyalism.

“The goal is the restoration of the assembly and executive
by November 24. This is achievable if the will is there to
do so,” he said.

“If this is not achieved, the two governments will together
move forward with the implementation of the [Good Friday]

“The two governments’ purpose is to protect the benefits of
the Agreement, and loyalism has nothing to fear in this.

“I would reiterate that the constitutional position was
settled by the Agreement.

“Relationships have been twisted and blighted on this
island for far too long, and everyone has to make an effort
to get it right for the future and, in this context, the
message of the government was one of partnership, fairness
and friendship.

UPRG spokesman David Nicholl said the delegation members
had told the taoiseach they would work to convince their
community there would be no sell-out in the Northern
political process.

Mr Nicholl also insisted that loyalist paramilitaries would
not spill blood on any behalf of other unionist political

He said: “We told the taoiseach that we would work within
our particular constituency of loyalism to keep the calm,
to persuade people there is no sell-out plan — that there
is no betrayal, that there will be no imposition of any
further agreement.

“There is one agreement. People must sign up to it.”

Mr Nicholl said the onus now lay on republicanism and Sinn
Féin to convince the unionist people of the North that they
had abandoned “criminality” once and for all.

He said the statement by Ian Paisley that the Democratic
Unionist Party leader would never share power with Sinn
Fein should be viewed in the light that Mr Paisley was
addressing Orangemen at the time.

“It is the same rhetoric we have heard as loyalists for the
past 35 years. What we would say in relation to that is we
have marched up the hill many’s a time and we have been let
down many’s a time,” he said.

“But loyalism is not going to fill the grave or fill
prisons for the next 35 years on no one’s behalf. If there
is blood to be spilled, then let Dr Paisley spill his own
blood because it will not be our bodies he is climbing


Opin: ‘It’s Just My Guess, But I Don’t Think Ofcom Welcomes
The Sectarian Targeting Of Vulnerable Community Workers’

Here’s The Thing by Robin Livingstone


So there I am, driving an American friend around the city
on the July 11, showing her some of the cultural wonders of
the Orange world. Where to start? That was the question.

The fun began as soon as we hung a right onto the Shankill
Road from Lanark Link, the featureless stretch of road that
divides the loyalist heartland from the nationalist
Springfield Road. On a lamppost, a standard paid tribute to
Orangeman man Brian Robinson who was shot dead in 1989.
Brian’s lodge was Old Boyne Island Heroes and at his
funeral eight collarette-wearing brethren flanked the
coffin. It was a moving sight, although possibly not for
the family of the innocent Catholic that UVF man Brian shot
eleven times before he himself was sent to the great Orange
Arch in the sky by an undercover British army unit.

They’ve got plenty of pubs and clubs on the Shankill, I’ll
say that fo them. From every packed watering hole, crowds
spilled on to the beer can-littered streets, hungrily
knocking back the drink ahead of the lighting of the
bonfire at 11pm. This was at 2pm. I’d say they were
probably going to peak too early.

From every gable wall terrifying balaclava-clad gunmen
glared down and from the lampposts flew all manner of
flags, union jacks, Ulster flags, UDA flags, UFF flags and,
scariest of all, the Northern Ireland soccer team ‘Our Wee
Country’ flag. The towering bonfire was devoid of
controversial symbolism, there was just a green primary one
standard drawing of the Carlsberg logo atop the slogan ‘If
Carlsberg did bonfires this would be it’.

The names of the hunger strikers would come later in the

Plenty more flags on display outside the offices of
Shankill FM, the community radio station which is granted a
summer licence by the broadcast regulator Ofcom. Now I
don’t know much about Ofcom regulations, but I’m pretty
sure they might have something to say about Shankill FM’s
playlist, on which party tunes are not ‘Club Tropicana’ or
‘The Macarena’, but rather more tuneless celebrations of
Protestant culture. The most popular this year by far was
‘King Billy’s on the Wall’, not so much a tribute to the
gay guy on the white horse as a fingers-up to the Catholic
Church and nationalist residents’ groups.

“There are slogans painted in red, white and blue.
“They tell the Pope where he can go and what he can do.
“There’s one for Gerard Rice and that’s a different class.
“Go take the Lower Ormeau Road and stick it up your ass.”

My gut feeling is that this isn’t the kind of ‘community
radio’ that Ofcom had in mind when it gave Shankill FM its
licence. I could well be wrong on that and there may well
be a subsection in the relevant legislation that reads
“Ofcom welcomes the sectarian targeting of vulnerable
community workers by licence-holders”, or something to that
effect, but I’ll stick by my initial assessment that the
aforementioned Mr Rice may get some satisfaction when he
complains to Ofcom, as he’s about to do. Spoilsport.

Leaving the Shankill, my favourite bonfire was just five
minutes away, on the Crumlin Road. On a sharp blind bend,
the bonfire had taken up fully half of the road, forcing
country-bound motorists to take to the other side of the
road. On a large wooden board in blue paint was scrawled
‘KAT’ which, if I’m not mistaken is an exhortation to
murder persons of the Pope’s persuasion. When I pulled out
on to the wrong side of the road an oncoming lorry honked a
deafening honk and I swerved just in time to see eight six-
foot wheels whizzing by my head. Clearly the Prods have
decided that killing all taigs is best done in time of
peace by manufacturing road traffic accidents instead of
using knives and guns. Trouble is, in an area like that,
for every one they get like me, they’ll get ten of their
own. It’s entirely possible, of course, that the blokes on
the bonfire would consider that a reasonable trade.

As I checked the moisture level of the seat and reversed
off the pavement, it occurred to me that not only is
putting a bonfire in the middle of a blind bend on a public
highway a health and safety issue, it has to be well…
illegal. Doesn’t it? I’d be willing to wager that if I
stood in the middle of the Falls Road tomorrow stacking
tyres up on the bad bend at St Louise’s, passing white Land
Rovers would in all likelihood take an active interest. So
I called the Trevors and asked them what the hell was going

Here’s what they had to say: “PSNI will fully investigate
any complaints in relation to breach of the peace or any
allegations of law-breaking in relation to 11th Night
celebrations. The community and other agencies as well as
the police have a duty of care to ensure the safety of
those involved, affected by the celebrations.

“To this end, if police believe a bonfire may have an
unsafe impact, they liaise with community representatives
to ensure the moving of the bonfire to a safer distance, or
indeed its removal.”

Which sounds quite impressive, but in reality all of this
has about as much substance as a Twelfth field Cornish

Promising to investigate complaints about the bonfire
doesn’t quite cover up the trifling matter of the PSNI
having watched the yahoos build it.

Driver: ‘Sarge, there’s a mob putting a massive stack of
tyres and wood in the middle of the road.’

Sarge: ‘Come on, Sammy, it’s the Twelfth. Where’s your
sense of pride an identity?’

Driver: ‘It’s got a big KAT sign on it as well. They told
me in college that trying to get people killed is a crime.’

Sarge: ‘It’s not as simple as that, Sammy. Sometimes
sensitive policing requires… Jesus Christ, Sammy, watch
that bus!’

Sammy: ‘What are we going to do, Sarge?’

Sarge: ‘You honk, I’ll wave.’

While that community liaison stuff sounds quite impressive,
can it really be the case that a bonfire in the middle of
the road wasn’t worth a phone call?

At least this year there were no paramilitary petrol
stations. Three years ago the Andersonstown News did a
story about a petrol station in Belfast which had changed
the price of a litre of unleaded petrol from 69p to UFF.

Don’t ask me what that is in Euros.


Opin: Twelfth Virgin Gets A Noseful

Beer and urine aplenty at this year’s ‘Orangefest’

Dónall Mac Giolla Chóill

I could well say that I was an innocent abroad, if I could
somehow cover over the fact that I was not abroad, merely
on the other side of this province of ours, but the claim
to innocence I will stand by.

I have a feeling that I was the only person on this island
who willingly travelled across the nine counties, forsaking
Donegal for Belfast for the Twelfth week. It should have
caused more concern in me than it did that everyone else
was heading west and south, out of Belfast, and that the
bus was virtually empty on Sunday, but as I have said,
innocent, and sometimes a note wrapped around a brick and
sent through a window is the only way to get my attention
to focus on a fact which is plainly and painfully obvious
to everyone else.

So here I am, of my own free will and volition, travelling
to Belfast, going against the flow of the mass exodus which
is high-tailing it out for the week, for the holidays, for
the glorious Twelfth.

Under the proper circumstances, innocence doesn’t last

I decided on Wednesday after work to take myself down to
the centre of town, to observe in an analytical and removed
way this thing they call the Twelfth, to see the parades
and to take in some of the local ‘colour’.

I had never up until now experienced a Twelfth march, and
doubt that I ever will again. Being a native Gaelic-
speaking Roman Catholic from a Fianna Fáil heartland that
is northwest Donegal, Protestants are something of an
underdeveloped theory, with some living in Bunbeg, but
usually not too visible.

I personally don’t ascribe to the theory that you can tell
what religion a person is by looking at them, or at least
didn’t until last Wednesday. After experiencing my first
Orange march, I have had to re-evaluate many long-held

Perhaps if I had believed that people could ascertain your
religious background on sight, I would have thought twice
about going down to the town on the Twelfth. I’m sure that,
despite myself, I must have given off a nervous vibe, but
then again I kept telling myself that people really
couldn’t tell.

Though I have to admit that I did get some strange glances
cast in my direction by beer-swilling, cropped-haired,
Union Flag-clad youths – and that was just the girls.

I walked alongside one of the bands, purely coincidentally,
for they were travelling in the same direction as myself.

Does this, I ask myself, mean that I actually marched?

There has been a lot said and written over the past few
weeks about Orangefest and the attempts to portray this day
as a family orientated celebration of heritage and culture.

On Wednesday I got a taste, and a smell of that heritage
and culture. The olfactory assault that is the Twelfth of
July, with beer being drunk on streets under signs which
stipulate in the Queen’s English that drinking on the
streets is illegal, and the ingenious use of side streets
and entries as public makeshift urinals, given the warm
evening was, to say the least, overpowering.

Dónall Mac Giolla Chóill is a journalist with Irish
language newspaper Lá.


Opin: DUP Is The Thorn In The Side Of The GFA

The Thursday Column
By Staff Reporter Jim Gibney

There could be, in the morning, a functioning all-Ireland
Ministerial Council planning the future for all the people
of this island, a power-sharing executive planning the
future for all the people of the six counties, an assembly
debating the issues which are affecting people’s lives and
deciding what to do about them and an east-west structure
dealing with issues of relevance to the people of both
these islands.

The reason these institutions do not exist is very simple
and uncomplicated. The DUP are refusing to share power with
republicans and nationalists.

They and they alone are blocking the setting up of the
above interlocking and interdependent institutions agreed
in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

For the last six weeks Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance
parties have tried to create the conditions at the Stormont
talks which would see these institutions established.

They were blocked at every stage by the intransigence of
the DUP. The DUP refused to vote for a first and deputy
first minister.

Under the terms of the GFA a special voting mechanism
exists to form the executive. This can only come about when
there is majority consent among those nationalist and
unionist parties elected to the assembly.

This voting procedure is designed to prevent a return to
unionist majority rule and to protect minority parties.

The DUP are abusing this protective measure to prevent
progress taking place.

The British and Irish governments thus far have supported
the DUP’s stance. They failed to take any decisive action
to confront them.

The two governments instead of leading the negotiations
effectively abandoned the talks process and allowed the DUP
to set the pace.

The six month timetable set out by the two governments to
restore the institutions was bound to act as a green light
to the obstructionist DUP. They have a legislative licence
to filibuster their way through to the November 24

When the Hain assembly was set up six weeks ago Sinn Fein
stated its participation would be governed by the
assembly’s ability to elect a first and deputy first

That is why Gerry Adams moved within days of the Hain
Assembly meeting to nominate Ian Paisley senior and Martin
McGuinness as first and deputy first ministers.

He was testing the DUP’s commitment to sharing power. Their
reaction to Sinn Fein’s proposal confirmed the widespread
belief that the DUP have no intention of participating in
an administration with republicans. The question is will
they ever?

The Hain assembly has no relevance to the GFA. It is the

brainchild of the British secretary of state and has no
powers whatsoever. He decides when the Assembly should
meet. He decides the issues the MLAs should debate. He
decides what to do with any decision arising from a debate.
The assembly is little more than a glorified and expensive
talking shop.

At the start of its life the leaders of all the parties
said they would not be involved in a charade.

Yet one by one, with the exception of Sinn Fein, that is
precisely what the parties involved themselves in over the
last six weeks.

They held plenary sessions and debated issues which they
knew in advance they were powerless to effect. The assembly
gatherings were akin to a sixth form debating society,
without the youthful passion, with the end of term debate
the most absurd of all.

Last Friday the practically empty chamber, boycotted by
Sinn Fein and ignored by many other MLAs, heard the leaders
of the SDLP, Alliance and DUP use words like, ‘farce’,
‘phoney’ and ‘ridiculous’ to describe their presence at
their own sought after debate. How demeaning is that?

What is going on in the heads of these party leaders that
prevents them from seeing what many people see: their
participation in a circus with ringmaster Hain sitting
smugly in London?

This spectacle is undermining the public’s confidence in
politics and politicians and should not be repeated come

If the DUP continue with their blocking tactics then the
two governments should immediately pull the shutters down
on the assembly and speedily move on to plan B, formal
joint authority of the six counties.


Opin: AOH - It’s A Brave New World

Letter From America
Ray O’Hanlon

While the United States of America marked 230 years last
week, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) notched up a
highly respectable 170.

A day after the Fourth of July, Hibernians from all corners
of the United States gathered in a Boston hotel for their
biennial national convention.

Over five days, the Hibernians talked, debated, prayed and
talked some more. They also had a good time.

In a world obsessed with youth, primarily as a target for
product marketing, it is unlikely that anyone starting up a
group today, even a fraternal religious and charitable one,
would choose ‘ancient’ as the first word in the name.

Then again, the ancient Hibernians have long outlasted the
Young Ireland Association of similar historical vintage, so
perhaps there is more to enduring the passage of time,
taste and fads than the marketing gurus might lead us to

The Hibernians came into being in 1836, an earlier hard
time for Irish immigrants in America.

The Irish were pilloried for their Catholicism as much as
their ethnic origin and not infrequently suffered violent
assault from nativists and know nothings in cities such as
New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

The Hibernians then, in their very early days, were agents
of defensive retaliation formed together in secret cells
that would most obviously manifest themselves in brutal
street brawls, often outside the doors of Catholic churches
singled out for arson and attack.

Over the decades, the story of the Hibernians has walked in
lockstep with the broader narrative of the Irish in

From its troubled founding days, the Hibernians grew in
size and geographical spread to the point that in 2006, the
AOH has divisions – the title it bestows on its branches –
in 30 of the 50 states and in Washington DC.

Though many think of the Hibernians mostly in religious and
charitable terms, the group’s work has a distinctly
political bent.

And members populate both of America’s main political
camps, Democratic and Republican.

Peace and unity on the island of Ireland form the central,
bipartisan core of the AOH political credo and this has
drawn the organisation into a number of issues that have
captivated the minds of Irish-Americans in recent times.

“I’m pleased with what we have accomplished. We have become
stronger in our opinions, stronger on the north,” said Ned
McGinley, the outgoing AOH national president, of the
order’s work during his just concluded four-year term.

“We have had a positive influence on all parties to the
peace process,” McGinley, who served as 34th national
president, said.

He sees the AOH as both “thriving” and “growing” and having
a positive influence in Irish-America.

There’s no doubting the influence. Hibernians tend to be
church-going, mortgage-holding active voters, the sort of
people that politicians pay close attention to. One such is
Congressman Richard Neal, recipient at last week’s
convention of the biggest award that the Hibernians can
bestow, the John F Kennedy Memorial Medal.

In winning the JFK medal, Neal, a Democrat and co-chair of
the Congressional ad hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, joins
a recipient list that includes the late Cardinal John
O’Connor of New York, John Hume, Gerry Adams and Fr Aidan

Hibernian political activity, if anything, is likely to
increase in the years ahead.

Ned McGinley’s successor as national president, Jack Meehan
of Massachusetts, is known for his particular interest in
advancing the cause of the Irish language and also US
immigration reform.

And he is unlikely to diverge too sharply from the
political line taken by Pennsylvania’s McGinley and as
exemplified in a recent statement on the latest state of
political play at Stormont.

“If the present efforts to form a devolved government
founder on the reef of Democratic Unionist Party political
intransigence, then the Republic of Ireland and the United
Kingdom must truly embrace joint stewardship as the most
democratic method to move the process forward,” the
statement, posted on the AOH website, argued.

“It is time for this macabre dance to end and for real
democracy, with the accompanying political dialogue and
democracy, to come to the six counties.”

As it has with just about every form of human activity, the
internet has profoundly changed the way in which the
Hibernians go about their business.

Thousands of members strung across a continent now chat to
each other on every conceivable subject from Northern
Ireland politics to the latest Irish culinary delights.

It is a brave new world indeed for an organisation that
doesn’t mind being called ancient.


Poet Nominated For Forward Prize

Northern Ireland poet Seamus Heaney has been nominated for
a prestigious poetry award.

The Nobel Prize winner is among six other contenders vying
for this year's Forward prize for poetry.

The County Londonderry poet's nomination is based on his
12th collection, District and Circle.

The other nominees include newcomer Kate Bingham for
Quicksand Beach; Paul Farley for Tramps in Flames and Vicki
Feaver for The Book of Blood.

Robin Robertson was also nominated for Swithering and
Penelope Shuttle for Redgrove's Wife.

Bingham is a former teacher nominated for only her second

Shuttle's work is a lament and celebration of the life of
her husband, fellow poet Peter Redgrove, who died in 2003.

The winner of the £10,000 prize for best collection will be
announced in October.

The shortlists for two other awards were also unveiled on
Friday - best first collection and best single poem.

Full List of Nominees

Forward Prize for Best Collection (worth £10,000)
Kate Bingham - Quicksand beach
Paul Farley - Tramp in Flames
Vicki Feaver - The Book of Blood
Seamus Heaney - District and Circle
Robin Robertson - Swithering
Penelope Shuttle - Redgrove's Wife

Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection (worth £5,000)
Tishani Doshi - Countries of the Body
Bill Greenwell - Impossible Objects
Ian Gregson - Call Centre Love Song
Anne Ryland - Autumnologist
Tim Turnbull - Stranded in Sub-Atomica
Tim Wells - Boys' Night Out In The Afternoon

Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (worth £1,000)
John Hartley Williams - Requiem for a Princess
John Kinsella - Forest Encomia of the South-West
Sean O'Brien - Fantasia on the Theme of James Wright
Jacob Polley - The Cheapjack
Fiona Sampson - Trumpeldor Beach
Michael Arnold Williams - Blaenafon Blue

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/07/14 06:47:00 GMT

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