Habemus Papam Franciscum

Tonight Catholics across the world are celebrating as we embrace our new Pope. Pope Francis the First, Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen by Conclave to be both the first South American and Jesuit Pope.

Millions around the world watched as the "Habemus Papum" announcement was made.

Our new Pope is a deeply humble man. He is doctrinally conservative with a strong commitment to social justice. I find that matches very closely with my own convictions so naturally I am delighted.

He is not of the Roman Curia which I believe is a good thing and he is a Jesuit. I have long had great admiration for the Jesuit order. It was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a Saint I have always paid great devotion to.

The Formula of the Institute of the Society of Jesus, which our new Pope signed up to when he joined the order, is laid out below

"Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the name of Jesus, and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth, should, after a solemn vow of perpetual chastity, poverty and obedience, keep what follows in mind. He is a member of a Society founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the defence and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine, by means of public preaching, lectures and any other ministration whatsoever of the Word of God, and further by means of retreats, the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity, and the spiritual consolation of Christ's faithful through hearing confessions and administering the other sacraments. Moreover, he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good".

I find the above a very noble cause and I hope our new Pope continues the good work of the Jesuit order throughout the Church as a whole.

I find myself in a very different place than I was at the end of the last conclave. The end of the last conclave had me in a very disappointed mood.

I am delighted by our new choice of Pope and I pray that the Holy Spirit and St Michael watch over our new Pontiff as he guides us through these dark days.

God Bless Pope Francis the First!!


A cause for concern?

So the results are in and as expected Francie Molloy is the new MP for Mid Ulster. I don't think that anyone with an ounce of sense expected anything different.

That said if we have a closer look at the results there may be a few interesting things happening within the political geography

1. Alliance Party

In 2010 they received 1% of the vote and 397 actual votes. This time out Eric Bullick received 487 votes. With less than 100 extra votes this is hardly impressive and confirms yet again that Alliance is an East of the Bann soft Unionist party, or at least the vast majority of their supporters are.


In 2010 Tony Quinn got 5826 votes (14.3%), which was a loss on 3% on their previous result. This time out Patsy McGlone took 6,478 votes (17.3%) in a reduced turnout. Thus making him the only main candidate to increase both his party actual and percentage vote. Now Patsy is a much stronger candidate compared to Tony Quinn and Francie Molly is no Martin McGuinness (not meant as an insult just a reality check).

That said the SDLP seem to have returned to their 2007 vote and for them this will seem like a victory but caution should be reached here. This was an election that was played as safe a houses and we had a massive drop in turnout so before they start proclaiming that they have turned the tide we would need to wait until the Euro election next year.

3. Sectarian Headcount AKA Agreed Unionist Candidate Nigel Lutton

Mr Lutton inherited a combined Unionist vote of 13,380 (32.7%) and in this election achieved 12,781 (34.2%). I don't care how anyone tries to spin this, this was a poor result. He took a reduced vote at a time when the entire story of this election has been about him. He had several combined party machines out supporting him and he took back a reduced Unionist vote. The % share may be up but only because Republican voters didn't come out in their usual numbers. Then Mr Lutton laughed about how someone described him as the "undertaker who resurrected unionism".

Oh dear God!

Sadly not Nigel, the Unionist vote fell by 599 votes compared to the 2010 Westminster election. In the 2011 local election the combined Unionist vote was 14,216 and the Assembly election was 13,611. This was not a good result and many in the UUP must be asking was a reduced Unionist vote worth the damage done to the party and the loss of two MLA's?

4. Sinn Fein

The winners of this election but perhaps only by winning the seat. I know that may sound weird but let me explain.  In 2010 Martin McGuinness took 21,239 votes (52%) but yesterday Francie Molloy took 17,462 votes (46.7%). On the face of it that is a 3,777 actual vote decrease or a 5.3% slip compared to 2010.

Now there were a few factors at play here for Sinn Fein. Martin McGuinness is one of the most popular members of the Sinn Fein leadership and the party is general and as such Francie was always up against it here. There was also the media commentary that made it clear this was a done deal, which it was, and that Francie was going to walk it to victory.

All that being said the Sinn Fein vote was down almost 4,000 votes from 2010 and the SDLP increased their vote 652 votes. This was despite a host of Sinn Fein party stalwarts and canvass teams from across the country helping out. Now in fairness we don't know where the SDLP votes came from, it could have been moderate Unionist voters annoyed at the lack of choice, it could have been soft Sinn Fein votes put off by the gruff nature of Francie or a million other reasons in between.

Only Sinn Fein will know how their Green Vote came out on Election Day.

For outsiders, Sinn Fein operates a three colour system when canvassing. Each voter is assigned a colour based on a myriad of factors including reaction to canvassers on the door steps, previous dealing etc.

Those colours are Green for those who will vote Sinn Fein, yellow for those who might be persuaded to vote or may at least offer a preference and then there is white. The white voter would not piss on Sinn Fein if they were on fire. These are dissidents, hard core SDLP, Unionists, hoods etc. In all of my canvassing previously for Sinn Fein the most fun was always with the white voter. As they launched into tirade after tirade you simply smiled at them, thanked them for their time and left with your dignity intact.

Anyway, I digress. After everyone has been marked green, yellow or white that information is keyed into computers centrally and a green canvass is formed. It is then the job of the Sinn Fein organisation in a specific area to ensure that the green vote comes out on the day. As such only they will know what % of their Green vote came out and if at all what % decrease they have seen in their Green vote.

Knowing how the party works post election time I can guarantee that this result will be analysed as will the tallies from the count. If Sinn Fein has picked up on any trends or causes for concern they will address them.


North Korea losing the run of itself

In recent days the rhetoric coming from North Korea is getting more and more farcical. It's actually starting to look like comical Ali has taken up residence in Pyongyang.

The North Korean's have threatened to end the Armistice agreement next week. The two Koreas remain technically at war in the wake of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an Armistice, not a formal peace treaty.

In a further racketing of tension ahead of a US Security Council resolution the North Korean's have vowed to exercise their right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against their aggressors.

"As long as the United States is willing to spark nuclear war our forces will exercise their right to a pre-emptive nuclear strike," said North Korea's foreign ministry, in a statement carried by the KCNA news agency, without giving further details.

This sort of bluster from North Korea is common enough but it has been coming thick and fast the last couple of days. The joint US and South Korea military drills seem to have been the instigator for the rise in tension.

I have mixed views on this issue.

I am not a supporter of North Korea, I think their elite live in luxury yet their people starve and no self respecting Socialist could have any truck with that. It reeks of Animal farm and is a world away from the protection of the working class.

That said I do find the issue of nuclear weapons a puzzling one. I don't want any country to have them but the country which is arguing they should not have them is the only country to have used them, twice in fact. Their use was also without justification and was simply revenge for Pearl Harbour. The US seems to be no problem with Israel having them and this from a country that sends missiles into refugee camps.

Are the North Korean high command crazy enough to start a war on this issue, I'm not sure but it looks like we won't have long to find out.


Adiós Señor Presidente

I was saddened to learn of the death of Hugo Chavez, the charismatic Socialist leader of Venezuela. He has fought a long hard battle with cancer for some time and it would seem that that battle has now ended.

A clearly emotional Nicolas Maduro, his deputy, made the announcement on Tuesday evening, flanked by leading Venezuelan political and military leaders.

He was a giant of a man and the poor of Venezuela have him to thank for lifting thousands and thousands of them out of poverty.

He has been President since 1999 and recently won a new 6 year term.

A man of the people, he introduced a system of Bolivarian Missions, Communal Councils and worker managed cooperatives, as well as a program of land reform, whilst also nationalising various key state industries during his time.

He was a fierce opponent of imperialism and neoliberals. He was a constant thorn in the side of American foreign policy and formed a strong South American partnership with the Castro's of Cuba, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador and Ortega in Nicaragua.

He has been a firm supporter of Liberation Theology and viewed himself a Catholic Socialist.

My own hope is that Nicolas Maduro is allowed to carry on his legacy and that the people of Venezuela, the working poor are able to continue to advance under his ideals.

The international left have lost a major figure with his passing.

Tories take another swing at justice

It's another sad state of affairs from the Tory government and their Lib Dem poodles. The Tories have decided to abolish the right to a fair trial and the right to confront ones accusers by authorising the use of secret courts.

In a damming indictment from the "freedom" party they have decided that instead of admitting their acquiescence and collusion in the torture and criminal acts they would instead rewrite the rule book and institute secret proceedings in criminal cases.

This whole idea started with cases like Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who British judges ruled ended up being tortured in a Moroccan jail with the connivance of British intelligence, and then a string of others whom British ministers preferred to pay off and shut up before the facts could emerge.

As a result of these cases they went to the British Supreme Court and asked the judges to hear the arguments in secret. This was roundly rejected by the Judiciary and Lord Hope said that secrecy in judicial proceedings "cut across absolutely fundamental principles, such as the right to be confronted by one's accusers and the right to know the reasons for the outcome"

I would like to say that I am surprised about this attack on fundamental rights but I'm not. It's yet another example of the Tories standing up to their reputation.

It was Lord Sankey in 1929 who said that "Justice should not only be done, but should appear to have been done". Though it would seem that the British Parliament is not interested in this fundamental tenant of a democracy.

This absurd law will no doubt be challenged in the courts and the sooner the better.

It would appear that Edmund Burke wasn't far off the mark when he said that bad laws make the worst kind of tyranny.

You can't dance on the eye of a needle forever

I see that the DUP and the SDLP have decided to put pressure on Sinn Fein by introducing an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill relating to Abortion.

The amendment which is sponsored by Alban McGuinness of the SDLP and Paul Givan of the DUP would stop Abortions being carried out by private clinics and would only allow them in NHS facilities in exceptional circumstances.

This bill has attracted the support of the Catholic Church as well as well known and respected GAA manager Mickey Harte.

On the face of it Sinn Fein should not be opposed to this amendment as it is wholly consistent with their current position as mandated by previous Ard Fheiseanna.

For anyone who still isn't clear about Sinn Fein's position on Abortion it is thus, Sinn Fein opposes the introduction of the British 1967 Abortion Act. Martin McGuinness articulated the position well

"We believe that in circumstances where there is a risk to a woman's life, a risk to a woman's mental health and the grave dangers associated with that, in the final analysis a woman has to make her own decision."

So what can we garner from this position. Sinn Fein is opposed to abortion on demand and even where there is a risk to a woman’s life or her mental health there is no position taken by the party only that the final decision must rest with the woman.

You may have asked if this is the case why would Sinn Fein be opposed to the amendment if it is in line with current party policy.

Sinn Fein is a broad church in many ways; it is a mixture of hardcore Socialists, hardcore Conservative Catholic Republicans and every mixture in between.

On most issues there isn't a conflict but with certain elements of the party adopting more and more liberal stances in the South it may start to become an issue and vague policy positions will no longer cut it.

That was exemplified by the recent push by Sinn Fein in the Dail to legislate for the X Case and the refusal of Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin to support such an approach.

I can understand to some extent the reason why Sinn Fein are adopting a more liberal approach in the 26 counties, they are aggressively attacking Labours flank and believe this to be the best course but caution should be observed.

Across large sections of rural Ireland and indeed amongst a great many of their supporters and members in the North there is no appetite for this new found Liberal agenda. I also find it dishonest to try and keep the liberal and conservative social wings happy with vague sounding policy papers and positions.

In the long run you can't appease both masters and political opponents will always try and attack you when you are vulnerable.

ECHR and Judicial Overreach

I see that fresh from their humiliating defeat at Eastleigh the Tories are deciding if they should bang their right wing drums and lurch towards their traditional right base. This was articulated with their threat to pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights.

British Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he was "absolutely certain" the Tories would go into the election in 2015 with a plan to change the existing legislation based on Labour's Human Rights Act.

And he refused to rule out the prospect that a majority Conservative government could withdraw altogether from the 60-year-old European convention - which the act enshrined into British law.

Mr Grayling said recent rulings of the court had moved a long way from the original aims of the convention which was drawn up in the aftermath of the Second World War.

"Anyone who sits down and reads it as a document would struggle to find a word they disagreed with. It is a sensible balance of rights and responsibilities, of principles for a democratic nation."

"To my mind human rights is about some of the appalling things happening around the world, people being brutalised for their political views, people being put in jail. It's not about saying a prisoner has a right to artificial insemination while they're in jail."

It's not too often that I agree with the Tories but this time I do have sympathy for their position though perhaps for different reasons.

I abhor judicial activism and have always believed that the law should be interpreted in a strict, plain text reading. I don't support unelected members of the Judiciary going off on an Alice in Wonderland search for hidden meaning and absurd interpretation to suit their own political motives, be they left or right wing objectives.

The people elect the politicians and rightly or wrongly they are the only ones who should be making the law of a country. It is the job of the judicial branch to apply that law, not to invent their own which is sadly becoming more and more the case with Strasburg.

The lack of a democratic mandate and the almost monarchial power they hold makes the whole process feel very alien to my Republican philosophy.

A Human Rights act or a Bill of Rights should be about defending a citizen’s indelible Human Rights. Things like the right to life, a fair trial, the right to privacy etc

Having the "right" to artificial insemination whilst serving a custodial sentence is not a Human Right. It is a luxury that should be denied if only for the reason that as they are serving a custodial sentence luxury should not be a state they are enjoying.


Your final resting place

Sorry for my lack of posting these last two weeks, I was over in the good old USA having returned at the weekend and I'm still working through the jetlag.

In the car today I was listening to a debate on RTE about cremation versus burial and people’s views on it either way. It was interesting to hear both sides’ impassioned arguments on the subject.

I suppose it brought home to me a topic I have a very real dislike of even thinking about, my own and my family’s deaths. Before I became more confident in my faith I admit that death scared me but now it doesn't. I have faith that death isn't the end but the beginning.

Both of my parents are still relatively young (mid 50's) but both of them have expressed to me their wishes for when they die. My mother wishes to be buried in the family plot with all of the traditional rites of the Church. My father on the other hand wants a cremation and then wants me, the eldest, to scatter his ashes.

I'm sure for a lot of people this wouldn't present a problem but as I am a Catholic it does. For many years cremation was banned in the Church but recently it has been relaxed yet with the stipulation that the remains must be buried in an urn within a consecrated grave or placed inside a mausoleum. The scattering of ashes or keeping them in a house is inappropriate to the Church's deep reverence for the body as a place where the soul has resided

The current Code of Canon Law (No 1176) "The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching"

So I suppose the issue will arise when my father departs this life for the next, do I follow my own desires and religious beliefs and have his remains buried in a consecrated grave yard or do I follow his wishes as his son and respect his beliefs.

It's the one thing that none of us can avoid but quite often the thing we are least prepared for or willing to talk about.


Janus-faced Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt seems to be slowly but surely losing the run of himself in a lot of areas. He has called for the "fleg" protesters to call off their love in this Saturday so that people can show due respect to a march commemorating two members of the Protestant militia killed by the IRA.

His rationale for doing so is explained below.

"Given the cost of the flags protests, it would be regrettable if those involved did not take the opportunity to step back to allow the media to highlight how republicans once stopped at nothing to pursue their economic war against Northern Ireland"

Mike must have a different version of history than mine but the IRA's war was on the British involvement in the North of Ireland, the economy had nothing to do with it. This wasn't about trade or tariffs Mike!

He further states

"The cost of the current protests cannot be justified, but are as nothing to the equally unjustifiable cost of the Troubles."

Ok, so can I take from this that Mr Nesbitt is calling for all contentious marches this summer to be called off? After all the cost of policing them is totally unjustified as is their attempts to march through Nationalist where they are neither wanted to needed.

Will Mike adopt a consistent approach and bring this new quest for due diligence to all aspects of his political vision even when it conflicts with the Unionist mindset of triumphalism?

Where is the Left in Britain?

I have often commented on the Left in Ireland but I don't think I have ever really looked at the Left in Britain. So in this vain I would ask the question, where is the Left in Britain?

I'm sure some of the more right wing readers would point to the Labour party but in my opinion they stopped being left wing several decades ago despite having some decent left wing members.

I have been lucky to meet, in my opinion, the four most prominent members of the British left in the last 40 years. Who was that you may ask? Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, George Galloway and Arthur Scargill.

When I was completing my LPC in London in 2006/2007 I was a member of the Haldane Society. Haldane is the Socialist Lawyers Society and Michael Mansfield QC is the President along with notable legal professionals like Gareth Pierce who defended the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six.

The AGM that year was in the College of Law in Bloomsbury where I was studying and Tony Benn was the main speaker. As me and a few friends walked into the room we found it empty but for Tony Benn and his coffee and a sandwich. He was a very unassuming man dressed in his cardigan like a friendly grandfather and we managed to speak to him for about a half hour before everyone arrived. His insight into Left wing politics and his instinctive understanding of the problems it faced was the best I had ever heard.

George Galloway I met on several occasions both at Sinn Fein events and also at NUS Annual Conferences in Blackpool during my time in QUB. While not as learnered as Tony Benn his oratory and caustic wit left me with in no doubt as to why he was so popular amongst sections of the British left.

Arthur Scargill I met at a Sinn Fein event in South Armagh. He spoke for almost 3 hours about the Miners Strike, his views on the current energy crisis, his views on Irish Republicanism and finally on the British left. A very interesting man who has lost none of his passion or his hatred of Neil Kinnock.

Ken Livingstone I met whilst attending his St Patricks Day Mayor's ball in London. Out of the 3 he was the most unassuming and humble in my opinion but with his links to Hugo Chavez, support of the Hunger Strikers and hatred of Thatcher he made his allegiances left in no doubt.

All four of these men are no longer involved in active politics and I'm left to ask who will now carry that torch? Certainly not Ed Milliband or Ed Balls, their positions are as close to left wing as Genghis Khan.

A check on the ANC

Prominent South African anti-apartheid activist and co-founder of South Africa's Black Conscious Movement, Mamphela Ramphele, has announced the formation of a new political party to take on the African National Congress (ANC) of Nelson Mandela.

Ms Ramphele's new party will be called Agang which is the Sesotho language means "To Build".

She was Steve Biko's political as well as personal partner and has two children to the former anti-apartheid martyr. She said

"Our society's greatness is being fundamentally undermined by a massive failure of governance," she said at a launch event on Monday at the historic women's jail at Constitutional Hill. "Our country has lost the moral authority and international respect it enjoyed when it became a democracy."

"I don't have any inferiority complex against anybody, nor do I have any grudge against anybody. So I feel I am in a position to encourage other South Africans to put the country first. Let us self-identify as South Africans, not this shameful status right now where less than 10% are able to say 'I am a South African'. We can't talk about black consciousness. We must talk about a South African consciousness."

I have always been a supporter of the ANC as well as their armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Sinn Fein and the IRA have had links with both the ANC and MK going back to the 1960's. Every year at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis there are international guests and without fail there are always representatives from the PLO, Basques and the ANC.

I remember attending a Sinn Fein event back in 2005 with former South African Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.

That said for all those bonds of unity I can't help but feel that Ms Ramphele may have a point.

The ANC has had almost total control of South Africa since the end of Apartheid. There is no doubt that a lot has improved from the bad old days but what have they done with this freedom? How have they improved the lives of the poor and destitute in South Africa?

With an aids epidemic, gang crime, crippling poverty and social unrest there is no doubt that they have failed to lead the people of South Africa into a period of peace and prosperity.

The ANC have been more focused on internal infighting, allegations of fraud and anti-democratic attacks on the main opposition.

Their wasteful use of public funds to wine and dine internal party members and their introduction of the Protection of State Information Bill shows that their focus is not where it needs to be.

I don't believe that this new party will be a challenge to the ANC but if they are able to put pressure on them to address the issues that matter then it will be a job well done.


Coalition Government-Republican Style

Michael Martin, after the recent opinion polls, has restated his position that he will not enter coalition government with Sinn Fein. Last week Mr Martin sent out very conflicting signals by first saying he wouldn't rule anything out and then on the other hand saying they weren't compatible economically.

Ok, this sort of talk is now getting tedious. If the people decide that there is coalition government then there will be coalition government. After that it's simply a matter of numbers, policy is the very last consideration.

If we look back on previous coalition governments you can see just that when Clann na Poblachta shared power with Fine Gael or when Dessie O'Malley led the PD's into government with Charlie Haughey's Fianna Fail (A party he set up after Haughey had him expelled from Fianna Fail).

Eamonn O'Cuiv is probably one of the only Fianna Fail TD's I have any time for. From personal experience I have found him a very personable and reasonable man. He was prepared to put his head above the political parapet on several occasions to push Republican agendas.

He has been pushing very hard for Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail to enter coalition saying that they had a shared Republicanism. I'm not sure how true that is for many in Fianna Fail but let's leave that for a minute.

In many ways Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are very similar. I can see many former comrades screaming into their screens as they read that line but it's true. Fianna Fail is after all a dissident party with regards Sinn Fein. DeValera was a former President of Sinn Fein and when he didn't get his way he split and formed Fianna Fail.

They shared the same side during the Civil War and both would be very opposed to Fine Gael.

They are both, at heart, populist parties. Sinn Fein has as part of its constitution the implementation of a 32 County Socialist Republic yet Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein had no issue with setting up PPP's and PFI's in education.

Sinn Fein's repeated attacks upon the Church are also blatant populism. Fianna Fail has always been a populist party because their entire raison d’être is power, getting power, using power and keeping power.

In that sense this entire talk about incompatible economic policies is a red hearing. Both parties would compromise on principals if it meant getting into government.

That last comment is possibly unfair as I know a great many Sinn Fein members who would be very annoyed if Sinn Fein entered government with Fianna Fail. I hope when the time comes they are able to convince the Ard Chomhairle not to but on past experience what the Ard Chomhairle wants it gets.

I fear that should Sinn Fein enter coalition with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael they will be the mudguard for the failed politics of the civil war parties.

That said despite Michael Martin's stated objections it is only a matter of time before Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail enter coalition government together.


The Punts new lapdog

So Nesbitt has finally come out and said what most of us suspected already, that the decision to stand a joint candidate in the Mid Ulster by Election could form part of a broader "strategy" for the UUP.

Mr Nesbitt said he would judge future strategy on the campaign results.

"Let's see how the next three weeks go," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics show.

"Will it work for the benefit of unionism and when we get the result from that and the answer from that, we can look at it."
"It would be foolish to rule anything out at this stage.We've just started a process which to some extent I certainly view as an experiment, let's see how well it works for the benefit of the unionist people."

I will tell you the end result right now; Francie Molly will be elected the MP for Mid Ulster on the 7th March 2013.

When the UUP/DUP/Orange Order and all the other rag tag couldn't get Rodney Connor elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the SDLP fielding "celebrity" Fergal McKinley then they will not elect Mr Lutton in Mid Ulster.

Nesbitt went on to say that the UUP had "listened carefully to the many pro-union voters in Mid Ulster who were calling for co-operation in this election and for the opportunity to end the long drought that has seen Mid Ulster without representation in the House of Commons for 16 long years".

Of course Unionists West of the Bann are calling for more Unionist co-operation, it's now firmly Sinn Fein territory. The key question will be how this plays east of the Bann where the UUP and DUP fight for the majority of their seats.

How will the Unionist associations of both the UUP and DUP feel about having to give up the chance of their man taking a seat so that their political opponents can get a political coronation?

My own view is that it will lead to even greater middle class Unionist apathy east of the Bann and continued lower turnout and that can only be a good thing for Republicanism.

The other benefit will be from the response within Nationalism

They aren't going to sit back and watch the UUP and DUP operate a sectarian carve up between themselves. They will desert the SDLP in their droves and flock towards the strongest Nationalist candidate which 9 times out of 10 will be Sinn Fein with the notable exception of South Belfast.

Let's have a quick look through the various elections to see how this could play out

1. Euros

Sinn Fein topped the poll and then Dodds and Nicholson were elected with the SDLP snapping at his heels. Joint Candidates will not make any difference here unless it is decided that the North will lose an MEP because of the new accession countries in which case the DUP will just supply their own.

2. Westminster

Let's look at the seats currently held by Non-Unionists

Newry and Armagh

Conor Murphy took 42% for Sinn Fein, the SDLP had 23.4% and the combined Unionist vote was 33.1%. A joint Unionist candidate would not get elected here and if they did stand one droves of SDLP supporters would flock to Conor to ensure he was even more comfortable

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

They actually came within 4 votes here. That was with an SDLP candidate taking 6101 votes. The next time out the SDLP will be under serious pressure not to stand and even if they did at least a 1000 of their voters will move to Sinn Fein thus securing Bobby Sands seat for Michelle.

West Tyrone

Pat Doc took 48.4% of the vote, the SDLP took 14% and the combined Unionist vote was 34%. There is a better chance of pigs learning to fly than a joint Unionist candidate winning here.

Mid Ulster

I have already discussed, not a mission of Mr Lutton or any other joint Unionist candidate getting elected.

West Belfast

The bastion of Republicanism

Sinn Fein took 76% at the last election, not a mission of them boys getting elected here.

Now we move on to the SDLP seats.


Mark Durkan took 44.7% for the SDLP and Martina Anderson took 31.9% for Sinn Fein. The combined Unionist vote was 15.1%. The two Nationalist parties will continue to slog this out but there isn't a chance of a joint Unionist candidate winning here.

South Belfast

Sinn Fein didn't stand here last time so as to secure the SDLP the seat because of what the Unionists were trying to do in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The SDLP took 41%, Alliance took 15%, Greens 3% and the combined Unionist vote was 41%. I would suspect that as South Belfast is quite a unique middle class area that should the Unionists decide to stand a joint candidate support from Alliance and the Greens would leech to the SDLP.

South Down

The SDLP took 48.5%, Sinn Fein took 28.7% and the combined Unionist vote was 19.4%. I'm not afraid to say that Enoch Powell's seat is staying firmly green.

East Belfast

Alliance took 37.2% but the combined Unionist vote was 59.4%. This for me was a once off election in 2010 and a rebuke of Robinson personally. In 2011 the DUP took 44% of the vote to Alliance's 26.3%. In that case, with a different DUP candidate, I don't believe the DUP need the UUP in order to retake the seat. The only interesting thing will be what kind of vote the "fleg" political party gets in the forthcoming Westminster election.

All that joint candidates would do is possibly stopping John O'Dowd from taking the Upper Bann seat off the DUP's David Simpson (Sinn Fein overtook the DUP here at the 2011 Assembly elections) and possibly stop Gerry Kelly from taking North Belfast.

So all in all I really can't see what the whole point of these joint candidate suggestions is. Is Nesbitt only concerned with his own fortunes and a clear run at Strangford in a new DUP?

A shame on the name of Connolly and Larkin

The Labour party like to consider themselves as the party of James Connolly and Jim Larkin. If that was the case then both these men must be doing cartwheels in the grave given how far their "party" has fallen.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has hinted that she will be taxing child benefit. I mean it's the sort of thing you would expect from one of the rabid Blue Shirts like Varadkar, Hayes or Creighton but to hear it from a supposed Labour party Minister shows just how rotten they have become.

Instead of standing by their principals and demanding that those who caused the collapse pay the bill by burning bond holders, speculators and banks they have decided in their collectivist wisdom to saddle the decent working class people of Ireland with that task.

Ever since they signed up for the mercs their standing in opinion polls has collapsed. Before the last election they were seriously pushing the idea of a Labour party Taoiseach and now they are sitting at 13% in the polls behind Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein.

They are facing electoral meltdown in the Euro elections next year when they could possibly lose every one of their MEP's and a whole raft of Labour party councillors in the local elections.

I hope and pray that they do because there is no justification for the acts they have carried out at the behest of their Blue shirt task masters.

They have pushed for wage reductions, cuts in child benefit, reduction of heating allowances to the poor and the old, the imposition of household charges and water charges and refused to tax the incomes and assets of the richest in society.

Joe Higgins made a great speech in opposition to Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. Below is an extract that is rather poignant considering the Labour party's declared links to Connolly.

“It was a great Irish socialist, James Connolly, who, in opposition to that conflict, called for a torch to be lit in Ireland that would "not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture" was burned. How deeply ashamed James Connolly would be today that the Labour Party he founded marches into Dáil Éireann to become part of a government that will burn not the bondholders, the speculators or the grasping big bankers but the Irish people, the working class, the unemployed, the poor and the low and middle-income workers.”


Gombeen men back on top

It would seem that the Gombeen men AKA Fianna Fail are back on top of the opinion polls. The Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll is the second poll in a week that has Fianna Fail on top following on from the Irish Times poll earlier this week.

The poll that will be in the paper tomorrow has the parties thus

Fianna Fail 27% Fine Gael 25% Sinn Fein 20% and Labour 13%

A good poll for both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, not so good for Fine Gael but a disaster for Labour.

It would seem that the trend of parties who become the mudguard for one of the two civil war parties continues unabated.

It happened to Labour after 1992, it happened to the Greens after 2007, it happened to the PD's in 2002 and 2007 and now in 2013 it is happing to Labour again.

Albert Einstein said the theory of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In that vein I feel comfortable calling Labour insane!

We have European and Local Elections coming up next year and at this rate Labour are in for an electoral hiding!

Instead of cosying up to the most right wing party of the state should Labour not be trying to build a different sort of consensus politics?

I've said it before and I will say it again.

After the next General Election all of the parties on the left and by this I mean Sinn Fein, Labour, PBP, Socialist Party etc should refuse to enter coalition with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Force them to work together and end this charade that they are any different, they are not!

That is the only way that we can build an effective left wing alternative to the failed politics of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

It's all in our genes

So say the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston. In a session called "The Science of Politics", Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University argues that genetics can influence your political choices.

Apperantly it won't make you plump for Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail but it will tend you towards conservatism or liberalism.

I'm not sure just how realistic this is

I'm thinking about my own family for a minute. My Mother's family have been in Dromintee for hundreds of years, my Father's family from Dundalk for about the same time.

My Mother's family have always been rooted to the land. Farmers with the occasional auctioneer or butcher thrown in for good measure but always linked to the land. From what I can tell from talking to older relatives, old stories and research a Conservative Catholic group of people with an inherent disregard for outside involvement in their lives and very loyal to the Church. Hardly surprising coming from Dromintee in South Armagh.

Next my Father's family. Always linked to industrial work be it factory workers, Dockers etc. Catholic but with a very liberal streak and a dislike for authority be it Church or State. Very individualistic and very open to emigration be it Germany, Australia, Chicago, Boston. I probably have more paternal family abroad than I do in Ireland.

How does this relate to my own Politics? My Mother is a stereotypical Rocks and my Father the same for Gaskin. Up until a few years ago I would have said I was a mixture of both but the last couple of years I would certainly link myself much more with my Mother's family in terms of values.

That said I have three Brothers and as the eldest I am the only one who is really politically minded or religious, the youngest who is only 15 is an avowed agnostic who refuses to participate in school prayer because he "doesn't fully believe the words and is not prepared to sully his integrity". The weird bit is that he is also the top student in Religion.

That said I digress. Most of my social circle is very firmly liberal, atheist, feminist and more often than not left leaning.

I'm the only one in the group who is socially conservative and authoritarian so I'm forced to believe that your political propensity is linked to much more than genes. I'm sure nature and nurture have a big part to play but I don't believe you will ever find the one path that shows you why someone believes what they do.

It doesn't exist.

Jesus Wept!

I don't normally watch that much TV, besides the odd sports match or film I tend to do a lot of reading. Last night I was flicking through the channels and decided to see was there any interesting guests on The Late Late Show.

When I turned it over there were two women on it, survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.

One of the women who was on the show was a lady called Marina Gambold.

Listening to her recall her story you would have had to be a seriously messed up individual not to have your heart break.

Ms Gambold also spoke of what happened on a day when she broke a cup.

"One day I broke a cup and the nun said, 'I will teach you to be careful'.

"She got a thick string and she tied it round my neck for three days and three nights and I had to eat off the floor every morning."

"Then I had to get down on my knees and I had to say, 'I beg almighty God's pardon, Our Lady's pardon, my companion's pardon for the bad example I have shown,"

I ended up having to turn it off; I couldn't watch it any longer.

I love my faith and I love my Church but I have to be honest and say that its history of abuse in Ireland is something that I struggle with. The Priests, Nuns and Brothers who abused children either physically or sexually are an insult to men of the cloth and an insult to humanity.

Where was their religion? How could they abuse these poor innocent children like that?

I don't think I will ever understand them.

I had a close family member who spent time in one of these laundries, with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. She never talked about her experiences there; I only hope she had a better experience than some of these women.

There has been pressure from the opposition for the Irish Government to issue a formal apology to the survivors. The government has so far not done this, out of fear no doubt of the redress they would have to pay them.

The women who worked in these places were modern day slaves; there is no other way of saying it that is exactly what they were.

While I do believe that the government should apologise there is only one group that I believe bears most of the responsibility, The Catholic Church.

Some of my more "loyal" brethren within the Church are opposed to the Church paying out to the victims of these terrible crimes. They believe that Church property should not have to be sold to pay the bill.

I have news for them, there is no such beast as Church property!

It was the Catholic people who paid for the Chapels, the hospitals, the schools, and the land. They paid with their blood, sweat and their tears. I don't care if the Church has to sell every bit of land, every Chapel, every last vestige of wealth. I'll happily go back to attending Mass at the side of a mountain like we did during the Penal times.

There needs to be a serious attempt by the Church to show what they did was horrific, that they understand and appreciate their criminal complicity and that they are prepared to humble themselves before what was once the most loyal Catholic nation in all of Christendom.

I can't help thinking about that poor woman forced to eat off the floor and then to beg God his forgiveness for her "sins". When I do the only phrase from the bible that springs to mind constantly is John 11:35

"Jesus Wept"


Unionist Unity or Sectarian Headcount?

So the two Unionist parties or to be more specific the DUP and their UUP lackeys have decided upon a "unity" candidate for the Mid Ulster by Election.

Nigel Lutton, whose father was an RUC man killed by the IRA, is the compromise candidate.

Francie Molloy is the Sinn Fein candidate to replace Martin McGuinness in Mid Ulster and looking at the figures it would seem that his election is almost assured.

In the 2011 Assembly Elections Sinn Fein took 49.2% of the vote and the combined Unionist vote was only 31.9%. If we go back further to the 2010 Westminster election Sinn Fein took 52% of the vote and the combined Unionist vote was only 32.7%.

So, I feel comfortable in saying that there isn't a pups chance this Unionist candidate will defeat Francie Molloy.

The real losers here are actually going to be the SDLP and the UUP. In the last two elections the SDLP took in and around 14.5% of the vote. With only one Unionist candidate being fielded there is no doubt that a lot of these vote will flock to Francie and Patsy McGloane will be left as an irrelevance along with his party.

For me this would seem to be a monumental mistake by Nesbitt, a decision that has cost him two MLA's already. John McAllister and Basil McCrea have resigned from the UUP as a result of this decision.

I've met Basil on a few occasions. I remember talking to him at the Sinn Fein stall at the QUB Fresher’s Bazaar a few years ago and for a member of the UUP he seemed somewhat reasonable. A man you could have a laugh and a joke with and someone interested in engaging on real issues.

The "liberal" wing of the UUP seems to be almost extinct and if Nesbitt keep this up he will have finally destroyed the UUP.

It seems a very weird policy for the Unionists to be advancing because the only real winner that I can see in any of the outcomes is Sinn Fein.


Fianna Fail opposed to "suicide risk" abortion

It's not too often that I agree with either Micheal Martin or Fianna Fail but in this instance I do.

Michael has said that Fianna Fáil has an issue with including the risk of suicide in any legislation for the X Case on abortion saying he and the party will wait to see legislation before deciding whether or not to vote for it.

He also said that he would not favour widening legislation or changing the Constitution to include cases where a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape.

“Rape is a particularly difficult one. We do have options today that we didn’t have before in terms of the morning after pill and so forth,” he said.

My position on abortion is well known, I oppose it in all circumstances. That said when the intent is to save the life of the mother and not the death of the child that is not abortion; it's the doctrine of double effect.

Double effect originates in Thomas Aquinas's treatment of homicidal self-defence, in his work Summa Theologiae.

This set of criteria states that an action having foreseen harmful effects practically inseparable from the good effect is justifiable if the following are true:

- the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral;
- the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself;
- the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm

Fine Gael promised before the election not to extend abortion in Ireland, it's almost time to see if they are going to keep that promise.

Old Habits Die Hard

Following on from the unconditional release of North Belfast Republican Sean Kelly, the PSNI have serious questions to answer about this political arrest of a prominent Republican.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kerry welcomed his release but had this to say

“At no time during any of the interviews was any evidence either forensic, eye witness statements, anything, put before Sean Kelly to explain why he was arrested."

“In fact when the PSNI went to court to seek an extension of his arrest they admitted that there was no evidence whatsoever against him. "

“The Serious Crimes Branch of the PSNI has questions to answer in arresting a high-profile republican who has always supported the Peace Process."

“The PSNI created political hysteria, which some in the media and unionist politicians latched on to and exacerbated by making clearly ludicrous statements."

“In one move this has shown poor political leadership from unionism and at the same time damaged policing in the republican community.”

This is another example of very blatant political policing.

It will act only to reinforce a wide held view in Republican communities that the PSNI can't be trusted. Now if they are serious about a new start to Policing then there needs to be a change and this kind of action should never happen.

Now I wonder will Peter the Punt and Nigel Dodds retract their childish statements from this morning.

How much is a life worth?

It has been revealed that the British MOD has made a disrespectful offer of £50,000 to each of the 13 families who had a relative murdered by a member of the British Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday.

The 13 people who were seriously injured would receive the same sum.

The total compensation package would be about £1.3m. A solicitor for one of the families has described the offer as derisory and said his client felt it was an insult to those who were killed.

This offer is indeed an insult! I'll explain just how much of an insult it is. The British have a Victims of Overseas Terrorism Scheme. Now as the Paras were from overseas and their murderous acts in Derry could certainly be described as terrorism, let's check their claim guide.

The top award in the guidelines is for a category A20. Remember that this award is for people who are still alive and that is awarded for Quadraplegia/tetraplegia (impairment in motor or sensory function of upper and lower extremities).

Now if the injury is substantially complete to both upper and lower limb levels the award guideline is £250,000.

So let's place that against a family who has had their loved one murdered, had it covered up for 30 years and the offer is a paltry £50,000.

I find this "suggested" award nothing short of an insult to the families of Bloody Sunday.

Emperor Robinson's New Clothes

Like Martin McGuinness I find Peter Robinsons assertion that the arrest of Sean Kelly could have "grave consequences for the political process" quite ridiculous.

Firstly, I do find it strange that it is only ever Republicans who have their name leaked to the press upon arrest. In civilised democracies there is a quaint notion known as "innocent until proven guilty".

This 18 year old who was shot in the legs, it would seem from his mothers statement, is just out of prison. I don't know the details of why he was there and quite frankly I don't care. He should not have been shot.

Martin McGuiness and Sinn Fein condemned the action

"The assertion that this shooting in North Belfast, which I unreservedly condemn, and the facts of which are at this stage under PSNI investigation and are unclear, should threaten the political process is frankly ridiculous."

It is quite clear to me that Peter Robinson would have everyone believe there is a new pair of political clothes to hide the real elephant in the room. The complete and utter disaster he created in East Belfast when he and his Unionist colleagues sent out 30,000 leaflets winding up their people about a decision they themselves implemented in Lisburn.

Like his former mentor he has marched Loyalists up to the top of the hill and then left them there. He has left them in the "leadership" of such a motley crew as Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson, a more odious and obsequious pair one could not hope to meet.

Time after time Robin shows himself to be a man bereft of any real leadership in stark contrast to Martin McGuinness, who when faced with internal Republican demons at Masserene faced them down and showed true leadership to his community.


UCD Students throw eggs at Uber Blue Shirt

I see that three UCD students have been reprimanded by the University for their attempt to hit Taoiseach Enda Kenny with eggs.

It would seem their aim wasn't the best and I'm surprised because one of them was from Belfast but alas they did hit someone, they hit Vice-President for Students Dr Martin Butler.

After this howler they got a suspended fine and have to write written apologies to the egged Dr Butler.

It's a good job John Prescott wasn't about; he was a man that knew how to handle protesters who throw eggs.

You can view a clip of him in action below.

UCD students have always been up for their stunts. I remember attending a few USI Annual Congress's during my time at QUB and they were nearly removed on a couple of occasions.

The President of USI at the time was a guy called Ben Archibald, formally of QUB and he was a member of the British Tory party. To show their distaste one of their number held up a sign which read "One Tory, One Bullet".

This caused uproar but a member of the QUB delegation refused to be outshined in the outrage department by a Jackeen so our West Belfast colleague improvised a sign which read "Many Tories, One Bomb: Remember Brighton". As Congress was finishing the next day the UCD contingent stormed the stage and unfurled "Another World is possible through Socialism" banner.

Looking back at my time in student politics I'm reminded just how futile the whole lot was. A onetime political rival at QUB had a good line on student politics; "Student Politics is so incredibly humorous because there is nothing to risk at all"

PSNI and the Easter Lily

I see that our new start to Policing hasn't fully removed the behaviour of the past. Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has slammed the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service for bringing him and fellow party activist Kevin McColgan to court over distribution of Easter Lilies outside the Tyrone v Monaghan game at Healy Park last Easter Sunday.

The West Tyrone MLA said:

“This was a ludicrous charge that should never have been brought before the court in the first place.  Unfortunately I can only conclude that there was politics at play in the decision to bring these charges. People are very angry about this case and many are contrasting our treatment with the hands-off approach taken towards flag protestors who have been disrupting our town and other parts of the six counties since before Christmas. I completely fail to see how the public interest has been served in this case.  The court costs along with the PSNI bill will run into thousands of pounds, all at the taxpayers expense."

There we have it, the stark contrast between the actions of the PSNI regarding Republicans and Unionists.

On one hand it allows Willie and Jamie's knuckle dragging cronies to take part in illegal marches all across the Six Counties with no attempt made to stop them or indeed to arrest and charge them as they are obligated to and then they prosecute two Republicans for selling Easter Lilies outside a GAA match on the most important day in the Irish Republican calendar.

Republicans are well used to this kind of hostile treatment from the supposed forces of law and order.

The Easter Lily is a very important symbol in Irish Republicanism.

It was Cumann na mBan who presented the Easter lily in 1925 and it was Constance Markievicz that popularised the wearing of the Easter lily in 1926.

The design was inspired by the traditional flower of Easter which adorns so many Churches and homes in remembrance of Christ's death and resurrection.

Often called the “white-robed apostles of hope” lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ’s agony. Tradition has it that beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ’s sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress.

The lily is a symbol of hope, unity and love. It's also a symbol of the great resurrection and in our case the resurrection of the Irish nation and its desire to be free.

After the split in 1969 the “stickies” got their nickname because of the new way in which they attached their Easter lily, the Republican Movement stayed with the traditional paper and pin.

Republicans continue to honour the heroic sacrifice made in 1916, when republican revolutionaries, outnumbered and ill-equipped, took on the might of the British Empire and asserted in arms Ireland’s right to freedom.

Irish republicans wear the Easter lily to honour all those who have given their lives in the cause of Irish freedom in 1916 and in every decade since.

Every Irish person, regardless of their party political allegiances, should show their pride in our founding fathers by wearing this little badge.


Petrus Romanus and the Petrine Succession

Tomorrow marks the start of Lent and the Vatican informs us that we will have a new Pope by Easter. In that vein I thought it might be interesting to revisit the writings of another Armagh man, St Malachy.

St Malachy is purported to have made a prophesy about the Papacy detailing all the Pope's from Pope Celestine II all the way down to the last Pope, Pope Benedict XVI's successor, a man known simply as Petrus Romanus.

The last section makes reference to Peter the Roman, in English it states the following

"In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people"

The Church has always regarded the prophesy as a forgery and never set much store by it.

Still, when looking at the papabili it makes for interesting reading.

Paddy Power has the leader’s odds thus

1. Cardinal Marc Ouellet (3/1)

Cardinal Ouellet has headed the Congregation for Bishops since 2010 and has strong Curial connections. A native of Quebec he has annoyed quite a few Liberal Catholics in Canada with his position on Catholic social issues.

2. Cardinal Angelo Scola (4/1)

Regarded by many as the Crown Prince of the Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Milan is Conservative and was close to both the current Holy Father and Pope John Paul II. Though at 71 his age may count against him.

3. Cardinal Peter Turkson (4/1)

The first Cardinal of Ghana and relator of the Synod of Africa is also the head of Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, which released a document in 2011 calling for radical economic reforms to deal with the global recession. The document condemned the "idolatry of the market", and Cardinal Turkson expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

That said his suspected soft stance of contraception may place him at odds with the vast majority of conservative Princes appointed by both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.

Will one of these men be Petrus Romanus?

There are many rules surrounding Conclave, in fact Pope John Paul’s 1996 decree on selecting a successor for the Petrine succession imposed some hard fast rules that Conclave must observe.

While it is true that the Pope need not be a Prince of the Chruch, in fact any baptised Catholic Male could become Pope, the last time a non Cardinal was elected Pope was when Urban VI was elected to lead the Church in 1378.

There is an old phrase that states

"He who enters the conclave as Pope, leaves it as a Cardinal"

The death of the Hammer and Sickle

The Guardian has an interesting article about the French Communist Party dropping the hammer and sickle as its official insignia. It goes on to ask is that symbol even relevant in today’s globalised and digital world.

For me the hammer and sickle, as first envisaged, was about the working class retaking their dignity and power away from the hands of a few power craven industrialists. It was about the rise of the Proletariat.

Let’s look at the Left in Europe for a moment. There are not many members of the various parties and groups which hold to that ideology who would be represented by that insignia.

Pseudo intellectuals, champagne socialists, digital programmers, educationalists, community workers etc but not that many hard industry factory or agrarian workers amongst their ranks. In fact by the looks of quite a few I know a hard day’s work would kill them.

At a time when the working class are being devastated by the effects of rampant and uncontrolled capitalism why isn't the Left making more of an impact across Europe?

I'm not talking about the "I can't believe it's not Left" type party who massage their political message  in the centre. I'm talking about traditional working class values from a time when morals where still very much part and parcel of the Left wing movement and not the rampant liberal atheism and moral relativism that we see all too often today.

The Left should be spending less time worrying about symbols and more time reconnecting with their traditional base.


Holy Father to Resign

I was shocked to find out that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is set to resign the See of St Peter at the end of the month.

The Holy Father released the following statement

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

"I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the boat of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."

This has come as a massive surprise, something I am sure that many Catholics across the globe are feeling at this moment.

He was our Sheppard in the night, the leader of the Church Militant and the Successor of St Peter.

I have to be honest and say that I did not greet his election with much joy; in fact I was quite openly hostile and arrogant. I was longing for either a South American or African Pope. I was quite Liberal at the time and believed it was time to shake up the Church but my feelings then were not informed with prayer, meditation or knowledge of both the Gospel and traditions of the Holy Mother Church.

Looking back I realise he was the right man to succeed the much loved Pope John Paul II. He was a fierce defender of Catholic dogma and the truth in these Godless times we live in.

It's perhaps best that the guidance of the Conclave of Cardinals is left to the Holy Spirit and not this humble sinner.

His resignation is in stark contrast to his predecessor who struggled until his dying days with the supreme duty and sacrifice of the office he was entrusted with.

Pope John Paul II encompassed all that was good about Catholicism and I only hope and pray that the successor of Pope Benedict XVI has the strength and vision to lead our Church in these difficult times.


Frazer attack

It would eppear that the seemingly unbalanced Willie "It was the Ra wat done it" Frazer has been the subject of a very sinister attack this weekend.

This sort of attack should be condemned by all right thinking individuals without reservation.

The fact that Willie's roots are less than rosy concerning the Glenanne Gang and links with the Portadown and Mid Ulster UVF/LVF is neither here nor there; the son should not be blamed for the sins of the Father.

This also has the sad reality of gifting Mr Frazer with even more free publicity and the man’s a veritable media whore at the best of times.

It would be much more conducive to allow him to continue to express his highly eccentric views at all hours of the night.


All are equal but some are more equal than others

I see that the rabid Fine Gaeler Leo Varadkar has said that people who break the law one day should not be able to rely on its protection the next.

He is referring to the household charge that the Blueshirt/Stickie government are imposing on the crippled people of Ireland.

Now to Mr Varadkar this may seem like a small amount but a great many people it is akin to taking the food out of their children's mouth.

While accepting people’s right to disagree with something he added this caveat

"But people also do have a responsibility to obey the law - and you can't break the law one day and then expect the law to be able to protect you the next day."

People have a responsibility to their family, first and foremost and their welfare must be their primary concern. The government of the day have a responsibility to serve the people, not the other way around. The law is not some higher being or deity that should be worshiped by the masses, nor does something being made law make it right or just.

There is very little stopping the current government from making it illegal that if you speak ill of their parties you are automatically subject to 10 years in prison. According to the logic of Mr Varadkar people would have a responsibility to follow that same law.

The reality is that Mr Varadkar owes his smug swagger to the people of Ireland. All authority is vested in the people as laid out in Bunreacht Na hÉireann.

He would be better laying the financial burden of this mess at the feet of those who are responsible.

That would not suit him though because it’s one rule for the bankers and the speculators and another for the working class!


Collins-Britain's Greatest Foe

It seems that Michael Collins is leading the British National Army Museum’s online poll to determine who Britain’s Greatest Foe was.

The "Big Fella" is indeed amongst the military astute when you consider that the list also includes George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, Erwin Rommel, Ataturk and Louis Botha to name but a few.

I have long had high regard for Michael Collins, something that many of my Republican comrades find quite strange. It's not hard to see how people could come to that conclusion, I'm a Northern Republican and my mother and father’s family both had members within the ranks of the 4th Northern Division of the IRA in the early 1920's.

While my Mother's family have always been resolute Sinn Féiners my father's family have been hardcore Fianna Failers since the civil war, in fact my great-grandfather was part of the group that blew up Dundalk barracks during the civil war.

Even given all of that I have always had huge respect for Collins both as a military leader and also for his political decisions. It saddens me that a party like Fine Gael attempt to claim allegiance to him.

Collins was a Republican and he firmly believed that partition was only a stepping stone to the ultimate freedom, the establishment of a 32 county Irish Republic.

To that end he secretly sent arms to the IRA in the North, much to the annoyance of both the British and the Northern Unionists.

Collins was sadly killed by his fellow Irishmen before he had a chance to realise his final dream. I wonder is things would have been different had he lived or would he have slowly slipped into a partitionist like most of his IRA comrades.

Inward investment isn't everything

I read that the Irish Stem Cell Foundation has warned that current restrictions on research in Ireland are preventing inward investment in the bio-tech sector.

They are calling on the Government to pass legislation promised in the programme for government to create a clear framework for the use of stem cells in scientific research.

Until such laws are in place, the group says Ireland cannot compete with international research in a growing number of areas.

I think there is huge potential with stem cell research but I must be clear from the outset, I will never support embryonic stem cell research.

Aside from the fact that I view it as akin to the work of Dr Frankenstein and the murder of the unborn the scientific benefits are not there. All of the "advances" in this field of research has lead to tumours.

There is more than enough scope from the use of adult stem cells harvested from bone marrow. There is also the potential of umbilical and amniotic stem cell research.

This debate has been skewed towards the use of embryonic without the scientific basis for this being established.

Before we go ahead and do something new in the field of science we should always stop ourselves and ask the question

Should we really be doing this?


Narrow Water ambush was a "political crime"

That was the allegation of a former RUC officer made to the Smithwick tribunal.

He said members of An Garda Siochanca told him that they had been instructed by the Taoiseach of the day, Jack Lynch, not to aid the RUC because the Narrow Water Ambush was a "political crime"

I find it quite hard to believe that the Taoiseach who stood on the sidelines while innocent Catholics were being pogramed out of Belfast and Derry developed the testicular fortitude to do something so daring.

Then again this could just be a former RUC branch man throwing mud in the hope that it will stick.

Only time will tell

British hypocrisy over shoot-to-kill policy

Unlike most Republican's I don't blame the British for having a shoot-to-kill policy. The IRA were combatants and the IRA had a shoot-to-kill policy in relation to Crown forces.

All is fair in love and war as the saying goes.

What does bother me about their policy is the blatant hypocrisy of it.

On one hand they present themselves to the world as an independent referee between two warring factions yet all the time arming, training and directing their death squads and actively engaging in a shoot-to-kill policy with the IRA.

I would have more respect for them if they just came out and said "Yes, we were in a war with the IRA and we actively directed our forces to shoot-to-kill. We make no apology for that"

This ridiculous "who me?" is starting to wear a little thin.


Border Poll Inevitable-Adams

I see that Gerry Adam's has responded to comments by British SOS Owen Patterson who said he had no intention of holding a border poll.

Gerry said "A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing,"

"When a border poll is held Owen Patterson will have no vote on that issue. That is as it should be, entirely a matter for the people of Ireland."

I think a border poll would be a good idea as it would be a good barometer of how far we are from our goal of establishing the new 32 county Irish Republic.

Do I believe at this moment in time that it would pass? No I don't but I also think support for the Union would be no higher than high 50's.

With Scotland set to have an independence vote in 2014 and the rising of tension over the next few years I believe we have a unique opportunity to see the breakup of the UK.

I can't see anyone objecting to the poll, after all, isn't everyone a democrat these days?

Foot and Mouth strikes Nike

I see that sports giant Nike has suffered a case of foot in mouth disease with their new "Black and Tan" trainers.

It seems the sports company was aiming it towards the drink by the same name, though the drink is even more foul than Nike's faux paus.

It does seem strange that after the furore over Ben and Jerry's similar mistake that nobody at Nike had the gumption to think that this may be a bit of a sensitive subject.

I walk past the grave of a young boy every Sunday who was killed by the Black and Tan's on my way into Mass and my late Grandfather used to curse them upon hearing the name mentioned.

The hatred of the Tan's amongst the older Irish people is matched only by that of Cromwell.

So what is next for Nike? Will we have the SS Football Boots?

Nike is hardly a minimum wage company for its top executives so here's a bit of free advice; use Google!


Let's see if they really want Church and State divided

Yet again the British government seek to push their country further and further into the moral abyss.

It was with sadness I learnt that the British government are seeking to make Gay "Marriage" legal.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Primate of Scotland, said that the "grotesque" plans would "shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world" if implemented.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, leader of the Church in England and Wales said changing the nature of marriage would be a "profoundly radical step" that would reduce its effectiveness and significance.

"There are many reasons why people get married. For most couples, there is an instinctive understanding that the stability of a marriage provides the best context for the flourishing of their relationship and for bringing up their children.

"Society recognises marriage as an important institution for these same reasons: to enhance stability in society and to respect and support parents in the crucial task of having children and bringing them up as well as possible."

This liberal agenda is being fought in many Christian countries across the world and I proud of the Church for being the main vocal critic of such repugnant plans.

For any Christian to even consider supporting such a divergence is in direct contrast to God's law as laid down in both the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark.

From time immemorial Marriage has been the union of a man and woman under God, it has never been and should never be allowed to become a tool to advance the liberal homosexual agenda.

It has always been Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. For if we follow in that path of decay how long before people want to be allowed to "marry" their animals and lay with them.

Marriage is a religious institution and once which many in the liberal agenda mistakenly believe can be used to further their own ends. So, in that vein in order to protect the institution of marriage I would seek the state to remove itself from the religious affairs of the various religions.

Most of the liberals seeking to advance this notion of Gay "Marriage" also seek further separation of Church and State so let’s see if the practise what they preach, pardon the pun.

I would see Marriage return to the preserve of the religions only and let the state recognise any union it wishes through civil partnerships.

That would mean that married couples would be recognised as civil partners under the law with the same rights and responsibilities as all homosexual couples.

Isn't that the equality they are seeking? Or is it, as I suspect, they are seeking to undermine the religious institution of marriage?