There's a Rabitte on my tail?

I'm a little freaked out!

I was trawling through the Balrog archives when I came to a test that Chris posted nearly a year ago which involves you answering questions about your political opinions. From your answer, the test then determines which political party you are closest to. Now I remembering doing it at the time and unsurprisingly the result was Sinn Féin, however I took it again today just out of boredom and it seems I might well be supporting the wrong party!

My results were -

#1 Labour

#2 Sinn Féin

#3 Green Party

#4 Fianna Fail

#5 Fine Gael

#6 Progressive Democrats

Now I certainly won't be sending away to Pat Rabbitte for a membership form but it certainly was an interesting test. Try it yourself and maybe you'll be as surprised as I was. Unionists might find it interesting to see what party they'd be supporting if they'd ended up on the other side of the border.


More hate crime on the streets of the north and this time it’s a young homosexual who has been badly beaten and will probably lose the sight in one eye. The attack happened in Derry, a city which has unfortunately gotten itself a reputation for homophobic attacks. The victim has apparently been attacked before.

The kind of people that go round doing this type of thing are low-lives and cowards. They sneak around in the dark and attack when they see a victim outnumbered and vulnerable. They have no guts, no decency and no part to play in a civilised society.

Ireland name side to play Italy

Ireland Rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan has named his side to play against Italy in the opening game of the six nations on Saturday. Its a strong selection with the main changes from previous years being David Wallace regaining a starting position, Jerry Flannery starting at hooker and Ulsterman and former Monaghan Gaelic footballer Tommy Bowe playing on the wing.

Despite a disappointing Autumn International series, there seems to be an increased optimism about Ireland's chances, probably due to the marvellous perfromances of both Leinster and Munster in the Heineken Cup a fortnight ago. These sides make up the bulk of the Irish side with 4 from Leinster and 8 from Munster starting.

2006 could well be "now or never" for this Irish side. 2005 promised so much but delievered so little and if nothing is achieved in 2006, Eddie O'Sullivan could be under pressure. Unlike against Australia and New Zealand, Ireland have the majority of their players fit, including the crucial men in both the backs and forwards i.e. Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell.

A convincing victory will be expected on Sunday but its the trips to London and Paris that will define Ireland's season. The best of luck to them. For a more expert analysis of the campaign, you can always try the Irish blogosphere's resident rugby expert, Gerry O'Sullivan.

Blueshirts Red Light?

I was reading in a newspaper that the Blueshirts are seriously considering legalising prostituition in the slight chance that they get into government after the 2007 general election. I am actually in favour of this move, but not I hasten to add for my own perverse benefits, but for a number of reasons. Firstly it would clean the hooker scene up as they would not have more diseases that a fucking carrier pigeon and would be subjected to the rigours of medical checks. Secondly it would take prostitution out of the hands of criminal gangs, making it much safer for both the hooker and the clientelle. Thirdly it may cure the drugs problem many hookers have and provide the hookers with proper protection from crooked pimps. People shy away from this topic but I am prepared to face it head on. Amsterdam for example proves that legalised prostitution works. Fourthly why not legalise it when people are going to do it anyway!!!!


Battle of the Boyne: Orange Victory or Green Heroism? Who's account would you believe?

Having nothing else to do on Saturday evening, I sat in front of the T.V. flicking through the channels hoping to come across something more interesting than Who Wants To Be A Millionare. As I searched I, to my surprise, caught a glimse of the respected historian Peter Snow. As I continued to watch I discovered that he was examining the famous to some, infamous to others, Battle of the Boyne.

Growing up in this crazy little place of ours, listening every year to different unionists and loyalists preaching about the glorious 12th, and being forced to watch the extensive BBC coverage of the many sectarian Orange Order parades throughout the "province", I was of the opinion that it had been a decisive victory for British Protestants over Irish Catholics . How wrong I had been!

I watched with a mixture of interest and bewilderment, as Snow totally contradicted the ideas that I had heard about this 'great and glorious victory for the protestant sons of Ulster'. What he talked of was not how thousands of 'Ulster Protestants' had came out to fight, but that there were only a few hundred and that the most memorable contribution an 'Ulsterman' made to the battle was almost killing his 'Great King William' by accident!

Instead of 'Protestant' heroism, he told of how after king James (of England ironicly) had left the battle, around 5000 Irish Cathloics had held Williams army of around 26,000 men for over 12 hours with the help of the cavalry (also Irish) of the famous Patrick Sarsfield. (from who hundreds of G.A.A. clubs around the country take their name)

I think you will agree that this was a great achievement!

So who's victory was it? Who's men fought heroicly on the day of the Battle of the Boyne? Historian Peter Snow says the Irish Catholics. This other gentleman (above) and thousands of other Orange thugs around the 'Province' say the 'Ulster Protestants'.

Who would you believe?


Sunday, Bloody Sunday

34 years ago today, 14 men were killed by the British Army as they took part in a Civil Rights demonstration. The event became known as Bloody Sunday. I'm not going to dwell on the detail too much as the facts have been laid out many times by men and women more articulate than I.

The men killed were -

Jackie Duddy, 17
Patrick Doherty, 31
Bernard McGuigan, 41
Hugh Gilmour, 17
Kevin McElhinney, 17
Michael Kelly, 17
John Young, 17
William Nash, 19
Michael McDaid, 20
James Wray, 22
Gerald Donaghy, 17
Gerald McKinney, 35
William McKinney, 26
John Johnston, 59

May their souls rest in peace.

I must agree entirely with the comments of SDLP councillor Colum Eastwood. Like me, he was born long after the events of Bloody Sunday and like me, he marvells at the strength which the victims of that terrible day have shown;

You stood tall for truth against the lies and cover-up of Widgery. You will stand only for full truth from Saville.In the face of provocation, insult and abuse, your dignity has shone through. Whatever may come in the time ahead, your cause will win through.

These men were not the first die, nor were they the last. Their stories are only part of a terrible time when too many died for too little. However their stories live on simply because they were a symbol of the attitude the British had towards the conflict here - an attitude of lies, an attitude of cover up. Just as Widgery covered up the true story behind these men's deaths, so the Inquiries Act seeks to do the same for the deaths of others. This cannot be tolerated - the truth must be told.

At yesterday's commemorative march, Raymond McCartney directed his remarks to those responsible for the new Inquiry into Bloody Sunday;

they must keep in their minds one of the great lessons of Bloody Sunday that if the truth of that day is in anyway suppressed then the quest for the truth remains as fresh as it was all those years ago

These words ring as true for the victims of Bloody Sunday as they do for all the victims.

Brit's have a veto on Planning in South Armagh

I was shocked and angered to learn that the British army has an informal veto over the planning process in South Armagh. Martin Clarke revealed that the Ministry of Defence had held up an application by Northern Ireland Electricity to connect his new home in Dromintee to the electricity grid.

NIE requires planning permission to erect five electricity poles that will carry power to Martin's new home. After a delay of several months he was told this week that planners had finally "received approval" from the British army for the poles.

Martin said

“This caused me a major inconvenience. NIE did a survey and got permission from the landowners and it was referred to the planners. I was told that they then referred the matter to the Ministry of Defence in London, where it was probably left in a corner somewhere. This job should have been done in September but I'm still waiting to get into my new home. I was very surprised to learn that the hold-up was caused by the British army,”

Local Sinn Féin councillor Anthony Flynn said he was concerned at revelations that the British army had a say in approving planning applications in South Armagh.

“It appears to be a fact that the British army have the veto over planning applications in south Armagh, and I am led to believe that this does not happen in any other area throughout the Six Counties,”

The British army shouldn't have any say in planning applications anywhere in the North but it hardly comes as a surprise that they have aquired them in South Armagh.

Anthony added: “It is essential to learn how far-reaching this veto is. People are asking have the British army an input to all planning applications including housing, which in effect is a veto,”

This is a disgrace and should be clarifed and stopped ASAP!

O'Donoghue Case - no easy answers

The tragic case of Robert Holohan has attracted a lot of attention in Ireland in the past week. Having caught some of a debate on the issue on the Late Late Show on Friday, it seems that many people in Ireland feel that the man convicted of Robert's manslaughter, Wayne O'Donoghue was let off much too lightly by the 4 year jail term. This is a view which has been articulated in the blogosphere by United Irelander.

Much of the controversy seems to centre around the fact that in her Victime Impact Statement, the young boy's mother referred to semen samples which were allegedy found on Robert's hand, evidence of which was not put before the jury. Obviously this is a shocking relevation which has made many people feel worried that a miscarriage of justice has taken place.

However people should not jump so quick to judgement. A leading US forensic scientist has said that the method used to examine traces of semen in the killing of Cork schoolboy Robert Holohan is unreliable and capable of producing ‘‘spurious’’ results.

Many difficult decisions have to be made in the legal arena every day. One of those is what evidence to allow into play. Personally, I believe that since this evidence seems to have been unreliable, no competent court could ever have allowed it be admissible, though to the hugely prejudicial effects it would have had on the defendants' case, espicially when the tests have been shown to be unreliable.

People can rightly hold the view that four years' for manslaughter was too lenient a sentence but I don't believe that this semen evidence should colour the case. If we allow unreliable evidence such as this be admissible then we allow the legal system to fall into the realm of speculation. Of course, you can feel nothing but sympathy for the boy's parents and I can only imagine the torment they must be going through but the law sometimes has to make hard calls and on this occasion, I believe they were right to only allow the evidence that they did.

F.R.U. Bullshit

Was reading that bullshit rag the Sunday Life on Sunday past, and it carried an article in which 'Spy specailist' Nigel West claimed that 30% of the Army were on the payroll of British intelligence. What a load of crap! The article proceeded to say that this sevrely limited the armys campaign against the foreign enemy forces of occupation. I think this story is utterly incredulous. Evidence to the contrary of this story is the fact that the Army dragged the Brits to the negoiating table kicking and screaming and forced thatm to do a deal. When Major et al reneged upon that deal the Army once again demonstrated their devestating capacity and blew the shite out of Canary Wharf. This in turn drove the Brits to the negioating table once again! This is hardly the operational strength of an organisation where 1 in 3 of its members are apparently touts! Narrow Water, Justice Gibson, Thiepeval and Mountbatten all prove this theory to be the bullshite it is. Of course as the Donaldson fiasco proved the Army does indeed have some touts in its ranks. What organisation does not have informers in their ranks? In my opinion Nigel West should go back to specailising in spies and stop attempting to dent the reputation of the most sophisticated and successful guerilla army in the world!!!


A Cat or a Poodle?

Love him or hate him, you can always rely on George Galloway to come out with with a good one-liner. He was on RTE’s Tubridy show tonight and when slagged about his cat antics on Big Brother, the Respect MP retorted “I spent five minutes as a cat, Tony Blair has spent five years as a poodle.”

So true.

Inquiries Act to be challenged

Its good to see that David Wright, father of Loyalist Billy Wright, is to challenge the disgraceful Inquiries Act in the High Court.

I had meant to blog this earlier in the week but I suppose it’s better late than never. Longtime readers of Balrog will know my views on the Inquiries Act. It is a disgusting piece of legislation and an attempt by the British government to ensure that their dirty little secrets about the part they played in the Troubles will never be uncovered. The Act has been opposed by Canadian Judge Peter Cory, the man who published the report recommending inquiries into the deaths of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Amnesty International have also expressed their outrage at the Act which allows the British government to refuse to release information to any inquiry whenever they deem appropriate. It doesn’t take a high IQ to work out that this will be used to hamper any attempt to find the truth for those families.

Any inquiry under this Act is a fraud as it is not an independent inquiry, rather it will be a case of the British government being able to protect their own secrets by releasing only the information which does not expose them and the role they played in these deaths.
If we are to tackle the issue of collusion, and indeed victims in general, the first pre-requisite is openness and honesty. These are values which the Inquiries act ignores, preferring to settle for fraud and cover-up.

Cowards, not fighters

I've already mentioned an Irish sporting scandal this weekend but unfortunately it seems that more corruption in Irish sport may be about to be uncovered. In a live bout on RTÉ, Peter McDonagh defeated Michael Gomez for the Irish Lightweight Championship. From the viewers' perspective, the bout had an incredible ending. Irish champion Gomez seemed to simply stop boxing. It was astounding. The man stopped dead and stood in the middle of the ring and allowed himself to be punched 8 or 9 times before he finally fell to the ground. The golden rule of boxing, that you must defend yourself at all times, was well and truely broken. It was an amazing sight.

Former world champion Steve COllins, an RTE analyist, wasn't too impressed and immediately voiced his suspicions about the legitmiacy of the contest. Seemingly, his doubts have been justified with the news that Boylesports had to suspend betting following unusually high levels of betting backing a McDonagh knockout. An investigation has been launched by the Irish Boxing Union.

Its extermely saddening to see so called sportsmen behaving in such a selfish and greddy manner. They are not only cheating the bookies, but also boxing fans who had paid good money for tickets to watch the fight as well the viewing public in general. Irish boxing has only begun to be given prime slots on RTE television and the last thing honest Irish fighters need is to have the integrity of their sport undermined by cheats and frauds.

Elsewhere in the sport, Bernard Dunne from Dublin continued his upward march to glory with a win over the former British and European champion, Noel Winters, while across the water, Amir Khan was a victor with a stunning knockout performance.

I like boxing and although it has its critics, I think it can be an excellent sport to watch but tonight certain people seem to have brought it into disrepute in Ireland.


Racist Ireland?

Ireland has been branded an apartheid society by former ANC activist Patrick Maphoso. Mr. Maphoso believes that the recent threat to re-deport Nigerian student Olukunle Eluhanla shows an inherient racism in Irish political circles when it is compared with the proposals to foreign students and skilled workers from India permission for them and their families to live in Ireland.

He has been backed up in his comments by Rosanna Flynn from Residents against Racism who points out that;

It’s a question of money and class. The system is always weighted against working-class people but, if you are black and live in poverty, it is worse.While I welcome people coming into the country, the system is very unfair. It’s a case of one rule for the rich and a different rule if you are not rich

To me, this is typical of what is happening in modern day Ireland. Government and society seem only to care about the rich, while those less well-off are almost forgotten about. A society should be judged by how it treats its most vunerable and people should not be judged merely by the colour of their skin or the amount of euro in their pockets. Mr. Maphoso rightly draws a comparasion between the new migrant workers coming into Ireland and the Irish people who for many decades left this island in search of work;

These new policies will only benefit the rich in society, not the poor. A lot of Irish people have very short memories. A lot of them went all over the world and made a lot of money but they forget that now

Personally, I love my country and, while I would like to travel, I have no intention of ever emigrating permanently. However I realise that my generation has been lucky and that the generations before us did not always have that choice. The Irish economy is now thriving but that was not always the case, many young Irish men and women like myself once had no choice but to leave their homes and families to move to Britian or America in search of work. Too many young Irish people these days forget this. We should be grateful for the good fortune and good times Ireland is currently enjoying and we should not begrudge others from harder backgrounds the chance to share in that good fortune when they are willing to work and make a positive contribution to society. As the Bible says "Do unto others as you would have done unto you".

Geryhounds on Drugs

I don't know how many Balrog readers are gambling men or women. Personally I wouldn't be a huge gambler but certainly enjoy the odd flutter, however stories like this one would be enough to put any man off.

A row has erupted in the Irish greyhound world over attempts by the Irish Greyhound Board to prevent the publication of drug test failures by some greyhounds. The Chief Executive rightly protested against this course of action and was subsequently sacked. Apparently the board believed the "decision not to publish was in the interests of the industry. "

This story stinks to the high heavens of a cover up. When the public are spending hard earned money on a few bets, they have a right to know what the chances are that the sport they are gambling on is rotten. If those in authority refuse to let the public know the truth, then all trust in the industry will be lost. Too often in this country, people have tried to protect themselves and their position by being economical with the truth. These people do themselves no good and tend to end up in even worse positions when the truth eventually comes out.

A new PPS but it's Brits only!

I am disgusted but hardly surprised to learn that the new Public Prosecution Service that was launched in June and lauded as the "new era of Justice" in the North is a bigoted and anti-Irish as the last.

It appears that only “UK citizens” are allowed to join up despite the fact that the nationality issue was supposed to have been dealt with by the Good Friday Agreement.

A Dublin born solicitor who applied for a legal post in the Public Prosecution Service was told she wasn’t eligible because she wasn’t a ‘UK’ citizen; she is now pursuing legal action.

Almost half the people in the 6 counties are Irish citizens yet the British government still feels it is ok to discriminate against half the population. Many Nationalists and Republicans who are entering the legal profession, and they are in the majority now, are no longer going to tolerate this discrimination.

The oath to the English Queen that was required to take silk was effectively challenged and removed. If I choose to I should have as much right as anybody else to enter the Public Prosecution Service. We have been told that it is a new start to Justice and that the justice system will be as impartial and blind as true justice is supposed to be.

About two months ago I attended a Law Fair in Queens in which several Law firms were present, the PPS amongst them. Now in a choreographed move they sent a "Prod" and a "Taig" to man the stall. A group of friends were going over to grab a free pen from the stall and I decided to go as well in order to see what they had to say.

The fella spoke in a Southern area accent so I knew straight away that this was the "token taig" sent by the PPS to the predominantly Nationalist/Republican University to speak to the predominantly Nationalist/Republican law students.

The first thing he said was "I am an Irish Catholic" so I knew this was pre-planned and well rehearsed. He asked if any of us had thought about a career as a public prosecutor and a few of the girls laughed and looked at me so he looked at me and said "what about you big lad?"

I told him that as an Irish Republican I would be unable and unwilling to join the PPS. This fella assured me that my nationality and citizenship wouldn't count and that the PPS was totally different from the old system. I said that was all well and good but that I still had ethical problems that prevented me joining the PPS. He enquired what these were and I told him that my idea of justice was not dragging a single mother through the courts for dole fraud while allowing white-collar crime to go unpunished.

He couldn't say anything to rebuke my assertion but he then launched into an anti-Republican tirade about South Armagh and the people who live there and it was then that I knew this boy was nothing more than a Castle Catholic and a turncoat. I knew, but he was unaware that I knew, that he came from a very strong republican family.

I simply thanked him for his time but told him I was still unconvinced.

This revelation proves my assertion correct; we don’t have a new beginning to Justice!

It about time the British establishment accepted that the majority of Nationalists and Republicans are not prepared to sell their nationality and identity in order to climb the greasy poll that is the criminal justice system.

This discriminatory rule must be abolished and we must have a genuine new beginning to Criminal Justice in the 6 counties.

Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done

Palestine - so simple yet so complicated.

The big international news story of the week has been the election of Hamas to represent the Palestinian people. While personally my choice would have been the more secular Fatah party, the Palestinian people have spoken and their wishes should be respected.

Reading today's Irish News, I saw a cartoon on the issue that made me smile. In it two Israeli soldiers are sitting atop a huge wall. One remarks to the other "I wish Hamas would go back to where they came from". His fellow soldier replies "You mean stay away from where they came from."

CRJ- Getting the facts straight

The issue of Community Restorative Justice schemes has been a controversial in recent months and years. In an attempt to disguise their ill-timed move onto the Policing Board before the promised "new start to policing" had been achieved, the SDLP, and people like Alex Attwood in particular, have attacked CRJ schemes simply because they do not toe the line which the SDLP expect Nationalists to believe- that the PSNI are the be-all and end-all of any justice system in the north.

Restorative Justice can be a divisive issue in the criminal justice arena in general, outside of the north, however it is entirely wrong for certain elements to muddy the waters as they try to blacken the name of Restorative schemes. CRJ is not run by Republicans for Republicans, as its opponents try to make out. Rather as former Northern Ireland international and current CRJ volunteer Tony O'Doherty points out;

If I thought for one moment that CRJ was a political organisation, or run by a political organisation, I would resign immediately.

Mr. O'Doherty rightly points out that rather than ignorantly proclaiming their prejudices, the SDLP should actually have a look at the good work which CRJ schemes have undertaken;

A victim is a victim – pure and simple. Most of the criticism has come from the SDLP, but I don’t want to enter an argument, there are many tremendous and forward-thinking people within the SDLP, but I think that some in the party are emotionally blinkered when it comes to the issue of Community Restorative Justice

We can’t be used as a political football and we are not going to disappear. CRJ has a role for a long time to come, but we don’t believe that we are the only people. Political sound bites do not help this debate, we deliver for our own people. We deal with people across the social spectrum and don’t categorise anyone.

Personally I don't believe that CRJ can be a final solution for the policing problem in the north, however it does have an important role to play. Certainly it is extremely unhelpful for people to attack the scheme yet fail to recognise the good work that is being done. I salute Mr. O'Doherty and those like him, in this day and age people who actually care about their communities are in far too short supply.


Seperated At Birth!

After examining certain birth certificates Balrog can divulge that the following may have been seperated at birth!

One lives in a fairy tale make believe world, the other is a film character!

One is a respected leading nationalist politician, the other is in the SDLP!

One wants to dance with you, the other you want to dance upon!

One has a criminal record, the other has had many criminal 'records'!

One is a big fat dictator, the other one is in Star Wars!

One is ignorant, stupid, and doesn't know how to smile, the other lives in the jungle!

Although we have researched these findings thoroughly, they may not be totally true! These are merely the views of myself (Setanta) and my fellow blogger Adelante.

Let us know what you think!

Sláinte agus tal

New Bhoys In Town

Hello fellow bloggers!

Thanks to Chris, myself and Adelante are now joining the great republican blog Balrog.
We will be joining this already strong team of Hensons, PS and of course the Balrog founder Chris.

Both myself and Adelante hope to bring a new dimension to this site.

Of course I am an Irish republican but I also have many other interests and beliefs that will be reflected clearly in my posts. I hope to hear from many of you in the very near future.


Hamas landslide

Democracy in action has occured in the land of Palestine. Hamas has trounced Fatah, the party established by Yasser Arafat, in the election for the Palestinian Legislative council. Hamas however do not have overall control. They have the power to block the Presidents appointment of Prime Minister etc but with regards to negotations with Israel the PLO is the negotating team.

People like Bush and Israel speak about Democracy and freedom but they don't know the meaning of the word. The Palestinian people have made their choice and that choice must be respected.

I also have to laugh at everyone calling Hamas terrorists, take a look at Israel!

They are the ones who send missiles into refugee camps, they are the ones who roll around in tanks. I oppose suicide bombings on civilian targets but at least those who commit them have the balls to do it themselves and not sit in the air like cowards and send missiles in instead.

Hamas have said they will never recognise Israel, that is their choice and no one has the right to tell them different. I suspect that Iran will use this instability to raise the stakes in the Nuclear department.

I wish Hamas and the Palestinian people well in their endavours for independence and I am reminded of a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.

Berry, DUP and Court; a menage e trois

I am surprised to learn that Paul Berry case is still rumbling away in the courts. The injuction that Berry gained against the DUP has been extended for an extra two weeks. I know that Berry is intent upon "clearing" his name but Berry must be aware that his political career is over.

There is not a mission that the DUP will select him again. From all the press that Willie Frazer has been getting and the push from the DUP main players, I would bet £1000 that Willie will be selected for any new assembly election.

Politically I have no time for either, both are liars and both pretend that they are something the are not.

It would be funy if it wasn't true


George Galloway

Right, it's a slow news day and nothing grabs my attention so I thought I would give my response to Celebrity Big Brother thus far.

I know I always said Big Brother was crap and I would never watch it but I have watched this one quite a bit because of Galloway's presence and that of Michael Barrymore.

Before anyone starts talking crap I just want it on the record that I like George Galloway. I think he was wrong to go into Big Brother but that doesn't take away from a lot of the good work he has done.

Now, in relation to Barrymore I am annoyed. I had time for Barrymore before he went into the house. I thought the gutter press had been very harsh on him. I have no time for him anymore, he is not real, he's disloyal and a nut job.

He betrayed Galloway, he is a leech and he sucks up to them two idiots! (Don't know the names but one is an ugly blonde girl and the other is some slime ball named Preston who I would dearly love to deck)

I must say that Tracy Bingham has brightened up the show, that is one seriously good looking woman.

I dare say Galloway will get some stick for his "cat” performance and I must say I laughed my balls off when I saw it but fair play to him.

I hope he gets back to the important issues and leaves the cat calls to them horrible Lib Dems.

Fair play George, the show won't be the same without you.


Palestinian elections

I see Palestinian voters will go to the polls for the first time today in almost a decade. It has been almost ten years since the last election to the Palestinian Legislative Council. According to polls the ruling Fatah party are just ahead of rivals Hamas.

Sinn Féin has a very close relationship with the Fatah party and we wish them well in the election. We will always support the Palestinian people no matter who they elect.

I hope that Palestinians are able to vote for their chosen parties free from restriction by Israel. A reccuring theme in Palestinian elections has been the behaviour of the Israeli forces. They have placed restrictions upon those involved in the organisation of today's election, including people being held at checkpoints for several hours, arrests of candidates and election offices raided, and candidates being told that they cannot campaign in East Jerusalem, even indoors. Voter registration was prevented in East Jerusalem until one week ago.

I notice that the US and Israel have said they will not work with a government that contains Hamas. It is none of their buisness who the Palestinians elect, it is the choice of the Palestinian people that counts.

They will just have to deal with the results, the fact that they might not like the result is neither here nor there!

P.S. I await Felix's rants about my "anti-Semitic" attitudes


Republican efforts can’t be ignored!

That is the view of Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness . Martin insisted yesterday that “no half-baked solutions” to the North’s political stalemate will be acceptable to Republicans. Martin also reiterated Sinn Féin's demand for the North’s political institutions to be restored fully.

The Mid-Ulster MP stressed this would require the return of a fully-functioning assembly, with a fully-functioning inclusive ministerial executive linked to a fully-functioning North-South Ministerial Council.

“The current stalemate is totally unacceptable and has to be
ended. The nonsense of a suspended assembly is not sustainable. People have a right to the institutions which they voted for. People have a right to proper political representation from the politicians they voted for. Anything short of a fully-fledged and functioning assembly, ministerial executive and North-South Ministerial Executive will be totally unacceptable to Sinn Féin,”

Amazingly Stoop cop lover Alex Atwood said Republicans have already inflicted “deep damage” on the Good Friday Agreement.

This pathetic attempt by Attwood to turn public attention away from the SDLP's blatant hypocrisy follows the damaging admission by senior Stoop member Dominic Bradley who said the SDLP is ready to replace the North’s inclusive ministerial executive.

There goes the SDLP's "100% for the GFA", I don't think anyone really believed the "100% for a United Ireland" bit anyway.


Spare the rod and you spoil the child

I am afraid I am going to have to disagree with the Children's Commissioner when he says that parents should not be allowed to smack their children at all. Don't get me wrong I understand why the laws were brought in, too many people were using their parental right to inflict terrible abuse on their children but those people are the minority.

When I was being brought up I was slapped on quite a number of occasions. Never abused but by god there were times when I got punished severely and I am the first to admit that I deserved it. My father never had to hit me even once. That duty was always in the hands of the only woman in the house, my mother. My Da didn't have to hit any of us; in a house with four boys one of his looks normally did the trick. It killed my mother to hit us and she always regretted it afterwards but she knew it was for our own good.

I don't want to sound like some grumbling old sod here, as I am only 21 but I suspect an association between the decline of corporal punishment in schools and at home and the rise in anti-social behaviour.

When I started Secondary school you wouldn't have dared give cheek to the 7th year students and when you were going home from town on the bus if an elderly person or a woman got on you got up and gave them your seat.

Nothing old fashioned about that, just good manners!!

The situation has transformed enormously in those 10 odd years. There is no fear amongst the generation below me, no fear of parents, of society or of the community. Let me assure you that fear or respect as you might call it can be a good thing.

I would go so far as to call for the re-introduction of corporal punishment but I accept that such an action will never happen due to its abuse by previous generations.

I am grateful to my parents for my upbringing; they instilled in me a respect for myself, my family and my community.

The old maxim rings true

Spare the rod and you spoil the child!


Hogg confronted over Pat Finucane killing

I am disgusted to learn that former Conservative Home office minister Douglas Hogg has admitted he was privately briefed by RUC Special Branch on multiple occasions in the run up to the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. Hogg is of course the Conservative MP who got up in the Commons less than a month before Pat Finucane's murder and said some lawyers in the 6 counties were being "unduly sympathetic" to the IRA.

Pat Finucance was an excellent solicitor but he was not an IRA man. He represented loyalists as well but he represented all his clients to the best of his ability. It is because of Lawyers like Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and Gareth Peirce that I decided to enter the legal profession.

There is no doubt that Pat Finucance wouldn't have been killed had it not been for the actions of the FRU and British intelligence.

In reference to his questioning by the Stevens team, Douglas Hogg revealed this week that he had had so many meetings about Pat Finucane it would have been “impossible for me to remember them all”.

Mr Stevens later concluded that Mr Hogg’s comments had “not been justified” when the then minister made them during a Commons debate on anti-terrorism legislation on January 17, 1989.

Pat Finucane’s son John said it was time for the Conservative MP to come clean about his private meetings with RUC Special Branch in the run up to the Belfast solicitor’s murder.

“We have never been given answers by Douglas Hogg about his briefings with the RUC, He has never apologised or even recognised the impact that his comments had and the distress they caused my family. I think it says a lot about his lack of remorse that he is willing to come to Belfast and practise law in the very place where a solicitor was killed following his inflammatory comments.”

I agree 100% with John and wish his family all the best in their search for a full, independent inquiry into their murder of their father.

Douglas Hogg, a truly disgusting human being!

Political Policing

I see British Secretary of State Peter Hain has said statements made by RUC/PSNI Securocrat officer Sam Kinkaid bears "little resemblance" to reality. I hope this suggests that the British government has finally got wise to the political policing that is happening within this "new" police force.

Former RUC Special Branch officers, almost all the top positions, have their own agenda and they are part of the problem.

Pat Doherty put it well on Hearts and Minds on Thursday. Kinkaid is a liar, he is operating from his own agenda and he will need to be dealt with in the long run by the Brits.

Before Republicans will support any new force the old Special Branch elite must be purged from the organisation.

The SDLP may have been willing to accept political policing on their watch but we will not be accepting it on ours.

The Securocrat agenda will not be allowed to continue, the British government have some very hard decisions to make.


Bertie rules out gay mariage

It seems that an Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has ruled out any chance of "gay marraige". Bertie has said that a majority of voters would not support such a concept and I happen to agree with him.

I am supportive of civil partnerships, I support full equality for homosexual couples in relation to inheritance rights and next of kin rights but you can not have a gay marriage.

It is quite simple, marriage is the union of a man and a woman and to suggest that you can have a "gay marriage" is utterly ridiculous.

Bertie Ahern has faced this pressure since the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution is expected to recommend that the definition of the family should not be based on marriage due to fears it could lead to a divisive referendum on gay marriage.

Two members of the committee blasted its conservative stance and said it had lost a long-awaited opportunity to deliver equality for same-sex unions and cohabiting couples.Green party TD Ciaran Cuffe said the all-party body’s discussions regarding family rights were cautious and conservative. He called for the revision of Article 41.3.1 which states that the family is founded on the institution of marriage.

Sinn Féin’s member on the committee, Arthur Morgan, said the all-party body had squandered a long-awaited opportunity to deal with outdated and flawed aspects of the 1937 document.

“Sinn Féin had hoped that the members of the committee would grasp the opportunity to deal conclusively with the issue of the definition of the family and address the plight of those non-traditional family formations who find themselves discriminated against in the constitution,”

The Co Louth TD claimed that some committee members were afraid to support amendments because they feared a divisive referendum on same-sex unions.

“The definition of the family in Article 41.3.2 serves to unnecessarily limit family rights and hampers the realisation of full equality rights. “Because constitutional protection for families is only extended to heterosexual families, based on marriage, this permits discrimination against other family formations. Given the diversity of family formations which exist in the state today, this definition of family is clearly inadequate and discriminatory.”

I agree with Arthur, there is a changing nexus as to what constitutes a "family". Gone are the days when marriage was the determining factor in what constituted a family. Co-habiting couples and same sex couples can also have be a "family".

I come from a family where my parents are separated, my father has another partner but that doesn't change the fact that we are a family. A fucked up one no doubt but a family none the less.

Derry based gay rights campaigner David McCartney said that it would be shameful if the Irish government failed to deliver legal equality to gay couples. “We have never sought marriages because that has religious connotations. What we want is equality under the law,”

I agree with David, gay marriage is out of the question but same sex couples should have the same equality under the law.

Cancer 'breakthrough'

I am pleased to learn that Queen's Pro-Vice Chancellor, John Mann has said he has made an important breakthrough in understanding how cancer cells can be forced to "fold-up" and eventually die.

This would seem to be an important breakthrough in the fight against Cancer. I doubt there is a person in this country who has not lost a relative through Cancer or indeed has fought Cancer themselves. Research suggests that 1 in 3 of us will die from Cancer. Judging by my lifestyle I will undoubtely be one of those 1 in 3 so any help that the medical profession might offer is much appreciated.

Cancer is a terrible disease and is up their with Alzheimer's, which is also all to prevelant in my family.

The toll it places on a family is immense

I would like to wish Professor Mann all the best.


Touts- an unfortunate reality

So another tout has been outed bringing the grand total to two and already some are predicting that the end is nigh for Sinn Féin. They only wish that was the case.

After the Donaldson affair was revealed, I read a comment in the media from a Republican (can't remember the name) that the worst thing to happen now would be for fellow Republicans to start looking at each other with fear and suspicion. This is entirely true. The disabling of Sinn Féin is what the anti-peace process elements want. These people fear change and they known that Sinn Féin's agenda of change is against their own interests. No spies within the SDLP have been outed, why not? Because the agenda of the SDLP continues to be one approved of by the British establishment. Why try to bring down something that is of no threat to you?

I believe that with the important negotiations re devolution and important internal debates re policing coming up that Special Branch has decided that now is the time at which it can cause its enemy the most damage by revealing its grubby little secrets.

So what if there were a few informants? It is an unfortunate part of struggle. And the glee of those reporting on various blogs says more about them than it does about any Republican.

Lets also get a little perspective here. People are going around claiming that touts were running the movement. What a load of rubbish. The man was Sinn Féin election worker. So have I been and what I could tell the Brits that they don't already know wouldn't worth the price of a phone call to them.

My main point is, let the anti-Republicans have their moment in the sunlight. Let the SDLP enjoy their moment of glory (forgetting of course that this policy continued while they were lying to nationalists pretending that the RUC had changed and that the old days were gone forever).

When all is said and done, what we have accomplished so far will still be there and our aims and objectives will remain the same.

Securocrat agenda remains

I am not surprised to hear the news that another long term tout has crawled out from beneath the woodwork. Sean Lavelle, a Sinn Fein election worker, has admitted to being a Special Branch agent for more than 20 years.

First of all I would like to express my sympathy with the Lavelle family and friends, this must be a terrible shock. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

I am not surprised that this has happened and it is quite clear that the securocrats have a very precise agenda in all of this. They are going to "out" as many of their touts as possible in the hope that it will destabilise the Republican movement. All the way throughout history the British have used paid British spies and informers, they didn't beat us then and they won't beat us now.

You see, change terrifies them. We will have a Sinn Féin minister for justice at some time in the future; we will have a Sinn Féin deputy first minister and possibly a Sinn Féin power bloc in the Dáil. The securocrats are doing all in their power to try and stop this from happening.

I expect the other leeches (Stoops) to try and latch on to this and I hope they do. The Nationalist electorate is not fooled by the SDLP anymore and if they want to sink a few more nails into their political coffins then who are we to stop them.

Republicans are not fooled by this agenda, we remain committed and united.

The securocrat agenda will never prevail!!


Irish Blog Awards

I see slugger is giving a plug to the Irish Blog Awards being run by Damien Mulley. I think this is the first time anything like this has been done on the Irish blogosphere and it'll be interesting to see how it goes. I wish Damien the best of luck with the venture. He is currently on the lookout for a bit of help with the big night and if any balrog readers can help him with his wishlist, I'm sure it would be greatly appreciated.

Nominations for entrants in the following categories are open untill 23th January.

Best Blogger
Best Blog Post
Most Humorous Post
Best Photo Blog
Best Fictional Piece in a Blog
Best Arts and Culture Blog
Best Political Blog
Best Group Blog
Best Comment/Commenter
Best Personal Blog
Best Use of the Irish Language in a Blog
Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere (Tech wise)

If you wish to nominate yourself or someone else then you can email irishawards (at) gmail.com with a link to the blog and/or the post you want to nominate and for which category.

Croke Park set to open the hallowed doors

I read with a little dissapointment the news that Croke Park will be made avaible to the FAI and the IRFU next year. France are expected to be the first rugby visitors to Croke Park in February while England will take to the field later that month.

The football internationals are likely to take place in March, October and November of next year.

I was against this decision from the start.

I don't see why so many people in the IRFU and the FAI think the GAA "owes" them something.

The reason that the IRFU and the FAI don't have a stadium to the standard of Croke Park is because of the shambles that they call their managment.

I was in Nou Camp, Stade de France, Wembley, Park head and Old Trafford. I can safely say that not one of them even came close to Croke Park.

The atmosphere of that stadium is magic, a feeling like no other and when your county team walks out onto that hallowed turf there is no other place you would rather be.

I must say that I follow Irish teams in nearly all sports, except Cricket because it's crap!

I am a Rugby and Soccer fan but I do not believe that they should be allowed into Croke Park.

I have seen the way the English Rugby team disrespected the Irish President in Lansdowne Road and I have seen the way English soccer fans rioted in Lansdowne Road and I would not like to see that in Croke Park.

The Hill was made of the rubble from the 1916 Easter Rising and the stadium itself was the scene of the first Bloody Sunday.

The GAA, for many Irish people, symbolises the very heart of modern Irish identity.

I don't wish to see that tarnished and I feel a small bit of it will.

What are your feelings on the issue?

Slan Abhaile

I am glad to hear that British Crown forces will finally be leaving South Armagh by May of this year. The British army said today that it expected work to dismantle watchtowers in South Armagh and elsewhere to be completed by May of this year.

British army troop levels in the North are also set to fall to their lowest level since the 1970's when a battalion based in Bessbrook withdraws by the end of the week.

This is good news and the people of South Armagh will be happy to see the last British soldier leave our area.

They should never have been there in the first place and have no reason or right to be in Ireland. I hope that the farmers who had their lands robbed off them by the British government in South Armagh will now have their land given back.

While the last British soldier may be leaving South Armagh there will still be 5,000 in the North and Republicans will not be leaving this issue until every British soldier is out of Ireland.

I myself am looking forward to looking out my front window and seeing the watchtower on Faughill gone.

So long lads, don't let the door hit your arse on the way out!

New start to policing? Yeah right!

Following on from our conversations on Policing I recieved an e-mail from a collegue in Tyrone with news of the farcical trial of two Ógra Shinn Féin activists in Tyrone.

Fifteen months after their arrest, two Ógra Shinn Féin activists John McDermot from Strabane and Daniel Turnbull from Omagh have appeared in court charged with obstruction, disorderly behaviour and resisting arrest.

At the time of their arrest in September 2004 Sinn Féin in Omagh accused the RUC/PSNI of heavy handed tactics after a number of protestors were beaten with batons and the two arrested at a peaceful protest against a British Army PR exercise at the Silver Birches Hotel.

Both men were released after two hours following a protest in which 100 people blocked the main entrance to Omagh RUC/PSNI Barracks. Turnbull and McDermott appeared at Omagh Court House on Thursday 5 January.

In order to coincide with the appearance, Ógra Shinn Fein held a solidarity protest which also aimed to highlight ongoing political harassment by the RUC/PSNI. Omagh Town Councillor Martin McColgan, Sean Begley and Barry McElduff MLA attended the protest.

Ógra Six-County Organiser Barry McColgan said: "The ongoing harassment and intimidation of Ógra activists and young nationalists and republicans across the North and especially here in Tyrone is totally unacceptable. I would call on all the main political parties and right thinking people to condemn this ongoing campaign of politically motivated harassment. We demand an end to this political policing."

The verdict on the trial of the two Ógra activists will be announced onWednesday 18 January.

I wish the two lads all the best and I know that this whole exercise is complete rubbish designed to harrass and intimidate young Republicans. This incident and incidents like it will have an effect on the Policing debate within the Republican community.

These two lads are the type of people who will be asked to join any new policing structure and young Republicans in general will be asked to endorse and support any accepted force. It will not be the old men and women who will be joining a new force, it will be the youth. Their views should be respected and listened to.

Failing to do so would be foolish in the extreme!

For any new police force to be acceptable to Republicans we need an end to Political Policing, an end to the Securocrat agenda.

Until this happens there will be no support for any police force


Hain promises all Ireland phone tariffs.

Great news for mobile phone users in border regions as it seems that pressure is to be put on mobile phone companies to introduce all-Ireland tariffs. This is an issue which I have brought up on this blog in the past and its great to see that it finally seems to be being dealt with.

According to reports, Secretary of State Peter Hain has warned that things could get "pretty tough" for phone operators if they don't agree to drop the roaming charges that hike up some users' bills in border regions.

These roaming charges are a disgrace. They exploit phone users in border regions in an attempt to suck every last penny possible away from the consumer. There is nothing more frustrating than being unable to receive or make a phone call because your phone has switched signal even though you are often still in the north. The problem is particularly bad in South Armagh where huge areas have no northern reception. If I want to receive a call while watching a football match in Crossmaglen, its liable to cost a fortune for both myself and the person making the call.

Like so many other problems, an all-Ireland solution is the best way forward. I sincerely hope that Peter Hain lives up to his word and doesn't let the mobile phone companies wriggle off the hook on this issue.

Paisley ignores reality as usual.

I see Ian Paisley is continuing to do what he does best i.e. bluster and rant as he attempts to avoid the logical steps which need to be taken.

The DUP are apparently about to release proposals with regards to restoring some sort of devolved power in the north. But a word of advice to journalists for when they receive these proposals - rip them up, laugh at them and throw them in the bin because they are useless.

They are useless because Paisley is still trying to continue with the failed policy of excluding the democratically elected representatives of nationalism;

"However in our view, reflective of the unionist community, there is no prospect of an executive including Sinn Fein/IRA for the foreseeable future.
"In keeping with our manifesto commitment the DUP will not countenance an executive in Northern Ireland that is inclusive of those who are not committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means."

I'm sorry to tell you this Mr. Paisley but without Sinn Féin involvement there is absolutely zero chance of any assmebly getting up and running again. You will not be allowed to exclude Sinn Féin from the government it has been elected to. It is becoming vbery clear that since the IRA statement and dumping of arms during 2005, Unionism has become increasingly desperate as it searches for reasons to exclude Sinn Féin. Unfortunately for Ian and his ilk, there is only one reason left - bigotry and refusal to accept that Nationalists will no longer accept being treated as second class.

You have two choices Ian - Powersharing with Sinn Féin or no devolution at all. Choose the second option if you wish but if that route ends up with joint authority and your precious people of Ulster having to suffer "Dublin Rule" then don't say you didn't have the opportunity to stop it.

When is 100% not 100%?

Obviously being a blogger (and serial poster on a few forums- one in particular) means that I tend to spend a fair percentage of my time on the internet. Since this is the case, obviously I would love to install broadband at my home address but as yet this has proven impossible. Can any Balrog readers tell me how these two statements can possibly be reconcilled (hat tip to slugger)

1. From enterprise minister Angela Smith;

This is a significant achievement for Northern Ireland to lead Europe in broadband availability. Every household, business, school and library in Northern Ireland will be able to access broadband regardless of their location.

supported by Alastair Hamilton, Director BT Business

The significance of broadband access must not be understated - the simple fact is Northern Ireland is one of the few regions in the world where all our citizens both at work and at home can avail of the benefits of broadband irrespective of their location.

however before anyone gets too excited here's statement no.2

2. From http://www.bt.com/broadband/

Check availability - results
Your exchange has broadband.However, despite an engineer's visit to your premises it has been proved not possible for your telephone line to support broadband service. Please accept our apologies. We are continuing to look for alternative technology solutions and this site will be updated with developments as they happen.

Ever get the feeling you're being lied to?

Alex doesn't have a clue

Carrying on from the topic I touched yesterday, I see Alex Attwood, the poster boy of the SDLP's campaign to trick nationalists into believing that all has changed with regards Policing, has reacted to Gerry Kelly's remarks by claiming that;

"Nationalism is now well ahead of Sinn Fein on policing. Nationalism and everyone else cannot be held back by the tactical policing approach of Sinn Fein for narrow political reasons."

However there's one wee detail that I don't understand. If nationalism as a whole is so certain that Sinn Féin has gotten it wrong on such a fundemantal issues as policing, why do the majority of Nationalist voters still support Sinn Féin at the ballot box? When the SDLP joined the Policing board, they had more MLAs, more councillors and similiar popular support to Sinn Féin. Now they lag behind Sinn Féin on all these counts, yet Alex still tries to defend his failed policing policy.

I think its a bit that we still don't have the proper structures in place with regards to policing, but the lion's share of the blame must go to the SDLP who jumped far too soon before Patten had even been implemented fully and before nationalists had any guarantee that the political policing agenda of spying and interference with democracy had ended.

Alex Attwood is the man who took the SDLPs support in West Belfast down from 39% with Dr. Joe Hendron to just 19% in barely 4 years. He may be a man with many talents but assessing the mood of Nationalists certainly isn't one of them.


Unionism: Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no sense!

Tom McGurk's article in today's Sunday Buisness Post is excellent. In his article Tom looks to the upcoming "Love Ulster" rally that Willie Frazer and his rag-tag bunch are organising for Dublin.

Tom correctly states that this "rally" should be allowed to pass without protest or incident. It is just the sort of senario that Frazer and his friends don't want to see happen. Tom contends that

"Frazer's ragged army, a living museum piece of a long-past imperial age, deserves our compassion, not our contempt. Over a century, as the imperial tide has ebbed away from this island, the last loyal tribe now finds itself trapped on a small disappearing sandbank they call ‘Ulster'"

Tom correctly states that Orange parading in the North was always about public displays of territorialism or as Adrian Guelke would say, "Acts of communal detterence". His article presents the ideology that is Unionism as one akin to the ship Titanic, slowy sinking into the sea of history.

"Unable to contemplate moving into deeper waters to effect their rescue, they simply sit there now - generation after generation - solemnly saying no. Since 1998, the rescue boats have been hovering nearby, but to no avail. Shivering in the 21st century winds that blow from all directions, they have simply wrapped themselves in the last remaining mantle of sectarianism and refused to budge"

The article then goes on to articulate some excellent points on what Unionism
and indeed everyone can expect from the years ahead as the border is slowly
ebbed away and the Celtic Tiger flexes it's muscles east of the Bann.

The futures bright, it's not Orange!

Policing and Justice

Sinn Féin's All-Ireland conference on policing and justice took place yesterday and it has certainly led to some feverish speculation as to the possibilities of Sinn Féin's position with regards to the PSNI changing.

Personally my position has been clear for quite some time. I want to see effective policing for all communities in the north. What I don't want is a politically motivated police force which makes outlandish accusations without any evidence to back them up and which spies on the democratically elected representatives of nationalism and uses their position to pull down the democratically elected assembly.

I am not opposed to a 6 county police service in principle but neither would I dare to suggest to my comrades that Sinn Féin should be a part of any police service which remains unacountable and which continues to hide the role it played in the deaths of many of the citizens it was supposedly protecting.

Republicans have made many crucial decisions in the past decade and perhaps there is there one more crucial move to make. However, this is not a decision to be taken lightly. Republicans will not be bullied or cajoled, nor will we jump too soon a la the SDLP. The issue of collusion and the manner in which it continues to this day must be dealt with properly.

Gerry Kelly made an excellent key note speech to the conference yesterday and I would agree entirely with what he has to say, particularly on this point;

Our opposition to the present policing arrangements is not a matter of timing.
It is not merely a question of tactics. It is a matter of integrity,
entitlements and our inalienable rights. At the core of our position is the
establishment of a threshold which enables the creation of democratically
accountable representative civic policing and the consignment of political
policing to the dustbin of history along with the other failures of the past.

Policing is far too important an issue to get wrong. The SDLP did, I'm confident that Sinn Féin won't.