SDLP vice-chair resigns

I see from slugger that vice-chair of the SDLP, Eddie Espie has resigned from the party. I must admit to never having heard of the man untill earlier this year when he laughably suggested that Gerry Adams should resign as President of Sinn Féin in the wake of Denis Donaldson's outing as a British agent. Its somewhat ironic then that while Gerry continues in his role, its in fact Mr. Espie who has decided to resign.

His comments on resigning hint at more than a bit of internal strife within the SDLP. Mr. Espie has harsh words for the SDLP leadership and wwhat he sees as the lack of direction within the party;

In my opinion, it has become polluted by obstinate representatives, corrupted by quick fix self-interested solutions and ruined by pig-headed individuals displaying complete indiscipline. I am no longer prepared to preside over, or have any part in the unremitting demise over the SDLP nor will I allow myself to be corrupted polluted or caged. I will be no ones crony nor part of some narrow minded self promoting agenda or a cabal designed by some ego centred individual whose purpose is to serve their own interest, as opposed to the wider interest of democratic Nationalism, so long as the leadership cabals refuse to acknowledge the problems that exist and refuse to address them this demise will continue

Funnily enough, I've heard another ex-SDLP member describe the party in a similar vein. Bitter last words or the harsh reality? One thing for certain is that any political organisation which treats its grass-roots members with disdain is contributing to its own demise.

There are various people in the SDLP who I would have a lot of time and respect for. I've always believed that just because you don't support a particular party, nor agree with it on some issues, that doesn't mean that you should univerisally condemn the entire party or recognise that on some issues, they may getting things right. I've always been somebody who would be in favour of as much Nationalist unity as possible, not only between SF and the SDLP, but also involving parties in the south. However it does seem that, as a party, the SDLP may be in quite serious trouble. Only time will tell.

Finally, it seems Mr. Espie may have a link to the Irish blogosphere. His website contains images mocking CRJ which have appeared on the interesting nationalist weblog, El Blogador.

British troops to head home

I realise I'm a couple of days late with this story but I just wanted to express my approval at the news that a timetable for the withdrawal of a huge number of British troops from the north has been anounced.

Obviously I'd like to see a situation where there were no British troops occupying the north, however this is certainly very welcome news. Its espicially good for my own part of the world as all 5 remaining watchtowers in South Armagh are to be taken down. This will be a great relief to the local population who have had to suffer the blight of these watchtowers for too long. Instead of having 40 bases with British troops in Ireland, we will now only have 14. Its great news for those who campaigned on this very important issue for so long as this is a fundemental part of creating a more "normal" society. I think I speak for the vast majority of people in South Armagh when I say that these soldiers will not be missed. I would agree entirely with Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh Conor Murphy who said that he wanted "to see the job completed as quickly as possible."


Stand up for the countryside

Good to see that Omagh District Council are standing up for rural people and considering legal action against the disgraceful plans to restrict the rural planning process and not to allow planning permission in rural areas.

I can't state strongly how much I oppose these plans. My family have already been turned down twice for planning permission on our land and it looks like it could be even harder in future. I've lived all my life on a farm and since I was a child I have worked on the land, passed on through the generations which has been in our family for generation. My father lives and works on the land, as did his father and his father before him, back through the generations of our family.

What right does direct rule ministers have to tell me that I can't build a house to live in on my own land? They so obviously do not understand the rural way of thinking. While I intend to enjoy living in a city for the majority of my 20s, I have no intention to settle anywhere other than on my family's farm, yet apparently soon this will not be allowed. Its an absolute disgrace if people like me cannot have our homes on our own farms, the farms we've worked on since childhood.

This is one of those campaigns which all local parties should be getting behind to oppose. We need to see all partied working together and presenting a united front of opposition to these proposals which will have a terrible determential effect on rural life.


Oglaigh na hÉireann

I see that Willie O'Dea is none to pleased with Sinn Féin. According to Willie he has written three letters to Gerry Adams to point out that the Irish Defence Forces is the only legitimate Army in the 26 county State and that it alone can call itself Oglaigh na h-Éireann.

I have no problem in accepting the Irish Defence Forces as the "legitimate" army of the 26 county state. I do however not believe the Defence Forces to be "Oglaigh na hÉireann" and I never will.

I fail to see the problem that Willie has with this.

If we want to go all historical we can find direct lineage between the Oglaigh na hÉireann of 1920 and the Oglaigh na hÉireann (PIRA) of 2006. I am sure that many people will not agree with this and that is of course their choice.

Willie however does not have the right to tell anyone what t-shirts they can sell or can not sell as the case me be. Willie says that he believes in democracy, well in a democracy we have the right to hold what ever beliefs we like and revisionist west-brit wannabes like Willie will not be permitted to bully anyone into ideological submission.

I will listen to any reasonable person but I and no other Irish Republican will be chastised by the likes of Willie whose Republicanism ends at Ravensdale!

Domestic Violence, a dirty secret still!

I have read with interest the news that a policy document has been published by the PPS with a view to providing victims of domestic violence with information on how the PPS approaches domestic violence cases.

The simple answer would be that they handle it very badly, very badly indeed. The entire law on the subject is deeply gendered and flawed.

The simple fact is that under our law we do not allow for Cumulative provocation or the "slow burn process". This basically means that because of the Duffy case our law no longer takes into consideration the previous abuse when concerning itself with the issue of provocation. We define provocation by the standards of "reasonableness" that reasonableness however has a gendered tinge and we only look at that standard in relation to masculinity.

We come from the perspective that men would never stand for this, we would lash out straight away and therefore that is what a "reasonable" person would do.The law places no concern for gender on this issue and because of this women are sent to jail simply because they are being judged by a male standard.

The Duffy case established a rule banning any consideration of past abuse in the availability of the defense of provocation. In that case, the English House of Lords showed an astonishing degree of compassion for the accused’s abuser, a man who had violently assaulted his wife on several occasions:

"Severe nervous exasperation or a long course of conduct causing anxiety are not by themselves sufficient to constitute provocation in law. A long course of cruel conduct may be more blameworthy than a sudden act provoking retaliation, but you are not concerned with blame here--the blame attaching to the dead man. You are not standing in judgment of him. He has not been heard in this court. He cannot now ever be heard. He has no defender here to argue for him. It does not matter how cruel he was, how much or how little he was to blame, except in so far as it resulted in the final act of the appellant."

While the law has progressed somewhat we are still lagging behind and the refusal of the Judiciary just shows them up for what they are, a homogenous group of White, Protestant, middle-aged men.

Let's just remember where the law is coming from on this issue. The judiciary once pronounced that men were entitled to use "Reasonable means of force in order to keep the unaccommodating wife inline" and Blackstone asserted the husbands right to "domestic chastisement"

Let's not kid ourselves that the law is blind and justice will be served, we only have one groups perspective of justice on offer!

Daniel leaving Ireland shock!

My granny's not always in the best of health so, for the sake of her blood pressure, I sincerely hope that she hadn't heard the rumours that Donegal's favourite and the "son I never had" for eldery women everywhere was to leave Ireland. Fortunaely for his legions of fans, Daniel O'Donnell has confirmed that he is NOT leaving Ireland.

Those of us either under 65 or with an ounce of musical taste can only live in hope.....................

No high life for a low life

Ive read in a Brit propaganda rag that Dennis Donaldson is living out the rest of his pathetic little life in a pre-Famine cottage in the hills of Donegal. Life in these insalubrious conditions in a delapidated cottage is no where near the just desserts this filthy peice of vermin deserves. Many may feel a degree of sympathy and compassion for this dirty rat, but I would love to see the bastard rot very, very slowly in hell. It would only be half of the hurt he has inflicted on his people, his family and the republican movement. This rotten traitor has forever sullied the iconic image of Bobby Sands, so it is only apt that he is pushed out of the public eye and into the dimunitive life of ignominy he now leads. I take extreme pleasure out of the fact that this low life, spinless coward has to live with no electric or no running water. I revel in delight at the fact his own family and people despise and detest him. It is merely the first phase of torture many like me would love to subject him to. Maybe subjecting him to this emotional, mental and gruelling physical trauma is even better than offing him like touts are traditionally execueted.


How do?

What about ye? I apologise for my lack of blogging this week, I was in Clare until Thursday and when I returned home found my internet connection up the left. I am afraid that I will be no better next week. I am away to England on Tuesday and I will not be back to Balrog HQ until Sunday.

I see that PS/Paddy/Chris 2/Novemeber Rain has kept you all informed and entertained in my absense. It has been one of those weeks when I got a healthy dose of voting, debates and drink!

A few student delegates at USI thought I was an Opus Dei member after my speech on the Abortion motion, I am afraid that certain people still can't handle the truth in relation to murder/abortion.

I should be about tomorrow to do a few blogs but after that I will be away


FF support drops, FG can't take advantage.

Bertie Ahern must have choking on his cornflakes this morning as he read the latest opinion poll figures which show a drop in support for Fianna Fáil. The governing party now command the support of only 33% according to the latest opinion polls. This represents a drop from 37% a few months ago.

However, it seems that the Irish people are not overly enamoured with FF’s main rivals for the position of Taoiseach as Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael are still well behind Fianna Fáil with 25% support. More bad news for the so-called “alternative coalition” is that Labour have dropped to 11% leaving them level with Sinn Féin in the battle to be the 3rd biggest party in the 26 counties. The main winners seem to be the Greens who are up to 7% while the PDs trail in behind the rest with only 4%.

Now I realise that its impossible to predict how these figures will change between now and an election and of course, governments are not decided by popular support but rather by numbers of TDs and the ability of politicians to put together an acceptable and stable coalition. However its interesting to note that neither the Fianna Fáil/ PD (37%) nor the FG/Labour (36%) combinations seem to have overwhelming support. At the minute neither option would seem to be a viable government. My guess is however that the Irish people will prefer to see Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach rather than Enda Kenny but I do feel that people have had enough of the PDs who may well see their TD representation collapse. If Fine Gael are to be successful, they undoubtedly have to attract another partner to sit beside them along with Labour and the Greens would probably be their preferred option. Its far too early to tell but I have a feeling that after the election the numbers of TDs will leave only a small number of possible governments.


Fianna Fáil/ Labour coalition
Fine Gael/ Labour/ Green coaltion
Fianna Fáil/ Sinn Féin coalition

I have no doubt that if necessary, Bertie would go to Sinn Féin to attempt to form a government, whatever his current protestations. However I do feel that Labour is more likely to be his first port of call and that he will receive a more generous reception than the party would currently have you believe.
Certainly there are interesting times ahead and if I were to repeat this exercise in a few months, I’m sure I may have some completely different theories!

By the way, the more eagle eyed among you will notice that I've changed my "posting name". I've done this for a couple of reasons a. I was sick of having the more boring name on the Irish blogosphere but also, more importantly, it was doing my head in having my posts mixed up with Chris' all the time! I asked you all a while back to suggest a new name but "Chris 2" was the best you unimaginative lot could come with! In the end I went for the title of one of my favourite songs and hopefully it'll serve me well.


And what about Plan B?

Reading today's Irish News, I found it very interesting to see reported the fact that the two governments are preparing a "Plan B" if talks this year do not see the Assembly re-formed. This "Plan B" would involve the British and Irish governments jointly managing the affairs of the north, a form of Joint Authority.

I think this is a very interesting proposal. Personally I would still prefer to see a power sharing assembly and executive up and running and it seems most people in the north share this view. However I do think that it is important to have a lever to apply pressure on instransigent Unionists who are trying to prevent change. If given the chance, the DUP will continue to do what they they do best - say "No, no, no" to any possible proposals. Their objective is to stall and hold up the process and so prevent any meaningful progress. This is why I would oppose any "half way house" assembly as I feel such a set-up would be nothing more than a get-out clause to prevent the DUP having to face up to their responsibilities.

Direct rule is not a feasible long term solution. Either the DUP stop whinging in the corner and face up to the challenge of meaningful negotiations and power sharing or they will have to face rule by both the Irish and British governments. I think this would be the worst case scenario for the DUP because they trust neither government. For Nationalists such a scenario holds no fear and if it comes to pass, the DUP will have only themselves to balme. They can't say they weren't warned!


DUP hyprocrisy - example 54604

A hilarious reaction from Unionists as Tony Blair dared to suggest that some Protestants might in fact be a wee bit bigotted (never!). Of course there are bigotted Protestants, just as there are bigotted Catholics and indeed bigots of both religions and none who discriminate against many groups on grounds of race, religion or sexuality. There are of course also many good people on both sides of the divide.

UUP leader Reg Empey has reacted furiously to Blair's remarks and claims that "I am not aware of any cases of senior Protestant church leaders or Government officials calling for sectarian attacks on Catholics."

Really Reg? Well how about these remarks from a senior Protestant Church leader (and leader of Unionism to boot). Step forward Ian Richard Kyle Paisley!

Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners

No mass! No Lemass!

This Romish man of sin is now in Hell (on the death of Pope John XXIII)

I denounce you, Anti-Christ!

I am anti-Roman Catholic, but God being my judge, I love the poor dupes who are ground down under that system.

But the award for most astounding piece of hypocrisy of the day must surely go the singing preacher, the bould Willie McCrea who claimed that the "Protestant community had unreservedly condemned "so- called loyalists who murdered innocent Catholics".

That's grand Willie but I assume this universal condemnation would mean a complete refusual to support or have anything to do with the violently secterian LVF or any of its founders or members.

Hold on a minute............................


Open links? Give me a break!

I really do wonder how Peter Robinson can keep a straight face when he says that the DUP are close to the point where they can consider opening discussions with loyalist paramilitaries. Firstly, the bare hypocrisy of this is astounding. The DUP are now prepared to talk to Loyalist paramilitaries who are not on ceasefire and who are still active in their campaign of hate against Catholics and indeed often their own communities, yet they refuse to talk to the democratically elected representatvies of northern Nationalists. The DUP are showing their true colours and i hope that people will see through them for the bigots and hypocrites that they are.

Also, as Philip McGuigan rightly points out, this talk of a "new" relationship is nothing more than a farce. Clear links exist now and have always existed between the DUP and Loyalist paramilitaries. Philip goes on to detail the relationship between the DUP and Loyalism;

  • The DUP currently sit on the North and West parades forum with the UVF and UDA
  • Senior DUP MPs have lent their support to the 'Love Ulster' campaign which the UDA were involved in publicly launching
  • In the 1970s Ian Paisley formed the Third Force
  • In the 1980s the DUP formed Ulster Resistance which went on to import tonnes of weapons from South Africa to kill Catholics
  • In the late 1990s Willie McCrea stood on a platform with LVF leader Billy Wright
  • The man convicted of killing Sinn Féin member Malachy Carey, released from prison under the Good Friday Agreement, currently holds a senior position within the DUP organisation in North Antrim

The DUP like to style themselves as "defenders of democracy". In reality they are nothing of the sort, they are a bunch of hypocrites whose main goal is to defeat nationalists of any hue by whatever means possible. They are secterian to the core and seem shamlessly unapoligetic for this. that the majority of Unionists elects these people are their representatives says a lot.

McDowell forced to apoligse for Nazi slur

I see Minister for Injustice, Michael McDowell has been publically humiliated and been forced into an embarrasing climbdown over his disgraceful protrayal of Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton as a Nazi. Now Fine Gael are many things, but Nazis are not one of them and to liken Mr. Bruton to Joesph Goebbels is insulting to those who suffered at the hands of Nazi madmen.

No political unit currently operating in Ireland is comparable to Nazis and it is extermely stupid and offensive to liken politicans to Nazis. it is unacceptable for anybody in public office to behave in this way. It seems McDowell is increasingly losing the run of himself and perhaps this indicates a wave of desperation sweeping across the entire Progressive Democrat party as they desperately try to escape the electoral pummelling which I feel is coming their way.

Amazingly McDowell initially refused to retract his comments but his behaviour is likely to have permanently damanged his creditibility (if he had any left in the first place). This man is embarassing Ireland but hopefully he won't be in his present position for too much longer.

George Best Airport not for everyone?

I see there's been a mixed reaction to the news that Belfast City Airport is to be renamed in memory of the soccer legend George Best. Personally I think this is an excellent idea and a fitting tribute to a superb sportsman but it seems that not everybody agrees with that view prompting George's family to hit back at the critics.

Personally I think this is very unfortunate. George Best was one of the few figures that could unite us rather than divide us and its a real pity that this magnificent gesture threatens to be overshadowed in this manner.


Collins to sell out? Whisky. not Ireland!

I see Americans are soon to have the opportunity of tasting "Michael Collins" whisky. There was a piece about this in the Irish News last week and a number of people were giving off about it, claiming that it was disrespectful to the "Big Fella". Personally I don't see the problem.

I can also exclusively reveal to balrog readers that I've actually sampled this whisky as a kind of "preview taste" and I can assure any potential buyers that its very good stuff! No mixers needed to dilute the taste! The memory of Michael Collins was also probably respected with a toast being given in the Corkman's honour. Irish charities will benefit in part from the sales so to Irish-American whisky fans - Your health to drink it!


Gaskin away from Balrog HQ

Yes folks, I will be away from Balrog and blogging in general until Thursday. The reason for this is that I will be attending the USI National Congress. In the 6 counties the student movement is run jointly by USI (32 county student movement) and NUS, the British student movement. I suppose it is the early form of Joint Authority that arose out of a bi-lateral agreement in 1972.

This Congress will be no different from last year, plenty of contentious motions from around the country. On top of my "shit-list" will be two abortion motions that are sure to knock up the temperature of the Congress floor by a degree or two.

It is a great chance to meet our Southern brethren, get absolutely pissed and of course to slag the Poly ;)

I will see you all next week



Lá Fhéile Pádraig

I would like to wish our readers all the very best on St Patricks Day from the entire Balrog crew. I hope you all have an enjoyable day, you can worry about the hangover on Saturday.

I myself am going to the St Gall's v Salthill match in Croke Park. Let's hope the Belfast team, managed by my old PE teacher and former Armagh player, John Rafferty, can lift the cup and bring it back to Ulster where it belongs.

I would also like to wish my old Alma matter, The Abbey Christian Brothers, all the best in the MacRory cup final which is also on tomorrow.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!


New Planning laws are a joke!

The new planning laws unveiled by the British government are nothing short of contemptible.

The new planning law reforms announced today by British Planning Minister, Lord Rooker, will have a detrimental effect on people like me who where reared in the countryside and who also want to rear their family there.

It was revealed that planning applications for single dwellings in the countryside will no longer be accepted, with little exception.

Beautiful Slieve Gullion, the area in which I was raised

I agree 100% with SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone when he says that "It takes you to be of the country to understand why people want to live and build on family land where their parents and generations before them have lived."

I was born and reared in the country and I don't have any family land in which to build a house but that doesn't mean that I don't want to buy a site and build a house in the future.

I am a culchie and I am proud of it!

I would never want to rear a family in a city or a town, these proposals are shambolic and if passed should be challenged in the courts at the first opportunity.

Stoops support Direct Rule!

I see the SDLP have finally come clean and said they would accept Direct Rule. Stoop MP for South Down, Eddie McGrady, has said that the sdlp would consider NIO Ministers exercising executive powers.

Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP today called on the SDLP leader Mark Durkan to come clean on his party's actual position on the restoration of the political institutions.

"It appears that the SDLP are in complete and total disarray when it comes to their position on restoring the political institutions. One day they are following the Sinn Féin and Good Friday Agreement line demanding that the British government lift suspension. On the next they are seeking alternatives to the power sharing core of the Agreement. On the next they are seeking British government appointed commissioners to run the departments and yesterday Eddie McGrady said that they would be prepared for NIO Ministers to run the departments."

I see the SDLP have gave the DUP a bone on this issue, way to go boys!

This issue just goes to show why the SDLP are no longer speaking for the majority of Nationalists! Talk about Stoop down low!

Paisley told to wise up

Good to see Peter Hain delievering a few home truths to Ian Paisley today. The DUP are seem determined to travel down the failed road of exclusion as Mr. Paisley attempted to get the Secretary of State to agree to the exclusion of Sinn Féin from any future assembly.

Now there may be devolved government here in the next year or two, there may not. Personally I hope there is but would be willing to also explore other avenues. However there is one thing that is for certain - the days of exclusion are over and there can be no political settlement if Unionists are not prepared to work with the representatvies of the majority of the Nationalist electorate, Sinn Féin


Plan B: No Assembly!

I have read with interest an article in todays Daily Ireland by ex-Congressman Bruce Morrison. He argues that the British and Irish governments must move things forward within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and remove the DUP veto.

Bruce argues that “Plan B is to implement the Good Friday Agreement between the two governments, since the two governments are sovereign parties to an international agreement,”

“If the political parties in Northern Ireland can’t agree on a local government for Northern Ireland, so be it. And then all of the other matters — cross-border matters and matters within Northern Ireland itself — should be moved forward and implemented within the terms of the Good Friday agreement."

“If that’s okay with the DUP and its voters, if they’re happy to have deals done over their heads by people from London and Dublin, then so be it. If they don’t want that done, then they’re going to have to change their position on devolution, but to leave them in a position where they have a veto power, no matter what others do, is to destroy the Good Friday Agreement. And they’ve made no secret of the fact that they don’t support the Good Friday Agreement and they don’t want it implemented.”

This time it is Unionism doing the smashing!

I agree with Bruce, this stalemate can't be allowed to perpetuate forever. The DUP are making one vital mistake in this whole prcess, they believe that Sinn Féin are chomping at the bit to get back to an assembly.

The fail to realise that Sinn Féin didn't want an assembly in the first place and we can afford to do with out one if Unionist intransigence will not permit a restoration of devolved government.

That said however there is nothing stopping the Irish and British governments in implementing the other aspects of the agreement such as the North South dimensions.

If the DUP don't want local people making political decisions for the benefit of local people then so be it, they should however not be allowed to hold the process to ransom just because they haven't the bottle for powersharing.

UUP 'out of touch with working class'

Sinn Féin Assembly member for North Belfast Kathy Stanton today said that UUP were 'out of touch with working class' Protestants, I would question if they were ever "in touch" but that is beside the point.

Kathy said the UUP proposals to tackle poverty in loyalist working class areas were flawed, sectarian and clearly put together by a party out of touch with the realities on the ground.

"It should be the objective of all political parties to tackle deprivation and poverty wherever it arises. Deprivation and poverty undoubtedly exists in unionist working class communities, as it does in nationalist and republican working class communities. This disadvantage will not be tackled by political parties attempting to approach the issue along sectarian and partisan lines."

"Poverty and deprivation can only be tackled on the basis of need. It cannot be done on the basis of perception or on the whim of a political party like the UUP seeking a headline after decades of ignoring loyalist working class areas and placing them in the clutches of unionist paramilitary drug dealers."

Kathy Stanton criticised the UUP after it also argued NIO Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson should compel community restorative justice groups in nationalist areas to work directly with the PSNI/RUC as another confidence building measure.

Who do the UUP think they are?

It has no right to compel anyone to do anything. Nationalists and Republicans will support an accountable, independent and effective police service when we get one. What we have at the moment is nothing short of shambolic!

I am not surprised that the UUP is out of touch with working-class Protestants and judging by their youth that reality will remain for a long time. I was at a SRC meeting last night when a UU member said that academic selection is beneficial for the vast majority, this is despite the fact that 55% of those who take the 11+ receive a "D" grade and are labelled as failures at the age of 10/11.

I am a steadfast opponent of academic selection at the age of 10/11; in my view such a situation is tantamount to child abuse. The UUP also fail to realise that academic selection fails working-class Protestant areas even more.

Compare the University attendance in areas like West-Belfast and South Armagh to that of Sandy Row and Tigers Bay. The working class Protestant community is suffering because of this but their political leaders are more interested in looking after their "Malone Road" type support base.

I am not suggesting that everyone should go to college or that the only measure of success is a University degree but the working-class Protestant community is being left behind in this regards and the cycle of inequality is just getting bigger and bigger.

Working class Protestants need to wake up to the reality of the situation; their political leaders are taking them for a ride!

They are not placing their needs on the agenda; they are merely perpetuating and agitating for their middle-class power base.

Wake up and smell the coffee people, dump the chumps!


Irish and the wannabe Irish

I was amused but not surprised to learn that in Britain Irish is the number one wannabe nationality, with new evidence revealing many claim Irish connections - including having Irish ancestors "somewhere", "knowing someone Irish", and simply "wanting to be Irish".

In the independent survey commissioned by Rankin Selection Irish Breads, nearly half of all English, Scottish and Welsh people questioned said they would prefer to be Irish, after their own nationality.

The survey which was conducted across Britain and Ireland, also revealed that 80% of respondents put St Patrick's Day ahead of their own patriotic days, as part of what the survey commissioners branded "plastic paddy syndrome".

In England just 13% nominated St George's Day as most important, while St Andrew's and St David's Days got 5% and only 3% respectively.

I am not surprised by this information. Working in a hotel I have regular contact with the residents and the amount of English people who visit is unbelievable. They just love the place; they love the Irish culture and attitude to life.

We have a very family orientated culture and a social culture which places an emphasis on enjoyment which appeals to many people.

The old adage rings true, the world is full of those who are Irish and those who want to be Irish.

Fr Reid named Tipperary Person of Year

I was pleased to learn that Fr Alec Reid has been named Tipperary Person of the Year. Fr Reid has played a pivotal role within the Irish peace process and he must be saluted for having the courage to do and say things which other people wouldn't.

Association chairman Michael Fenton said Nenagh native Fr Reid has been acclaimed both at home and abroad for his pivotal role as a peacemaker.

“In fact many people on the inside of the discussions credit Fr Reid as being the person who started the process,”

I disagreed with his comments about Unionists and Nazis but I do have sympathy with him, I am not sure I would be able to hold my tongue with Willie "My UDR/UVF family members were innocent so they were" Frazer either.

Fr Reid has done great work and is rightly honoured.


Salute our heroes of 16

I see Tom McGurk has an excellent article in today's Sunday Business Post where he rubbishes much of the revisionist nonsense which has recently come to light from elements in Irish society who would try to convince us that the hereos of 1916 were not in fact heroes at all and that the state should not be honouring their memory.

Unfortunately many people with views such as this do exist and they often attempt to use intellectual snobbery to articulate their revisionist view of history. To them, patriotism is not a virtue and celebrating the birth of our nation is not a worthy endeavour. Such views are not uncommon to hear on the Irish blogosphere and have indeed been articulated on this site by people who try to claim that 1916 was a act of "terrorism". Those trying to sustantiate this gross misunderstanding often claim two things - 1. that with Home Rule already promised, the Rebellion was unnecessary and also that 2. the Rebellion was illegitimate as it had no mandate. McGurk rightly points out that these arguements entirely miss the relevant points, whether they do so on purpose or not is debatable. To say that Home Rule should have been acceptable to the founders of the state is to ignore what the Easter Martyrs stood for;

Home Rule and the concept of an Irish Republic were not simply totally different things, but they were actually diametrically opposed to each other.

Given that the Redmondite Home Rule party was largely composed of the Irish middle class and large farmers who had done well out of the late 19th century land reform, Home Rule was intended to give an emerging Irish class, who were now doing well out of John Bull’s Other Island, a share in their own colonisation.It was actually a subtle method of harnessing - while simultaneously subverting - Irish national aspirations to the wider imperial agenda.

A Home Rule parliament was simply a devolutionary device to corral the growing demands for Irish democracy into a legislature whose ultimate control lay under the Crown and the Commons. If the notion of an Irish Republic was freehold, then Home Rule was no more than tenancy

I've also heard many people drone on about the lack of a mandate from the Irish people for the actions of 1916 but as McGurk points out, revolution, espicially at that time, can often be one step ahead of the people. There were people fighting in Dublin in 1916 with no right to be there, but those people were the British forces who had annexed Ireland for their own benefit and then tried to impose their own rule and soverignity on an island which did not want them. That is truely undemocratic. McGurk puts this point more eloquently than I ever could with the following arguement;

Complaints are being made that the 1916 leaders never sought democratic mandates (in what elections to what Irish parliament might they have stood?) and that their actions were entirely unmandated.

The fact that revolutionaries by definition seek to alter national perspectives so radically that they must act first, and subsequently seek approval, is still being misunderstood.It was actually the precise circumstances of the colonial relationship between Britain and Ireland, and the growing threat of Home Rule to cunningly alter it, that made Pearse and company act in the way they did. Believing as they did in an sovereign Irish people, British rule in Ireland was entirely a product of conquest and therefore devoid of moral authority.

In less than a month's time the people of Ireland were see the events of 1916 being commemorated in our capital. I say to the Irish people, feel no shame at this, these are the people who founded our nation, who laid down their lives that our nation might be free. Show pride in their memory and do not heed those who would try to exhume the flame of patriotism with the blanket of ignorant revisionism.

PS - Fair play to Tom for coming up with possible the best paragraph describing Kevin Myers the Irish media is ever likely to see!

Myers in The Irish Times has been threatening to turn into his own caricature, his dinner party history lessons growing ever more tedious. How remarkable, for example, that his schoolboy fetish with militarism still excludes the notion of the Irish using force for Irish ends.


Blog Awards!

The night of reckoning has arrived for Balrog as the winners of the Irish Blog Awards are announced tonight. Unfortunately I cant make it tonight but hopefully it’ll be a great night for all concerned. I know it’s a cliché but it really is an honour just to be nominated considering the quality of many of the blogs which didn’t make the cut. Balrog is nominated for Best Political Blog and Best Group Blog and Chris is up for Best commentator (though I have to admit I didn’t even vote for him! Pat McLarnon got my vote for best commentator but Chris is a worthy finalist) We face some very stiff competition from greats sites such as Slugger and United Irelander but sure win or lose, at least we gave it a lash!

As Chris mentioned earlier, Balrog has recently celebrated its first birthday and I must say that I’m delighted with the way in which the site has progressed since last March. Hopefully we’ll continue to improve but a lot of the credit has to go to the readers and commentators.
Finally, a big thank you to Damien Mulley for organising these awards. He’s put a huge deal of effort in and everybody connected with the Irish blogosphere should be extremely appreciative for the work he has done in highlighting blogging to a wider audience. Fair play, Damien!

Update - Word is filtering through that Slugger have picked up the Best Political Blog Award and that tcal.net have received the Best Group Blog crown. No word yet on how Chris has done in the Best Commentator category. Congratulations to all the winners, the recognition is richly deserved.


Gawn Ireland!

Good luck to the Irish rugby team who take on Scotland tomorrow in whats expected to be the last Six Nations game at the old Lansdowne Road before redevelopment.

After suffering a stuttery start to the campaign, thing improved with a convincing victory over the Welsh a fortnight ago and tomorrow is undoubtedly the pivotal point in Ireland's season. Win and they go to Twickenham chasing a Triple Crown and the Championship, lose and the chance of honours is over for another year. Scotland have been the surprise packet of the season having beaten both England and France. However there is a question mark over their consistency and their ability to produce the goods away from home given their loss to Wales. With Paul O'Connell back, Ireland are more or less at full strength and I'd agree with Gerry O'Sullivan's assesment that Ireland are more than capable of winning this match. I think Ireland have more quality players than the Scots and if Ireland perform to their ability then they should be strong enough to set up a titanic tussle in Twickenham on the last day of the championship.

Does Dodds defend the UDA?

I wouldn’t normally agree with a lot of what Newtown Emerson has to say but I read a very interesting piece from him in yesterday’s Irish News which has been reproduced on Newshound. In it, he exposes the hypocrisy of the DUP’s reaction to last week’s raids on Loyalists at the Alexandra bar.

Emerson castigates Nigel Dodds for doing nothing other than defending the Loyalists arrested. The DUP man has criticised the necessity of the “high profile” raid but unsurprisingly the DUP has no problem with high profile raids so long as they are in South Armagh and not North Belfast. It is pointed out that most ordinary decent people living want nothing to do with paramilitaries but it becomes difficult for them to express such an opinion when their political representatives do nothing other than provide political cover for the UDA.

The hypocrisy of the DUP is also shown in their attitudes towards other dealings with Loyalists. The DUP are happy to condemn those who are trying to reach some sort of consensus and compromise with those Loyalists willing to listen to reason, yet the DUP re showing no leadership whatsoever.

As Newton succinctly puts it;

Finally, Nigel Dodds really needs to have a word with Ian Paisley jnr, who has called on President Mary McAleese to disassociate herself from the Jackie McDonald faction of the UDA. It seems that the DUP is unhappy with political overtures towards some loyalists, yet also unhappy with security clampdowns against other loyalists.
In fact, it almost looks as if the DUP is siding not just with loyalism but with loyalism's hawks over its doves.

Balrog, 1 year old

I just realised that this month marks the first birthday of Balrog as the top Irish Republican blog. It seems like only yesterday when I first posted, wondering would anyone read my stuff. A lot of my inspiration came from Mick Fealty, the sort of unofficial Daddy of Bloglaigh na hÉireann.

Many people, my Republicans readers especially, may be surprised to learn that the reason I decided to start Balrog was because of DUP councillor Christopher Stalford. I stumbled onto his "Fair Dealin" site and thought I could do a much better job at blogging.

Bloglaigh na hÉireann at that time lacked a pro-Sinn Féin voice. Since then however we have great Republican sites like Wednesday's Irish Politics Blog and more recently Brendans Blog, both party members from Dublin. I am almost sure that I am the first party member to set up a blog of their own and I am glad to say that I was shortly joined by the co-runner of Balrog, Paddy.

We now have a robust and diverse Republican blog crew on board as well as a loyal and diverse readership. Our readership has never been higher and I would just like to say thanks to our readers and those who post comments, you are the reason that Balrog is the success that it is.

I intend to keep Balrog fresh and I have plans for this site when any future elections occur. This will hopefully mean exclusive interviews with Sinn Féin candidates and election analysis.

I would like this blog to take on a sharper edge in the future and I would encourage readers to post suggestions, either for posts or the direction in which the blog is going.

I can be reached by e-mail if anyone has anything they would like to see brought up.

I would like to end by thanking our readers once again; it is humbling to know that someone reads your opinions every day.


Dáil demands justice for Finucanes.

I’m glad to see that in a rare moment of political consensus, the Dáil has unanimously called on the British government to grant a full and independent inquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. I’ve commented many times on my disdain towards the British attitude on this case. The Inquiries act of 2005 is nothing more than an attempt by the British state to keep their grubby past secret and to avoid having to admit that the British state had a hand in killing people whom it was supposed to protect.

I would agree fully with Labour TD Michael D. Higgins who remarked to the Dáil that;

One can only conclude that the British government want to indulge in a major cover-up in order to prevent the true nature of the collusion between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the loyalist paramilitaries who murdered Pat Finucane coming into the public domain

The Finucanes have had to wait a lot time for justice and for the truth, as have many families. They should not be made to wait much longer. The Irish government must make sure that this Dáil motion is not merely hollow words. They must put as much pressure as possible on the British government on behalf of the Dáil and the Irish people to ensure that the Finucanes get the independent and open inquiry they deserve.


Victims - What is the way forward?

I'm just after watching this month's Let's Talk where the issues of victims was discussed. This is a particularly topical issue because of the Facing the Truth series where victims and perpetrators met face to face to discuss the conflict and their reactions to it.

I thought it was a very interesting debate. I knew one of the speakers and there was a wide range of viewpoints on show. Opinion seemed divided on many issues including whether a Truth and Reconcilliation forum would be useful and even what a victim actually meant. Willie Frazer had a his usual tuppence worth of bigotry and tried to claim that Republicans thought that they had a monopoly on victimhood. Of course this is a hypocritical nonsense from a man who claims to be a spokesperson for victims but in reality cares for little other than his secterian agenda.

I'm unsure whether this society is ready for a Truth and Reconciliation forum but I do think that in principle it is a good idea. Too many people still labour under the sadness of not knowing how their loved one's died, who committed the killings and for what reason.

However I do believe that any forum for Truth and Reconcilliation is doomed unless it adheres to a number of key principles.

Firstly it must be clear from the start that there is no hierarchy of victims. All victims must be treated equally whether they be Protestant or Catholic, Nationalist or Unionist, Republican or Loyalist.

Also the forum must be as willing to deal with victims of Security force collusion as with the victims of Republican violence.

Unless those who were involved in the conflict are willing to be up front and honest about their actions and experiences, the whole project is pointless. British forces must not be able to hide the truth in the manner which they have attempted to do over the last 30 years. However Republicans have to accept this level of openess as well.

The process must also be victims based and must be about addressing the grievances and needs of the victims rather than providing an opportunity for political mud slinging. Many victims only want the truth so that they can finally put the issue to bed and hopefully get on with their lives.

I realise this is a highly controversial and emotive issue but even if it can never be resolved to everybody's satisfaction, surely there is a duty to try?

Unionist militia is paid its bounty

I see that the Sectarian Unionist Militia, also known as the UDR/RIR, has received a severance package for their years of "good work" i.e. sectarian murder!

In my opinion the £230 million is wasted on this motley crew of sectarian killers. That money should have gone in to Health or Education but instead it went to the Unionist militia. The UDR/RIR was nothing more than the armed wing of Unionism and Republicans and Nationalists are very glad that they are getting their marching orders.

As Gerry Adams said on the news tonight, Nationalists and Republicans are happy that we have achieved their disbandment.

So keep the money boys, after all you do deserve it after all the "good work" that you have done. I did find the whole orphan boy Oliver approach to the severance package highly amusing.

Its ok Big Ian, you can get off your knees now. I am sure the sectarian militia appreciates all of your groveling to Blair, rather like a dog looking for the scraps from his masters table.

All we are missing now is the sackcloth and ashes.

Embryos and the Evans case

Today in my Gender and the Law class the case of Natallie Evans came up for discussion. It is a harrowing case of a woman who had her ovaries removed in October 2001 because of pre-cancerous tumours.

Due to this fact she and her former partner created frozen embryos for them to use when they wanted children.They separated before she could implant the embryos. As a consequence of the Human Fertility and Embryology Act 1990 the permission of the father is needed at every stage of the process.

Her former partner revoked his consent and as a consequence she brought her case to the courts and was defeated at every stage. She then went to the European Court yesterday and lost on a split 5-2 decision.

I really feel for this woman, this is her only chance at having any children of her own and if the embryos are not implanted by October then they have to be destroyed. This man is despicable in my opinion. He can have kids at any time he wants but he is denying her this chance at a family.

The judge should have supported the use of the embryos as the father gave his consent at the time and that should be enough.

What I did extrapolate from this case is the barefaced hypocrisy of the British judicial system when it comes to the issue of reproductive rights.They are basically saying that for life to begin it requires the permission of both partners that however is in stark contrast to the issue of abortion where the permission of the man is not sought when it comes to murdering life.

This case has huge Gender consequences and I would like to see the pro-life lobby place as much pressure on this man as they do on pregnant women who opt to kill their children (sorry have to call a spade a spade here)

They won't however because he is a man!


Complete demilitarisation and end political policing

That was the message of Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey in response to today's Non-Independent Monitoring Commission's report. Alex rightly pointed out that the N-IMC report carries no significance; it is a discredited body made up of Securocrats and a British Lord who have no place or basis under the GFA and the body is only in existence at the behest of rejectionist Unionism.

Alex called for a speedy completion by the British Government of a full programme of demilitarisation, including the dismantling of its entire war machinery and an end to political policing.

"The British Government committed to a rolling programme of demilitarisation. The facts of the matter are that there has only been a minimal reduction in British Troop deployment in the north of Ireland in the past year. There are presently over 9000 British soldiers based in the Six Counties. There are also a large number of British army bases."

"The closure of a number of observation posts in South Armagh is of course welcome. However, recent revelations about the British Army spying operations in the area along with growing evidence of an increase in incidents of political policing throughout the north suggests that the British Government are more interested in the transformation of their war machinery in the north of Ireland rather than dismantling it."

"Political progress requires the British Government to commit to peaceful and democratic activity. They must end their war against nationalists and republicans. This requires the speedy completion of a full programme of demilitarisation and the end to political policing."

The NIO have given an assurance that all British Army fortifications will be dismantled by May. From looking at Foughill Mountain beside my home I can't see any rush by the Brit's to dismantle that particular piece of their war machinery or any of the other spy posts.

The IRA kept their side of the deal, it's time the Brit's lived up to their obligations.

McDowell says no to tougher sentencing

I was somewhat supportive of McDowell's statement today when he said that "you don't change your entire penal policy based on one incident, no matter how awful or grotesque or harrowing that incident may be".

This is in direct contradiction with the Taoiseach who called for tougher sentencing in the wake of the murder of Donna Carey in Dublin at the weekend.

Bertie Ahern told the Dáil that he would like to see tougher sentencing to ensure a person sent to prison for life is never released back into society.

The problem however is that the current sentencing policy is somewhat muddled. A person on a life sentence can sometimes be rehabilitated through incarceration. There are some however who can't be rehabilitated like sociopaths or child abusers.

In my opinion anyone who commits rape or anyone who abuses a child should spend the rest of their natural life in prison. I would prefer that they were hanged but as the current tide of social trend seems to pour scorn on that notion then incarceration for life is the next best option.

I can see however where McDowell is coming from on this issue, perhaps I should sit down and have a Brandy considering that I am agreeing with him?

There is a serious problem for society when the "mob" that is public opinion thinks it should be able to change penal policy on a whim. The law and particularly the law of sentencing needs a certain amount of judicial flexibility to handle cases on a case by case basis. That judicial discretion is needed to ensure that a miscarriage of justice is not imposed on anyone.

What needs to be done is to increase the maximum sentence provision so that the judiciary has the power to send particular criminals down for longer should the case warrant such action.

Mob mentality should never rule our judicial system.

Gender Equality

I was intrigued but hardly surprised that the issue of Gender equality has arose on International Women's Day. Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has accepted that more needs to be done to improve gender equality in politics and many other professions.

I also share Bertie's assessment that more needs to be done.That said however "positive" discrimination is not and can not be the answer to this problem.

Many of my readers will be aware that I oppose "Positive Discrimination" in all its ugly forms. I do not support the 50/50 policing requirement. Positive discrimination in relation to gender cheapens the role of women. When it comes to politics and the issue of selection it must always, always be on the basis of the best candidate first and foremost.

In South Armagh all of our councillors are male; I am not suggesting for one minute that we do not have female representatives in South Armagh that would make excellent councillors, far from it. I do believe however that when selecting someone, be it for politics or any other profession it must always be on the basis of the best candidate for the job.

In a situation where female and male candidates are up for selection and both are equally talented then the man must stand aside in the interests of gender equality.

Gender equality however must always play second fiddle to quality!

Horny students demand cheaper condoms!

I was shocked and amused to learn that USI has called on the Irish government to reduce the VAT on condoms. The Union of Students in Ireland said the expected move by the British means condoms sold in the North will soon become significantly cheaper than those on sale in the 26 counties.

According to USI the high cost of condoms in the South puts them beyond the reach of many students and young people – the category most as risk from Sexually Transmitted Infections.

I believe that USI are wrong on this issue, it is not the cost that stops most people from using condoms, it is just plain stupidity!

This should not be a major campaign for USI, there are other pressing issues that should be tackled first.

USI President Tony McDonnell said the Government applies the full rate of 21% VAT to any purchase it considers a ‘luxury’, the category in which it classifies condoms.

“The UK government used to share this preposterous view, but is now preparing to reclassify condoms as ‘essential’ items and apply the lowest rate of VAT to them,” he said.

“If the Government applied the same logic as the UK, the VAT on condoms sold in the South would fall from 21% to 5%, bringing the price of condoms down dramatically and making them more accessible to those who need them most.”

I spoke to Tony last night, who was up in QUB, and while having a pint and lulling over the arrangements for Congress asked him why this was a major issue. While I agree that VAT should be lower on condoms I do believe that the Student movement faces bigger problems than the VAT on condoms.

Most students can get free condoms from their Union. Yesterday QUB gave away over 1000 condoms and they all went in an hour.

Talk about horny students in QUB ;)


Advice from your friendly PSNI

I see that English detectives investigating the £53 million Securitas robbery are to enlist help from the PSNI because of their "experience" with this sort of robbery. I assume the advice will go something like this;

Decide who you hate the most. Blame them and get all their other enemies to jump on board behind you. That way, you won't have to bother with any evidence to support your ridiculous claims nor will you have to bother actually catching the people who done it. Also, when hiding the stash, don't leave any lying about in your sports club. You'll probably get away with it anyway but best not to take the chance.

Resurgent nationalism poses real threat to DUP

That is the view of SBP columnist Tom McGurk and I happen to agree with him. He seems to have a sense of what "politics" means to most Unionists, nothing more than the manifestation of the siege mentality.

"Quite simply, it (the DUP) believes that, with an executive up and running and three or four Sinn Fein ministers heading a growing electoral machine of local councillors and assembly members, nationalist political and economic power would eventually overwhelm it."

McGurk correctly points out the mess that Unionism has found itself in, nothing more than a relic of a colonial past.

Gone are the days of the ship yards and industry when Unionists didn't need to do much to get gainful employment. They relied on their religion for that one.

The Nationalist community has only ever had one way to advance and that was through education. Every profession resisted the Nationalist community, from the legal profession to the medical profession. The once great bastion of the Unionist middle-classes, QUB, is now lost.

It is more common to see a GAA shirt-wearing bloke with a South Armagh/West Belfast accent than a Malone Road type.

The Unionist working class is in meltdown. Their young people have no outlet, abandoned by the state they profess loyalty to and used and abused by their "brethren" at each and every election for votes. They are isolated and angry and who could blame them.

"Insecure and stripped of their traditional economic and political power base, and given that their ultimate political goal is to maintain the union, unionists now fear devolution."

It is looking more and more likely that the Assembly will not be up and running because of the refusal by Unionists to share power.

If they don't want to share power then their must be stripped of theirs.

Give it to Dublin; let's see how the DUP likes that!


Love Ulster - Hate Taigs (and Blacks)

I see Love Ulster is continuing to be exposed for the basiton of hatred that it is with the revelation that one of its organisers is a racist and an unapoligetic supporter of the old Apartheid system in South Africa under which the maority black community was denied the vote to vote and discriminated against in favour of the minority racist white rulers. Jim Dixon, who had his 2001 Westminster candidature supported by the DUP and was a previous election candidate for the UKUP has made the outrageous claim that "Under apartheid, the black man was better paid, they had better jobs, better everything. He was treated better than anywhere else in the world".

Its amazing to think that in this day and age there are still people holding such outdated and bigotted views. Dixon claims that blacks prefered apartheid. I wonder does he have a shred of evidence for this outrageous claim. Apartheid of one of the world's most shameful periods and those who continue to support it are nothing but bigots and racists full of hatred. And it is not merely Blacks in South Africa who face the wrath of Mr. Dixon. He believes that;

It’s wrong that blacks are coming to Northern Ireland, I couldn’t care less if people call me a racist.

Immigration is a recipe for trouble. It shouldn’t happen anywhere. Each to their own. Other races should have their own schools, hospitals and buses.

These remarks are completely unacceptable and I would agree entirely with the SDLP's Tommy Gallagher that this is a clear example of incitement to hatred. Love Ulster's own people have provided yet more evidence of why this organisation should be treated with disdain.

AUT on Strike.

I was quite disturbed during the week to hear of the industrial action planned by Univeristy Lecturers. A one day strike will take place on Tuesday and Lecturers have been mandated by their Union to boycott dealing with examinations or coursework.

The situation was explained to us by a lecturer during the week and while he couldn't have been more informative, the situation certainly seemed a little troubling. While there are a number of months untill examinations, many modules have course work due in the next number of weeks and large chunks of modules may be thrown into jeopardy if this situation is not resolved. The stress of final year is bad enough without this sort of extra complication.

I don't clame the lecturers. One of my law lecturers explained that he hated these situations but that he refused to break official strikes and I have respect for his positions. What I don't respect are the money grabbing universities who are determined to milk their insititutions for every penny they can without regard to the needs of their students or staff. The demands of the AUT do not seem excessive and I think the univeristies have an obligation to reach a settlement.


MLAs invited to Easter commemoration

I'm glad to see that the Irish government has confirmed that all 108 MLAs from the north will be invited to Dublin to take part in the commeration of the Easter Rising. This is very important as the Irish government must always be aware that the Irish nation can never refer exclusively to the 26 counties.

I doubt that we will see any Unionist representation though I sincerely hope that I am wrong. It would be nice for Unionists to recognise that they have nothing to fear from such commemorations, they are a part of the history of everybody on this island. The Easter Rising was a turning point in the history of this nation and it is right that it should be remembered.

The 1916 Proclamation does not need to be seen as a divisive document but rather a declaration which, if implemented fully can lead to a better Ireland for Catholic, Protestant and dissenter;

The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Our Revenge will be the Laughter of our Children.

25 years ago today Bobby Sands began his hunger strike in the Long Kesh prison cells.. He would die on the 5th May after 66 days of fasting. You may disagree with the man's politics and his methods but no man or woman can doubt his bravery.

Bobby Sands RIP (1954 - 1981)

While on Hunger Strike, Bobby produced a diary detailing his thoughts and experiences. I first read it a number of years and it is an extermely moving account of the final days of the life of a very brave man. I have included a couple of paragraphs here.

They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal.

I am (even after all the torture) amazed at British logic. Never in eight centuries have they succeeded in breaking the spirit of one man who refused to be broken. They have not dispirited, conquered, nor demoralised my people, nor will they ever.

I may be a sinner, but I stand -- and if it so be, will die -- happy knowing that I do not have to answer for what these people have done to our ancient nation.

They put a table in my cell and are now placing my food on it in front of my eyes. I honestly couldn't give a damn if they placed it on my knee.