Good morning for the Soldiers of Destiny

Doesn’t seem like that long since I was giving my last amateur analysis to an opinion poll in the 26 counties, but a month later and it seems the Irish people have changed tack again.

Bertie will be a happy man this morning (Man Utd’s defeat yesterday aside) as Fianna Fáil seem to have had a great performance with Fianna Fáil’s support jumping up 5 percentage points to 38%. I’m sure FF will be congratulating themselves on a job well done as their boost in support seems to have come from both SF and Fine Gael. Sinn Féin have gone down to 8%. This will most probably be attributed to the Easter commemorations. Fianna Fáil will be hoping that their attempt to grasp the mantle of Republicanism has helped them in the polls. But remember this – Republicanism is for life, not just for Easter.

It will be interesting to see if Fianna Fáil can maintain these strong figures. I somehow doubt it. I’ve always predicted that Sinn Féin’s current natural level is around 10% and I don’t think their showing the next election will be too far away from that figure. How that will translate into seats will be the big question. Fianna Fáil have done well this month but it must be remembered that as well as the parade, the Dáil was also in recess and its difficult for a government to make mistakes when they aren’t sitting. Fianna Fáil currently have a huge 15% lead over Fine Gael, something that must worry Enda Kenny. While I’m sure FG will close the gap, I’m not sure if Fine Gael will ever garner enough support in the next year to be a viable governing party.

Its also interesting to note that despite having the focus of party conferences, neither the PDs nor the Greens have been able to make any gains.


Stoops in free fall!

I am delighted to hear that the Stoops are in further decline with the news that their party membership fell by more than one third between 2002 and 2005.

According to a report prepared for the party’s elections and organisation committee in January, the SDLP had 3,386 members in 2002. The figure was down to 2,196 last year.

In areas like West Belfast the SDLP only have 24 members , fewer than they have in North Down. Then again Alex Atwood isn't in North Down. It seems that the Stoops have nose dived in Newry and Armagh as well, they only have 245 members in the whole constituency.

With all of this talk of an SDLP fightback you would expect an increase in party membership, not a decrease. This party has been revealed for what it really is, a pack of self promoting egotists
who view a devolved Stormont as their endgame.

A group of "post-nationalists" who have no direction and no leadership.

Like a daddy long legs they have had their wings stripped off, all that is left is a wriggling mass of nothing.

So much for the Stoops fightback, it will be a sucessfull as their "Stalingrad" in West Tyrone!


Collins attacks Republicans

I see that the cigar smoking reptile that is Tim Collins has attacked what he claimed is counterfeit Irish republicanism for endangering the future of peace on the island.

Collins said he had been furious on a recent visit to the Republican plot in Crossmaglen, in South Armagh to find an inscription to two IRA bombers, "to two Irish patriots from Poblacht Na hÉireann".

I couldn't really care if Collins is furious, he is afterall a former Brit army soldier, an army which have tried to harass and bully the people of South Armagh for 30 years. Added to the fact that his beloved RIR/UDR sectarian militia have been disbanded in the 6 counties and you see his mad ramblings in a new light.

"When I look at the stretched white limousines driving around the streets of Crossmaglen and the drug smugglers and the pornographers and the counterfeiters, how dare they besmirch the name of that organisation,"

What? White limousines? This "man" has lost the plot! Drug dealers? I think they are more common in his part of the country, not in South Armagh and not by Republicans!

It is a pity when you see Collins so bitter and twisted but then you remember that he was a member of the UDR/RIR.


Hunger strike exhibition at QUB

I was lucky enough today to have been present when the Hunger Strike exhibition was displayed in the Canada Room of QUB. When I arrived in this morning at 10 am the picture of Elizibeth Windsor had been covered up and replaced with a picture of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Hundreds of students and staff turned up to view the exhibition, organised and facilitated by the Cumann in Queen's. The exhibition was compiled by the National 1981 Hungerstrike committee earlier this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1981 Hungerstrike which saw the death of 10 Irish Republicans in a protest initiated by Republican prisoners to secure their five demands and political status.

The exhibition has already visited many parts of the country although this is the first visit to Queen's. It details the biographies of the 10 H-Block Martyrs who died in 1981 as well as Michael Gaughan and Frank Stagg who died on Hunger-Strike in the 1970's and the history of the Women's struggle in Armagh jail.

Were we also inundated with questions as to why the exhibition was only there for the one day.

Cumann Chair Andrea O' Kane welcomed the display of the exhibition in the university. She said "This has been a very successful event as the exhibition was viewed by hundreds of students and staff, many of whom were not even born in 1981. It is very important that the sacrifice of these ten brave men is never forgotten so we must remind people today of their selfless desire to defeat the criminalisation attempts by the British government and their commitment to advancing the struggle for Irish freedom. The aims for which these ten brave men gave their lives are still being fought for today and young republicans are constantly inspired by the sacrifice of these ten brave men in 1981. This event is one of many constantly taking place in remembrance of our ten brave martyrs - who remain a source of inspiration to young freedom loving people the world over."

I couldn't agree more, an errie sense fell over you when you viewed this exhibition. Knowing that these men died rather than being catagorised as criminals.

I think this quote from W. B. Yeats (The King's Threshold) is very apt and it was on one of the panels today.

"He has chosen death:
Refusing to eat or drink, that he may bring
Disgrace upon me; for there is a custom,
An old and foolish custom, that if a man
Be wronged, or think that he is wronged, and starve
Upon another's threshold till he die,
The Common People, for all time to come,
Will raise a heavy cry against that threshold,
Even though it be the King's."

DUP, Vote Early and Vote Often!

I see that while Unionism has been quick to accuse Republicans of electoral fraud it is one of their own who is up on charges.

Dessie Stewart, 56, of Parker Avenue, Portrush, is a former DUP Mayor of Coleraine.

He faces two charges of pretending to be another person in order to cast a postal vote in the Skerries district of Coleraine in the 2005 local government elections. He was also charged with two counts of pretending to be another person in order to cast a postal vote in the East Derry constituency in May 2005's parliamentary elections.

It seems that the DUP is all in favour of Vote Early and Vote often!

Bidding for votes!

When critics for the political process sometimes cry that "Democracy is for sale", they usually don't mean it as blantantly as this!

PDs or Labour?

I thought it interesting that Colm O'Gorman, director of anti-abuse group One in Four has been selcted as the PD candidate for the progressive Democratcs in Wexford for the next Dáil elections. However, according to rumours on Slugger, Mr. O'Gorman previously approached the Labour party with a view to becoming their candidate.

This strikes me as very odd. Given the vastly different political outlooks, how can a man see himself as a prospective Labour candidate, then shortly change from a part of the left to the PDs, the most Conservative of the Irish parties. It doesn't make sense and to me, I think it is indicative of a level of political opportunism which is unhelpful for Irish politics. I understand that Mr. O'Gorman wants to be a TD, perhaps with airing his justifiable anger at the wrongs which were suffered at the hands of certain members of the church. However surely it would be more honest to stand as an independent rather than chopping and changing parties depending on who wants to select him.


Pope looking at condoms

I welcome the news that Pope Benedict XVI has authorised a document about condom use by those with AIDS.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who is in charge of the Vatican’s healthcare ministry, told yesterday’s La Repubblica newspaper that “Soon the Vatican will issue a document about the use of condoms by persons who have grave diseases, starting with AIDS,”

“It is Benedict XVI who asked us for a study on this particular aspect of using a condom by those afflicted with AIDS and by those with infectious diseases.”

This is one of the main areas in which I disagree with the Church, I don't view condoms as evil, horrible to use but not evil. I don't have any ideological dispute with condoms as they provide a necessary protection against unwanted pregnancy and STD's.

I will however not accept the notion that Catholic teaching has lead to more people contracting AID's in Africa, the Church advocates sexual abstinence as the best way to combat the spread of the HIV virus. If this advice was followed then it would help defeat the curse of AID's.

This is however a positive step by the Church and I welcome it.


Paedophiles, name and shame!

I welcome the news that mugshots of convicted paedophiles who have absconded from supervision in the community could be posted on the internet to warn children and parents.

CEOP chief executive Jim Gamble warned paedophiles they should "get help or get caught" because the internet was no longer seen as "unpoliceable".

Victor Keith Fitzgerald, an Australian national, was convicted and sentenced to 8 to 17 years imprisonment for the sexual molestation of a minor.

I would go a step further and reveal the details of any convicted Sex offender; the community should also be informed if a known sex offender moves in to their area.

I don't believe in a softy-softy approach when in comes to filth like this, it is our children that we are talking about.

Would any parent risk their child's safety on the possibility that they might not re-offend?

Statistics reveal that 66% of children knew their attacker and that 70% of paedophiles had between 1 and 10 victims while 30% had 10 or more.

These people can't be cured, the medical evidence shows that. I am in favour of hanging every single one of these scumbags but seeing as our liberal/watery society won't allow for that then they should be institutionalised for the rest of their "natural" life.

A child's safety is more important than their right to freedom; they forfeited that right when they sunk to such a level of depravity!


Sinn Féin could be 'king maker'

That is the view of PD Minister for Injustice Michael McDowell. He told his parties annual conference that in the next Dáil Sinn Féin could hold the balance of power and that the portrayal by certain commentators that the election was a two horse race was false.

"If they get between 8% and 10% of the vote and translate that into seats they will win between 11 and 16 seats in the next Dail."

"If Sinn Fein were to hold the balance of power in the next Dail, the government would either have to be a minority government dependent on them or be composed of a political alliance not currently on offer to the Irish public for which no mandate expressed or implied has been sought or obtained from the people,"

I do believe that Sinn Féin will be the balance of power in the next Dáil, our vote does not need to go up for that to happen. The last poll that concentrated on voter transfer said that over 38% would tranfer to Sinn Féin, that is the breaktrough that we need.

McDowell knows that his days in government are numbered and that his party are going to take big loses, at least half their TD's will not be re-elected.

You can't stop progress Michael!


Gone Drinking!

Both myself and November Rain will be away from Balrog for the next two days as we are going to a conference/drinking.

I am afraid that you will be left to your own devices until Friday night. For some of you (MR and Observer) this presents a problem as the need for constant supervising is not lost on us.

If however you engage in your usual smart comments I will be posting the pictures of MR in pink PVC and Observer in an adult nappy.

You have been warned ;)


Fair play Fathers!

I was delighted to hear that a Protestant clergyman marked the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising by celebrating Mass with three Catholic priests. The Rev Michael Graham, concelebrated Mass with Fr Iggy O'Donovan and two other priests on Easter Sunday.

The minister had brought 20 members of his congregation to the Augustinian Priory in Drogheda, Co Louth, where they took Holy Communion.

It seems however that everything isn't rosy in the garden and a row has broken out because of this fine occassion. Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Dr Sean Brady, said he intended to seek further details about the exact circumstances of the Mass.

"True ecumenism is best served by initiatives that are respectful of, and sensitive to, the traditions, ethos and discipline of all those involved, otherwise there is a real danger of causing widespread confusion, raising false hopes and creating situations that are open to misunderstandings and manipulation."

The head of the Church of Ireland said he would also be investigating, Archbishop Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said: "... I share Archbishop Brady's concern over the implications for ecumenical relationships and I will be similarly requesting more information"

What in the name of all that is holy is wrong with these people?

It's not as if Fr Iggy (what a name!) celebrated mass with the Free P's, he celebrated mass with a Church of Ireland minister. Let's be honest, the COI is possibly the closest Church to the Catholic church and none of those involved were forced, they chose to be involved.

I am a Catholic, I believe that the Catholic Church is the "One True Church" but I would have no problem in celebrating communion with Protestants.

At the end of the day aren't we all suppossed to be Christians?

Will commemoration backfire on Fianna Fáil

On Sunday, before I went to my local Easter commemoration I was in a friend’s house watching the parade in Dublin and I am the first to admit that it was impressive.

I just can't shrug off the feeling though that this attempt by Fianna Fáil to "out-Republicanise" Sinn Féin will have the same success as the SDLP's recent attempt.

The parade and all the ceremony was not something that anyone could call "neutral", the script had obviously been well written by Fianna Fáil. I must admit that I was astounded by the comments of an Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, when he said the leaders of the Easter Rising were democrats.

I do believe that the leaders were striving for democracy but the Rising was anything but democratic.It was the start of a Rebellion and they are never democratic, they occur because of an absence of democracy. This is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of Irish people had called for and agitated for Home Rule for years yet a small minority were allowed to dictate the outcome.

That is not democracy!

You see Bertie has to thread very carefully because when all is said and done he is a revisionist, he seeks to present the Volunteers who took part in the Rising as somehow different to the modern day IRA.

I wonder does he agree that Pearse was the "President of the Provisional government" and if he does with what degree of democracy or legitimacy was he such?

Bertie is on shaky ground because the Proclamation was endorsed by the first Dáil and if read properly it could quite clearly be argued that his government is illegitimate.

"Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people."

Quite clearly this has not happened

I was disgusted by the speech of Uachtaráin na hÉireann, Mary McAleese, her revisionist attitude was there for all to see. She spoke about "cherishing all of the children of the nation equally" and she also spoke at how we are "oblivious of the differences which have divided a minority from the majority in the past" but she left out the middle bit about those differences being "carefully fostered by an alien government"

Bertie may, in the process of trying to stop Sinn Féin have gifted us with the very help to advance in the 26 counties. One of our primary objectives is to Republicanise our people, to make more Republicans and this parade and the coverage of the anniversary will do that.

Why would people who have been awakened to the Republican vision of a United Ireland vote for Fianna Fáil? As Conor Murphy has said in the past their Republicanism stops at the border!


Éirí Amach na Caisce 1916

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our Balrog readers a very happy Easter. Easter is a special time for Republicans, a time when we remember our patriot dead.

This is the first year that the "Republican Party" AKA Berties Boys have decided that the men and women of 1916 are worthy of rememberance.

I welcome the fact that the 26 county government have re-instated the parade, even if their reason for doing so is electorally motivated.

Unlike Bertie we have always saw the men and women of 1916 as Irish patriots and we have remembered them every year. For us however we also remember our modern volunteers of Óglaigh Na hÉireann who gave their lives for Irish freedom.

Today I will attend my local comemmoration to Volunteers Jim Lochrie and Sean Campbell, 1st Battalion, South Armagh Brigade. I have attended this comemmoration for as long as I can remember and I don't draw a distinction between Jim and Sean and Pearse and Connolly.

All sought to free Ireland from the injustice that is British rule, all paying the ultimate price for their selfless acts.

1916 has always has a significant impact for Republicans, the Proclamation is the document that exemplifies the qualities that we seek to have enshrined in a United Ireland. Liberty and Justice for all where all of the children of the Nation are cherished equally.

It about time that the Irish government lived up to these ideals and stopped paying lipservice to them.


The long shadow of Collusion

I saw a very interesting yet chilling documentary on TG4 this evening which focused on the case of Eddie Fullerton, the Sinn Féin councillor from Donegal who was killed by the UDA in the early 90s.

The programme was extremely interesting as it exposed both the inadequacy of the Garda investigation into his death as well as the clear evidence of involvement by British Security forces. Eddie was killed at his Donegal home in May 1991. According to the programme, later that night Gardai were seen removing documents from his house. These Gardai were acting in an unofficial capacity as the local station has no record of their actions nor has the action ever been accounted for. The documents taken were subsequently returned to the family by a member of the Gardai who was eventually named by the Morris Tribunal as having been involved in corruption, however the family do not believe that all the documents taken were returned. The programme explained these strange circumstances as being part of attempts by various people to overturn the ban on Gaming machines in Donegal which Eddie had campaigned to bring about. Before he died Eddie has twice been handed blank cheques, the first time in an attempt to bribe him to allow the return of the gaming machines and the second time to assure his silence about the first bribe. Both times Eddie refused the cheques, his principles were not for sale.

When the family returned to their home they found traces of hair which had not been taken by the Gardai for examination. It seems that the Gardai investigation of the death of an elected representative left an awful lot to be desired. The programme said that the only thing which the Guards have been willing to say for certain about Eddie Fullerton’s death is that the reason given for killing by the UDA, that Eddie was passing information to the IRA, was untrue and that Eddie Fullerton was not in the IRA. The Gardai were unwilling to appear on the programme or make any defence for their incompetency in this case or the possible reasons behind it.

But even more disturbing was the revelations about the role played by British Security force in the planning of the killing. According the programme, various sources have named British agents as being involved in the killing. The programme also told of a witness who saw three suspects dressed in paramilitary uniform being whisked away from a spot in Derry that night by what the witness described as an unmarked RUC car. When the witness went to the RUC, they were initially uninterested but later an RUC man and a Guard paid the witness a visit at his home where they allegedly asked the name if he could identify the faces, when he said that he could not, the RUC officer and Garda relaxed. It was also remarked on the programme that the entire operation seem far too organised and calculated to have been carried out by the UDA alone. Killing political representatives in their homes during a planned attack was not the hallmark of the UDA, they were more likely to simply drive around looking for a random Catholic to target.

This killing seems to bear all the hallmarks of collusion and the wrong of collusion was compounded by the failure of An Gardai Siochana to properly investigate the murder. Watching the programme, nobody could be left in any doubt that this was simply another Loyalist raid. Former RUC man Johnston Brown spoke at length about the likelihood of RUC/ Loyalist collusion and how he had come into contact with a Loyalist RUC agent who told him that his handlers had given him a picture of Eddie Fullerton. There were undoubtedly darker forces at work in this case and Eddie was most likely victim of the British plot to use Loyalist paramilitaries to curtail the growth of Sinn Féin by whatever means necessary. The family have constantly campaigned for an independent inquiry into his death and their calls must surely be answered if those in charge have any interest in justice.

Within the next 18 months, Donegal will most likely see its first Sinn Féin TD elected. Whoever that person is, they would be wise to pay a tribute to the bravery of Eddie Fullerton whose hard work and dedication paved the way for Sinn Féin success in Donegal. The sad pity is that Eddie did not live to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Ahmadinejad cranks it up a gear!

I see that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised the stakes even higher, if that is possible short of launching nukes on Washington, by suggesting that Israel was a "rotten, dried tree" that will be annihilated by "one storm".

Opening a conference supporting the Palestinians, Mr Ahmadinejad fired a series of verbal shots at Israel, saying it was a "permanent threat" to the Middle East that will "soon" be liberated.

"Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation," Mr Ahmadinejad said. He also said "If such a disaster (Holocaust) is true, why should the people of this region pay the price? Why does the Palestinian nation have to be suppressed and have its land occupied?"

I do think that he has a point when he asks why should the Palestinians have to pay for the sins of Nazi Germany. My views on Zionism and the "state" of Israel in general are well known by now but I can see that this political posturing by Ahmadinejad has other priorities at its heart. He is clearly rattling the sabre at the West and their lapdog Israel in the Middle-East.

Iran has previously said it will give money to the Palestinian Authority to make up for the withdrawal of donations by Western nations who object to Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence.

Until America places Israel in line and forces them to accept a reasonable agreement over an Independent Palestine then Ahmadinejad, like previous Islamic leaders, will contine to use the issue of the Palestinians to stir up the people of the Middle-East.

You do have to prove it, Bertie.

I was watching the RTÉ news earlier this eveing and An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made a comment which struck me. While asked about the appropriateness of a military parade to commemorate 1916 and whether it was an attempt to boost support for Fianna Fáil, Bertie replied that "Fianna Fáil don't need to prove their Republicanism to anyone. Everybody knows that Fianna Fáil are Republican."

Now Fianna Fáil may attach the word Republican to their election posters, but in realty, once elected do they really live up to their billing. Can Fianna Fáil really claim to be Republican, when they refuse to organise and take part in elections in all 32 counties of this island?

If Fianna Fáil are truely Republican, why do they refuse to take a more active role as persuaders for Irish unity? Why do they refuse to support Dáil motions calling for a United Ireland. Why is Sunday's parade the first of its kind for years? Why did the state stop commemorating 1916? Why did FF back down over its plans to invite representatives from all 32 counties to sit in the Dáil when, with FF support, the majority of the Dáil would have been in favour? Why does Fianna Fáil's Republicanism seem to stop at the border?

Personally I am delighted when any Irish party embraces the mantle of Republicanism, but Republicanism has to be more than a slogan or catchphrase. To be a Repubican, you have to be involved in Republicanism. Definitions of what Republicanism means may differ, and this can be a positive thing. But what is for certain is that you cannot claim to be a Republican if you ignore the quest for the Republic.


First Republican commemoration in Stormont

I felt very privileged yesterday when I attended our first Republican commemoration in Stormont. It was my first visit to the "big house on the hill" and I am very glad that I attended.

I stood in the long gallery and looked out the window at the statue of Carson and then looked at the back wall of the gallery and saw the Proclamation in all its glory and I couldn't help feeling a little eerie.

Here we were in the bastion of Unionism; the very building was built with and for about 40 years lived off the Sectarianism that is the lifeblood of Unionism. This building stood for everything that the Proclamation did not. It stood for oppression, domination and discrimination. I remembered that Craig was buried outside and I was just wondering to myself how many summersaults he had done already.

In my opinion that was the most important building in which an Easter commemoration has ever taken place in. The same way that the leaders of 1916 took over the buildings of British rule in Ireland on Easter week so have modern Republicans "infiltrated" the most important building to Unionism.

Stormont is no longer a building of oppression for Republicans, we are slowly but surely taking ownership and that must be a very worrying thought for bigoted Unionism.

The fact that 50 years ago most if not all of us in that room would have had arrest warrants issued against us for partaking in an Easter commemoration was not lost on us.

Times are changing and the sooner Rejectionist Unionism accepts that then the easier it will be for them.


Hypocrisy over 1916 ‘aimed at halting Sinn Féin’

That is the view of former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna, while welcoming the fact that all the Political parties in the 26 counties want to celebrate 1916 and the brave men who sacrificed everything for their country she couldn't resist asking why?

“Although I welcome the fact that we are now celebrating our independence, it is a unfortunate that 1916 had previously been ignored for so long. For years, we were the only nation in Europe ashamed of our independence. Why is it now acceptable? If the current support for 1916 among the big parties is motivated by a desire to stave off a perceived electoral threat from Sinn Féin, then Sunday’s event is a mere political stunt and an insult to those who died in 1916.”

She also said that she found the "militaristic" element of the parade offensive.

Willie O’Dea last night said: “There will be no glorification of militarism, as Ms Kenna puts it. The government decided to reinstate the military parade as an expression of national pride in all those who took part in the Rising."

He also said the following which left me quite confused

"Óglaigh na hÉireann are the true successors of the men and women of 1916 and Sunday’s parade will reflect that and the Irish Army’s role, which has evolved over the decades, here at home and through its 58,000 tours of duty as part of the UN’s peace keeping forces. Why does Ms McKenna find this offensive?”

I think when Willie refers to "Óglaigh na hÉireann" he means the 26 county armed forces; I don't see how Willie can honestly believe that they are the continuation of the brave men and women of 1916.

The brave men and women of 1916 went out to free this country, they would not tolerate a single field of this country being under the yoke of England, can the same be said for the 26 county armed forces?

When was the last time that they engaged the British or decided to follow on the legacy of 1916 and try to free our country?

When Northern Nationalists were alone and defenceless in 1969 they stood at the British imposed border and did nothing.

Willie would do well not to insult the memory of those brave men and women of 1916 whose entire modus operandi was to free our country; the same can't be said for his "Óglaigh na hÉireann"

Honour Ireland's Dead

In the proceeding days to Easter it is apt that we as Irish republicans take stock of the last year, our liberation struggle and last but not least the sacrifices made by countless generations of Irish republican men and women. In this the 90th annivesary of the 1916 Easter Rising republicans the length and breadth of this country and further afeild should pause and reaffirm ourselves to our republican ideals and our goal as best delineated through the proclaimation. This year has assumed particulkar poignance and importance as it marks the 25th annivesary of the hungerstrike, when 10 fearless Irish Republican soldiers starved to death rather than be daubed as criminals. In both of these monmentous occasins republicanism disseminated a message across the world that our liberation struggle, and our aim of establishing a 32 county socailist republic were both legitimate and just. 'Republicans' of all shades Cokes, Irpsies and Stickies all lay claim to the mantle of 1916 and 1981, such is the enormity of the gallantry of these freedom fighters.In light of this I appeal to all republicans to attend their local commemorations, and least of all not to forget to wear an Easter Lilly, the single symbol of the undying precept of Irish Republicanism. Honour Ireland's Dead Wear an Easter Lilly!!!

The Easter Rising, the cartoon

I am a huge fan of Langerland and they have just released a new cartoon on the Easter Rising.

Very funny! you can view it here

Any cartoon that shows James Connolly killing McDowell has to be worth a look surely ;)


SF councillor threatened on council floor

I'm saddened and angry to learn that Sinn Féin Councillor Monica Digney was threatened on the floor of the Ballymena Council chamber last night. This must have been a terrible ordeal for Monica who described the incident this morning as "was a frightening and disturbing incident."

She went on to condemn the Unionist reaction both to her work as a councillor and to her assailtant last night;

It is totally unacceptable that any elected representative should be threatened anywhere, let alone on the floor of the council chamber.

What was more concerning was that a number of my council colleagues sat by and did nothing. I am also very concerned that my assailant was able to freely enter the council building and the council chamber without being challenged.

I will be raising this matter with the Council Chief Executive.

Unionists on Ballymena Council through their behaviour continue to send out a message that republicans and nationalists should not be treated equally and with dignity and respect.

It is no co-incidence that on councils where unionists refuse to accept power sharing and equality are found in areas where loyalist violence continues to be directed at nationalists and republicans

Monica makes a fair point when she says that the way in which she is treated in ballymena sends a clear signal to low-lifes that it is acceptable to attack or threaten Republicans in this callous manner. How brave must this Loyal son of Ulster have been to walk into a council floor in ballymena and threaten the sole Republican woman?

Another point, given how the Unionist councillors claim to be so dedicated to law and order, why didn't they try to apprehend the assailtant, after all if they actually gave a damn about principles of non-violence surely they would have wanted this low-life brought to justice. Or in Unionist eyes, is justice something which should only be concerned with Republicans when it can be used against them?

Much ado about nothing

I see there's been another twist in the Eddie Espie saga within the SDLP. The former Vice-Chair is incensed after being sent a message via MSN messenger referring to him as a "wanker" (I think we can do without the *** on Balrog, we'll all called each other worse!)

Eddie Espie's wife has reacted furiously saying;

The child was ill. Then this thing came up. He started asking why? It’s one thing saying something to somebody during a row. Saying it to somebody’s child is completely different. Whatever rows there are between people about politics, it’s nothing to do with the family. O’Doherty knew it was a family computer, he knew it sits in the living room.

Ok a couple of points on this. While it may be a family computer, when somebody signs onto MSN, its fair enough for another person to assume that the person signed on is the person they are talking to. I assume what has happened is that Mr. Espie's MSN automatically loads up whenever anybody goes on the internet. This is undoubtedly an annoying feature of the instant messaging service but one that Mr. Espie should have been aware of before allowing his children to use the internet connection. I know from my own experience that this can easily happen. My sister has somehow managed to get our family computer signing automatically into MSN and so when I go onto the internet, unless I remember to cancel the sign in, I am bombarded with the kind of nonsensical chit-chat that 15 year old girls like to engage in.

What has happened here is unfortunate but I really don't think John O'Doherty is entirely to blame. I know John O'Doherty and have worked with him on issues in the past and he is a decent fellow, committed to his party and who works hard on the issues he believes will be of benfit to nationalists and the community in general. If all SDLP members were committed, decent and hard-working activists like John O'Doherty, I really don't think the party would be in the mess it is today. I feel that if offence has been caused by misguided comments, then there should be an apology made and that should be the end of the matter. There is no need to make a mountain out of a very insignificant molehill.


SDLP tearing itself apart?

Very interesting breaking story today which Chris has just blogged on the internal strife within the SDLP. I know very little about Eddie Espie but Martin Morgan is always somebody I've had a lot of time for and I always thought that it seemed far too far convenient that his retirement from party politics came so soon after having pubically questioned the SDLP's failed policing policy. I see Mr. Morgan has delievered a damning assessment of the selfishness, laziness and ineptitude which seems to run through the SDLP;

This is one of the fundamental weaknesses of the SDLP. Some of their politicians have a good on the ground creed of working with the people. The unfortunate part of this is that it is not enough. Some high ranking representatives are anything but representative and are more concerned about making money and getting some form of publicity.

Where were some of the senior representatives when times where particularly harsh for people living in the Ardoyne, the Markets and many other districts of the North?

Some of them went on holidays over the 12th of July and some of them lay in their beds, whilst colleagues repeatedly stood on the streets attempting in their own small way to assist the people in their time of need.

If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt Mr. Morgan's word, it is a shocking indictment of the disdain with which the SDLP have treated their electorate. This sort of arrogance should have no place in politics. Politicians are there to represent the people, not to cynically use them for their own grubby gains.

Personally I wouldn't lay the entire blame at Mark Durkan's door. I remember Henry74, a respected commentator on the irish blogosphere, remarking that it wasn't Mark Durkan holding the SDLP back but that the SDLP was holding back Mark Durkan. Durkan seems like a decent fellow but I fear that he is being over-influenced by people within the party who do not have the best interests of their electorate nor Nationalism at heart.

Something else that struck me is that some of the things which SDLP supporters castigate Sinn Féin for is the party's supposed lack of democracy amongst the membership and also its failure to endorse the PSNI thus far. How ironic then that one of the complaints of the disullsioned former members is the SDLP membership at large were not consulted when the decision to join the Policing board was taken. Compare this with the SF position that moves on Policing can only be taken if the party as a whole approves them.

Stoops in turmoil!

I see that the Stoops appear to be in internal turmoil with talk of a leadership challenge to Durkan.

Former vice-chairman Eddie Espie said he believed the process of a challenge had started and the full details would be known within six weeks. Mark Durkan today dismissed a potential leadership challenge as "rants and ravings".

Mr Concise

"Members won't be distracted by the rants and ramblings of people who aren't able to sustain or explain their own position in the party. Eddie resigned before he was pushed. He resigned a few days before he knew he would be voted out. The reaction in the party to his resignation has been one of relief and welcome"

Former Belfast Mayor Martin Morgan said he only heard about the leadership challenge this week and stressed that he was not a part of it.

"There are a number of people in elected positions in the party who feel the SDLP are not providing a viable alternative to Sinn Fein."

Mr Morgan added that there is a complacent view in the party that Sinn Fein will peak and it will get better for the SDLP after that.

I would agree with Martin that such a view is not realistic, still this news story has brightened up my day no end.

No more "Your Honour"

I am delighted to see that the Department of Justice are to do away with the elitist and outdated titles that have been used for Irish Judges. Irish judges have continued to use these British titles even after partition and so I am glad that these titles will finally go.

My objection to the use of these titles is not that they are a British invention but it is because they suggest that the Judiciary is somehow better than your average Jo Bloggs, they aren't!

Instead of being referred to as "your honour" and "your worship", they will now be known as "judge".

Now all we have to do is get rid of them in the North as well!

What is Plan B?!

What its not -

"There’s no question of joint authority or anything like that. There’s no question of joint government."

What it is -

"co-operation and partnership basis between the two governments,"

So its not joint authority but authority might be wielded in co-operation and partnership? Is anybody else confused?!


Slippery slope for Unionism

I realise that I have yet to comment on the latest twist that is the "peace process" but I will now attempt to give my perspective. Blair and Ahern have quite rightly said that enough is enough and that either Paisley plays ball or else they will pull the plug on the Assembly.

Peter Hain was quick to try and reassure Unionism that the threat of "Joint Stewardship" didn't amount to some form of Joint Authority and some Unionists have gullibly accepted that without looking at the situation as a whole.

At the moment we have "Joint Authority" in relation to the Peace Process. If Paisley fails to deliver his side of the bargain we will see this extended. It won't be called Joint Authority but it will amount to the same thing as time rolls on and the British get even more exasperated with Unionist intransigence.

Unionism will be excluded and it will be Dublin and London calling the shots. I am also happy that Unionists have finally been shown that the only part of the Agreement they have any control over is Strand one.No matter what happens the North South agenda will be advanced, this notion that if the Assembly falls then so does all the rest has been proved to be a Unionist wet dream.

Unionists will not be allowed to stagnate progress and while their siege mentality and political suicide seems inevitable the only people to suffer will be their own community.

Unionism has never been blessed with political thinkers of the long game; it has long since been shown to be a reactionary, sectarian and bigoted approach to the matters of the day.

The one thing about Unionism that has always remained constant is their quest for Power, evidenced by Robinson who is obviously champing at the bit to take power but who sees himself thwarted by the naked sectarianism of Paisley.

Poor Robinson, always the bridesmaid, never the bride!

As a Republican either outcome will suit me, if Unionism can reach the mark then fine but I will not be losing any sleep if they don't.

Unionism once again finds itself hovering over the self-destruct button, will Paisley push it or will Robinson be able to stop him.

Only time will tell

Ex-RUC man helped find Donaldson

It seems that the Sunday World AKA Sunday Lie only found Denis Donaldson's wereabouts with the help of an ex-RUC man who has links to RUC Special Branch.

Colin Breen, who worked in Tennent Street station in Belfast and is now retired, travelled to the Glenties area of Co Donegal with a Sunday World journalist to track down Donaldson. He is not a Sunday World staff member, and the newspaper’s regular staff photographers were not used.

In his newspaper story, Jordan described how he searched for Donaldson in Donegal for a number of days. However, no mention was made of Breen’s role.

This would seem to be an interesting twist in the unfolding saga.

Did Breen recieve the information from his old pals in RUC Special Branch?


Never back the Royals!

I'm just sitting watching the replay of the Aintree Grand National after a very exciting race. Unfortunately there wasn't much luck in our household. My own fancy Clan Royal could only manage third, the aul fella's horse, Hedgehunter did one better but unfortunately we both had the joint favourites to win. With a fence or two to jump, I was on the edge of my seat thinking my horse was wonderfully placed to run on and win but unfortunately the other horses finished the better.

There was success for the Irish though as Numbersixvalverde ridden by Slippers Madden and trained by Martin Brassil won another Grand National for Ireland following in Hedgehunter's footsteps from last year. Funnily enough, my da had backed an Irish 1-2-3 at 25/1 and was within a whisker of collecting but unfortunately Clan Royal edeged out Nil Desperandum after a photo finish for third meant that the Irish finished 1-2-4. Strangely enough, Clan Royal had an Irish owner, jockey and trainer but the fact that it is trained on English soil by an Irish trainer means that its judged as an English horse. Still ya can't win them all! What an exciting event the Grand National is. It rarely makes a profit for me but it certainly always gives all viewers a bit of excitement!


So near but yet so far!

Sometimes I can only laugh at the hatred and paranoia which some commentators on the blogosphere show towards Republicans. In the wake of the Donaldson affair, I saw a very obvious example of this when a commentator on ATW or Slugger (I can’t remember which) started into a paranoid spiel as to how Republicans must have been responsible for the murder because Gerry Adams knew so much about the situation so soon after the story broke. Remembering this, I had a little chuckle when reading today’s Irish News which told of the real reason why Gerry seemed so well prepared with early knowledge of the killing –

It was because Peter Hain rung him to tell him!

Back to the drawing board for the conspiracy theorists, methinks!

Donaldson family do not blame IRA

I see the family of Denis Donaldson have said that they do not believe the IRA were responsible for his death. The family have placed the blame for the sad situation they find themselves in on the manner in which Denis was used, abused and eventually cast adrift by the British security services;

But the difficult situation which our family has been put in is the direct result of the activities of the Special Branch and British Intelligence agencies.

We acknowledge the speedy statement from the IRA disassociating themselves from this murder. We believe that statement to be true.

Unsurprisingly, of course in recent days, we have seen the glee with which Unionists have greeted this sad events delighted as they were at the possiblity of having another flimsy excuse to hold up power sharing. However the Donaldson family have made clear that they have no intention to be used as stooges for rejectionist Unionism;

We would ask those politicians and media commentators who have sought to use this tragedy to score cheap political points to stop doing so

The family have also blamed the media for reporting Denis' whereabouts which made it so easy for his killers to strike. Those who were responsible for this have to take a long hard look at themselves. I only hope that all those in the media will have the decency to respect the family's wishes for a private funeral. Let them grieve in peace.


24th November - D Day

Today was the day for the governments to attempt to wave their magic wand and produce their plan to restore a power sharing executive in the north. As had been widely reported previous to the statement, the governemnts are to recall the assembly for a number of weeks with the primary aim of electing a powersharing executive including all the major parties. The assmebly is to meet for 6 weeks in March and then break for the Summer. A deadline of 24th November has been set by which date an executive must be up and running otherwise the assembly will be shut down by the governments and we will move to a "Plan B" which will involve "British-Irish partnership."

As I've made clear in recent posts, I favour a return to a power executive although I wouldn't have too many complaints about a meaningful joint authority government for the north. What I do oppose however is a DUP talking shop of an assembly where the DUP will attempt to exercise power and influence in an exclusive manner. I watched Hearts and Minds earlier and noticed an unneccesarily high level of bickering between the SDLP's Mark Durkan and Sinn Féin's martin McGuinness. For some unknown reason Mark seems determined to hark back to the Comprehensive Agreement of 2004 and claims that Sinn Féin have been complicit in allowing a shadow assembly to come onto the agenda. Martin McGuinness rightly stated that SF are opposed to a shadow assembly and will not take part in such a set-up.

I understand the concerns as the governments have said that the reformed assembly could consider other matters and that if there was cross-community support that Direct Rule Ministers would take the views of the assembly into account. This is not an avenue down which it would be advisable to go. The assembly needs to have much much more than advisory powers, it needs to be making decision for the good of all the people in the north, not merely giving MPs from London its opinion which could easily be ignored. Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP oppose a shadow assembly and therefore, rather than bickering and throwing blame about in front of Noel Thompson, the parties should get together and come to a joint agreement that when the assembly is recalled, neither party will take part in any business other than the setting up of the power sharing executive as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement. This will scupper the chances of a DUP-led talking shop and would be an excellent example of the parties working together to defend the Good Friday Agreement.


Ógra disrupt inaugural private healthcare conference

I was delighted to hear that Ógra Shinn Féin activists have protested at Ireland's inaugural private healthcare conference in the Berkeley Court Hotel.

They did this through a direct action protest and read the following statement to the conference attendees,

"We are here to protest against the blood sucking parasites here assembled; those who seek to make a profit from people's pain, profit from people's suffering and profit from people's fears and their ill-health. I refer to those in the so called private health industry who are here today in an attempt to further Americanize and commodify the health of the Irish people.

They collude in this with our corrupt right-wing Government, which sees the enrichment of the corporate elite as preferable to the well being of the Irish people.We in Ógra Shinn Fein believe that health is for people - not for profit!

Corporations such as GE make everything from light bulbs to cars, now they wish to treat sick Irish people; as long as they have money. There is a smell in this room, the smell of corruption, the smell of greed, the smell of capitalist pigs swilling at the cash trough that the Government so willingly provides for them.

The Irish people are not only paying for their health with their taxes, they are also paying with their suffering and death.We believe that access to health care is a universal and inalienable right for all; not a privilege for the wealthy, nor should the lack of such universal provision be punishment for the poor."

I agree with Ógra on this issue, the incorporation of the private sector in our health care system is not a benefical move for the system as a whole or for Irish people generally.

Health care provision should not be about making a profit but about providing a service. The quality of that service should not depend on how much money you have in your pocket.

These people are parasites who wish to feed on the back of our sick, disgusting!!

UUP Councillor votes for a United Ireland

I must say that I had a loud chuckle when I read that Belfast UUP Councillor Davy Browne voted for a United Ireland the other night. Councillor Browne supported a Sinn Féin motion calling on the council to back plans for the formation of a 32-county state.

It seems that Mr Browne wasn't giving the occassion his full attention and he "accidentally" voted for the motion.

Dáithí de Brún. as he now likes to be called

Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Mr Browne admitted to having made a “silly mistake”.

“I wasn’t paying attention when the vote came around to me,I was led to believe the vote would be close so I decided to mark up a tally on a bit of paper. I just blurted out ‘for’ when I heard my name mentioned. It was a silly mistake and, since the meeting, I have been ribbed endlessly about it. It is probably safe to say that I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll pay more attention in the future.”

Sinn Féin councillor Fra McCann said

“I welcome Davy’s support of our motion. Although it was eventually defeated, I am encouraged at it receiving cross-party support"

I am inclined to believe that Mr Browne was indeed brought round to the merits of a United Ireland and just said he was mistaken so that his friends in the UUP wouldn't throw him out, No!

Well, it's still funny ;)

McKay - Resign or be sacked!

I meant to blog this a couple of days ago but I think its worth highlighting the disgraceful manner in which Don McKay has conducted himself since his appointment to the Parades Commission. the Parades Commisssion should be a fair, impartial and unbiased body but it is clear from Mr. McKay's actions that these are qualities far beyond the DUP man.

Mr. McKay caused controversy by claiming that he was in Parades Commission to fight for the Orange cause from within. He urged Orange supporters to "have faith in what we believe in and take the battle forward." Of course this is not the only evidence of Mr. McKay's dubious character. In his application for the post he put down the name of SDLP councillor Dolores Kelly but showed gross dishonesty by not asking Ms. Kelly for her permission. Mr. McKay also has a record for secterian behaviour, having been found to have played Loyalist tunes in his place of work and to have sold Orange calanders in what should be a neutral work environment.

Mr. McKay is clearly incapable of truth, impartiality or independence. As a member of the Orange Order he should never have been appointed to his position. It is disgraceful that the Orange Order should be allowed members on the Parades Commission when no such voice is afforded to Residents Groups. Mr. McKay's appointment has gone from unsuitable in the beginning to completly disgraceful now. If he refuses to do the decent thing and resign, he should be sacked.

Denis Donaldson killed

I rarely agree with Enda Kenny on anything but I would like to echo his response to the killing of Denis Donaldson yesterday. As Enda pointed out, "This is the type of killing that we had all hoped was consigned to the past. "

What happened Mr. Donaldson must be condemned. The peace process is all about building a civilised, just and fair society and the actions taken in Donegal last night defies all these principles. It was a brutal and senseless act. Those who carried out this act are enemies of the peace process with their own grubby agendas. The timing of the killing whould make me very suspicious that those responsible were doing their best to derail the possibility of political process. They must not be allowed to.

Mr Donaldson made a lot of enemies during his life. As a British agent, he was no doubt privy to a lot of sensitive information about a lot people. Its impossible at this stage to tell who was responsible for his death although he would not surprise me if he was a dupe for his handlers- used and then discarded at their whim. I think its important to look at who had to gain from Mr. Donaldson's death. Certainly Republicans who want to see the peace process succeed had absolutely nothing to gain. However I do think it is important not to rush to judgement and that the prize of political progress must not be let slip.


British agent Donaldson found dead

I see that former Sinn Féin Administrator and British agent Denis Donaldson has been found dead in the Glenties area of Donegal. The full story has still not unfolded but I fully expect Unionists to point the finger at Republicans.

I have no doubt that this mans killing was not sanctioned by the IRA, I am also unsure if there was any Republican involvement at all.

It needs to be remembered that this man was a British agent and in the murky world that they inhabit who knows what happened. I for one would not rule out involvement by British security forces, after all a spot of cross-border killing has always been high on their agenda.

Gerry Adams has condemned the killing and distanced the Republican movement from involvement in it.

"It has to be condemned. We are living in a different era, and in the future in which everyone could share. This killing seems to have been carried out by those who have not accepted that,"

I find myself upon two minds on this issue. I despised what Donaldson did, like many Republicans.He betrayed his family, his friends, his comrades, his community and the cause. He placed his own selfish interests before that of the cause he professed to support.

For this reason you will see no crocodile tears from me but I do feel for his family in what must be a harrowing time.

That all said, we are in a new dispensation and this man should not have been killed.

I have no doubt that the twists and turns of this latest saga have yet to unfold

Belfast city hall, Simply bigotry!

I was saddened but not surprised to learn that intolerance has once again raised its ugly head at the "Dome of Delight". Belfast councillors have voted against erecting a stained glass window in the city hall in memory of Socialist and Irish patriot James Connolly.

Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann pointed out the huge impact that Connolly had on Belfast.

"He was a champion of the working class and people of no class, we believe because of his connection with the working classes, Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, that it would be only right he be honoured in this way by the city council."

Fra said Belfast City Hall was a building "full of regalia that represented one community" and that a window commemorating Connolly would encourage more republicans to use to city hall.

I agree with Fra 100% on this issue. I have been in our party offices on a few occasions and there is no doubt which community is represented in the decor of the city hall and it isn't the Nationalist or Republican community.

They have windows commemorating Crown forces who have colluded and participated in the murder of Belfast citizens and they have statues of foreign monarchs but there is nothing for the Nationalist community.

The response from the DUP was rather telling, Ian Crozier said the motion was simply an attempt to "erode the British identity" of the province.

"They have been at this at the city hall for quite some time," he said."First it was trying to remove the Union Flag, now it's trying to put in a window to the Easter Rising. It is just bit by bit, gradual attempts to erode the British identity of the people of Northern Ireland - we are not going to support it."

That basically means that anything that supports an Irish or Nationalist identity is automatically challenging to the Unionist mindset of supremacy.

It is about time that the DUP and other bigots learnt that the days of "croppy lye down" are over!


Podge and Rodge, what a show!

I am not sure if any of you are fans of Podge and Rodge but if you aren't you should be. Their new late night chat show is the funniest show on televison.

Many of my generation will remember when Podge was first introduced to us on The Den as the evil puppet who was really alive and who only showed himself to Zig. I still remember when Podge appeared on The Den and sneered that: "Dustin smells like shit."

I remember being glued to that show for months until he was caught.

This is a show for fans of dark comedy and their first show, A scare at Bedtime, had to be seen to be believed. I was shocked that a company like RTÉ, not known for their liberal palet, would allow such a show to air, it was fantastic!

For a taste of their style check out this interview in the Irish Independent

I would urge all those who have not watched the show to do so, you will not regret it.

El Papa, 1st Anniversary of his death

I see that many Catholics have been marking the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. I remember feeling sadness at the death of Pope John Paul II; he was the only Pope that I had ever known.

I always use his quote about "every religion having a path to god" when I am forced to listen to hardcore Christians drivel on about "the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ".

This morning Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to his predecessor before saying the Angelus prayer. In a voice choked with emotion, Pope Benedict said that a year from his death, a great Pope had left us an immense heritage.

I am sorry to say however that the legacy left by Pope John Paul II is not a pure one; it is tarnished by abuse, lies, hurt and pain. I do not blame him for the abuse of the children but the entire hierarchy turned a blind eye and that is what is so hard to forgive.

Pope John Paul II was a religious man who did a lot of good but my memory of his tenure will unfortunately always be blackened by the accounts of abuse that has littered many a Catholic parish.

Rest in Peace

I'm back

I am glad to say that I am now back from my travelling and ready to get stuck into Blogging. I realise that it was a mistake to leave the monkeys in charge of the ship, as shown by their attempted coup.

I found England interesting; the NUS conference was definitely an experience. Throughout the conference all that could be heard was "the north of Ireland" and no mention of "Northern Ireland", I am sure Ghengis McCann's ears were burning.

We also had a Muslim student wearing a "Tiocfaidh Ár Lá" T-Shirt, don't tell Vance or else we will be drowned out by roars of "Islamo/Provo fascism".

All in all the conference would have been a cold house for Unionists, a very large majority of students seem to favour a United Ireland and do not view Unionists as their fellow countrymen but as foreign neighbours.

I did find it interesting to learn that the reason Stranmillis College disaffiliated from NUS-USI (6 county student movement) was not because it was jointly run by USI but because NUS supported the Hunger Strikers in 1981.

A weird old world

Rabitte rules out FF- but will he be out-foxed?

I see Labour leader Pat Rabitte has used his party's conference to once more rule out any suggestion that Labour would consider going into government with either of the current ruling parties i.e. FF and the PDs. Last weekend I gave my views what I thought might be the possible governments after the next election. These were 1. FF/Labour 2. FG/Labour/Greens 3. FF/SF.

However we continue to have the situation where 2 of these 3 options are being ruled out by one of the potential partners. Will somebody be forced into an embarassingly climbdown in order to get their foot into the next government. I think the alternative coalition are completly over-estimating the dip in Fianna Fáil support. While I do think that FF will lose seats, they will still be the largest party by a distance. A Fine Gael/ Labour partnership will not have anywhere near the required number of seats, their only hope is a strong Green performance which could lead to an unstable 3-party coalition. However the Greens are likely to finish 5th in party preferences and may not have a substantial number of seats. As for the PDs, they punched well above their weight in 2002 and preyed on fears of one-party government to gain a vastly more prominent position than the support for their policies would merit. I doubt if they will be a significant player next time round.

My view is that Irish people may want to give Fianna Fáil soemthing of a bloody nose, however I think there will also be a realisation that Bertie Ahern is more likely to be an effective taoiseach than Enda Kenny. Of course. we're looking at something which may be well over a year away and its impossible and probably pointless to make predictions at this stage. However I think its very possible that when all's said and done, some people will cringe at their pronouncements of the past as they contemplate a situation they had not previously envisaged.

Wembley - a case of ineptitude?

One of the big stories of the week in England has been the news that Wembley stadium will not be ready untill at least 2007 and that all fixtures in 2006 have been re-scheduled for other venues.

Considering the stadium was supposed to be ready in a few weeks, this is a major setback, however one of the things that struck me is the comparasion between this project and the re-building of Croke Park. Wembley has been closed since 2001 and yet 5 years later they still can't produce a stadium on time. Compare this with Croke Park which was never closed for the championship season and yet was transformed into a stadium fit to rival any in the world without any All Ireland final ever having to be transferred to another venue. Those who were responsible for this feat deserve a pat on the back and perhaps some people from supposedly professional organisations could learn a thing or two from them!

Ballymena- changing at last?

Good to see some good sense and tolerance breaking out in the town of Ballymena, a place too often synonomous with disgusting levels of secterianism. UDA murals and red, white and blue railings have been removed near the Catholic Church at Harryville. This church and its parishioneers have had to put up with a lot, from secterian attacks to secterian pickets attended by local bigots, including DUP members. Hopefully however this will help usher in a new feeling of tolerance. I know a few young Catholics from ballymena and some of them are undertstandly bitter about the secterian abuse they encountered while growing up in the town. Even in broad daylight wearing their school uniforms they were subject to secterian abuse and going out at night was apparently a complete no-no for Catholics in the town. Hopefully the next generation growing up Ballymena, and indeed all towns in the north, will not have to endure the same.


Gaskin suspended

Following a meeting between myself, Hensons, Setanta, Adelante and various regular Balrog commentators, the decision has been taken that, due to contravention of a number of Balrog’s codes of conduct, Chris Gaskin has been suspended from Balrog until further notice, effective immediately. I will hereby assume all administration powers on Balrog.

To put it bluntly, this is a coup. Do not adjust your computer. The revolution will not be televised.

Deadline set for executive

I see that the stakes have been raised in the NI assembly poker game and we are entering the end game with a deadline having been set of November 24th after which point the assembly will be scrapped if a power sharing executive has not been formed.

This is all well and good and I think November is an acceptable deadline. I have no doubt that the DUP are going to do everything in their power to try to delay and subvert the process. That is their right, however the governments should be very clear with the DUP and inform them that if they are unwilling to share power with the democratically elected representatives of Nationalism, then there will still be power sharing but it will be shared between the British and Irish governments.

Belfast Rule or London/Dublin rule. You decide, Ian. Either's fine by me.

Daily Ireland - balanced and fair

The Daily Ireland is a paper which, for some reason, seems to envoke the most bitter of reactions from people. Its critics deride it as biased and blinkered, however its interesting to note that research has shown that during the election campaign of 2005, the Daily Ireland's coverage was actually very balanced. The paper gave the SDLP just as much coverage as it gave Sinn Féin and gave the Unionist parties more coverage than the News Letter did for Nationalists.

The amount of venom that is directed towards the paper on sites like slugger always amazes me and usually it comes from people who would claim to favour free speech. Personally I don't read the paper regularly, I bought it every day at the start but in the end decided that I preferred the Irish News and went back to it. What annoys me are those who criticise it from being"one sided" yet would never think of criticising the News Letter which can often read like a DUP cheer leading sheet. Both papers have taken their editorial stand points and people should respect that, rather than gloat over every perceived misfortune. It seems that some would prefer if we went back to the old days of censorship for Republicans.