Self Regulation is No Regulation

I see that the Irish government has published the Legal Services Ombudsman Bill aimed at introducing new regulations for the legal profession.

The proposed legislation would set up a review process for clients of solicitors and barristers who are unhappy with the handling of a complaint by the Law Society or the Bar Council.

The ombudsman would conduct investigations in private and would have the power to issue directions or recommendations to the society or the council.

This isn't good enough; we need to move from the current situation of self regulation.

The Law Society in the South is the exact same as its Northern counterpart, an old boys club. The same is also true of the Bar Council.

The simple fact is that as a profession our "union" should not also be tasked with holding us to account.

We need to move to a situation were we have an independent legal oversight commission with the power to hold the legal profession to account.

The current situation is unacceptable to a great many people.

Bill of Rights

I see that the proposed Bill of Rights for the 6 counties has caused a stir. The DUP is to boycott the launch saying the report gave "more rights to trees than unborn children".

A representative of the Catholic Church will also not be in attendance after his proposal on the rights of the unborn was not adopted.

The report has been compiled by the Bill of Rights Forum which was established following commitments made within the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement in October 2006.

I have mixed feelings on this report.

I too am annoyed that greater emphasis was not given to the unborn and the right to life. My biggest problem will the report though is the suggestion that the age of criminal responsibility will be raised to 18.

That is absolute madness!

At a time when communities are crying out for protection from anti-social and criminal activity this proposal shows just how detached from reality some people are.

I only hope that sense will overcome political correctness because if this proposal was made law it would be a disaster.

Only time will tell


Honour is its own reward

I came across an article about President McAleese and her husband being up for an "honorary doctorates" to mark their contribution to the Irish peace process.

Let's leave aside the debate as to what both of them did, if anything of substance at all.

What interests me is the whole concept of "honorary doctorates" and other such honours.

As a Law graduate I have an LLB because I worked for it, the same as any other graduate of any other discipline. I can't for the life of me understand the whole concept of "honorary doctorates". If people wish to have a doctorate, and I know many who have them, then let them do the work for it.

I was always brought up with the maxim of something given without effort is never appreciated.

As it is "honorary doctorates" mean as much to me as the archaic and anti-Republican British Honours system.

When you consider that men like Ken Loach, Albert Finney, C.S Lewis and W.B Yeats all have refused honours it shows that there are those with enough belief in themselves and their own work.

As a Republican I firmly believe that all men and women are equal. I am no better than anyone else but by god no one is any better than me.

I'm not a person who admires many politicians but one who I have huge admiration for is Tony Benn.

I met him last year when he addressed the AGM of the Haldane society in London last year.

This is a man who actually battled so that he could reject his inherited peerage. It is because of him that the Brits had to bring in the Peerage Act 1963.

Benn's father had been created Viscount Stansgate in 1942. When Benn's older brother Michael was killed in an accident during the Second World War Benn was left as the heir to a peerage. He made several attempts to remove himself from the line of succession but they were all unsuccessful.

In November 1960, Benn's father died and as a result he was prevented from sitting in the House of Commons and became the 2nd Viscount Stansgate. Tony Benn fought to retain his seat in the by-election on 4 May 1961 caused by his succession. Although he was disqualified from taking his seat, the people of Bristol South-East re-elected him.

Outside the British Parliament Benn continued his campaign, and eventually the Conservative government accepted the need for a change in the law. The Peerage Act 1963, allowing renunciation of peerages, was given the Royal Assent and became law shortly after 6 p.m. on 31 July 1963. Benn was the first peer to renounce his title, at 6.22 p.m. that day.

Tony Benn returned to the Commons after winning a by-election on 20 August. He has a sample of his blood taken before his renunciation of his peerage, so he can say there is still some "blue blood" in his house.

These kinds of honours do nothing to improve a persons standing. Men and women are judged by the people that they are, not by the awards that they have collected.

The honors of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness, and peril of falling?
Joseph Addison


Rape victims are not to blame

I was disgusted but not surprised to read that one in four people believe women who have been raped are partly to blame because of how they dressed, their sexual history or how much they had to drink.

The poll in today's Irish Examiner found that

1. More than 30% think a victim is some way responsible if she flirts with a man or fails to say no clearly.

2. 37% think a woman who flirts extensively is at least complicit, if not completely in the wrong, if she is the victim of a sex crime.

3. One in three think a woman is either partly or fully to blame if she wears revealing clothes.

4. 38% believe a woman must share some of the blame if she walks through a deserted area.

This sort of idiocy makes me so angry. It repulses me to think that people have these kind of outdated and deranged prejudices.

It doesn't matter if a woman engages in drink fuelled sex orgies every day for ten years. At any stage she has the absolute right to say no. No means no and that is something that many people are going to have to accept.

How dare these people blame rape victims just because these girls don't fit their ideal rape victim, such a suggestion of an ideal victim is repugnant.

Societal attitudes need to change; people have to stop blaming victims.

What I have found most confusing is that these views are so prevalent amongst women.

I remember when I was last on a family holiday to Spain a few years ago and my mother saw a young fella and girl courting on the rocks.

Her immediate reaction was "whore". I was shocked and asked her why she said that, after all the fella was involved as well and I couldn't see what they were doing wrong.

A woman should be able to walk where she wants, when she wants and not be thought of as "asking for it".

Women should be able to wear what ever length of skirt they want and not be thought of as "asking for it".

A woman should be able to have as many sexual partners as she wants and still be able to say no at any time.

The difference in sexual attitudes towards men and women perplexes me. A man who has multiple sexual partners is "the lad", a man to be respected and revered yet a sexually liberated woman is just another whore.

I can't figure it out.

A matter of conscience

I see that the subject of embryonic stem cell research has once again raised its head. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is due before the House of Commons shortly and once again the Catholic Church is leading the way on this issue.

Pressure from the Church and Catholic Ministers has forced Brown to introduce free votes in three key areas of the bill.

MP's will have a free vote when it comes to the sections on hybrid animal/human embryos, "survivor-sibling" embryos and the role of the father.

Embryonic stem cell research is a problem for me; I have yet to hear a single argument which proves that this type of research is more successful than adult stem cell research.

As someone who believes that all human life is precious and that life begins at conception I can't abide the manner in which certain people treat human life.

This bill has three key areas for me which present a problem.

The issue of hybrid animal/human embryos is a non starter; it's an attack upon the integrity of human life and dignity.

The suggestion that you would create a child with the correct tissue match in order to save a sick brother or sister is repulsive. Human beings are not just spare parts, are we honestly now saying that one human life is worth more than another?

Should a human be created just for his/her body parts?

The last piece of this legislation which I have a problem with is the proposed removal of the father.

Under the 1990 Act clinics must take into account "the need of a child for a father" yet this bill proposes to remove the part. Part of me understands why this is being suggested. I have already discussed the Evans case on this blog before.

That aside I don't believe that we should remove from legislation the need of a child for a father. What we should do is to remove the need for both parents permission at every stage.

Once you agree to the fertilisation that should be that. If that was always the case then Natallie Evans would have a child this day.

Some MP's are also considering using this bill in order to make abortion more available. That is unacceptable and I would hope that any MP of conscience would oppose such moves.

Supporters of this legislation have suggested that this could pave the way for a whole host of cures including a cure for Alzheimer's.

I watched my Grand father die a little more each day with this terrible disease; it is very prevalent in my family. I would do all in my power to find a cure for it but there is always a cost to be paid.

In this case the cost is just too high.


Squinter Article

I see that there has been an intense debate around Squinter's article in the Andersonstown News.

While Squinter's articles are normally worthy of debate this one has been so heated because of the nature of his article.

Squinter launches a blistering attack on Gerry Adams for the state of West Belfast and for the conditions that lead to the murder of Bap McGreevy.

He doesn't pull any punches in his article; some would suggest that now is not a time for doing that.

I must say for my own part that I was surprised by the article; I was surprised by the hyper-critical nature of the article and the implication that Gerry has some blame to shoulder in relation to the murder of Bap.

That said I don't live in Belfast, I don't know the conditions that these people are living under. I have however spoken to people who are from the West, people who have lost loved ones in service of the Republican Movement.

They tell me that this article will resonate with a lot of people in West Belfast.

There are simple facts at play in all of this; Gerry Adams has been the MP for many years. We have 5 out of the 6 MLA's and 5 out of the 5 councillors in the lower falls.

How have we improved the lives of the ordinary people in the area?

The simple fact, as I see it anyway, is that Sinn Féin and Gerry Adams have taken their eye off the ball in West Belfast. Republicans who were loyal to the Movement are now left alone, isolated and at the mercy of hoods and criminals.

What has our support for policing done to improve the lives and safety of people in West Belfast?

It hasn't! They are more isolated and alone than ever!

To say that the PSNI are as useful as tits on a bull would be putting it mildly!

Sinn Féin needs to get their finger out of their arse and their nose out of the DUP's and start looking at our communities.

At the rally outside Bap McGreevy's house the other night, where was Gerry Adams? Where were all our elected reps and all of our members and supporters?

People in the area are crying out for leadership and we are not doing enough, it's that simple!

The PSNI has failed the people of West Belfast as they have failed many other areas in the 6 counties. Republicans should be taking the lead in West Belfast; Gerry Adams should be making a call to the Republican heartland and asking people to support us.

Hundreds of Republicans should be on the streets of West Belfast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Every night of the week if needed.

As soon as hoods are seen engaging in anti-social behaviour they should be marched home and their parent's told straight, "sort him out or else we are going to get you evicted. You are not going to ruin our neighbourhood".

All of the statutory organisations should be involved and the PSNI should be told that they are welcome to come and help, thus far they have been more than useless.

The murder of Harry Holland and Bap McGreevy should never have happened.

Its high time Sinn Féin got down to the job and stopped shooting the messenger, enough is enough!


Beware the ides of March Bertie!

I see that Louth FF Councillor Tommy Murphy has called for Bertie Ahern to resign, insisting that the public no longer trust him following revelations at the Mahon Tribunal.

The latest revelation relates to the lodgement of £15,500 sterling into Bertie Ahern's building society account.

Ahern's former constituency secretary, Gráinne Carruth, told the Mahon tribunal she now accepted "as a matter of probability" that she had lodged sterling cash he gave her to his Irish Permanent Building Society account in Drumcondra in 1994.

The lodgements, totalling £15,500 sterling, were made three times over an eight-month period and included lodgements to the accounts of Mr Ahern's two daughters in the same branch.

This all occurred while Ahern was the Minister for Finance.

The problems arise because in February Ahern told the Tribunal that the lodgements to his and his daughters' accounts came from his salary as a politician.

That wasn't the case!

She said yesterday while she used to take instructions orally from Mr Ahern when making lodgements for him, it was her practice to always bring back receipts from transactions and give them to him.

Ahern insisted at the tribunal last month that he had no records relating to the transactions other than records of his salary.

What is obvious in all of this and from opinion polls is that more and more people are not satisfied with being lied to by the Taoiseach.

That said there are still a great many Fianna Fáil voters who are more than willing to be duped along with members of the Fianna Fáil party.

Niccolo Machiavelli once said that "One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived."

Éirí Amach na Cásca

Today is Good Friday and as such is a day of great sacrifice. Easter is a special time for Irish Republicans as we remember the great sacrifice that the men and women of Easter 1916 made for this Nation.

The Easter Rising, though much reviled by modern day revisionists and West-Brits like Eoghan Harris and Co, is still a major part of the Irish psyche.

As the old Irish poem goes

Caithfidh fir Éireann uileo
haicme go haonduine
gliec na timcheall no tuitim

The events of Easter week 1916 would spark the flame of a Nation that was long since slumbering.

After years of fruitless political negotiations by constitutional nationalist parties, Home Rule for Ireland appeared as far away as ever in the spring of 1916.

Unionism was armed and threatening civil war, the British army had threatened mutiny rather than face down the unionists and the rights of the Irish people was the last thing on the mind of a British Government locked in a bloody European war.

At this pivotal point in our history a small group of Republicans stepped forward and took on the British Empire in defence of those rights.

Soldiers of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, led by Padraig Pearse, determined that they would not permit Britain to ignore Ireland’s claim to independence. Unlike the constitutional nationalists, Pearse and his colleagues did not seek merely Home Rule. They believed that Ireland should be free from British influence and sought the establishment of an Irish Republic.

James Connolly, trade unionist and commander of the Irish Citizen Army went further. He argued for the establishment of a Socialist Republic which enshrined the rights of the working people.

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic spelled out the key principles on which the new Republic would be based. The document was years ahead of it’s time and remains the most important statement of intent in the history of this island.

Pearse, Connolly and the others, decided to act before the end of the Easter holidays and what followed was one of the most dramatic and heroic episodes in Irish history.

At about 11.00 am on Easter Monday the Volunteers, along with the Irish Citizen Army, assembled at various prearranged meeting points in Dublin, and before noon set out to occupy a number of imposing buildings in the inner city area.

The original plan, largely devised by Plunkett, was to seize strategic buildings throughout Dublin in order to cordon off the city and resist the inevitable counter-attack by the British army. If successful, the plan would have left the rebels holding a compact area of central Dublin, roughly bounded by the canals and the circular roads.

The Volunteers' Dublin division had been organized into 4 battalions. A makeshift 5th battalion was put together from parts of the others, with additional troops from the Citizen Army. This was the battalion of the headquarters at the General Post Office, and included the President and Commander-in-Chief, Pearse, the commander of the Dublin division, Connolly, as well as Clarke, Mac Diarmada, Plunkett, and a then-obscure young captain named Michael Collins.

Connolly asked Eamon Bulfin to hoist two flags up on the flag poles on either end of the GPO roof. The tricolour was hoisted at the right corner of Henry Street while a green flag with the inscription 'Irish Republic' was hoisted at the left corner at Princess Street. A short time later, Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic outside the GPO.

A small team of volunteers attacked the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park in an effort to obtain weapons and create a large explosion to signal the start of the rising. Meanwhile the 1st battalion under Commandant Ned Daly seized the Four Courts and areas to the northwest; the 2nd battalion under Thomas MacDonagh established itself at Jacob's Biscuit Factory, south of the city center; in the east Commandant Éamon de Valera commanded the 3rd battalion at Boland's Bakery; and Ceannt's 4th battalion took the workhouse known as the South Dublin Union to the southwest.

Members of the ICA under Michael Mallin and Constance Markievicz also commandeered St. Stephen's Green. An ICA unit under Seán Connolly made a minor assault on Dublin Castle, not knowing that it was defended by only a handful of troops.

After shooting dead a police sentry and taking several casualties themselves from sniper fire, the group occupied the adjacent Dublin City Hall. Seán Connolly was the first Republican casualty of the week, being killed outside Dublin Castle. Other volunteers also occupied 25 Northumberland Road and Clanwilliam House where seven Volunteers held off the British advance for nine hours.

As the week progressed, the fighting in some areas did become intense, characterised by prolonged, fiercely contested street battles. British casualties were highest at Mount Street Bridge. There, newly arrived British troops made successive, tactically inept, frontal attacks on determined and disciplined volunteers occupying several strongly fortified outposts.

The British lost 234 men, dead or wounded while just 5 Republicans died. British soldiers killed 15 unarmed men in North King Street near the Four Courts during intense gun battles there on 28th and 29th April.

The pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was the best- known civilian victim of the Easter Rising. He was arrested in Dublin on 25th April, taken to Portobello Barracks and shot by firing squad the next morning.

As Eoin MacNeill's countermanding order prevented nearly all areas outside of Dublin from rising, the command of the great majority of Republican Volunteers fell under Connolly. After being badly wounded, Connolly was still able to command by having himself moved around on a bed.

The British commander, Brigadier-General Lowe, worked slowly, unsure of how many he was up against, and with only 1,200 troops in the city at the outset. Lord Wimborne, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, declared martial law and the British forces put their efforts into securing the approaches to Dublin Castle and isolating the Republican headquarters at the GPO.

Their main firepower was provided by the gunboat Helga and field artillery summoned from their garrison at Athlone which they positioned on the north side of the city at Prussia Street, Phibsborough and the Cabra road. These guns shelled large parts of the city throughout the week and burned much of it down. So inaccurate was much of the fire that British units, believing that they were being shelled by Republican guns-of which there were none-returned fire against their own artillery.

Interestingly the Helga's guns had to stop firing as the elevation necessary to fire over the railway bridge meant that her shells were endangering the Vice Regal Lodge in Phoenix Park.

By Wednesday morning the Republicans were outnumbered 20 to one. The British now began to attack in earnest. Their first major action was to destroy Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Labour Party and of the trade unions, by shellfire from the Helga.

As it happened, the Republicans had anticipated this, and the building was empty. The British gunfire was inaccurate and many other buildings were hit and many civilians killed. The British army also used artillery without consideration for civilian casualties, for example a 9 -pounder gun was fired against a single sniper.

Dublin began to burn, and the Dubliners to starve, for there was no food coming into the city. This was no longer a police action but full-scale war in which no attempt was made to spare the civilians.

Meanwhile, British reinforcements marching in from Kingstown were ambushed by de Valera's men and suffered heavy casualties, but by dint of numbers forced their way through. St Stephen's Green had been cleared of Volunteers, who retreated into the Royal College of Surgeons, and established a strongpoint there.

On Thursday the new British commander in-chief arrived. Since Ireland was under martial law, he held full powers there. This was General John Maxwell. Although he numbered the Countess Markiewicz among his relations, he had no knowledge of the current political mood in Ireland, and, indeed, as events were to prove, did more to undermine British rule in Ireland than all the rebels put together.

He had been ordered by the British Prime Minister, Asquith, to put down the rebellion with all possible speed. And this he did regardless of political consequences.

The reinforcements from England were now in action. Frustrated by experienced and determined Irish Republican Army units (as the Volunteers were now calling themselves), some of these British troops began committing atrocities against the civilian population and a number of civilians were shot dead without challenge.

On Thursday attacks were made on Boland's Mill, the men in the South Dublin Union were forced to give ground, and there was shelling of' the General Post Office, which began to burn from the top down. Connolly was wounded twice. The first wound he hid from his men the second was more serious, for one foot was shattered and he was in great pain. With the aid of morphia he carried on, directing the battle as best he could.

The heaviest fighting occurred at the Republican positions around the Grand Canal, which the British seemed to think they had to take to bring up troops who had landed in Dún Laoghaire port. The Republicans held only a few of the bridges across the canal and the British might have availed themselves of any of the others and isolated the positions.

Due to this failure of intelligence, the Sherwood Foresters regiment were repeatedly caught in a cross-fire trying to cross the canal at Mount Street. Here a mere seventeen volunteers were able to severely disrupt the British advance, killing or wounding 240 men.

The Republican position at the South Dublin Union also inflicted heavy losses on British troops trying to advance towards Dublin Castle. Cathal Brugha, a Republican l officer, distinguished himself in this action and was badly wounded.

Shell fire and shortage of ammunition eventually forced the Republicans to abandon these positions before the end of the week. The defensive position at St Stephen's Green, held by the Citizen Army under Michael Mallin, was made untenable after the British placed snipers and machine guns in the surrounding buildings. As a result, Mallin's men retreated to the Royal College of Surgeons building, where they held out until they received orders to surrender.

On Friday, Connolly ordered the women who had fought so bravely to leave the General Post Office building, which was now cut off and burning. The garrison at the GPO barricaded themselves within the post office and were soon shelled from afar, unable to return effective fire, until they were forced to abandon their headquarters when their position became untenable.

The GPO garrison then hacked through the walls of the neighbouring buildings in order to evacuate the Post Office without coming under fire and took up a new position in Moore Street. A last battle was fought for King's Street, near the Four Courts. It took some 5,000 British soldiers, equipped with armoured cars and artillery, 28 hours to advance about 150 yards against less than 200 Republicans.

It was then that the troops of the South Staffordshire Regiment bayoneted and shot civilians hiding in cellars.

On Saturday April 29 from this new headquarters, after realizing that all that could be achieved was further loss of life, Pearse issued an order for all units to surrender.

The British Army reported casualties of 529 killed or wounded and 9 missing (including RIC). The Irish Republican Army (as it would be known thereafter) recorded 64 killed in action with an unknown number of wounded. Over 250 civilians were killed, many by British shellfire, and several thousand wounded.

The British wasted no time in executing the leaders of the Rising in an attempt to deter any future opposition.

What the British called "The Sinn Féin Rising" was over, but the new Irish Republican Army had learned valuable lessons, which they would put to good use in later years.

The Irish people, shocked at the brutality of the British army and stunned by the courage of the Republican forces began the debate which would move national sentiment away from constitutional nationalism and toward Republicanism.

Caith Lil na Cásca in ómós do Laochra marbha na hÉireann!


IRA Easter Message 2008

On this the 92nd Anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann extends solidarity to the families of our patriot dead.

We remember, with pride, our comrades from every generation who have given their lives for the cause of Irish freedom and independence.

We extend solidarity to our imprisoned comrades and their families. This year marks a number of important anniversaries in the republican calendar.

We applaud those across the country who have organised in their local areas to commemorate these events.

When we gather to honour our patriot dead, we do so to celebrate their lives and to recommit ourselves to achieving our republican objectives.

We are proud of our patriot dead and we are proud of their families.

Our task and that of all Irish republicans is to shape the future through our commitment to achieving our goal of a united Ireland.

Since 28 July 2005 IRA Volunteers are playing a positive role in the new phase of our struggle. You have entered into this with energy and vigour. We commend this work and appeal to everyone to continue until we achieve our objectives.

The ideals and principles enshrined in the Proclamation of 1916 remain as relevant today as they ever were.We have proven that together, in unity and with comradeship, we can advance our struggle.

Let us rededicate ourselves to that goal.

Ar an lá seo, an 92ú bliain de Chomóradh Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916 tugann ceannairacht Óglaigh na hÉireann dlúthphairtíocht do chlanna ár mairtírigh.

Cuimhnímid le bród ar ár gcuid comrádaithe ó gach glúin a d’éag ar son saoirse agus neamhspleachais na hÉireann.

Tugaimid dlúthphairtíocht dár gcomrádaithe i ngeibhinn agus dá gclanna.Sonraíonn an bhliain seo roinnt ócáidí comóradh a bhí tabhachtach san fhéilire phoblachtach.

Molaimid iad siud ar fud na tíre a d’eagraigh imeachtaí ina gceantair áitiúla.Nuair a chruinnímid le chéile le hómos a thabhairt d’ár gcomrádaithe marbh déanaimid seo chun saolta na ndaoine seo a cheiliúradh agus chun sinn féin a tiomnú d’ár gcuspóirí poblachtacha.

Tá muid bródúil as ár laochra marbh agus bródúil as a gclanna.

‘S é an tasc atá romhainn agus atá roimh gach phoblachtánach ná an todhchaí a mhúnlú tríd an tiomantas atá againn le baint amach an sprioc ‘s againn d’Éire Aontaithe.

Tá Ógláigh d’en IRA ag imirt róil dearfach sa treimhse úr seo d’en streachtailt ó bhí 28ú Iúil 2005 ann.Tá sibh i ndiaidh bheith páirteach ann le brí agus fuinneamh.

Treaslaímid sibhse san obair seo agus guímid ar gach duine leanúint leis an obair go mbainfidh muid amach ár gcuid spriocanna.Tá na hidéil agus na prionsabail cumhdaithe san Fhorógra 1916 chomh bainteach leis an saol atá inniu ann ná mar a bhí siad riamh.

Tá muid i ndiaidh taispeaint le chéile, in aontas agus le comrádachas gur féidir an streachailt s’againn a bhrú chun tosaigh.

Atiomnaímís sinn féin d’en chuspóir sin.

P. O’Neill
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau

We haven't lost our faith, just our faith in the Church

That seems to be the outcome of a recent survey. Over 3/4 of Irish people believe in God, heaven and the concept of sin. Despite the fact that we are a nation of believers the amount of people who attend mass or any other religious service continues to fall.

Am I surprised in the outcome of this survey? No, not in the least.

The child sex scandals did an enormous amount of damage to the Church. It wasn't necessarily the actual abuse that damaged the public confidence in the Church but the disgraceful way in which the Church handled the crisis.

Instead of casting these paedophiles and abusers out of the church and handing them over to the civil authorities for prosecution they sheltered them and covered it up.

They sent these abusers of the cloth on to other parishes where they destroyed even more young lives.

Then you have the abuse of power and privilege that the Church has engaged in for generations. Priests, Brothers and Nuns battered many of our men and women into submission. They also enjoyed an unhealthy amount of influence in the political arena.

All of these things have led to people feeling betrayed by the Church. When you consider the hardship and persecution that our nation has went through in order to show faith to the Mother Church it simply increases that feeling of betrayal.

Which nation on earth was more loyal to the Church than ours?

What is lacking from the Church is any sense of humility! The recent controversy surrounding Cardinal O'Connell's initial refusal to hand over documents did not help to heal old wounds.

This is a great pity because there are a great many good and honest priests in this country who must be repulsed by how the clergy have come to be viewed.

The trust that once existed between the clergy and the laity is now lost. Public attitudes have changed so much its scary. When ever you mention in company that you were once an alter boy you receive strange looks, gone are the days when to have a child on the alter was a day of great joy.

My youngest brother begins his alter boy duties this weekend, the most important weekend in the Church calendar, when he takes part in the Passion of our Lord on Good Friday and mass on Easter Sunday.

Does this breakdown in trust mean that our faith has also been damaged? I don't believe so. Just last week my parish hosted a mission from Sister Briege McKenna, a native of Dromintee and to say it was a massive success would be an understatement.

The Rocks (my Mothers family) and the McKenna families would be cousins so it was an event in which a great many of my family participated in.

I remember the first night of the mission focusing on sin and reminding the congregation that several of the commandments hadn't been removed the last couple of years. Fr Kevin reminded us that there was still a hell and that based on our choices we could end up there. This kind of refreshing honesty was a great example of what has been missing in the Church since the Second Vatican Council.

There must have been about 11 priests there that night offering confession, since I hadn't been to confession in almost 8 years I decided perhaps the time was right. Cannon law states that you must go to confession once a year, that was the first sin to confess.

It was an open confessional, something I loathe. Needs must though and the length of time that I spent in confession led to a few humorous comments from my mother.

The only part of the mission that disappointed me was the last night, a night which was dedicated to Priests. I had wondered would we be asked to pray for the children who suffered abuse at the hands of members of the cloth.

I was left disappointed, despite all of our prayers for members of the cloth the victims of church abuse were left out.

There will be no chance of a revival in mass attendance until the Church accepts the faults of the past and seeks forgiveness for them. They can't be swept under the carpet and the only word that the church should focus on is humility.


Wear the Easter lily with pride!

Easter is the most important time in the Irish Republican calendar; it's a time when we remember the sacrifice of the men and women of 1916 and every decade since.

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

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

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

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

Since the 1930s, successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments attempted to suppress sales of the Easter lily

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

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

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

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

No matter what their party affiliations may be everyone can, and should wear an Easter lily

Zero tolerance needed

I was sad and angered to learn that 51 year old Frank McGreevy, an ex-prisoner, has died following his brutal beating by anti-social elements of West Belfast.

What makes this murder even harder to take is the complete inaction of the PSNI and the fact that had they completed their duties this might never have happened.

Thomas Valliday, a 20 year old criminal at large, handed himself over to Police at Grosvenor Road station.

This criminal failed to return to Hydebank Wood young offenders centre in south Belfast on February 29. Yet when the PSNI were contacted a number of times about his whereabouts they failed to act.

The Prison Service and the PSNI bear at least some responsibility for this mans murder.

It's a disgrace that these anti-social elements are allowed to roam free in order to terrorise local communities.

A zero tolerance approach needs to be adopted with these people and it yet again shows the need for the devolution of policing and justice.

I feel for Mr McGreevy's family, the animals that did this were not fit to lick his boots.

Something has to give and action needs to be taken by the PSNI and other agencies before the community decides that enough is enough and takes the law into their own hands.

Balrog Update

Sorry for my lack of posting this couple of days, it has been a rather busy time. Alongside work commitments there has also been an upsurge in drinking due to it being the feast of our Patron

Sunday was the fifth anniversary of the murder of Oglach Keith Rodgers and a massive crowd was in attendance.

Republicans gathered to pay their respects to this volunteer of the Republic and to reiterate our opposition to the would have been, should have been, used to be republicans who were responsible for his murder.

As Brian Keenan said at the time of Keith's murder, these people are not Republicans, they are criminals and as far as the Republican movement in South Armagh is concerned that has not changed.


DUP need to be house trained

I was glad to see that Sinn Féin Junior Minister Gerry Kelly has said that Sinn Féin will not accept a stadium anywhere else but at the Maze site.

The DUP, in the aftermath of the Dromore by-election, have been rattling the sabre and playing to their base in an attempt to suggest that they are the ones playing the tune.

Gerry Kelly said

"The Long Kesh masterplan proposal emerged from a lengthy and thorough consultative process. It received endorsement across the political spectrum.

"The Long Kesh masterplan is one package. With it, a major opportunity now exists to provide a world class facility for sport which would command the support and confidence of the GAA, the IRFU and the IFA and the wider sporting public."

"Sinn Fein will not accept a stadium being built on any other site."

Let's be clear on this issue, on a personal basis I couldn't care less where this stadium is built. I don't intend to visit it much as the GAA have both Casement Park and Clones as their major stadiums in Ulster.

I would like to see the conflict transformation centre being built on the site though. For me that would be the major appeal of the Maze site.

This is a very clear message to the DUP, you want to appeal to your less than equality minded base by denying an Irish language act? Fine, let's see how your base feels about this issue.

Out of the three sporting groups involved with the stadium it is the IFA which needs it most. I don't think it would be unfair to say that very few, if any, of these supporters would vote for us. A large number would be DUP supporters or Unionists in general.

Brian Feeney has an excellent article in the Irish News on this very issue. According to Feeney the real reason the DUP object to the stadium is symbolism.

"It’s not just the concerns about a conflict transformation centre in the complex, which will certainly incorporate memorials to republican hunger strikers.

It’s also the prospect of sharing the place with the GAA, the fact that the stadium will be used regularly on Sundays, that tricolours will be flown and the Soldier’s Song played.

Unionists want what they call a ‘national’ stadium, though of what nation they can’t say, but more importantly one that they own. They can’t own one if they have to share it with fenians prancing about in it."

The DUP need to learn that being in a position of leadership means that you have to lead, not just pander to the whims of the backwoodsmen.

Until the DUP learn that power sharing is not Unionist rule then this will continue.

Sinn Féin will not be pushed around by the Punt and Co.


Not for Queen, this isn't her country!

I wanted to comment on the planned visit of the British monarch to Ireland. The Queen of England is planning on visiting my own county of Armagh next week.

She will be taking part in some religious service in the Protestant Cathedral while she is here.

How do I feel about her coming to visit this country? Not good

She stands for everything that I oppose, both as an Irish Republican and as a Socialist. She is the Commander-in-Chief of the British armed forces, forces that have caused so much damage, death and destruction in this country.

That said as an Irish Republican I hold the symbolism of the national flag close to my heart. That flag has equals sections of Orange and Green. In order to do true justice to that flag we must respect the wishes of the people who make up a third of that flag.

No matter how much I may wish to see her visit protested against I do feel that such a move would be counter productive. To a section of our people she is their sovereign and that needs to be realised.

She isn't my sovereign though and never will be. I believe the people are sovereign, the Irish people!

In order for us to live together we need to be respectful of each others traditions and beliefs. While her visit may be hard for me to stomach we need to take a mature attitude to her visit.

Now I'm not talking about fawning over her or treating her like a Queen, I personally (not that I would ever meet her) would not courtesy or bow. She should be treated like any other visiting foreigner.

She should be treated as well as the man that sweeps the streets, she isn't any better than him and he actually provides a service for the community.


What God has joined together

I see that the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh, has claimed that the institution of marriage is under threat from a celebrity culture that does not promote the idea of a life-long union.

“There is the expectation that life should be a continuous stream of happiness, an expectation fed by the media and in magazines."

“But people have to realise that any marriage is going to have its ups and downs.

The happiest marriages that I have knowledge of are those where people go through days of happiness and days of pain and come out the other side.”

I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said "The world has grown suspicious of anything that looks like a happily married life"

I have strong beliefs in relation to the institution of marriage, some of which I have made very clear on this blog before.

I personally don't believe in pre-nuptial agreements and I also don't believe in Divorce, though I do believe it should be legal to get a divorce.

My mother and father have been separated for 8 years this year, on Valentines Day no less. Who said life was without its delicious irony.

I firmly believe that my parents are better off apart, they are better parents and better people.

That said I would be a liar if I said that I don't look upon others who seem to have the nuclear family nexus and envy that stability and continuity.

When ever I do get that fleeting sense of nostalgia I quickly realise that not everything is as it may appear. I know of at least a dozen sham marriages where both partners live very separate lives.

You also have the hypocrisy of people who detest one another yet for the sake of appearance stay together less the neighbours talk.

I believe that marriage should be for life and in that respect I agree with the Bishop however there are situations where the children and indeed the parents are better off if the parents don't live together.

It's a very difficult issue but I personally don't believe that priests, who will never marry, are necessarily the best people to offer an insight on this issue.

Marriage is the union of man and woman under god, many who wish to enter that institution would do well to remember that.


Paisley-Policing and Justice

I was interested to see an Taoiseach Bertie Ahern draw a link between the possible visit of Elizabeth Windsor, Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed forces, and the devolution of Policing and Justice Powers.

Now let's leave the possible visit of Windsor aside because for me that is a separate issue. What is interesting is the dynamics now in play on the issue of Policing in the North.

The Irish government is obviously trying to use every influence, however pathetic, in order to get the DUP to play ball.

When I first heard that Paisley had been pushed by the DUP I began to think of the row over policing and justice powers.

Would Robinson prefer if they came in under the leadership of Ian Paisley? I believe that he would.

It would be easier for him to wipe his hands of the whole affair because at the end of the day they will have to be devolved. It's going to be a poison chalice for what ever Unionist leader finally agrees to them.

At the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis last week the delegates overwhelmingly supported my own Cumann's motion on the issue.

May is going to be a very interesting month for all concerned, Republicans are growing impatient with Unionist opposition to previously agreed positions, be that Policing and Justice or the Irish Language Act.

I expect considerable pressure to be placed upon the DUP by the Irish and British governments on this issue. The other player in all of this could be America. We have an investment conference here in May.

I have no doubt that investment from the USA will be dependent upon the DUP agreeing to Policing and Justice.

I wonder will old Paisley have the last laugh and leave this time bomb with Robinson or will a sacrifice on his part be linked to a possible rehabilitation of his son?

Unionist's should be prepared to open wide; there is a large dose of bitter medicine coming their way.


La Divina Commedia

All this talk of Paisley and betrayal from some of his former supporters has led me to think about Dante's "Divine Comedy".

The most difficult and yet most rewarding piece that I have ever read.

While at Uni my ex was struggling to get to grips with a book, or long poem, and asked would I help. I asked what it was and she said Dante's "Divine Comedy".

As I was a fan of the movie "Seven" I had already heard a bit about what the book contained, Dante's path through hell, purgatory and heaven.

As someone who enjoys poetry, a fact about me that many are not aware of, I decided to give it a shot. It was a bastard to begin with!

The sheer length and complexity not to mention the multiple significance of meanings made it difficult but with sheer persistence and a little help I began to enjoy it.

Divine Comedy is an allegory, a history of the human soul as it struggles through different levels and realms from sin through to purification and then to the divine.

Despite the numerous meanings and interpretations the central tenant and indeed its reason for being was his love of Beatrice.

This was Dante's great love; he met her once when he was eight and later when he was older. He only spoke to her once but his love for her reached the stars. He was in an arranged marriage from the age of 12, as was the custom in Florence, but he felt a love that he could hardly describe for this woman.

She married and later died at the young age of 24, to say that Dante was devastated would be an understatement. In his book "La Vita Nuova" he describes this thoughts upon her passing

“When I recall that nevermore, alas!,
That lady shall I see
On whose account I mourn with such dismay,
My grieving thoughts about my heart amass
Such sorrow that I say:
'My soul, why dost thou not depart from me?'"

After her death in 1290 his love, or perhaps obsession is a better term, intensifies to the point where she becomes his personification of heavenly enlightenment.

When you read Divine Comedy it becomes apparent that man, as represented by Virgil, or logic can only take us so far. Virgil leaves after Purgatory because as a pagan he is unable to enter the splendour of paradise and must reside in Limbo. It was woman, as represented by Beatrice, that brings us the rest of the way.

Vide Cor Meum

According to Dante it is only through the feminine that we can experience the transcendence and blessedness of paradise.

Anyone who has never read Divine Comedy should give it a try, I found it captivating and yet somewhat sad.

This book was about the agony of his soul, his monument to Beatrice and his yearning for a love that never was and perhaps was never meant to be.

Together-Stronger and United

As Chris has informed you, I have indeed rejoined the team at Balrog and what a time to do so. There is a lot going on in the political arena in the six counties at the moment.

Most notably is of course the fact that Big Ian was on the front page of all the papers today as he last night told the world of his decision to stand down as the leader of the DUP and of course from the role of First Minister.

Everyone knew that the DUP were having problems. Hardliners in the TUV were giving the big Rev sleepless nights already before Ian Óg was forced to stand down from his dad's side because of his 'activities!'

But it is not this revelation on which I am focusing this post. It is the comparison between the unity of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams has been the leader of Sinn Fein since 1983. In this time he has taken the Republican Movement from a full scale war with the British army to power sharing with the DUP.

At the Sinn Fein Ard Feis at the weekend, Adams received a standing ovation from the huge crowd of activists gathered in the RDS. Like every year, everyone left feeling that we were as united as last year and that Gerry was still the best man to lead us into another year of work towards our goal.

In comparison with this, at the weekend, the DUP were no doubt plotting and scheming against their once loved leader. The DUP are in trouble, there's no doubt about that! It will be interesting to see how both the standing down of their leader and the emergence of the TUV will affect their electoral results next time around.

I'll leave you with this thought. When Trimble left the UUP top spot, so did his party.

When Hume became irrelevant in the SDLP so too did his party from the political stage in the North.

What will happen as the DUP topple Ian??

And all the time Gerry is as strong as ever, inspiring activists each year, and in turn the activists working tirelessly to achieve our goal and gain political strength. Sinn Fein is stronger than ever and I for one can't wait to see what the next election brings!!

Onwards to victory!!

Et tu Peter!

Ian Paisley is no longer a force in Irish politics, this long time demagogue and newly ordained member of civilised society has been shafted by his own people in the end.

After Ian Óg was caught with his hand in the till it became clear that the campaign against junior was merely by proxy in order to damage the father.

"I am not a fool, people who thought that they could get at me, got at him. They thought they could damage me by the damage they sought to take out on him"

I have my own views as to who was responsible for this sustained campaign against Dr No and Junior No and that leads us to the Punt, Peter Robinson.

He is the only one to benefit from this political fallout, after decades of being the Bridesmaid he wasn't prepared to let it go on, not after Paisley announced that he was staying in place for the full term.

It would appear that Robinson reads Niccolo Machiavelli, a man who argued "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."

After this "Et tu Brute" moment between Robinson and Paisley it isn't surprising that Paisley refused to crown the heir apparent

"This is not Apostolic succession and I have no right to say who will succeed me, the person will succeed me when the mark is on the paper and the ballot is cast."

So the question many now are asking; who is to be the new leader?

Robinson is the man to beat and that may not even be possible considering the fact that it will be the Assembly party which decides the new leader. On Spotlight last night Dodd's refused to rule himself out of any future leadership contest but I would be quite surprised if we had any contest.

Dodd's comes from the Free P wing of the party and that side has been decimated from the St Andrews fallout, Robinsons moderate (DUP notion of moderate) wing are now firmly in control.

I expect to see a carve up of power between Dodd's and Robinson.

Paisley reminds me a bit of Tito with so much of the DUP built up around him. Will we see the DUP begin to crack and crumble now that he will no longer be there to steer the ship?

Many people, my own party included, will all put out the nice platitudes about how much this man has changed. For my part I believe it's best to judge a man in the whole and its there that Paisley falls.

He has been a stirrer and a mixer all his life, a splitter and a divider and he has done all of these things for his own personal ambition.

How many Catholics would not have been killed but for his poisonous rhetoric?

In 1956, Paisley was involved with the abducted 16 year old girl, Maura Lyons, who was in a dispute with her parents about joining the Free Presbyterian Church. He attempted to use her as an anti-Catholic propaganda stunt and would not inform police where she was. Paisley was later ordered in court never to go near the girl or her family again.

On June 17, 1959, at a Belfast rally, he publicly chastised "the men of the Shankill for allowing papists, pope's men, and papishers" to live on the Shankill Rd. Angry crowds went to the addresses called out by Paisley, burned out the occupants and looted their homes.

In May of 1968, during the height of the Civil Rights movement in the North, Paisley addressed a mob of 500 loyalists and burned a photograph of O'Neil who was shown to be visiting a Catholic convent the week before. After inciting loyalists to burn Catholic families out of their homes, Paisley explained the problem to the press

"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; and the massive discrimination in employment and shortage of houses for Catholics were simply because they breed like "rabbits" and multiply like "vermin"

In 1981, he appeared on a hillside in the dead of night with 500 men brandishing firearms licences and declaring a Third Force.

On the 10 November 1986 Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Ivan Foster formed Ulster Resistance. Following a rally in the Ulster Hall, other rallies were held in towns across the North. The group was organised in nine 'battalions' and members wore a red beret.

Ulster Resistance then worked alongside the UDA and the UVF. A bank in Portadown was robbed of £300,000 and weapons bought with the money. The guns were divided equally between UR, the UVF and the UDA.

The guns that were bought we used in the murder of innocent Catholics in the Sean Graham Betting shop and countless other atrocities.

In effect this attempt by some to paint Paisley as a democrat could not be further from the truth.

I accept that he did show change in the last 12 months but that was only when he was forced and had no where else to go.

Many will mourn his passing from the political sphere; I just sit back and think about all the political opponents that Gerry has seen off.


Curse of celebrity

Whilst on a long and boring train journey home from Tralee on Sunday, I had nothing better to do than to read my girl friends women's mags. Apart from the problem pages, sex tips and half naked women I found other aspects of these mags interesting.

The one theme that recurred throughout each of the mags was the lack of privacy afforded to being a celebrity. I asked myself the question of whether all the fame and fortune is really worth the daily intrusion into the darkest depths of ones personal life.

We all know the type of thing I am referring to. The Naomi Campbell case, the Douglas case and countless others.

Celebrities with problems are nothing new. Indeed two of my musical heroes, Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette had their own struggles. However in their era there was much less publicity and they were able to struggle in relative privacy.

Compare this to the modern day situation with Amy Winehouse. This young woman, whilst very troubled and in my opinion very stupid, is one of the most talented singers in the world to-day. Her rendition of Valerie is something quite out of this world. Should the media not concentrate on her amazing talents rather than on her personal misfortunes? Her triumph at the recent musical awards got some press coverage, but no where near the level of exposure that her drug problem and her husbands incarceration did.

Surely it is time that the media took a good long look at themselves. Their ebullience for a surfeit of sensationalism and gutter press has led to the ruination of many young and talented lives. They have reduced Britney Spears to an unrecognisable being, a far cry from when they were exalting her as the new darling of pop. There is a good chance that they will seek to do the same to her younger sister Jamie Lynn in light of her recent pregnancy.

A Wall St journalist by the name of O'Rourke once stated that "as a journalist I am absolved of responsibility". It is this cavalier attitude that needs to be tackled. Surely a new right to privacy should be introduced to help supplement the existing remedies. Perhaps then we will see the prevalence of sensible press!!

Venezuela and Ecuador mobilise against Colombia

South America was bracing itself last night as tensions between Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia intensified.

Following Colombia's execution of Raul Reyes, a member of the general secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador sent troops to their respective with Colombia.

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador called Colombia's action a violation of Ecuador's sovereignty. He expelled Colombia's ambassador and withdrew his ambassador from Bogotá.

President Correa told reporters in Quito that Uribe told him the raid occurred after a FARC column fled across the border and fired at Colombian forces, who "had to defend themselves."

President Correa said his forces investigated Uribe's claims and discovered that the Colombian planes attacked the guerrillas as they slept in a camp 2 km inside Ecuador.

"Of course Ecuadoran air space was invaded," he said.

He said Colombian ground forces then crossed into Ecuador and retrieved Reyes' body, leaving the others.

"We will not permit this outrage, either President Uribe was misinformed and will have to sanction his commanders who deceived him, breaking every international bilateral proceeding by entering our territory or Uribe simply lied. In either case, the situation is extremely grave and the Ecuadoran government is disposed to go to the ultimate consequences."

"This was a massacre ... We will not allow this to go unpunished

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela expelled Colombia's ambassador and withdrew his ambassador from Bogotá. He then mobilised tank units and fighter jets and sent ten battalions to the border with Colombia .

He has vowed to support Ecuador till the end and said "May God spare us a war. But we are not going to allow them to violate our sovereign territory,"

This was an illegal incursion by American puppet Colombia, Ecuador has every right to seek retribution and I am glad to see that Venezuela is standing by its ally.

Colombia needs to understand that this type of territorial assault may go down well in Washington but amongst their neighbours it will be viewed as a declaration of intent.