Jury reforms

I see that the NIO are putting out to consultation proposals which would drastically overhaul the Criminal Justice system with respect to juries.

Let's set aside my dismay that this decision has not been made by a locally elected Justice Minister for just a second.

What is being proposed is to remove from law all the schedules of exemptions which currently exist under the Juries (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.

As a trainee Solicitor I am ineligible for Jury service under Schedule II of the same order. Those with certain kinds of criminal records are disqualified under Schedule I and certain professions are excusable under Schedule III.

I have mixed feelings on this announcement.

Solicitors and those in the legal profession generally are ineligible for Jury service because of our knowledge of the law in relation to the general public. Conventional Jurisprudence holds the belief that one is entitled to be tried by a Jury of your peers.

In that sense having a solicitor or barrister sitting on the bench seems unfair.

The one upside of having members of the legal profession sitting on Juries, for me anyway, relates to rape and sexual violence cases.

I would hope that rapists would be less likely to be able to fool them with the previous sexual history of the defendant.

All in all, while any changes to our outdated Criminal Justice system are to be welcomed I still believe that we should ere on the side of caution.

We are dealing with people's liberty here and any changes we make must be made in the interest of Justice and not the law.


Earth to Willie!!!!!!

It seems that wee Willie Wonka has once again taken leave of his senses. He now claims that Glenanne Gang member and sectarian murderer James Mitchell was innocent!

According to Frazer

"he was a police officer and probably did know individuals who did get caught up and get involved in certain things but we checked into his background and while I'm not saying we know everything about him- we don't- I know a lot of allegations against him were disproved."

Willie then refers to him as "a decent man". I'm sure the families of his victims would disagree with wee Willie on this one!

It is apparent that Willie failed to contact Henry Barron when he conducted his study on Mitchell. Barron named Mitchell as being implicated in The Dublin and Monaghan bombings. His farm played "a significant part in the preparations for the attacks".

It has long been accepted in South Armagh that Mitchell was part of the Glenanne Gang. His farm along with Newtown RUC Barracks was the vocal point of a sectarian murder campaign waged by UVF/RUC members against the Nationalist community in South Armagh and beyond.

It comes as no surprise that wee Willie is seeking to defend a reprehensible individual like Mitchell. However as with most things Willie Wonka says, I'm sure most people will discount it as pure fantasy!!!

The Devil Wears Primark.

'The Devil Wears Primark' showing June 1st on Channel 4 at 9:00pm, concerns the sweatshop conditions of workers who produce the Primark clothes that sell for as little as £2 a t-shirt. They talk to current and former factory workers and use undercover cameras to expose the conditions endured by workers in Primark's Indian suppliers and sub-contractors. These include unsafe and unhygenic conditions for an average of 15p (stg) an hour, verbal and physical abuse, unpaid overtime and possible child labour.

Primark have over 120 stores in Britain and Ireland and in 2005 they were named 'Least ethical clothes shop', scoring 2.5 out of 20 in an ethics index, by Ethical Consumer Magazine. In April of this year they announced a major increase in profits, with sales almost matching those of Marks and Spencers (marked 3rd worst for ethics in the same study).

Sweatshop labour is one of the hidden costs of western consumer society and the price for our cheap goods is paid in the human misery of exploitation. I would urge readers to conduct their own research and attempt to boycott labels and companies that are known to trade in human exploitation. I will be listing others in due course.


Attacks must stop

I was disgusted to learn that Altnaveigh Orange Hall was attacked at the weekend on the outskirts of Newry.

All these thugs and scumbags have done is to further isolate and alienate a minority Protestant community.

Let's leave aside our views of the Orange Order for a second; my repulsion at the OO is well known and documented.

For your average Joe Soap Protestant in that area this is not an attack on the Orange Order or an attack on bigotry, it's an attack on them and their kin.

Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy has expressed condemnation after an attack.

"I would condemn this attack wholeheartedly and without reservation. All such attacks are wrong and should stop immediately"

"I was informed of the attack on the Hall by members of the local Altnaveigh Lodge. They also expressed a concern that as the Hall had been left unsecured, there was a fear amongst Lodge members that those who did this would come back and try to burn the Hall."

"I passed those concerns onto community activists who lived in the locality and I am aware that they visited the Hall during the course of Saturday evening and night to help in a most practical way to ensure that no further vandalism would be carried out on this occasion."

"Those facts for themselves clearly indicate that the vast majority of the local community are angered and sickened by this incident".

What makes this all the worse, in my eyes anyway, is that this is not the first attack on the hall.

During the Tan War South Armagh became fertile killing ground with reprisal and counter reprisal killings between the IRA and the B-Specials. Frank Aiken, one time Republican and long time traitor, led the 4th Northern Brigade (A brigade which my paternal great-grandfather was a member of).

In June 1921, four Catholics were taken from their homes at Altnaveigh near Bessbrook, and shot dead on the roadside. Amid ambushes on Special patrols by large IRA units, Frank Aiken's men, as part of the overall burning campaign being carried out against Unionist property throughout May and June 1922, burned the homes and farms of Orange Order members in County Armagh.

One date that stands out in the memory of Protestants is the 17th of June, 1922, the date of what is termed the 'Altnaveigh Massacre', when six Protestants and a B-Special were shot and killed, as the IRA, around 50 strong, raided selected Protestant homes killings residents and burning their houses.

The killings were the result of four burnings, while five further homes were burned without fatalities.

As a Socialist Republican this period and these actions do not sit well with me, they go against everything I believe in.

While we can't change the past we can shape the future and I believe we all have a duty to see that these sick attacks stop.

Deputy Mayor of Newry and Mourne, Councillor Charlie Casey, put it best when he said that there was no such place for attacks on Orange Halls, Community Halls, local Schools, Sports Clubs and places of worship.

"Those engaged in these types of activities have nothing to offer our communities or society in general. Most of us view these attacks as attacks on us all not just on one or other specific tradition or group."

New Member

I am delighted to announce that Balrog will have a new contributor in the form of "Zenarchist".

Some of you may know him from the past as 'East Tyrone' on IrishRepublican.Net.

As with all of Balrog writers, his page is his own. He can choose what to write about and is free to contradict me all day long.

I do know that he has a passion for third world exploitation, environmentalism and a bit of philosophical type stuff in terms of the struggles for global and human liberation.

Zenarchist will add a different dimension to Balrog.

I hope you all make him feel welcome.


Brian Keenan: 1941-2008

I was in Belfast yesterday morning at Brian Keenan's funeral. I think funeral is the correct word to use even though there was no religious dimension to the proceedings.

Thousands of Republican's from across Ireland descended on the New Barnsley estate in order to bid farewell to a dear departed friend and comrade. Brian's wishes were carried out to the last, he wanted a celebration of his life and that is exactly what he received.

I have never heard Gerry Adam's speak as well as he spoke yesterday, Brian would have been proud.

I'm not sure if Brian knew just how well respected and liked he was within the Republican family, to describe him as a living legend would not have been an exaggeration.

Our struggle is now without one of her most loyal son's, though if we stick to the ideals of Brian we will continue to honour him and what he stood for.

Republicanism, Socialism and Freedom!

They were Brian's Holy Trinity


Three in a row!

It was with equal measures of joy and relief that my friends and I watched as Celtic retained their SPL title.

The atmosphere was immense, and the sing song lasted well into the night, with absentee blogger Setanta stuck in the middle of the mischief!

The match itself was not a great spectacle of football. Celtic played well in the first half, but failed to score and it .looked like it was going to be one of those nights that the ball just would not go in
However that all changed whenever Vennegoor nodded the Celts in front, which was quickly followed by the great news that the Teddy Bears were now two down at Pittodrie.

The Celts duly delivered and in the end the victory in the league was some what miraculous. A month ago Celtic were written off, with the Hoops been told that they would have to watch the Smith revolution as the Gers won a quadruple. Someone however forget to tell Gordon Strachan and the Bhoys, as they tore that script up in shreds.

Of course the league title is the ultimate tribute to the late, great Tommy Burns. However much credit must go to Strachan who persevered and stood up to be counted. Indeed only two months ago people were calling for Strachan's head on a plate. Now the man is one of only three Celtic managers to do three in a row! The old adage that football is a funny business could not be more accurate than in this case.

Three in a row, last 16 in Europe two years in a row, the future is bright and it’s green!


End of an Era

I was on my way into work this morning when a friend phoned to tell me the sad news, Brian Keenan had died.

I suppose it came as no real surprise as Brian had been fighting cancer for quite some time, in fact I suppose it was somewhat of a relief for the family that he was finally at peace.

Brian Keenan was (it's strange to speak about him in the past tense) an inspirational figure within the Republican Movement and the wider Republican family in general.

His real flare was with young people and I was lucky enough to have attended a few different events where he has spoken and on each occasion you could have heard a pin drop.

I was disappointed that I was unable to attend the Le Cheile event after the Ard Fheis as Brian was the Ulster honouree.

Brian did a series of interviews recently with An Phoblacht and they offer an interesting insight into this hardline Socialist Republican.

Having just returned from his wake I am sure that he would have been proud of the turnout and the affection with which he was held, in South Armagh in particular.

I want to pass my condolences on to all of Brian's family.

He will be missed by all!

"Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dares not vindicate them, let no prejudice or ignorance asperse them... When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written."- Robert Emmet


Unionist's don't want British law in Ireland

I was delighted to see that the leaders of Sinn Féin, DUP, UUP and SDLP have written to Westminster MP's to state their opposition to plans to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to the 6 counties.

The Liberal Democrats have proposed an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in order to have the Abortion Act extended to Irish soil.

It is the first time all four parties have taken a united stand on a major issue.

Jeffrey Donaldson, chairman of the assembly's pro-life group, said:

"The pro-life group in the assembly thought it would be useful for the four leaders to write to each MP re-stating that position. I think it's a very powerful message we have here, four political leaders coming from very diverse political perspectives but united in their view that we do not want the 1967 Act, with all its implications, imposed on Northern Ireland and that the issue of abortion is a matter that should be left to the assembly itself"

For me this demonstrates two vital things

The sooner Policing and Justice powers are devolved the better and Unionism is only concerned about being British when it suits them.

As a vocal pro-life supporter I am glad to see this stance being adopted by the Irish political parties, no matter how hypocritical some of these parties are!

Man Utd - Champions once again!

It's that time of the year again and the silverware is once again staying in Old Trafford. I was delighted today to see both Ronaldo and Giggs score.

Ronaldo has been an absolute genius this year and to surpass George Best's goal record shows just what class of player he is.

For Giggs it was a fitting tribute to a player who has given so much to Man Utd, this is his 10th league championship medal.

That said credit must also go to Ferdinand, Vidic and the entire back four, what a season they have had.

Now on to the gaffer! This is Alex Ferguson's 20th major trophy in 22 seasons. No other manager in the modern era has managed this. He has no equals and no peers, he is a breed apart.

Now we wait for Moscow and the chance to make it a double with the Champions League as the jewel in the crown.

As today ends I have a wry smile when I think of Liverpool, yet another season with no silverware.

This day can't get any better!


We have crossed the Rubicon!

Yesterday was the 8th May, D-Day! That's decision day so far as the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle are concerned.

I wrote a blog about Policing and Justice just before the Ard Fheis and explained that my Cumann had decided to send the following motion to the Ard Fheis.

"This Ard Fheis mandates the Ard Chomhairle to set out, in public, the party’s position in relation to our involvement in the current policing structures should the British Government fail to devolve policing and justice powers by the 8th May 2008."

We sent the motion and it was overwhelmingly passed by the delegates at the Ard Fheis!

Now I bring this up because the 8th of May has come to pass and I have yet to see a public statement on this matter from Sinn Féin.

I'm sure that Republican's and others are waiting for a response from the Ard Chomhairle, an Ard Chomharle that has been mandated to do so by the supreme governing body of Sinn Féin.

Let's hope we get an answer soon; the motion hasn't gone away you know!


Cock and bull story!

I was rather amused when I read of the activities of a black magic sect in Congo. Seemingly the sect is going around shrinking the size of men’s penises in Congo!

13 sorcerers were arrested on suspicion of the offence in Congo last week. The offence, called penis snatching, occurs whenever the sect touch someone’s penis causing it to shrink. The penis thieves then demand money of their poor (come on guys all of you must feel some degree of sympathy for the poor bastards) victims for a cure! The cheek of it all!

You could imagine that if they were using these powers to help shrink some fat bastard’s gut they would prove pretty popular. In fact they would probably put a heap of plastic surgeons out of business.

However you are never going to be popular whenever you go around shrinking the size of people’s manhood! In fact the sorcerers narrowly escaped a number of lynching in the capital Kinshasa. This is not a new offence however. In Ghana 10 years ago, 12 penis snatchers were beaten to death by an angry mob of 27 victims.

Needless to say folks, the Congo will not be on my holiday list in the foreseeable future and anyone I see from Congo that looks like a witch doctor will be kept at arms (or should that be penises) length away!


IRA cleared of Paul Quinn murder

I see the latest IMC report has been produced and no doubt the SDLP and the criminal elements in South Armagh who have been conspiring against Sinn Féin will have had their hands slapped.

There is no evidence of IRA involvement in the murder of Paul Quinn, something we have been saying since day one.

Now before we start I place no authority in the IMC, I use this report because Dominic Bradley told us that the IMC assured him that the IRA was involved.

“it became clear from the gardaí, the PSNI and the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) that what the family had told me was the truth — the IRA was involved in Paul’s murder.”

Wrong Dominic!

I will produce the IMC report in full in relation to Paul Quinn here


4.1 Paul Quinn, a young resident of Cullyhanna, County Armagh, was beaten to death on 20 October 2007 in County Monaghan. In addition to the tragic loss of life and the grief it has caused for Paul Quinn’s family the killing has given rise to speculation about the part which PIRA may or may not have played. It is because of this that we think it is right to comment at some length. We must emphasise however that we are constrained in what we can say about the incident lest we might possibly prejudice future legal proceedings

4.2 Within these constraints, our assessment of the incident is as follows:

- We think that the attack on Paul Quinn was planned and carried out by local people and that it arose from local disputes. Whatever the immediate reason for the killing certain aspects of these disputes go back some time and were not unconnected with continuing illegal activity;

So, Paul's murder was as a result of local disputes and not unconnected with continuing illegal activity?

Is this not what Sinn Féin and others have been saying since day one of this tragic and brutal murder?

Gerry Adams said the following “it is fairly obvious to me that this is linked to fuel smuggling and to criminal activity"

- A number of people were involved in the incident although they did not all necessarily play a part in the actual killing. Amongst those involved were people who had in various ways been associated with the PIRA at a local level, including as members of the organisation. Some of these people were accustomed over a substantial period of time to exercising considerable local influence, collectively and individually. This would have led such people to expect what they would consider as appropriate respect from others and to being able to undertake their activities – including criminal ones – without interference; they would find it very difficult to accept any waning in this influence and respect;

Note the key difference here which many people fail to grasp. "Had in various ways been associated with the PIRA at local level".

"Had" is past, not present!

I can think of one very prominent criminal gang in the Crossmaglen area who were once associated with the IRA, this same criminal gang were responsible for the murder of Oglach Keith Rodgers.

- The killing was clearly contrary to the instructions and strategy of the leadership of PIRA. It was also contrary to the interests of PIRA and to those of Sinn Féin. We are aware of no evidence linking the leadership of PIRA to the incident. In public statements and in debates in the Dáil and the Northern Ireland Assembly senior members of Sinn Féin have condemned the killing and have called on people to give any information they have to AGS and the PSNI.

4.3 In Section 3 above we do not attribute the killing to PIRA

This is crystal clear, the killing of Paul Quinn can't be attributed to the IRA.

This is for several reasons:

the local and personal nature of its roots; the absence of indications
either of organisational sanction or that it was in the interests of PIRA; and because it was contrary to the declared policy which PIRA has been following for over two years. We are reinforced in this view by the subsequent public remarks to which we refer above. The fact that some local members or former members or associates of the organisation were involved in the incident does not in our view justify attributing it to PIRA. In reaching this conclusion we are applying the standards we have consistently followed in respect of all kinds of paramilitary incidents, and to which we have referred in the past.

The same old mantra! Members or former members or associates, in effect anyone in South Armagh!

4.4 We recognise that the involvement of local members or former members or associates of the organisation in the way we have described is bound to raise questions about the level of control exercised by the leadership of PIRA. The PIRA leadership has had some difficulties in the past in exercising authority in South Armagh. Looking more widely in Ireland North and South we do not find evidence to suggest that this recent rejection of instructions is a general problem.

4.5 We wish to express our sympathy for the family and friends of Paul Quinn and our admiration for the courage they have shown in the face of this tragedy. We also applaud the way in which they have publicly opposed any suggestion of retaliation and have called on people to give any information to the police so that due process may be followed and justice may be done.

So there we have it, no evidence whatsoever of IRA involvement in the murder of Paul Quinn.

Lesbians are not mad on lesbians

I had a wry chuckle when I learnt that the Greek island of Lesbos are to go to court in an attempt to stop a gay rights organisation from using the term "lesbian".

The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, claims that international dominance of the word in its sexual context violates the human rights of the islanders and disgraces them around the world.

In court papers, the plaintiffs allege that the Greek government is so embarrassed by the term Lesbian that it has been forced to rename the island after its capital, Mytilini.

So it comes down to this, who really is a lesbian?

The 100,000 people living on Greece's third biggest island - plus another 250,000 expatriates who originate from Lesbos? Or women who engage in same sex activity?

The term lesbian came about because of the Greek poet Sappho of Lesbos. Despite the fact that she was a prolific writer of passionate poetry, so passionate that Plato lifted her up to the rank of muse, so little remains in tact today.

The only complete piece of her poetry left is "The Hymn to Aphrodite"

Lesbians (sexual kind) are incorrect to describe Sappho as homosexual. She was an aristocrat who married a prosperous merchant and she had a daughter named Cleis.

I personally can't see this court case working out. Lesbian, the sexual kind, has become a part of popular culture, for right or wrong.

Lá Bealtaine maith duit

I would like to wish all Balrog readers a happy May Day. A day when we celebrate the work of Labour and workers in general.

The origins of May Day however have their roots in Celtic culture with the festival of Lá Bealtaine. It was the herald of the summer months and Bealtaine and Samhain were the two main festivals in civil Irish life.

These festivals occurred in most Celtic countries like Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man etc.

I sometimes wonder is that why the Catholic Church choose May the 1st to be "Mary's day", a day in which to celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church was quite good at taking pagan festivals and changing them to a Catholic feast day.

That aside modern May Day is a celebration of the Labour movement.

When you think of socialism in this country you have to look at men like James Connolly and Jim Larkin, the fathers of Irish Socialism.

Ní uasal aon uasal ach sinne bheith íseal: Éirímis.