A new day has dawned..or has it?

Today marks the start of Barack Obama's term as President of the USA. His sobering words were apt in this dark economic and political time.

His election has brought hope to millions of people but hope can quickly change to despair.

From the very start of the Presidential campaign I have supported Obama. He has been an inspiration to many and has given strong indications that he will lead America on a more inclusionist road.

This momentum for change can become a milestone around his neck if he turns out to be all talk and no action.

I hate to view this momentous day through anything but rose tinted glasses but I also have to be honest.

His deafening silence in relation to the Israeli massacre in Gaza was difficult to accept. His choice of staff has also been a cause for concern.

I hope that my doubts are unfounded and that he becomes the President we all hoped he would be.

Words count for nothing though; it's only through actions that we discover the true nature of a man.

I wish Obama the best of luck, he's going to need it!


Faux outrage from Zionists

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has annoyed the Israeli Ambassador Zion Evrony and Blue Shirt Alan Shatter.

He did so by attacking their indefensible attempts to justify the Israeli murder campaign in Gaza.

He said “Goebbels would have been proud of the twisted logic and half-truths"

Now, as you can imagine there has been faux outrage from all the usual quarters not least the Zionist Evrony himself.

“What I think overshadows the discussion was this despicable analogy of the deputy of Sinn Féin,”

Why? I think it was a rather appropriate comparison considering the nonsense coming from Tel Aviv.

Evrony hit out at comments from some committee members criticising the proportionality of the Israeli response, claiming they had been spouting misinformation about Jewish history.

This really is starting to get really old. I don't care what religion Mr Evrony or Mr Shatter are; it doesn't pass me a thought.

What does anger me is their wanton disregard for the Palestinian people, their occupation of lands which are not theirs and the total instability that they bring to the region.

The Jews were persecuted during WWII, and many times before, and while I have great sympathy for that fact it does not excuse the recent actions of the Zionists or their actions for the last 50 odd years.

The fact that their family members were gassed 60 years ago does not justify them sending in missiles to refugee camps.

In fact it makes a mockery of the Jews killed during the Nazi regime.

It's a first port of call for any Zionist to accuse their opponent of being an anti-Semite, well I will no longer be responding to that kind of nonsense.

We oppose the Zionist murder campaign in Gaza, we oppose the occupation of Palestinian lands and we oppose their disgusting disregard for the Palestinian people.

I would like to applaud Aengus for his honest remarks.

The sooner Ireland takes the lead in Europe and expels Evrony and his motley crew the better.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act"-George Orwell


Sinn Féin-Change needs to happen

The last time I did an in depth and somewhat critical blog about Sinn Féin it created a bit of a fuss and some negative reaction, though on the whole I still believe it was a positive piece.

I see that Eoin Ó Broin has created another piece designed for conversation amongst the Republican base. As always I find great realism and common sense in his articles.

I also came across an excellent article from fellow Sinn Féin comrade Chris Donnelly across on Slugger. It's a very straight to the point article that should be read by as many Sinn Féin members as possible.

It's summed up quite effectively by Chris in his last paragraph

"In sum then, my proposals are simple. The party needs to invest in expertise and innovation, free itself of the shackles of laudable but otherwise counter-productive party rules and conventions and in the process equip itself with a refreshing and attractive policy platform to not only earn a place in government across the country but to utilize that position to transform the political scene in Ireland, in the process shifting others onto the ‘all-Ireland’ platform."

For my own part I am hoping this blog piece will give a general overview of where I see the party lacking as a whole. These suggestions for improvement are for the party as a whole, North and South.

Over the next week I intend to submit two further, more in-depth, articles in relation to the party in the North and the South, what's going well, what needs to change etc.

As I see it the party lacks in four general but key areas


It is my belief that these suggestions cover most of those areas and while not exhaustive and not gospel are a reasonable beginning to a future conversation that must be had in order to advance both our movement and our goals.

1. Bottom-Up

It has long been my belief that as a movement we are too focused on what the leadership are doing, what they are going to do and what their strategies and plans are.

This is not the usual and tired critique that we always hear from the usual suspects about Sinn Féin being a leadership led organisation.

I have been a member of the Republican Movement for close to 10 years now and when ever we have a get together, discussion, meeting or whatever the topic invariably always comes up in relation to the leadership and what they are doing with regard to certain issues.

The leadership of Sinn Féin are only human and they don't have all the answers and never claim to have all the answers.

I also feel that too often the base don't exercise the initiative and demonstrate a bit of critical thinking by coming up with their own plan to resolve a certain issue.

We need to motivate the general base of the movement and make them a more politicised and engaged tool in our political arsenal instead of a reactive one.

The base must take the lead in this new phase of struggle.

To that end we need to radicalise the base, we need to energise the activists, politicise the community and the youth in particular. We need to ensure that a healthy stream of information and ideas flow up as well as down stream.

2. Community Engagement

This for me is highly critical and your Republican bread and butter.

We need to liberate and empower our communities. We need to be the lightning rod for change, both socio-economic and political, within our communities. This should not be about us providing them with solutions but about empowering them to come up with the solution themselves.

The first question that I ask when I hear about Republican involvement in the community is thus

"How are we advancing Republican objectives?"

Republicans should be at the very centre of the community. We should take lessons from the Catholic Church and the GAA in particular. Too often Republicans and Republicanism in general in not accessible to the people.

There is a world of difference between electoral and political power. I'm taking about community groups, PTA's, School Board of Governors, Public Funding groups etc

Our enemies dominate these positions despite the fact that in large areas of the country we are the dominant political force. This reality needs to change and change quickly.

We need an aggressive policy of engagement. We need to get out on the roads, in the community halls, in the pubs, in the houses. We need to be advancing these objectives at every turn.

3. Republicanise our way to glory

It's a very simple fact that we need to make more Republicans in the future. We need to foster and develop a Republican ethos in as many people as possible.

This can be achieved by many different and varied ways

In the media, both local and national, we need "Less Potholes and more Revolution".

I say this as any stoop or Fianna Failure worth their salt has that market covered and will claim credit even when the credit is not theirs. They also have their hands on the levers of power within the established media. This means that what media attention we do get needs to be focused, pro-active and above all "political".

We can spread the pothole stories through community engagement because we have one thing our opponents don't have, a very dedicated activist base.

Education must become our top priority both internally and externally. First of all we need to change our internal attitude towards education as just something for new recruits. Thomas Davis said "Educate so you may be free" and so must it be with us.

Education is our new weapon and every one of our activists must be highly skilled in this art in order to be effective within the community. They need to be able to present our arguments to both friends and foes alike. That means being more up to date on our political progress, activities, policies and positions.

We also need to educate our base and our communities so that they can identify with us and our objectives.

I hear a lot of talk about Unionist Engagement but I don't hear much about other types of engagement. I'm talking about engagement out of own area but still with the general Nationalist/Republican/Catholic/Progressive community.

We need to reach out to other elements of the Republican community. There will always be former comrades that are only motivated by hatred of personalities but a lot of former members simply differ from us on key areas. We need to find common ground where we can and develop that so as to advance our objectives.

We need to be challenging the Yellow and White voter at every turn. We should be engaging with them and challenging their perceptions about us in a proactive and positive manner.

We also need to reach out to new communities like the Poles, Latvians, Chinese etc. The first reason is because it's the right and Republican thing to do but also because it's an untapped resource.

In short our outreach needs to be more than just Unionist.

We should Republicanise every institution at every opportunity; every parish, every club or just one at a time if needs be.

3. Modus Operandi

The question I often ask myself is "Who are we?"

I know who I am; I am a Socialist Republican with a strong Catholic ethos. I also accept that what I am is not necessarily what the movement is or should be.

Socialism is more than a word and when you are implementing PFI's and PPP's those words ring hallow. If we are a Socialist/Left wing movement then we need to start acting like one, no matter if we suffer short-term setbacks as a result.

There is a sizeable left wing constituency out there but they expect and demand a lot more than words, they demand actions to back it up as well.

We need to have a serious and mature debate about who we are, where we have come from and where we are going.

4. Sinn Fein Structures

I'm talking about the Cumann, Chomhairle Ceantair, and Cuige structures that we currently have.

Are they working or are these types of structures holding us back in the 21st Century?

I have long argued that we should departmentalise our structures. Not everyone likes delivering papers, writing press releases, selling raffle tickets, canvassing etc. We need to have an internal audit of our people, their likes and dislikes and their general abilities and strengths.

To this end I would like to see us set up different groups inside the party to handle the different issues that we face.

So for example different departments to handle the following; Finance, Media, Local Govt, Political Action, Policy Formation etc.

In that way we encourage our people to give their best and lessen the likelihood that we lose people.

5. Professionalism

This is an area of critical importance and an area I believe that we are lacking in most in all aspects of our political activities.

To that end policy formation, media, legislative and other aspects of our political discourse must be looked at.

We need to end our long held suspicion of external bodies in this field. If an external body can help us in a certain area then we need to grasp that opportunity with both hands. The fact that they may not be Republican matters not, if they help to advance our objectives then that is all that matters.

University Members is an area that I have long felt we underuse and under develop. We have people in all disciplines that could be contributing so much to our development and we are not using them properly.

As such there is no such thing as a free lunch and as we strive to professionalise our movement, policies and our message we can no longer do that on a shoe string budget. The adequate resources must be made available.

6. Upcoming Opportunities

-Euro Elections
-26 County Local Elections
-Lisbon 2

All of these arenas provides us with an opportunity to advance on our current position. The changes that I suggested need to be looked at shortly in order for us to be ready for bigger and harder challenges.

Since I last posted about the party after the 26 County General Election I have observed a lot of changes but there are more that need to follow.

I'll leave specific Northern and Southern suggestions for my future articles.

We have a unique opportunity to grow and develop but as I see it we are limiting our development.

We can't do much about factors outside our control but we can do lots about those inside our control.

Are we ready or willing to make the necessary changes? Only time will tell!


Gerry Adams and Bloglaigh Na hÉireann

I see that El Presidente Gerry Adams has joined Bloglaigh Na hÉireann with his new "Léargas" blog for the Belfast Media Group.

I would like to wish him all the best with his new blog and encourage all Balrog readers to visit.

Balrog is four years old in March and we have had good times and bad times with this blog.

To the best of my knowledge I was the first person in Sinn Féin with their own blog shortly followed by Wednesday, Ogra Shinn Féin and then by two of our elected reps, Killian Forde and Daithí McKay.

Republicans have never been afraid of embracing new technology although I have found that some are nervous when it comes to new media due to a general mistrust for the media.

Blogging however is the people’s media and something which the likes of the Indo and the Times can't control. It's a very liberated media however many have tried to manipulate the media with the use of blogs.

Balrog has had a recent experience of this when certain criminal elements tried to use this Blog as a platform for spreading the dark arts.

Blogging is what you make it and I would like to encourage more of my comrades into blogging.

Join a blog or set one up yourself, it makes those winter months that little bit shorter.

Blogger defines blogging as

"A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world."

A blog is what you want it to be.

P.S. I don't know how I forgot to mention my erstwhile party comrade from Drogheda and her excellent "Random Rants" blog.

I first met Steph at the USI Congress at the time of the UCD "One Tory, One Bullet" scandal LOL.


Zionists invade Gaza

I see that Israeli land forces have entered Gaza in an escalation of their attempted genocide.

Close to 500 Palestinians, over 100 of which were women and children, have been murdered after almost 8 days of Zionist aggression.

A column of tanks entered the besieged Gaza Strip though the Beit Hanoun crossing shortly after nightfall on Saturday.

Israeli artillery had started firing shells into the Gaza Strip for the first time on Saturday, ahead of the ground offensive.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said it best

"Israel can claim in various stages that it has won this or that war against Arabs but it is obvious since the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 that there is no military solution to Israel's security.

It cannot bomb its way into peaceful co-existence. Israel is trying to do all it can to destroy Hamas but with more than 400 dead, there will be more than 400 more new recruits in Gaza.

It has taken this path and will probably pay the price in the long term, short term it's the Palestinians who pay the price."

Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, had this to say about the Zionist invasion

"If you commit the stupidity of launching a ground offensive, then a black destiny awaits you, you will soon find out that Gaza is the wrath of God. This battle was imposed on us and we are confident we will achieve victory because we have made our preparations. Our position is clear. We will not give in. Our resolve cannot be broken,"

Hamas and the Palestinian people have every right to defend themselves from this Zionist invader. The carnage that will beset the Zionists will be of their own doing, they and the world must remember that when the time comes.

You can't cage a people, deny them food and medicines, fire rockets in their community and then expect them to sit down and take it.

I see that Bush has finally broken his silence

"I urge all parties to pressure Hamas to turn away from terror, and to support legitimate Palestinian leaders working for peace,"

Legitimate Palestinian leaders??? Like Abbas and Fatah?

Hamas were democratically elected by the people of Gaza and they are the only legitimate leaders in that region.

The others that Bush refers to are corrupt traitors who deserve the justice of a traitor.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Gaza as they continue to endure this beast of fury.

May their resolve never falter!


Tony Gregory RIP

I was sad to learn the news that Independent TD Tony Gregory lost his battle with cancer today.

Tony was first elected as a TD in 1981 and started to set himself apart straight away by refusing to wear a tie, something he continued to this day.

He gained national prominence by negotiating the return of Charles J Haughey to power in exchange for a very beneficial and highly necessary support package for the North Inner City and Dublin in general.

The multi-million pound “Gregory deal” is now part of Irish political folklore. The Dublin Central TD received detailed written commitments from Haughey, in February 1982, which it was estimated could cost the Irish exchequer £80 million in a full year.

The written agreement included commitments to nationalise a 27-acre site in Dublin Port and Clondalkin Paper Mills. A total of £4 million was to be allocated to employ 500 extra people in the inner city, while 3,746 jobs were to be created over three years.

State funding would be provided to build 440 new houses in the constituency and another 1,600 in the rest of Dublin.

Tony was a fearless community activist who supported the Concerned Parents against Drugs group. He was an environmentalist, a Gaelgoir and an animal rights enthusiast.

Irish Politics will be the less without his influence.

I didn't agree with all of his politics and positions but there can be no denying his commitment to the North Inner City.

Tony Gregory was a beacon of integrity and honesty in a cesspit of corruption and cute-hoorism that was Dáil Eireann.

My thoughts are with his family and friends and the people of Dublin Central.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam