Janus-faced Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt seems to be slowly but surely losing the run of himself in a lot of areas. He has called for the "fleg" protesters to call off their love in this Saturday so that people can show due respect to a march commemorating two members of the Protestant militia killed by the IRA.

His rationale for doing so is explained below.

"Given the cost of the flags protests, it would be regrettable if those involved did not take the opportunity to step back to allow the media to highlight how republicans once stopped at nothing to pursue their economic war against Northern Ireland"

Mike must have a different version of history than mine but the IRA's war was on the British involvement in the North of Ireland, the economy had nothing to do with it. This wasn't about trade or tariffs Mike!

He further states

"The cost of the current protests cannot be justified, but are as nothing to the equally unjustifiable cost of the Troubles."

Ok, so can I take from this that Mr Nesbitt is calling for all contentious marches this summer to be called off? After all the cost of policing them is totally unjustified as is their attempts to march through Nationalist where they are neither wanted to needed.

Will Mike adopt a consistent approach and bring this new quest for due diligence to all aspects of his political vision even when it conflicts with the Unionist mindset of triumphalism?

Where is the Left in Britain?

I have often commented on the Left in Ireland but I don't think I have ever really looked at the Left in Britain. So in this vain I would ask the question, where is the Left in Britain?

I'm sure some of the more right wing readers would point to the Labour party but in my opinion they stopped being left wing several decades ago despite having some decent left wing members.

I have been lucky to meet, in my opinion, the four most prominent members of the British left in the last 40 years. Who was that you may ask? Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, George Galloway and Arthur Scargill.

When I was completing my LPC in London in 2006/2007 I was a member of the Haldane Society. Haldane is the Socialist Lawyers Society and Michael Mansfield QC is the President along with notable legal professionals like Gareth Pierce who defended the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six.

The AGM that year was in the College of Law in Bloomsbury where I was studying and Tony Benn was the main speaker. As me and a few friends walked into the room we found it empty but for Tony Benn and his coffee and a sandwich. He was a very unassuming man dressed in his cardigan like a friendly grandfather and we managed to speak to him for about a half hour before everyone arrived. His insight into Left wing politics and his instinctive understanding of the problems it faced was the best I had ever heard.

George Galloway I met on several occasions both at Sinn Fein events and also at NUS Annual Conferences in Blackpool during my time in QUB. While not as learnered as Tony Benn his oratory and caustic wit left me with in no doubt as to why he was so popular amongst sections of the British left.

Arthur Scargill I met at a Sinn Fein event in South Armagh. He spoke for almost 3 hours about the Miners Strike, his views on the current energy crisis, his views on Irish Republicanism and finally on the British left. A very interesting man who has lost none of his passion or his hatred of Neil Kinnock.

Ken Livingstone I met whilst attending his St Patricks Day Mayor's ball in London. Out of the 3 he was the most unassuming and humble in my opinion but with his links to Hugo Chavez, support of the Hunger Strikers and hatred of Thatcher he made his allegiances left in no doubt.

All four of these men are no longer involved in active politics and I'm left to ask who will now carry that torch? Certainly not Ed Milliband or Ed Balls, their positions are as close to left wing as Genghis Khan.

A check on the ANC

Prominent South African anti-apartheid activist and co-founder of South Africa's Black Conscious Movement, Mamphela Ramphele, has announced the formation of a new political party to take on the African National Congress (ANC) of Nelson Mandela.

Ms Ramphele's new party will be called Agang which is the Sesotho language means "To Build".

She was Steve Biko's political as well as personal partner and has two children to the former anti-apartheid martyr. She said

"Our society's greatness is being fundamentally undermined by a massive failure of governance," she said at a launch event on Monday at the historic women's jail at Constitutional Hill. "Our country has lost the moral authority and international respect it enjoyed when it became a democracy."

"I don't have any inferiority complex against anybody, nor do I have any grudge against anybody. So I feel I am in a position to encourage other South Africans to put the country first. Let us self-identify as South Africans, not this shameful status right now where less than 10% are able to say 'I am a South African'. We can't talk about black consciousness. We must talk about a South African consciousness."

I have always been a supporter of the ANC as well as their armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Sinn Fein and the IRA have had links with both the ANC and MK going back to the 1960's. Every year at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis there are international guests and without fail there are always representatives from the PLO, Basques and the ANC.

I remember attending a Sinn Fein event back in 2005 with former South African Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.

That said for all those bonds of unity I can't help but feel that Ms Ramphele may have a point.

The ANC has had almost total control of South Africa since the end of Apartheid. There is no doubt that a lot has improved from the bad old days but what have they done with this freedom? How have they improved the lives of the poor and destitute in South Africa?

With an aids epidemic, gang crime, crippling poverty and social unrest there is no doubt that they have failed to lead the people of South Africa into a period of peace and prosperity.

The ANC have been more focused on internal infighting, allegations of fraud and anti-democratic attacks on the main opposition.

Their wasteful use of public funds to wine and dine internal party members and their introduction of the Protection of State Information Bill shows that their focus is not where it needs to be.

I don't believe that this new party will be a challenge to the ANC but if they are able to put pressure on them to address the issues that matter then it will be a job well done.


Coalition Government-Republican Style

Michael Martin, after the recent opinion polls, has restated his position that he will not enter coalition government with Sinn Fein. Last week Mr Martin sent out very conflicting signals by first saying he wouldn't rule anything out and then on the other hand saying they weren't compatible economically.

Ok, this sort of talk is now getting tedious. If the people decide that there is coalition government then there will be coalition government. After that it's simply a matter of numbers, policy is the very last consideration.

If we look back on previous coalition governments you can see just that when Clann na Poblachta shared power with Fine Gael or when Dessie O'Malley led the PD's into government with Charlie Haughey's Fianna Fail (A party he set up after Haughey had him expelled from Fianna Fail).

Eamonn O'Cuiv is probably one of the only Fianna Fail TD's I have any time for. From personal experience I have found him a very personable and reasonable man. He was prepared to put his head above the political parapet on several occasions to push Republican agendas.

He has been pushing very hard for Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail to enter coalition saying that they had a shared Republicanism. I'm not sure how true that is for many in Fianna Fail but let's leave that for a minute.

In many ways Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are very similar. I can see many former comrades screaming into their screens as they read that line but it's true. Fianna Fail is after all a dissident party with regards Sinn Fein. DeValera was a former President of Sinn Fein and when he didn't get his way he split and formed Fianna Fail.

They shared the same side during the Civil War and both would be very opposed to Fine Gael.

They are both, at heart, populist parties. Sinn Fein has as part of its constitution the implementation of a 32 County Socialist Republic yet Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein had no issue with setting up PPP's and PFI's in education.

Sinn Fein's repeated attacks upon the Church are also blatant populism. Fianna Fail has always been a populist party because their entire raison d’être is power, getting power, using power and keeping power.

In that sense this entire talk about incompatible economic policies is a red hearing. Both parties would compromise on principals if it meant getting into government.

That last comment is possibly unfair as I know a great many Sinn Fein members who would be very annoyed if Sinn Fein entered government with Fianna Fail. I hope when the time comes they are able to convince the Ard Chomhairle not to but on past experience what the Ard Chomhairle wants it gets.

I fear that should Sinn Fein enter coalition with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael they will be the mudguard for the failed politics of the civil war parties.

That said despite Michael Martin's stated objections it is only a matter of time before Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail enter coalition government together.


The Punts new lapdog

So Nesbitt has finally come out and said what most of us suspected already, that the decision to stand a joint candidate in the Mid Ulster by Election could form part of a broader "strategy" for the UUP.

Mr Nesbitt said he would judge future strategy on the campaign results.

"Let's see how the next three weeks go," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics show.

"Will it work for the benefit of unionism and when we get the result from that and the answer from that, we can look at it."
"It would be foolish to rule anything out at this stage.We've just started a process which to some extent I certainly view as an experiment, let's see how well it works for the benefit of the unionist people."

I will tell you the end result right now; Francie Molly will be elected the MP for Mid Ulster on the 7th March 2013.

When the UUP/DUP/Orange Order and all the other rag tag couldn't get Rodney Connor elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the SDLP fielding "celebrity" Fergal McKinley then they will not elect Mr Lutton in Mid Ulster.

Nesbitt went on to say that the UUP had "listened carefully to the many pro-union voters in Mid Ulster who were calling for co-operation in this election and for the opportunity to end the long drought that has seen Mid Ulster without representation in the House of Commons for 16 long years".

Of course Unionists West of the Bann are calling for more Unionist co-operation, it's now firmly Sinn Fein territory. The key question will be how this plays east of the Bann where the UUP and DUP fight for the majority of their seats.

How will the Unionist associations of both the UUP and DUP feel about having to give up the chance of their man taking a seat so that their political opponents can get a political coronation?

My own view is that it will lead to even greater middle class Unionist apathy east of the Bann and continued lower turnout and that can only be a good thing for Republicanism.

The other benefit will be from the response within Nationalism

They aren't going to sit back and watch the UUP and DUP operate a sectarian carve up between themselves. They will desert the SDLP in their droves and flock towards the strongest Nationalist candidate which 9 times out of 10 will be Sinn Fein with the notable exception of South Belfast.

Let's have a quick look through the various elections to see how this could play out

1. Euros

Sinn Fein topped the poll and then Dodds and Nicholson were elected with the SDLP snapping at his heels. Joint Candidates will not make any difference here unless it is decided that the North will lose an MEP because of the new accession countries in which case the DUP will just supply their own.

2. Westminster

Let's look at the seats currently held by Non-Unionists

Newry and Armagh

Conor Murphy took 42% for Sinn Fein, the SDLP had 23.4% and the combined Unionist vote was 33.1%. A joint Unionist candidate would not get elected here and if they did stand one droves of SDLP supporters would flock to Conor to ensure he was even more comfortable

Fermanagh and South Tyrone

They actually came within 4 votes here. That was with an SDLP candidate taking 6101 votes. The next time out the SDLP will be under serious pressure not to stand and even if they did at least a 1000 of their voters will move to Sinn Fein thus securing Bobby Sands seat for Michelle.

West Tyrone

Pat Doc took 48.4% of the vote, the SDLP took 14% and the combined Unionist vote was 34%. There is a better chance of pigs learning to fly than a joint Unionist candidate winning here.

Mid Ulster

I have already discussed, not a mission of Mr Lutton or any other joint Unionist candidate getting elected.

West Belfast

The bastion of Republicanism

Sinn Fein took 76% at the last election, not a mission of them boys getting elected here.

Now we move on to the SDLP seats.


Mark Durkan took 44.7% for the SDLP and Martina Anderson took 31.9% for Sinn Fein. The combined Unionist vote was 15.1%. The two Nationalist parties will continue to slog this out but there isn't a chance of a joint Unionist candidate winning here.

South Belfast

Sinn Fein didn't stand here last time so as to secure the SDLP the seat because of what the Unionists were trying to do in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The SDLP took 41%, Alliance took 15%, Greens 3% and the combined Unionist vote was 41%. I would suspect that as South Belfast is quite a unique middle class area that should the Unionists decide to stand a joint candidate support from Alliance and the Greens would leech to the SDLP.

South Down

The SDLP took 48.5%, Sinn Fein took 28.7% and the combined Unionist vote was 19.4%. I'm not afraid to say that Enoch Powell's seat is staying firmly green.

East Belfast

Alliance took 37.2% but the combined Unionist vote was 59.4%. This for me was a once off election in 2010 and a rebuke of Robinson personally. In 2011 the DUP took 44% of the vote to Alliance's 26.3%. In that case, with a different DUP candidate, I don't believe the DUP need the UUP in order to retake the seat. The only interesting thing will be what kind of vote the "fleg" political party gets in the forthcoming Westminster election.

All that joint candidates would do is possibly stopping John O'Dowd from taking the Upper Bann seat off the DUP's David Simpson (Sinn Fein overtook the DUP here at the 2011 Assembly elections) and possibly stop Gerry Kelly from taking North Belfast.

So all in all I really can't see what the whole point of these joint candidate suggestions is. Is Nesbitt only concerned with his own fortunes and a clear run at Strangford in a new DUP?

A shame on the name of Connolly and Larkin

The Labour party like to consider themselves as the party of James Connolly and Jim Larkin. If that was the case then both these men must be doing cartwheels in the grave given how far their "party" has fallen.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has hinted that she will be taxing child benefit. I mean it's the sort of thing you would expect from one of the rabid Blue Shirts like Varadkar, Hayes or Creighton but to hear it from a supposed Labour party Minister shows just how rotten they have become.

Instead of standing by their principals and demanding that those who caused the collapse pay the bill by burning bond holders, speculators and banks they have decided in their collectivist wisdom to saddle the decent working class people of Ireland with that task.

Ever since they signed up for the mercs their standing in opinion polls has collapsed. Before the last election they were seriously pushing the idea of a Labour party Taoiseach and now they are sitting at 13% in the polls behind Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein.

They are facing electoral meltdown in the Euro elections next year when they could possibly lose every one of their MEP's and a whole raft of Labour party councillors in the local elections.

I hope and pray that they do because there is no justification for the acts they have carried out at the behest of their Blue shirt task masters.

They have pushed for wage reductions, cuts in child benefit, reduction of heating allowances to the poor and the old, the imposition of household charges and water charges and refused to tax the incomes and assets of the richest in society.

Joe Higgins made a great speech in opposition to Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. Below is an extract that is rather poignant considering the Labour party's declared links to Connolly.

“It was a great Irish socialist, James Connolly, who, in opposition to that conflict, called for a torch to be lit in Ireland that would "not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture" was burned. How deeply ashamed James Connolly would be today that the Labour Party he founded marches into Dáil Éireann to become part of a government that will burn not the bondholders, the speculators or the grasping big bankers but the Irish people, the working class, the unemployed, the poor and the low and middle-income workers.”


Gombeen men back on top

It would seem that the Gombeen men AKA Fianna Fail are back on top of the opinion polls. The Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll is the second poll in a week that has Fianna Fail on top following on from the Irish Times poll earlier this week.

The poll that will be in the paper tomorrow has the parties thus

Fianna Fail 27% Fine Gael 25% Sinn Fein 20% and Labour 13%

A good poll for both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, not so good for Fine Gael but a disaster for Labour.

It would seem that the trend of parties who become the mudguard for one of the two civil war parties continues unabated.

It happened to Labour after 1992, it happened to the Greens after 2007, it happened to the PD's in 2002 and 2007 and now in 2013 it is happing to Labour again.

Albert Einstein said the theory of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In that vein I feel comfortable calling Labour insane!

We have European and Local Elections coming up next year and at this rate Labour are in for an electoral hiding!

Instead of cosying up to the most right wing party of the state should Labour not be trying to build a different sort of consensus politics?

I've said it before and I will say it again.

After the next General Election all of the parties on the left and by this I mean Sinn Fein, Labour, PBP, Socialist Party etc should refuse to enter coalition with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Force them to work together and end this charade that they are any different, they are not!

That is the only way that we can build an effective left wing alternative to the failed politics of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

It's all in our genes

So say the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston. In a session called "The Science of Politics", Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University argues that genetics can influence your political choices.

Apperantly it won't make you plump for Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail but it will tend you towards conservatism or liberalism.

I'm not sure just how realistic this is

I'm thinking about my own family for a minute. My Mother's family have been in Dromintee for hundreds of years, my Father's family from Dundalk for about the same time.

My Mother's family have always been rooted to the land. Farmers with the occasional auctioneer or butcher thrown in for good measure but always linked to the land. From what I can tell from talking to older relatives, old stories and research a Conservative Catholic group of people with an inherent disregard for outside involvement in their lives and very loyal to the Church. Hardly surprising coming from Dromintee in South Armagh.

Next my Father's family. Always linked to industrial work be it factory workers, Dockers etc. Catholic but with a very liberal streak and a dislike for authority be it Church or State. Very individualistic and very open to emigration be it Germany, Australia, Chicago, Boston. I probably have more paternal family abroad than I do in Ireland.

How does this relate to my own Politics? My Mother is a stereotypical Rocks and my Father the same for Gaskin. Up until a few years ago I would have said I was a mixture of both but the last couple of years I would certainly link myself much more with my Mother's family in terms of values.

That said I have three Brothers and as the eldest I am the only one who is really politically minded or religious, the youngest who is only 15 is an avowed agnostic who refuses to participate in school prayer because he "doesn't fully believe the words and is not prepared to sully his integrity". The weird bit is that he is also the top student in Religion.

That said I digress. Most of my social circle is very firmly liberal, atheist, feminist and more often than not left leaning.

I'm the only one in the group who is socially conservative and authoritarian so I'm forced to believe that your political propensity is linked to much more than genes. I'm sure nature and nurture have a big part to play but I don't believe you will ever find the one path that shows you why someone believes what they do.

It doesn't exist.

Jesus Wept!

I don't normally watch that much TV, besides the odd sports match or film I tend to do a lot of reading. Last night I was flicking through the channels and decided to see was there any interesting guests on The Late Late Show.

When I turned it over there were two women on it, survivors of the Magdalene Laundries.

One of the women who was on the show was a lady called Marina Gambold.

Listening to her recall her story you would have had to be a seriously messed up individual not to have your heart break.

Ms Gambold also spoke of what happened on a day when she broke a cup.

"One day I broke a cup and the nun said, 'I will teach you to be careful'.

"She got a thick string and she tied it round my neck for three days and three nights and I had to eat off the floor every morning."

"Then I had to get down on my knees and I had to say, 'I beg almighty God's pardon, Our Lady's pardon, my companion's pardon for the bad example I have shown,"

I ended up having to turn it off; I couldn't watch it any longer.

I love my faith and I love my Church but I have to be honest and say that its history of abuse in Ireland is something that I struggle with. The Priests, Nuns and Brothers who abused children either physically or sexually are an insult to men of the cloth and an insult to humanity.

Where was their religion? How could they abuse these poor innocent children like that?

I don't think I will ever understand them.

I had a close family member who spent time in one of these laundries, with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. She never talked about her experiences there; I only hope she had a better experience than some of these women.

There has been pressure from the opposition for the Irish Government to issue a formal apology to the survivors. The government has so far not done this, out of fear no doubt of the redress they would have to pay them.

The women who worked in these places were modern day slaves; there is no other way of saying it that is exactly what they were.

While I do believe that the government should apologise there is only one group that I believe bears most of the responsibility, The Catholic Church.

Some of my more "loyal" brethren within the Church are opposed to the Church paying out to the victims of these terrible crimes. They believe that Church property should not have to be sold to pay the bill.

I have news for them, there is no such beast as Church property!

It was the Catholic people who paid for the Chapels, the hospitals, the schools, and the land. They paid with their blood, sweat and their tears. I don't care if the Church has to sell every bit of land, every Chapel, every last vestige of wealth. I'll happily go back to attending Mass at the side of a mountain like we did during the Penal times.

There needs to be a serious attempt by the Church to show what they did was horrific, that they understand and appreciate their criminal complicity and that they are prepared to humble themselves before what was once the most loyal Catholic nation in all of Christendom.

I can't help thinking about that poor woman forced to eat off the floor and then to beg God his forgiveness for her "sins". When I do the only phrase from the bible that springs to mind constantly is John 11:35

"Jesus Wept"


Unionist Unity or Sectarian Headcount?

So the two Unionist parties or to be more specific the DUP and their UUP lackeys have decided upon a "unity" candidate for the Mid Ulster by Election.

Nigel Lutton, whose father was an RUC man killed by the IRA, is the compromise candidate.

Francie Molloy is the Sinn Fein candidate to replace Martin McGuinness in Mid Ulster and looking at the figures it would seem that his election is almost assured.

In the 2011 Assembly Elections Sinn Fein took 49.2% of the vote and the combined Unionist vote was only 31.9%. If we go back further to the 2010 Westminster election Sinn Fein took 52% of the vote and the combined Unionist vote was only 32.7%.

So, I feel comfortable in saying that there isn't a pups chance this Unionist candidate will defeat Francie Molloy.

The real losers here are actually going to be the SDLP and the UUP. In the last two elections the SDLP took in and around 14.5% of the vote. With only one Unionist candidate being fielded there is no doubt that a lot of these vote will flock to Francie and Patsy McGloane will be left as an irrelevance along with his party.

For me this would seem to be a monumental mistake by Nesbitt, a decision that has cost him two MLA's already. John McAllister and Basil McCrea have resigned from the UUP as a result of this decision.

I've met Basil on a few occasions. I remember talking to him at the Sinn Fein stall at the QUB Fresher’s Bazaar a few years ago and for a member of the UUP he seemed somewhat reasonable. A man you could have a laugh and a joke with and someone interested in engaging on real issues.

The "liberal" wing of the UUP seems to be almost extinct and if Nesbitt keep this up he will have finally destroyed the UUP.

It seems a very weird policy for the Unionists to be advancing because the only real winner that I can see in any of the outcomes is Sinn Fein.


Fianna Fail opposed to "suicide risk" abortion

It's not too often that I agree with either Micheal Martin or Fianna Fail but in this instance I do.

Michael has said that Fianna Fáil has an issue with including the risk of suicide in any legislation for the X Case on abortion saying he and the party will wait to see legislation before deciding whether or not to vote for it.

He also said that he would not favour widening legislation or changing the Constitution to include cases where a woman has become pregnant as a result of rape.

“Rape is a particularly difficult one. We do have options today that we didn’t have before in terms of the morning after pill and so forth,” he said.

My position on abortion is well known, I oppose it in all circumstances. That said when the intent is to save the life of the mother and not the death of the child that is not abortion; it's the doctrine of double effect.

Double effect originates in Thomas Aquinas's treatment of homicidal self-defence, in his work Summa Theologiae.

This set of criteria states that an action having foreseen harmful effects practically inseparable from the good effect is justifiable if the following are true:

- the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral;
- the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself;
- the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm

Fine Gael promised before the election not to extend abortion in Ireland, it's almost time to see if they are going to keep that promise.

Old Habits Die Hard

Following on from the unconditional release of North Belfast Republican Sean Kelly, the PSNI have serious questions to answer about this political arrest of a prominent Republican.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kerry welcomed his release but had this to say

“At no time during any of the interviews was any evidence either forensic, eye witness statements, anything, put before Sean Kelly to explain why he was arrested."

“In fact when the PSNI went to court to seek an extension of his arrest they admitted that there was no evidence whatsoever against him. "

“The Serious Crimes Branch of the PSNI has questions to answer in arresting a high-profile republican who has always supported the Peace Process."

“The PSNI created political hysteria, which some in the media and unionist politicians latched on to and exacerbated by making clearly ludicrous statements."

“In one move this has shown poor political leadership from unionism and at the same time damaged policing in the republican community.”

This is another example of very blatant political policing.

It will act only to reinforce a wide held view in Republican communities that the PSNI can't be trusted. Now if they are serious about a new start to Policing then there needs to be a change and this kind of action should never happen.

Now I wonder will Peter the Punt and Nigel Dodds retract their childish statements from this morning.

How much is a life worth?

It has been revealed that the British MOD has made a disrespectful offer of £50,000 to each of the 13 families who had a relative murdered by a member of the British Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday.

The 13 people who were seriously injured would receive the same sum.

The total compensation package would be about £1.3m. A solicitor for one of the families has described the offer as derisory and said his client felt it was an insult to those who were killed.

This offer is indeed an insult! I'll explain just how much of an insult it is. The British have a Victims of Overseas Terrorism Scheme. Now as the Paras were from overseas and their murderous acts in Derry could certainly be described as terrorism, let's check their claim guide.

The top award in the guidelines is for a category A20. Remember that this award is for people who are still alive and that is awarded for Quadraplegia/tetraplegia (impairment in motor or sensory function of upper and lower extremities).

Now if the injury is substantially complete to both upper and lower limb levels the award guideline is £250,000.

So let's place that against a family who has had their loved one murdered, had it covered up for 30 years and the offer is a paltry £50,000.

I find this "suggested" award nothing short of an insult to the families of Bloody Sunday.

Emperor Robinson's New Clothes

Like Martin McGuinness I find Peter Robinsons assertion that the arrest of Sean Kelly could have "grave consequences for the political process" quite ridiculous.

Firstly, I do find it strange that it is only ever Republicans who have their name leaked to the press upon arrest. In civilised democracies there is a quaint notion known as "innocent until proven guilty".

This 18 year old who was shot in the legs, it would seem from his mothers statement, is just out of prison. I don't know the details of why he was there and quite frankly I don't care. He should not have been shot.

Martin McGuiness and Sinn Fein condemned the action

"The assertion that this shooting in North Belfast, which I unreservedly condemn, and the facts of which are at this stage under PSNI investigation and are unclear, should threaten the political process is frankly ridiculous."

It is quite clear to me that Peter Robinson would have everyone believe there is a new pair of political clothes to hide the real elephant in the room. The complete and utter disaster he created in East Belfast when he and his Unionist colleagues sent out 30,000 leaflets winding up their people about a decision they themselves implemented in Lisburn.

Like his former mentor he has marched Loyalists up to the top of the hill and then left them there. He has left them in the "leadership" of such a motley crew as Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson, a more odious and obsequious pair one could not hope to meet.

Time after time Robin shows himself to be a man bereft of any real leadership in stark contrast to Martin McGuinness, who when faced with internal Republican demons at Masserene faced them down and showed true leadership to his community.


UCD Students throw eggs at Uber Blue Shirt

I see that three UCD students have been reprimanded by the University for their attempt to hit Taoiseach Enda Kenny with eggs.

It would seem their aim wasn't the best and I'm surprised because one of them was from Belfast but alas they did hit someone, they hit Vice-President for Students Dr Martin Butler.

After this howler they got a suspended fine and have to write written apologies to the egged Dr Butler.

It's a good job John Prescott wasn't about; he was a man that knew how to handle protesters who throw eggs.

You can view a clip of him in action below.

UCD students have always been up for their stunts. I remember attending a few USI Annual Congress's during my time at QUB and they were nearly removed on a couple of occasions.

The President of USI at the time was a guy called Ben Archibald, formally of QUB and he was a member of the British Tory party. To show their distaste one of their number held up a sign which read "One Tory, One Bullet".

This caused uproar but a member of the QUB delegation refused to be outshined in the outrage department by a Jackeen so our West Belfast colleague improvised a sign which read "Many Tories, One Bomb: Remember Brighton". As Congress was finishing the next day the UCD contingent stormed the stage and unfurled "Another World is possible through Socialism" banner.

Looking back at my time in student politics I'm reminded just how futile the whole lot was. A onetime political rival at QUB had a good line on student politics; "Student Politics is so incredibly humorous because there is nothing to risk at all"

PSNI and the Easter Lily

I see that our new start to Policing hasn't fully removed the behaviour of the past. Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer has slammed the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service for bringing him and fellow party activist Kevin McColgan to court over distribution of Easter Lilies outside the Tyrone v Monaghan game at Healy Park last Easter Sunday.

The West Tyrone MLA said:

“This was a ludicrous charge that should never have been brought before the court in the first place.  Unfortunately I can only conclude that there was politics at play in the decision to bring these charges. People are very angry about this case and many are contrasting our treatment with the hands-off approach taken towards flag protestors who have been disrupting our town and other parts of the six counties since before Christmas. I completely fail to see how the public interest has been served in this case.  The court costs along with the PSNI bill will run into thousands of pounds, all at the taxpayers expense."

There we have it, the stark contrast between the actions of the PSNI regarding Republicans and Unionists.

On one hand it allows Willie and Jamie's knuckle dragging cronies to take part in illegal marches all across the Six Counties with no attempt made to stop them or indeed to arrest and charge them as they are obligated to and then they prosecute two Republicans for selling Easter Lilies outside a GAA match on the most important day in the Irish Republican calendar.

Republicans are well used to this kind of hostile treatment from the supposed forces of law and order.

The Easter Lily is a very important symbol in Irish Republicanism.

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.

After the split in 1969 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.


Petrus Romanus and the Petrine Succession

Tomorrow marks the start of Lent and the Vatican informs us that we will have a new Pope by Easter. In that vein I thought it might be interesting to revisit the writings of another Armagh man, St Malachy.

St Malachy is purported to have made a prophesy about the Papacy detailing all the Pope's from Pope Celestine II all the way down to the last Pope, Pope Benedict XVI's successor, a man known simply as Petrus Romanus.

The last section makes reference to Peter the Roman, in English it states the following

"In the extreme persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the terrible judge will judge his people"

The Church has always regarded the prophesy as a forgery and never set much store by it.

Still, when looking at the papabili it makes for interesting reading.

Paddy Power has the leader’s odds thus

1. Cardinal Marc Ouellet (3/1)

Cardinal Ouellet has headed the Congregation for Bishops since 2010 and has strong Curial connections. A native of Quebec he has annoyed quite a few Liberal Catholics in Canada with his position on Catholic social issues.

2. Cardinal Angelo Scola (4/1)

Regarded by many as the Crown Prince of the Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Milan is Conservative and was close to both the current Holy Father and Pope John Paul II. Though at 71 his age may count against him.

3. Cardinal Peter Turkson (4/1)

The first Cardinal of Ghana and relator of the Synod of Africa is also the head of Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, which released a document in 2011 calling for radical economic reforms to deal with the global recession. The document condemned the "idolatry of the market", and Cardinal Turkson expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

That said his suspected soft stance of contraception may place him at odds with the vast majority of conservative Princes appointed by both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.

Will one of these men be Petrus Romanus?

There are many rules surrounding Conclave, in fact Pope John Paul’s 1996 decree on selecting a successor for the Petrine succession imposed some hard fast rules that Conclave must observe.

While it is true that the Pope need not be a Prince of the Chruch, in fact any baptised Catholic Male could become Pope, the last time a non Cardinal was elected Pope was when Urban VI was elected to lead the Church in 1378.

There is an old phrase that states

"He who enters the conclave as Pope, leaves it as a Cardinal"

The death of the Hammer and Sickle

The Guardian has an interesting article about the French Communist Party dropping the hammer and sickle as its official insignia. It goes on to ask is that symbol even relevant in today’s globalised and digital world.

For me the hammer and sickle, as first envisaged, was about the working class retaking their dignity and power away from the hands of a few power craven industrialists. It was about the rise of the Proletariat.

Let’s look at the Left in Europe for a moment. There are not many members of the various parties and groups which hold to that ideology who would be represented by that insignia.

Pseudo intellectuals, champagne socialists, digital programmers, educationalists, community workers etc but not that many hard industry factory or agrarian workers amongst their ranks. In fact by the looks of quite a few I know a hard day’s work would kill them.

At a time when the working class are being devastated by the effects of rampant and uncontrolled capitalism why isn't the Left making more of an impact across Europe?

I'm not talking about the "I can't believe it's not Left" type party who massage their political message  in the centre. I'm talking about traditional working class values from a time when morals where still very much part and parcel of the Left wing movement and not the rampant liberal atheism and moral relativism that we see all too often today.

The Left should be spending less time worrying about symbols and more time reconnecting with their traditional base.


Holy Father to Resign

I was shocked to find out that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is set to resign the See of St Peter at the end of the month.

The Holy Father released the following statement

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

"I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the boat of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is."

This has come as a massive surprise, something I am sure that many Catholics across the globe are feeling at this moment.

He was our Sheppard in the night, the leader of the Church Militant and the Successor of St Peter.

I have to be honest and say that I did not greet his election with much joy; in fact I was quite openly hostile and arrogant. I was longing for either a South American or African Pope. I was quite Liberal at the time and believed it was time to shake up the Church but my feelings then were not informed with prayer, meditation or knowledge of both the Gospel and traditions of the Holy Mother Church.

Looking back I realise he was the right man to succeed the much loved Pope John Paul II. He was a fierce defender of Catholic dogma and the truth in these Godless times we live in.

It's perhaps best that the guidance of the Conclave of Cardinals is left to the Holy Spirit and not this humble sinner.

His resignation is in stark contrast to his predecessor who struggled until his dying days with the supreme duty and sacrifice of the office he was entrusted with.

Pope John Paul II encompassed all that was good about Catholicism and I only hope and pray that the successor of Pope Benedict XVI has the strength and vision to lead our Church in these difficult times.


Frazer attack

It would eppear that the seemingly unbalanced Willie "It was the Ra wat done it" Frazer has been the subject of a very sinister attack this weekend.

This sort of attack should be condemned by all right thinking individuals without reservation.

The fact that Willie's roots are less than rosy concerning the Glenanne Gang and links with the Portadown and Mid Ulster UVF/LVF is neither here nor there; the son should not be blamed for the sins of the Father.

This also has the sad reality of gifting Mr Frazer with even more free publicity and the man’s a veritable media whore at the best of times.

It would be much more conducive to allow him to continue to express his highly eccentric views at all hours of the night.