Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Crossmaglen's Nazi sculptor

Recently there has been some controversy about an application for public funding for the refurbishment of an IRA memorial in the centre of Crossmaglen.  The application by the Crossmaglen Memorial and Heritage Committee has certainly drawn attention to the memorial and the memorial sculpture provides an interesting insight into the IRA.

The sculpture was erected in the town square in Crossmaglen in 1979 and was the work of a sculptor named Yann Renard-Goulet (1914-1999), who was born in Brittany in France. 

Goulet was a passionate Breton nationalist and a sculptor.  Before the 2nd World War he was a member of the Breton National Party (Parti National Breton PNB), which modelled itself on Sinn Fein, and during the war he joined the assault section of Bagadou Stourm, Breton nationalist stormtroopers who were allied to the Nazis.  He also collaborated with the pro-Nazi nationalist newspaper L'Heure Bretonne and in 1941 in Paris, he became head of Bagadou Stourm.

After the liberation of France by the Allies, Goulet left with his wife and two children in 1947 and they travelled to Eire on false passports.  However he was tried in France in his absence on charges of collaboration with the Nazis and was found guilty.  Goulet was one of a number of Nazi collaborators who were welcomed by the authorities in Eire and so he was able to escape the death sentence.  He acquired Irish citizenship in 1952 and eventually he was appointed professor of sculpture at the Royal Hibernian Academy.  Goulet was also made a member of the prestigious arts organisation Aosdana in 1983.  The Nazi collaborator was now a member of the cultural establishment in the Irish Republic.

Goulet was a political activist, both as a Breton separatist and an Irish nationalist, and he was commissioned to create public works commemorating the IRA and other republicans.  These included the Custom House memorial in Dublin (1956), the Ballyseedy memorial in Tralee (1959) and the East Mayo IRA Brigade memorial (1972).

Towards the end of the 1960s Goulet claimed to have taken over the reins of the Liberation Front of Brittany (Front de Liberation de la Bretagne FLB), which was founded in 1965,  and to have been behind all their terrorist attacks.  In 1969 he became secretary general and chair of the Comite National de la Bretagne Libre and published the communiques of the FLB.

Yann Goulet became an ardent republicans and at the start of the Troubles in 1969 he sent a message of support for a United Ireland to the IRA.  He also befriended Ruairi O Bradaigh, president of Sinn Fein and spoke at several Sinn Fein conferences.

In 1972 Goulet took on an even more important and deadly role for the IRA.  At that time the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi made contact with the Provisonal IRA through Yann Goulet and the purpose of the approach was to offer the IRA arms and explosives.  Nothing came of that initial contact but contact was re-established, again through Goulet, and an arrangment was made for Joe Cahill to travel to Tripoli.  Goulet was therefore a key figure in the establishment of the biggest source of weaponry for IRA terrorists.

Goulet was the central figure in a rather bizarre includent in 1981 when he travelled to Belfast at the request of O Bradaigh, to make a death mask of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands but the project was turned down by the local Belfast IRA leadership.  His last major commission also had an IRA connection and it was for an IRA memorial for Milltown cemetery in West Belfast.  However it was never completed because of illness and Yann Goulet died on 22 August 1999, two days after his 85th birthday.

On 9 September An Phoblacht, the newspaper of Sinn Fein and the IRA, published an obituary.  The memorial in Crossmaglen is entitled Glory and according to the An Phoblacht obituary it was erected 'in dead of night as a defiant surprise for the occupying forces!'

Sinn Fein try to portray themselves as radical and progressive but they seem to have had no difficulty with inviting a Nazi collaborator on to their platforms or in employing the same Nazi collaborator to produce their Crossmaglen sculpture.  Of course, why would they have a problem with Goulet?  During the 2nd World War the IRA themselves collaborated with the Nazis.

Goulet was just one of a number of Nazi collaborators who found a home in Eire and became prominent figures there. This is something the Irish Republic probably prefers to forget and indeed Goulet's biography on the Aosdana website and his entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography are sanitised.  The DIB entry by Bridget Hourican largely ignores his role as a Nazi collaborator and totally ignores his role in the arming of the Provisional IRA by Colonel Gaddafi.

Instead of being a symbol of Glory, the Crossmaglen statue is really a symbol of shame.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Anither Ulster-Scotch wurd an yin mair forbye

Today Diarmaid O Muirithe discussed the word next in his Irish Times column Words We Use and to the use of the word in the sense 'in the direction of'.  A scholar from county Down had discovered its use in the Belfast Newsletter of 11 December 1818.  The report stated that a group of magistrates, tired of the shnanigans going on in their district, offered a reward of £50 to anybody who would apprehend a named criminal 'last seen between Saintfield and Everogue's Bridge ... heading next Loughinisland'.  O Muirithe points out that this old usage is of Scots origin.

He also considers the word stravaig, a noun and a verb, which means, 'to wander about aimlessly'.  It is a Scots word, found in the Scottish National Dictionary, and came into Old Scots from the Old French, estravaguer.

Sean Phelan commemoration in Liverpool

On Saturday (18 February) the Liverpool Irish Patriots Republican Flute Band organised a parade of republican bands in memory of IRA man Sean Phelan, who was born in Liverpool in 1900.  He was born John Whelan but gaelicised his name to Sean Phelan and became a lieutenant in the IRA.

Phelan fought in the War of Independence and was involved in an IRA attack on a train at Upton in county Cork on 15 February 1921.  Cork was the most violent county in the War of Independence, with  several active IRA brigades, and the Third (West Cork) Brigade was the most deadly.  It was a unit from this brigade that carried out the Upton train ambush.

Plans were made for an attack on a train travelling from Cork to Bandon and the attack was to be carried out by a party of thirteen IRA men led by Charlie Hurley.  Minutes before the train arrived at Upton they took over the station and imprisoned the station master.

The train was carrying fifty soldiers from the Essex Rgiments, and the IRA knew there were soldiers on board, but they also knew that it was carrying members of the public as well.

The IRA opened fire on the train and the gunfight lasted for just ten minutes but six civilian passengers, including a woman, were killed and ten wounded.  Six soldiers were also wounded, three of them seriously, and three IRA gunmen were killed outright, while another was fatally wounded and two more were badly wounded but survived.  Charlie Hurley, who had led the attack, was one of the wounded and John Whelan was one of the three IRA men who were killed.

The IRA attack was made famous in the 1960s with a ballad entitled The Lonely Woods of Upton, which was recorded byEileen Donaghy.  She included the song on an album of rebel songs which she recorded under the name of her grandmother Brigid Corey.

Irish republicans in Liverpool want to commemorate an IRA gunman who was born in Liverpool and died in the Upton train attack.  However they probably prefer to forget the fact that the IRA squad of which he was a member murdered six civilians and wounded ten more in that attack at Upton back in February 1921.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dawkins deflated

The following article appeared in the Belfast Telegraph (18 February 2012):

In a radio debate, Richard Dawkins said research carried out by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason claimed that many Christians never read the Bible and that two out of three couldn't name the first book of the New Testament.
Alas, Dawkins was then challenged by Rev Giles Fraser to give the full 21 word title of his hero Charles Darwin's seminal work.  After several ums, Dawkins gave up with a feeble, "Oh God ..."
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear ...
Thanks to Inspector Google, here is the full name of Charles Darwin's book: On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Dawkins is an arrogant and militant atheist who prides himself on his knowledge and reason.  He loves to demean and disparage others but this time the mighty man came unstuck.  Canon Giles Fraser, a former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, certainly deflated Dawkins.

More vacuous words from Gerry Adams

In the current issue of the Andersonstown News (18 February 2012), Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams TD devotes an entire article to a recent away-day where 'key leadership activists from all levels of Sinn Fein and from all parts of the island, Britain and the USA came together to discuss the party's strategy of building towards a united Ireland'.  The away-day came after six conferences on the theme of a United Ireland, including the most recent one in Londonderry.

Sinn Fein is perfectly entitled to aspire towards a united Ireland and a strategy of 'building towards a united Ireland' is certainly preferable to the previous strategy of 'bombing towards a united Ireland'.

Since he left Northern Ireland for the Irish Republic, the Sinn Fein president has been marginalised, but as party president it was natural that he delivered the opening address on the away-day and he continues the theme in this article.

Adams talks about his vision of a socialist republic, encourages people to read Wolfe Tone, James Connolly, Patrick Pearse and Bobby Sands, and looks back to 1798, 1916 and 1981.

He also describes Sinn Fein as 'an elite' and 'a vanguard' but acknowledges that they cannot 'free Ireland'.  They must build a bigger and better movement.  I found his use of the word 'elite' interesting and it does give some insight into mindsight.  There is an arrogance about the man.

Adams talks about arguing, debating, strategising, and raising awareness but it is all very vacuous.  There is nothing here about convincing unionists.  He claims that there was 'a sizeable section of unionist opinion' among the 1,000 people at the conference in Londonderry and we know that Basil McCrea MLA and Rev David Latimer were there but I wonder how many other 'unionists' were present.  A solitary Unionist Unionist MLA and a solitary Presbyterian minister do not constitute a 'sizeable section'.  Perhaps Gerry Adams can tell us how many 'unionists' were present and how that constitutes a 'sizeable section'.

The plain truth is that there is no evidence that Sinn Fein is making any progress in convincing unionists in Ulster towards a united Ireland.  Indeed support for a united Ireland is lower than it has been for a very long time and that is not surprising when we see the financial state of the Irish Republic.

The fact is that Sinn Fein has come to recognise that its struggle for a United Ireland is going nowhere, because they cannot convince unionists to change their aspiration.  The predictions of a United Ireland by 2016, the centenary of 1916, have been abandoned and now they are engaged in an exercise to keep the troops occupied by with a constant round of conferences and speeches and regular references to republican icons. 

I wonder how long it will be before the troops come to realise that Gerry is a spent force and that theirs is a lost cause.  Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom as long as the majority of people in Northern Ireland so determine and with the support of the overwhlming majority of Protestants and a substantial number of Roman Catholics there is no prospect of United Ireland.

Sinn Fein activists can talk to themselves as much as they want but if they can't convince unionists they are doomed to failure.  Martin McGuinness told the Londonderry conference that a United Ireland is 'inevitable' and that word has been part of the Sinn Fein vocabulary for a long time but it is just wishful thinking.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Another irresponsible drinks promotion

The issue of irresponsible drinks promotions, especially those aimed at young people, has been very much in the news and this morning the Irish News highlighted another appalling example.

This time it concerned a video promoting a Tyrone nightclub.  The video showed young men and women on a 'party bus' taking them to Sense nightclub in the Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown.  The nightclub advertised The Sense Express Way on its website, setting out bus pickup points in Belfast, Armagh, Newry and Portstewart, with tickets costing £20, which also included entry to the venue.

In the video young people were seen on the bus drinking spirits, including vodka, from large bottles.  This was not consumption of spirits by the glass but consumption by the bottle.  There was also a drinking game where beer was poured into a funnel and down a tube into a young person's mouth.

The Irish News pointed out that the law prohibits the consumption of alcohol on buses and that anyone caught in breach of the law could face fines of up to £1,000.

After the newspaper contacted the nightclub and the bus operator, the video was removed but the nightclub refused to comment.

It is clear that an irresponsible attitude to alcohol promotions is more prevalent than many people think.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Rory McIlroy and the US Open

I was writing a short note about Ulster golfer Rory McIlroy and his win at the 2011 US Open when I noticed that the tournament was held at Bethesda in Montgomery County, Maryland.

The name Montgomery struck a note with me because thirteen American states have counties named after General Richard Montgomery (1738-1775), who was born in Dublin into a family of Donegal Ulster-Scots.  His parents were in Dublin at the time of his birth because his father was an Irish MP but the Montgomery family had been in Ulster for four generations.  Richard's great-great-grandfather Rev Alexander Montgomery was prebendary of Doe in county Donegal and died in 1658.  He was brought over to Ulster from Scotland by his kinsman Bishop George Montgomery, another Scot, who was a brother of Sir Hugh Montgomery, one of the founding fathers of the Ulster-Scots. 

General Montgomery was a leader on the American side in the War of Independence and as well as counties that were named after him there are many towns and cities named Montgomery, such as the state capital of Alabama.  President Andrew Jackson, the son of Ulster-Scots parents, said of Montgomery, 'he will ever live in the hearts of his countrymen.'

The names Bethesda also struck a note with me as it is a Bible name and was sometimes used in America as the name of a Presbyterian congregation.  In this case the town of Bethesda was named from Bethesda Presbyterian meeting-house, which was founded in 1820. 

However the Presbyterian congregation can be traced back to 1723 and the ministry of Rev Hugh Conn, who was born in Magilligan, county Londonderry, in 1685.  He was a graduate of Glasgow University, which he entered in 1707 as Scoto-Hibernus.  Conn sailed for America in 1714 and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in October 1715.  He was a founding father of the Presbyterian Church in America and a colonial proprietor of Washington, DC.

This is just a simple example of the depth of the Ulster-Scots influence in America and in 2013 the US Open will be at a location in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Carbon monoxide detectors

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is to instal 40,000 carbon monoxide detectors in its homes.  Safety in the home has to be a priority for any landlord and I have previously raised the issue of carbon monoxide detectors with the Housing Executive and housing associations.

Some time ago I announced that double glazing is to be installed in all Housing Executive properties that are still single glazed and this further initiative is another step in the programme to improve standards of energy efficiency and safety in Housing Executive homes.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A wheen mair jottins aboot the Ulster-Scotch

I am grateful to Mark Thompson for this post from his own blog, in which he also gave some references to Ulster-Scots in the local media, both print and broadcasting, down through the years.  Mark's blog provides a wealth of information on Ulster-Scots culture, history and identity.

Objections to Ulster-Scots: Part Two

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

'The rich vocabulary of the Ulster Scot'

This morning the Irish News carried an interesting article in the Eamon Phoenix column On This Day.  It looks back to an article that first appeared in the newspaper on 7 February 1943, almost seventy years ago:
Belfast writer on 'Eireanns'
Has Gulliver gone on his travels again and discovered a new species?  The writer, Mr St John Ervine, who is not by any means a Dean Swift, refers to the shortcomings of the 'Eireanns'.  The word is not Irish and we doubt if it comes from the rich vocabulary of the Ulster Scot.

St John Greer Ervine (1883-1971) was born in East Belfast and became a playwright and author.  As a young man he was an Irish nationalist but later he became a staunch Ulster unionist.  In 1949 he wrote a biography of Lord Craigavon and in it he used the term 'Eireann' to describe Irish nationalists.

The Irish News stated that the word Eireann 'is not Irish' and although I do not speak Irish I find that somewhat surprising.  Are we not all familiar with the terms Bus Eireann, Dail Eireann, Radio Telefis Eireann, Seanad Eireann and Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.  However an Irish speaker may well be able to clarify this.

However my attention was especially taken by the reference to 'the rich vocabulary of the Ulster Scot'.  The journalist who wrote the article recognised the existence of the Ulster-Scots and the fact that Ulster-Scots speakers have a 'rich vocabulary'.

It is sometimes suggested that the term Ulster-Scot is a recent invention but this is obviously untrue.  It was used in the 17th century and later and it was also used throughout the 20th century, of which usage this is an interesting and unexpected example.