Friday, 26 April 2013

Thanks to the Irish News!

I haven't posted anything on this blog for some days - pressure of work and other commitments have taken up so much time that it wasn't possible but I am glad to see that the daily pageviews remain at a very healthy level.
Nevertheless I am grateful to the Irish News (25 April) for devoting a whole page, apart from advertisements, to this blog!
Their story is based on information obtained under Freedom of Information through the website What Do They Know.  Since 2008 there have been 51 FoI requests to DSD from this website.

This particular FoI request was made by someone named Ben who appears to be a Ben Brown but of whom at present I know nothing other than that he is a prolific user of FoIs.
He requested information about how many DSD staff accessed my blog from DSD computers while they were at work.  The answer was 11 and I am glad to see that the figure was low.  I would be very disappointed if civil servants were spending too much time accessing blogs, even mine, during working time.  Indeed I understand that many staff are unable to access any blogs on work computers but I will have to check that out.
Now for the benefit of 'Ben Brown', the Irish News and anyone else who read the article, the number of pageviews every day currently stands at anywhere between arround 300 and 3,000 and depends on what has been posted.  As regards that audience I get pageviews from across the British Isles and also from many parts of Europe, the USA and Canada.

The Irish News also referred back to a post from last year and stated:
Last year he removed the business address of human rights activist Fra Hughes from his blog following a complaint to police.
For those who have forgotten Fra Hughes, he set himself up last summer as a 'human rights observer' at Loyal Order parades on the Crumlin Road.  I don't know what qualifies Fra Hughes or indeed anyone else to be a 'human rights observer' but there he was taking close up photographs of Protestant spectators in a way that was intrusive and invasive.
At the time I didn't know who Fra Hughes was but later it was pointed out to me that his name, his picture and his business address were on a North Belfast Sinn Fein blog and a Sinn Fein website.  I copied that information across to this blog and Fra Hughes then complained to the PSNI. 
When a policeman phoned me to say that there had been a complaint from Fra Hughes he said very clearly that I had done nothing wrong and broken no law and he simply passed on a request for the information to be removed.  Being of a generous nature I removed the reference to Fra Hughes' place of business on the Cavehill Road and the Irish News and the North Belfast News seemed to get rather excited about this.  Thereby drawing further attention to Fra Hughes but both papers missed one key point.  The details of Fra Hughes business were still there on the Sinn Fein website and the blog and they have been there since 27 August 2010, a period of two years. 
Fra Hughes objected to the information being on a unionist blog but not to it being on a Sinn Fein blog and website.  Surely if someone is concerned about his safety, as Fra said that he was, he would ensure that the information was also deleted from the Sinn Fein blog and the Sinn Fein website?  Does he think that only republicans read the information on Sinn Fein websites?
Moreover, I have just checked the North Belfast Sinn Fein website and their blog and the details of Fra Hughes business are still there today!  It really is farcical.
Finally, as a sort of recommendation, the Irish News journalist said that it was 'unfortunate' that 'few MLAs run a personal blog like social development minister Nelson McCausland.'  Yes I think I can definitiely take that as a sort of recommendation!
Oh yes, and back to 'Ben Brown'.  He also asked under the same FoI request if I had ever asked for DSD not to buy the Irish News and the answer was 'no'.  Isn't it important to know what is going on in the world of 'Pro Fide et Patria'?  But it makes me wonder if there is some connection between Ben Brown and the Irish News or did the newspaper simply pick up the FoI information from the What do Thery Know website?



Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The McMahon Murders (2)

In a previous post I referred to an incident on 24 March 1922 when five people were shot dead in a house in Kinnaird Terrace in Belfast.  They were Owen McMahnon, a publican, three of his sons, and a barman who lived with them.  McMahon was also a director of Glentoran Football Club.

In 1961 Rex Taylor, an English author who was sympathetic to Irish nationalism, wrote a book on the assassination of Sir Henry Wilson, the Ulster Unionist MP for North Down, and in it he referred to the McMahon murders: But soon a few astonishing facts came to light, though none of them tended to lessen the degree of Nixon's guilt. It was found that the late McMahons were the paymasters for the IRA trouble-makers in the North, a fact proved by a leakage from the banks of the necessary funds. With the deaths of the paymasters there came also, for a time at any rate, a sudden lull in Belfast.
I had never come across that suggestion previously and so asked if anyone had any more information.  I didn't receive any answers but yesterday I came across the background to this in a book entitled Northern Divisions: The Old IRA and the Belfast Pogroms 1920-22 by Jim McDermott.
McDermott's grandfather, also Jimmy McDermott, was an IRA officer in Belfast in the 1920s along with his brother Johnny.  The author himself is a teacher and historian.  The book was published in 2001 by Beyond the Pale Publications, which is based in Conway Mill in West Belfast.
At 12.15 on 23 March 1922 two A Specials were murdered by the IRA and this was followed by the attack on the McMahon home.  Jim McDermott quotes from a memoir written by Sean Montgomery, a member of the IRA at that time:
There was an attempt to disarm two Specials in May Street.  This was in the charge  of the Brigade OC and after of the Market company.  The two Specials died and one of the worst reprisals ever was the shooting of the well known McMahon family and McKinney their barman.  The McMahons were missed because they gave a sum of money which was in a book captured by the police.
Jim McDermott comments: 'While it is doubtful if the IRA group only wanted to disarm the Specials, it is conceivable that Owen McMahon did give a sum of money to the IRA.  There is often an ambivalence in Belfast nationalists about republicans and guns.'

Monday, 8 April 2013

The cost of alcoholism

The Irish News (28 March 2013) has reported that:
  • 300 lives are lost every year in Northern Ireland to alcoholism, six times the number killed on the roads last year.
  • There were 8,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions last year.
  • The cost to the economy was estimated at £900 million.
Those figures are a stark reminder of the cost of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland, the human cost as well as the financial cost to society and especially to the health service.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Ian Knox - cartoonist for Trotskyists

Earlier this week the Irish News published a good editorial in which they condemned the appearance of a gunman and the involvment of very small children in a dissident republican parade at Ardoyne on Easter Saturday.

However on the same page they published a cartoon by Ian Knox in which he sought to compare the involvement of the children in a parade celebrating terrorism, with the Junior Orangemen who take part in Loyal Order parades.

In the past I have seen many examples of the political bias and cultural bigotry of Ian Knox and Mark Thompson has identified a number of examples of such cultural bigotry on his blog.

This time it prompted me to look up what there is about Ian Knox on the internet.  I wanted to see what there was to explain that political bias and cultural bigotry.

Before proceeding to look at that it is worth noting that he was also the cartoonist on BBC's Hearts and Minds.  There his cartoons were somewhat more circumspect than those that appear in the overtly nationalist Irish News but nevertheless they were not altogether impartial, especially as regards cultural matters.

So back to Ian Knox himself.  He was born in Belfast on 4 May 1943 and after attending the Royal Belfast Academical Institution from 1954 to 1962 he studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.  Later he became a cartoonist and cartoon film animator.
Knox then became a political cartoonist with Red Weekly and Socialist ChallengeRed Weekly started in May 1973 and continued until June 1977 when it was replaced by Socialist Challenge.

These publications were produced by the International Marxist Group,a Trotskyist group in Britain between 1968 and 1982, when it changed its name to Socialist League.  In relation to Northern Ireland it is significant that the IMG was pro-republican and supported the Provisional IRA.
From 1977 to 1984 Knox signed his cartoons Blotski, a name devised by Cormac, the cartoonist with the Sinn Fein/IRA newspaper Republican News.  It was a cross between Trotsky and an ink-blot.  Knox and Cormac also worked together as Kormski.
In 1989 Knox joined the Irish News as their editorial/political cartoonist and so he has been with the newspaper for more than twenty years.  Of course people sometimes mellow with age and political views can change and evolve but Ian Knox's earlier career as the political cartoonist for the International Marxist Group does help us to understand the man and his political and cultural prejudices.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Nazi graffiti in a Cork graveyard

IRA chief-of-staff Tom Barry
I do not condone in any way the actions of those who damage gravestones and I make that absolutely clear before penning this post about the scrawling of graffiti on headstones in St Finbarr's cemetery in Cork.
Last week, before the Easter Rising commemoration in the graveyard, some vandals had daubed graffiti on republican graves, including that of former IRA chief-of-staff Tom Barry.  The graffiti included a number of Nazi swastikas.
We can't know what was in the minds of those who put the graffiti on the graves but in fact there is a connection between Tom Barry (1897-1980) and the swastika.
After the defeat of the Anti-Treaty IRA, Tom Barry was released by the Free State government in 1924 and he was appointed general superintendent of Cork Harbour Commission from 1927 to 1965. 

At the same time he remained a militant republican and in March 1936 he was involved in the murder of Vice-Admiral Henry Somerville.  The following year he succeeded Sean McBride as IRA chief of staff and in January 1937 he travelled to Germany to seek the support of the Nazis for the IRA.  Support from Germany was to be organised through Clann na Gael in America.  In fact the IRA Army Convention in April 1938 went for another plan put forward by Sean Russell and Tom Barry resigned.  However he remained in contact with the Nazi agents until at least February 1939 and the IRA continued to seek and secure German support for its terrorist campaigns in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  While Irishmen and Ulstermen fought in the ranks of the British Army against the Nazis, the IRA was happy to collaborate with Hitler and his Nazi regime.  So there was in fact a link between Tom Barry and the Nazis. 
In later years Tom Barry supported the Provisional IRA although he expressed some reservations about their methods.  However he had left the IRA around 1940 and was not buried in the republican plot.
Collaboration between the IRA and the Nazis is one part of their story that Sinn Fein prefer to forget.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Update on the Ardoyne dissident parade

Yesterday North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds condemned the dissident republican parade organised in Ardoyne on Saturday by the Republican Network for Unity and the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band. 
He highlighted two aspects of the parade, the involvement of very small children dressed in paramilitary uniforms, and the fact that a masked gunman in full paramiltary garb fired a number of shots from a handgun.
He referred to the role of the PSNI in investigating the parade and yesterday a DUP delegation met the North Belfast commander of the PSNI to demand a thorough investigation into the firing of shots, which is a criminal offence.
He also spoke about the role of the Parades Commission, which will have to take full account of this event in considering future parades by the band.  The commemoration was chaired by Martin Og Meehan of the RNU and the speaker was Paul Crawford, national vice-chairman of the RNU but the 11/1 form for the parade was submitted by the band and the commemoration at Berwick Road, which included the firing of at least eight shots by a gunman in combat gear, was part of the parade. 
A DUP delegation is due to meet the chair of the Parades Commission tomorrow as a prelude to a meeting with the full commission at a later date.  What happened on Saturday must have serious repercussions for the Henry Joy McCracken RFB and anythings less will remove any remnants of credibility the Parades Commission may have.
As regards the involvement of small children in paramilitary uniforms, Nigel Dodds spoke in terms of child abuse and referred to the office of the Children's Commssioner (NICCY).  That comment has now borne fruit and tonight it was reported by the BBC that the Children's Commissioner, Patricia Lewsley-Mooney, has condemned the episode saying that it was placing children in danger.  Tomorrow morning when NICCY reopens after the holiday we will be requesting a meeting with the commissioner.

The BBC also reported that they had tried to contact the Republican Network for Unity but were unable to get any response from them.  Martin Og Meehan and the other dissident leaders in Ardoyne have obviously run for cover, trying to think of how they can explain it all away.

There was good coverage of the issues in the three morning newspapers today and there should be more tomorrow.  The Irish News was especially good with the whole of page 1 and more on page 7.  The paper quoted RNU spokesman Ciaran Cunningham as saying that the group had helped organise the parade but the 'pageantry' had been organised at a local level.  I assume the word 'pageantry' refers to dressing up children as young as five or six in the uniform of a terrorist organisation.  As regards the gunman Cunningham said 'I know absolutely nothing about the shots being fired.'  And if you believe that .....

The four Ardoyne Fianna (1) David McAuley

On Saturday 30 March the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band and the Republican Network for Unity organised a parade and republican commemoration in Ardoyne. Much of the focus has been on the fact that during the commemoriation a dissident republican gunman dressed in combat gear fired around eight shots from a handgun and that small children in the parade were dressed in paramilitary uniforms.

However it is worth remembering what the commemoration was actually about. It related to four teenagers who died in the 1970s and who were members of the Provisional IRA's youth organisation Na Fianna Eireann.

Paul Crawford from Warrenpoint, the national vice-chairman of the RNU gave the oration in Ardoyne and spoke about the four members of Na Fianna Eireann.
David McAuley
Josh Campbell
Joseph McComiskey
Bernard Fox

David McAuley was just fourteen years old when he was killed on 19 February 1972. After he was shot he was taken to a hospital in Dundalk in the Irish Republic and there a doctor signed a document stating that he had died from a 'non infectious disease'. However as his hearse was being brought back north it was stopped at Banbridge by the RUC. On inspection it was found that he had a gunshot wound to the stomach. The cortege had been stoppped when it was noticed that the coffin was covered with a tricolour. After a two-hour delay the cortege was allowed to proceed on to Ardoyne. 

Later it was established that McAuley had undergone surgery in the Dundalk hospital to have a bullet removed but the facts about the shooting have never been confirmed. Was he shot at an IRA training camp in the Republic, or was he shot in Ardoyne and then taken south to Dundalk for treatment?  The incident was raised at Stormont and John Taylor MP, the minister for home affairs, said that the integrity of the medical profession in County Louth was in doubt.

The North Eastern Health Board in the Republic, which controlled the hospital in Dundalk, denied that the document was a death certificate and said that it was only for the purpose of getting through customs. If he had died from an infectious disease certain precautions would have had to be taken before the body would have been allowed across the border.

At the funeral there was a bodyguard of Fianna in full uniform and five shots were fired. David McAuley's father confirmed that his son had died from gunshot wounds but would not comment on the circumstances. He told a reporter that his son had 'left home only a few hours when i heard that he had been shot. I do not know how it happened.'

However in a you-tube clip (8 October 2009), uploaded by Ogra Shinn Fein, Sinn Fein councillor Conor Maskey delivered a tribute to David McAuley and said clearly that he engaged in 'armed struggle" and 'died as a result of an accident with a weapon.'   He did not say if the accidental shooting took place in Ardoyne or Louth.

This is confirmed by Martin Og Meehan on his Ardoyne Republican blog and he should know because his father Martin Meehan was a senior IRA man in Ardoyne.  He states that 'Fian Davy McAuley was fatally wounded from an accidntal discharge from a weapon he was handling.'  He also states that at the time of his death the boy was the OC of the local Fianna Slua (branch).

Lost Lives gives the age of the boy as 14 but republicans give his age as 15.  Either way those who put a loaded gun into the hands of a boy of 14 or 15 are ultimately responsible for his death and that was the Provisional IRA.

The Conor Maskey clip was posted in 2009 and the following year, 2010, dissident republicans in Ardoyne started a commemoration of the four Fianna, probably as part of their claim to be the legitimate republican movement and the inheritors of that tradition.

Twelve members of Na Fianna Eireann were killed in 1972 and four of them were from Ardoyne.

Ardoyne riot accused in court

Nine men accused of taking part in rioting in Ardoyne last summer are to stand trial.  During the violence, which took place on the evening of 12 July 2012, dissident republicans attacked the PSNI with missiles and petrol bombs and burned a car.  At one point a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots at PSNI officers. 
According to newspaper reports the following people appeared in court:
  • Martin Faulkner (41) - Antrim Road
  • Paul Faulkner (31) - Queen's Parade
  • Christopher Anthony McDonnell (23) - Wyndham Street, Cliftonville Road
  • Daniel Padraig Neill (20) - Newington Street
  • Liam Michael Thompson (25) - Cliftonville Avenue
  • Christopher Stitt (23) - Carrick Hill
  • Liam Bernard Gavin (19) - Woodside Park, Dunmurry
  • Colin Loughlin (21) - Filbert Drive, Dunmurry
  • Pearse Toman (25) - Garland Drive, Lurgan
Republicans always claim that they are protesting against three Orange lodges walking up the Crumlin Road on their way home to Ballysillan.  So how many of the men who appeared in court actually live in Ardoyne?  Well, from the addresses, not one of the nine lives in Ardoyne and so against each of the names I have put the distance they must have travelled to be at the scene of the riot:
  • Martin Faulkner - 2 miles
  • Paul Faulkner - 2 miles
  • Christopher Anthony McDonnell - 2.6 miles
  • Daniel Padraig Neill - 2.2 miles
  • Liam Michael Thompson - 1.9 miles
  • Christopher Still - 2 miles
  • Liam Bernard Gavin - 8 miles
  • Colin Loughrin - 8 miles
  • Pearse Toman - 26 miles
 I know that one of the 'residents groups', Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, uses the term 'Greater Ardoyne' but no matter how much you may try to stretch that term, surely it can't stretch to Dunmurry and Lurgan.
The annual republican violence in Ardoyne is not about the rights of residents at all - it is really about dissident republican hatred of the PSNI and about anti-Protestant bigotry.  
Four of the accused are also facing additional charges. 
  • Gavin, from Dunmurry, is accused of damaging a silver BMW, attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, attempted arson and also acting provocatively.
  • Neill is alleged to have burned a silver Citroen.
  • Stitt is accused of stealing the vehicle.
  • Toman, from Lurgan, is accused of having thrown a petrol bomb at the police.
All of the accused deny the charges. 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Ardoyne Fianna commemoration parade 2013

On Easter Saturday 30 March 2013 the Republican Network for Unity and the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band held its annual Fianna commemoration.  The event has taken place every year since 2009 and is organised by dissident republicans.
According to the Ardoyne Republican Blogspot this is held 'to pay tribute to four young Na Fianna Eireann Activists, Josh Campbell, Davy McAuley, Bernard Fox and Joseph McComiskey, all of whom lived in Ardoyne and died tragically on Active Service in 1972.'
The commemorative march started at 3pm outside the Glenpark Social Club in Ardoyne Avenue and made its way to the Fianna Mural at Berwick Road, where there was a speaker, Paul Crawford from South Down RNU, and a wreath laying ceremony.
The Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band notified the PSNI and according to the website of the Parades Commission they stated on their 11/1 form that there would be three bands and 700 participants in the parade with 500 supporters.  The website also records that this was a late notificiation.
The parade was not identified by either the PSNI or the Parades Commission as being contentious but I think most people will find that surprising.
A report on Ardoyne Republican blogspot has two photographs of the parade, one of which shows three very small children dressed in what appear to be Fianna uniforms, with white shirts, black berets and neckscarfs.

Even more disturbing is a short video-clip on youtube (Ardoyne Fianna 2013) which appears to show a masked man in a paramiltary uniform firing a handgun in front of the Fianna mural during the commemoration.  This is particularly alarming in view of the number of times that guns have been used by dissident republicans in Ardoyne over the past year, including the attemped murder of police officers.
One other point worth noting is that the notification for the parade was for 1,200 people.  The video-clip and the two photographs do not suggest a parade of anything like that scale.  Obviously they did not attract the crowds they were hoping for.

So then, what needs to be done?

1. The PSNI should explain their approach to this parade.
2. The PSNI must investigate the apparent firing of a weapon by a dissident republican gunman.
3. The use and abuse of very small children in such a paramilitary display is worthy of investigation by the PSNI and the Parades Commission and also by the Children's Commissioner.
4. In view of this evidence the PSNI and the Parades Commission must never again treat a parade by either the Republican Network for Unity or the Henry Joy McCracken Republican Flute Band as anything other than contentious.
5. In view of the use of material obtained from social media by the BBC and UTV, they should now highlight this particular incident.

Those points will now be taken up with the relevant agencies.