Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Some observations from the opening night of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Sat 10 September 2011, 12:52am

Metal barriers surround the Belfast’s Waterfront Hall this afternoon. A police landrover sits discreetly across the road. Yellow bibbed security teams thoroughly examine the bags of everyone arriving.

Empty Waterfront Hall for Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are in the main hall rehearsing their conference speeches using the teleprompter. Earlier in the day, twenty five or so elected representatives and rising stars rehearsed their two minute speeches that will delivered during the “live” section on Saturday when BBC and RTE are broadcasting live from the Ard Fheis.

Empty Waterfront Hall for Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

Queues of delegates line up waiting for their conference passes to be printed. A team of clipboard wielding students are surveying Sinn Féin members as they hang around the lobby. A sole blogger finds himself missing from the media list (again) and is thankful that the Lord Mayor has influence and can sort things out!

People queuing to register at Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2011

Photographers gather outside the Waterfront front doors and photograph Martin McGuinness shaking hands with the arriving Rev David Latimer from every conceivable angle. Delegates spontaneously rush forward to welcome the protestant cleric.

Martin McGuinness welcomes Rev David Latimer to Ard Fheis

Six o’clock comes and goes. Delegates continue to gather. Journalists figure out that there really are only going to be four power sockets and no audio feed in the “press room”.

Half an hour late, Alex Maskey finally opens the Ard Fheis, welcoming delegates to his South Belfast constituency. He reminds the 400 or so delegates sitting downstairs that “from the Waterfront Hall we can almost literally see the City Hall, renowned bastion of unionist bigotry”, before going on to name check the republican Lord Mayor who is sitting on the platform just behind him.

Friday night delegates at Ard Fheis 2011

Education motions are up first. After an introduction from Education Minister John O’Dowd, Daithí McKay describes the way some secondary schools in his constituency cooperate, and reiterates Sinn Féin’s call for the Catholic Commission for Education to implement its decision to end the practice of academic selection within its schools.

And then it’s the big event. The audio embedded below starts with Martin McGuinness’ speech and immediately follows onto Rev David Latimer.

Martin McGuinness takes to the podium and introduces the Ard Fheis theme of “Towards a New Republic”. He cites remarkable political progress over the last five years.

The DUP leadership had yet to sit down with Sinn Féin, the political institutions remained in what seemed like permanent suspension and the two governments seemed bereft of ideas to free up the process.

Six months after St Andrews, “the DUP and Ian Paisley were in power sharing institutions with Sinn Féin and the other parties on the basis of equality”.

He also questions whether five years ago anyone would have seriously suggested Gerry Adams would be leading 14 TDs and 3 Senators.

Change does not have to take decades. Political circumstances can be moulded and shaped and change can quickly happen. This is the lesson of the past five years and more importantly it is the inspiration for the next five.

He talks about dealing with the legacy of the conflict. “Proper reconciliation is key to the future.” He says that “the British government shunted the issue onto Eames/Bradley and then quietly placed their report on the shelf”.

It seems to me that the biggest obstacle to properly dealing with the past is a continuing refusal at the very top of the British system to acknowledge their combatant role in the conflict. This needs to change. And republicans need to realise that dealing with the past will not be an easy process for us – Republicans inflicted much hurt during the conflict – but it we are to build a new Republic and a new future it is necessary and it is a road none of us should be afraid to go down.

Then back to the “new Republic” theme.

A new Republic can be built. But it will only be built if we take the lead in building it … Five years isn’t a long time in the history of any nation – but in five years as we have already shown political conditions can be transformed. My message from here is that Ireland can be transformed in the next five – join with us in making that happen.

He introduces Rev David Latimer. Notable by its absence is the lack of mention in Martin’s introduction – and the speech that follows – of the guest speaker’s role as chaplain to the (British) Territorial Army!

… many within the unionist community are up for a journey of reconciliation and dialogue. Tonight one of those the Rev David Latimer from First Derry Presbyterian church has demonstrated that by his courageous decision to accept our invitation to address this Ard Fheis.

Delegates stand to applaud Rev David Latimer as he gets up onto the stage

The delegates – around 700 in the hall by this stage – rise to their feet as the Latimer takes to the stage. He opens hesitantly.

My goodness. How can I follow Martin McGuinness? Frankly I don’t think I can. Because I see you as one of the true great leaders of modern times. And my prayer is that he will be empowered and envisioned to take us forward in the inclusive way he is committed to. And I hope he gets the support from others, from within the other political parties, because it is together that we are going to build the future better and brighter.

Martin didn’t tell you but he got me £1.6 million you know. (delegates laugh) Wonder what I’m expected to do tonight for that?

He addresses the delegates as “Friends” in Irish and goes on to comment on the welcome he has received at Ard Fheis.

That’s Irish for ‘Friends’ and I begin intentionally with this word because that’s what I firmly believe – and in my script I’d written ‘what I firmly believe we are becoming’ – but since arriving at the Waterfront tonight I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and the magnitude of the welcome I have received right from the security men at the barriers as I came in, through the corridors and into this hall. You know something? I don’t think I would have this same welcome in the General Assembly in Belfast. (delegates laugh)

But Martin. You and I as you said have been journeying together for the last five years. And during that time ladies and gentlemen, Martin McGuinness and David Latimer have become firm friends who are able to easily relax in each other’s company. While our interaction might understandably raise eyebrows amongst some within both our communities the reality is that you and I, Martin, regard ourselves to be brothers within the same human family, a world wide diverse family, which despite all its flaws and imperfections is loved by God, the maker of everything that lives and moves.

Your invitation to me, a protestant minister, is – I must tell you – forward looking and timely. I used these words on a couple of interviews this past week.

Rev David Latimer addresses the Ard Fheis 2011

Latimer says that only 5% of the “deluge” of messages he has received this last week have been negative; the rest have been positive.

It suggests to me that out there, there is a swathe of people who are looking for positive leadership so that together we can go forward. Is it possible do you think that the Democratic Unionists could see their way to invite a Catholic priest to address their party conference this year or next?

I’d like to think my coreligionists would emulate what you have done, not for cheap publicity, because that’s going to take us nowhere. Rather in recognition of despite our respective Dublin or London preferences that we have to learn to accept and respect. But despite our differing aspirations we want to acknowledge that our destinies are tied up together and our futures are bound together, which means ladies and gentlemen that neither of us can continue to walk alone. And the more we do together as people on the street, and as politicians up on the hill, the better we will shape our shared future.

The seeds of division and enmity that have long characterised Catholic and Protestant relations were neither sown in 1968 or in 1921 but probably the 1609 settlement of Ulster. Mistrust and bad feelings resulting in the colonisation of Ireland by Protestant settlers were followed by centuries of political and social segregation.

Partition in Ireland did little to ease sectarian mistrust and separateness between Protestants and Catholics left in the six counties as each community continued to be defined by its particular religious affiliations with little mixture between the two groups. Little wonder that this part of Ireland descended into a spiral of communal disorder and violence that was to last for decades.

Victims of difference. And victims of differences extending back across trackless centuries that have isolated us from one another. It is with the benefit of historical hindsight not surprising that our two communities should view each other with suspicion and regard one another as the enemy.

Locked into our respective comfort zones of isolation and poor relations, we miserably failed to understand each other and to do anything about each other’s grievances.

A 1993 report to the General Assembly makes for interesting reading. And I quote: The Presbyterian Church in Ireland shares the guilt of the majority community in Northern Ireland for tolerating the practice of discrimination in jobs, housing and voting rights which largely led to the civil rights campaign in the late sixties.

Was the penny, albeit 15 years into the troubles, finally starting to drop? Was my community admitting that sins of omission could be as damaging as sins of commission?

I rather like a comment by Marcus Aurelius. The last of the five good emperors who during the second century wrote: a wrongdoer is often one who has left something undone, not always one who has done something.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my considered opinion that by our silence and by our actions, we have together contributed to perpetuating the divisions created long ago. That progressively plunged us into the chaos and into the turmoil of the past.

Can I tell you something? This analysis that I’m sharing with you means there is no one orange or green who can lift an accusing finger and apportion blame. And why is that? Because all of us have been part of the problem in some shape or form. And those who like to throw stones from one camp to the other; they’re out of order and they’re not helping.

As a clergyman, I only wish that I could provide the hurting people in both of our communities with a ready mix and stir formula that would relieve their pain and wipe away their tears. Regretfully this is beyond the ability of any mortal individual to deliver. Although it could be helpful for broken and bruised people to be informed that it is acceptable for bereaved Protestants who articulate a story of the past, and for bereaved Catholics who also articulate a story of the past. Now while both sets of stories will contain significant differences, each must be recognised as real and as a personal story without an if or a but.

Therefore rather than airbrush personal stories of hurt there is a collective requirement for a spirit of maturity to be fostered whereby it would be possible for different stories relative to the past to be fairly acknowledged.

This could offer more than a modicum of comfort to our hurting people living in both Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. Although I very much doubt it will be sufficient. Which prompts me to suggest – and I’m moving onto the wavelength that Martin was on just a moment or two ago – because I’m thinking that within all your deliberations within Sinn Féin to try and address this painful and difficult area.

It makes be wonder if some framework could be devised that would lead us at some point in the future to what I’m calling a countrywide day for hope and transformation. Such a solitary event – we only need one – such a solitary and public event would I believe provide space and time for everybody involved in the conflict to acknowledge the pain that each has inflicted, recognising that we have hurt each other and we have been hurt by each other, and that we all need to forgive , would undeniably be liberating for all 32 counties of this island.

With God’s help we can have a distinguished future where we will work and grow in harmony and not just for a particular cause, but for the good of everybody living and breathing, whether it’s the north, northern Ireland, or the six counties.

Rev David Latimer addresses the Ard Fheis 2011

He finishes with a Celtic blessing.

For all of you my friends, republicans, nationalists and catholics, from me a protestant, a Presbyterian and a unionist, but together we are people, people made in the image of God. And it’s as people that I share this lovely blessing.

Listen to this, for it’s for you, and indeed it is for all our people.

May the Lord show his mercy upon us. May the light of his presence be our guide. May be guard us and uphold us. May his Spirit be ever at our side. When we sleep may his angels watch over us. When we wake may he fill us with his grace. May we love him and serve him all our days. Then in heaven may we see his face. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

The hall half empties as the visiting speaker makes his way up the aisle and heads outside to the media scrum and an impromptu press conference. For the next ten minutes or more, Rev David Latimer takes questions – and gives answers longer than soundbites allow! – and explains why he was comfortable to attend.

I spoke to some Sinn Féin elected representatives afterwards. One remarked that she had expected Rev Latimer to come and present a unionist position to Ard Fheis and challenge them politically. But instead, she was pleasantly surprised that his message was totally inclusive, applying to the cleric’s community as much as her own.

Another politician welcomed the cleric’s invitation and described him as “very sincere and genuine”. She felt that the speech should be the start of a process of engagement – and pointed to existing work between communities that often carries on inconspicuously – and not just a one-off moment at the Ard Fheis.

The business carries inside the hall carries on.

Culture, An Gaeilge, Arts and Tourism … Uniting Ireland … International Affairs and the final session on Party Development and Constitution and Rules.

The Party Development motions are intriguing. They’re a hotch potch of suggestions and scoldings. It’s the (only?) part of the Ard Fheis clar that seems to include critical motions.

Around half nine, Ard Fheis closes with the voting on the motions.

Defeated – that a third of the party membership fee be returned to the local cumann.

Accepted – all Members to see a minimum of three copies of An Phoblacht, and each Cumann to sell a minimum of 10 per month.

Accepted – intensive Irish language training courses be mandatory for all Sinn Féin candidates across the country.

Defeated – imposing a quota of 80% of all first time candidates to be under the age of 33 in the 2014 local elections.

Defeated – that members could vote by postal or proxy vote at selection conventions they cannot attend.

Defeated – that the National Draw (the party ballot – tickets on sale at the moment) should have a winner from each of the 32 counties. [Deemed to be unfair since not all counties sell equal numbers of tickets.]

Accepted – a very critical motion which says “the party is not investing adequate resources into making the best possible use of online communications, including the party’s own website, social media …” and called for a review of the party current online communications strategy, and for an amended strategy to be be presented to the Ard Chomhairle within six months of the Ard Fheis/

Accepted – media training to be offered to all party activists.

Accepted – incoming Ard Chomhairle to publish the full list of Ard Fheis motions passed with a concise history of progress made in implementing them.

That last motion is very accountable, but I bet it’s unpopular with whoever has to compile it!

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Comments (34)

  1. lamhdearg (profile) says:

    Alan any idea who in the party put forward the motions?

    What do you think?
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  2. northbelfastview (profile) says:

    Latimer in front of the Politburo!

    http://sluggerotoole.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Ard-Fheis-2011-09.jpg

    Towards a new republic, have they told the taxpayers in the existing old republic, what they are heading towards?

    Is not towards jobs, better health, better education or social equality, it’s the same old some old, one trick pony, neigh, neigh……

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  3. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Delegates and members of the Press! If you missed it, you can hear Rev Latimer’s press conference embedded above!

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  4. unitedulsterman (profile) says:

    They haven’t given any thought as to what their “new republic” would actually be like, in particular what the people who do not want to be in a “united” “Ireland” will do.

    BTW it’s “discreet”, not discrete, and “feet”, not feat. Sloppy.

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  5. USA (profile) says:

    Great Job Alan,
    Thank you for your excellent piece. No sarcastic remarks, no petty comments, no agenda, no fixations on Gerry Adams etc. Just plain good old fashioned objective reporting…..refreshing. You have given a great account of the proceedings in Belfast, good pics, audio files and commentary.
    Keep it up.

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  6. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    …what the people who do not want to be in a “united” “Ireland” will do”

    If the circumstances arise, and votes both sides of the border favour unity, those who object will have to ‘take their oil’. The democratic process must be accepted by all, no matter what.

    As for a new republic: If Sinn Fein continue to grow throughout the island, then they will have a say in how it is shaped. Ireland, North and South, might be in difficulty at present, but that has to change in the long run. Negativity doesn’t take from the inevitable: Unity!

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  7. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    “Accepted – intensive Irish language training courses be mandatory for all Sinn Fein candidates across the country.”

    It’s so good to see the Irish language is being de-politicised. It would be terrible to see it become a sectarian gimmick associated with one political viewpoint.

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  8. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    Which sect? An Irish political party placing emphasis on its candidates knowing Irish is hardly a sectarian gimmick. If they insisted that they be the only party to speak Irish, that would be sectarian. If you want to break a sectarian mold, learn Irish yourself.

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  9. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    Kev
    In NI almost all Irish speakers are Catholic in no small part due to the Republican Movement’s (continuing) hijacking of the language to use as one of their weapons. I’m afraid it is a sectarian gimmick, and SF have made it so.

    I have a genuine interest in the language (it’s fascinating), but have been put off from attending a course by the pretentious politicos that “own” the language in Belfast.

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  10. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    Hope you don’t mind if I do a bit of twisting to make a point?

    In ‘la norf’ almost all Loyal Order and loyalist band’s men are Protestant. They have for donkey’s years commemorated WWI, while Caflicks tend not to. That is in no small part due to the Loyal Orders’ (continuing) hijacking of the legacy of the Somme to use as one of their weapons. I’m afraid it is a sectarian gimmick, and the Loyal Orders have made it so.

    It’s a bit like the DUP members who complain about GAA premises and pitches being used by republicans in commemorations, while belonging to organisations who commemorate the UVF on our streets.

    The Irish language is a sectarian issue, because unionist political parties are blocking it at Assembly level. Why? You tell me!

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  11. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Quite so, Kevsterino.

    Indeed I am quite sure that Toastedpuffin’s local Sinn Féin representative would be only too happy to assist him in finding a suitable tutor.

    What’s more, if only the Unionist parties in the Assembly would cease their obstruction, SF would wish to see Irish language classes availble to all throughout the North. It is the opposition to this, although couched in terms of economic unfeasibility, that is based in sectarianism.

    In any case, the Rev. David Latimer with his cúpla fócal has demonstrated that it is possible for a non-Republican to utter a few words as Gaeilge without immediately keeling over in horrific death spasms.

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  12. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    Toasted, if you’re letting republicans keep you from learning something which you find fascinating, would you not find it liberating to go ahead and learn it in defiance of them and their motivations? Think about it, sing “The Sash” as Gaeilge and freak them out!

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  13. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    This might seem naive, bit is ‘Faugh A Ballagh’ Irish (Gaeilge) or not?
    If it is, then loyalists seem to have no problem with the language per se. And neither does the Army.
    If it is not, what language is it?

    I’m aware that the Ultach Trust tries to promote Irish among people of a unionist background and to the military garrison in NI.

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  14. Trapattoni (profile) says:

    It’s not any language it’s a corruption of Fág an Bealach, clear the way.

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  15. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    Kev

    I don’t know about you but while there are a number of languages I’d like to learn, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The thought of spending time with a load of pretentious Republicans trying to prove just how damn Irish they really are every single week doesn’t do my motivation any good whatsoever.

    I’d like to see more people genuinely concerned about the irish language to come out and say to SF, hold on, this language doesn’t belong to you, it’s for everyone. The Republican stranglehold on the language isn’t good for the language, sure;y that’s obvious?

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  16. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    Toasted, as for how much it is worth for you to learn Irish, that is your personal decision. As for calling out people who are genuinely concerned for the Irish language to rebuke Sinn Fein for their use of the language, I don’t see how that would be anything but politicising the language. Isn’t that what you are opposed to?

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  17. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    Kev

    Rebuking SF for equating Irish Republicanism with the Irish language to the point where you can’t stand for election in the SF without being an Irish speaker is “politicising the language”???? You’ll need to expalin that one.

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  18. Frustrated Democrat (profile) says:

    Seems the elephant in the room has yet to be acknowledged and until it is progress will be limited.

    Until SF are prepared to accept publicly what they do privately that their core policy of a United Ireland is, even at the most optimistic viewpoint, a generation away they stymie their ability to work for the good of Northern Ireland.

    Imagine if GA or MMG stood up and said a UI is still our ultimate goal but we recognise it is not going to happen for at least a generation and in the meantime we will put all our efforts into making Northern Ireland a better place for everone.

    That would be their true act of acceptance and reconciliation with their pro union neighbours and who knows it might even speed up progress towards their objective.

    I can only hope they can understand that their members and supporters are only part of the audience that listens to them, there are many others.

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  19. carl marks (profile) says:

    Toastedpuffin
    i know several fluent irish speakers quite a few are prods and are also unionists, of the catholics who hold gold very few are shinners.
    i think the problem here is not SF supporting the language but more to do with your perceptions of it.

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  20. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    CM

    My point is SF are not supporting the language, they’re making it their bitch.

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  21. carl marks (profile) says:

    Toastedpuffin
    Your point is frankly silly. The Irish language was opposed and suppressed by unionism long before SF brought it up BBCNI and UTV both had defacto bans on it until well into the 1970,s the old Stormont government refused to permit it to be used in any official capacity at all, indeed the ability to speak or read Irish was regarded as a sign of treason by the powers that be long before GA or MMG were out of nappies.
    So in short Irish like the GAA have been hated by unionism (with a few honourable exceptions) since the formation of the statelet so blaming it on the shiners is just another example of unionists trying to dress up there hatred of all things Irish in respectable clothing.

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  22. Rory Carr (profile) says:

    Imagine if GA or MMG stood up and said a UI is still our ultimate goal but we recognise it is not going to happen for at least a generation and in the meantime we will put all our efforts into making Northern Ireland a better place for everone.

    But Sinn Féin would merely have to counter, as indeed must any political party, with the observation that they already put all their efforts into making Northern Ireland a better place for everyone, which is why they are so electorally successful. They then can go on to add that it will be an even much, much better place for everyone when reunification with the other 26 counties on this island takes place.

    However if, Frustrated Democrat, you do sincerely believe that the thrust of your argument is a really, really good idea might you not start by leading from example and urge Peter Robinson and Tom Elliot say, to recognise that Irish reunification is inevitable, probably within a generation, and if unionists could begin to get used to this inevitability it would help create greater harmony in the meantime and ease the way to a peaceful regime change?

    Ne c’est pas?

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  23. BluesJazz (profile) black spot says:

    Rory Carr
    I accept what you say is inevitable, though probably not within a generation. But, as from what I’ve read, you live quite agreeably apparently, in another part of the United Kingdom. As Ireland -’Republic of..’ has never been seen as a foreign nation by HMG, then why not just accept that the British Isles (or ‘these Islands’ to be pc) is just a common landscape.
    Upon which people can be Scots, Irish, Welsh, English, Cockney, Yorkshire, Geordie, Scouse… whatever, because that’s the reality. In sovereign terms we’re all IMF/Euro pawns. I think you know this.

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  24. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Tap & Blues,

    Tap : “…It’s not any language it’s a corruption of Fág an Bealach, clear the way….”

    This charge cry has been in use by the 1690 exile soldiers of The Irish Brigades in the Continental Armies post the defeat of Limerick and it was the last sound many an unfortunate soldier in English uniform heard.

    Given that the cry is that old, it is also probable that even Brian troops were using it against the Danes and that it has even older vintage. There it is not so much a corruption of the present standardized spelling as an old variant of the spelling.

    There was no shortage of Irish speaking soldiers in Washington’s army or in Lincons either. Also in the Confederated had some ‘gentry’ Gaelic speakers in their officer core and the New Orleans’ Water Rats’ Confederate Infantry spoke Gaelic and a gaelic/english mix. The US had plenty of skilled in the use of Irish yet it’s principle civil war battlefield monuments have the ‘Faugh an Beallacht’ version.

    ‘Beal’ is a mouth in human or geological terms…. Mick Collins was shot at .Beal Na Blath, not the .mouth of flowers as often romantically transcribed but ‘The Mouth Of The Gorge’
    ‘Bealach’ is a opening, pass, inlet or pathway/ track without fences and hence an opening or parting of anything,

    ‘Faugh’ is a little more problematic ‘Fagha’ means Javelin. Accordingly ‘Faghabealacht’ some of the old story tellers held was Javelin way’ a warning cry of to the friendly troops engaged or in the flight path of the javelin shower to disengage and ‘hit the deck’ before the spears started flying.

    At the Battle Of Knocknanoss West of Mallow towards Kanturk the Antrim McDonnell’s were armed with pistols, javelins and claymores ( two hand haft large swords ) They began their charge by running within pistol range, stopping, discharging, then tucking the pistol in their belt running to within javelin range, stopping and discharging before running forward again to throwing range at which point they then drew their discharged pistol caught it by the butt and flung this four pound lump of wood and metal at their opponents heads before finally drawing their claymors and closing with the enemy man to man.

    ‘Faghabealacht’ may well as claimed be a cry for ‘ clear the javelin path’ equally as ‘clear the way’ in later common usage when widspread use of ‘long arm’ Firearms had made this form of charge redundant.

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  25. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Rory : “…Indeed I am quite sure that Toastedpuffin’s local Sinn Féin representative would be only too happy to assist him in finding a suitable tutor…..”

    Here is one very good source and what is more it is all for free and will have all nationalities. Following on River dance it is very poplar in the Far East and I have met Japenees and Chinees speakers. No great novelty anymore.

    Sorry I have been too busy to check it out,( and I will not be for other reasons ) I am merely passing on the notice as send to me.

    The Philo-Celtic Society’s new semester of free, online Irish Language courses is beginning now at

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/philo-celticsociety/  .  

    To join, go there and click on ‘’Join This Group’’.  You’ll then automatically get a full course listing by email with links to the free courses.

    I got a reminder to day of the course starting again with a request to alert friends or interested parties. I have already send out ten or a dozen notifications since this afternoon. I have been informed that it is very accessable, easy to use course and people can just use it to aquire the ‘cupla focal’ ( couple of words) right through to conversational Irish.

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  26. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Toasted : In the early seventies in one of my first trips to Derry while in a shop there inside the walls I said something to one of the people with me in ‘quite’ Irish and to my surprise the shop attendant answered also in a low voice.

    I immediately voiced my concern for her as it was after internment and things were polarized. She told me that she was a Presbyterian and a Unionist as well and I was the one ‘at risk’ if anyone was. Some of her family had spoken conversational Irish as a second language since the Celtic Revival but I never got a chance to follow it up.

    No great surprise for me however, Ernest Blythe (Irish: Earnán de Blaghd; 13 April 1889 – 23 February 1975) was from Lisburn, he was Presbyterian, his politics were right wing, even to the right of Turgan but he also loved the Irish language and culture. He played a central part in the Revival of Irish Language theater. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Blythe

    Aodh De Blacam was another interesting character but then again there were hundreds of good true patriotic Protestants leaders, Local and National involved in the 1912…. 1932 period and thousands of ‘rank and file’. I hope that there will be a special effort made to make them and their values center stage again in the 1916/ 22 Anniversary commemorations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant Irish_nationalists

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  27. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Toasted : Sorry problem with the ‘Hot Link’ if it do not work again please google, it is worthwhile.

    Aodh De Blacam was another interesting character but then again there were hundreds of good true patriotic Protestants leaders, Local and National involved in the 1912…. 1932 period and thousands of ‘rank and file’. I hope that there will be a special effort made to make them and their values center stage again in the 1916/ 22 Anniversary commemorations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant/Irish/nationalists

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  28. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Toasted : one last try !

    If it is not hot just copy and paste into google search.

    Protestant Irish nationalists – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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  29. Frustrated Democrat (profile) says:

    Rory Carr

    There are two points to your argument.

    1. SF are trying to make Northern Ireland a better place – that is simply not true as they have as yet to even recognise the existence of Northern Ireland either in the written or spoken word. They do not subscribe to a truly united Northern Ireland (or even North of Ireland) they want to maintain ‘tribal’ differences, as do the DUP, as it suits their cause. Without division their continued success is called into question as local politics would start to morph into the traditional left and right not Orange and Green.

    2. Recognise that Irish reunification is inevitable – there is NO evidence to support this argument and there is evidence to the contrary. I do not therefore accept that a United Ireland is inevitable in fact I think it is probably unlikely, especially if SF do not change their position to one of acceptance of where we are and then truly try to build a single community.

    The way forward regardless of whether people favour the UK or a UI is to repair the economy and divided society within Northern Ireland first, only then can a rational debate be held. At the moment there are £10 billion reasons per annum as to why the UK is the only feasible solution, when that reaches a more acceptable level we will be able to consider other options. That is unless you believe that GB or someone else should subsidise to your proposed new UI as it would not be able to be self sustaining for a very long time.

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  30. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    CM

    You’re getting into chicken and egg territory, seeing as Irish Republicanism’s malignant influence predates the current crop of great leaders, and Irish had been conscripted into the cause long before they drew breath. I’d be interested in more info regarding the BBC ban on Irish.

    In any case, this is all somewhat before my time and can only accurately comment on my own experiences of Irish which were almost universally associated with violent Republicanism which was happy to use it as a weapon in its own right. Regardless of whether you accept it or not, Irish continues to be seen as a weapon of Republicanism in my community, and SF’s latest enforcement will only emphasise that politicisation. That surely isn’t a good thing?

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  31. Toastedpuffin (profile) says:

    Musterview

    I realise that there were and continue to be Protestant & Unionist irish speakers, but do you realise that 94% of people claiming some knowledge of irish are Catholic? Do you not realise the continuing harm Republicans are doing to the language?

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  32. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Toasted : “…Do you not realize the continuing harm Republicans are doing to the language?….”

    I have spend a considerable period of my life sitting around tables in committees. I went into those meetings the great majority of times to join sit down and reach agreement with all, of if not possible, most there there to achieve a common purpose.

    As with others who have such experience, we all know that there is a certain type of person who if they were left alone with a reposing body in a funeral parlor they would try to have an argument with the corpse.

    Albert Reynols spin doctor, ‘Dixie’ wrote a book about his experiences called ‘one more spin of the merry go round’ and it is a very instructive read on ‘insider politics’ in the Southern State. It was a Coalition Government, as ‘Dixie’ said of the Labor leader ” Dick Spring was always touchy about something and it not he had Finlay there to be touchy for him”!

    It seems to me that some Unionists will always find something to be ‘touchy’ about. Like ‘Alias’ and myself fighting the ‘ Israeli dispossession, exile and genocide of Palestinian peoples’ by proxy on every post here, as himself and his right wing clique are determined not to allow me to act as a ‘normal poster’ here in slugger without constant disrupting and sniping.

    In fact there is a parallel between the treatment of Sinn Fein in the Northern Assemble and my own experience in the response from some quarters here on slugger, who are not content to just oppose my posts per se, and ‘argue the toss’ but who are also ready to jump in a ‘queer the pitch’ if there is any sign of dialogue or a meeting of minds emerging.

    Just as with Alias and the unjustifiable Israeli Occupation,Oppression and Resource exploitation of the Palestinian Peoples constituting the ‘elephant in the room’ in all our exchanges, there is not alone an ‘elephant in the room’ regarding the Unionist /Republican exchanges, there is a whole bloody herd of them.

    When Gerry stood up there last night and like the current Palestinian Peoples appalling treatment at the hands of the Israeli Occupation Forces, catalogued The Maidstone Prison Ship, Armagh Women Prison, The Cages of Long Kesh etc, the shame before the watching populace on these Islands was for their Captors to bear ( if they had the self awareness to do so and were not in denial) and not the former Political Prisoners.

    This Political Oppression of the minority who were part of a majority on this Island and as in the case of the Two Counties, hijacked into the Orange Statelet by brute force, the oppression was and will be a reflection on all who refused to democratically share power to the end of time.

    Instead the Local Orange Power with the help of the British Establishment turned the Four Counties that had an Orange Majority and the two additional Counties who voted to join with the other 26, but were annexed by the Orange State before all Six were turned into one vast coercive, oppressive, democracy negating, ‘open prison’ and ‘heliot society’ for Nationalists as the only way of preserving ‘Orange Rule’ undemocratically for almost another half century before a new Educated Nationalist generation said enough was enough and fought back in the Battle Of The Bogside instigating what was only the latest episode in eight century British Imperial war against the Nationalist Irish People over that part of Ireland that the British still occupy.

    With respect ‘Toasted’ this is not about how ‘Unionists feel about the Irish Language’ it is about their own legacy issues of misrule that they will not face up to and probably never will no more than those Old German Army Second WW Regiment Associations in their Annual celebrations faced up to their actions despite the public attitude and stated policies of the Modern Germany to that historical period period.

    ‘Toasted’ I have personally been involved in a combined cross community cultural project involving Gaelic, Ulster Scots and English Languages for more than a few years now. It do not involve championing any one at the expense of the other, rather it involves taking the heritage they all contributed to and making that heritage better known and appreciated cross community. It also involves taking this unique mix and the culture it gave rise to in a particular area and elevating this to a rightful and known part of Irish National heritage and indeed to the Known Literary corpus of our neighboring Island also.

    I am not doing this as ‘As an infiltrating Provo’ etc I am there as an artist in my own right with something to contribute that is valued by all. I am there for the same reason that I was welcome to the home and company of the late Davie Hammond as, I was to the late James Simmons right through ‘The Troubles’ even though both and the their many cultural friends I shared evenings and my culture with, were protestants and Unionists.

    In fact my last such trip to Mid Ulster some weeks back was in connection with the cultural project referred to. We a lovely evening in mixes company. We also had a nice few hours of a session the following morning, a few calls were made, people came and the session took off with an exchange of tunes from both ends of the country and great playing. Religion or politics did not come into it.

    ‘Toasted’ when you and others of like ilk realize that ‘ The Good Old Days’ of the Orange State are gone for ever and that for most on this Island there was noting ‘good’ about them, then you may start looking at what the future holds. After Bloody Sunday Hume said that nothing less than a United Ireland would satisfy the Nationalists coereses and compelled into remaining under British Occupation.

    This is still the situation. The choice for my generation was simple in the late eighties, early nineties, fight on and see another generation undergo the trauma of our own or now that we had brought about the unstoppable upward rise of Sinn Fein and onward momentum to a United Ireland, could we risk all with involvement in politics only.

    The majority consensus was that we could ! A long way from a prison ship in the harbor to the podium in that fine vast arena last night. I was not there, no need, we have won as anyone looking at that conference could see and I have more than a few things deferred from other periods of my life when I was needed in the Movement that I am now undertaking.

    Time is now the only unknown variable on the journey towards achieving our goals as tactically and strategically worked out in the Maidstone, Armagh Women’s Prison, The Kesh cages etc, as well as around conference tables and crowded meeting rooms.

    ‘Toasted’ with respect is the championing of the Gaelic language by Republicans the main issue here for you and people like you ?

    As with the Undemocratic Majority Rulers in South Africa that became a minority in the Greater South Africa when true democracy was established, you can withdraw form public life and let the wave of history wash you up on some irrelevant beach or you can be an active part of the new politics on this Island and come surf that wave of history with us!

    Yes you have legacy issues and they are over three thousand people dead but fifty years ago a devastated Europe with far worse legacy issues had to rebuild from the very rubble of war. Individuals, families, communities and societies have two simple choices in their ‘lifeview’ they can look to their shared and unifying interests or they can like Turgon, look continually to the past and what divides.

    Irish is as good a place as any other to start : what matters here to you, a language that is the Culture Carrier of the oldest living Civilization of Europe after Greece and Rome and the rich heritage of over two millennia encapsulated in it, with an intrinsic value in its own right or the fact that Republican Political Prisoners learned to speak it in Long Kesh ect and use it since as a badge of identity and well a means of communication and bonding ?

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  33. Munsterview (profile) black spot says:

    Alan : a bit delayed perhaps but never the less, first off my sincere personal thanks for your coverage of then Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, it could serve as a template as to how these things should be done!

    Your writing was plain, lucid and coherent. You abridging skills for the speeches were evident throughout, the salient points you concentrated on when aggregated did indeed convey a fine synopsis of the whole, a very rare talent indeed.

    In addition to the factual coverage, you also conveyed something of the color and atmosphere of the whole assembly there. I know that the new ‘press quality’ digital pictures and frame grabs enhance a current piece of blogging in ways that could be only imagined a few short years ago, but improperly used in the wrong interleaving, the new facilities can also lead to a right disjointed ‘dolly mixture’ where graphic input is a distraction rather than an enhancement.

    You got everything right and produced a report that it was a pleasure to watch visually with sufficient written detail to provide a worthwhile overview. Take a bow my son, you did well, in fact exceptionally well !

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  34. [...] Guardian have taken up before. Back in September 2011 after the appearance of Presbyterian minister Rev David Latimer at the Sinn Féin ard fheis, media commentator and Donegal resident Roy Greenslade questioned why The Times, the Daily [...]

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