Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Pat Magee and Jo Berry: Who are we Listening to?

Sat 1 February 2014, 8:56am

12227707956_c8fed2bfa9_bI was already inside the doors of the Skainos Centre in East Belfast before it was charged by protesters. They hurled missiles and fireworks and banged on the doors and windows. Four police officers were hurt keeping the crowd at bay.

As is well known by now, the protesters objected to an event called “Listening to your Enemies,” at which Brighton bomber Patrick Magee and Jo Berry, the daughter of a victim of the blast, Sir Anthony Berry MP, told their stories.

The event was part of the second annual 4 Corners Festival, an initiative organised by a group of Christians with the tagline “Bringing Belfast Together.” One of the aims of the Festival is to encourage people to cross not only the city’s geographical boundaries (which often keep our so-called “two communities” segregated), but also their mental boundaries.

For the organisers of the Festival, that means listening to what someone you disagree with has to say.

So the irony of what unfolded on the lower Newtownards Road has not been lost on me. The protesters clearly did not want Pat Magee in “their” part of the city, nor did they want to listen to him. And those of us who were inside the sanctuary of the East Belfast Mission Methodist Church, which is part of the Skainos Centre, were in a place where we could not listen to the protesters.

There was a lack of listening on all sides.

But as Jo Berry said on the night, to listen to each other you need safe spaces. Most news reports have focused on the dramatic action outside the building – obviously not a safe space. A few blogs have provided more detail about what actually happened inside. (See Rev Steve Stockman and Dave Magee’s accounts.) These blogs focus mainly on what Berry and Magee had to say, although mentioning some of the contributions from the audience. They show that at least for some of those inside the church, it was a safe space for them to speak – and be heard.

12227471014_f2642c6718_b

Rev Lesley Carroll Holding a photo of Catholic milkman Patrick Brady murdered in 1984 by Michael Stone, allegedly in retaliation for the Brighton Bombing. His widow was in the audience and spoke movingly.

For me, the most compelling evidence for that came not from the testimonies of Berry or Magee, but from the first woman to speak from the floor. She is the widow of milkman Patrick Brady, who she described as murdered in retaliation for the Brighton bomb.

She had brought a framed photograph of her husband with her. And she told her story of her husband’s life. She included details of how and why she believed he was killed, his personality, his relationship with their children, his volunteer work, and his fondness for Dr Who. She spoke of how their children continued his legacy of volunteer work in the community, and how they were committed to building a better future.

Rev Lesley Carroll, who was chairing the event, held the photograph of Mr Brady at the front of the sanctuary. As another member of the audience later said: “you have honoured your husband tonight.”

This testimony was of course moving in and of itself. But it also illustrates how important it is to create opportunities for these types of conversation. It’s not just so Pat Magee can justify himself, as many critics have claimed over the airwaves in the last few days. It’s so someone like Mrs Brady can look Mr Magee in the eye and tell him about a life cut short. It’s so all those present can listen and hear that story. It’s so her pain and her husband’s life can be acknowledged.

This point about recognising and acknowledging the suffering of victims, as well as providing public platforms for their loved one’s lives to be remembered, should not be lost as Northern Ireland stumbles towards the future. That other victims also braved the protesters to attend the event – and have their say – illustrates that we must provide these opportunities for people.

There have been some comments on an earlier post on this blog that Berry is the “right” kind of victim, the kind that is liked by the so-called “conflict resolutionists.” As a professional academic who is probably lumped in with the “conflict resolutionists,” I don’t want to promote some victims and not others.

But I do think victims should have a choice about how the past, their loved ones, and their own suffering, is remembered. Berry, Mrs Brady, and others made a choice on Thursday night and I am glad they had had that opportunity.

Other victims will make different choices and it’s not right for us to limit their choices. One of the strengths of the Eames-Bradley report was that it provided a range of options for victims for how they personally could choose to seek truth about what happened to their loved ones. Such mechanisms will never achieve perfect truth or justice, but they move us in that direction and serve as forms of recognition and public acknowledgement.

As academic, I strive to base my own conclusions on such matters on actual empirical data, not my own whims. Comparative research from around the world confirms that societies that lack strong mechanisms for dealing with the past just do not transition as well to peaceful futures.

Speaking recently at an event at the Institute for Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s, Prof John Paul Lederach of the University of Notre Dame shared some of that data from the Kroc Institute’s “Peace Accords Matrix.”

The researchers there have analysed 34 recent peace agreements, examining their specific provisions and then evaluating how those provisions have been implemented over the last ten years. Lederach said there are two main lessons from this project:

  1. Agreements with more robust engagement and implementation provisions on the past correlate with a better quality and sustainability of peace. Those with weak provisions on the past had fewer indicators of peaceful transformation.
  2. Almost all provisions on the past took far longer than initially expected or stipulated. So while it’s naïve to think societies can just “move on” without dealing with the past, it is wiser to think in decades, if not generations, when trying to build a basis for the future.

The events outside the Skainos Centre may lead some to conclude that more efforts to deal with the past, especially those that involving listening to and trying to understand “your enemies,” are misguided. The events inside tell a different story.

They remind us it is not easy. They remind us it will take a long time. They remind us that too many people don’t yet have a choice about how the past is remembered.

Who are we listening to? Unfortunately, a select few – usually people we already agree with. And that’s a problem for all of us.

Photos by Brian O’Neill see more photos from the event here…

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Comments (54)

  1. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “it is wiser to think in decades, if not generations, when trying to build a basis for the future.”

    Yea –the victims and perpetrators are all dead and thus embarrassing accountability has been avoided ?

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  2. Turgon (profile) says:

    Gladys
    One of the many weaknesses of Eames Bradley was that its attempts to get prosecutions were limited to five years and set up with the presumption that such attempts would fail. Thereafter it had a clear indication of a likely amnesty

    That position (in favour of an amnesty) is the exact opposite of the position of most victims of all sides. It was again rejected when Larkin floated it recently and Haass had the good sense not to go there.

    Most victims appear to want justice via due process. In that regard it is worth noting that the Scottish police have recently named the likely murderer if a school child in 1957. Although the likely murderer is dead this naming by the police seems in line with what the family wants.

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  3. Michael (profile) says:

    Barnshee

    A crazy comment. Look at the repercussions from Vietnam, Korea, World War II, even the decade of commemorations we are in and that are contested.

    It’s clear that when a society has been traumatised that the memory lives long, even long after the direct protagonists have gone.

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  4. Turgon (profile) says:

    Michael
    Excellent point though I think Barnshee was pointing to issues regarding getting prosecutions. Worth noting that war crimes from the Second World War are still being prosecuted and the last Labour government changed the law to allow prosecutions in the UK for war crimes committed in other countries during the Second World War

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  5. DC (profile) says:

    When do the Americans sit down with the Boston Bomber?

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  6. carl marks (profile) says:

    Remind me again boys,
    How long did it take for unionist politicians to sit down with loyalist killers?
    And are they not demanding the rights of bands glorifying those killers to walk past the places where they carried out there foul deeds, and don’t you (turgon, DC) support these “rights”
    DC you in particular are the supporter of the PUP are they not led by a double murderer?
    Again Double Standards boys.

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  7. DC (profile) says:

    Hi Carl

    That comment above was meant in the context of:

    ‘Comparative research from around the world confirms that societies that lack strong mechanisms for dealing with the past just do not transition as well to peaceful futures.’

    Let me just correct you a bit, Billy Hutchinson didn’t attempt mass murder such as Magee he was an accomplice to a double murder as he drove the car, Hutchinson 19 at the time, Magee 33 when he did mass murder.

    In the eyes of American justice because I know how much Republicans just love America and Boston in particular, I would say Magee was a cert for execution.

    The FBI for individuals defines mass murder as murdering four or more persons during an event with no cooling-off period between the murders. A mass murder typically occurs in one location where one or more people kill several others.

    Now politically and personally am I in favour of the death penalty – no.

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  8. carl marks (profile) says:

    And since none of you have mentioned the rioting, sectarian graffiti, or the injured policemen, I’m sure that is an oversight and is in no way an attempt to avoid the fact that as usual loyalists acted like animals.
    Although it is hard to see two such finely tuned moral compasses such as your good selves missing such obvious law breaking.
    So now it’s been pointed out to you I’m sure that you are eager to condemn the people who attacked the Centre with no buts or ifs?

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  9. Gladys,
    I will TRY and be concise. And generate more light than heat.
    There are effectively three parties to all this.
    Victims.
    Ex Combatants
    Academis and broader Conflict Resolution folks.

    It would be far too cynical to suggest that it is all insincere.
    It would be far too naive to think it is all insincere.
    There are victims, ex combatants and academics who are sincere.
    There are others who are total spoofers.
    There seems to be no “gate-keepers” who can distinguish.

    A second point is the strict Demarcation.
    People are either contributors ….telling their story …but once the stories-testimonies are handed over…to the Academics for further research….papers, lectures, seminars in Georgetown …the “ownership” is lost forever.
    Thats at the heart of my problem.
    Very sincere people living operating alongside complete spoofers and the genuine people are far too naive.to distinguish.

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  10. carl marks (profile) says:

    so that’s cleared up then Billy only drove the car, didn’t actually pull the trigger, well that’s ok then I suppose it what turgon would call guilt by proximity, not really guilty at all then! LOL
    Think that the hole is deep enough DC you can stop digging now.

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  11. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC
    Now politically and personally am I in favour of the death penalty – no.

    Does that include Billy ?

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  12. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    cm,

    I don’t mind that you don’t like Turgon’s views. That’s good. Tackle them head on. The problem is every time he raises his views on anything you retreat to whataboutery.

    As you know, I’ve red carded you several times in the past for exactly such behaviour. So please, do try harder? I don’t want to lose you or Turgon because of a refusal to engage at the pinch point of an important argument.

    If you cannot bring yourself to address what he actually says rather repeatedly coming back to who politically Turgon is then, I am sad to say, you know where the door is.

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  13. DC (profile) says:

    Billy lived in different times and experienced different things than myself and perhaps if I had that background and lived in those times, which i didn’t, my actual answer to the above would be different, personally.

    Politically, my objection to the death penalty is based on the inability of the state to get it right every time and if I knew the state could get it right every time and was perfect then I would be in favour of it. But it isn’t a perfect system the legal system, far from it.

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  14. carl marks (profile) says:

    Mick do I not have the right to point out the contradictions between what people say and what they do,
    Surely when someone condemns another person for actions but supports similar actions from their own side then am I not allowed to ask questions.
    Magee and Berry are trying to find a way of dealing with the past, it may not be perfect but it’s an attempt.
    If Turgon is of such a sensitive nature that he cannot bear to be contradicted then I will leave not engage with him anymore.
    And Mick feel free to card away, slugger is not the forum for open debate it once was, some unionist posters are allowed away with the most vile sectarian man playing (see SOS) while nationalists are not allowed to challenge open hypocrisy.

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  15. DC (profile) says:

    Carl – I think that was a nice way of telling you that you talk a lot of inaccurate shit on here which actually isn’t engaging but perhaps is more about pestering people and in doing so you come with a high nuisance factor.

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  16. SK (profile) says:

    “When do the Americans sit down with the Boston Bomber?”

    “Let me just correct you a bit, Billy Hutchinson didn’t attempt mass murder such as Magee he was an accomplice to a double murder as he drove the car,”

    ____

    Is this the level we’re at? How many people, then, must a terrorist murder before speaking to him is deemed unacceptable?

    Billy Hutchinson (murderer) good; Pat Magee (murderer) bad. Such intellectual bankruptcy must have David Ervine spinning in his grave.

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  17. DC (profile) says:

    @SK

    We are not at any level other than the definition of mass murder and in the eyes of American justice with that definition being met execution being carried out. That’s all I was saying.

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  18. SK (profile) says:

    And speaking of “inaccurate shit”, DC:

    Your pal Billy Hutchinson was convicted of Murder, not accessory to murder, so you can nip that “he was only an accomplice” nonsense in the bud immediately.

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  19. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC (profile)

    1 February 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Carl – I think that was a nice way of telling you that you talk a lot of inaccurate shit on here which actually isn’t engaging but perhaps is more about pestering people and in doing so you come with a high nuisance factor.

    Mick am I allowed to answer this piece of man playing nonsense or is DC a protected species as well?

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  20. DC (profile) says:

    You like Carl carry on being inaccurate still, as Billy Hutchinson is not my pal.

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  21. DC (profile) says:

    ‘Mick am I allowed to answer this piece of man playing nonsense or is DC a protected species as well?’

    Did Mick mention my name, no just Turgon is protected, so do what you have to do, say what you have to say.

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  22. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Another name check Carl? Still nursing that hurt it seems. Ah, bless.

    Listen contact Ms Ganiel, I’m sure she’d allow you to tell your story and then you too could perhaps “transition to a peaceful future”.

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  23. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC I would trawl your profile for the various bits of nonsense that you have come up with in the past but that in itself would depress me but try this one from memory.
    “The Union flag is the Flag of peace according to the good Friday agreement “ (care to point out where in the GFA).
    And of course one that could come straight from George Orwell,
    “Equality is Bigotry”
    There are many more and if you really can’t see that billy is a double murderer then I feel sorry for you!

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  24. carl marks (profile) says:

    SOS
    as i pointed out never a debate just swarmy abuse. thank you for saving me the trouble of checking you profile.
    I must say that you and DC make a lovely couple,

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  25. DC (profile) says:

    “Equality is Bigotry”

    You see this is the kind of stuff that gets you in bother – I said in relation to the flag position of neutrality i.e. no flags – that neutrality is bigotry because the union flag is not tolerated at all it is never flown despite there being a genuine reason for it to be flown.

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  26. carl marks (profile) says:

    I’m sorry but the meaning is the same and it is of course inaccurate shit.

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  27. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    So Carl not going for the Ganiel option then?

    What part of your regular conjuring of my nom de poste would I want to “debate”? After I’ve said how amusing I find it there’s nothing more to add.

    And do you really need to check my profile? I mean really? I bet you have it up on your desktop, perhaps surrounded by little hearts with daggers through them as befits a scorned bromancer.

    Now today you’ve focused on Turgon, using your default line of attack; interpret what is posted with your petty sectarian goggles firmly in place and then proceed to attack the poster on it.

    I suspect that Turgon bested you on some thread in the past and, like a true ageing inadequate, it still rankles.

    I’ve offered this advice before Carl but I do so again. For an old boy like you continually revisiting these grudges you’ll end up doing yourself a mischief.

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  28. carl marks (profile) says:

    SOS
    as usual you never fail to lower the tone.

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  29. SK (profile) says:

    SoS has never really been the same since his “mongloid” breakdown. Pity really, because he knows lots of lovely big words.

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  30. carl marks (profile) says:

    Gladys Ganiel,
    I’m sorry it would seem that unionists are using me to avoid talking about unionist violence and intolerance which was displayed the other night,
    This is par for the course for many posters here, it wasn’t that long ago that Mick was lamenting the shortage of unionist posters on this site and now we see why,
    What right thinking person would want to be associated with some of the people on here!

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  31. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Thank God for SK! Ok so he thinks that abusing people with disabilities is ok but at least he’s provided the cavalry riding to support poor Carl (not for the first time).

    Carl should grab the opportunity, a little friend online might salve his hurt. Something beautiful may be born.

    Thanks should also go to Carl himself. His big broad shoulders are here to divert any jeopardy away from the thugs in East Belfast who may have been dismayed by adverse commentary by “unionists”. (Although perhaps best to let the crucifixion complex bit slide)

    And of course Carl is an accomplished commentator on “unionist violence”. Indeed it seems to be his major preoccupation.

    Last year over the same few days, and also in East Belfast, there was a petrol bomb attack by some loyalist reprobate or other on an empty Alliance Party office and a PIRAnua attempt to murder a twelve-year old child and her retired police officer father as they prepared to set out on the school run.

    Guess dear reader which attack Carl chose to comment upon?

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  32. carl marks (profile) says:

    SOS

    I of course condemn all violence from whatever source and this sort of untruth is typical of you.
    If I was to check your profile and found any examples of unionist violence that you ignored would you be guilty of what you accuse me off (by the way very profile check is mine on your desktop surrounded with little hearts?)
    Now let’s hear your views on what happened at the meeting,
    anything to say on free speech or corner boys like wee willy and Jamie dictating to the rest of unionism,
    (by the way for the sake of accuracy it should be pointed out the PIRA (according to everybody but a few out of touch dinosaurs) is disbanded and maybe you missed the whole decade but please try to at least get your facts right, and try not to your hatred of all things Nationalist cloud your Judgement,
    While it might suit your own little worldview to lump all nationalists in one big bag of bogeymen alas it is simply not true

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  33. Submariner (profile) says:

    Let me just correct you a bit, Billy Hutchinson didn’t attempt mass murder such as Magee he was an accomplice to a double murder as he drove the car, Hutchinson 19 at the time, Magee 33 when he did mass murder.

    DC let me correct you. Billy Hutchinson is not an accomplice to anything, he is like Magee a convicted murderer. Both are unrepentant terrorists although i suppose Magee in meeting one of his victims is maybe trying to deal with some issues he has. Hutchinsons age has nothing to do with the fact that he is a murderer, being 19 at the time absolves him of nothing he is just as guilty as Magee. Your bringing it up seems like some sort of defence or mitigation of Hutchinsons cowardly actions,maybe you should consider writing for the protestant coalition.

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  34. Submariner (profile) says:

    I don’t mind that you don’t like Turgon’s views. That’s good. Tackle them head on. The problem is every time he raises his views on anything you retreat to whataboutery.

    Mick seriously?
    CM is absolutely right to point out Turgons rank hypocrisy. He is as far as i can gather a supporter or member of the TUV therefore DC pointing out Turgons refusal and ignoring of the TUV leaders actions in sharing platforms with unrepentant terrorist murderer Billy Hutchinson and the present leader of Woodvale UVF whilst condemning others is in no way whataboutery. It would seem that some posters on slugger are indeed a protected species.Your threat to black card DC stifles free speech.I think Turgon is big enough to fight his own battles.

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  35. DC (profile) says:

    There is no way a person is as experienced in life in general at 19 as a person would be say when 33, like Magee.

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  36. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC
    grow up, you have just excused the Shankill Bomber!

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  37. Submariner (profile) says:

    DC (profile) 1 February 2014 at 3:26 pm
    There is no way a person is as experienced in life in general at 19 as a person would be say when 33, like Magee.

    DC this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever on any level. Quit trying to excuse murder.

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  38. DC (profile) says:

    First of all I haven’t excused anyone and secondly were the Shankill bombers in their teens?

    You see carl, you mish mash stuff and comment inaccurately and some of the stuff is just so so wrong so wrong, I think you were even convinced Jamie Bryson was in the PUP or that BNP types were in the PUP – total nonsense, almost actionable stuff on here! And actually I am really surprised you haven’t seen black.

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  39. carl marks (profile) says:

    so whats the magic cut off age for murderers (bet it suits billy) Jamie is at least by his own words a supporter of the UVF (and a asshole) the BNP has links with the PUP and you sir are full of the same material as Jamie.

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  40. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Ok Carl I’ll indulge you on this occasion (but please don’t think it’s the start of anything; I find your rank bigotry only eclipsed by your arrogant lecturing sanctimony, both being the leitmotif of your ‘contributions’ to this site).

    So as for my “views on the meeting”: the Methodist church on the Newtownards Road can invite whomever it pleases to speak. If that includes an unrepentant murderer that too is a matter for the church.

    Whereas I understand why so many nationalists on this thread are rowing in to express outrage against those who found Magee’s presence intolerable, given that types such as Magee regularly top the poll when nationalists cast their votes, the violence used by some of those who opposed Magee’s visit was totally unacceptable and I condemn it.

    I am confident that the police will fully investigate the criminality on show, including the sectarian graffiti damage that preceded the meeting. The police have after all shown themselves adept at investigating, arresting and bringing to court those involved in street thuggery of late (several hundred arrests to date of those involved in violence surrounding the ‘flag protests’ for example).

    I take no lectures or “dictating” from “corner boys” of whatever hue; including the likes of “wee willy”, “Jamie” or indeed you.

    As for your views on the status of PIRA there is nothing that surprises me about them. The presence of PIRA ‘engineering’ knowhow, weaponry and modus operandi in recent nationalist terrorist attacks has no doubt passed you by.

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  41. carl marks (profile) says:

    Son of Strongbow (profile)

    1 February 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Ok Carl I’ll indulge you on this occasion (but please don’t think it’s the start of anything; I find your rank bigotry only eclipsed by your arrogant lecturing sanctimony, both being the leitmotif of your ‘contributions’ to this site).

    SK was right you do know a lot of big words but you are funny, ever thought of standup!

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  42. carl marks (profile) says:

    As for your views on the status of PIRA there is nothing that surprises me about them. The presence of PIRA ‘engineering’ knowhow, weaponry and modus operandi in recent nationalist terrorist attacks has no doubt passed you by.

    bring your evidence (oops dont mean to upset you by asking for facts) to the police right away, they seem to be unaware of all this.

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  43. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC and SOS

    now tell the truth when mick said he would black me you both got semi’s!

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  44. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Quelle surprise Carl! You asked for my views on the event and then come back with some random man playing?

    The police are in no doubts about the antecedents of PIRAnua’s arsenal and tactics. Perhaps they’re just being diplomatic about the history of the recently recovered AKMs and Semtex to save a certain political party’s blushes. (Although thinking about it a little more is that gather up even capable of embarrassment?)

    (PS, I think SK has run off and you on your lonesome. But don’t be scared I’m going to leave you alone.)

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  45. carl marks (profile) says:

    Bye now! dont make a mess!

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  46. DC (profile) says:

    Bye Carl, no rush back. See you next year.

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  47. drmisery (profile) says:

    Usual old shite then on Slugger. Don’t agree with Sos politics but I admire his ability to condemn violence. Unfortunately the aspiration to the fabled unionist higher moral ground demonstrated depresses indeed.

    Pat Magee was wrong what he did without question.
    I read Turgon and there is much I do not agree with but I get a sense he genuinely has a moral compass, but what I also get is the lack of moral strength from all assembled to recognise that the sectarian nature of new unionist or PUL political spewings is more damaging to the cause of true unionism or UKism as I like to think of it that than those immoral and lost new republicans. Violence is wrong, unionists do not have any right to pretend they have a moral high ground. They do not, have never, or currently have the potential to be in touch with modern Britishness as judged by their current push towards extreme right ring “moral” values. The PUL with any balls left N.I to form their opinions elsewhere, what we have left are self serving, backward looking , victorian dads who want those nasty little fenians to dare not question their perceived moral nobility or delineate their intense hypocrisy. I’ll just get to the back of the bus and drink from that other water fountain and dont worry I’ll not use the PUL only beach either. Sad, let’s move on, accept we are all sinners and try to make a better society.

    Mick, I don’t know you, but I have found your recent moderation eskew. I am independent but I can see cm’s point while accepting it was whiny

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  48. carl marks (profile) says:

    DC
    oh im not away was just saying bye bye to SOS,

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  49. drmisery (profile) says:

    So the Irish language is republican furthering an anti protestant agenda. I suppose I feel a bit of a traitor reading ian Fleming

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  50. carl marks (profile) says:

    try Julian May

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  51. drmisery (profile) says:

    I like ian Fleming

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  52. carl marks (profile) says:

    try him, sci-fi but very good.

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  53. Reader (profile) says:

    carl marks: try him, sci-fi but very good.
    ‘Him’?

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  54. gendjinn (profile) says:

    Ahh for jaysus sake, don’t try Julian May (admission, I not only own the Pliocene saga but have them autographed) if yer gonna be recommendin’ sci-fi it’s gotta be Banks & Stross down the line. Branch out from there to MacLeod, Morgan, Wolfe and Simmons. So much good stuff, such little time, skip May.

    Reader – :)

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