Was the Ballysillan meeting legal?

As Fair Deal first noted, then had taken up by the DUP and finally confirmed by the BBC the Antrim board did break GAA rules when it gave permission for a political rally to take place at Casement Park. But, as several of our readers have noted, what is the position in the City Council allowing the UDA sort out it’s problems at Ballysillan Leisure Centre? Even if a former taoiseach is currently urging government talks with the UDA.

  • Pete Baker

    “Even if a former taoiseach is currently urging government talks with the UDA”

    Yes well, Albert is showing that he hasn’t quite been keeping up with the situation if he believes that both the British and Irish Governments haven’t been talking to the UDA. But I suppose it meant the Daily Ireland filled a space on the page..

  • bertie

    I hope that there is some way of punishing those responsible for this decision.

  • Keith M

    “Albert is showing that he hasn’t quite been keeping up with the situation…”

    No change there then.It’s nice to see that “the last of the Gombeen man” still feels that somebody might be interested in what he has to say, even if it’s only the Daily Provo.

  • Garibaldy

    Keith,

    Last of the Gombeen men? I wish.

  • overhere

    Not many howls of protest from the unionist section on this then, quelle surprise!!

  • Mick Fealty

    overhere,

    Check out no 2.

  • bertie

    It hasn’t been up long and I’m howling!

  • fair_deal

    Was it legal? Probably not and shouldn’t have been held there.

  • Dualta

    This is a non-issue surely. Leisure centres across the north lease rooms for all sorts of community meetings and activities and this meeting was called by the UPRG to help deal with the Shoukri issue. Fair play to them.

    These public meetings are often as close to democratic engagement as most people in working class areas get. It’s good that the UPRG has offered the local people the change to come along and make themselves heard.

    Such meetings have taken place all over the place since before the cease-fires and they have played a part in bringing people along and giving them a role in the peace process.

    If there had been a show-of-strength or other such paramilitary display then there would be an issue.

  • Kenny

    Overhere

    Yes, funny that. Howls and howls from unionists about a rally commemorating something that happened 25 years ago.

    However, a meeting takes place ON COUNCIL PROPERTY involving more than 200 members of and/or supporters of an ILLEGAL Terrorist organisation and what happens -a deafening silence!!

    If this had been a “REAL IRA” rally, you wouldn’t be able to get to this post because it would be swamped with furious Unionists.

    However, as someone who grew up in Belfast at the height of the troubles, I’m accustomed to these double standards.

  • bertie

    It is an issue.

    Engagement with the working class does not need to mean public money/facilities being used to give the message that these thugs are legit.

    That is an insult to the working class who are all to often the victims of this scum.

  • John Maynard

    Good to see republicans objecting to the abuse of sporting facilities by the paramilitaries.

  • Dualta

    Actually just read this on the BBC article:

    [i]Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has said the meeting should not have taken place in council property.[/i]

    I can remember sitting in the Guildhall in Derry when SF held a public ‘consultation’ with it’s supporters over the Downing Street Declaration. It was a great event even if there was a bit of showcase about it.

    It’s a pity that they now don’t see how such events might help the UPRG bring the UDA out of conflict.

  • bertie

    Kenny

    Yo ho! KENNY!!! Over here!!!

    Sorry to deafen you with my silence!

    No good myself and fairdeal are clearly invisible. Or maybe we aren’t unionists.

  • Pete Baker

    It’s not a non-issue, Dualta, but it’s not the issue that overhere, and others, would seem to want it to be.

    What it appears to be is the latest government sanctioned attempt to show how open and accountable – to its community – the new ‘good’ UDA are.

    Given that government sanctioning of the meeting, criticising the venue would be missing the point.

  • John Maynard

    Kenny – there was a complaint from a unionist on this thread straight away, but it was drowned out by the urgency of your shouting that there hadn’t been a complaint from a unionist.

    What are you so desperate to convince yourself of here? That it’s different when us’uns do it and only them’uns do it anyway?

    Sad.

  • gg

    If it is illegal, it should not have been allowed. It’s important to stick to the rules.

  • Dualta

    It [i]is[/i] a non-issue for dear sake. As I pointed out, political parties have used council facilities before for public meetings. What on earth is the big deal here?

    For those who do not think that Frankie Gallagher and the other UPRG members should be supported in their project, they should come up with an alternative way to wind up the UDA. And ‘let the security forces at them’ is not a viable option.

    There are cultural issues to be dealth with here and it’s best to bring people along voluntarily.

  • bertie

    It is best not to indulge thugs. That is nit the viable option. I instead of taking to them (unless we are talking about interrogating them and charging them with offences, we should be talking to their victims and asking what they need in terms of protection for them and their kids.

  • overhere

    Sorry Bertie, have been away in a meeting, glad to hear some unionist objection. I just get rather annoyed at the seemingly double standards of some people. Good to see FD also objecting to the use of council property for this purpose.

  • Garibaldy

    Why would this meeting have been illegal? As I understand it, it was organised by the UPRG not the UDA. So it was a, formally at least, a political meeting.

    Whether city council premises should be used for this is another question. With two possible answers. They should be open for any use by the community where the law is not broken. Or they should be kept free of politics. Surely a policy rather than a legal issue.

  • bertie

    Overhere

    damn you!

    I was relishing rubbing it in even more but now that you’ve apologised and fulsomely too, you have spoilt my fun.

    Never mind I can still go “nah nah-nah nah nah-nah” to kenny! 😉

  • Fanny

    Mick, I’ve only just come to this thread and notice that a couple of your earlier posters refer to Albert Reynolds as a “gombeen man.”

    I seem to recall him winning a substantial amount in damages from a newspaper that used those very words. You might want to watch your ass on this one.

  • mickhall

    More whataboutary, when people do not have an argument they reach for the rule book, as my mum used to say, rules are to be broken or at the very least interpreted in the most liberal manner, stay clear of people who wish to throw the rule book at others.

    Whether it is a local community Hall or a football pitch, in the main it will have been paid for by locaL people, either through their taxes or donations. The fact is far to few of these venues are used by the wider local community so we do not want more restrictions on there use, indeed local town halls and there debating chambers should be opened up for a host of community groups. As they the magnificent GLC building was in the 1980s before that woman sold it off.

    People can huff and puff all they want and some of us may hate the fact, but the UDA is part of these communities and many of there members live within them, if anyone believes working class unionists are the UDA’s willing victims then they are in la la land. If working class communities did not give a certain amount of support to the UDA they, as with the IRA in the nationalist community would not last a week..

    In any case it is better the UDA meet in the open than out of the public light.

  • overhere

    Bertie LOL you nearly made me spill my tea laughing which caused a bit of curiosity with my workmates, English & Pakistani. Tried explaining but was all a bit “concorde” to them

  • bertie

    I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that explanation 😉

  • overhere

    It went something like “well there’s us ones and themmuns” no honestly it was not like that. One of the good things being outside the main arena is that over time you do get a perspective on things and events that cause outrage over to the people in NI are viewed differently.

    I think it might be something to do with getting older your views change (good thing) and life is less black & white.

    Over the years my views on almost all things have shifted. Somethings I stil believe in but for more subtle reasons.

    My work colleague whos parents are from Pakistan mostly agree on the Palistainian question. Yes the Palestinians should have their own state but I disagree with him on the current Lebanon issue, ( I know I have set myself up for a right rollocking here). I believe that Israel had no choice but to go after the solders captured by Hezbollah. We could talk about this for ages but I think Israel are right in this instance. That does not mean that I support Istael in everything it does.

    It sometimes seems that people in NI once they have nailed their colours ot the mast are unable to critize “their side” when something is wrong. I got roasted recently on this site for backing the Boers in South Africa and learning Afrikaans (my partner is South African)because I am an Irish Republican, how could I support the Boers. Listen up folks apartheid ended 10 years ago, if a section of a community is being oppressed then is it not up to everyone to say this is not right.

    Recently the ANC Government Minister of SA told those complaining about crime in SA to “stop whining or leave the country” imagine if a government minister over here said that. THe president of SA said car crime in London was worse than in Johanasburg ignoring the fact that over 2,000 people were murdered in johanasburg last year alone.

    sorry started rambling now so will shut up

  • mickhall

    Two IDF members are worth the lives of countless Israelis and 700 plus Lebanese, what a great humanitarian you are ‘overhere’. This could all have been settled by an exchange of prisoners. It would also have left Olmert free to get on with withdrawing from the West Bank as he promised his electorate earlier this year.

    But hey, then Bush and Blair could not prattle on about their crusade to save the people of the middle east from themselves [by killing them]

  • overhere

    Mick

    If only it was that simple, but do you seriously believei if Israel had said to Hezbollah ok here are the prisoners,hezbollah would have ridden off into the sunset. What would the next demand have been?

  • maura

    Ballysillan is a community centre, meaning it is a place for the community to come together for whatever purposes.
    Isn’t it better that the UPRG (?) and the residents got to talk to each other, and isn’t it better to jaw jaw than the other?
    I have no problem with this at all.

  • maura

    ‘Whether it is a local community Hall or a football pitch, in the main it will have been paid for by locaL people, either through their taxes or donations. The fact is far to few of these venues are used by the wider local community so we do not want more restrictions on there use, indeed local town halls and there debating chambers should be opened up for a host of community groups. As they the magnificent GLC building was in the 1980s before that woman sold it off.

    People can huff and puff all they want and some of us may hate the fact, but the UDA is part of these communities and many of there members live within them, if anyone believes working class unionists are the UDA’s willing victims then they are in la la land. If working class communities did not give a certain amount of support to the UDA they, as with the IRA in the nationalist community would not last a week.. ‘

    Mick I couldn’t agree more. The facts are: there are thousands of citizens with Nationalist areas who attend GAA matches and hunger strike commemorations. There are hundreds of people in Ballysillan who beieve it is essential to turn out to this meeting in the midst of what could turn out to be a serious feud.
    Damned if they do, damned if they don’t, it seems to me.

  • Realist

    “It is a leisure centre, keep it for the leisure.” Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan

    How about it’s a GAA Ground, keep it for GAA games?

    Paedar Whelan said he believed grounds such as Casement Park “belonged to the people” as much as they belonged to the GAA.

    Do Leisure Centres not belong to the community as much as the Council?

    It’s all very confusing.

  • na

    Fanny,

    Reynolds did win damages over a Sunday Times piece that refered to him as a Gombeen man.

    He got 1p plus costs.

    The costs would put Mick out of business but was the trial not more about him being called a fibber than a Gombeen?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Realist

    “How about it’s a GAA Ground, keep it for GAA games?”

    I agree, Casement should only be used for Gaelic games. However, the more salient point is this: Casement Park is private property and it is owned solely by the GAA. As long as it’s within the law, Casement is there to be used in any way that GAA members damn well please. What they damn well please is an internal matter for the GAA, and frankly isn’t anyone else’s business.

    “Paedar Whelan said he believed grounds such as Casement Park “belonged to the people” as much as they belonged to the GAA.”

    Then Peadar Whelan is wrong. Let’s see how far he’d get in a court of law with that line of argument.

    Fact is, the GAA – and ONLY the GAA – owns Casement Park. The GAA is an association of members. Therefore all GAA properties and capital assets belong to the membership of the GAA. If you are a member of the local club then you own a little piece of Casement and all the other grounds too – and are entitled to a democratic say in how they are used.

    If you’re not a member then you are no more entitled to be heard than a non-shareholder at a company AGM.

    (Yes, from time to time the GAA receives public money and tax breaks, but then so do start-up businesses – try arguing that the taxpayer is entitled to a cut from every business ever backed by Invest NI and see how far you get.)

    So the point is: if the GAA want to use their grounds for a hunger strike commemoration, that’s their business. If GAA members want to criticise the decision, then they are entitled to do so. If central council rule that the decision by Antrim County Board is against the rules of the association, then clearly it is an internal matter for the GAA.

    But as long as the event complies with the law of the land, it’s nobody else’s business.

    “Do Leisure Centres not belong to the community as much as the Council?”

    No. Leisure centres belong to Belfast City Council. The Council, and only the Council, is the legal proprietor. However, the building and maintenance of leisure centres is paid for by ratepayers, so the wider community clearly has a moral right to express opinions on how their money is spent and how the facilities they pay for are used.

    Now, I personally don’t have any problem with the meeting – we’ve seen a lot of loyalist feuds in the last ten years and they aren’t pretty, and hopefully events like this will allow the different factions to talk themselves down from this latest ledge.

    However, we aren’t comparing like with like. ALL the ratepayers of Belfast have a moral right to complain if Ballysillan leisure centre (or any other publically-owned leisure centre in the city, for that matter) is being used for purposes that may be intimidatory and indeed may be illegal.

    On the other hand, Casement Park is private property. As long as events in Casement Park are within the law – and what ever else it might be, the hunger strike commemoration IS within the law of the land – then that’s the business of the GAA membership, and no-one else.

  • harpo

    ‘what is the position in the City Council allowing the UDA sort out it’s problems at Ballysillan Leisure Centre?’

    Mick, and all others:

    Dualta has it right in his posts. This may have been on the subject of sorting out the UDA problems, but it was run by the UPRG.

    The last time I checked the UPRG is a legal entity, just as Provo Sinn Fein is. People may not like the associated armed wing involved, but that’s the way it it.

    So what’s the objection here? To legal political entities holding meetings on council property? If that’s so then why not complain about all political groups that do so? Why just the UPRG?

    If council rules allow any legal political group to use council facilities then no rule has been broken here. That’s different from the GAA situation where they actually have rules against allowing party politics on their premises. In the GAA’s case the rules have been determined to have been broken.

    I’d say this is all a case of ‘whatabout the UDA?’ coming from people who said ‘so what?’ to the GAA situation. If they have any consistency – and they don’t – their attitude here should be ‘so what?’ as well.

    On the other hand if the issue is the breaking of rules, then address the issue. Were any rules broken here?

    This is yet more nationalist tactics of yelling ‘look look’ at something else when they are under pressure regarding an issue.

    They aren’t actually interested in whether by yelling ‘look look’ they are adopting a consistent position with their position regarding the GAA, all they want is for people to look away from the GAA situation.

    To summarize, I’d just like to say that, compared to the GAA situation, this situation is different. An apple compared to an orange in fact.

  • harpo

    ‘However, a meeting takes place ON COUNCIL PROPERTY involving more than 200 members of and/or supporters of an ILLEGAL Terrorist organisation and what happens -a deafening silence!!’

    Kenny:

    Are you saying that members and supporters of an illegal terrorist organization can’t use council property?

    I just want to be clear here on what you mean.

  • circles

    harpo – thats a neat trick you have there, talking out both sides of your mouth (or is that two orifices?), and not even hinting at a redner for your blatant double standards.

    Was this a sectarian meeting I wonder? How much rates payers and other public funds have gone into this leisure centre? All your righteous arguments of previous have gone up in smoke – is that because, as you said yourself, this is an orange as opposed to a green apple. Would it be alright IYO then if the hunger strike commemoration was held in andytown leisure centre instead? They have a massive area out the back where a stage could be set up for speeches and plenty of room for the huge crowd.

    I personally have no real problem with this meeting in a leisure centre, and would be with maura and her argumentation. Rather try and sort out the internal feuding of this gang in a civilised manner than descending into needless bloodshed in yet another turf war (I wonder what they are actually loyal too when I look at the UVF).

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harpo

    “This is yet more nationalist tactics of yelling ‘look look’ at something else when they are under pressure regarding an issue.”

    Do you really believe this is a “nationalist” tactic? Are nationalists really the only ones who are guilty of such?

    It seems remarkable that on one hand we have a commemorative vigil being held on private property in an area where it will not arouse controversy on the streets (though it might in GAA committee rooms), marking something that happened a quarter of a century ago – and on the other hand we have the prospect of another round of paramilitary murder on the streets of north Belfast, with rival factions effectively taking over council facilities and gathering in their hundreds to send out messages of intimidation – and yet it’s the former that you consider to be THE crucial issue of the moment.

    But even more remarkable than this astounding piece of judgement is your sheer brass neck in then accusing SOMEONE ELSE of “yelling ‘look look’ at something else when they are under pressure regarding an issue.”

    You’ve got front, I’ll give you that!

    “Nationalist tactic” indeed!

  • harpo

    ‘harpo – thats a neat trick you have there, talking out both sides of your mouth (or is that two orifices?), and not even hinting at a redner for your blatant double standards.’

    circles:

    Please explain my supposed double standard.

  • harpo

    ‘Do you really believe this is a “nationalist” tactic? Are nationalists really the only ones who are guilty of such?’

    Billy:

    It is a nationalist tactic, and no, nationalists are not the only ones that use it. But in this case they did.

    ‘and yet it’s the former that you consider to be THE crucial issue of the moment.’

    Where did I say the former was THE crucial issue of the moment?

    ‘is your sheer brass neck in then accusing SOMEONE ELSE of “yelling ‘look look’ at something else when they are under pressure regarding an issue.” ‘

    But that is what they are doing.

  • harpo

    The issue here is about rules being broken.

    I don’t think any rule has been broken here, but if one has, can I be the first to call for the resignation of the Mayor of Belfast?

  • Realist

    “As long as events in Casement Park are within the law – and what ever else it might be, the hunger strike commemoration IS within the law of the land – then that’s the business of the GAA membership, and no-one else”

    Billy Pilgrim,

    You are, of course, absolutely correct.

    However, those of us who are not members of the GAA have a right to express their views on decisions made and actions taken by the GAA and it’s members, based on information placed in the public domain by the GAA.

    We also have the right to raise concerns about Lottery funding to the GAA, based on eligibility criteria for such funding.

  • Fanny

    na

    “Reynolds… got 1p plus costs.”

    1p, LOL

    “The costs would put Mick out of business but was the trial not more about him being called a fibber than a Gombeen?”

    Can’t remember now. I thought it was the gombeen issue. Not that I have any love for Reynolds, but I have for Slugger and I’d hate for Mick to be hurt by this.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Realist

    “However, those of us who are not members of the GAA have a right to express their views on decisions made and actions taken by the GAA and it’s members, based on information placed in the public domain by the GAA.”

    And your contribution no doubt has been duly noted. You are of course entitled to your opinion, but be honest: does this really affect you and your life in any way whatsoever?

    “We also have the right to raise concerns about Lottery funding to the GAA, based on eligibility criteria for such funding.”

    Yes, you have an inaliable right to criticise whomever you wish. I’m not aware of anyone having made such a complaint officially though, to the National Lottery. Are you? I’m not aware of the National Lottery themselves having censured the GAA. Are you?

    Do you think such a complaint would prosper in court? In my layman’s opinion, I doubt it. If your argument – which is a complaint based on legal responsibilities – hasn’t been tested in a court of law, and apparently no-one is interested in putting it to the test – then that itself is interesting.

    There are official avenues down which your argument could be pursued, many others have made similar arguments in the past, yet no-one has actually gone to the plate over the issue.

    And until that happens, the GAA is still entitled to simply respond that the GAA’s business is the GAA’s business.

  • circles

    OK harpo, maybe I jumped the gun in mentioning double standards, but I would ask you to please answer the question I put: Would it be alright IYO then if the hunger strike commemoration was held in andytown leisure centre instead?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harpo

    “It is a nationalist tactic, and no, nationalists are not the only ones that use it. But in this case they did.”

    What do you actually mean by “nationalist tactic”?

    What do you actually understand the function of adjectives to be? (I suspect that, for reasons of simple grammar, you are struggling with the implications of a phrase like “nationalist tactic”.)

    “Where did I say the former was THE crucial issue of the moment?”

    You suggested that references to the unfolding UDA balkanisation of north Belfast were merely smokescreens designed to detract from the issue of the hunger strike commemoration in Casement. The implication – and this is simply a logical extrapolation from what you said – was that the event at Casement was the more significant and pressing issue.

    That, to me, seems a remarkable value judgement. It’s unlikely that lives will be at risk at Casement Park – lives ARE at risk in north Belfast.

    Now stop playing funny buggers!

    “But that is what they are doing.”

    So the unfolding UDA feud in north Belfast isn’t worth mentioning in its own right?

    And even if this IS what some posters are doing, is this a reason to pretend there ISN’T a problem in north Belfast? Even if some nationalists are being mischievous, they’re still right.

    And even besides all this: it still doesn’t add up to a “nationalist tactic”.

  • harpo

    ‘OK harpo, maybe I jumped the gun in mentioning double standards, but I would ask you to please answer the question I put: Would it be alright IYO then if the hunger strike commemoration was held in andytown leisure centre instead?’

    circles:

    If no rules are broken then the answer would have to be ‘yes’.

    I don’t know what the rules for Belfast council facilities are though. They may have some rule about commemorations of terrorists not being allowed, but if there is no such rule, and any facility is open to all legal groups to carry out legal activities (however distasteful the message is to others) then I see no problem with it.

    These clowns are parading through the streets of part of Belfast aren’t they? Public facilities are being used in that case. This is no different.

    The issue with the GAA wasn’t ever about were they legally allowed to let these clowns hold their rally at GAA facilites, it was about their rules, and their underlying sectarianism.

    There is no underlying sectarianism when it comes to Belfast city council, and (I assume) no rules preventing groups from using council facilities if those groups are carrying out legal activity.

  • harpo

    ‘I hope that there is some way of punishing those responsible for this decision.’

    bertie:

    Does this apply even if their decision was within the rules?

    Why would you want people punished if they allowed a meeting by a legal group to be held, and it was within the rules for this to happen?

    Are we now at the point of the ‘I don’t like their message, and I don’t care if no rule has been broken, someone has to pay’?

  • Realist

    Billy Pilgrim,

    “but be honest: does this really affect you and your life in any way whatsoever?”

    Yes it does. I volunteer much time and effort into trying to persuade people that sport should be a vechile for bringing divided people together, not further dividing them.

    I have a particular interest in football and am actively involved in work to help stamp out sectarianism from the game.

    It does not help when sporting organisations are seen to be wanting to host divisive political commemoratoins of an extremely sensitive nature.

    “I’m not aware of anyone having made such a complaint officially though, to the National Lottery. Are you?”

    Such a complaint would not be made through the National Lottery in the first place, to the best of my knowledge.

    “I’m not aware of the National Lottery themselves having censured the GAA. Are you?”

    Perhaps they are misinformed and oblivious to the issues?

    “Do you think such a complaint would prosper in court?”

    I don’t know, but I’m quite sure that smarter men than me are asking themselves that question as we speak.

    “If your argument – which is a complaint based on legal responsibilities – hasn’t been tested in a court of law, and apparently no-one is interested in putting it to the test – then that itself is interesting”

    Indeed. Let’s see if it is put to the test.

    “And until that happens, the GAA is still entitled to simply respond that the GAA’s business is the GAA’s business”

    Wrong. Where public money has found it’s way into GAA coffers, it becomes the publics’ business regarding the GAA eligibility for such funding, based on the strict criteria laid down for it’s distribution.

    Interesting times ahead.

  • harpo

    ‘You suggested that references to the unfolding UDA balkanisation of north Belfast were merely smokescreens designed to detract from the issue of the hunger strike commemoration in Casement.’

    Billy:

    Well they were, on a thread about the issue of the hunger strike commemoration in Casement.

    Sheer whataboutery.

    I didn’t make any claim about which was the bigger issue, I just said that going ‘whatabout that’ on a thread on one subject was issue avoidance.

    The place to discuss UDA issues is a thread about UDA issues. And there were several of those on the go.

    I didn’t say which thread was more important, just that people should stick to the subject on any particular thread.

  • bertie

    harpo I meant what I said.

    I would hope that it would be against the rules for a terrorist group to use a public facility.

    I aslo hope that membership of the UDA is illegal

  • Comrade Stalin

    Don’t worry Bertie – there are plenty of unionist councillors out to apologize for it. Starting with Jim Rodgers :

    “If it’s going to bring about what we all hope is a peaceful situation, I have absolutely no problem or difficulty with it”

    How much do you want to bet that he’d not say that if it were an IRA meeting ?

  • bertie

    Comrade

    You have a point but I can’t be held accountable for what someone else does or doesn’t say just because we are both unionists.