Don’t blame it on the good times. Blame it on the Buckie!

Even if you’ve never been to Lurgan, you’ll know us by our legendary drouth for the mighty Buckfast Tonic Wine! The Breakfast of Champions has been fuelling Spade Town for generations. Sure didn’t we even train Master McGrath – history’s most famous greyhound – wi’ a drap o’ Buckfast in his bowl! Mere mention of my beloved hometown might make some think of tiresome social-media polls soliciting views on Northern Ireland’s “worst town”. Alas, Lurgan is often lumped in with …

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Did you hear the one about The Pope, the Lambeg and the ukulele?

I’m always a wee bit wary of Twelfths that don’t happen until the Thirteenth. Especially so this year, as it’s a Twelfth with no marching. And what’s a Dara Lá Déag (Twelfth) without a bit of a march… Edenderry will be empty, as will venues around the Province, vacant fields echoing to the sound of birds instead of brattling drums. Flutes and fifes will not be stilled, but their shrill beauty will be curtailed by Covid’s shackles. Normally on the …

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‘Plastic’ politicians need to change their wasteful ways

Reflecting on the recent election, less is clearly going to have to be more! Although not when it comes to election posters in Northern Ireland, where it’s a case of the bigger the better. I’ve watched the average size of posters increase over a few decades of chucking my preferences into the magical black box that decides who shall be my political voice. Like many of us, I do not always choose well. But that’s a side point. In future …

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In praise of Ulster’s heartbeat – the Lambeg drum

  I don’t think anything better defines the Twelfth for me than the sight and the sound of a well-played Lambeg drum. Pun intended, but the oul Lambeg is hard to beat. I’ll be honest, though. The first time I heard a Lambeg as a child – at a Twelfth parade in Moira if I recall correctly – I must have jumped so high out of my skin that I could have touched the top of arch. But gradually, as …

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Time cannot silence the Voices of the Somme

At the start of July I posted on Slugger O’Toole to introduce Somme Voices, a month-long series of daily tweets in remembrance of that dreadful World War One battle. I’m returning to Slugger to bring the Somme Voices project to a close with a final poem. The reason is that I’d like to quote this one in its entirety and Twitter is a less-than-perfect medium for something of considerable length. It does, however, give me the chance to make a …

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Listening to the quiet voices of The Somme

As a child I was forever fascinated by a random collection of oul ‘things’ in a rarely-approached cupboard at home. It was the sort of place where unflattering school reports and old medical cards lay alongside broken spectacles and stringless yoyos, the theory being that they might some day be read, repaired or resurrected. There were a few medals – the full relevance of which I never discovered – but what especially caught my imagination was a bloodstained Nazi armband, …

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Dissidents on the wrong side of the tracks – and history

The mind of the Republican dissident must be a very dark and dilapidated place, bereft of ideas and locked into a grim past. No hope and nothing to offer, except a return to what they might consider as the golden days of bombing, shooting and wrecking. While most of us are trying to move – however hesitantly – forward, they remain wedded to a creepily repetitive liturgy of violence and destruction. You might expect that sort of narrative on their …

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Cuimhní stoirmiúla agus muid ag fágáil slán le Peter, Barney agus Deasún

Is doiligh a chreidbheáil go bhfuil muid ag druidim le deireadh na bliana agus é in am dúinn súil siar a chaitheamh ar 2015. Ar a lán bealach, gidh nach bhfuil sé linn go fóill, tá 2015 faoi scáth 2016 nuair a dhéanfar ceiliúradh ar na himeachtaí móra a d’athraigh cúrsaí an oileáin bhig seo go deo. Mar atá Éirí Amach na Cásca agus slad an Somme. Ach cén sórt bliana a bhí againn abhus? Bliain chorrach ó thaobh na …

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Ní Sinne an Bhrasaíl ach Tuaisceart Éireann/We’re not Brazil, We’re Northern Ireland

Gabh mo leithscéal má tá fonn ceoil orm ar feadh meandair… ‘Ní Sinne an Bhrasaíl ach Tuaisceart Éireann, Ní Sinne an Bhrasaíl ach Tuaisceart Éireann…’ Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil an chuid eile den amhrán deas sin agaibh – níl na liricí ar na cinn is deacra dá bhfuil ann! Cosúil lena lán, tá spion maith orm tar éis gur bhain foireann sacair Thuaisceart Éireann comórtas mór idirnáisiúnta amach den chéad uair le 30 bliain. Aisteach go leor, nuair a …

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Ag canadh le taibhsí na staire sa GPO i mBaile Átha Cliath…

Note A shorter version of this piece in English is available at http://goo.gl/Fay35A via the Belfast Telegraph San amhrán chlúiteach Oráisteach Lurgan Town tá líne faoi leith i dtreo an deiridh: ‘D’iompaigh muid thart, chroith muid lámha, an méid is féidir a dhéanamh…’ Agus mé á chanadh in Ard Oifig an Phoist i mBaile Átha Cliath ar Luan Cásca, ba bheag gur shamhlaigh mé gurbh é garmhac Éamoin de Valera an fear a bheadh ag croitheadh láimhe liom ag an …

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Fighting fit for a brighter future

I can’t tell you how proud I felt when Carl Frampton rolled back the boxing years to bring the glory of the ring back to Belfast. I’d like to admit that I’m personally more suited to lacrosse (I’m not, as it happens, but it sounds good) and my gob, thankfully, has never encountered the wrong end of a glove. These fake lashes – let me tell you – are inviolate. But thon lad’s done something really special. He’s won a …

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Different Drums and the Spirit of the Samba

During the World Cup I was watching one of the Brazil games. When they were still contenders, mind. And I was well content, for a potentially decent game and a cold beer are hard to beat. A bit like Teenage Kicks, as the Undertones might have put it. Anyway, the Samba spirit was in full flow and the drums were certainly adding to the occasion. By heavens, they were, and getting louder by the second.  They became so noisy that …

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