For the sake of future generations, we simply cannot go on like this…

I remember back in 1984 being on holiday on a Greek island and wasting an evening drinking largely on my own while a friend who hailed from the loyalist part of the Donegall Road, spent hours trying to convince a friendly English couple that he was British not Irish. After around two hours of the best persuasive arguments he could muster, the woman said, ‘But you’re Irish!’ I learned a couple of lessons that evening, one was not to waste …

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Why Can’t Britain get Over the War?

We are living in tumultuous times, patiently enduring the greatest global crisis most of us will ever live through. We’ve had fear, depression and apathy but I never thought I’d see almost 2,000 die of a new virus in a single day in the UK, with barely an eyebrow raised. We clapped for the brave nurses and doctors; hundreds of whom have been taken by the very virus they fought. Then, on 20th September last year, came a Spitfire tribute. …

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The Toxic Legacy of Donald Trump…

‘There is nothing normal about this president, not in the way he came to power, not in his willingness to dismiss inconvenient facts, to fabricate ‘statistics’, repeat fictional terrorist massacres, nor in his hatred of a free press, his contempt for America’s allies (except Israel), his defence of racist and Nazi groups and disregard of minority rights. Nor, dare I say it, will there be anything normal about his inevitable demise.’[1] I wrote that for Slugger in December 2017 and …

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The controversy over the use of nuclear weapons has never gone away…

Although the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Second World to an abrupt end, the controversy over the use of nuclear weapons has never gone away. We are far less credible of the justification of military necessity and a desire to save lives than people in 1945 were, and while we know more about what happened than contemporaries did, the context in which the events occurred is less familiar. It is difficult to overstate that the fighting in …

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The enduring tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…

As the 75th anniversary of VJ Day and the end of the Second World War approaches, the world inevitably turns its attention to the enduring tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is often forgotten that World War II was a nuclear war, albeit a one-sided one, and the controversy over the use of nuclear weapons has never gone away. This piece is a slightly modified excerpt from The Lesser Evil, my book on the Second World War. It explains how …

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We Always Kill Our Heroes – The legacy of Winston Churchill…

There is a whiff of revolution in the air. As I write these words the White House is under virtual siege and a statue of a long dead slave master has been unceremoniously dumped into a river. In London, the cenotaph and a statue of Churchill have been defaced. It is easy to dismiss such actions as mindless vandalism but they were calculated to gain attention by striking at Britain’s very idea of itself and by extension, many British people’s …

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VE Day (Victory in Europe) – Then and Now…

I remember one Christmas afternoon when my mother disclosed that her father was a ‘great Stalin man’. I almost choked on my drink at the news but when she explained, it made perfect sense. My maternal grandfather had been a staunch unionist and an Orangeman but became disillusioned after experiencing long term unemployment during the Great Depression. Embittered he looked, like many of the working class, to the supposed workers utopia in the Soviet Union. As a result, on VE …

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‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

The above quote by the American writer, William Faulkner, could have been crafted with Northern Ireland in mind. We need look no further than the murder of Lyra McKee a few weeks ago for evidence that Faulkner was right on the money. I thought my days of hearing news of the violent deaths of friends had long passed but seemingly not. I woke up to read of Lyra’s death in the news. Not only was her killing reckless and heartless, …

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An Irish Border Poll – learning the lessons of Brexit

Demographic changes and some recent polls have injected an air of optimism, arguably even complacency into the campaign for Irish unity to the extent that its proponents regard it as inevitable within the medium-term. A quick review of the past two years in the United Kingdom however, offers a vivid example of how major constitutional change is not a simple matter, far from it. The problem began with a referendum, posing the simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a …

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The Ghosts of Bonfires past…

I remember back in  the day, probably around Easter 1971, my pal and I threw down two sticks on an area of open ground in Tyndale Gardens in Belfast and said ‘That’s the boney started.’ Other kids probably do the same thing around the same time of year to this day. There were no pallets then and no tyres. We collected waste wood and the ‘big lads’ cut branches off trees in neighbouring Carrs Glen. I often think about that …

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The last day of Northern Ireland…

Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings - Edward Carson statue

The recent comment by Arlene Foster that she might leave Northern Ireland would have come to no surprise to anyone raised in the PUL community. The Republic has changed beyond recognition from Dev’s day and Northern republicans have moved on too but the old fear of ‘Doomsday’ remains. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek view of the unionist apocalypse. It was perhaps inevitable the Norther Ireland Assembly would fall (again). Joint First Minister Norman Deeds had proposed an Ulster 21 commemoration to mark …

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Trump’s Election Victory One year on…

A year ago, I took a little flak in a Slugger article for suggesting Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 election might not have been won fairly and squarely. It was pointed out that Trump scored a decisive victory by the Electoral College rules, and it is fair to say, (as he did), he would have fought the campaign differently had it depended on winning the popular vote. While the story as yet to fully unravel, we know much more …

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Unfinished business – West Belfast Talked Back and I listened…

There was a time, not very long ago when the only reason people from unionist areas would have gone to West Belfast would have been to pick up their car after it had been stolen and abandoned. These days West Belfast is a far less frightening place which welcomes visitors, particularly those who would have formerly shunned it. Féile an Phobail has played an enormous part in changing the reputation of that part of the city and opening it up …

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The Rocky Road to Dublin for Northern Nationalists…

Back in March my article ‘Why Unionism Has a Problem’ seemed to strike a chord with the Slugger readership, so it is natural to follow the intrinsic problems of Unionism with another article that reflects the inherent problems facing Nationalism. There is little doubt that recent elections have reinvigorated the idea of Irish unity that had been in the doldrums for a few years. There is a widespread feeling, particularly among young nationalists that a united Ireland is not only …

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The French Elections and the Macron phenomenon…

‘Brenda from Bristol’ probably summed up the mood to this year’s general election when stopped in the street by a TV reporter. ‘Oh no, not another one!’ [i] In Northern Ireland we are used to annual or even bi-annual elections but even our electoral activity pales in comparison to the poor people of France who have been called to the polls four times in three months. The French system despite its demands on the electorate has its merits. For a …

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Why Unionism has a problem…

Nothing in life is inevitable so the old saying goes, other than death and taxes and maybe Arsenal finishing fourth in the Premier League, so the recent old news that the Catholic population of Northern Ireland may soon reach a voting majority might cause sleepless nights. Of course, Unionists will be quick to point out that substantial numbers of Catholics, including a proportion of SF voters, would not vote for a United Ireland if a referendum were to be held …

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Notional 90 seat 2016 Assembly Compared with 2017 results

*Whyte, Nicholas (22 December 2016). “If the 2016 Assembly election had had five seats per constituency…”. AE17 without the background noise As Northern Ireland’s turbulent history takes another turn there is a widespread feeling that AE17 has changed the local political situation profoundly. It was a good result for Sinn Féin, there is no doubt about that, and for Alliance too, but what about the others? The DUP admitted to a bad day at the office and Mike Nesbitt has …

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President Trump – Welcome to the post-truth world

 WARNING: the following article may contain elements of truth. The gongs of Big Ben that welcome 2017 will be greeted not but the clinking of glasses and a chorus of Auld Lang Sang, but rather a huge sigh of relief. 2016, the year from hell will finally be behind us. It brought a cull of beloved musicians and artists, Brexit, and now, the rise to power of the Donald. Yes, it’s true, the unthinkable has happened, a man who is …

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Neither liberty, equality, nor fraternity

Imagine a woman on a beach on a hot day, perhaps your mother, sister, girlfriend or wife. She doesn’t take the sun well so she doesn’t wear a bathing suit and covers her head with a cloth and her shoulders with a shawl while she sleeps. Imagine four police officers approach her, waken her up, demand she uncover her head and shoulders, then fine her for not exposing enough flesh. That’s close to what happened on a French beach yesterday. …

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The past, present and future of Tony Blair

He could have gone down as one of the great Prime Ministers of all time, a man who took over a fractured and beaten political party, won three consecutive elections and as the Prime Minister that brought peace to Northern Ireland. These are enormous achievements for any politician but instead he will be damned as a man who led his country into an unnecessary and illegal war, some allege he is a unrepentant war criminal lacking only a trial and a cell. …

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