32 counties of Ireland in 32 days: Armagh

‘In this difficult moment we have seen something special arise. And as Eamonn Mallie tweeted: “How does one harness forever the extraordinary ecumenical spirit of hope emanating from St Columba’s during Martin McGuinness’s Requiem Mass?” I reflected on the meaning of yesterday and felt that drawing the landscape of Armagh City would be fitting. I focused on the two Cathedrals, each breaking the skyline. On the left, the Catholic place of worship, and on the right, the Protestant house of … Read more

32 counties of Ireland in 32 days: Fermanagh

WATERSCAPE: Brian continues his odyessy around the 32 counties of Ireland. Today he’s in Enniskillen far from the madness of the rest of the world, pinting rather than punting his way round Ireland’s peerless Lakeland as he goes.

32 counties of Ireland in 32 days: Days 1-4

#irelandin32, the project is simple – one day and one night in each county of Ireland.

I want to challenge myself and others, follow in the footsteps of Jack Yeats and John Millington Synge who wrote and drew about their travels around Ireland, and finally I hope to provide a window into modern Ireland by looking at the major issues affecting us such as Brexit, the economy, the centenaries and the future of the island north and south.

Ireland – An island of reluctant West Brits and enthusiastic East Yanks?

When the very mention of “British” axiomatically throws up the spectre of the Black and Tans or Charles Trevelyn, it’s natural that any positive material contribution to Ireland made by Britain is ignored or lost to amnesia. I’m Irish, the “other Irish” – an Irishman with an Irishness that is conjoined to a Britishness. My sense of British national pride is weakened by historical wrongs as much as any American’s patriotism is reduced by the awful wrongs visited upon native … Read more

Edward Carson, ‘No one on earth is so clearly the “typical Irishman”‘

Edward Carson rose in the Lords on December 3 1929 and made a number of points about the Irish Free State and the Privy Council, the legal forum the young Irish state was seeking to do away with. Interestingly, he called the Anglo-Irish Treaty the “Treaty of surrender and betrayal”.  On the matter of his identity, he said: “I am very proud as an Irishman to be a member of the British Empire.” He also said: “I was born and … Read more

British Irishman, not a Black and Tan

In the Ireland of 2016 the British community (Protestant and unionists) still carry the curse of plantation, Cromwell, the famine, the Black and Tans and one-party rule Stormont. (Read ‘Being a planter‘ here.) The Protestant and unionists are the villains, by birth levied and vilified with historical wrong. Catholic is Erin and virtue, Protestant is Saxon and guilt. When Americans think of Britain they think of Monty Python or Downton Abbey. When the French think of Britain they think of … Read more

William Walker, Unionism’s James Connolly 

It’s hard to overstate the centrality of Pearse and Connolly to the modern Irish state and Irishness. Yeats wrote in his famous verse wrote: ‘Connolly and Pearse Now and in time to be, Wherever green is worn’ Eamonn McCann wrote: “One learned quite literally at one’s mother’s knee, that Jesus had died for the human race and Patrick Pearse for the Irish section of it.” Professor Michael Laffan wrote: “When I was a schoolboy… reading Carter’s history of Ireland, more space was … Read more

The exclusion of Ulster, Mark II?

In the shadow of brexit, uncertainty and rancour reign. Whether or not Remain was Project Fear, the brexit lobby is definitely Project Unclear. We’re still in Europe but with a stay of execution of two years, to use a Carsonism (except we don’t know the terms or extent of severance). All sorts of figures and predictions were made, few have come true. But nobody could have envisaged the savage mortality rate of leading politicians. One thing was certain and predicted, and … Read more

Cartoon – “Higher daddy! Higher!”

It looks like a spoof news story from Waterford Whispers, but it’s true – A playpark with normally strict by-laws is being relocated to facilitate a bonfire. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/ http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/

Cartoon – Life after #brexit

Farage has left the stage. The “most important” and “most successful” politician of the last decade, says Rod Liddle. That’s up for debate.  Christoph Waltz likened his exit to a rat disembarking a sinking ship.  I’m struck by how he said he wants his life back. I’m sure there are a great many million and more people who think the same, except they don’t have a golden life raft to jump in to… Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political … Read more

Irish and Loyalist

In my first post in this series – looking at what it is to be Irish (as an adjoint to my blog ‘The New Irishman’) – I sought to show that Ian Paisley was 100% Irish. Ian Paisley’s Irishness was stated unequivocally by the man himself; and third party observers have testified to his quintessential Irishness. In my second post I sought to show that the protestant in Ireland has historically, and in Northern Ireland presently, been considered as illegitimate and as an inauthentic outsider – “imperialistic … Read more

Doesn’t allegiance to the Republic of Easter Week require Brexit?

For all his political career Jeremy Corbyn opposed Europe. He stood against Europe in the 1975 referendum and repeatedly cast his Commons’ vote against EU Treaties. For the Islington North MP and the hard left, the EU was a committedly capitalist project to be smashed.  The Corbyn conversion to the European plan is symbolic of the erosion and slow death of left-wing euroscepticism. Under the cover of worker rights and free movement of labour, many on the traditional left have … Read more

Unionism’s anglophobia

The slogan used to be ‘Brit’s Out’. It marked a gross misunderstanding of the people of Northern Ireland. As Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote of the Easter Rising: “Irish-Ireland wrote and talked as if it assumed that the battle would be over once Dublin with its garrison of dentists’ wives had surrendered.” The “British” of Northerm Ireland are the several hundred thousand people loyal to the Crown, not the Crown forces. While the “Brits Out” slogan is no longer daubed, the … Read more

Catholic, Erin and virtue. Protestant, Saxon and guilt.*

    Watch this video, it punched me in the sternum – ‘momondo – The DNA Journey’: We divide people in two. Native or immigrant. Authentic or blow-in. We want certainty, especially in Northern Ireland – Protestant or Catholic, us or them. Catholic is Erin and virtue. Protestant is Saxon and guilt (and “imperialistic blood-suckers” as southern Protestant Hubert Butler said). It’s not unique to Northern Ireland, but is a universal condition. Mistrust of “the other” is typeset into man’s … Read more

Ian Paisley – “We are Irish!”

    Of the DUP membership, 1.4% self-identify as Irish. Yet the founder of the DUP was 100% Irish. This is not speculation or conjecture or troublemaking, this is a statement of fact based upon unequivocal and repeated testimony from Ian Paisley. Ian paisley wrote in 2012 on the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant: “Edward Carson was a life-long Irishman, as well as being a life-long unionist, and that made all the difference… On this 28th day … Read more

Cartoon – A ‘black spider’ memo for OFMDFM on Justice

Tuesday May 24 had a busy afternoon. Sinn Fein announced its executive team. Prince Charles, known for his letter writing, visited Portadown and the Orange Museum as part of #RoyalVisitNI. Then news broke that the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson  had written a letter to OFMDFM suggesting he be considered for the position of Justice Minister. Like the Justice portfolio, a question mark stands over who will be heir to the British Crown; perhaps that is another position for the loyalist blogger to consider? Brian SpencerBrian … Read more

Cartoon – The Northern Irish Open

Rory McIlroy may have triumphed at the weekend but can Marlene win the Justice Minister Challenge?   Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/ http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/

Cartoon – ‘Marlene’

It has a satisfying and even harmonious ring, and the people have really taken to it. The portmanteau and new byword for the Executive Office – ‘Marlene’. While Jim Allister bequeathed it to a popular audience on BBC The View on May 19, it’s recognised that Paul Gallagher first coined the sobriquet back in January 2016. The First office has been abandoned by the small parties, and now they face an outbreak of belittling name-calling. Alliance won’t come to heel and the parties of … Read more

Cartoon – In with the new (backed by the old)

The young contender from Derry took the SDLP leadership from the sitting South Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell, winning 172 to 133 with the ringing endorsement of the party grandees. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/ http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/

Cartoon – “The unelected and unelectable…”

The soundbite of the week past probably came from Westminster and from David Cameron at PMQs. Probed repeatedly by the leader of the Opposition on the cost of cuts to tax credits to the ordinary family, the Prime Minister simply said the reform was blocked by an alliance of “the unelected and the unelectable.” Stormont had an eventful week itself, and I suppose you could argue those adjectives apply to the First Minister and new Junior Minister. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist … Read more