A Northern Ireland reporter’s memoir of the Falklands War from Buenos Aires

Photo courtesy History Collection  Irish passports had special uses long before Brexit. Forty years ago, at the onset of the Falklands War when the Argentines were refusing entry to single passport carrying Brits, I had the original wheeze of using mine to  gain accreditation to Buenos Aires for BBC TV  News  ( ok ,so did others who discovered they had an Irish granny).  So with Roisin McAuley joining the Newsnight team and David Capper for Radio News, BBCNI was well …

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The time is long overdue for taking to heart the lessons of the fall of the old Stormont

We thought we had learned them in 1998 but we hadn’t really, or not enough.  To find out why, we have to go back in time.  Just over 50 years ago, Brian Faulkner the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland rang WD Flackes BBC NI’s political correspondent from an outer office in 10 Downing Street to inform him that the game was up for the Stormont Parliament.  Billy’s scoop led the national 9 O’clock News.  Ted Heath had made Faulkner an …

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The problem of othering…

people, viewer, exhibition

A few years ago I was watching a BBC documentary about Moscow. The reporter was interviewing some young people in a coffee shop about life in the city. A thought struck me as I watched it – Moscow looked like any other European City. I do feel a bit dumb saying this because Moscow is a European City. With over 12million residents it is actually the most populous city in Europe. It is a strange feeling to confront your own …

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On the fringes of Bloody Sunday

Preamble  Today in the light of so much glaring hindsight, it’s very hard to recapture the general experience of the time.  It was the job of us local reporters to chronicle a least half a dozen incidents a day. Although of course there were exceptions, we had settled down to a new normal that was far from normal. I wouldn’t say I was case hardened. But the regular rhythm of events had run the gamut from exciting through appalling and …

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Austin Currie suffered politically and personally for his unrelenting opposition to violence

Not the most successful – the palm goes to John Hume – but in some ways Austin Currie was the best of them all. He was certainly the last of them, the six elected under different banners in the last election to the old Stormont in February 1969 to form the SDLP within a year. They formed the generally progressive,  moderately nationalist and unambiguously democratic potential partner with which the  bulk of unionism refused to deal before the relentless rise …

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Who Hired Cock Robin?

It’s something of a running open secret about British politics that being a politician is one of those jobs with no actual job description, and for which you need no qualifications. Another aspect of this open secret is that the higher up a statesman or -woman climbs the greasy pole, the less they ultimately have to do for their job.  This characteristic of our constitution Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn famously noted in their acclaimed 1980s sitcom Yes Minister, which …

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Learning to live in harmony with the legacies of Empire. Different experiences in Great Britain and Ireland

In the culture wars over shifting national identities it’s striking how nationalist Ireland is further along the road to reconciliation with its troubled past than a UK has reached in its troubled present. That is a journey that feels as if it has barely begun. Perhaps all that righteous victimhood has become easier to cope than all that tortured guilt.  BLM –  Gladstone and Churchill off their pedestals    The focus is turned on the role of Empire and in …

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What happened to the Republican Party?

In ten days’ time, despite the best efforts of the Republicans, Joe Biden will be sworn in as America’s next President, and its political system will continue to operate unimpeded – again, despite the Republicans’ best efforts.  Yes, the events of Wednesday in Washington DC were shocking, and Donald Trump has been a chief executive like no other, having, over his four years in power, plumbed the depths somewhat as to what an American president could or should be allowed …

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Is civil disobedience an effective means of achieving political gain?

Julie Ann Corr-Johnson is a former Belfast City Councillor and now a Commentator.  When I think of civil disobedience I think of occupation: sit down strikes in civic buildings, public and symbolic places and the blocking of critical infrastructure such as train stations, airports and ports. Examples of somewhat effective social and political movements agitating for change are dotted throughout our global history. The Glasgow Rent Strike for example. When during the First World War landlords sought to capitalise on …

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Sinn Féin’s historical revisionism has nowhere to hide

Trying to rewrite history is never a good idea. So when Sinn Féin’s official social media account claimed at the weekend that “On this day in 1905 Sinn Féin was founded” and proceeded to say that on that day “we outlined our position”, it naturally raised a few eyebrows within the historian community. The thing is with historians, they are fact-based people, so if you lie about something in history they will ruthlessly expose you for it. The backlash to …

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Partition at 100: the British Problem

Northern Ireland and its history have fascinated me continuously pretty much ever since I first learned how to use an atlas when I was a kid. Looking at political maps, I would internally wonder why this corner of the island of Ireland was a different colour from the rest – though it took me a little longer to query what a “political map” was, and what a “relief map” was, and what exactly is so “relieving” about seeing the outlines …

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What can we change to help consume less of the earth’s precious resources – and in doing so, improve our lives?

Joan McCoy is President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects and writes in support of #OurChangedPlaceNI – a campaign which asks people what they’d change about the built environment During lockdown, I have been entertained by receiving and sending memes commenting on the current situation – some funny, some less so. One has stuck in my mind though – it was a cartoon of the earth, battered and bruised and coved in bandages – beside an almost equally large …

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Orangefield, and an unexamined aspect of Northern resistance to sectarianism and political bigotry

In the cruel winnowing ways of time the last two years have been unsparing in regard to a generation of teachers brought together in the early 1960s to teach at a new school in east Belfast which had opened a little earlier in 1957. The school was called Orangefield and it played a key role in the dissemination of skills, opportunity and challenge to almost five decades of Belfast school children – first as an all-Boys school, which was then …

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On This Day 104 years ago, the Easter Rising began…

The very talented John Breslin runs the Twitter account Old Ireland in Colour. He colourises old photos and he does an amazing job – it is an essential follow. For today he put up the colourised photo of the Easter Rising leaders, it really brings them to life. His previous work is well worth checking out, I have included some examples below. Peig Sayers at her own fireplace 1946 Dunquin, Co. Kerry Photographer: Caoimhín Ó Danachair Source: https://t.co/xzEeoUzlwl @duchas_ie CC …

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Busting the Historical Myths – The Siege of Derry…

As Coronavirus dominates the airwaves I thought it may be interesting to explore a few historical myths as a means to divert our attention from the pandemic sweeping the Word. In Northern Ireland there is a tendency for Unionists and Nationalists to view certain historical events in a partisan and inaccurate way often driven by erroneous historical interpretations which have become main-stream, but which are based primarily on propaganda. As every historian knows the complexity and nuances of human nature …

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Commemorating the RIC and allowing an Irish Language Act are opposite sides of the same coin

 RTE The Irish government’s decision to commemorate the RIC in a major state ceremony is the right one precisely because it is as controversial as it is fundamental. There is no point in filling an entire decade with an orgy of self congratulation. The modern Irish state was born in insurgency and revolution is always controversial. But it is s also a reminder of that the state born out of revolution was part of a much longer continuum that is …

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A Short History of the “L” Word

The American poet Robert Frost was only partly joking when he said a Liberal was definable as ‘a man too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.’ Liberals of both (or more) genders have of course historically taken a side: their own. Now that a new decade has begun, and another important anniversary is being marked today, and there are question marks over how much longer liberalism is likely to last, now seems as good a time as …

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The First RTW Trip

Most of us have dreamt at one point or another of going around the world, and in an age of accessible and increasingly affordable air travel we are considerably more blase about it than earlier generations. Exactly five hundred years ago the first attempt at doing this began – though few (if any) of the men involved in it had any notions of doing it to “find themselves”. As with a lot of these ostensibly romantic voyages, it was all …

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For Northern Ireland: Parity of esteem and reconciliation

For Northern Ireland: Parity of esteem and reconciliation by Allan LEONARD 1 August 2019 As part of the 31st annual Féile festival, Jim Gibney (a member of the Féile Debates and Discussions Committee) welcomed the audience of a couple dozen attendees of a panel discussion on what parity of esteem, reconciliation, and mutual respect means from those who are pro-Union. The panellists were Professor Peter Shirlow (Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool), Dr James Wilson (Initiative for Civic Space), …

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The Ultimate British Ignoble Prize

She’s gone (or will be in a fortnight’s time). Oh, ah. What went wrong? Even if they’re not thinking of Hall & Oates lyrics, generations of historians will doubtless ask that question several times. Opinion is already divided among the political commentariat: some, like former pro-Brexit Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne, believe Theresa May was just unlucky in the tasks that she had received; others, like Steve Richards of the New European, reckon she was doomed from the outset. Regular …

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