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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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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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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Republican protest doesn’t need or seek permission

This afternoon saw a large enough gathering of republicans in Lurgan (500+ seems a reasonable estimate). For those attending their intention was to demonstrate support for republican prisoners and protest against the conditions/regime they face in gaol. It also exposed an entirely different issue, a problem that could present an increasing challenge to the Parades Commission, PSNI, Stormont Justice Minister and the Assembly as a whole. The first large scale republican challenge to state structures on parading came with éirígí’s …

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Republicans, prisoners, parades and conflict

I previously noted the Independent Hunger Strike Commemoration parade that applied for permission from the Parades Commission and how this was at least one reason RSF refused to support it. Last week’s parade in support of Republican prisoners in Belfast, organised by RSF, didn’t apply for permission and was allowed to take place unhindered (it was a smallish affair as the bulk of those supporting prisoners met in the Conway Mill). Now the Families, Friends and Ex-POWs group are organising …

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