St Patrick’s Night and the Zombie Apocalypse…

Last night I had the misfortune of driving through the zombie apocalypse; or as it’s called, St Patrick’s night in the Holylands area of Belfast. Amid the broken bottles, fire trucks, police and ambulance crews I heard young zombies speaking in every accent of this land (although a Belfast accent was hard to find to be honest), stumbling from one over-crowded house of multiple party occupancy to another. Many, if not all, were bedecked in some sort of symbol of … Read more

Working class sectarian living is not caused by middle class bigotry, but a pervasive willingness to turn a blind eye

Newton Emerson has two good columns out today. I’ll start with the one in the Irish Times in which he takes Danny Kennedy to task for the old PUP nostrum of middle-class bigotry being harder to tackle than that of the working class. Importantly, he notes: From adolescent rioting through to active paramilitary membership, everything generally considered ‘most problematic’ about sectarianism is correlated directly with deprivation, and hence at least with perceptions of class. So how, he asks, does this … Read more

Paisley: Relic of the Past or Harbinger of the Future?

I recently chanced upon this 1987 review by Charles Townshend in the LRB of Steve Bruce’s God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism. It now reads as a fascinating period piece. Just the previous month, Paisley had performed the first of his major protests at the European Parliament, heckling Margaret Thatcher. She was congratulating the EEC on its expansion to Spain and Portugal when he stood up, brandishing an ‘Ulster Says No’ poster, and shouted, “I would like … Read more

There is nothing Loyal about Sectarianism

William Ennis, A member of the PUP, writes for us about the issues of Loyalism and Sectarianism in Northern Ireland The Loyalist activist will also be a human rights activist and will work to ensure that the rights and liberties of the people living and working within his or her community are not infringed. If the principles of civil and religious liberty are to be more than a mere slogan on a banner or an Orange Arch they must be … Read more

“We need to sort out a dysfunctional and deeply cynical approach by the dominant parties.”

There’s a strong sense of politicians going through the motions each time there’s a plenary debate on Northern Ireland issues. Two exceptions this afternoon were Paul Murphy of the Anti Austerity Alliance who gave a pretty blistering account of SF’s role in the signing up to the so called fantasy budget, and Micheal Martin… I’ll add Murphy’s speech when we get the text, but here’s Martin’s in full: The sad reality is that the situation in Northern Ireland is now … Read more

Some People Just Want To Watch The World Burn

One of these images is a view from my apartment block on bonfire night 2014… one of these is a scene from 2004 zombie-flick Dawn of the Dead…   The entire area becomes uninhabitable for the night, you physically cannot leave your house unless you’re willing to navigate your way through crowds of overly-intoxicated, often threatening bonfire attendees, if a resident was to have a medical emergency, the consequence doesn’t bear thinking about. This isn’t culture. This is a riot. … Read more

Gerry Kelly: “The letter with the figures said it all because it dealt with anti-sectarianism and that’s the way I am…”

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly is still squirming on the sectarian hook the party hoisted him on during his failed campaign in North Belfast during the UK parliamentary election. [Petard? – Ed]  Pardon you… After his party colleague, Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA, [Good heavens, you’re the Culture Minister?! – Ed], tried, and failed, to blame the Electoral Commission for Sinn Féin’s use of the 2011 census’ breakdown of the constituency by religion, or religion brought up in, to support the party’s claim that Gerry … Read more

Carál Ní Chuilín: “Electoral commission vetoed using last election figures…” – Update

David may not want to go there, although ‘idealistic’ wasn’t the first word that sprang to mind.  [Was it another word beginning with ‘i’? – Ed]  You might very well think that…  ANYhoo… Gerry Kelly’s Sinn Féin colleague in north Belfast, and the Northern Ireland Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA, should, perhaps, have other things on her mind.  But, on Thursday, the Minister was on Twitter defending Sinn Féin’s use of the 2011 census’ breakdown of the constituency by religion in support of the party’s … Read more

Attack on Orange Hall in Convoy, Co. Donegal

Over the last decade or so there has been a modest revival in the Orange Order and associated bands in parts of the RoI. This has been seen in parts of Donegal as well as the other border counties. Many events in Fermanagh will now see small but growing bands from the RoI. This modest revival is purely religious and cultural: whatever one may think of the political positions of the Orange Order, these are not manifested in the RoI. … Read more

It’s not the Orange Order “coming down the street, shouting and yelling and waving rifles and pistols”

So, I was going to let this one run til the PCC had its say, but for the record here’s Colin Freeman’s offending dispatch from Baghdad in the Telegraph last week… “Ever since last week, not a day has gone past without them coming down the street, shouting and yelling and waving rifles and pistols,” said Imad Ahmed, a shopkeeper in the Sunni district of Adel in west Baghdad. “They say they will crush the Isis terrorists and anyone who … Read more

Quick STOP THE PRESS! Religious prejudice rediscovered in Northern Ireland…

Not sure what others make of this latest culture war controversy, but I think Jim Sheridan captures my own confusion at the broad surprise in the media and the political classes… Quick STOP THE PRESS ….Northern Irish Politicians may be prejudiced against someone of a different religion! #AnnaLo #WhatsNew — Jim Sheridan (@Jim_Sheridan) May 29, 2014 Shared space anyone? Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider … Read more

“Sit down and stop acting like a petulant child.”

According to the BBC’s Mark Simpson, former Provisional IRA OC in the Maze Prison, now Sinn Féin leader in Belfast City Council, Cllr Jim McVeigh, objected tonight when DUP Cllr Ruth Patterson put on a Linfield football scarf while speaking on a motion calling on the council to honour out-going Linfield manager David Jeffrey.  From the BBC report The monthly meeting of the council on Monday was held up for more than 10 minutes as a result of complaints from Mr McVeigh. … Read more

After Haass: US must understand it has absolutely no dog in a sectarian fight…

Interesting that although Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan appeared on Fared Zakaria’s Global Public Square on Sunday (h/t Ruarai) there was absolutely no mention of Belfast or Northern Ireland. There was, however, a fascinating contemporary analogue at play regarding the role of sectarianism in the Middle East. Richard Haass: These are societies that have never really dealt successfully with modernity. You’ve never had a clear divide between the religious and the secular. People confuse democracy and majoritarianism. There’s not a … Read more

@LADFLEG versus #Facebook

Have loyalists finally taken the fun out of Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD)? Here is LAD’s own brief timeline: founded in December 2012 at the height of the flag protests, it was unpublished and then republished in July 2013 in anticipation of further protests. After acquiring 6000 likes, it was then removed from Facebook amid claims of sexual content (LAD claim there has never been any). They then launched LAD 2, getting 3,000 likes in a week and were then unpublished … Read more

DUP illustrate unionist leadership as #RuthPatterson is in court

Yesterday Ruth Patterson attended court for her Facebook post and provided an interesting piece of optics for the television cameras. In a considered move, a variety of DUP ministers and other public representatives, including Edwin Poots, Sammy Wilson, Jonathan Bell and Guy Spence (to name a few), attended the court hearing or accompanied her to and from the court, clearly with an eye on the cameras. Other unionist glitterati in attendance included Willie Frazer and others taunting Patterson to get … Read more

Free speech under pressure or action against inflammatory comments?

Ought we to be a mite concerned about protecting free speech from officious prosecutions, even when the comments are “obnoxious”, in the opinion of a district judge?  I hold no brief for Ruth Patterson’s “alleged” comments on Facebook which it’s customary not to repeat once someone is charged and for which she has apologised. This Derry case is a sign of changed times. Amazing to learn that a “youth” has been fined in Derry for making “ derogatory remarks” in … Read more

Colin Broderick’s ‘That’s That’: Book Review

While the phrase popularized by Seamus Heaney ‘whatever you say, say nothing’ endures as a code for Northern Irish character toughened by the Troubles, Colin Broderick’s telling of his childhood reveals the language unspoken. He gives us a glimpse at those in the IRA who were never by necessity singled out by their supporters, but who carried themselves with an air of entitlement, entrusted as they were by the Catholic community with their protection and their idealism in a time … Read more

After a 5th continuous year of rioting is it time consider the poisoned well of north Belfast’s sectarian geography?

Here’s a sound copy of an interview I did with Seamus Martin of Tipp FM yesterday morning talking about the rioting situation… If you are looking for a shortcut through the whole thing, topics include: The lack of leadership from mainstream politics A combination of poverty, political powerlessness and a dire local legacy from the troubles The poisonous politics of sectarian demography “After all the Good Friday Agreement was a long time ago now…“ “The funny thing about northern politics … Read more

Another interface and another petrol bomb attack…

Another petrol bomb attack. This time in west Belfast on the small Protestant enclave of Suffolk. Sinn Fein Councillor Gerard O’Neill was quick off the mark to make a statement yesterday: “Whoever was behind the attack and for whatever motive, it is a disgrace and will not stop the good work continuing between the communities of Suffolk and Lenadoon areas. “While the circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear at this early stage any attack on people’s homes with petrol bombs … Read more