Somme: May Trench Raid – death of a great great uncle

Tonight is the one hundreth anniversary of the death of my great great uncle during a German bombardment of the trenches after a succesful trench raid by the Ulstermen – a talk was recently held in the Masonic Hall (the old Tamlaght  / St Lukes Church of Ireland Church Hall), Coagh on Private Robert Sands and other men from Coagh who died in the Great War. In this centenary year of the Battle of the Somme the tragic and brutal slaughter of the Great …

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The Covenant had its day. A new one is needed

It’s salutary to see the scanty outside news coverage in advance of the Ulster Covenant anniversary focusing  on a  few hundred metres of territory around Carlisle Circus. The heritage of unionism seems reduced to rioting and bigotry. Many will agree, however unfairly.  For the most part it’s about just another day of tricky parades management that provokes the uncomprehending, exasperated  response from outsiders: “ But we thought that was all over.” I don’t myself accept all of Robin Wilson’s too- negative reading of the …

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Franchising Ulster Scots in Scotland?

There’s a remarkable likeness between David Hume’s call for Ulster Scots to have a vote in the upcoming Scottish referendum and Sinn Fein’s standing call to extend the southern franchise to Northern Ireland’s elective Irish citizens. And they have even less chance of succeeding for more or less the same reasons. It would be seen as a rather disingenuous means of ‘packing’ the electorate in both place. Having said which, the question of who might constitute this electorate is fuzzy. …

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Orange Order: No one will have veto over our Ulster Covenant parade

“No one will have a veto over our Ulster Covenant parade”, says Mervyn Gibson, county grand chaplain of the Orange Order in Belfast (as reported in the Tele): Mr Gibson said that the organisation had consulted with clergy and parishioners from St Patrick’s but that it did not feel compelled to consult with residents regarding the parade. “The reason we are not speaking to residents at this stage is that the issue was respect for St Patrick’s Church,” he added. “That was …

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How could Carson attend a Covenant commemoration? Bring the rally to Stormont!

Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings - Edward Carson statue

While the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast will be marching to Ormeau Park in May, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland are going one better later in the year. As the rhyme might go: Oh, the grand old Duke of York Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, He had ten thousand quite a lot of men; He marched them up to the top of the Hill, And he marched them down again. That’s right. Edward Carson’s statue in front of …

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Balmoral Review – fireworks, food, funfair, parades and speeches

Balmoral Review poster

Jackie McDonald’s remarks at the Political Studies Association conference about the Orange Order’s planned parade to Ormeau Park in May stirred up a lot of comments on Slugger. Answering a question after his speech, the former UDA prisoner painted a vision of “the UVF in the Somme gear” and “antique motors with the machine guns on them and all the paramilitary flags” passing by parts of Short Strand behind the Orange lodges and bands. On Easter Tuesday 1912, a large …

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Jackie McDonald questions Orange Order Covenant parade taking motorised machine guns past Short Strand

Political Studies Association

The Future of Loyalism session at the Political Studies Association conference started with two academics – Jim McAuley and Graham Spencer – introducing the Political Studies Association delegates to loyalism, loyalist themes and transformation efforts so far. Rev Chris Hudson – who acted as a conduit between the Irish Government and the UVF – spoke about his journey. [Click on their names to hear their 10 minute introductions.] Finally, Jackie McDonald – introduced as a former UDA prisoner – spoke …

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Signing up to the Covenant: An Alternative Vision for the Future?

1912 A Hundred Years On - still

At Thursday night’s annual Catherwood Lecture, Johnston McMaster covered a lot of ground in his talk entitled Signing up to the Covenant: An Alternative Vision for the Future? He started by explaining that his grandfather had signed the covenant, and continued to question throughout the talk whether he would have signed it if he’d lived 100 years ago. Looking back at history and at the same time looking forward from today was a key tenet of his lecture, and mirrored …

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