Random Ramblings from a Republican
Friday, April 30, 2004
  **Some selections of Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney over the next few days. Hope everyone enjoys and is well.

Queen's Gambit

A Remote Handling Equipment (Tracked) Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit - Wheelbarrow,
For short - is whirring and ticking towards the Ford Sierra parked in Tomb Street,

Its robotic arm extended indirectly towards this close-up of a soldier. He's wearing
An M69 flak jacket, Dr Marten boots and non-regulation skiing gloves.

Another soldier, armed with Self-loading Rifle, squats beneath a spray gunned
Flourish of graffiti: The Provos Are Fighting For You. Remember It. Brits Out.

Now they're seen together leaning against the facade of a chemist's shop,
Admiring - so it would appear - the cardboard ad. for Wilkinson Sword razor blades.

So much, they're now in the interior: a gauzy, pinkish smell of soap and sticking -
Plaster, through which they spit word-bubbles at the white-coated girl assistanct.

Much of this is unintelligible, blotted out by stars and asterisks
Just as the street is splattered with bits of corrugated iron and confetti.

Her slightly antiseptic perfume is a reminiscent je-ne-sais-quai
Glimpsed through Pear's Soap, an orange-sepia zest of coal-tar -

It's that moire light from the bathroom window, or a body seen behind
They shower-curtain, holding a Champagne telephone - the colour, not the drink,

Though it gives of a perceptible hiss. And the continuous background
Rumble is a string of Ms and Rs, expanding and contracting

To reveal the windswept starry night, through which a helicopter trawls
Its searchlight. Out there, on the ground, there's a spoor of Army boots;

Dogs are following their noses, and terrorists are contemplating
Terror, a glittering, tilted view of mercury, while the assistant slithers

Into something more comfortable: jeans, a combat jacket, Doc Marten boots;
Then weighs the confidential dumb-bell of the telephone. She pushes the buttons:

Zero Eight Double Zero. Then the number of the Beast, the number of the Beast
Turned upside down: Six Six Six, Nine Nine Nine . . .

The ambient light of yesterday is amplified by talk of might-have-beens,
Making 69 - the year - look like quoatation marks, commentators commentating on

The flash-point of the current Trouble, though there's any God's amount
Of Nines and Sixes: 1916, 1690, The Nine Hundred Years' Year, whatever.

Or maybe we can go back to the Year Dot, the nebulous expanding brain-wave
Of the Big Bang, releasing us and It and everything into oblivion;

**More of this poem tomorrow 
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
  **Due to the fact that I have an impending change of residence coming, creative material will be at a standstill for now (this is except for key dates: May 5th, May 12th, etc.) Historical and literary material will be in its place. Apologies

The Battle of Clontarf
AOL Irish Heritage Group

The Battle of Clontarf took place outside the town of Dublin on Good Friday (probably April 23rd by following the calender), 1014.

The combatants were led on one side by Brian Boru, then high-king of Ireland, and on the other by the Vikings of Dublin, supported by some of the Leinster Irish and also by Vikings of England, Scotland, the Isle of man, France and the Orkney Islands.

Brian Boru

Boru was a native of Co Clare, and belonged to the Royal house of Thomond. From his early youth he led his followers against the Vikings, who at that time controlled large coastal areas around Ireland. He defeated them in several battles and eventually succeeded in clearing the Vikings from Munster. When his older brother, Mahon, was murdered in 976, Brian Boru became King of Munster. In 1002 he became King of Ireland and his main goal from then on was to clear the Vikings from the whole country. He eventually forced them to a massed battle on Good Friday, 1014. Some accounts say that this battle took place as a result of a dispute over a game of chess with the King of Leinster.

The Battle

Brian brought his army across North Dublin, into the vicinity of Glasnevin, Drumcondra, and Santry. He was joined by the Ulster Irish and several other Irish chiefs from the West as well as a contingent of Scottish Gaels. He was also joined at the battlefield by the King of Meath, which was a separate province at the time. However, the Meath men took no part in the battle. The Vikings and their reinforcements prepared themselves along the coast between Dublin and Clontarf. Much of the land that is today around Clontarf and Fairview was reclaimed from the sea in more recent times, and it is likely that the main fighting took place nearer to what is now Glasnevin and Drumcondra, about 2-3 kilometres from the current coastline.

Brian was an old man by this time, probably well into his seventies, and his chiefs persuaded him to take no active part in the battle. He remained in his tent behind the Irish lines. His 30,000 strong army was commanded by his eldest son. The number on the opposing side is not known but it is likely to have been of about the same magnitude.

The fighting began in the morning and raged for most of the day. There were heavy losses on both sides, but towards evening the Irish forces gained the upper hand and eventually completely routed the Vikings. Many of the Vikings fled into the sea at Clontarf. However, other groups were cut off by the advancing Irish and they scattered in all directions. One of these groups headed West and ended up fleeing past the Irish encampment, where they came across King Brian. A short struggle ended in the death of both Brian and two of his attackers. The victorious Irish troops returned to find their King lying dead in his tent. They bore him from the field along the North road, towards Armagh, where at his own request the great King was laid to rest.


Although the Irish won this great battle, there was a high price to pay. The High-King and his eldest son were dead and so were many of the chieftains who had supported them. The power vacuum led to a series of wars between the various kingships, which eventually led, 150 years later, to the invasion of the Normans and the beginning of English involvement in Ireland.

The Battle of Clontarf was one of the biggest battles of its time and resulted in the defeat of the Viking armies. As a result the iron grip of the Vikings, which had controlled North Western Europe for centuries, began to wane. Over the next fifty years, they were pushed further back towards their homelands in Norway and Denmark by other tribes (including the Normans who were themselves in part descended from the Vikings). It is clear, therefore, that the Battle of Clontarf played a major part in ending the power of the Vikings forever.  
Saturday, April 24, 2004
  *Excerpt from Ciaran Carson’s Question Time. This is a piece of prose from his volume of writing entitled Belfast Confetti.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

You were seen coming from the Shankill.
Why did you make a U-turn?
Who are you?
Where are you coming from?
Why did you stop when you seen the car?
You know the car.
The car. Outside Sinn Fein Headquarters.
You looked at it
You looked at it
You were seen, You were seen.
Coming from the Shankill.
Where are you from?
Where is he from?
The Falls? When? What Street?
How far down the street was that?
When was that?
What streets could you see from the house?
Cape Street? Yeah.
Frere Street? Yeah. Where was Cape Street?
Again. Who lived next door?
Next door again.
Why did you stop when you seen the car?
Why did you turn?
So you moved up the road? When?
How old were you then?
Where was that? Mooreland?
Where is that?
Stockman's? Where is that?
What's next?
Casement? Right. What's next?
You were seen.
Where do you live now?
Where's that?
SO where did you live again?
Yeah, I know it's not there anymore.
You just tell me what was there.
Again. No. 100. Where was that?
You were seen.
What's the nest street down from Raglan Street?
Coming from the Shankill....

The questions are snapped at me like photographs. 
Friday, April 23, 2004
  *Excerpt from Ciaran Carson’s Question Time. This is a piece of prose from his volume of writing entitled Belfast Confetti. A bit of reminiscence from me.
Also a bit of pertinence to the current state of Belfast and the Provos.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I was reminded of this today, when I went out for what I imagined was a harmless spin on the bike. A showery day, blowing warm and cold – past the west side of Girdwood Barracks along Clifton Park Avenue – a few inhabited houses in a row of derelicts backing on to Crumlin Road Jail – up the Shankill; I come to the Shankill Road Library on the corner of Mountjoy Street (the name of yet another jail) remembering how I used to go here as a child in search of Biggles books because I had exhausted the entire Biggles stock of the Falls Library – I was older then, and was allowed to go, I think – how was it, across Cupar Street, up Sugarfield Street?

I see the green cupola of Clonard Monastery towering high, almost directly above me, it seems, and I realize again with a familiar shock how little separates the Shankill and the Falls, how the troubles of ’68 or ’69 it was rumoured that this monastery tower was sniper’s nest – so yes, I think, why not re-trace the route of all those years ago, 1959 or 1960. I turn idly down Mountjoy Street, Azamor Street, Sugarfield Street. Dead end. Here is the Peace Line, a thirty-foot high wall scrawled with graffiti, mounted with drab corrugated iron; Centurion Street; Battenberg Street; dead end again.

Where I remember rows of houses, factories, there is recent wasteland, broken bricks, chickweed, chain-link fencing. Eventually I find a new road I never knew existed – or is it an old street deprived of all its landmarks? – which leads into the Springfield Road. Familiar territory now, well, almost, for going down the Kashmir Road into Bombay Street – burned out in ’68, some new houses there – I come to other side of the Peace Line, which now backs onto the St. Gall’s School – still there, graffiticized, wire mesh on the windows, but still the same, almost; the massive granite bulk of Clonard is still there; Greenan’s shop is now a dwelling; and the west side of Clonard Gardens, where the Flax & Rayon mill used to be, is all the new houses; Charleton’s shop is bricked up; Tolan’s the barber’s is long since gone, I knew that; this side of the street is all derelict, breeze-blocked, holes knocked into hole; so on to the Falls.

I go down the road a bit, almost as far as the library, then stop, I’d like to go down the Grosvenor Road, so I make a U-turn and stop at the lights at the Grosvenor Road junction, and I’m just wondering what’s the point, it’s Sunday and there’s no traffic about, and certainly no policemen, when somebody mutters something in my ear, I turn, and I’m grabbed round the neck by this character, while someone else has me by the arm, twisted up my back, another has my other arm and I’m hauled off the bike, Right – where’re you going? Here get him up against the railings – what do you think you’re at? – Legs kicked apart, arms slapped up, Right, here, get him here – come on, MOVE – and I’m dragged across the road into what used to be McQuillan Street, only it isn’t there anymore, into one of these hole-in-the-wall taxi places, arms up against the breeze-block wall, legs apart, frisked, and all the time….

*Poetry bit of this tomorrow 
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Poll Victory

By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981

*Part 4


The Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association said that the vote was a “vote for the IRA”. Attempting to prove this point the terror gang’s leader, Andy Tyrie, said: “If a UDA man had stood in the same election he would have been lucky to get five thousands votes. This IRA man got thirty thousands votes.” The UDA, who for a number of years have been advocating, without success, six-county “independence” (thru a front organization, the New Ulster Political Research Group), while carrying out a sectarian assassination campaign, made the excuse that the election result would drive them away from “politics” and back to paramilitarism, which they have never abandoned anyway. A crisis meeting of UDA commanders was held in Belfast on Tuesday evening to discuss the future of their “independence” front group, though no immediate statement was made.

Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party were undoubtedly pleased at the result, since it allowed them, in the run-up to the local government elections in May, to blame the Official Unionists for not accepting an “agreed” candidate, and at the same time gave them the opportunity to launch the sectarian broadsides at the Catholic people. “Now we know,” said Paisley, addressing a loyalist rally in Glasgow last Saturday, “where the Roman Catholics in Ulster and the so-called moderates stand. More than thirty thousand of them have voted for the IRA commandant in the Maze prison.” (Nevermind that one hundred and eighty thousands unionists in the 1979 European elections voted for a raving bigot with a history of over twenty-five years of anti-Catholic sectarianism behind him!)


Apart from Sile de Valera’s welcome for the result, there was very little reaction from Free State politicians. Similarly, British politicians were reticent to speak about the repercussions for the continuation of the policy of criminalization. British premier Margaret Thatcher, where interviewed exclusively on ITN “News at Ten” last Monday evening, was extremely evasive even when being questioned by a sympathetic interviewer. She reiterated that there is to be no change in British government policy towards the North despite the election result.

On Tuesday the British cabinet met, and reports after the grisly discussion indicated that ministers were told to prepare for the inevitable prospect of Bobby Sands’ death. The British government again reaffirmed that it had no intention of giving the prisoners their five demands, and afterwards Thatcher conveniently took herself off to India and the Gulf States for an eleven-day tour as the crisis point in Bobby Sands’ life rapidly approached.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Poll Victory

By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981

*Part 3

Following the election victory, Sinn Fein president Ruairi O’Bradaigh pointed out that the people had spoken: “The message from Fermanagh and South Tyrone to all the world is clear: political status for the political prisoners now, before Bobby Sands and his comrades die.” He slammed the ‘begrudgers’ of the victory, especially Gerry Fitt, who he called upon to resign his Westminster seat.

The political repercussions of the outcome of the election dominated the news media for a full week. SDLP leaders, who 48 hours earlier had warned that a vote for Sands was “a vote for violence”, soon abandoned that tune after 30,492 voters made an IRA Volunteer an MP. It was not, after all, said Austin Currie ‘a vote for violence’!

West, by using quotes from the Pope had waged a “very stupid campaign”, whereas Bobby Sands’ camp had waged a “very shrewd and unprincipled election campaign”, said the former Stormont MP who once called for a civil disobedience campaign and then, as a cabinet minister in the power-sharing assembly, seized the cattle of poor people in lieu of payment of rent and rates which they had withheld as a part of that disobedience campaign.


Last Tuesday, SDLP leader John Hume, still carefully avoiding the SDLP taking up a clear position on the H-Block crisis, urged Bobby Sands to demand facilities of the British administration so that he could take them to the European Commission on Human Rights for a ruling on the commission’s H-Block report.

Attacking Hume’s smokescreen substitute for hard anti-British criticism, a Sinn Fein spokesperson pointed out: “Last week, Mr. Hume did not run to Europe for a ruling when he advised the electorate to vote against Bobby Sands. What the people would be really interested to hear is not John Hume’s advice but his attitude towards the British government and its brutal treatment of the political prisoners.”

Discredited West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt – who had, even before the killing by an unknown gunman of a census collector in Derry two days before polling day, unashamedly attempted to sway the nationalist electorate in favour of Harry West – declared the Sands victory “a mandate for the Provisional IRA”. The Alliance Party said that the Fermanagh and South Tyrone electorate “are to be condemned” and Official Unionist leader, James Molyneaux, said that the result would be read as “support by the Catholic community for the Provisional IRA.”

*Last bit tomorrow 
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Poll Victory

By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981

*Part 2


Perhaps the most despicable intervention came from the British Labour opposition spokesperson on the North, Don Concannon. Speaking from the sanctuary of the British parliament on polling day, he declared that the electorate had a “unique opportunity to denounce the men of violence” and said that a vote for Bobby Sands was a vote of approval for the IRA operations such as the Narrow Water ambush (when 18 British soldiers were killed).

Had a by-election been taking place in Britain, propriety would dictate that on polling day such an electioneering outburst would not be made, let alone be reported by the live media, which is legally obligated to give fair and equal coverage to contestants. (The reporting of such statements places the particular contestant with an immediate advantage over others, who have only a limited time in which to re-influence the voters before the polling booth close.)

Concannon’s stupid outburst, unlike the statement from Fianna Fail Euro-MP Sile de Valera, who on the eve of polling day called for support for Bobby Sands, was given extensive coverage in the North. Concannon had worked at Stormont as a direct-rule minister from 1976 until May 1979, and during that time was responsible for the administration of the H-Blocks and knew of the brutal beatings taking place. However, he seems to have learnt nothing from his time in Ireland.

One of his last acts in the North was to go to Lisnaskea and visit the late Frank Maguire (whom Bobby Sands succeeded as MP) on the eve on a crucial vote of confidence in the Labour government in April 1979. He pleaded with Maguire to make a rare visit to Westminster and support the crumbling Labour government, Frank Maguire’s price (and the sentiment of Fermanagh South Tyrone) was political status for the men in H-Block and the women in Armagh. But the Labour government would not concede, and so without Maguire’s support it fell and the Tories subsequently came to office.

Concannon’s bungling intervention this time almost certainly confirmed native instincts that their choice of Sands was the correct one.


British press reactive to the election victory was hysterical and as abusive as that which followed the IRA execution of Lord Mountbatten and the killing of 18 British soldiers in August 1979. An editorial in the “Sunday Express” said of the electorate “May God forgive their hypocrisy” and concluded: “Their attendance at Mass this morning is as corrupt as the kiss of Judas.”

The “Sunday Times” was less insulting, and saw the result as a watershed: “the election result finally and publicly puts paid to the notion – wishfully fostered by Protestants in the province and by government spokesmen abroad – that the Provisional IRA enjoys no popular support.”

However to the IRA, the validity of its mandate, which has undoubtedly been enhanced by the election of an IRA Volunteer, rests after the election, as before the election, upon the illegitimacy of partition and the British presence. Undoubtedly, however, internationally the result will be interpreted as a popular mandate for the armed struggle for national liberation.

*Continued tomorrow. 
Monday, April 19, 2004
Poll Victory

By Peter Arnlis
An Phoblacht/Republican News
18 April 1981

To election workers for H-Block hungerstriker Bobby Sands, the high poll of 86.8%, recorded on polling day Thursday 9th April in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster by-election, was the first favourable sign indicating at least that the boycott advocated by some executive members of the SDLP had been ignored by the nationalist people.

The next encouraging sign came during the count in Enniskillen on Friday when it could be seen that SDLP strongholds such as Irvinestown in County Fermanagh and Donaghmore in County Tyrone were returning a very low percentage of spoiled votes, again ignoring the advice of the SDLP leadership who just as much as UDR and RUC checkpoints had attempted to sabotage an election victory for Bobby Sands.

Bobby, always a few hundred votes ahead during the count, looked as if he had made it.


From lunchtime onwards, republicans were quietly confident that their interpretation of the count was correct, though many journalists were skeptical (because of republicans inexperience at this game, they said!) and were influenced enough by briefings from born optimist James Cooper, Harry West’s election agent, to report the candidates as neck and neck.

This had the effect of attracting cocky loyalists to Enniskillen Technical College, the venue for the count. However, by about three o’clock they discreetly dispersed and were replaced by a growing crowd of proud nationalists who could taste victory.

An “Enniskillen Youth Against H-Block” banner appeared and the chanting built up to a crescendo until the announcement was made by the returning officer, Alistair Patterson, at 4:25pm. “The result was 30492 votes for Bobby Sands (Anti-H-Block/Armagh political prisoner), 29046 for Harry West (Official Unionist) and 3280 unmarked or spoiled votes.”

The loyalists were totally demoralized, the RUC guards visibly shaken, the media, who almost unanimously predicted the opposite outcome were humbled and the jubilance of the republicans for turning the various establishments on their heads was expressed by veteran republican Kevin Agnew’s opening invective from the steps of the college. “Fellow terrorists”, he triumphantly addressed the crowd, to uproarious applause, each supporter ramming the word terrorist down all the various onlookers’ throats.


The result was amazing given the many factors against a victory. The high poll and low number of spoiled votes (over half of which were visibly Paisley-inspired anti-West ballot papers) were a clear rejection by the nationalist people of the advice given by the treacherous leadership of the SDLP.

Though Bobby Sands’ campaign was run by a broad based committee, though he ran on an anti H-Block/Armagh political prisoner ticket, the SDLP leadership, sections of the Catholic church, and Official Unionist Party and British parliament, declared that to vote for Bobby Sands was to vote for the IRA. They blackmailed and intimidated the nationalist electorate who nevertheless braved all arguments and threats and made republican hungerstriker Bobby Sands a Westminster MP.

*More tomorrow 
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
  A glimpse back: this time 23 years ago.

11 April 1981

Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster By-Election:

Campaigning Against the Odds


Last Saturday, the SDLP central council met in Dungannon to discuss the May local government elections, but devoted a lot of the meeting to discussing the division created by the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election. The outcome of Saturday's SDLP meeting was apparently a consensus supporting Currie's motion deploring the party's decision not to fight the election. There was also a declaration that in the future the party would fight all seats and will not seek "unity" candidates - a decision which will have important repercussions in West Belfast, Fitt's seat, wherethe nationalist vote will now be split.

The party also endorsed the suspension, pending a full investigation, of SDLP councilor Tommy Murray who signed Bobby Sands' nomination papers. Councilor Murray was just one of many Sands supporters, who included the Irish Independence Party, Noel Maguire, a number of independent councilors, Bernadette McAliskey, and many other leading members of the local community.

At the Enniskillen meeting on Monday night, attended and addressed by the Sands family, Fr. Joseph McVeigh, a native of Fermanagh home on leave from his parish in New York, said that the election was "a moral issue."

"I feel," he stated, "that on this occasion it would be immoral for people not to vote or for people to deliberately spoil their votes." He said that the election gave people "the opportunity to speak in a peaceful and non-violent way at the polls."


The harassment of Bobby Sands' election campaign got under way as soon as nominations closed that Monday week. Election workers on their way to a meeting in Carrickmore that night were stopped at a UDR checkpoint at Dan Donnelly's crossroads, held for an hours and thoroughly searched.

Jimmy McGivern, who was one of those stopped, said, "It was nothing but sheer harassment aimed at disrupting our work." Owen Carron, election agent for Bobby Sands; Francie Molloy, his campaign director; and Bernadette McAliskey, were among the many activists detained for unusually long periods by RUC and UDR patrols.

In Coalisland, one of Bobby Sands' elections workers, Patsy Grant, was arrested from his home by the RUC, last Monday morning, and held in Gough Barracks in Armagh - a move viewed locally as another cynical attempt to disrupt the Sands election campaign.

In another incident, the RUC escorted a pick up can with loyalists on board on the road at the edge of Ballygawley housing estate in Dungannon, where they systematically tore down Bobby Sands posters. Similarly, a Bobby Sands election car-cavaclade white spent all last Saturday erecting posters over a fifty mile stretch of constituency, were stopped at checkpoints and on the return journey discovered that the posters had been torn down. They had been shadowed along the road by the RUC and occasionally the UDR.


The fact that election candidate Bobby Sands was behind bars presented the media with a major problem of access. To facilitate two television documentaries on BBC and UTV the previous week, Bobby Sands signed a waiver nominating his election agent, Owen Carron, and four others to deputise for him. Owen Carron was allowed to liase with Bobby in Long Kesh prison hospital on several occasions. But, on Monday, after it was discovered that the other nominees were being refused access to Bobby to take directions from him, Bobby demanded that journalists be given the opportunity to interview him as they were free to do with Harry West.

It was pointed out that a precedent already existed form television crews to interview hunger-strikers. Last November, ITV's "World in Action" team were allowed to interview Raymond McCartney and Brendan Hughes, then into their eighteenth day on hungerstrike, and neither of them were up for a by-election. Owen Carron made the demand of the British administration, but, on Tuesday, direct-ruler Humphrey Atkins refused Bobby this right which BBC and UTV had both requested.

Legal advice was sought by the Sands campaigners and High Court action was being considered on Wednesday. But a solicitor advised that there was no legal remedy for neutralising the British administration's effective censoring of republican hungerstriker Bobby Sands as its contribution to the election campaign of unionist candidate Harry West. 
Monday, April 12, 2004
  A glimpse back: this time 23 years ago.

11 April 1981

Fermanagh and South Tyrone Westminster By-Election:

Campaigning Against the Odds

Despite the overall advantage on paper of a constituency with a nationalist majority, the election campaigners for republican hungerstriker Bobby Sands faced considerable odds at all corners during the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election.

Attempts were made by the outset by die-hard SDLP members to mount a semi-official boycott or spoiled vote campaign which, if effectively supported by only a few thousand voters, place Official Unionists Harry West in an advantageous position.

The British army, RUC and UDR carried out a consistent campaign of harassment of election workers, stopping and delaying them at checkpoints, and tore down thousands of Bobby Sands posters within minutes of them being put up. The British administration at Stormont Castle issued a statement from direct-rulers Humphrey Atkins on Tuesday confirming that they would not be allowing press, radio, or television journalists access to Bobby Sands. They thus handicapped the media from carrying out its duties under the Representation of the People Act to ensure fair and equal coverage to election contestants.

And, finally, the fatal shooting by an unidentified gunman of the young women collecting census forms in Derry's Waterside on Tuesday night was bound to hurt support in some way. Of course, Harry West also had his problems. Hardly the most inspiring of leaders, and brought out of a comfortable retirement, Harry West never once appeared to exude confidence. Although loyalist leader Ian Paisley failed to force him to withdraw from the contest in favour of UDR soldier Roy Kellis, paisley is reported to have mounted a silent boycott. Paisley's intention was to ensure West's defeat so that at the second by-election in two or three months' time, should Bobby Sands be elected and then resign, his Democratic Unionist Party would have another opportunity to undermine the Official Unionists.

Last Tuesday, Paisley's deputy, Peter Robinson, called upon West to support Paisley's campaign against last Decemeber's Dublin summit, in return for DUP support at Thursday's election. West skirted the proposition and although a DUP boycott may be detectable from an examination of the election result, the Paisleyites would not have been strong of influential enough to cancel out the damage done to Bobby Sands' chances by determined SDLP boycotters.


The determination of SDLP boycotters seems unquestionable following the vitriolic statement from executive party members last week. The sudden withdrawal from the election of Noel Maguire on Monday, March 30th, at the last minute, left the SDLP dumbfounded. So convinced were they that he and Bobby Sands would between them split the nationalist vote, leaving the SDLP aloof from criticism, that the executive that Sunday had withdrawn Austin Currie's nomination - which had only narrowly been approved, anyway, by a divided constituency selection committee. Currie was bitterly disappointed, but exploded when Noel Maguire's withdrawal was announced, leaving Bobby Sands with a clear field against Harry West.


The recriminations split over into public attacks from former prominent members and executive members, who held other executive members responsible for the debacle. Former SDLP men Gerry Fitt and Paddy Devlin described the decision to withdraw as "sectarian" and "a shame and an outrage".

Deputy leader Seamus Mallon rebuffed these attacks, and also lumped in an attack by Ivan Cooper (one of the party's founders), saying that the criticism of party leader John Hume, who was being held primarily responsible for the decision, was motivated by person antagonism and petty jealousy. "those three people are behaving like political poodles snapping at the heels of the master," said Mallon, pointing out that Cooper had not even bothered to attend the meeting which made the decision to withdraw.

But Cooper fought back, describing the decision as "unjustifiable" and he joined with Austin Currie and Paddy O'Hanlon in calling upon the electorate to spoil their vote, whilst John Hume and party chairman Sean Farren called on voters to ignore the election.

**Part two tomorrow. 
Friday, April 09, 2004
  Personal crisis. No worries. Posts again Monday 
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
Music and Life
Part 2

Emerging from the "dark ages" was a slow process that was facilitated by a new love interest (and still a current love interest, actually). I was 15 years old when I met a girl who came to change the way I treated myself and the way I considered my own life. I held a crush on this girl for four years before it found an outlet in a relationship that is still ongoing

My changing attitude was reflected by changing musical interests. From Manson and Zombie, I took to listening to the music of my parents' childhood. The Doors, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Van Morrison and other populate this era of my musical life.

Also during this time I began to take a greater interest in edgier alternative rock bands of both the national and local persuasion. These included Sublime, Primus, Incubus, Presidents of the United States of America, Deftones, 311 and Live on the national level. Locally, I got into Pinch, Bedford, Teenage Girls, and SEV.

It was shortly after this time that I began to look back to my roots and expanded my CD collections to included dozens of classical and traditional Irish albums. Amongst my favourites of the classical were Tcaikovsky's The Seasons, Dvorak's New World Symphony, and Beethoven's 9th Symphony Choral. On the traditional Irish side of things, there was the Chieftains, the Clancy Bros., Tommy Mackem, and Paddy O'Brien.

After a while my interest in Irish music bridged to include rebel bands. I became heavily into the Wolfe Tones and the Irish Brigade. This now seems to me as if it should have happened much sooner than it actually did considering the amount of Irish history I had consumed in the three years prior to my 16th birthday.

For the last four years, my interests have spanned everything listed above as well as dabbling in country music, showtunes, and jazz. Needless to say, I pretty much enjoy all forms of music as long as they are talented.

The music currently in my CD changer is a perfect reflection of the variety of my tastes in my music over the last decade. At the moment: Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack, The Guess Who Live American Tour, Anti-Flag's Die For Your Gov't, Teenage Girls' Initial Assault LP, The Who's Tommy, and Alice Cooper's Love It To Death. As the old adage goes: variety is the spice of life. 
Monday, April 05, 2004
  *Due to lack of research material on the topic of Irish history at my disposal at the current moment, I am going to do a bit of personal reflection on the broad spectrum of music I have listened to in my 20 years.

Music and Life

Growing up I listened to a lot of classical and traditional Irish music, mostly because of the great influence of my grandparents on my childhood. I still have a soft spot in my heart for both these types of music, but my tastes and musical interests have expanded.

Around the time I was 10, I was exposed to gangsta rap (i.e. Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, NWA, etc.) and became enthralled with the extremely suggestive and explicit lyrics that my parents so detested. I suppose it was my first expression of typically rebellious youthfulness.

My next stage was that of grunge, taking place around age 12. I still consider this type my all-time favourite and the genre of music that had the most influence on me. Nirvana was the major sway during this period of my childhood and inspired me to attempt to play guitar and bass. Sadly, I was never terribly accomplished at either instrument, though I enjoyed and still enjoy playing. Amongst the other groups of grunge I was into were Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Sonic Youth, and Stone Temple Pilots, as well as many others.

Following my entry into "Junior High", I began what my best friends and family refer to as my "dark ages". Aptly titled considering the music I started to listen to ... Most notably Marilyn Manson, but also White Zombie, KoRn, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Snot and Nine Inch Nails. This music made my parents very nervous and I admit now to using that music as an expressive outlet for other problems in my life at the time.

During my "dark ages" I was dealing with a step-father who I hated and who hated me right back; this made for what was obviously a shitty home life. Pooled with the usual amount of teenage angst, this was enough to throw me into an emotional tumult. The "big-time" music I was listening to, combined with the local scene I was involved in helped me to express my discontent with home life in a way that was safer than many of the alternatives.

*Part two tomorrow. 
Thursday, April 01, 2004
History of the Irish Citizen Army
by RM Fox

The Starry Plough

This history of a pioneer Labour force made up of workers - men and women - in Dublin, is a fragment of history, torn from the life of our times.

All the time I have felt the deepening conviction that the real strength of these men and women was there belief in human freedom and dignity. It is this which gave them the courage to march forward against starvation, imprisonment and ridicule. Underlying all their efforts is that steady rhythm of liberty. In their march through history they are pioneers of human liberation.

"What is it that distinguishes them from their fellows?" I have asked myself continually, as I talked with these men and women. It is simply that the pulse of liberty beats more strongly in their blood.

When I speak of this history being a fragment I do not mean that care has not been taken in its gatherings, in its writing. But I do mean that in the stormy days of which it treats no one could hope to record every deed that is worth recording. Many acts as daring as any spoken of here were carried out by Citizen Army men and women, and I would wish them and others to take what is recorded here as typical of the whole. I have not attempted to pick out individuals but - in the main outline - to tell the story of this workers' force.

Under the banner of the Starry Plough, names do gleam out. James Connolly, the leader, square shouldered, resolute, persistent and reliable, strides through this story until that day in 1916 when, badly wounded, he was carried out to be shot. In his life and activities he was the soul of the Citizen Army. When he died the Army was left leaderless. But in difficult days of chaos and defeat, the Army rose again, holding to its beliefs with the same passionate sincerity that marked its leader.

Another name, which is like a star on the folds of its flag, is Michael Mallin, Connolly's alert and efficient Chief of Staff, He, too, died as he would have wished, facing the enemy when the reckoning came in 1916. Yet it is not his death that his comrades of the Citizen Army remember but he gay and lovable personality. Mallin, who had always a word for his men, who knew so well how to evoke that personal loyalty which made them ready to go through fire and water - this man with smiling eyes and a manner of oiled unobtrusive efficiency. Gentle and artistic, he loved to play on his flute when he brought his men back from a route march. So his image remains, unshattered by the firing squad.

*Section 2 of this introduction tomorrow  
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Ta ar la anois.

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