Women and the Irish Revolution, edited by Linda Connolly
AT LAST! Danny Devenny is doing a book. He will have to finish it now that this column has broken the story. It will be a photographic and literary journey through his very eventful life. In my opinion Danny Dee deserves a book or twenty books to celebrate his life in struggle and his art. He has enriched all our lives with his creatativity and brightened Belfast’s streetscape and educated and uplifted its citizens and visitors with his murals. He will tell how art has been a huge help to him through all his decades of activism. That’s where this painting, The Session, comes in. The Session features John Lennon, Danny’s friend Bobby Sands, Ché Guevara, Chilean activist song writer and poet Víctor Jara and Woody Guthrie, the great American song writer and activist. It is availible as a limited edition print and a not-for-profit funder for Danny’s book. Check out his Facebook page and private message Danny if you want to buy a copy. Danny has had a mind to do such a painting for a long time. He was in Long Kesh with Bobby and knows how much music meant to him. Bobby loved John Lennon. He would have loved being in a session with him. And the others. He admired them all. There is a photo of a session of poítín-drinking prisoners in Cage Eleven which Danny based his painting on. I will tell you the story of that photo and that session another time. Anyway, Danny delayed doing the painting because he couldnt do a side view of Bobby’s face which satisfied him. Then Richard McAuley found the photo of Bobby in French photographer Gerard Harlay’s portfolio of photos when we were doing work on the Léargas book on Máire Drumm. That, and the pandemic, allowed the space for Danny Dee to work his magic. I know the political value of that magic from my time in the Kesh with him in the mid-70s. Danny Dee did the artwork for a number of publications produced in Cage Eleven and smuggled outside. These included Peace In Ireland and Our British Problem – unpublished – by this columnist and In Care Of Her Majesty’s Prisons by Hugh Feeney and Prison Struggle. He also did illustrations for the Brownie articles which were smuggled out to the Sinn Féin paper Republican News. His pen name was Flossie. Danny and Bobby were in the Gaeltacht hut in Cage Eleven. Bobby used to drive his comrades mad as he practised his guitar skills and learned his songs. Tomboy Loudon was just as bad. He was learning the mandolin. Bobby was taught guitar by blues legend Rab McCullough. They started in the Crum (Crumlin Road Prison) where there were two guitars. Bobby heard Rab playing and asked him for a few tips. Rab was already an accomplished guitarist. He had been in a number of bands, including Sunshine and The Big Soul Band.
50 per cent of people in a recent survey by Thrive the audience development organisation (supported by the Arts Council of NI) have been accessing arts and culture online during the pandemic. Maybe you are one of them?
’Twas the night before Christmas when all through the houseNot a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.The facemasks were hung by the chimney with careIn hopes that a vaccine soon would be there. The MLAs nestled all snug in their bedsWhile visions of pay rises danced in their heads.And Arlene in kerchief and Michelle in capHad just settled down for some tea and a bap. When out on the lawn there arose such a clatterThey sprang from their chairs to see what was the matter.Away to the window they flew like a flashMichelle singing Grace and Arlene The Sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snowGave lustre of midday to objects below.When what to their wondering eyes should appearBut a red-eyed St Nick with a feg and a beer. He took a long drag and drank a long drinkThen looked up at the girls with a smile and a wink.‘I’m blootered and tired and I’ve had a long nightBut I’m still able to see when something’s not right. Arlene you’ve Edwin as your science bodBut the guy seems to think that nature’s a Prod.He says Taigs are more likely to contract the virusBut for truth in the news we should all be desirous. The places worst hit, who’ve suffered most pain,Are the Shankill and Woodvale, Springmartin, Coleraine.’Michelle clapped and cheered and blew Santa a kissAnd said it’s high time that someone said this. ‘This Poots thinks the planet’s a hundred years old,That gays are too loud and the Arctic’s too cold.’‘Hush,’ said St Nick with a burp and a fart,‘In this Covid madness your team’s played a part. Your teams up the country were given 10K,A mistake had been made, very sad to convey.But rather than send it straight back and be frank,They decided to give it a rest in the bank.’ On up to the housetop the eight reindeer flewWith a sleigh full of sacks and Saint Nicholas too.And then in a twinkling was heard on the roofThe prancing and pawing of each reindeer hoof. Down the long chimney he came with a thudAnd hit the deck covered in lager and blood.He sat up quite dazed and looked quickly aroundTo see politicians all drawn by the sound. ‘Hey, Steve,’ shouted Santa, and Aiken said ‘Yes?In what way can I help you, I’d like to impress?’‘Don’t be smart,’ said Santa, ‘you’ve no cause to be twee,You kept a guy in his job who’s much drunker than me. ‘The bloke’s lost his licence more than I’ve had hot dinners,You’d be firing torpedoes if that was the Shinners.’Then St Nick looked around and he stopped at Naomi,Cracked open a can and the lid went all foamy. ‘We’ve Brexit and Covid, we’re ready to buckle,But your party’s obsessed with a wee cúpla focal.No Irish in street names, it’s English, by Thor,Most likely a tribute to some bloody war. ‘But you play your guitars and you sing Kumbaya,You’re all things to all people and blah, blah and blah.’St Nick lit a feg and drank down his beer,And again at his audience started to peer. ‘Where’s that bloke from Derry, has he disappeared?The Stoop with the funny white spot on his beard?’‘He’s over in London,’ a junior Stoop said,‘He tried to stop Brexit but helped it instead.’ St Nick shook his head and he let out a sigh,Rubbed his face with his hands and said by and by,‘All I ever hear, and I find it so troublin’,Is him taking swipes at the Chucks down in Dublin. He speaks of TDs in the Dáil with such fury,But he hasn’t got one single rep south of Newry.’‘You’re so right, St Nick,’ said St Claire of the Greens,‘The others all act like they’re spoilt-rotten teens.’ Santa pointed angrily and took a deep, death breath,And fixed her with a steady stare as dark and cold as death.‘Your guy’s in bed with Leo, who slipped his pal a leak,But Eamon sat and looked away, not one word did he speak. ‘He’s in the Golden Circle, the Galway Races Tent,He said he’d save the planet, save the status quo he meant.’Then Santa drained his can of Harp and flicked away his butt,Hitched his belt and fixed his cap and slapped his ample gut. ‘I’ve checked my list, checked it twice, it’s very plain to seeNot one of you lot’s gonna get a single thing from me.There’s plenty that’s been naughty and no-one that’s been nice,You fight and blame then brief the press, but that comes at a price. I’ll leave a sack of ashes from your boilers’ wooden pelletsAnd tinfoil hats and party horns for anti-lockdown zealots.A helpful book on Covid grants called Bank Accounts for Dummies,It’s sure to pay for lavish fare to fill your festivetummies.’ And in a flash yer man was gone back up the Stormont flueAnd the local politicians stood and wondered what to do.Should they vow to mend their ways for their New Year’s resolution?To try and give some credence back to their damaged institution? ‘No!’ they cried with single voice, eyes all shining brightly,‘We’ll up our pay and up our perks and that’ll do fine rightly.’The silhouette of Santa’s sleigh was painted on the MoonAnd his parting words they sounded like a deep and loud bassoon. ‘So long till next year you lovely old city,That you’ve elected this lot is such an awful pity.Merry Christmas, Belfast, may your days be bright and merry,My advice is frig them all – get wired into the sherry.’
The pandemic has not gone away, you know.
THE VW Campervan is an iconic piece of automotive history, it has never gone out of fashion and is supported by many famous owners including Rick Stein, Jensen Button, Richard Hammond and Robbie Williams to name but a few. And now with the growing trend of campervan holidays and glamping fuelling demand VW has launched two new models of their “California Beach” campervans called the “Camper” and the “Tour”. When the original campervan was released in 1949 it cost around £600, times have changed and the new vehicle will set you back more than £52,000. The original had a top speed of 65mph the new van will almost double that at around 120mph and of course the trim is a world apart. VW has reintroduced the Beach model to the line-up following this surge in demand, which will feature two variants, the Camper and the Tour, making the California 6.1 line-up more attractive to larger families and to those who need a more flexible Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) to accommodate their hobbies or occasional journey rest stops. Prices for the “Tour” will start from £52,062 and it features five seats as standard, with the option to increase to six or seven, making it the only campervan on the market flexible enough to seat this number of people. Prices for the “Camper” will start from £52,302 and it offers four seats as standard with an option to increase to five, as well as a pull-out mini kitchen with a single gas hob, and pull-out awning. With order books now open, Volkswagen Van Centre teams are available by phone or online for sales enquiries or appointment booking and VW have confirmed that all their Van Centres are complying with the latest advice on COVID-19. VW also guarantees that it will not pass on any post-Brexit tariffs to orders placed before the 2nd of December 2020, providing confidence and offering certainty in uncertain times. Deliveries for the Camper and Tour models are expected by March 2021. Both are powered by a 2.0 TDI 148hp seven-speed diesel engine with direct-shift gearbox and feature a manual pop-up hydraulic roof, 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio with App Connect and a camping table with two folding chairs. Product Manager at VW Commercial Vehicles, Alice Axtell, said: “The California van has been the camper of choice for many over many years and provides the ideal companion to explore some of the most popular destinations as more people continue to opt for staycations instead of travelling abroad.” If you are looking for a camper that will facilitate the odd weekend away for fishing, a festival or attending sporting event, something that will let you take an overnight break on long journeys then the California may just be right for you, but, if you are looking for a luxury glampervan for family holidays or long breaks, this may not be vehicle of choice for you, the VW is a great weekender it’s not a motorhome.
AS I sit down to pen these words we have just finished putting up our Christmas tree. I have always loved Christmas, but this year is different. This year, hope is hard, belief is hard, resilience is hard, and many of us are weary. In the midst of another lockdown, it is a daily task to guard our hearts against compassion fatigue.
WHEN we think of diversity, we generally make sweeping statements about a population rich in cultures, races, beliefs and nationalities from Siberia to South Africa, the Americas to the far back of Australia.
Tá clár imeachtaí fíorspreagúil curtha le chéile ag eagraitheoirí Fhleadh Feirste, féile na Ceathrún Gaeltachta. Is ar líne a bheidh na hócáidí 3-5 Nollaig agus tá an éagsúlacht agus an chruthaitheacht a bhíonn ann gach bliain le sonrú in ainneoin na srianta agus na héiginnteachta a bhí ann sna seachtainí sin agus na himeachtaí á bpleanáil. Tá moladh mór ag dul do Bhrónagh Fusco, Bainisteoir Imeachtaí na Cultúrlainne, as cúrsaí a stiúradh agus a chinntiú go mbeidh siamsaíocht agus ábhar plé ar fáil do dhaoine de gach aois.
IT wasn’t Dúlra’s finest moment. One minute he was happily admiring the wonders of nature around the perimeter of Hilton Golf Course near Templepatrick, and then suddenly he was chest deep in water! When golfers talk about a water hazard, at least now he knows what they mean!The problem is that when most people wisely have their eyes on the ground when they’re walking, bird-watching Dúlra’s head is in the air. So if anything’s to blame for him taking a bath, it’s the beautiful buzzard that he was keeping an eye on at the time. Dúlra heard from a golfing pal that the giant raptor is always in the trees near the 14th hole. And sure enough, right on cue, there it was, perched on a branch like an ornament overlooking the green. It doesn’t need to work hard for a meal here – just keep an eye out for one of the many rabbits – and by killing them, the birds are doing the greenkeeper a favour.
THE signing of a joint letter by Michelle O’Neill, Stephen Farry, Colum Eastwood and Claire Bailey, calling on the British secretary of state to hold an independent investigation into the killing of human rights solicitor Patrick Finucane somehow did not get the headlines it deserved. It is worth reading in its entirety to see its import. That there is now a local majority consensus that agrees there was collusion in his killing in 1989, that agrees there has not been effective or human rights compliant investigation since, that agrees it remains a matter of utmost public interest that questions remain unanswered about who ordered the killing, about who knew what and when, and agrees that a public inquiry should be held is extraordinary. At the time of Pat Finucane’s murder the thought of the state colluding in the killing by the Ulster Defence Association was viewed as republican propaganda and was dismissed by most parties in the north. Even when the Weston Park negotiations agreed to a public inquiry into his death this was in the context of “building confidence” for nationalism in the peace process rather than a rights based approach to outstanding violations. Sadly in the south of Ireland in 1989 the Leinster House parties were not overly exercised either and if they looked North at all they were much more consumed with the defeat of the IRA than raising the killing of a human rights solicitor. This week the Finucane family met with the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Mícheál Martin whose party is consistent in its call for a public inquiry, as are his immediate predecessors in Fine Gael. Every single party on this island, with the exception of those two with Unionist in their names, now stand full square behind the demand for a public independent judicial inquiry into Patrick Finucane’s murder. That is testimony to Geraldine Finucane and her children Michael, Catherine and John, who have refused to accept less, refused to be sidelined and refused to be silent. They have ensured that Pat’s name has rung across the halls of Leinster House, Washington’s Congressional buildings, Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights, the palace of Westminster and now the once closed and deaf buildings of Stormont. It is entirely to their credit that they have moved so many to the one place. This week is significant. The British Secretary of State must tell the London Supreme Court how they will comply with their verdict of nearly two years ago that there must be an independent inquiry. They tried cover up, that didn’t work. They tried blaming the loyalists, that didn’t work. They tried unaccountable paper-based review with the De Silva report eight years ago. That didn’t work. They tried apology instead of inquiry. That did not work. There is no longer any hiding place for the British government. They must allow full scrutiny of the facts surrounding this killing. And we know that once light is shed many, many, other families affected by Britain’s policy of collusion, run by the Security Service, the RUC Special Branch and the British army’s Force Research Unit, with total knowledge and support of Whitehall, will also be vindicated. And that will be in our post-conflict society’s interest. The blood of truth has seeped out from under the closed doors of impunity for too long. It truly is time for truth.
LAST Friday, as this column noted, Sinn Féin published a new discussion paper – The Economic Benefits of a United Ireland. At the heart of the paper is a belief in economic self-government. The right and the ability of the people of Ireland to plan, manage, and develop our island economy in our best interests. It makes sense. Whatever differences may exist between the political parties on this island it is clear that they would prioritise economic policy in the interests of those they represent. On the other hand British government’s rule in British interests and take political and economic decisions that suit their objectives and not those of the people of the North and of this island. The ‘Economic Benefits of a United Ireland’ confronts the first question usually posed by those who are opposed to Irish Unity or those who are uncertain of that goal; ‘can we afford a United Ireland?’ The answer is yes. As Pearse Doherty TD remarked at the launch; “The health of an economy, the standard of living of its citizens; is driven by investment, research, innovation, good public services and access to the global economy. On all of these, not only is the Union stuttering, it is moving backwards... “The North deserves better, and a United Ireland offers so much more. Irish unity would allow for coordinated investment and development; something the Border region has been missing for a century. Irish unity would utilise economies of scale; allowing one economy to develop rather than having two economies compete. The current trajectory of the all-island economy attests to these opportunities”. The reality is that the Northern Executive doesn’t have access to any significant financial levers except rates. 90% of the Executive’s budget is directly controlled by London. The Assembly cannot devise long term fiscal policy or plan for the longer term. This is dictated by the British Government. But what of the so-called British subventions? British official stats put the subvention at around £10 billion per annum. In reality, the true value is somewhere between £2.5 and £6 billion. The economic payoff from uniting the two economies on the island would more than compensate for the loss of the subvention. Economists such as Kurt Hubner and David McWilliams agree. As Pearse Doherty attests: “Reducing the argument to the subvention is an own goal, the subvention only exists because the economy in the north is so underdeveloped, the subvention is a measure of the failure of BG financial policy in the north.” With almost seven million people and a larger economy, Irish Unity will create better jobs, increase incomes, improve our quality of life and deliver better public services. The discussion paper considers the advantages of Unity for the promotion of the Green Economy; the precedent of German re-unification; and the role the EU can play in successfully reuniting Ireland. If you want to find out more go to www.sinnfein.ie. Be part of the discussion.
Bloody Sunday 1920 earned its name. Unlike the Bloody Sunday of 1972, there were two bloodbaths occurred on Sunday 21 November 1920. In the morning the first batch of killings were carried out under instructions from Michael Collins. A hand-picked group of IRA Volunteers assassinated fifteen members of what was known as the ‘Cairo Gang’ – undercover British intelligence agents, living in and working from South Dublin. When news of the killings filtered through, several other British agents in the Dublin area fled to the security of Dublin Castle. In the afternoon, the second round of killings happened. These occurred at Croke Park that afternoon and are often referred to as ‘retaliation’ by the British forces for the elimination of the Cairo Gang in the morning. However, on its website last week the BBC claimed that “The British authorities suspected some of the gunmen had disappeared into the crowd at Croke Park, so armed police were deployed to block all the exits and search thousands of spectators.” I haven’t heard that explanation before. If it’s true, it shows the British authorities were more than a little dim. How did they hope to locate their suspects among the thousands of spectators, and what did they think the thousands attending the game would have been doing while they conducted their search? Whatever the thinking, following a flare signal from a small spotter plane overhead, the British military fired into the crowd and at players on the field. In all, fourteen people were killed, including three schoolboys aged 10, 11 and 13, and one player on the field, Mick Hogan, after whom the Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named.
BELFAST City Council says its officials will meet with party group leaders this week to discuss the placing of a UVF wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. And quite a wreath it was, too, now being one of the only three things on Earth visible from the moon, alongside the Great Wall of China and Jamie Bryson’s bald spot. Of course it’s right that moves are made to ensure that there’s no repeat next year and it is to be hoped that the promised discussions will ensure that that’s the case. But Squinter doesn’t think it’s a done deal by any means, because, let’s see now, what’s the best way to put this?... Well, unionism wasn’t a bit bothered by the wreath. There wasn’t a single person who advocates Our Precious Union® who spoke out to say that a tribute to an illegal loyalist paramilitary organisation has no place at official poppy commemorations. Far from it. When the story went up online the stock response from the loyal side of the aisle is that the Ulster Volunteer Force fought in World War I and UVF members died in their thousands. That claim is what is known in Ulster-Scots as complete balls. UVF members who fought in the war signed up to the 36th (Ulster) Division and died as British soldiers in a British regiment. Same happened with the Irish Volunteers who, at the urging of John Redmond, flocked to their death by joining the 10th (Irish) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division. Which means that the UVF wreath should read 36th (Ulster) Division, which would not only be accurate, but would be much less offensive to the families of the many Catholics who were killed by the, ah, UVF. One bloke got back to Squinter and observed: “Basic knowledge of history would know the correlation between the UVF and WWI. Putting the words ‘36th Ulster Division’ on the wreath is just a waste of money. Everyone knows which division is being remembered.”
With Clare Bailey of the Green Party suggesting that the pandemic should be managed by experts instead of politicians it might be time for further reflection.