Sometimes the fact that I live in a parallel universe becomes really highlighted, like this Sunday with Churches open I’m back on my odyssey of visiting every church in Belfast for a service.
WHEN you head up to Colin Glen for a nice late-spring dander, you don’t expect to be caught in a snowstorm. But on Monday we got caught not just by one storm, but by SIX! At one stage our heads were pounded by hailstones the size of pennies, but minutes later the forest was magically filled with a multitude of snowflakes floating like fairy dust, all illuminated by the sun which incredibly was shining at the same time. We had gone there in search of two of the glen’s long-time residents – kestrels and dippers. Kestrels have nested in a quarry here for as long as Dúlra can remember, while dippers are among our earliest nesters and will probably already be incubating their eggs. But in the end it was two other birds which stole our hearts.
THE birds they sang at the break of day
LAST week, Downing Street was shooting from the hip in support of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report. This report has been dismissed in many quarters, including by experts on race relations, as a complete whitewash. It’s called the “Downing Street” report, because that’s what it is, a Conservative Party public relations exercise. It has not had the best of reviews. It makes an assertion that researchers relied on data of success stories and therefore not only denied the existence of racism but also represented the positive stories. In a way, I think we should be grateful that this report was even released in the first place. It has given us a small break from the niceties of appearing unoffended when you very well know that many raw nerves have been touched.
D’eisigh COMEX, Coiste Saineolaithe de chuid Chomhairle na hEorpa, an tuairisc is déanaí acu ar na mallaibh. Bíonn COMEX ag plé le teangacha traidisiúnta na dtíortha sin a bhfuil an Chairt Eorpach um Theangacha Réigiúnacha nó Mionlaigh sínithe acu.
I HIT FIFTY this Spring. Not for a few weeks yet so hold off on the cake! (Carrot, since you’re asking.) My mother died only a few weeks after she turned 50. She faced the weeks I’m in now with the certainty that she would soon die from breast cancer. Horrible, debilitating, aggressive breast cancer. I spent all of my 40s expecting a shortened life like hers, so what do you do when you’ve been entirely convinced you wouldn’t reach 50 – an age taken for granted by the majority, but denied to a significant number, including your own mother? Planning a celebration isn’t what I want. It does not feel right. But it is enough of a milestone to give me pause. And somehow that reflection goes outwards. Born into a partitioned state, ill at ease with itself, with an incomplete history, I felt unarticulated suffocation. I was in a state founded on violent, unfinished revolution that was censoring its own people and history, and turning its rage inwardly.
We look back at the stories that were making the headlines in the Andersonstown News this week in 1979
THE past and present leaders of the DUP are currently singing off the same hymn sheet when assessing the tensions around the unionist rejection of the Irish Protocol. Peter Robinson’s assertion in a recent News Letter article that “we are perilously close to a line which, when crossed, will lock us all into a pattern all too familiar to my generation” would rightly be pounced on by political opponents and sections of the media if it were uttered by a Sinn Féin representative. DUP Leader and First Minister Arlene Foster told RTE that it is “dangerous when people think they’re being sidelined and not listened to.” Peter Robinson says that unionists “are more alienated than I have seen at any time in my 50 years in politics.” He omits the anti-civil rights campaign in the 1960s; pogroms in 1969; the UWC strike in 1974; DUP-led strike in 1977; reaction to Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985; anger at the Downing Street Declaration and rejection of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. His claim that there is a danger that for some unionists all of this will lead to an “estrangement from the political arrangements” that may then be “vented more robustly”, when taken along with Foster’s warning of danger, must be taken seriously.
I’VE never had a green thumb. My neighbour’s tomatoes swell in his greenhouse, his lettuces bulge in neat rows. Meanwhile, God help me, I stick my daffodil and tulip bulbs into what looks more like a mass grave than a flowerbed and hope for the best. And yet, miraculously each year, it happens. Even in January the half-black earth of the mass grave begins to be pierced by the tips of optimistic little shoots, and by April flowers are shouting their glorious colours at anyone wise enough to stand and stare. In Easter 1916 a small group of men set out on a dark, apparently hopeless task. Much of Ireland’s population was buried in acceptance of British rule. But unlike my plant-and-pray technique, the Proclamation signatories knew exactly what they were doing. Pearse, McDonagh and Plunkett may have been more poets than soldiers. But like the other signatories, they saw beyond their inevitable military defeat to a transformed Ireland. They had an unshakeable faith in the seeds planted by their deaths. And so they embraced their deaths rather than endured them.
Where Grieving Begins: Building Bridges after the Brighton Bomb by Patrick Magee (Pluto Press, 2021)
UNIONIST fury. It’s real. Again. But what is it that has brought such huge numbers of loyalists out on the streets in recent nights? (23 people blocked the road in Carrick on Sunday.) We’ve been speaking to a DUP spokesman in an attempt to take the temperature of loyal Ulster. - Why are loyalists out on the street rioting?- It’s a complex mixture of grievances.- Well, give me the main one.- I’m thinking… so many to choose from. Hmmm.- Just one.- Right, right.- Let me make it easier for you. Is it more about the Irish Sea border or the Bobby Storey funeral?- I’d say the Bobby Storey funeral.- Tell me more.- The police colluded with Sinn Féin/IRA to allow a breach of the Covid rules they drew up.- And you’re upset about that because…?- Because the DUP has always taken its pandemic responsibilities very seriously and it’s infuriating when others don’t.- Can I give you two words?- Go on.- Sammy Wilson.- Cheap shot.- Sorry. The 13-year-old who was scooped in Sandy Row – do you think he was upset about the PSNI Gold Commander liaising with senior republicans?- I’ve been speaking to his mother and I can tell you that yes, he was incredibly upset at the direction of the criminal justice system in the Province. I haven’t seen him that annoyed since he got a feg burn in his North Face jacket.- Tell me about two-tier policing.- Two what policing?- Tier.- Oh, yes. We believe the police have been giving preferential treatment to republicans and the Storey funeral was a glaring example of that.- The police haven’t intervened in any funerals – loyal orders or loyalist paramilitaries.- And your point is?- They’ve treated all funerals the same.- Here we go – two-tier broadcasting as well now. They went to the doors of George from the Shankill and Big Jim Wilson the night after they were out on the middle of the road innocently hugging each other in a responsible socially-distanced way celebrating the Rangers title win.- But there was a large police investigation into the Bobby Storey funeral.- Yeah, and nobody was interviewed for months.- So you’re angry because it took the police longer to investigate 24 people than it did for them to rap on two doors?- Kind of.- Do you think the Sandy Row UDA under-15s were also rioting about the Irish Sea border?- They most certainly were.- What don’t they like about it?- They believe, as do we, that it cuts us off from the rest of the UK and leaves us a satellite state of the EU.- So they were burning wheelie bins outside Lavery’s to send a message to whom?- To Leo Martin and Micheál Varadkar and that Brussels bloke with the grey hair my granny fancies.- Not to Boris Johnson?- What’s it got to do with him?- He told you it wasn’t going to happen and then he made it happen.- It was the threats of violence over a land border from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party that forced his hand.- Threats of violence?- Oh, yes.- Let’s talk about threats of violence.- Where are you going with this?- Why did you meet the UVF and the UDA to talk about the Irish Sea border?- We were simply engaging with community stakeholders via the Loyalist Community Council.- Community stakeholders who are up to their necks in drug-dealing and murder.- The LCC is not just the UDA and the UVF, you know.- It’s not?- No, Red Hand Commando are in there too.- Wasn’t meeting those guys simply a veiled threat of what might happen if the Irish Sea border stays?- Look, we made it very clear to the loyalist commanders that violence can never be the way forward.- And what did they say?- It was pretty hard to tell, actually. I think they were all still off their faces.- Why’s that?- They were at a big funeral the day before.
There have been two further Covid-19 deaths and an additional 89 cases until Tuesday. This makes 117,676 cases and 2,118 deaths so far.
THEY go by the slogan ‘Raising the volume on the whispered conversations in our communities.’ These four women are all gatekeepers in their own right on a professional, faith, social and historical magnitude. Yes, this is the first group of Black women making a foursome collaboration to bring stories to your home from right here in Northern Ireland. They really want the positive energy vibe and similarly want to talk about society and its difficult moments. So they are not faking it, the habit of enjoying these podcasted conversations. The podcast is ‘Unmute Now’ and its main aim is to bring important and sometimes difficult conversations from families or communities to the table for frank yet thoughtful discussions.
BELFAST'S proud history of producing some of the world’s best in electronic music and production goes back to nearly half a century. From David Holmes to Bicep, the capital has long been home to some of the best international talents that are on offer in the vast genre – and this week, another storied institution within the scene announced its return. AVA Festival, which was forced into a Covid hiatus last year, announced its return in sweeping fashion with a huge line-up of artists from all over the world. With its reputation for packing out venues, weekend-long parties and sweat-inducing memories, AVA has come to represent the best of what makes Belfast and Northern Ireland a powerhouse in electronic music – a grassroots organisation that is artist-led and continually exceeds the expectations of an independent arts festival. Its line-up announcement will be a welcome sight to the thousands of ticket sellers around the globe who attend every year.
Carol Graham is a well-known painter who initially was famed for her portraits. Her observation and technique around light has had made her much sought after for commissions.