THE recently released report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission is a shameful record of the brutality, ill-treatment and abuse inflicted on generations of women and their children in these institutions.
FATHER Joe McVeigh was a close friend and colleague of Des Wilson. It wasn’t just that both were priests. They both shared a passionate belief in justice and were committed to standing up for the rights of citizens against a British state apparatus which was oppressive and violent. Fr Des died on the November 5, 2019, aged 94. He lived a full life. A good life. And in the course of his years of service he helped thousands of people. During the dark years of war and violence he lived and worked in Ballymurphy and Springhill. With Joe McVeigh, Fr Des established the Community for Social Justice. Its role was to highlight the real nature of violence in Ireland and to challenge the leaders of the Church. Fr Des believed that the Church had a moral responsibility to stand against injustice and repression. As a tribute to his friend Fr Joe has just published a thoughtful tribute: Des Wilson – A Voice for the Poor and Oppressed. It tells the story of Des, his early life, his work as a priest in St John’s parish and then in Ballymurphy and Springhill, and then the setting up of Springhill Community House. I am honoured to have written the Foreword. Fr Joe says of Springhill Community House: “Des had a deep love and respect for the people in the Ballymurphy/Springhill community in which he lived. He always had time for a conversation and a cuppa tea. The door was always open. There was always a céad mile failte.
LIKE many other republicans I have spent several Christmases in prison. It’s not a nice place to be at any time, but especially over Christmas. I was reminded of this a few days before Christmas when I had the opportunity to hold a video conference with two of the imprisoned leaders of 'Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya' (ERC) – the main pro-independence party in Catalan. Oriol Junqueras is President of the ERC and Raul Romeva is the former Foreign Minister of the Catalan government. Both are currently serving prison sentences of 13 years and 12 years respectively in Lledoners prison, Catalonia. Declan Kearney MLA joined me in the conversation and also in attendance was Marta Rovira, the ERC’s General Secretary, who is currently exiled in Switzerland, and Jordi Solé, the ERC's Secretary for International Affairs.
This US Presidential election race is its final stretch. It’s probably one of the most watched and bitter in modern American history. In recent weeks the electoral battle between President Trump and Vice President Biden has taken many twists and turns as each appeal to voters for support. In particular, how Trump and Biden are addressing the Coronavirus pandemic is probably the single biggest issue dominating the news agenda. It is also important to remember that this election is about more than who will be President. Every Congressional seat is also up for re-election and a third of the seats in the Senate.
When Boris Johnson tells you that his government is determined to defend the Good Friday Agreement – don’t believe a word of it. When British Ministers claim that their government is “committed to protecting and respecting human rights” – don’t believe a word of it. And when they claim to be a party committed to equality and fairness under the law – don’t believe it. The Johnson government is currently engaged in the most concentrated attack on human rights of any British government since Margaret Thatcher.
I USED to have an old hard-backed copy of Nora Connolly O’Brien’s ‘Portrait Of A Rebel Father’. This wonderful account of James Connolly’s life, as recalled by his daughter, is a must-read for followers of the great man. I foolishly lent my copy to a comrade and that is the last I saw of it. But that’s another story.
LAST month the British government resumed the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. British bombs, bullets, missiles and military equipment sold to the Saudi’s and their allies have caused thousands of deaths and injuries and contributed to a humanitarian disaster in the Yemen.
LAST weekend the people of West Belfast remembered the introduction of internment in August 1971 – and the escalating conflict that had commenced with the pogroms in August ’69. The families of the victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre are still courageously campaigning, like many others, for truth from the British state.
THERE is unanimity of approach among the establishment parties in the Oireachtas when it comes to a referendum on Irish unity – they are against it. Last week the Taoiseach Micheál Martin ruled out a referendum on a united Ireland because it would be too “divisive”. In December the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan dismissed calls for a referendum on the same basis. It would be “divisive”. And not to be outdone, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed that a referendum would be “divisive”. Of course, it is partition that is “divisive”.Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party assert that now is not the right time for a referendum. They also accuse Sinn Féin of seeking an immediate referendum. They are wrong on both counts.
THE Falls Curfew 50 years ago was a tipping point in modern Irish history. The previous August (1969) unionist mobs had burned out hundreds of nationalist homes in West and North Belfast, killed and maimed and forced thousands of families to become refugees living in schools, with friends and family, or strangers who opened their doors for them, or in camps across the border established by the Irish government.
ON Tuesday republicans buried our friend and comrade Bobby Storey. His death, after a long battle with illness, has left a void in all our lives. Big Bob was a larger than life character. For almost 50 years he was tireless in pursuit of Ireland’s long struggle for freedom. I was honoured and privileged to call him my friend. I want to dedicate this week’s column to his memory.
I READ a newspaper column by Fintan O’Toole. In it he argued that the handling of the pandemic by the southern state had been a turning point. “If Covid-19 had struck the world even five years ago, one of the first questions on the minds of Irish officials would have been: what is Britain doing?”
Like the Easter commemorations earlier this year this Sunday’s Bodenstown ceremony will take place online (www.sinnfein.ie). Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD, who has previously spoken at Bodenstown on three occasions, the last in 2018, will give this year’s keynote address. The Coronavirus restrictions make it impossible to hold the normal event with its march and graveside oration.