THE general tenor of a certain piece of reporting in recent days was ‘Human Rights Commission agrees IRA and gangland murders are the same’. Which piece of news came as a huge fillip to those unionists who maintain that the most recent conflict was a case of republican thugs trying to wreck the place out of sheer badness while the put-upon forces of the state tried to hold the ring and loyalist paramilitaries were forced into a sometimes over-enthusiastic and misguided response.

As ever in this benighted little corner of our island, the truth got lost in a miasma of crowing and one-upmanship. What actually happened, when dust cleared and a cool audit of the facts conducted, was in fact a kick in the ging-gangs for those who are flogging the skeleton of a dead horse that is the loyal Ulster yeomen versus bloodthirsty psychopaths. And what happened was this…

A certain gentleman with a penchant for wheelie bins and walking into lampposts wrote to the Human Rights Commission on behalf of the brother of an IRA victim asking if there is any provision in human rights legislation “which creates a hierarchical or any other form of carve out for ‘IRA murder’, thus meaning the that the taking of life by the IRA is different than any other unlawful taking of life.” In response, the Chief Commissioner wrote: “You rightly observe, and I agree, that human rights law, including the right to life, applies equally to all individuals in Northern Ireland. Neither the Human Rights Act 1998 nor the European Convention of Human Rights creates a hierarchy of rights and indeed the fundamental principles human rights law requires that they are universal and applied without discrimination.”

So, yes, extant human rights legislation makes no distinction between the right to life of a person killed by the IRA and a person killed by a narco-gang. But what you’ll notice about the Commissioner’s response is that it very carefully and deliberately omits any reference to the group that it was invited to reference – the IRA. And the IRA isn’t mentioned because what the Commissioner said is directly applicable to any individual or group which ever took the life of another person: “the fundamental principles of  human rights law require that they are universal and applied without discrimination.”

What does that mean? Well, it means that right to life provisions and human rights law make no distinction between an IRA murder and a murder carried out by the Hutch gang. But crucially, it also means that they make no distinction between a British Army murder and a murder carried out by the Kinahan gang. As the late, great Margaret Thatcher once put it: “Murder is murder is murder.”

And we crack on. A murder by the INLA is no different in human rights law to a murder by the Peter Sutcliffe. A murder by the UVF is no different in human rights law to a murder by Harold Shipman. A murder by the RUC is no different in human rights law to a murder by the Kray twins. A murder by the UDR is no different in human rights law to a murder by Jack the Ripper. The key word being ‘murder’, which in common law is the unlawful killing of another with the intention of causing death or serious injury.

Whether any of these simple legal facts is reflected in the conviction rate for British soldiers and RUC officers is an argument for another day.  Is highlighting the fact that human rights law here makes no distinction between murders by state actors and non-state actors more of a hammer blow to the IRA than it is to the state? When you give it some thought, it wheelie, wheelie isn’t.


THE Orange Order has launched its own coffee, ‘The King William Blend’, which sold out a rapid rate of knots. So brethren right across the island are set to be full of beans on Christmas morning. The coffee can be bought – or it could be before it sold out – in a twenty-quid Christmas gift box from the Grand Lodge of Ireland website (yes, ‘Ireland’; no, not ‘Northern Ireland’  and it comes with a smart mug that’s black on the outside and orange on the inside. Please insert your own joke here.

An information card reads: “This unique blend should inspire thoughts of Liberty! As you sit back and enjoy its flavour you will be transported back to the coffee shops of seventeenth century Amsterdam, and to Croom Elbow in particular. Amidst the swirling aroma of coffee, some of the key architects of the Glorious Revolution met to discuss their plans.”

A loyal son he told his folks what he wanted on Christmas Day,

He said it can’t be Roman Catholic and it certainly can’t be gay.

He said he wants a present that reflects his Orange Order pride

And as he spoke with fire and passion, his bright eyes opened wide.

Don’t get me a Yankee Candle, though the smell can be quite class,

It fills the house with festive cheer but it also stinks of Mass.

And if you go for jewellery be attentive to my needs,

Don’t be getting me anything that looks like rosary beads.

Please don’t send a Christmas card with Three Wise Men from the East,

They visited Baby Jesus but I heard that one’s a priest.

And Robin Redbreast’s to be found in many a Christmas scene,

But the holly bush he sits on is sadly coloured green.

And if you go to Spotify avoid Michael Bublé like the plague,

His Christmas album’s warm and soft, but I reckon he’s a Taig.

And I used to love Mel Gibson’s Lethal Weapon Christmas flick,

But then I heard he loves the Pope and it made me feel quite sick.

Last year I got what I wanted after many earnest appeals,

I loved that smart sports hoodie but it bore the badge O’Neills.

So I headed to the charity shop there to hand it in,

But then I had a better idea and chucked it in the bin.

Make mine a loyal Christmas, full of cheer and No Surrenders!,

No drag, no trans, no stuff that claims there’s more than just two genders.

Hang a wreath upon the door to welcome all who enter,

With Rangers badges all around and King Charles in the centre.

Put up the garden sign that reads ‘Santa please stop here’

And the one that tells the neighbours ‘Have a peaceful Prod New Year.’

Put flashing lights upon the roof, inflate that Santa Claus

And put a pair of union jack socks on Rudolf’s chilly paws.

And now I’m going to tell you what I want in my Christmas stocking,

It’s quite unusual and you may think it’s even something shocking.

Drape the tree with tinsel that shines red, white and blue

And underneath the tree please place that Orange Order brew.

It’s a mix of beans from Holland once enjoyed by good King Billy,

Guaranteed to warm me up when things are bleak and chilly,

With notes of nut and apricot and an attitude quite brash

And a hot and spicy festive smell that near blew off my sash.

There’s a hint of Eleventh Night onions like the chip vans round the fires

And an acrid blast that hits your nose like the smoke from burning tyres. 

There’s sweet and sour fruit that teases tongue and smell and molars

And it’s as rich a shade of black as the Orange brethren’s bowlers.

But the thing I love about it most is how it fills my senses,

How it makes me happy whene’er the brewing commences.

What fills my loyal heart with joy amidst the festive glitter

Is that our brand new Orange mix leaves an aftertaste sour and bitter.