RESIDENTS rejoiced in the Market on Tuesday evening after the Save The Market – a group dedicated to fighting against the redevelopment of culturally unique buildings in the historic district of the city – convinced Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee to reject planning permission that would have seen the tearing down of the historic Sussex Place Convent School.
IN 1845 the Belfast ‘Banner of Ulster’ described Smithfield as “All that wild wilderness of lanes, alleys, blind courts, and ‘rows’, lying between Hercules Street and East Smithfield and bounded, on the other side, by Berry Street and North Street, forms one of the most extensive and gangrenous of these social ulcers. There, in foul and fetid huts, unglazed-ragged, drunken-looking ranges of buildings that seem like tipsy wretches arming one another along – swarms of hideous women and children who are virtually orphans under their parents’ roof find refuge but not shelter. Here, amid pools reeking with malaria and heaps of putrefying offal, the refuge of slaughter houses, typhus in its most malignant forms, cholera, angels of death ever hover...”
THE furore created by the outrageous comments of the former MP Kate Hoey about nationalists in the professions has refused to go away. The main target of Ms Hoey and her unionist associates, Professor Colin Harvey of Queen’s University, has spoken of his gratitude for the wave of support that he has received from academic colleagues both on these islands and around the world. However, certain individuals and media outlets have been doubling down on the contention that the law, the media and academia have been invaded by hordes of nationalist sleepers posing as solicitors, barristers, judges, reporters, broadcasters, professors and lecturers. Meanwhile, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has refused to withdraw the support that he offered to the report in which Ms Hoey made her remarks. It’s a story as old as colonialism itself. The gradual move away from subjugation towards justice and freedom has always at best discomfited those who have historicially benefited from the status quo – at worst it has sent them into paroxysms of existential confusion and fury. The latter is proving to be the case here in the North. Growing conversations around the future and the willingness by so many to enter into the debate about a new Ireland are causing huge angst among unionists already struggling to come to terms with the worsening nightmare that Brexit has become, and in particular the undermining of their position within the United Kingdom brought about by their Protocol betrayal at the hands of the UK Government. It’s no surprise that the three professions in focus in this unedifying episode are ones which historically were not so much cold houses for nationalists and Catholics as ice palaces. The law was for decades effectively an arm of the one-party state, and during the most recent phase of the conflict the judiciary were happy to turn the handle of the meat grinder that was the Diplock Courts system. The press in the North was overwhelmingly unionist, a cheerleader for the anti-Irish Stormont regime, turning a blind eye to the egregious injustices which led inevitably to the outbreak of violence, and later acting as stenographers for the British Army and RUC press offices. The BBC was a bastion of unionist supremacy for decades, steadfastly ignoring the existence of Irish identity and culture while celebrating an annual anti-Catholic parade (amazingly, it still does). Queen’s University, of course, was to the fore in the fair employment battles of the 80s and 90s, its religious breakdown as grotesquely skewed as that of the shipyard or Shorts. What we’re seeing is a belated correcting of historic wrongs, a welcome injection of equality into institutions desperately in need of it. Not only can that process not be halted, much less reversed, those who rail against should be aware that there are many more advances still to be made. Those who don’t like it have a simple choice: get with the programme or get out of the way.
WHEN there is a report of the significance of Operation Greenwich, exposing to the world the depth of collusion during the conflict, there is often a reaction in our community that says, ‘We shouldn’t be surprised.’ Should we not? I’m surprised that Ulster Resistance took the weapons they had from the South African shipment and billed the UVF and UDA when they distributed them. Should we not be surprised that Ulster Resistance, an entirely legal entity that boasted of members including the leadership of the DUP, doing the invoicing? I’m surprised that a report tells us that in February 1991, a cache of military documents which included the names of over 250 individuals was discovered in a raid on a UDR member’s home and that in on May 31 s Assistant Chief Constable saw fit to direct the RUC not to warn the 250-plus individuals that they might be at risk. And that the names included those of Thomas Donaghy and Bernard O’Hagan, who were killed weeks later, the person whose home had been raided a suspect in the killings.
I WANT to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ashling Murphy. The spontaneous public outpouring of grief at her murder underlines the frustration and anger that exists at the habitual reports of violence against women. Condolences are not enough. Men, and I include myself in this, need to take responsibility for ensuring that every woman has the right to be safe and that there is zero tolerance of male violence against women. Our friend and Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin says this better than I ever could. The Women of Ireland Are Fed Up. By Emma SheerinFrom our grandmothers, educated in Latin and the catechism, but not about menstruation; locked up whether they fell prey to a neighbour or ‘chose to commit a mortal sin’, as if either were crimes, as if they deserved a life in an institution. Those lucky enough to be ‘good girls’ – what was their reward? A life locked to the kitchen sink. Caring for parents or child after child. A miscarriage? A stillbirth? No consecrated burial. ‘Don’t mourn your baby’ the priest said, but life begins at conception. The swinging sixties. Mini skirts and the pill. The pulpit still ruled. ‘She got herself in trouble.’ Those who escaped the convents; the scrubbing brushes and the loss of their healthy, happy baby, got whispers and judgement. Some fled. Boats to England. Secrets held forever. ‘He gave her a hammering,’ the neighbours would remark. Nobody’s business, ‘He’s a nice fella.’ ‘Why does she stay with him?’ a more enlightened friend might say, someone not horrified by divorce, ignorant of financial realities. ‘Why does he hit her?’ they forget to ask?
SOME of Ireland’s most well-known talent dropped news and new music as the yearly release cycle begins to heat up, and new labels look to celebrate the past and capture the future in this week’s article. The most pressing matter comes from the Fontaines D.C. camp, where news of a new album was released. ‘Skinty Fia’ was formally announced alongside a live performance on American talk show The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the debut of their newest single ‘Jackie Down The Line’. The Dublin-born and now London-based quintet’s third album in three years, and time will tell if the cup of ideas still runneth over. With an American tour to back them up, one can only assume we’ll get an answer sooner rather than later.
JEFFREY Donaldson says he didn’t do a deal with the British Government allowing him to stand in Lagan Valley in May’s Assembly election. And of course Squinter’s pretty sure that the issue just didn’t arise when the boy Jeffrey met senior Government figures in London just a few days earlier. He’s on a bit of a cleft stick, is the DUP leader. He’s desperate to become First Minister, which before this deal… sorry, completely spontaneous and out-of-the-blue announcement by the NIO, would have meant him standing down from his seat in the Commons. And that’s something of an appalling vista. The leader standing down would mean a by-election in Lagan Valley with a much lower-profile DUP figure taking his place. Jeff is what you might call one of the party Big Beasts, despite his diminutive stature, but even so he got the fright of his life in the 2019 election, when his vote plummeted by over 16 per cent, while Alliance ingénue Sorcha Eastwood saw her vote surge by roughly the same amount. And, given the buffeting in the polls Jeff and his party have taken in recent months over a weak-as-water performance on the Protocol, is there anybody who doesn’t think there’s a real danger that Loyal Lisburn could be about to turn green, white and yellow? And if the DUP were to lose a once rock-solid constituency with the new boy at the helm, well… the troops might start to think that the Edwin Poots boy wasn’t such a disaster after all.