WELL done to the Irish Olympic team. It’s been a long hard road for all of them in getting to these, the 32nd Olympics of modern times, now taking place in Japan. The Covid pandemic, the postponements and the lack of competitions have all made the last year and a half a difficult time for them and for the thousands of other athletes from across the world who have been diligently preparing and honing their skills for the Games.
The big day finally arrived on Saturday. The Irish team, courtesy of the Japanese alphabet, was the fourth to enter the new national stadium in Tokyo. This year the International Olympic Committee ensured that each team was led by a woman and a man. For Ireland, that honour was given to boxer Kellie Harrington and her West Belfast colleague Brendan Irvine who side by side, and carrying our national flag, led the Irish team into the almost empty Tokyo stadium. It was a welcome change, enhanced by the Irish team ceremonially bowing to their Japanese hosts. A proud moment of solidarity and courtesy between the Irish athletes and the host nation.

 This is Ireland’s largest ever Olympic team. In all they will be participating in 19 of the 33 sports events in the Games. I wish them all well. Whether they bring home a medal or not I believe they have already won through their participation and by their example.
The Olympic Games will run until 8 August.
The Olympic spirit of solidarity, humanity, equality and generosity comes through in other ways and others places also. Just ahead of the Irish Olympic team as it entered the Stadium was the Refugee Olympic Team. It was established in 2016 for the Rio de Janeiro Games by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the International Olympics Committee. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and send a message of hope to the estimated 82 million displaced persons across the globe. In 2016 there were just 10 athletes in its ranks. This year there are 29 athletes representing 11 countries, including Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

Meanwhile in Kells in County Meath the local community has opened its heart to helping refugees and is fundraising to bring a second Syrian refugee family to their community. Ahmed and his wife Fedaa, and their three children, Maysa, 8, Kays, 5, and Tasnin, 3, moved to Kells in 2019. Another 20 communities in the South are also preparing to receive Syrian families in the autumn under the Community Sponsorship scheme. 
Sadly that same Olympic Spirit was absent among those who chose last week to abuse a small number of asylum seekers staying at the Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus. The asylum seekers are being temporarily housed in the hotel. The vitriol that has been directed at them is in part the outworking of a Tory Government policy that aims to criminalise asylum seekers and which finds legal expression in the Nationality and Borders Bill currently being pushed through the British Parliament.
In an act of compassion and solidarity an online petition the hashtag #RefugeesWelcome was established and a petition has attracted over a thousand signatures and the support of most political parties, human rights bodies, elected representatives and individuals. They are making a stand against racism and defending the right of migrants and ethnic minority communities to feel safe in their homes, workplaces and streets. As Caoimhe Archibald MLA said: “Tá fáilte roimh theifigh anseo.”
Sadly, the same generosity of spirit cannot be said to exist within the Israeli Government’s apartheid policy toward the Palestinian people. Last week saw the publication of the report by the Dáil’s Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on ‘Demolitions and Displacements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’.
The report was undertaken in April of this year following reports of an increase in demolitions, “including buildings that had been constructed and renovated with financial assistance granted through EU funded multilateral aid and potentially with the assistance of monies allocated under the International Cooperation budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs.”
The report looks at the current situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and acknowledges that “Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian Territory are making the goal of peace and a viable two-state solution harder to achieve.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has been recording every demolition of Palestinian property in the west Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Almost 90,000 men, women and children have been affected by demolition and displacement. A result of this is that family unity and cohesion is shattered as the displaced families are forced to move in with relatives or neighbours.
Among its conclusions, the Joint Oireachtas Committee accepts that the “pattern of evictions, demolition orders and displacements are not random but appear to be strategically focused on altering the demography of East Jerusalem... for the establishment of more illegal Israeli settlements in the area and physically segregating and fragmenting East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.”
It urges the government to use its seat and forthcoming Presidency of the UN Security Council to
•  Address the root causes of the prolonged occupation of Palestine territory, the poverty, inequality and injustices.
• Demand directly (and through international bodies) reparation from the Israeli Government for the destruction of projects where Irish and EU funding was utilised.
• Support the setting of a clear timeframe towards the recognition of the State of Palestine.
These common-sense objectives must be part of any genuine effort to achieve a permanent peace.
As a people that has suffered from colonialism, these objectives also reflect the natural empathy that the Irish people have for other colonised and oppressed people. As much of our world burns and communities are devastated by floods arising in large part from climate change, the disparity in the distribution of Covid vaccines exposes the deep inequalities in wealth that exist between developed and developing nations. It is our duty, our responsibility, to confront these injustices, to be generous toward the victims of famine and conflict and the climate emergency, to oppose imperialist and adventurist wars, to be internationalist and fair, and to be champions of the cause of freedom in every land. Our objective must be to join with James Connolly and the United Irish Society as “part of the world-wide upward march of the human race”.

Cock-a-doodle-do Part 2: Where’s Russell?


I have learned a lot about roosters since I told the tale of my battle with Russell Crow last week.
Russell has been keeping a low-profile since his savage cowardly assault on my goolies. Apparently I’m not the first victim of unprovoked rooster aggression.
Roosters have a reputation for crabbit behaviour that makes Jim Allister seem placid. Apparently roosters are really Stormin’ Normans with fancy feathers.
Pity the poor hens having to put up with that all the time!
John the Joiner told me that a rooster on his granny’s farm landed on his head when he was a wee boy and proceeded to peck at his cranium. His granny swooped by. She deftly grabbed the rooster by the neck with one hand and karate chopped it with the other.
“We had roast rooster that Sunday. Grannies rule the roost. Grannies don’t take prisoners,’ John said.
A South Armagh correspondent who signed in as P. O Neill, tells me they have a saying around her way.
“Every Rooster has it own dunkill.” Meaning every rooster has its own dunghill. Make of that what you will. In this case P.O Neill is a Pauline. Make of that what you will also.
A Leitrim songster reminded me of the immortal lines “And every cock in the farmyard stock crows a triumph for the Gael, and it wouldn’t be surprising if there was another Rising, says the man from the Daily Mail.”
The little people in my life are oblivious to all this.  Russell is their hero. The  Dognappers also seem to be quietly proud of their feathered thug. I associate his low-profile with them. It is obvious they have him hidden away somewhere, though I shudder to think how they keep him from crowing. I suppose if you can kidnap dogs you can silence a crowing cock. Some people are very creative.
The Daddy Dognapper didn’t take my complaint too seriously when I reported Russell’s assault on me to him.
“He has never attacked me,” he said. And that was that.
Then later that night I heard a loud series of cackles, a string of curses and the noise of battle.That’s when Russell went undercover.
Later the little people in my life told me that Russell attacked the Daddy Dognapper. I was glad. Maybe now he will do something about Russell.  It makes the devil laugh to see the biter bitten.
But it’s not over until it’s over. I will get my own back on that hallion of a rooster if its the last thing I do.
He can’t hide forever. He’s too proud for that. One of these dawns his crowing will give him away. And then...