Friday, March 31, 2006


Fun Irelander Feature - NI citizenship test

The only symbol everyone accepts - clue! I see Tony over at The State We're In sent Slugger O'Toole readers a challenge to come up with a 'Northern Irish' citizenship test.

Leaving aside my own feelings that NI is not a real country and that thus any attempt to come up with a test would fail as miserably as the ill-fated idea of an official NI flag, it's clear that there is only one person qualified enough to handle something like this - me!

After all, I did come up with the United Irelander Irishness test.

With that being said, I hereby give to you all...the NI citizenship test!

Can you make the grade?


New deadline set for NI Assembly - hooray!

Restore the institutions! You're probably wondering why I've included a picture of the very luscious Elisha Cuthbert for this post. Well, it's a post concerning a deadline set by the two governments to restore the North's assembly so I didn't want any of you to fall asleep.

According to Dublin and London, November 24th is the new final deadline. Hmm.

Assembly members are to be called to Stormont on 15 May for a six-week period to try to form an executive.

An emergency bill is also expected to be put through Westminster to change some of the Stormont rules. (Change them in what way?)

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said the assembly would break for summer before being recalled in September for 12 weeks until the end of November.

He also said the political parties have been told the British and Irish governments are considering holding more talks at a stately home during the summer recess to deal with the DUP outstanding problems.

Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern outlined the strategy:

"We have made it quite clear as far as we are concerned that the Good Friday Agreement will be implemented in full.

"Ultimately we wish the politicians in Northern Ireland to be the authors of their own destiny."

The nationalist parties have expressed concern however. Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness stated his party is "more than willing to go into government with Ian Paisley and his party but we are not going into limbo with him," while SDLP leader Mark Durkan said his party wanted "all the institutions restored with full powers and the parties put into a live situation, not shadow boxing in a shadow assembly."

What I found most interesting, not to mention telling, were the comments made by Alliance leader David Ford who said it was important that the two governments stayed engaged and did not leave it to NI's politicians:

"The key issue is that the two governments build on issues like a shared future and stop just managing division."

It shows how farcical politics in the North have become when one of the party leaders up there is stressing how disastrous things would be if the parties were left to themselves.

Ultimately however, if they won't work together then there can be only one other fair alternative - Joint Authority. The two governments should work together and implement the outstanding features of the Good Friday Agreement if Paisley won't play ball.

We must see progress made and soon. If the DUP still won't budge by November then I imagine not even nude photos of the lovely Elsiha Cuthbert would revive their interest in NI. That would mean then only one other realistic option for the people of NI - rule from Dublin and London.


Leprechaun spotted in Alabama (sigh)

Yes you read the title correctly. Apparently a leprechaun has been spotted in a tree in Alabama.

A US news station has documented the story. Watch the clip below and see for yourselves. What I particularly liked was the amateur sketch of the leprechaun. Someone clearly got a real good look at him!


Separated at Birth?

Heil Hitler!Put Fine Gael back in the Dail!

Michael McDowell recently got into a bit of bother for comparing Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton (pictured above-left without the Swastika) to nasty Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels (pictured right).

But in all fairness...they do kind of look alike don't they?

Bruton and Goebbels - Separated at Birth? You decide.


Friday Fun's Fascinating Fact

Fact: "Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour."

I'm guessing taxpayers in NI are in great physical condition then...

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Thursday Thoughts: Is blogging the ultimate waste of time?

Some people won't listen I've been pondering alot about the future of this blog of mine lately and whether there's any real point in continuing it much further. This doesn't stem from any disillusionment with my own opinions and I can assure you it's nothing to do with "stress" either, rather it's a disillusionment with blogging in general.

I've never been a big blogging enthusiast it's fair to say. What I mean by that is, I'm not one of those people who views it as being the future replacement of journalism. 'The next wave' etc and all those other worn out, tired cliches. I originally started this blog because I had immersed myself in the 'blogosphere' and I felt that the Irish blogosphere needed more Irish nationalist voices. I would say my views are alot more moderate than those of other republicans so I felt the blog had a purpose - to offer an alternative nationalist view. Now almost 16 months after its inception, I find myself wondering what is the purpose of this blog?

The Irish blogosphere recently lost a very good nationalist blog - Res Publica - when its owner Deaglan declared that its job had been done. Not many people understood what he meant but I think I understand. The purpose of his site was similar to my own - put out another view, express an opinion, challenge mindsets. He did that and so he put the blog to rest a year after he created it. I can respect that.

Another thing that has played on my mind of late are comments left by Dubliner, Observer and Paul from the N.Irish Magyar which were pretty illuminating for me. Dubliner had this to say:

"UI, as my cynical eye sees it, Northern Blogging is the Ultimate Waste of Time: (a) You can’t persuade people to change their sense of national identity, and (b) You can’t persuade people to change political outlooks that are, in actuality, purely a function of that sense of national identity. These aspects are formed by deep-rooted emotion, and not by rational argument. Ergo, rational argument is a futile tool to apply to the purpose of changing locked minds; and since there is no other tool to apply, the entire process is the Ultimate Waste of Time. In fact, most aspects of NI local politics are also filtered through that mental lockout mechanism, so the inevitable result is a continuation of the ‘normal abnormality’: stagnation, intransigence, and lockout/lockdown. They’re all royally fucked and there isn’t a damn thing you can do to change that."

I find it hard to argue with any of that. So if I'm in agreement with him, am I wasting my time by continuing this site? Observer made a similar point:

"Most Irish people, with enough interest to comment on blog sites, are pretty well stuck with particular mindsets and really want to engage in intellectual fencing rather than open debate (myself included). You can't afford to take it too personally, or expect to bring people to their senses (especially when most of them were never there in the first place)."

Paul likewise touched on this area:

"The vast majority of NI political bloggers are not interested in debate but solely in putting their pov across- and it's not even that important if they feel that other people are reading it or not. As long as they feel they've readdressed some perceived imbalance or injustice then they're happy. If I'm honest that was also my main motivation in replying to comments from the likes of people like "billy" etc here and elsewhere. Completely pointless and ultimately an utter waste of time."

All good points. So I have to ask myself - am I wasting my time with this site? A lone voice crying out in the wind? It seems alot of people that I come across have their hands on their ears so to speak. As Dubliner put it, their minds are locked. Blogging doesn't seem an appropriate medium to reach out to those people whose minds are open, who are willing to see both sides to every story. I just checked my first post on United Irelander and it was pretty brief:

"Welcome to my blog which I hope will provide interesting debate. I will do my best to keep things interesting and thoughtful. Enjoy!"

I'd like to think I've done well in that respect. If I did end this blog I'd be proud of what I've accomplished here. My passion for politics remains strong but my passion for blogging has waned big time. I remember having a discussion with Pete Baker of Slugger O'Toole one time where I used an analogy that being a blogger was alot like being a pamphleteer. You distribute your piece and while some people take it on board, most just tear it up and throw it in the garbage. There's only so much that lone pamphleteer can do.

And yet, when I think about ending this blog I'm filled with a sense of sadness. It's something that I've worked hard on which is doing better than it ever why end it now?

I wish this post could end with some conclusive message but alas it will not. If it came across somewhat muddled it's because that's how I'm feeling right now towards blogging. I've had aspirations in the past to write for a newspaper but it's not something I've seriously pursued. I don't think putting this site down on a CV would help my cause. Writing professionally is probably beyond me but that doesn't leave many alternatives. In the past I used to take the view that if I can engage and challenge just one person while blogging then the blog will be doing its job. Now I'm not so sure that that one person can be found in the blogosphere.

I have big plans for April here on United Irelander. I hope to have the Easter Rising feature heavily. Whether that will be one last hurrah for this site however remains to be seen.

A man can only be a lone voice for so long. Soon his voice will become hoarse and his heart will become weary. I don't want that to happen to me. But how can I reach out to people whose hands are clasped firmly around their ears?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Words on Wednesday...with Ciarán Cuffe

Ciarán Cuffe Hello and welcome to the third edition of United Irelander's Words on Wednesday feature, unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of Irish political life.

Taking my questions this week is Green Party TD and Spokesperson for Justice Ciarán Cuffe.

I'd like to thank Mr Cuffe for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said, let's begin:

What initially attracted you to political life?

My parents were involved with various campaigns around childcare, Travellers' rights and education back in the 1960's. That politicised me as I was growing up. I remember marching to save the Viking settlement at Wood Quay and hearing Mary Robinson speak back in the 1970's. Later on when studying architecture in UCD in the 1980's a group of us campaigned under the "Stop the Destruction of Dublin" banner to try and stop Dublin Corporation from demolishing Georgian buildings and inner-city communities for road-building. All of that made running for political office seem quite a natural progression.

You are the Green Party's Spokesperson on Justice. How do you rate the current Justice Minister, Michael McDowell?

He's a sharp, intelligent and shrewd individual. I respect his clarity and conviction. He is idealistic, which is a rare attribute on the Government benches. Ultimately his Achilles heel is his arrogance and his occasional outbursts against the Green Party do him no favours.

If you could change three things about Irish society, what would you change and why?

1. I'd ensure that the profits from rezoning land accrued to the State. This could make a significant contribution to curbing the corrupt payments to local councillors that have persisted over the years.

2. I'd vastly increase the powers of local government. This would give towns and counties the ability to harness the creativity and enthusiasm that exists at community level.

3. I'd pump-prime recycling industries. It makes no sense for us all to diligently recycle unless we're also supporting the design, innovation and production of products made from recycled material.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

Its a good thing, and about twenty years away. Apart from the societal differences, one of the real challenges is working out who will pick up the tab for the amount of subsidy currently paid for the UK.

What should be done to improve the situation in NI?

Greater support for integrated schooling would help bring both communities in more contact with each other. Building a viable economy is crucial, and that will have to involve strong support from Brussels. Perhaps the restoration of the Assembly would be easier if we signalled a step towards real regional governance in the South. More investment in cultural regeneration would also be of benefit.

What are your thoughts on the European Union?

I'm enormously supportive of the benefits that the Union has brought to Ireland. The real challenge is to further European cooperation and development without the smaller countries losing their voices. We've also got to prevent a move to increase defence budgets and limit worker protection. I've always felt that a two-tier European Parliament with an upper house composed of two representatives from each country, and a lower house elected proportional to the population would be a good way of ensuring that the smaller countries aren't excluded from the top table. Such a system would be analogous to the US Federal system of Congress and Senate.

What are your thoughts on the Easter Rising and how do you intend to mark the occasion?

It was a strongly symbolic event that should be celebrated and commemorated. However I'd hate to think that those who lost their lives in the Rising should be remembered without also paying tribute to the tens of thousands of Irish who died in the Great War. I'm annoyed at Bertie's vote-grabbing idea of a military parade; I think it's a cynical gesture. Instead why not celebrate the children of Ireland that the Proclamation promised to cherish equally?

What will another term of Fianna Fáil in power mean for Ireland?

More corruption, and more tribunals in ten years time. The gap between rich and poor will increase and there will be more repeats of the Dublin Riots. Bad planning will lead to more commuting and more kids being left into crèches at the crack of dawn. More helicopters at the Galway races, more muddling through, a shift to the right, and more stealth taxes. More soundbites and less substance. Oops, am I going on a bit?

There was anger recently at the perceived backtracking of the Taoiseach in regard to MPs from NI speaking in the Oireachtas. What are your thoughts on that issue? A good or bad idea?

I'd like to see it happen, but I'm not losing sleep over it. It would be useful to kick-start a discussion as to what views Northern politicians have on the practicalities of greater north-south cooperation. It would also make us southern politicians engage more with the North, as we often fall into the trap of delegating the North onto the back-burner.

What are your thoughts on the current conflict in Iraq right now and Ireland's position?

The civilian losses are horrifying, and bear comparison with depravities ofSaddam's regime. The invading forces should withdraw and support a UN-mandated force even though such a force would have an almost impossible task. The thought also occurred to me that if the US downscaled its defence presence in the region by a third, that would probably save enough money to wipe out malnutrition in Africa.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now?

If we invest more in education and in tackling the needs of those left behind by the Boom we could still be a role model for the rest of the EU. If we can promote green and clean industries and organic farming we'll be at the forefront of Europe. I'd also like to think that Ireland could lead the debate about reforming the UN to face the challenges of the new century. We contributed to that debate back in the 1950's, and should do so again.

There aren't many Irish politicians in the Irish blogosphere. Why do you blog, and do you see more TDs taking it up? (Mr Cuffe's blog can be found here)

It gets me away from the fairly narrow confines of press releases, policy documents and parliamentary contributions. I also suspect it reaches out to a group of people who maybe aren't sure about voting and who might decide to vote as a result of what myself and others are saying in the blogosphere. I also get a techie kick out of taking pix with my phone and uploading them from my laptop. I'd say more politicians will take it up, but it doesn't work if you simply publish your Oireachtas contributions to Blogger as a cut and paste job. I'd say quite a few will repeat the mistake of their lifeless web-sites that are only active at election time.

What would you say to any Irish people reading now who aren't sure who to vote for in the next General Election?

Yikes. I'd say educate yourself as to what TDs can and cannot do when in office; do the math on the particular shade of Government that you desire; and vote accordingly.

Finally, I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Bertie Ahern - Muddler
Tony Blair - Cheshire
George W. Bush - Criminal
Trevor Sargent - Straight
Ian Paisley - Yesterday
Gerry Adams - Balancing
Mary McAleese - Pillar
Padraig Pearse - Stone
Roy Keane - Pope
Ciarán Cuffe - Vote

Next week I hope to have a Sinn Féin MLA take my questions, though I can't comfirm any names at this point...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Hanson to meet with victim over OTR bill

The following piece is from a press release that I was more than happy to publish. I support Aileen Quinton 100 per cent.


On Wednesday morning Security Minister David Hanson will meet Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta was murdered in the Poppy Day Massacre in Enniskillen. MPs Iris Robinson, Mark Durkan and Lembit Opik will also attend.

Ms Quinton said: "I will be seeking an explanation from Mr Hanson about the callousness and indifference to victims welfare that the Government has demonstrated during its entire mismanagement of the proposed legislation for On-the-Runs and I will be emphasising that the damage caused by this continues even though the bill has been withdrawn."

"It is hard for the voice of victims to be heard at any time, but in the run-up to the NI (Offences) Bill they were actively ignored and even suppressed apart from cheap words about how difficult this would be for us. There was no attempt to assess the impact on victims, never mind measures to assist or help them cope. But there was unquestionably an impact, and it continues. There was no meaningful consultation on an Equality Impact Assessment screening, which apparently concluded that the only people impacted were the perpetrators."

"People who had suffered trauma were re-traumatised all over again as it became clear that the government was putting the interests of perpetrators ahead of the interests of victims. I have been told of cases where emergency (private) psychiatric appointments have had to be arranged to as a result of the impact of this new trauma. Many victims who were witnesses to the events that brought the terror to their door, were distraught to learn that they might be called into court while admitted perpetrators of the most horrible crimes could sit at home and wait for their licence in the post."

"The government said it was obliged to bring in the bill because of a deal it had done with Sinn Fein. They never offered a deal to the widowed and orphaned, to the limbless and mutilated and those whose mental health has been compromised. They said it was unfinished business which was essential to the peace process, but what sort of peace is it that puts truth, justice and the welfare of victims lower in the pecking order than the perpetrators. The emotional trauma in NI due to the terrorism has never been properly grasped, not just for the bereaved and injured but also for witnesses, often children and those enduring prolonged intimidation. The social consequences of this, perhaps for generations cannot be overemphasised. The implications for those with hidden disabilities is also not being properly addressed. My previous campaigning against the legislation focused on the truth and justice issue. However even if this legislation was in anyway justified or necessary, which I totally reject, to bring it in without having any real consideration of the impact, and putting in measures to mitigate the most serious consequences, (apart from that on the Government), does not just indicate a deficit of humanity but also of sound business management."

"Even when the bill was withdrawn, it was explicitly done at the behest of perpetrators and those who represent their interests. There was no change of heart, no admission that this was a bad or immoral plan. So it hasn’t gone away. The fundamental government principle of putting perpetrators ahead of victims continues, and will reappear unless there is a change of heart and change of approach."

"Our Government has added insult to our injuries many times and my surprise each time is a testament to the triumph of hope over experience. Hearing the Secretary of State and others offer ritual expressions of sympathy to victims as they tried to push their bill through was to witness cynical manipulation in the extreme."

"I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want a shoulder to cry on or a pat on the head. I want truth and justice primarily and also I want victims to come before perpetrators and I am clearly not alone in that. That is the message I hope Mr Hanson will take back to the Secretary of State and the rest of the Government."

Ms Quinton said she had asked the MPs to attend as a non partisan group, who will be in a position to hold the Government to account on across-the-board victims issues in the future.



IFA opposes Irish passports!

A shamblesI was disappointed but not at all surprised to hear the British Irish Football Association confirm that NI players are requested to have a British passport when playing abroad.

I am pleased however to hear that Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern has raised the matter with European fooball authorities.

Mr Ahern quite rightly said players should be allowed to use a British or an Irish passport. However, the chief executive of the IFA, Howard Wells, said having British papers made life simpler for NI teams playing away from home:

"There is not a problem about players travelling on either passport.

"The issue has been that historically, on the administration of some matches that we have had at international level, there has been confusion in the minds of some Uefa officials about the fact... that some of our players have different passports to each other.

"It is because people don't understand the differences, or the uniqueness of Northern Ireland, in terms of our passport issue."

What a bunch of baloney this is! Here's a whacky suggestion Mr Wells - if they don't understand the differences...EXPLAIN IT TO THEM.

Mr Ahern meanwhile stated:

"We have written to Uefa asking them to clarify the position, but also pointing out to them the whole issue that was laid down in the Good Friday Agreement.

"People born after a certain time on the entire island of Ireland can have British or Irish passports - or indeed both.

"There are some people who wish to produce their Irish passport in this respect."

Indeed they do, Mr Ahern. Shame on the IFA for once again politicising football. They are a shambles.

No tricolours about?

Football for all, eh?

I have many times called on northern nationalist supporters and players alike to boycott the NI football team and I maintain that position without a doubt in light of this pathetic requirement to have a British passport.

The IFA don't give a rat's ass about the Irish identity in NI and the organisation could have done so much more to tackle the rampant bigotry that infests football north of the border. Yet they do not.

The IFA are a disgrace to football and a disgrace to cross-community relations. Shame on them.


A time to reflect...

Difficult issues aheadFirst and foremost I want to say thank you to those of you who left me kind comments and to those of you who emailed me over the last few days. In relation to my brief time away, I would say that I feel certain people read a little too much into my decision to take some time off from blogging. For example, I was quite surprised and amused to hear my hiatus attributed to, quote, "stress". I can assure you all that I have never felt under stress in all the time I have blogged and that if silly arguments that didn't lead anywhere stressed me out, I would have ended this blog months ago! It was a bit disappointing to see people take these kind of pot-shots at me but that is their right I suppose.

To reiterate, the reason I took some time off was because I had some personal things in my life that needed my undivided attention. They have largely been dealt with now.

The break from the blog was beneficial for me in the sense that it gave me time to reflect on how I have handled the site. I would say that I am satisfied with the content that I have produced but I do feel there were times when I allowed myself to be goaded into arguments that weren't really worth my while pursuing. I like to think of myself as the kind of guy who is honest and sincere and who defends his position doggedly and earnestly. However, I feel there were times when I became too involved in emotive arguments and times when I should have just shown a bit of humility rather than let myself become hot-tempered.

This site has grown alot in recent months and now has alot of regular commentators but I feel that the line between the blog - United Irelander - and the blogger who writes it - United Irelander - is becoming ever blurrier. It's almost as if certain people are more interested in tackling me than the actual posts I've written and that they try and argue with me personally rather than what is actually presented in front of them. I have always felt a blogger should communicate with his/her audience so I don't feel the answer is to simply refuse to engage with people, but I do think at certain points a bit of humility on my part would have gone a long way and times when I should have just bitten my lip.

I won't apologise though for the forceful way I put forth my views nor for the passionate way I often protect them but I will say that as not only the writer of this site but also the owner, moderator and indeed editor, there were times when I should have shown more thoughtfulness. I should be setting an example being the guy who runs the place rather than engaging in petty, futile bickering. I'll try to do better in future.

I need to remember that the pot-shots certain people take at me are a sign that United Irelander is challenging mindsets and that I should look on it as a source of pride rather than allow it to bother me. I will endeavour to turn the other cheek from now on when faced with those who seek to get personal with me.

If you think this means that the content of United Irelander will mellow down too however,think again. There might not be as much pettiness and silliness but you better believe there will be difficult issues faced. In case you haven't realised, the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising is looming and it's my aim to have this site as the number one Irish nationalist blog when that time draws near. I have some exciting ideas for when things get into full swing so that United Irelander will be the number one blog to visit.

United Irelander rises soon. Emotive issues will be confronted, viewpoints will be tackled, positions will be challenged and the gauntlet will be thrown down.

It's gonna be a bumpy ride, folks. Are you sure you're up for it?

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Takin' a break

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" - John Lennon

I've been pretty consistent with my blogging for a long time now it's fair to say, however, I have also been making other plans and with that being the case I'm going to take some time away from blogging for a while. I've put alot of energy into this place over the last few weeks and months and I think I've earned myself a break.

Not sure when I'll be back but I hope you all keep well.

All the best.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Words on Wednesday...with Seán Farren

Seán FarrenWelcome to this week's edition of Words on Wednesday which sees me interview various figures from all walks of Irish political life.

Coming under scrutiny this week is the SDLP's MLA for North Antrim Seán Farren.

I'd like to thank Mr Farren for taking the time to answer my questions. With that being said, let's begin:

What initially attracted you to political life?

I was always interested in politics. In my father’s family his father and an uncle had been labour activists in Dublin in the early decades of the 20th century. Both served as Dublin city councillors and his uncle Tom also served as a Labour Party senator until 1936. Coming North to take a lecturing post at the university in Coleraine I met people active in establishing the SDLP and was invited to join which I did in 1973.

You are an SDLP MLA for North Antrim. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

No day is typical but most consist of either party meetings, meetings with various groups and organisations, from time to time with British and Irish ministers, with other parties, with constituency groups, dealing with constituents’ problems etc. The absence of the Assembly takes a whole area of work out of current Assembly members’ workload and casts an air of frustration over what we do to the point where I almost resent being asked what do I do!

You were born in Dublin and moved to the North in 1970. Have you found yourself treated differently due to the fact you are a Dubliner?

I can honestly say not that I aware of. First of all I got my university post in an open and fair competition and there was never any barrier placed in my way to deter me from being involved in politics. The fact that I have been elected for the North Antrim constituency in assembly type elections on several occasions shows that constituents don’t hold my southern origins against me. Only once was public and negative comment ever made about my origins and that from, almost unbelievably, an Alliance Party representative.

If you could change three things about Irish society, north or south, what would you change and why?

There is one thing above all others that I would want to change, indeed want to eliminate. It is sectarianism. Sectarian attitudes are very deepset and these exist South as well as North and act as a poison in our relationships. Politicians have a serious obligation to work towards their elimination. These attitudes are not the preserve of any one social class, one religious denomination or one political party but are to found throughout our society. Since sectarianism is another version of racism it shares all the characteristics of that disease.

Secondly there must be a concerted campaign to eliminate social disadvantage that affects many in our society and is no respecter of party or religion.

Third, and following the second, is to see a more integrated economy develop on the island which harnesses the human potential of both parts of the island to mutual advantage.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

The Good Friday Agreement has given us the best template upon which to create the conditions that will lead to a united Ireland. Unity cannot be forced by violence and will not happen because of demographic change. It has to be worked for by democratically persuading a sufficient number of people to support it. It is not therefore inevitable since if it was all we would have to do is to wait for it to happen.

What should be done to improve the situation in NI?

Restore our political institutions and let the healing effects of working together in those democratic institutions in the best interests of all, give more hope of a better future in which there is real respect for our different traditions, for human rights and for the rule of law.

What are your thoughts on the European Union?

I am in favour of more democratically accountable integration and viewed the recent proposals for a new constitution as broadly the best compromise possible at the present time for achieving that. I also favour the widening of membership.

What are your thoughts on the Easter Rising and how do you intend to mark the occasion?

From a youth when I was immersed in admiration for the leaders of the Rising and became familiar with much of their writings I have moved to a more ambivalent attitude. We have to acknowledge that the Rising took place without any sense of what its consequences would be for achieving both an independent and united country. From my reading of Pearse and Connolly in particular there is no evidence that they had any real understanding of Northern unionist attitudes or of how unionists might react to a rising. In effect they ignored the consequences of the Rising for relationships with Unionists. So, in my view, while the 1916 Rising played a seminal role in determining the direction of Irish nationalist politics over the following five years, as far as the North was concerned it helped cement the partition of Ireland already virtually agreed in the 1914 Home Rule Act. It was not, then, until 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed in referenda North and South that the whole of Ireland was eventually able to reach agreement on how both major traditions on the island could work together in shared political institutions. I believe therefore that the next decade leading to the centenary of the Rising should be dedicated not simply to commemorating 1916 but to the unfinished tasks of national reconciliation and of how to ensure that Ireland is inclusive in a comfortable and respectful way of all its people, our recent arrivals as well as our natives.

Can Sinn Féin and the DUP work together effectively?

Of course they can provided they can satisfy each other that the basic conditions for doing so are being met. Sinn Féin has to stop prevaricating over involvement in and support for the new policing arrangements and the DUP has got to show that it embraces the need for partnership within the North and between North and South. However, current attitudes as revealed in how these two parties address each other do not give much ground for hope that early progress will be made.

Do you think people north of the border should be able to vote in Irish presidential elections?

In principle I support this suggestion provided that practical and non-divisive ways can be found of implementing it.

What are your thoughts on the current conflict in Iraq right now and Ireland's position?

I have always been opposed to the war and was in the US when it broke out and gave several tv and radio interviews to that effect. I feared the kind of regional conflict that now all but exists. Ireland should be to the fore in making this view known to what are referred to as ‘friendly’ governments in London and Washington.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now?

I hope we have the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement operating in a very healthy way and both parts of country are working ever more closely together in the mutual interests of all of the people of the island. Where that may take us constitutionally will be for leaders and people then to decide.

How do you think the British government feels about NI?

The British government has a responsibility for Northern Ireland which I believe it will not simply or easily abandon. It will not oppose constitutional change in favour of Irish unity if that is the wish of a majority and I think we should accept that position and work within the scope it provides. The fact that successive British governments since 1985 when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed have held this position shows that it is unlikely to alter in the immediate future.

You yourself are a fluent Irish speaker and keen on promoting the Irish language. What do you think should be done to improve the state of the national language and do you personally think Irish should be a required subject for Leaving Cert students?

As someone who acquired Irish in a very natural way through attendance at an all-Irish school I do not believe that coercion works. The fact that hundreds of leaving certificate students find ways of not taking Irish and others effectively abandon the language, take it in name but not in fact, must have a demoralising effect on those who do and on their teachers and must create a cynical and unhealthy attitude towards Irish generally. The success of Gaelscoileanna both North and South shows what can be achieved by those with a love and real interest in the language. A close and honest examination of the facts about Irish at leaving certificate level is required and then bold and challenging choices offered.

What would you say to someone reading now who isn't sure who to vote for in the next general election?

I opt out of this question since as a member of a party that seeks to work with all parties in the South I will not publicly take sides whatever about my own preferences were I living in the South.

Finally, I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Bertie Ahern -
Tony Blair -
George W. Bush -
Mary McAleese -
Ian Paisley -
Gerry Adams -
Mark Durkan -
Padraig Pearse -
John Hume -
Sean Farren -

I pass on this as well because one word cannot capture what comes into my mind when I think of these people and that includes myself.

Next week, Green Party TD and Spokesperson for Justice Ciarán Cuffe takes my questions.


Understanding Ulster - Cuchulainn

SetantaI commented on Monday that I intended to introduce a new feature to United Irelander to highlight the contribution that the province of Ulster makes and has made towards Irishness in an effort to tackle Irish apathy towards the region. With that being said, and considering Irish mythology is a great interest of mine and something I've blogged about many times on UI, I felt Cuchulainn's story would be an appropriate first choice for United Irelander's new Understanding Ulster feature.

Therefore, outlined below, with pictures for your pleasure, I present to you all (courtesy of Arthur Cotteril's book Celtic Mythology) the story of the great Ulster and Irish champion:

The story of Cuchulainn

Cuchulainn, in Irish mythology, was the champion warrior of Ulster. His name means the "Hound of Culann", although he was usually called the Hound of Ulster. Cuchulainn was the Irish Achilles, a larger-than-life fighter whose bouts of temper often caused grief to himself and others. Cuchulainn's mother was Dechtire, the daughter of the druid Cathbad, an advisor to the King Conchobar Mac Nessa. It was Cathbad who foretold that Cuchulainn would become a great warrior but die young.

Shortly after her marriage to Sualtam Mac Roth, who was the brother of the deposed Ulster ruler Fergus Mac Roth, Dechtire along with fifty of her kinswomen flew to the otherworld in the form of a flock of birds. During the wedding feast she had swallowed a fly and dreamed as a result of the sun god Lugh, who told her to make this journey. Cathbad reassured his son-in-law by saying that Dechtire had merely gone to visit her otherworld relations, for her mother was the daughter of the god Aonghus. In fact, Lugh kept Dechtire there for his own pleasure for three years.

When Dechtire and her women returned to Emain Macha, the stronghold of the Ulster kings, in the form of brightly coloured birds, Dechtire was expecting Lugh's son, Setanta. Sualtam Mac Roth was so pleased to have his wife home again that when the boy was born he accepted him as his own child.

As a youth, Setanta quickly learned the ways of the warrior, but it was not obvious to everyone just how strong and brave he was until he killed an enormous hound with his bare hands. One day, arriving late at the gate of a house where King Conchobar Mac Nessa was being entertained by the Ulster smith Culann, the young hero was attacked by the ferocious guard dog and only saved himself by dashing out its brains on one of the gate's pillars.

Setanta killed the hound of Culann Their host had now lost a faithful guardian, so Setanta offered to take the hound's place while a replacement was found. When Culann thanked the young warrior but declined his offer, it was decided that henceforth Setanta would be known as Cuchulainn ("the hound of Culann").

Exploits in battle

Even though the druid Cathbad, Cuchulainn's grandfather, warned that anyone going to battle for the first time on a certain day was destined for a short life, Cuchulainn could not wait to deal with Ulster's enemies and he soon took up arms against three semi-divine warriors named Foill, Fannell and Tuachell, as well as their numerous followers, all of whom he killed.

In this combat Cuchulainn displayed for the first time the dreadful shape of his battle-frenzy. His body trembled violently; his heels and calves appeared in front; one eye receded into his head, the other stood out huge and red on his cheek; a man's head could fit into his jaw; his hair bristled like hawthorn, with a drop of blood at the end of each single hair; and from the top of his head arose a thick column of dark blood like the mast of a ship.

Cuchulainn in battle with his loyal charioteer LaegReturning to Emain Macha in his chariot, "graced with the bleeding heads of his enemies", and with the battle-frenzy still upon him, Cuchulainn was only stopped from circling the defences and screaming for a fight through a ploy of the Ulster queen Mughain. She led out of Emain Macha some hundred and fifty naked women carrying vats of cold water. An embarassed or amazed Cuchulainn was swiftly womanhandled into the vats. The first one burst its sides. The second boiled furiously, but the last vat became only very hot. Thus was the young hero tamed after his first taste of blood.

Cuchulainn and Emer

In his calm, everyday state of mind Cuchulainn was a favourite of womenfolk. But he fell in love with Emer, the daughter of Fogall, a wily chieftain whose castle was close to Dublin. Cuchulainn asked for Emer's hand but Fogall, who was against the match, pointed out that Cuchulainn had yet to establish his reputation as a warrior and suggested that he should go and learn from the Scottish champion Domhnall. Domhnall told Cuchulainn that his best trainer in arms would be Scathach, a warrior-princess in the Land of Shadows. So he travelled to this mysterious land and served Scathach. She taught the hero his famous battle leap.

For a year and a day Cuchulainn was taught by Scathach, and became the lover of her daughter Uathach. Scathach seems to have feared for the safety of Cuchulainn, and she warned him without success not to challenge her sister Aoifa. But Cuchulainn beat Aoifa by cunning, and afterwards she became his mistress, conceiving the unfortunate Conlai.

Aoife, Cuchulainn's lover and mother of his son, ConlaiCuchulainn finally returned to Fogall's stronghold and claimed Emer, but only after a heated battle with Fogall and his warriors, during which Fogall leapt to his death escaping the hero.

Cuchulainn and Ferdia

Acclaimed as the champion of Ireland in a beheading contest, Cuchulainn was soon unbeatable in combat, a skill he was to need dearly in his last campaign, which was a single handed defence of Ulster against the invading army of Queen Medb of Connacht. The main reason for this raid was a famous brown bull which was kept in Cuailgne. But the tyrannical king of Ulster, King Conchobar Mac Nessa, also played a big part in gathering rebellious Ulstermen and others from many parts of Ireland to Queen Medb's side.

One man who fought on Queen Medb's side was Ferdia. Ferdia was son of Daman the Firbolg, and was a lifelong friend and comrade of Cuchulainn. As young men, they were both taught to fight by Scathach. During the war of the brown bull of Cuailgne, Ferdia did his best to avoid coming up against his friend, but eventually Medb taunted him into fighting the great hero in single combat and the two fought grimly to the death with Ferdia being killed by Cuchulainn.

At Ferdia's death, Cuchulainn fell exhausted, lamenting, "Why should I rise again now he that lies here has fallen by my hand?"

Cuchulainn with his fallen friend

Death of a champion

One prophecy told Queen Medb that there would be "crimson and red" upon her forces because of Cuchulainn's prowess, but she was determined to invade and also she had three advantages. First, the great hero had made bitter enemies of the Calatin family, whose daughters were witches. Just prior to his last stand along with his faithful charioteer Laeg, they cast a spell on Cuchulainn which withered a shoulder and a hand. Second, Medb attacked when Ulster's heroes were laid low by Macha's curse, and were unable to fight for five days and five nights. Finally, Cuchulainn had lost the support of the goddess Morrigan, because he had rejected her passionate advances.

Yet he still managed to conduct a successful single-handed defence and was able to slow the advance of Queen Medb's forces by the use of clever tactics and lightning attacks, until the effects of Macha's curse had almost worn off, and the dazed warriors were able to respond to Sualtam Mac Roth's call to arms. But their help came too late for Cuchulainn. Pressed on all sides by his enemies, the Ulster champion was overcome in spite of aid from his divine father, the sun god Lugh. His only companion, Laeg, was laid low with a spear, then Cuchulainn himself suffered a terrible stomach wound that even Lugh could not heal. Finally, Cuchulainn tied himself to an upright stone in order to fight till his last breath. As soon as he died Morrigan, in the form of a crow, settled on his shoulder and his enemies cut off his head and right hand, leaving his body for the carrion birds. Conall, his foster-brother, managed to recover the missing parts, but Ulster wept for the loss of their champion. Indeed, so widespread was Cuchulainn's fame that his exploits influenced the development of the Arthurian myths in Britain and France.

The statue of the fallen Cuchulainn at the GPO in Dublin

The stories of Cuchulainn captivated me as a youngster and I know the same is true for Irish youngsters today who learn about the exploits of the Ulster and Irish champion. He is an inspiring Irish character and a small but significant example of the contribution Ulster has made towards Irishness.

Hold your Irishness close to your heart and know that Ulster lies within your soul.


Cutting Loose with Tommy Tiernan

It's great to see Irish comedian (and in my opinion Ireland's funniest comedian) Tommy Tiernan doing so well in the States. His debut in Los Angeles has been heralded as a runaway success.

The Navan man's stint there has been described as a sell out success with his politically incorrect routines receiving standing ovations.

Variety magazine described his observations as offbeat and thoughtful while the LA Times dubbed Tiernan a Gaelic Eddie Izzard without the weird drag or literary.

That's great to hear. Personally I think he's excellent and I found this hilarious 15 minute clip of his show "Loose" at last year's Montreal Comedy Festival which had me laughing out loud. Check it out below...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Top Ten Tuesday - Simpsons characters

A classic...but it's shite nowI see US network Fox has commissioned another two new series for The Simpsons. The show, currently in its 17th season, is the longest-running prime-time entertainment show in America.

Personally I used to be a big fan of The Simpsons but I find it pretty much unwatchable now. I think the humour is almost non-existent at present and to be honest, I think it should have been put out to pasture long ago. Still, I enjoy watching the repeats whenever they are on such as the one where Homer is in space for example, and I have fond memories of all the episodes from that era. With that being the case, I thought I'd list off my top ten favourite Simpsons characters. So without further ado:

1. Homer Simpson - While I hate the current version of Homer who seems psychotic more than silly, I love the old Homer who was stupid in an endearing way.

2. Lionel Hutz - Lionel Hutz, attorney of law, is a great character. I always found him funny. "Mr Simpson don't you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night, the sound wasn't on but I think I got the gist of it."

3. Mr Burns - Mr Burns is great too. One of my favourite moments is when Smithers says, "Mr Burns to celebrate your birthday I've arranged for the people of Australia to spell out your name with candles. If you'll just turn your head slightly..." "Bah! No time"

4. Principal Skinner - Skinner is great as the uptight school principal. It's always a laugh to hear him reminisce about Vietnam.

5. Ned Flanders - Ned is such a brillaint and unique character. I love the episode where he and Homer become friends.

6. Grampa Simpson - Good old Abe is great fun ranting and raving about every little thing.

7. Bart Simpson - Again, the new version of Bart is too annoying for my liking but he was quite funny in the early nineties.

8. Patty and Selma - The world's biggest MacGyver fans. I think these two are hilarious when they're making Homer's life miserable. My favourite line from them is from a flashback episode when Homer says, "Don't worry kid when you come out the first thing you're gonna see is a man with a good job" to which they reply, "Yeah - a doctor!" Priceless.

9. Smithers - Waylon Smithers deserves a mention for his dry delivery. He has had some great lines over the years too.

10. Apu - Apu deserves a nod too. It's always fun to see him get robbed at the Kwik-E-Mart and I love the episode he is in with James Woods.

So there you have it. My top ten favourite Simpsons characters. I'm sure I've left out a few good ones. Feel free to comment on my choices or to offer up some of your own.


Unionist fury over sensible British move

GPO after the battle I see there's alot of anger in unionist circles over the very mature and admirable move by the British government to send British ambassador to Ireland, Stewart Eldon, to attend events marking the 1916 Rising.

The News Letter has a silly letter from a disgruntled unionist over the matter whilst the Young Unionist's website has an awful post up on the issue. I would dissect the stupidity of the post in full but it would probably take me a week. I'll simply let you form your own opinions on that guff. I will however comment on some of the opinions of unionist politicians on the decision by the British government:

First up let's analyse wee Jeffrey Donaldson's hilarious comments (oh wait he was being serious) on the matter:

"It's bizarre that the British Ambassador should be invited to these celebrations in the first place."

Oh really, Jeffrey? Do you think so? Would you say it was more bizarre than a group calling itself 'Love Ulster' deciding to come to Dublin to inform local Dubliners that they didn't like them butting into the North's affairs? Because if my memory serves me correctly, you did not find that bizarre at all. On the contrary you championed their cause.

"After all, this is about celebrating the deaths of British soldiers, British policemen in the old Royal Irish Constabulary and innocent civilians."

No Jeffrey, it's actually about celebrating an act of defiance. I was under the impression that the same was true of the Orange Order's celebration of events like the Battle of the Boyne. Mr Donaldson, would you say then that the 12th of July celebrations each year are a celebration of the deaths of Catholics?

"The Easter Rising was an act of terrorism directed against the British State and that a representative of that state should in anyway be involved in an event glorifying such actions is most unwelcome."

The Easter Rising was not an act of terrorism, it was a rebellion. There's a difference. This was outlined by a United Nations panel in November, 2004, who defined terrorism as:

"intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act".

The purpose of the Rising was not to murder Irish civilians but rather, as the name suggests, to have the Irish people rise up in rebellion against the British state. As well as that, a UN short legal definition proposed by A.P. Schmid stated that:

"an act of terrorism is the "peacetime equivalent of a war crime".

Leaving aside the fact that this event occurred prior to the establishment of the League of Nations or the UN, clearly the Rising could not be classed as a "war crime". Therefore Mr Donaldson is wrong but to get back to his Love Ulster connections, in 1974 Dublin was bombed by loyalists and as we know loyalists were active in the formation of Love Ulster. Is Jeffrey thus a gigantic hypocrite? I would have to conclude that yes he is.

The UUP's Danny Kennedy also criticised the decision to send the British ambassador to the 1916 Rising celebrations:

"It's quite astonishing that the Government would be even prepared to acknowledge the events, let alone participate.

"I think most people will be astonished. Bizarre is the only word for it."

I beg your pardon? Why on earth wouldn't they acknowledge the events? Is it acceptable to ignore certain aspects of history, Mr Kennedy? I find your view of things bizarre!

I would like to take the time to applaud the decision by the British government to send the Ambassador, Stuart Eldon, to the 1916 Rising commemorations as it shows a depth of maturity that unionist politicians seem a long way off from attaining. It never ceases to amaze me how unionists band about terms like "terrorism" when commenting on the Easter rebels yet they overlook the barbaric savagery that the British troops themselves engaged in on the day. Not only did the South Staffordshire regiment bayonet 15 innocent civilians on the day for example, but a host of other atrocities were carried out as The Guardian newspaper outlined some years back in this article. Some of the events that occurred on the part of the British:

"The North King Street area was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting in late April 1916. It is known one officer, Captain Bowen Colthurst, later described as mentally unstable, shot six people in cold blood, including the pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington."

"James Moore was killed by soldiers at his front door in Dublin's Little Britain Street. "He was probably a perfectly innocent person," the memo notes.

"Under the heading "The Case of Patrick Lawless and three others killed and buried at 27 North King Street", the memo says: "It is not unlikely that the soldiers did not accurately distinguish between refusing to make [sic] prisoners and shooting immediately prisoners whom they had made [sic]."

"Thomas Hickey, described by his widow, as a "great Britisher" and their 16-year-old son, Christopher, were also shot. "There is nothing to show [they] were Sinn Feiners or had taken any active part in the fighting," the document says.

"One document shows that by October 1916, 187 "Irish rebels" had been court-martialled, and 14 death sentences had been carried out. The records of the proceedings had to remain secret, army officers insisted, because of "the position of any general who in the future may be required to cope with another rising".

"An unidentified army officer in London admits: "I think the evidence in some of the cases was far from conclusive"."

When you consider that the British Queen apologised for some of the attacks on Nazi Germany in WW2, it could be argued that the British are fortunate they are not being asked to apologise for what they did to innocent Irish civilians. However, I personally don't feel that is necessary. No use brooding about events almost 100 years ago. The gesture by the British government to send the Ambassador is to be welcomed in my view and I'm sure most Irish people would agree with me on that.

It is just a shame that unionists don't have the maturity at this point in time to at least show some class and restraint when dealing with the Rising. Considering that the Ulster Volunteer Force were the first paramilitary group to arm in Ireland - who were prepared themselves to tackle the British government if Home Rule was introduced - I don't think it is helpful, or indeed accurate, to solely demonise Irish Republicans.

Unionists frequently say they want nothing to do with Dublin but, ironically, while the Irish and British governments have evolved from 1916, the unionist mindset remains stuck in that era. Embedded, immovable.

Unchanged, unchanged utterly.


Dermot Ahern raises the stakes

Don't blink, Dermot It is clear that right now in the north of Ireland we are experiencing a tense stand-off between the Irish and British governments and Ian Paisley's DUP. Back in February I posted my thoughts on the matter and I stated that the current situation was akin to a game of poker. I stated that while the DUP think they have all the right cards, the two governments need to call their bluff and that they have just the card to use. I outlined what this was:

"The situation in the North has become a game of poker and the stakes are high. Paisley and his merry band of minions think they have the governments beaten and that they have the people silenced but Joint Authority is a winning hand."

Joint Authority. Yes, that is the card that has not been played. Well, until now that is...

"The tiller of power"

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, the DUP have responded angrily to a suggestion by Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern that Dublin and London take "the tiller of power" in the north of Ireland if local parties can't agree on power-sharing.

Mr Ahern said that in the absence of agreement between local politicians over an Assembly the two governments would have to "step in" and make an "inter-govenmental approach" to decisions. While it was not an open or hostile threat to the DUP, the message was quite clear:

"It's probably not the preferred option."

"We would far rather that people from Northern Ireland have their hand on the tiller of power but if they decide not to want that then the two Governments would have to step in and take decisions and people from Northern Ireland and their representatives won't really have any great say in that respect and that is unfortunate."

The stakes have obviously been raised. The Irish and British governments have wisely cottoned on to the fact that this is their only shot at beating the DUP rejectionists. And as the Belfast Telegraph stressed, "Mr Ahern's remarks are being interpreted as an indication of the outline of proposals being considered by Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair". Things just got interesting!

"ill judged remarks"

However in a game with such high stakes, bluffing is bound to occur and the DUP's Peter Robinson has unsurprisingly called the two government's bluff:

"These are ill judged remarks from the Irish Foreign Minister.

"He says he is trying to push the process forward, so for his Government to attempt to tell Unionists what to do, or else, is foolish.

"He and Bertie Ahern are hardly in a strong position to recommend that unionists should embrace arrangements for government with Sinn Fein that they themselves won't touch.

"It's the Irish Government that has been telling Sinn Fein that it isn't fit for Government in the Republic and telling Gerry Adams that his party can forget about any coalition with Fianna Fail."

Robinson has his game face on

A hackneyed response from Robinson it has to be said. As has been pointed out in the past by Irish Ministers, coalition governments in the South are negotiated. Fianna Fáil and the PDs are in power because they came to that arrangement. However it is a mandatory requirement in NI for the two largest parties to work together. It is a different kettle of fish altogether. Robinson is fronting a cool exterior at this point but I think he and his party will be a little bit alarmed by this. I think the DUP's feathers have been ruffled by Mr Ahern's comments.

'Joint Authority' itself is a vague proposition. It is perhaps more significant in theory than it would be in reality. It could simply involve the British government implementing outstanding aspects of the Good Friday Agreement with the Irish government being given a consultative role. Still, it is the what the term conjures up in the minds of the DUP that matters most.

I think Dermot Ahern has done well here. I think it's a smart idea to propagate vague and unspecified notions of "inter-governmental approaches". The desire is not for Joint Authority after all but for a restoration of the Assembly, and so right now the threat of Joint Authority is what matters more than any serious attempt to implement it. Let it be an unclear but potent Plan B, lurking ever ominously in the background.

Dermot Ahern has raised the stakes and for that he should be commended, however the stand-off is ongoing. If he blinks first, he's out.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Monday Madness - Apathy towards Ulster

All for one and one for allAs many of you who read this site are aware, I am unashamedly an Irish nationalist. I desire the reunification of my country and for the scar on the Irish nation - Partition - to be done away with as soon as possible.

It is my belief that the island of Ireland will be reunified within this century but I am not naive enough to think that it will be an easy task. It won't be. There are many obstacles to face if we are to bring this momentous event about and I'd like to talk about one such obstacle right now - apathy towards the north of Ireland from certain people in the Irish Republic.

It is an undeniable fact that there are many people in the 26 counties who do not care one iota about those in the 6 counties north of the border. A fact brought home to me in a recent political discussion I had. The issue of the north was brought up and one individual was totally apathetic towards the place. Of course, I took issue with this view. The conversation was brief and went a little like this:

"Personally I don't care about it at all. Too much trouble. As far as I'm concerned we should cut the place off and let it float away. It's not relevant to my life."

"Not relevant to your life? You're Irish aren't you? Do you not accept that Ulster is an integral part of Irishness? Do you really think Irishness can exist without any of the four provinces?"

"Look, you'll just have to accept that there are many people who feel the way that I do."

And that was pretty much it as there was no desire to continue the political discussion. But I think I made my point and it wasn't really challenged. Is Ireland the same if you take away a region from it? The answer is no.

Still, the gentleman made a fair point that his view is a view shared by many Irish people. That does indeed have to be acknowledged. However, he was wrong in saying that this view is something that I will have to accept. I will not accept it. On the contrary I will endeavour to challenge it!

I think patriotism is something that ought to be personal but while this might seem like an arrogant thing to say, I honestly feel I have a healthy and proper outlook on what constitutes Irishness. To me it's not about wearing green leprechaun hats and getting pissed on St Patrick's Day, to me it's about accepting the diversity of the island and accepting that each province and each county are equally important to making Ireland what it is as a nation.

The apathy towards Ulster from some Irish people just breaks my heart, especially when I think of the massive contribution the province has made to Irishness. The Ulster myths of Cuchulainn and Deirdre for example, the Ulster dialect of the Irish language, the Ulster contribution to the GAA and Rugby, not to mention the the huge impact of Ulster on Irish history.

I feel the apathy and hostility towards Ulster held by many Irish people smacks of ignorance and poor understanding and I will aim to do what I can to tackle this state of affairs. That's why I will be creating a new feature over the next few days here on United Irelander which will detail the various contributions that Ulster and its sons and daughters have given to Ireland as a whole. This feature will function similar to my Today in History and Events of Shame features which pop up every once in a while. If I can educate at least one apathetic Irish person towards the importance of Ulster to the rest of the island then I will feel like I have done well.

To my compatriots I simply say this: Hold your Irishness close to your heart and know that Ulster lies within your soul.


Unionists whinge about Irish tricolours

Copeland seems to hate everything Irish... I see unionist politicians have been whining and complaining about the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Belfast claiming that they were "intimidatory". How were they intimidatory you ask? Why, because Irish tricolours were in attendance of course!

UUP MLA Michael Copeland (pictured left), who you might remember badmouthed the invitation to take part in celebrations for the Easter Rising, said the event had proven "unwelcoming" to unionists. Copeland moaned:

"Commemorations of St Patrick in Northern Ireland should reflect the fact that his legacy belongs to all the people of Northern Ireland, both protestant and catholic."

"Unfortunately St Patrick's day celebrations in Belfast have one again proved to be for one side of the community only."

"Many of my constituents who ventured to the celebrations did not stay long. They felt uncomfortable and unwelcome. The sheer number of tricolours and the strong nationalist look and feel to the parade rule out any sense of a cross-community event."

Point of note - St Patrick is the patron saint of IRELAND, not Northern Ireland, and as such belongs to the island as a whole. As for this nonsense about it being for one side of the community only, the Irish tricolour - now pay attention Mr Copeland - symbolises peace between Catholics (represented by the green) and Protestants (represented by the orange). There is nothing intimidatory about it. On the contrary, it's a CROSS-COMMUNITY FLAG! If you choose to ignore that Mr Copeland, that's YOUR problem.

Next up for a pop was Diane Dodds of the DUP. She branded the celebrations "another disappointment":

"There were not that many people at the concert but there were plenty of republican flags and it seems that for republicans it is simply an excuse to wave Irish tricolours in the city centre."

How do you know they were 'republicans', Diane? I noticed on RTE television many children in Dublin waving tricolours on St Patrick's Day. Perhaps the presenters should have asked them for their thoughts on the peace process? They must have been republicans too. Diane whined on:

"It would be good to have a cross-community event in the city, one where unionists and nationalists can feel safe, but it is clear that republicans cannot cope with that."

If you seek to have a cross-community flag like the Irish tricolour banned then you clearly do not desire a cross-community event! What do you think the orange on the tricolour stands for? And how the hell are unionists not safe with tricolours in attendance?

Careful, it's an Irish tricolour!

The attitude displayed the unionist politicians is appalling. I am outraged at how they are treating my national flag. I would never seek to deny unionists the chance to wave a union jack at a St Patrick's Day celebration (though I don't know why they would want to) so I don't see why the Irish flag is being bashed in this way.

SDLP deputy Lord Mayor Pat Convery offered an encouraging message of hope saying he thought yesterday's parade had been a "small step forward" for a divided city:

"We hope that the diversity of our city will be able to be included in this parade and concert.

"We hope we will be able to generate a lot of interest in this new event every year."

Hear, hear, Mr Convery! Belfast's diversity ought to be celebrated, not belittled. Culture should be praised, not proscribed.

These unionists have a long way to go. They need to open their hearts and their minds because right now, they remain utterly, utterly closed.


Let NI residents vote in Presidential elections - SF

Those from NI should have a vote! I'm pleased to see this issue raised again.

Sinn Féin Ballymena councillor Monica Digney has said NI residents should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections.

She made the comments following confirmation that Irish president Mary McAleese is to visit the town later this month, which has - disgracefully - sparked outrage from unionist politicians in the area.

Despite the disgusting comments from DUP councillor Robin Stirling that "the Irish President has little to contribute to our borough", Ms Digney said she believes that permitting citizens from the North to participate in Irish Presidential elections would give them a sense of belonging to the Republic:

"The Good Friday Agreement stated that people in the North have a right to Irish citizenship and voting for the President is one way in which we are entitled to use this citizenship.

"At present, we have a President who was born down the road in Belfast but even the very people who grew up with her cannot vote for her.

"We in Sinn Féin are still lobbying the Dublin Government to grant northern citizens the right to take part in Presidential elections, as it is a key part of our Irish citizenship that was safeguarded under the Agreement."

Ms Digney also urged unionist representatives in the area to refrain from engaging in any negative actions or words towards Mrs McAleese after Mr Stirling refused to rule out the possibility of a protest greeting the Irish President.

He said he expected a decision about a protest would be taken at a higher level within the DUP but claimed that parents of Ballymena Academy, where Mrs McAleese is due to visit on March 28, had contacted him to express their outrage at the proposed visit:

"Her visit to what is viewed as a DUP heartland will undoubtedly be seen by many as being provocative"

However, Ms Digney argued:

"Mary McAleese has been involved in much bridge-building and cross-community work."

Two things need to be addressed here. First of all, in relation to Irish people in the North having the right to vote in Irish presidential elections, of course they should be allowed. Otherwise the granting of Irish citizenship to those in the North is a waste of time.

Second of all, why the hell is Robin Stirling of the DUP so intent on protesting about a visit from Mary McAleese? I'd be interested in hearing a unionist perspective on Mr Stirling's plans. Personally I think the man should be ashamed of himself.

It seems to me that both these issues relate to having a voice. Irish citizens north of the border should be allowed voice their opinions on who should be Irish President and the President herself should be allowed voice her opinions in any part of NI that she wants to.

It's fairly straightforward.


Dubliners 'friendliest and most helpful'

Go Dublin! I see that in a survey carried out by the world's largest online travel information and advice site, TripAdvisor, which surveyed more than 1,800 travellers worldwide, Dubliners have been voted the friendliest and most helpful locals in Europe!

Dubliners just edged out Londoners to top place, although Londoners were voted the most affable citizens in Europe by Americans.

Overall this is great news although I'm guessing that those surveyed, thankfully, didn't take these guys into account.

The survey also found that if people could choose just one Western European city to visit in 2006, Rome would be the most popular destination among travellers, with sister Italian city Venice placing second.

Hmm. Can't really argue with any of that. I must say I think Dubliners generally are very friendly people (not that I'm biased) and this news is a welcome boost for Dublin's image.

And as well as that, Cork didn't feature at all! Fantastic!

Sunday, March 19, 2006


English reaction to Irish heroics

Beautiful moment wasn't it?The English are usually quite magnanimous in defeat but there a fair few English people who seem quite bitter about Saturday's events. Not least, England rugby coach Andy Robinson.

Robinson is bemoaning all three tries which Ireland scored in their 28-24 victory over the English:

"I'm very upset about the three tries that were given."

"I'm really frustrated for the boys because I thought they put in a huge effort.

"That was a positive step for us. On another day we would have won the match and won it well."

"We've lost the game by four points. It's small margins, but nothing really went our way today. I couldn't fault the effort of our players."

"At times we played some very good rugby. I just felt throughout that Ireland were allowed to slow our ball down and when we slowed their ball down we got penalised."

Sour grapes? Sure seems like it. On the BBC's website, a few English rugby fans are quite bitter too:

"shut up, the officiating was poor and it directly led to 2 Irish tries"

But to be fair, most English fans did indeed take the defeat on the chin:

"Just want to add, please please fellow English, stop blaming the ref, we were crap, and it makes us sound terrible losers. Bad decisions even out over the tournament, we should just accept defeat gracefully and get on with it.

"There does seem alot of England supporters moaning over the touch judge decisions but at the end of the day all these things cut both ways. I suppose alot of this is just borne of frustration and a bit of straw grasping. Bottom line is both teams were pretty evenly matched today and Ireland came out on top and deserved to win. It was a great match and a fitting end to what has been a mixed 6N's. As an England supporter it hurts like hell to see BOD lifting the triple crown at HQ but thats what sport is all about. Remember my fellow countrymen, character and backbone is shown in defeat as much as victory. Once again, well done Ireland."

Like I said, most English fans adopted this attitude:

"Yep, I'm English and terribly depressed about the state we are in, but well done Ireland. The fact is, Ireland were losing to us with a couple of minutes to go but with a bit of brilliance that we (i.e. England) haven't shown in years (and certainly aren't capable of now) Ireland did what they needed and got what they deserved with a fantastic try. It was a brilliant initial break and superbly executed touchdown. Hats off to them.

"Excuses for our defeat are just that. It's the 3rd win a row for Ireland against us - that's not luck! The fact is England are World Champions (God it seems such a long time ago) and shouldn't be having to argue the toss about decisions here and there. Some you get, some you don't. You make your own luck and the way we play - we don't deserve any.

"Ireland have quality in certain positions (and coaching) that we no longer do and even when we took the lead with that Goode penalty, somehow you always thought that the Irish backs would come up with something, which of course they did. When you are in that position and you do it, as Ireland did, what can you can say but very well done - I only wish we'd have been capable of the same, but of course, we are miles away from being able to do that at the moment.

Maybe Andy Robinson should take a leaf out of their book?

And we Irish can be fairly magnanimous in victory too. Take for example this comment from an Irish fan:

"To the 18 year old with the lump in throat. Obviously not in Landsdowne Road in the early 70's when the English turned up and saved Irish rugby, unlike our Celtic cousins the year before. More than a lump in throat to be part of a 5 minute standing ovation to a visiting team.

"We should not forget these people's bravery. I have never begrudged England a win since, never minded seeing Ireland beat them either."

That's what it's all about. There's no use moaning about the decisions. After all, in football, Lady Luck smiled down on England in the 1966 World Cup final when the ball was adjudged to be over the line. You win some and you lose some and today it was Ireland's day to taste victory!

Once again, well done to the Irish team. An inspiring performance!

Go on Ireland!

Job well done!

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