February 29, 2016

The execution of the rebel leaders of 1916

Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1916 Augustine Birrell, by Mary Olive Edis
Garrett Fitzgerald wrote:
"My father… Always believed that it was the threat of conscription rather than the 1916 executions that finally swung opinion decisively towards Sinn Fein."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Al Millar


Al Millar hales from east Donegal. He was educated in Raphoe and went afterwards to Trinity College Dublin. He currently living and working in north Antrim.

February 28, 2016

V.S. Pritchett on living and writing in Ireland

V.S. Pritchett by André Carrilho

At twenty Pritchett went to Paris (1920/1921), where he "lived an abysmal bohemian life and wrote a terribly pretentious and mannered prose." Later he was a correspondent on the Irish rebellion for The Christian Science Monitor. Later again, a journalist in Spain.  When he joined the Christian Science Monitor the editor sent him to Ireland to write a series of articles. It was during the troubles of 1921–1924 he was asked to travel all over the country and write, not about the war, but about how ordinary Irish people lived and coped with the situation.

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Dawn Purvis

Dawn was a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly from March 2007-May 2011, representing the East Belfast constituency, first PUP then as an independent.  Dawn is 49 and was born in Belfast. She joined the PUP in 1994 and first stood for the party in the elections to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996.  Dawn was involved with various rounds of peace process negotiations before, during and after the Good Friday Agreement.

February 27, 2016

Sinn Fein revisionism, Ctd


Eamonn McCann said in an interview with Eamonn Mallie on Irish TV:
"The reforms which emerged allegedly from the armed struggle were in place in the early 1970s."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - David McDowell



David was born in Belfast in 1970 and lived there and in the Glens of Antrim. He attended Larne Grammar and Belfast Royal Academy, where, like a lot of his peers, he got into politics at the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. David then read History at Oxford and during the nineties was an active Young Unionist and Unionist Graduate, "an enthusiastic Trimblista". Now David teaches history and politics in Edinburgh but is less active in actual politics.

February 26, 2016

David Trimble - The Easter Rebellion of 1916

Published in 1992
Click the link to read each chapter: Chapter One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven.

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Linda Ervine

Linda Ervine is well known for her activism in East Belfast in the field of the Irish language. In September 2012 she became Irish Language Development Officer with East Belfast Mission. Linda is 54 and was born in Belfast and self-identifies as British, Irish and Northern Irish. She went to Park Parade Secondary School. Becoming a young mum she continued her education in my early 30s. Linda went to QUB and did a degree in English, followed by PGCE, becoming an English teacher in a girls’ secondary school in East Belfast. 

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Linda Ervine: 

February 25, 2016

James Joyce in Vanity Fair (1922)

Joyce by Mina Loy. Also by Djuna Barnes here. 

Djuna Barnes wrote about her meeting with James Joyce at the Deux Megots for Vanity Fair magazine, published in April 1922:
"There are men in Dublin who will tell you that out of Ireland a great voice has gone; and there are a few women, lost to youth, who will add: “One night he was singing and the next he wasn’t, and there’s been no silence the like of it!
 For the singing voice of James Joyce, author of The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and of Ulysses is said to have been second to none.

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Rev Brian Kennaway




The Reverend Brian Kennaway was brought up in North Belfast. After a time in industry he attended Magee University College Londonderry where he was President of the Students’ Representative Council (1969-1970). He then attended Trinity College Dublin where he graduated in 1972.  

February 24, 2016

Syriza imposed austerity shows that Sinn Fein would impose austerity



Above is a letter to Portuguese Finance Minister Mário Centeno co-signed by European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, asking for explanations as to why the Portuguese government is planning to cut structural deficit by only 0.2% of GDP in 2016 – which, the Commission notes, is “well below” the recommended target of 0.6% of GDP. More below. 

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Shane Davey



Shane Davey is a 28 year old exile originally from Kilrea, a small town in rural County Derry. Shane ventured away slightly and went to secondary school in St Mary’s Magherafelt, followed by university in NYC, where he currently resides. He is a full time trader based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

February 23, 2016

Britain and Ireland, archipelagic peoples


The one characteristic that has marked Ireland and Britain from time immemorial is proximity and propinquity. During the last Ice Age 18,000 years ago, the British Isles were one island (see here), yet for many, to this day they remain one. 

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Ian James Parsley


Ian is 38 and his home village is Groomsport, Co Down. Though he grew up and was educated largely in England and Germany due to his father’s work, who himself is a Londoner. Ian's mother is from Belfast. Ian now lives in Co Antrim running a small management consultancy which also offers classes and translation services. Ian is a member of (though holds no position in) the Alliance Party.

February 22, 2016

Sir James Craig was Irish

Sir James Craig, Viscount Craigavon, by society painter Sir John Lavery

William O'Brien wrote a description of Sir James Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, in ‘The Irish Revolution and how it came about’ (1923):
"Sir James Craig… The Ulster leader was never an incorrigible enemy of a modus vivendi with his Southern countrymen. Like so many of the higher Orange type, if he was an irresponsible being for half a dozen mad “ anniversary ” days, he was for all the rest of the year a kindly neighbour, a fast friend, more honest of heart than complex in the convolutions of his brain matter, but in all things, flattering or otherwise, as irredeemably Irish as the granite ribs of Cave Hill."
TIME Magazine featured Sir James Craig on the May 26 1924 cover of the magazine. Inside it produced a short feature on the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland:

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Belfast Barman

The Belfast Barman, or Kris Nixon as he is known to friends and family, was born in Dundonald and went to Braniel Primary School in East Belfast. He is 28. He moved to Brighton, England for High School; them to London for University for a few months but ended up back in Belfast again. He has spent "far too long behind a bar" and now writes for a living. 

February 21, 2016

Edmund Burke's "political testament to Ireland" (December 1796)


Edmund Burke behind and with hands on Richard B. Sheridan and Charles James Fox who bow before him. Burke says, "Behold the abettors of Revolutions, see the authors of Plots & conspiracies, and take cognisance of the enemies of both Church & State..."
Edmund Burke was called the "ornament of Ireland" by the Irish Magazine in 1808. He called the United Irishmen, as you can read below, "that unwise body". Wolfe Tone said:

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Colin McCusker



Colin McCusker was born, raised and educated in Portadown, Co Armagh. The son of Ulster Unionist Party grandee Harold McCusksr graduated from UUC in 1992. He is married to Anne-Louise with 2 children at Primary School. After a time in business he moved into politics. Colin is a local Councillor representing the town of Lurgan and is employed full time by the UUP.

February 20, 2016

Partition in Ireland is strengthened by violence

Cartoon by Ian Knox
George Bernard Shaw portended that partition in the north would lead to "an autonomous political lunatic asylum." J.B. Armour, liberal presbyterian and Home Ruler, said:
"For years they have been yelling against Home Rule, and now they have got a form of Home Rule which the Devil himself could not have devised."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - RUC Diary


RUC Diary appeared on Twitter in 2014 and came to prominence with its raw and emotive tweets. The Twitter post put to the public the daily diary worries of an RUC officer based out of Donegal Pass. Events ranged from the mundane to the manic and murderous. 

February 19, 2016

Orwell and Heaney on W.B. Yeats

Heaney by Portuguese cartoonist Andre Carrilho 
W.B. Yeats died in 1939, 9 months before the start of war. Orwell wrote in 1943 (via Kevin Kerrane, 'Orwell's Ireland'):

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Liam Kennedy


Professor Liam Kennedy was born in Co Tipperary in 1946, he is 69. He was educated at UCC and then University of York. He now lives in Belfast and is currently emeritus professor of economic history at Queen's University Belfast. Liam is a European social democrat. 

February 18, 2016

The IRA proclaimed itself "the lawful and legal" government of Ireland,why does it reject the standards and responsibilities of a moderngovernment?


The IRA Green Book was in existence while the IRA, (1956 edition), and the PIRA, (1977 edition) waged their armed stuggle. The Green Book said:
"Commitment to the Republican Movement is the firm belief that its struggle both military and political is morally justified, that war is morally justified and that the Army is the direct representative of the 1918 Dail Eireann Parliament, and that as such they are the legal and lawful government of the Irish Republic, which has the moral right to pass laws for, and to claim jurisdiction over the territory, air space, mineral resources, means of production, distribution and exchange and all of its people regardless of creed or loyalty."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - David Gilmour


David Gilmour is a 27 year old born in Belfast. He studied English and Modern History at Queen's University. Currently David works as a research analyst and runs in the world of freelance journalism. David writes mainly on Irish culture and politics for VICE and contributes to EamonnMallie.com.

February 17, 2016

Why do people call Northern Ireland Ulster?

Edward Carson and James Craig, the founding fathers of Northern Ireland, who were party to the dismembering not only of Ireland but Ulster also
Ulster is a misnomer, as Mr. Clynes said in 1920, "Ulster is an expression which has misled a great many people." Letter writer, J.H. Nunn, wrote to the Irish times in 1916:

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Jude Collins

Jude Collins is an Irish writer and broadcaster. He attended primary school in Omagh (Christian Brothers) and boarded at Seamus Heaney's alma mater, St Columb’s College. University was in Dublin (UCD), in Winnipeg (Univ of Manitoba) and in England (University of Newcastle). 

February 16, 2016

Unionism's anglophobia


[UPDATE - I published a version of this on Slugger O'Toole here]

Hardline Irish-America often declaims, 'England out of Ireland!' There is huge irony in this.
Scott MacMillan, in Slate Magazine, wrote:
"It is a telling irony: Working-class loyalists directed their rage not against their traditional enemies, Catholics who favor unification with the Republic of Ireland, but against the symbols of the United Kingdom to which they are supposedly loyal."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Neil Wilson




Neil was born in Cyprus by virtue of his father's occupation at the time. He was educated at Methody and then Liverpool John Moores. He now lives in Bloomfield, East Belfast. By day Neil works in marketing for a tech company. Occasionally he's an NI Conservative candidate in East Belfast.

February 15, 2016

In revolutionary Ireland Protestants were overwhelmingly unionist andanti-Home Rule


It is quite often said that many protestants filled the republican ranks in revolutionary Ireland. This is true to a degree. There are examples of protestant republicans, however these oft-recounted individuals were outliers. The overwhelming majority of protestants were unionist and anti-Home Rule. Ronald McNeill wrote in 1922, 'Ulster's Stand For the Union':

"An additional cause of offence, moreover, was that he was at that time trying to persuade credulous people in England that there was in Ulster a party of Liberals and Protestant Home Rulers, of which he [Lord Pirrie] posed as leader, although everyone on the spot knew that the “party” would not fill a tramcar."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Chris Thackaberry

Chris Thackaberry is a protestant born and bred in Dublin. He is an Orangeman and sits on the Central Committee of the Grand Orange Lodge. He works in Belfast but is regularly in the city of Carson. Thackaberry is on the Central Committee of the Grand Orange Lodge.

February 14, 2016

Catholic bigotry


The 2nd Vatican council of 1965 changed protestants from "heretics" to "separated brethren".

Rev. Michael Kennedy, Roman Catholic curate, said in April 1898:
"They are not born from our race… the Irish Unionists have no country…"

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Garrett McCartney



Garrett McCartney lives and works in London but calls Belfast home. He was educated at RBAI, the alma mater of Longley and Mahon founded by United Irishmen, in Belfast city centre. By day Garrett works as a Production Manager at a digital advertising agency called AKQA.

February 13, 2016

The remarkability of Irish Rugby


The tricolour and provincial Ulster flag fly as Ireland play Canada at the 2015 Rugby World Cup
In 1986 The New York Times wrote:
"From a social and political perspective, every game the Irish team plays is remarkable indeed.
Arlene Foster said on the Nolan Show, November 5 2015:
"Yes [I consider myself Irish when watching Irish Rugby,] because we have some fantastic Ulster Rugby players playing for them."
The Irish Rugby Football Union was formed in its present form in 1879, so it pre-dates partition by 41 years. Edmund van Esbeck is the veteran and highly respected rugby correspondent of the Dublin-based Irish Times. Speaking in 1997 he shed some light on the great healing and congealing force that the game of rugby has exerted on Ireland: 

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Rev Lesley Carroll


The Reverend Lesley Carroll is from County Tyrone, educated at Dungannon High School for Girls. Third level vocational studies were at the College of St Mark & St John Plymouth, QUB & TCD. 

February 12, 2016

Edward Carson, father of the IRA?


In the final lines of the September 1913 poem, Yeats wrote, "Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone. It’s with O’Leary in the grave." The rebel leaders shared these fears and, inspired by the rebellion of Edward Carson, they later emulated Carson's example.

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Michael Hamilton Coulter McDowell



Michael Hamilton Coulter McDowell is 64. His early childhood was spent on the Holywood Road, East Belfast, then to adulthood he lived on the upper Ormeau Road at Rosetta, South Belfast. 

Michael went to school at Rosetta Primary, then onwards to Methodist College Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin. He worked for the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC, then moving to America became a Harvard Fellow and Lecturer. Michael is now a Senior Fellow of Washington DC/New York international think-tank. Previously Michael worked in Toronto, Canada for over seven years with The Globe and Mail national newspaper of Canada. He also worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) mainly as senior foreign affairs producer/editorial executive in Washington, till 1997. Back to international affairs world, think-tanks, foundations, World Bank, etc. Active progressive Episcopalian. University advisory board and non-profit board member. Passion: improving race relations.

February 11, 2016

Home Rule was loyalty?

John Dillon by Carlo Pellegrini ('APE') 

John Redmond said:
"Let us have national freedom and imperial unity and strength."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Danielle Cochrane


Danielle Cochrane is an artist and business women aged 26. She was born and educated in Banbridge, she now works in Belfast after graduating from Art College. She owns her own framing business, 'The Framing Table', which is based out of Studio Souk, 3 Castle Lane, near Corn Market. 

February 10, 2016

Edward Carson - "I am preaching order"


The Irish Unionists blocked the first two Home Rule bills using constitutionalism. Unable to frustrate the third bill by constitutional means, the Irish and Ulster unionists, with Tory backing, devolved to unconstitutionalism - the threat of arms. John Redmond, the Parnellite and resolute Irish constitutionalist, had broken the Lords veto and put Home Rule onto the statute book. Facing a Dublin parliament, an "assembly of cattle drivers in dublin" (Ronald McNeill), Carson formed a provisional government and threatened rebellion.

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Brendan Harkin

Brendan Harkin is a 23 year old legal assistant, observer and wit from Belfast. His talents are multifarious, including amateur photography, blogging, gaming and many other disciplines. Schooling at Belfast Royal Academy, Brendan studied Law at the University of Wolverhampton. He now lives in South Belfast with a lively curiosity and appetite for engaging in the fluid and ever changing online world. A true avatar of the new and emerging Northern Ireland. 

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Brendan Harkin:

February 09, 2016

Edward Carson was a life long Irish man

Cartoon by Ian Knox
Edward Carson rose in the Lords on December 3 1929 and made a number of points about the Irish Free State and the Privy Council, the legal forum the nascent Irish state sought to do away with. Interestingly he called the Anglo-Irish Treaty the “Treaty of surrender and betrayal”. On the matter of his identity, he said:

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Justine McGrath

Justine McGrath was born in Zambia in Central Africa. Her parents were both born and brought up in Belfast. She can call upon a famous father, the late Jack Kyle OBE, Irish rugby legend and International Rugby Hall of Famer. Justine attended boarding school at Victoria College Belfast and Methodist College Belfast. Following school Justine enrolled at Stirling University and completed a degree in French and Spanish. She is now lives in Dublin and is self-employed, doing the following: career coaching, writing, freelance French and Spanish teaching and book reviewing.

February 08, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Duncan Morrow

Duncan Morrow is an academic and political activist from Belfast with a unique childhood, part spent in Dublin. Here I explore his thoughts on 1916, the Rising and the Somme.

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Duncan Morrow:
"At Primary School.   My family moved to Dublin when I was ten where my Dad worked as a chaplain in TCD.  We went to a tiny Protestant National School.  I was in a very small class of 2, and we were largely left on our own to read for parts of the day.  We had a book about Irish History which gave the straight republican narrative where all of history was about beating the Brits and the Rising was the central pint of resurrection."

February 07, 2016

Being Loyalist and Irish


Gusty Spence said:
"It’s sad today whenever you see a kind of an anti-Irishness. I suppose maybe it’s understandable because of the Provisionals campaign. Whatever little bit of Irishness people felt or some people felt - I feel greatly Irish - it was kind of driven out of them by these people who purported to be absolute Irish, and dogmatic, by bombing and shooting them."

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Andy Pollak

Andy Pollak is 67. He was born in Ballymena to a County Antrim mother and a Czech refugee father. He was brought up and educated in London and has lived largely in Dublin since 1986. He is a retired Irish Times journalist and now is a former director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh.

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Andy Pollak:
"Reading about it as a teenager in London."

February 06, 2016

Unionism won, Ctd



The IRA murder decades were a catastrophic, monumental, spectacular failure. The IRA's only triumph was to further polarise Protestant-Catholic and Planter-Gael relations, and to further poison the ability of protestants to self-identity as Irish (see research here). It ripped apart the Planter and the Gael and left Northerners with the demented notion that unionists are not and cannot be Irish.
Before 1916 and partition unionists were Irishmen. Before the IRA campaign many unionists saw themselves as Irish, now many few do. Sinn Fein reps have been known to speak to Americans, called themselves Irish unionists as British.

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Kylie Noble

Kylie Noble is 21. She was the editor of the Gown at Queen's for 2014-2015 -and established herself as a confident and dissenting, and often fascinating, voice with origins in the unionist community in Fermanagh. She grew up on a farm near Ederney, Fermanagh, attending Lack Primary School, then later Enniskillen Collegiate Grammar School, followed by Queen's University Belfast. 

She is currently studying for a masters in print journalism at the University of Sheffield. Here are her thoughts on the seismic and seminal year, 1916. 

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Kyle Noble

February 05, 2016

#NorthernIreland2016 Interview Series - Jonathan Drennan


Jonathan Drennan is the classic Belfast and Northern Ireland émigré. Born in Dundonald and raised in East Belfast, he attended RBAI then and Trinity, College Dublin. From Dublin the call of work took Jonathan to London and latterly Sydney, from where he responded to this interview.

Brian John Spencer: "When did you first learn about the Easter Rising of 1916?" Jonathan Drennan: 
"Comparatively recently, at university in Dublin, where I took it on myself to read up on it myself. I had barely studied it at school which was generally focused on the second world war for GCSE History."

When Catholic was taken to mean IRA supporter

The front bench at the first informal meeting of the Ulster Parliament, Belfast City Hall (June 7 1921). Down from Sir James Craig (in top hat) are HM Pollock, Minister of Finance; Sir Dawson Bates, Home Affairs; JM Andrews, Labour and Sir Edward Archdale, Argiculture (see here)
Alex Kane wrote that there are Seven Eras in the history of Northern Ireland, explaining that the first was anti-Catholic:
"Between 1921-1963 successive unionist governments chose to regard all Catholics as hardline republican."

February 04, 2016

Apartheid education in Northern Ireland



The patriots on each side matriculate hate. In Northern Ireland we inherit from our parents bigotry and hate, and to our children we bequeath bigotry. But the cause of division and mistrust goes beyond the familial and includes the educational apparatus with their curriculums of difference and confirmation bias.

Religious and political allegiance in Northern Ireland is singular. The two words are interchangeable. History isn't taught, it's inherited. We are bequeathed myths, biased and bigotries from a toxic matrix of parents, teachers and clergy. Edmund Burke wrote in 1792:
"[There were] thousands in Ireland who have never conversed with a Roman Catholic in their whole lives, unless they happened to talk to their gardener’s workmen… I remember a great, and in many respects a good, man, who advertised for a blacksmith, but at the same time added he must have a Protestant blacksmith."  

February 03, 2016

Being Protestant and Bloody Sunday, Ctd

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey attacks Reginald Maudling (cartoon by Cummings)
The Guardian reported on events in Dublin on the day of February 2 1972, two days after Bloody Sunday:
"Hatred of Britain in the Republic reached fever pitch as the embassy’s interior blazed fiercely, watched by several thousand. ‘Burn, burn, burn,’ they shouted as chunks of masonry and woodwork fell blazing onto the street. They redoubled their cheering whenever they saw the fire breaking through into new parts of the building."
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