The Troubles – Belfast

“THE MOST BOMBED HOTEL IN EUROPE!” roared Joel, celebrating with typical Irish humour as we drove past the dated Europa Hotel.  “During The Troubles, they compared us to Baghdad”, his eyes widening, “The Three B’s – Baghdad, Beirut and Belfast”, drawing comparisons to two of the most bombed cities on earth offers a sobering reminder […]

The Troubles – Belfast

Semtex and powdered milk: A history of Ireland-Northern Ireland border checks – FactCheckNI

Documents on high profile cases added to Troubles archive

DOCUMENTS detailing high profile cases including the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four are among almost 1,000 records now available to view online as part of a Troubles-related archive.

Gerry Conlon (l), one of the Guildford Four, in London, on the opening of ‘In The Name of the Father’, a controversial film about the plight of the four with Daniel Day-Lewis starring as Gerry Conlon and Pete Postlethwaite (r) as Gerry’s Father, Guiseppe

A batch of 960 documents, covering events related to the North of Ireland from 1986-88, were added to the Conflict Archive on the Internet (Cain) website this week as part of an ongoing partnership involving Ulster University and the National Archives of Ireland (NAI). The history of the unique archive was thrown into doubt earlier this year when Ulster University said that unless extra funding can be found to curate Cain it would become a “static archive” – not a live project which is constantly updated and expanded.

“These records offer an invaluable insight into the difficult years leading up to the eventual ceasefire and peace process in the North of Ireland” Catherine Martin

However, the archive was saved after the Irish government announced funding for a new project which will now be maintained and updated by NAI. The newly released material covers a wide range of topics from the workings of the Anglo-irish Agreement in its initial phase to how the governments in Dublin and London sought to manage their relationship in the face of challenging issues. This included legal debates about about the extradition of those suspected of paramilitary offences or the high profile cases such as the miscarriages of justice of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

The three unarmed IRA victims who were executed by the SAS in the on-going Shoot-to-kill policy in Gibraltar in March 1988

It also includes documents on the IRA Enniskillen bombing in November 1987 and the aftermath of the SAS murders in Gibraltar in March 1988. Catherine Martin, the Republic’s Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, said: “This collaboration between Cain and the National Archives clearly demonstrates the importance and value of providing free access to public records so that they can be used by researchers, academics, teachers, students and the wider public to better understand the social, political and historical contexts that shape our society.

The IRA Enniskillen bombing in November 1987

“These records offer an invaluable insight into the difficult years leading up to the eventual ceasefire and peace process in the North of Ireland.” Dr Brendan Lynn, Ulster University’s Cain deputy director, said: “Ulster University and Cain are once again pleased to have been able to work with the National Archives of Ireland to update the existing section which will now provide users with material spanning the years from 1965 to 1988.

“In addition it has allowed Cain to continue with its long-term objective of working with individuals, groups or organisations with relevant information to produce digital versions of their material and make it much more accessible to a wider audience. “Finally I would like to place on record our thanks to the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs for providing the support to allow CAIN to maintain its partnership with the National Archives, Ireland”.

The archive can be viewed at:

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Allison Morris SECURITY CORRESPONDENT –

Watch “The Cook Report 1987 Worse Than The Mafia (IRA Northern Ireland)” on YouTube

With many thanks to Billy Nolan for the original artwork


Sinn Féin needs to become radical again

The areas with the highest unemployment and the worst health issues are republican heartlands. That equation is a poor reflection on those who have had the votes and the power for enough years to change those statistics, at least partially 

SCRIPTURE tells us to “let the dead bury their dead”. Sinn Féin used to call not just for a United Ireland but for a socialist republic.

Universal Credit designed by the Tories delivered to you by Shame Féin and the DUP


A policy, if my memory serves me right, most often articulated by Gerry Adams himself. For good reasons, the socialist part of that designation dissipated as the peace agreement became more prominent. With Sinn Féin in government for several years and now the main opposition party in the south, there is a strong argument for resurrecting a dollop of that effective social policy which Sinn Féin claimed was its forté. The claim, unfortunately, sits uncomfortably with the continuing revelation that their most loyal supporters are amongst the poorest and most deprived (and that’s a fact). The areas with the highest unemployment and the worst health issues are republican heartlands. That equation is a poor reflection on those who have had the votes and the power for enough years to change those statistics, at least partially.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) report on addiction services, published this week, is only the latest exposé of these realities. The report concentrates on the inadequacies of the department of health and the health trusts. It outlines that the available services are insufficient and that the outcomes of the services are mostly unmeasured. In fact, the data coming from the service is so uncertain that the department cannot publish it and therefore there is little clarity as to whether the services being offered are doing any good. But the most depressing revelation is that the death rate from alcohol and drug problems is four and a half times greater in deprived areas and that hospital admissions for alcohol and drugs is four times greater than in more advantaged areas. The drugs in question are a mixture of illegal and medically prescribed, but alcohol remains the greatest killer.

Gerry Adams (TD) ex-President of Sinn Féin wearing his Poppy lapel honouring the British army who executed his comrades


Put addiction into the middle of unemployment and poor health and the result is a cocktail of problems that would test the commitment and the ingenuity of any political system. But the difficulty and complexity is surely a reason to be more incisive and clinical in response. Following through with the addiction metaphor, recovery only begins when the problem is honestly admitted. Shame Féin shows little inclination to admit that too many of the constituencies that they represent, especially in Belfast and Derry, continue to be the most deprived on this island. Deprived communities need employment and jobs, not just improvements in welfare benefits. Scotland, interestingly, is having a close look at universal basic income as a means of giving people dignity as well as a decent income. It is a scheme whereby each citizen receives a guaranteed minimum income, employed or not.

Child poverty, Universal Basic Income,

Deprived communities also need and desire law, order and discipline even more than more privileged communities. It is what provides stability and security. They need political leaders who not only challenge policies that sustain inequality and poverty but also challenge the people themselves to rise above apathy and lethargy. They need leaders who believe in their constituents enough to believe they do not have to be at the top of every negative measurement on employment and health. Sinn Féin are rightly credited with being hard workers. Their local constituency offices are a hive of activity, responding to enquiries and requests from constituents. But business is no substitute for effectiveness. The party has been long enough now to be examined and marked on outcomes. Has the standard of living in working class nationalist/republican areas improved? The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding no. Those are the areas that bore the brunt of the years of the Troubles.  They should not be expected to also bear the disappointment of the peace. Sinn Féin need to become much more radical in examining their performance.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Denis Bradley for his Opinion piece which was published in The Irish News on Friday July 3rd 2020 for the original posting.

Follow these links to find out more:



Are we reaching the endgame on a United Ireland?

Faith almost always baffles those who do not share it. The self-belief of those who killed and died ‘for the cause’ is amazing, as well as horrifying 

Former Deputy First Minister Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness (centre) at the funeral of lieutenant IRA explosives expert Colm Keenan in 1972

ARE we into the endgame now? No, not the coronaviris betokening the End of the World. This is about a United Ireland, to be or not to be, up ahead after a border poll or nothing of the sort.

Ruairi Ó Brádaigh and then Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams at the ard fhéis before the IRA split in 1986

There are people with a seemingly bottomless appetite for weighing up the pros and cons. Only a comparative few are in the polls business, which produces dramatically diverse odds. Although in the aftermath of every single poll, someone manages to weigh it without noting whether the hypothetical poll was to be right now, soon, in five years or farther away. And oh how events influence the results. We may still not know how Brexit will play out but it is plain that so far the effect is pro-unification. A sub-section of the populace is more invested in this game than others. They have been hanging on the prophecies of those they regard as leaders for at least 40 years now, maybe longer. These are republicans, of the Sinn Féin variety, whose most respected figures have been telling them since the 1980s that the big day is on its way.

Did the late Martin McGuinness believe his own words, when he addressed himself in particular to Ruairi Ó Brádaigh and those clustering round him ready to leave the hall and their comrades at the ard fhéis of 1986 with ‘Don’t go, my friends. We will lead you to the Republic’? Of course McGuinness believed himself. How else could he have gone on ordering those who followed him to keep on killing and dying? But then faith always baffles those who do not share it. The self-belief of those who killed and died ‘for the cause’ is amazing, as well as horrifying. As far as can be gathered from outside the circle, it has rarely had to do with assessment of armaments, tactics, the state of ‘the enemy’, much less informed judgment on opinion in the other part of the island, which would have to welcome turning its own state upside down.

Martin Meehan (centre) with Gerry Adams (behind wearing glasses) doing Guard of Honour at an IRA funeral

Through those awful years when the IRA seemed not to have on Off button the authorised prophets were McGuinness and Gerry Adams. They re-jigged the forecast from time to time, depending on how well or badly they supposed they were doing, but until recent years the faith was rarely presented as anything other than total, unconditional. Except perhaps in the first years of the Troubles the promise was never ‘next year in Jerusalem’. As British governments scrambled to fathom what they were dealing with they made judgments on the hoof, for example admitting to themselves early on that they would not confront armed loyalist Paramilitaries in anything like the way they would tackle republicans. Not out of loyalty to kith and kin, but because the generals, as state papers confirmed much later, were adamant they could not fight on two fronts.  

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald

In the early 1970s, when London’s panic and disarray was evident, leading republicans (and some unionists) thought ‘the Brits’ were close to leaving. In 2000 Adams told supporters in New York ‘there is no reason why we cannot celebrate the 1916 Rising in the year 2016, in a free and United Ireland.’ In the Guardian seven years on, when an interviewer put it to him that he had said a United Ireland could be achievable by 2016 he replied: ‘Well I didn’t quite say that. A colleague of mine said that and then when I was asked the question I said: But if we don’t get it, don’t blame us’. In 2017 one of Sinn Féin’s sharpest critics noted that ‘a United Ireland by 2016 has now become a border poll by 2020’. Now that 2020 is two months old Mary Lou McDonald predicts a poll inside five years. But then who believes that official Britain under Boris Johnson is committed to maintain the Union? What republicans tell themselves may be neither here nor there.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Fionnuala O’Connor for the original story 

A Journey into the Grey Zone: Injured On That Day

This is the story of Paul Gallagher a 21-year-old man from Lenadoon in West Belfast who on 6th January 1994 was shot five times and left paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life – Read his story here in his own words….

Catholic Priest feared he could be killed by Provos after campaigning for the release of IRA prisoners

Father Denis Faul, was very active during both hunger strikes of 1980-1981 and was highly respected by all the republican prisoners on the blocks

A CATHOLIC priest claimed he could be shot by the Provos – for campaigning for the early release of IRA prisoners.

Father Denis Faul of St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, Co Tyrone made consistent appeals to Minister of State Nicholas Scott to let republican terrorists out of jail.

His pleas have been revealed in top secret files which have now been declassified by the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, including when Fr Faul had a meeting with Mr Scott on May 16, 1986, bringing with him Fr Murray and Mr Canning, an independent nationalist councillor from Dungannon.

The note for the record said: “Father Faul set out at length his proposition that mass releases from the prisons now would end violence.

“He acknowledged that letting out the killers to stop the killing was a difficult concept to grasp, but claimed support from Irish history as well as the facts of the present.”

It continued: “Many of those in prison today had only become involved in paramilitary activity because of injustice done to the Catholic community – he spoke of internment, torture, plastic bullets and the hunger strike.

“Still, their families regretted their involvement, and if the prisoners were released to them there was no doubt that their influence would be deployed to restrain them from further dealings with the paramilitaries.

“…The commitment to the paramilitaries of many prisoners was, in any event, only ostensible. Families had told him that prisoners were now more often thinking for themselves, they felt the war was over.

“In prison, they moved to Provisional wings because they had less hassle from warders there than in mixed wings.

“…Father Faul spoke with real loathing of PIRA, which had cynically manipulated many young people. He knew of prisoners who had effectively delivered into the hands of the police whilst working for PIRA, because it had suited the organisation’s purposes.

“It was to PIRA’s advantage to have the prisons full. They were violently opposed to the release campaign: indeed Father Faul said he could be shot by them for his activities.”

The document is contained in a Northern Ireland Office file on Prisons from 1983 to 1989, regarding Reforms and Restoration of Lost Remission (after the Hunger Strike 03/10/81).

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and David O’Dornan for the original story 

Vor den Wahlen: Wie die Paramilitärs Nordirlands vom Brexit profitieren |

Paul O’Connor, Director of the Pat Finucane Centre, IRA Volunteer – The Irish Peace Process

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