A Rally for Irish unity is to take place in this weekend in Tyrone where Tommy McKearney of the Peadar O'Donnell Socialist Republican Forum will be the main speaker.

Aughnacloy Rally For Irish Unity

From the Irish Times a claim that: The Ireland I left is no longer there, however hard I try to recapture it - Leaving Ireland while you’re young is easier than returning when you’re older. Written by Claire O'Dea. 

The emigrants’ ship is leaving and all the young people on board are trying to keep sight of their heartbroken parents, waving forlornly on the quayside.

Our pale and anxious heroine, Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan, is having a peak pale and anxious moment as she stands on the deck of the ship that will take her away from everything and everyone she knows and loves. Green coat smartly buttoned up, new passport clutched in her hand, she is fleeing the narrow minds and narrow opportunities of 1950s Ireland.

In the film adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn, the image of the lonely emigrant girl blowing a last kiss to her sister is perfectly crafted to tug at the heartstrings of Irish and American audiences alike …

… In that phase of emigration, four out of five Irish emigrants went to the United States. Most of the emigration could be categorised as forced to some degree, from victims of eviction and hunger to economic migrants with no prospects at home. Particularly around the time of the 1845-1848 Great Famine, emigration for the Irish was a traumatic experience, a mass movement of the dispossessed … 

… How fitting and yet how extraordinary it is that Ireland is now being influenced, shaped and enriched by new people. In the space of one generation, Ireland has also become a nation of immigration. Continue reading @ the Irish Times

Ireland - A Nation of Immigration

A Morning Thought @ 510

From Slugger O'Toole Behind the scenes of Spotlight on The Troubles: Willie Frazer, Alan Oliver, Patrick Ryan, and ongoing questions about ‘The Secret War’ film (Thu 9pm on BBC One NI). By Alan Meban.

The Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History series wraps up next week with the final extended programme at 8.30pm on Tuesday night on BBC One NI and BBC Four, promising to look at what drew a halt to the Troubles, how the UK government policy goal changed from defeating the IRA to bringing the republicans into negotiations, the internal struggle for control within the IRA, as well as the scale of secrecy that still surrounds the conflict. The entire series will be available for a year as a boxset on iPlayer along with other Troubles-related programmes (such as On the Frontline).

This morning the production team screened a companion behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the series to journalism and media students. This hour-long fly-on-the-wall programme will be broadcast on BBC One NI Thursday evening at 9pm.

It captures some aspects of the two year production process, highlighting the painstaking evidence gathering, creating detailed chronologies of events, the slow work to build trust to get key players to speak on camera, the disappointments of people pulling out of interviews, compartmentalising different investigative threads to prevent victims’ families getting their hopes up about new information, and the lengths the team have to go to ensure those facing allegations are given the opportunity to have a right of reply.

Continue reading @ Slugger O'Toole.

Behind The Scenes Of Spotlight On The Troubles

Having been legislatively slaughtered on the political beaches, Northern Irish Christians need to find a new cause. Religious commentator, Dr John Coulter, looks at how the Christian Churches can regroup after last night’s defeats on same-sex marriage and more liberal abortion law. 

Yesterday was D-Day (Decision Day) for Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists in Northern Ireland. But unlike their counterparts on 6th June 1944 on the beaches of Normandy, the Christians lost the fight to stop same-sex marriage and the pro-life lobby suffered yet another humiliating defeat.

For many Christians, yesterday’s recall of the Stormont Assembly was a religious Alamo plan to save the unborn. For many in the pro-choice lobby, recalling Stormont was a political stunt.

Midnight came and went. No power-sharing Executive at Stormont meant that laws on same-sex marriage and some of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe being introduced into Northern Ireland via Westminster became a reality.

If you thought the battle to find a Brexit deal, extend the Brexit deadline, or even halt the Brexit process entirely before the 31 October deadline, then Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists opposed such laws on same-sex marriage and abortion coming from Westminster have an even bigger mountain to climb now.

In practical political terms, their plan to find a loophole in Stormont standing orders so that 30 Assembly members can recall Stormont, form some kind of hotchpotch Executive, and get a petition of concern up and running to halt what Christians view as some of the most draconian abortion laws in Europe has crashed and burned harder than a chariot in Ben Hur!

Sunday 13 October saw a day of prayer across many churches - both Catholic and Protestant - to pray against this legislation and for the protection of the unborn. Monday 21 October saw defeat yet again for the Christian community.

It must be a bitter pill to swallow coming hot on the heels of defeats by Christians in the same-sex and abortion referenda in the Republic.

At face value, it seemed an astute move to get Westminster to introduce legislation which has always appeared as political sticking points and red lines to getting a power-sharing Executive back at Stormont.

That could allow the Christian community to point the judgemental finger at London, pretend to be a modern day Pontius Pilate, and say - ‘it was Westminster what done it!’

On paper now, only a stand alone Irish Language Act remains a stumbling block to the restoration of devolution, which has been moth-balled since January 2017. So why can’t the Westminster Government bring in such an Act in a similar way it has legislated for same-sex marriage and more liberal abortion laws?

While it has been some five years since death of the founder of the DUP, the late Rev Ian Paisley, who was also the founder of the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 1951, the voter influence of Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists both within and outside the party should not be underestimated.

Similarly, of the three supposed red lines to devolution’s return - same-sex marriage, abortion, and an Irish Language Act - perhaps the most contentious is abortion. Two of those red lines disappeared at midnight.

The electoral challenge which the DUP faces is - which issue has the potential to lose or gain votes. In practical terms, pluralist Protestants may not have the same strong views on protecting the unborn as DUP traditionalists among the socially conservative evangelical and fundamentalists.

If the DUP was to agree to a stand alone Irish Language Act in exchange for blocking new draconian abortion laws, would liberal unionists and secular Protestants punish the DUP at the ballot box, especially in the looming Westminster General Election?

The DUP privately recognises that it has lost the battle to halt same-sex marriage coming to Northern Ireland. But for the Christian lobby, it would rather see the protection of the unborn than halt same-sex marriage. Now the Christian community has lost that abortion battle, too, so where do the Christian Churches pass their standards now?

Why is abortion such a major issue now with Christians? Practically, you cannot save an aborted baby, but you could ‘witness’ to same-sex couples that a Christian heterosexual lifestyle is a better alternative to gay marriage. In Christian thinking, at least the people in a same-sex marriage are alive; aborted babies are corpses.

However, pro-life lobbyists are well aware of this month’s earlier ruling in the Sarah Ewart case in which the Belfast High Court ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion restrictions breach UK human rights laws.

If pro-life lobbyists ever did manage to create a situation whereby any new abortion law was halted in its tracks, how would that decision play out against the October 3 Belfast High Court ruling?

And its not just the DUP which faces an abortion dilemma. Sinn Fein may have been able to see off any electoral challenge from parties supporting dissident republican groups, or even a revitalised SDLP, but could the intervention of the vehemently pro-life Aontu party cost Sinn Fein vital seats.

Okay, pundits can point to the fact that Aontu has only a handful of elected councillors straddling both sides of the border, but many socially conservative Catholics may also opt either to vote for Aontu or the DUP if pro-life lobbyists can move the debate to the top of the political agenda ahead of, or even on a par with, Brexit.

The abortion debate could provide the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland with the chance to regain some moral ground lost because of the fallout from the clerical abuse scandals which have hounded the Church in recent decades.

A visible tactic orchestrated by the Church would be to picket Sinn Fein offices and advice centres with the warning - support pro-life or we abandon you! In electoral terms, the pro-life lobby within Catholicism has a better opportunity to inflict voter damage on Sinn Fein than the dissident republican lobby.

My late father, Rev Dr Robert Coulter MBE, was a North Antrim UUP Assembly member from 1998 to 2011. He was an avowed pro-life champion because of his strongly evangelical Biblical views. In elections, he attracted a significant number of transfers from Catholic nationalist voters because of his tough pro-life stance.

The same observation can also be said of the late Rev Ian Paisley’s vote in North Antrim, too. In elections, voters knew precisely what either my father or Rev Dr Paisley stood for in terms of the pro-life debate.

Likewise, the UUP faces a similar electoral dilemma as it seeks to find a new party leader. Presently, the UUP allows a conscience vote on abortion.

One of the accusations which has been levelled at the UUP compared to the more liberal Alliance party is that voters in the European poll in May were actually confused as to the UUP’s stance - pointedly, what does the UUP stand for?

A new more liberal UUP leader could make support for the pro-choice position party policy in a bid to go head to head with Alliance, which also operates a conscience clause for its elected representatives.

However, that could backfire on the UUP if the traditional Right-wing party members who were to the fore in the Molyneaux era vote with their feet and defect to the DUP.

With parties seeking to boast that they are all ‘broad churches’ to use the political pun, what battles lines should the Christians Churches now adopt?

The real danger for the Churches is that their physical places of worship become targets for the ‘politically correct brigade’ who actually visit such churches to ‘deliberately’ become offended.

Will we see an extension of the Communications Act so that people visiting churches can actually complain about the content of sermons spoken, rather than sermons transmitted over the internet?

At the moment, Churches are basking in the belief that their religious gatherings enjoy freedom of expression. But at what point will this freedom be diluted?

In the 1970s, the corner street evangelist was part of the Northern Ireland culture. But are such preachers being driven off the streets into the church pulpits? The Churches need to be careful that the next ‘red line’ they need to defend is to preach the Gospel from their pulpits.

Granted, some clerics will prefer to preach a ‘fluffy bunny’ liberal agenda whereby Hell, sin, sexual immorality and the Salvationist theology are all ignored or banned.

In such a situation, Christianity would be nothing more than a Pharisee-style badge as the very evangelical and Biblical pillars upon which true Salvationist Christianity is based would be eradicated. When will we see a law jailing clerics or preachers for ‘Non-PC’ sermons?

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online at www.thisissunshine.com

Christians Need New Battle Ground

A Morning Thought @ 509

Paul Ryan, a resident of Louth, with a poem from his collection.


Walls of division
White cloak and hood
Mexican sweat
Palestinian blood.
Confidence, supply
Partners in crime
Political lackeys
Toe the line.
Varadkar’s spin
Martin’s submission
Terms of reference
Greenhouse emission.
Falling off swings
Whiplash necks
Hospital trolleys
And cervical checks.
Homeless families
Another false boom
Babies of Tuam.
Yemen and Syria
Expunged by the drone
If this is progress
Póg mo thóin.


The Village poses a question - Maurice The Mole? The Provisional IRA knew Sir Maurice Oldfield, Chief of MI6, was a homosexual. Did the Soviets know too? By Joseph de Burca. 

Forty years ago this month Margaret Thatcher called the veteran MI6 spymaster Maurice Oldfield out of retirement and sent him to Northern Ireland to co-ordinate the activities of the various branches of British Intelligence on the island. Did the KGB know he was gay? Did they learn he had a relationship with the paedophile in charge of Kincora Boys' Home? MI5 investigated him in 1980 to see if he was a traitor.

Forty years ago this month Margaret Thatcher sent Sir Maurice Oldfield, the former Chief of MI6, to Belfast to co-ordinate the activities of the various branches of British Intelligence in Ireland.

Kieran Conway, the former Provisional IRA Director of Intelligence in the 1970s, has confirmed to Village that the Provos knew Oldfield was gay.

In 2017 the Hart Report into child sex abuse published details of an MI6 document which revealed a “small collection of papers in file three which relate to the relationship [Oldfield] had with the Head of the Kincora Boys’ Home (KBH) in Belfast”. The “Head” of Kincora was “Warden” Joseph Mains who abused teenage boys at Kincora and elsewhere.

What, if anything, did the Soviet intelligence apparatus, the KGB, know about Oldfield’s homosexuality? More significantly, if the KGB found out, what did they do with the information? Joseph Mains, according to MI6 records he had a “relationship” and a “friendship” with Oldfield.

The answer is nothing despite the fact it could have destroyed him. Such inaction makes no sense as Oldfield was reputed to have been a highly effective opponent of the KGB. The notorious MI6 traitor Kim Philby described him as an officer of “high quality” and “formidable” in his memoirs.

Continue reading @ The Village.

Maurice The Mole

A Morning Thought @ 508

Anthony McIntyre has been reading Michael Connelly's third novel in the Harry Bosch series.

The Dollmaker died four years earlier, shot by Harry Bosch. A violent if happy ending to a reign of misogynistic terror waged by a serial killer who gained his handle from his macabre ritual of painting his victims with make-up. In the bathroom of the dead Norman Church there was plenty of make-up so there were few objections when Bosch made the match-up, helped by the fact that the same cosmetics were used on nine of the eleven victims.

And everybody lived happily ever after. Only in fairy tales apparently, because what little peace of mind Bosch had, he was to see it run through his fingers like sand.
On the night of the happy ending Bosch took a call from a sex worker, who told him she had been attacked … by the Dollmaker. Bosch headed to the scene with no great sense of urgency – something he decided to do when on his way home from duty. He felt it was another of those calls that use up time and police resources but ultimately lead nowhere. Not long after arriving he shot the man dead, fearing he was reaching for a gun. It turned out to be a toupee.

Still, there was more than enough evidence to link Toupee Man to all but two of the eleven killings he was suspected of having carried out. Bosch being Harry had not called for back up and in doing so got the backs up of the police department he worked for. Red carded, he was sent downwards.

Four years later Bosch is being sued by the widow of Toupee Man on the grounds that her husband was innocent. To make matters worse the body of a blonde woman entombed in concrete is discovered. The MO was that of the Dollmaker. Big problem for Bosch and the LAPD – the victim is dead no more than two years, while the suspected dollmaker was dead for twice that length of time. The pressure is on for the LAPD to find a real time killer who many feel was the real Dollman.

In Honey Chandler, the lawyer for the family of the late Church who is prosecuting Bosch for his killing, Harry knows he is up against it. Capable, shrewd, strategic, she never misses a trick. His work is really cut out and her dexterity pushes him onto the backfoot. The tension between the two never abates. From courtroom to the mean streets, the suspense carries over. Bosch turns up in court during the day and in the evenings goes on the hunt to catch what he is convinced is a new killer. His conviction that Church was the Dollmaker, after an early wobble or two, remains determined.

Connelly knows how to dance the twist. Each time a suspect appears there is a feeling of it has to be him. But it isn’t. The plot hurtles towards a tingling denouement.

Of the three novels read so far this is the best. If the second in the series can be said to have taken a bit of a dip it is only because Connelly set the bar so high in Black Echo. This moves it up a notch.

Michael Connelly, 1994, The Concrete Blonde. Little, Brown. ISBN: 0-316-15383-4

Concrete Blonde

Valerie Tarico writes about Christian hatred in the US military. 

Get in the way of a Bible-believing soldier on a mission for Jesus, and things can get ugly fast. Just ask Bonnie and Mikey Weinstein, co-founders of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who regularly receive messages like these: 

I’m the mother of 4 God fearing children of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do your kids and the Lord’s whole green earth a favor today and choke to death on a chicken bone. You’re a servant of Satan and deserve the flames which surely await you. 2 Peter 2:4. 1 Thessalonians 2:15 

Ye better be able to grow eyes in the back of your head jewboy. Lovers of Christ will not be taking anymore of your menacing in the military. Christ’s message of salvation will conquer your kike attacks as Christ was victorious over the Pharisees.

Please, do every real US citizen (ie true patriots) a huge favor & point a loaded 1911 at your temple and pull the trigger. If you’re too chicken-shit to complete the task, I volunteer to assist.

Military psalm tattooWhy the vitriol and threats? The Military Religious Freedom Foundation defends the 250-year-old separation between church and state in the US military. Their legal team and volunteers jump into action in response to calls and emails from soldiers—either individuals or groups—who are being pressured to participate in the religious beliefs and practices of chaplains, superior officers or colleagues – beliefs that they don’t share.

It happens more than you might think: Fliers on plates in a dining hall. Bible verses on walls. Prayers at all-hands meetings. Inspirational lectures with a message of salvation. Speeches denigrating religious minorities or the nonreligious. Awkward invitations to a commanding officer’s Bible study or church. A decade in, MRFF says they have represented more than 50,000 clients—pushing back against violations large and small. Some Bible believers take that personally.

MRFF goes bulldog no matter who commits the violation. But the vast majority of their time is spent fending off fundamentalist Evangelical Christians that are exploiting the military hierarchy or public spaces and events to promote their form of Bible belief. Why center on fundamentalist Evangelicals? Because Jews, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans, and even mainline Christians typically aren’t consumed with “sharing” their “good news” and questing for converts. In fact, the vast majority of MRFF clients are moderate Christians who value separation of church and state and their own spiritual privacy on the job.

Fundamentalist Evangelicals, though—especially in the military—are caught between a rock and a hard place. In their role as soldiers, their mission is to defend the United States including the American traditions of secularism and religious pluralism. But most religions teach that serving the will of God should take precedence over all else including any loyalties to nation or profession, and Evangelicals believe that the Bible commands them to win converts.

The word evangel literally means good news, by which Christians typically mean the notion that Jesus died for your sins so that you don’t have to be tortured forever in hell. Evangelical means centered on this salvation message, and evangelism means persuading other people that they too can be saved if only they believe. Where mainline Christians may elevate a Bible passage called The Great Commandment (love God and love your neighbor as yourself), many Evangelical churches elevate a passage called The Great Commission (go into the world and make disciples of every creature). In an individual life, prioritizing one or the other can make a world of difference.

The perceived biblical mandate to win converts means that some fundamentalist Evangelicals feel threatened by anything or anyone that obstructs this mission. And when members of the military blow past the founding fathers, laws, and military regs in their quest to serve Jesus, MRFF is one organization that steps in their way.

When you step in the way of fighting men and women, it should be no surprise that some of them react, not by self-reflecting but by fighting. What may surprise many people on the outside, though, is just how ugly that can turn. Christianity makes people better, right? The Church is a moral light unto the world. The fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, temperance, longsuffering. Christians turn the other cheek. They are generous and kind, just like Jesus himself. That’s what most Christian kids are taught in Sunday school, which is one reason Islamism looks violent when contrasted with (this idealized version of) Christianity.

But ideals and realities are two different things, and Christianity, like Islam, has always had a dark side. For both, that has always included divinely sanctioned death threats. The very same exclusive truth claims that motivated Christianity’s crusades, purges, inquisitions, executions, forced conversions, centuries of vomitous anti-Semitism, and hostility toward other religions still hold full force in some minds. Skeptical? Read Bonnie Weinstein’s latest book of hate mail from Christians to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation: When Christians Break Bad. Here is a sample to get you going.

Sharing the Gospel of the Son of God with our nation’s young war heroes was just an innocent picnic of love for sinners to learn how to rid themselves of sin through Christ. It could only be jacked up by some hell bound hook nose. With an anti-christian agenda of hate towards Jesus Christ.

Our military is sacred to Jesus and your fucking it up trying to take the only Son of God out of it. . . enjoy the sulfur fumes as your are consumed in the Lake of Fire for your 2nd death – Revelations 21:8

There is only 1 country which is the most pure and precious to Jesus and that is the USA. Our soldiers are soldiers for Christ. No separation of Jesus and state in the constitutions. We don’t need no queers or jewboys and sand niggers to bring down are once proud red white and blue.

Your organization is no different than those enemies of America. Why don’t you move to those countries and join the Jihad! You’re a disgrace to Americans who have died for your freedom . . . . May Jesus Christ have mercy on you . . . Cause I know conservative American Christians would love to watch you suffer.

Jews have that certain smell

you know, Mikie. That jew smell of murdering the innocent Lamb. The son of God. . . . Try as you might to keep Jesus out of our military you will just even more nail yourself to the cross of satan. And you will burn in hell forever. Every day will be a Dachau day for you. Every night will be a Kristallnacht. For all eternity. . . . Hell smells like Jews.

You need to be locked up and waterboarded until you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as the full sinner you are.  
. . . hope you die in front of your kids and burn in hell for the apostasy you fuckers are. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Are these emails—and the hundreds more like them and related images posted at the MRFF website—representative of how Christians think and behave? Of course not. They are not typical of even Evangelicals or fundamentalists, some of whom count themselves among MRFF clients. But they are a sobering reminder of Christianity’s dark side—and of the similar darkness in any ideology that makes exclusive truth claims, promotes division, competes for converts, and demonizes people who get in the way.

Valerie Tarico
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  

She writes about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society.

When Christian Soldiers Break Bad

A Morning Thought @ 507

Deirdre Younge writing in Village about the covert war waged by the British state in the North.

It was early November.1993. A senior RUC officer surveyed the docking area of a container ship in Teesport, Cleveland. ‘The Inowroclaw’ was sailing from Gdynia in Poland to Teesport and from there to its declared final destination of Belfast Port and into the hands of the UVF. It was jammed with armaments.

However, another RUC officer and a battalion of UK Customs officers would be waiting on Teesport docks to ‘intercept’ the shipment before it reached its declared destination

Recruited by M16 in the early 1970s, he had been in Teesport weeks in advance to ensure that nothing could go wrong. This time the weapons would not be distributed as had happen six years previously. If the arms were added to the UVF arsenal it would match anything imported from Libya by the IRA.

This is not the plot of a Northern Ireland ‘noir’ novel, but a ‘false flag’ operation at the tail end of the undercover war in Northern Ireland.

Continue reading in Village.

False Flags In Teesport

From Newsweek a report on an Australian politician calling for warning signs to be displayed by Catholic Churches. 

Melbourne City Council member Nic Frances Gilley has introduced a proposal to require Catholic churches to comply with the province of Victoria's new mandatory abuse reporting laws or have signs posted outside warning parents that the houses of worship might pose a danger to children.
The Age reports that Gilley is requesting the state "write to all churches and places of worship requesting assurances that all staff and associates will abide by the law of mandatory reporting," and if they do not provide those assurances the state should erect appropriate signage.
In September, Victoria passed the Children Legislation Amendment Act 2019, which added religious leaders to the list of individuals who are legally mandated to report child abuse to the authorities when they learn about it. That list already included police, teachers, nurses, midwives and other occupations.

Continue reading @ Newsweek.

Politician Wants Catholic Churches To Post Signs Warning Children Of Danger

A Morning Thought @ 506

Carrie Twomey writes on the inadmissibility of the Boston College tapes

A point on yesterday's ruling, which some commentary is getting confused. The guarantee of confidentiality is what makes them unreliable, not the bias of the interviewer or interviewee.

The perception of bias was an argument put forth by the defense during the case to illustrate the unreliability of the contents of the tapes.

It is not, however, what undermines the tapes legally or fatally. The guarantee of confidentiality and the structure of the project is what killed the tapes legally.

The judge observed that the promise of withholding the tapes until death gave
"freedom to speak the truth but it also gave freedom to lie, to distort, to exaggerate, to blame and to mislead".
(Application to Exclude the Boston Tapes Evidence, paragraph 37)

"The prosecution simply cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that whether it is true or not the confession was not the consequence of the false guarantee"
(Application to Exclude the Boston Tapes Evidence, paragraph 25)

The false guarantee referred to is the promise of confidentiality until the death of the participant given in the donor agreement, which allowed the interviewee to speak freely.

"I find that the confession is likely to be unreliable in the sense that it may well be unreliable as a direct result of the circumstances in which it was improperly and dishonestly induced by Mr. McIntyre working under the auspices of the Project Director Mr. Moloney in conjunction with Boston College"
(Application to Exclude the Boston Tapes Evidence, paragraph 33)

The donor agreements for the loyalists were the same as the donor agreements for the republicans. All donor agreements had the same flaw: in contrast to Boston College's contract with Ed Moloney, which had the key phrase limiting the confidentiality of the archives 'to the extent of American law' in it, the donor agreements did not.

That is where phrase 'improperly and dishonestly induced' comes in, because the donor agreements stated the donor would have control until death and their interviews would be protected until death which as we all know now – but did not know then – was not true.

The lack of oversight of the project also contributed to the unreliability of the tapes as evidence.

All of this is important to clarify because it means the ruling applies to the Winston Rea case as well as Anthony’s own – it is not because of the interviewer, it is the conditions of the interview that renders them inadmissible as evidence.

A last point. Oral history is not evidence. Oral histories are not "confessions". Oral history is not "sworn testimony", and it is never meant to be.

The PSNI and the PPS have a lot of questions to answer about how they went on this wild goose chase, especially in regards to how much time, money, and resources they wasted in doing so.

Hopefully some journalists have already filed FOIs and/or asked their MPs to find out how much the PPS and PSNI have spent on the international subpoenas, how many detectives and police support staff have been tasked to the cases, and how many man-hours have been dedicated to everything Boston College related. This should be contrasted to the lack of resources the PSNI says it suffers from in its ability to handle legacy cases.

It is a travesty that it took this long – over 8 years – for the courts to confirm what has been obvious and known since the start.

As much as the Boston College tapes can be held up as an example of how not to conduct an oral history project, so too can the pursuit of the tapes by the PSNI and PPS be held up as an example of how not to police the past.

How Not to Police The Past

Christopher Owens in conversation with Beano Niblock about an artistic project he has worked on. 

I came across this poster on Twitter the other day. Seems like an interesting night for a discussion and so, I contacted Robert 'Beano' Niblock (author of plays such as 'A Reason to Believe' and 'Tartan') to ask him about the upcoming event.

Add caption

CO: Tell us about 'We Taught Our Children How to Lie.'

BN: About three years ago, Etcetera theatre company was approached by a former Greenfinch who was part of a group of former UDR/RIR personnel who now suffer from varying degrees of PTSD. Basically they wanted to tell their story and thought that a piece of drama was the best medium.

Over a period of some months the extended group, up to 15 in some cases, met for workshops with myself and facilitated by William Mitchell (artistic director of Etcetera and current director of the ACT Initiative). It was during these sessions that they covered their personal narratives relating to their time as soldiers, part time or otherwise.

Over the next few months I created a full length drama which we endeavoured to obtain funding for. Unfortunately, we failed and the project was shelved for a couple of years. The play was recently revisited in an effort to give the veterans something for their input and we came up with an idea to reduce the play to a 30 minute two hander with all of the issues intact.

This is the result of that. The play will be staged-in front of selected and invited audiences over 3 nights next week at small venues in Carrickfergus, East Belfast and Shankill Road.

CO: Speaking to those involved in the workshop, what impressions did you get of how they coped when they saw that people they had traditionally regarded as the enemy (e.g. Sinn Fein) enter and begin to dominate mainstream politics, so much so that they have been accused of rewriting history?

BN: The workshops were a number of extended sessions over a number of months and many things were discussed and issues raised. Most of these issues were around collective abandonment, of feeling second class, of not being worthy, betrayal. The blame was aimed at the establishment and the perceived disinterest from many unionist politicians and some parties. Like many other unionists or loyalists though, they raised deep concerns that Sinn Fein have been allowed, basically unchallenged, for many years to re-write the conflict.

CO: I see that ACT Initiative are involved with the play and, as an organisation, they seem very eager to promote art within the loyalist community. Last time we spoke, you said that they were "currently looking towards new initiatives to encourage former combatants to participate in a range of activities based around encouraging the narratives..." How important have ACT been towards artists like yourself?

BN: In recent years I have worked closely with ACT, either central, or at times with the outlying branches in a range of creative activities. They certainly encourage me and others to further cultivate that creative side and incorporate it into loyalist thinking and roles. This is something I personally feel is important but sadly lacking.

CO: In recent times I have worked many times with the ACT Initiative to encourage those within our strand of loyalism to become involved in creative story telling. Longkeshinsideout, Post Scriptum, poetry readings, open mic nights, oral archiving and handicraft workshops are all examples of this. ACT will continue in this vein and I see them and EpIc and the Open Door project as pivotal in perpetuating creativity within loyalism and in particular amongst ex-combatants including prisoners.

CO: With these upcoming shows, what are you hoping for in terms of conversation and reactions?

BN: We are hoping to gauge the accuracy of the piece and, through post show discussions, examine the content and relevant issues contained.

Reactions at this stage aren’t an issue, I feel, because the piece is being performed by and large to critical friends really to ascertain if we have a project that is worth expanding again to the original format in the hope that we can offer it to the mainstream theatres. We had interest a couple of years back from the Lyric but couldn’t find the money then to have it produced.

CO: Will there be further shows after this initial run?

BN: This short run is being done on the back of a very small amount of money but the answer is: if we can find the funding to produce further shows, then we would try to take it on the road (even in its present form).

CO: What is it about the medium of plays that are so appealing to yourself, and does said medium have an edge over the likes of poetry?

BN: From my own perspective, I think the immediacy of drama and the intimacy of live theatre is appealing: it’s the sound and smells, things that you don’t get from reading, that works for me. Having said that I prefer writing poems/prose. I find it less stressful than writing plays and certainly more relaxing and therapeutic.

I can jot down some lines and leave them before revisiting them when it suits with poetry but find that I always seem to be pressured into long sessions and finishing things when I write drama.

CO: Although there seems to be a ready audience for tales such as this, is there much/any interest in mainstream funders, in your opinion?

BN: It becomes increasingly difficult to obtain mainstream funding and I feel there is a couple of reasons for this. In recent times the pot is getting smaller and more people/groups are looking into it. I also personally think that the established writers/groups are favoured. This of course is regrettable and a major hurdle but we (small groups like Etcetera) have to look at other ways around this.

I feel there is an audience for the theatre that we are prepared to put forward. A while back I was of the opinion, like many others, that the Protestant working class refrained from theatre here, in the belief that it was only for “the middles class and fenians”. However in a meeting with Ross Hussey, then director at GOH in Belfast assured us (Etcetera) that their mailing list for plays was dominated by Protestant working class post codes. This was a surprise to me. Frustrating as it is in the attempt to woo loyalists not only to write but to take part in the full process, it is something I will continue to do.

CO: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

BN: Sadly I am one of those people who never seem to complete things and always have stuff lying around part finished or pages full of ideas scattered about the place.

I have been working for years on a play based on the life of Davy Ervine, "The Man Who Swallowed a Dictionary." In fact, over the years, parts of it have been staged at various events so really that should be my next thing to finish. It’s a pet project I suppose and I feel there would be a market for it if I ever get round to completing.

I always try to get some poetry down as I go along and I have been working on two sets of poems over the past couple of years. Personal Reflections. One set is from my early years growing up in east Belfast. The second set covers the years 1969 (when I was 14) to 1973 and charts those days when I was a young gang member and subsequently a teenage paramilitary and young prisoner.

That collection is called Troubles Curriculum and Other Poems - and a booklet containing 15 poems is due for release on Wednesday 6th November in the ACT Initiative building on the Shankill.

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