People And Nature A column by Armen Aramyan, editor of Doxa, published by Doxa on 13 January in Russian.

For many years the Russian opposition propagandised a particular manner of protest: clean, peaceful protest of the urban class, not dirtied with violence or even any pretension to violence. I was politicised at that time. I am 25, and I first went to a street demonstration when I was 17, in the second year of study at university. And I learned the lessons conscientiously: when somebody urges people to free a demonstrator who is being detained – that’s a provocation. If someone proposes to stay put on a square and not leave, or to occupy a government building – that’s a provocateur, and that person should be paid no heed.

We are better than them, because we do not use violence, and they do. Let everyone see us and our principles as unarmed, peaceful protesters, who are beaten by cosmonauts in full combat gear. Then they will understand what is going on. Why go on a demonstration? To express our opinion, to show that we are here. And if there are enough of us, that will produce a split in the elite.

A fire at a military recruitment centre in Nizhnevartovsk in May last year.
Photo from 

Evidently, this strategy didn’t work. Whether it worked at one time is probably not so important now. I am convinced, by my own life experience, that it has failed. A year and a half ago, I recorded an inoffensive video to support student protests – and for that got a year’s house arrest. [Reported here, SP.] And in that year, the Russian authorities succeeded in destroying the remains of the electoral system, and invading Ukraine. No peaceful protest could stop them.

During that time, as the anti-Putin opposition de-escalated protests and adapted to new prohibitions – you need to give advance notice about a demo? OK. You need to set up metal detectors on site? Very good – the authorities, by contrast, escalated the conflict with society. They pursued ever-more-contrived legal cases – for actions ranging from throwing a plastic cup at a cop, to liking stuff or joking on twitter.

We have been retreating tactically for a long time, and finally wound up on the edge of a precipice – in a situation where not to protest would be immoral, but where, at the same time, the most inoffensive action could result in the most serious sanctions. The neurosis in which a large part of Russian society now finds itself – all those arguments about who is more ethically immaculate: those who have left, those who have stayed, those who have half-left or one-quarter-stayed; who has the moral right to speak about something and who doesn’t – all this is a result of living in a paradox.

For the first few weeks after the invasion, this logic of conflict – that the opposition de-escalates and the state escalates – reached its limits. Peaceful protests came to an end. Resistance didn’t stop: several hundred people, at a minimum, set fire to military recruitment offices or dismantled railways on which the Russian army was sending arms, and soldiers, to the front.

And when this started to happen, a big part of the opposition had nothing to say. Our editorial group was one of the first to try to report on these actions, despite the shortage of information. We were even able to speak to some of the railway partisans in Russia. But much of the independent media and opposition politicians were silent.

The silence ended on 4 October, when [Alexei] Navalny’s team announced that it would again open branches across the whole country, and support different methods of protest, including setting fire to recruitment centres. A month before that, in an interview with Ilya Azara [of Novaya Gazeta, SP], Leonid Volkov [a leading member of Navalny’s team, SP] answered a question about radical actions in this way:

I am ready to congratulate everyone who goes to set fire to a recruitment office or derail a train. But I don’t understand where these people have come from, where to find them, or whether it’s possible to organise them.

Evidently, in the course of a month, something changed. In October, the branches began to collect forms from potential supporters, and on 23 December a platform was set up on the dark web, which could only be accessed via a TOR browser. Navalny’s team stated that the platform will not retain any details of its supporters. [In an interview with Doxa, Navalny’s team clarified that the branches would be clandestine on-line “networks”, SP.]

For some mysterious reason, news of the reopening of the branches, and of the setting-up of the platform, went practically unnoticed in the Russian media. In October, we were apparently the only (!) publication, that talked with members of the Navalny team about the reopening of the branches. Organised antiwar resistance did not make it to the top of the news agenda.

It seems to me that, notwithstanding the mass of questions that political activists want to ask Navaly’s team about this, organised resistance is the only way left to us, out of the war and out of Putinism.

I have had many discussions with antiwar activists and journalists lately, about how they assess their work, nearly a year after the start of full-scale war. The majority of them (of us) are burned out: they don’t see any point in what we are doing. I think part of the problem is that a big part of our activity concerns not resistance, but help and treatment of the symptoms – evacuation and support for refugees. Our activities don’t bring the end of the war nearer, they just alleviate its consequences.

You can count the initiatives focused on resistance on the fingers of two hands. And alas, they are not very effective. A comrade of mine, with whom at the start we put together guides about how to talk to your family members about the war, joked, bitterly:

The Russian army killed another hundred people, while we thought about how to change the minds of one-and-a-half grandmas.

To get out of this dead end, we must together think of the future that we can achieve by our collective efforts. It’s time to reject fatalism: stop waiting for everything to be decided on the field of battle and putting all our hopes in the Ukrainian armed forces (although much will of course be decided there); stop relying on the prospect that Putin will die soon, that the elite will split and that out of this split shoots of democracy will somehow magically grow. We will not take back for ourselves freedom and the right to shape our own future, unless we ourselves take power away from this elite. The only way that we can do this, under conditions of military dictatorship, is organised resistance.

“Fuck the War”: street art in Tver attributed to Ivan Kudryashov.
Photo from 
the Russian Reader / Solidarity Zone

Such resistance must be based on cooperation between those who have remained in Russia and those who have left. And also those who continue to come and go (and there are many of them). Such resistance can not be coordinated by some allegedly authoritative organisation. It has to be built, by developing cooperation with other antiwar initiatives – especially the feminists and decolonising initiatives, that is, with organisations that have done a huge amount of activity since the all-out invasion and who bring together many thousands of committed supporters.

Most important of all, resistance must expand the boundaries of what we understand by non-violent protest and the permissibility of political violence. We can not allow the dictatorship to impose a language that describes setting fire to a military recruitment office, with no human victims, as “terrorism” and “extremism”.

Political struggle has always required a wide range of instruments, and if we want to defeat a dictatorship we have to learn how to use them; we need to understand clearly what each of them is good for. For many years we have paid no attention to methods of resistance that, although they are not violent, require much more decisiveness and organisation. It is to these methods that we need now to return.

There is no other way of building democracy in Russia (any democracy – liberal or socialist) without a grass roots resistance movement that can win widespread support. If the majority of opposition politicians in the pre-war period hoped that democracy could fall into their laps as a gift from the elite (as a so-called gesture of goodwill), then this year it has become completely clear: we will never have any power, if we can not ourselves take it in to our own hands.

Ulrika Meinhof [a leader of the Red Army Faction in Germany, 1970-72, SP] once quoted the words of a Black Panther activist [probably Fred Hampton, SP], spoken at a conference in February 1968 against the war in Vietnam:

Protest is when I say I don’t like this. Resistance is when I put an end to what I don’t like. Protest is when I say I refuse to go along with this anymore. Resistance is when I make sure everybody else stops going along too.
➤ This comment was published by Doxa, the independent Russian web site that has grown out of a student magazine to become a prominent voice against the war. Translation by Simon Pirani.

➤ What mobilisation has done to the Sverdlov region – the Russian Reader, 16 January. This includes the translation of an interview by Doxa with Aleksei Rozhkov, one of the first people arrested for firebombing a military recruitment centre.

➤ Russians are not chimpanzees, by Armen Aramyan – the Russian Reader, 11 January.

➤ Russia. Renaissance is not going to happen, by Mira Tai – People & Nature, 28 December

➤ An interview with Doxa editors (December 2022), by Commons journal (Ukraine)

➤ For more in English about the Russian citizens’ resistance to the war, see information about Solidarity Zone on the Russian Reader, the Solidarity Zone’s facebook page and Feminist Anti-War Resistance. It’s also worth checking out Meduza and Libcom.

⏩ People & Nature is now on mastodon, as well as twitterwhatsapp and telegram. Please follow!

Russia 💣 The Time For Protest Has Gone - It’s Time For Resistance

Dr John Coulter As a former album producer of rock music with my own label, Budj Recordings, and a former sound engineer with the Herald Recordings Gospel label, I want to clearly emphasis that rock music can be used as an effective tool for Christian outreach, witness and evangelism. 

This is not the first time I’ve addressed the theologically thorny issue of Christianity and heavy rock - and my love of both! In 2020, the Belfast Telegraph reproduced my Pensive Quill column on my relationship with the rock industry as a mainstream Irish Presbyterian minister’s son,

So why return to the issue? Ironically, it was a column urging the Christians Churches to have a serious debate on trans issues which sparked a rebuke from Free Presbyterian cleric, the Rev Ivan Foster, who not only penned a letter to the Belfast News Letter (where I had the pleasure of serving as the paper’s Education and Religious Affairs Correspondent in the 1980s), but also decided to vent his spleen at me in his own Burning Bush website.

This year, God Willing, I will clock up 45 years in journalism. Can I state for the record that as a journalist who believes passionately in the democratic concepts of both a free Press and freedom of speech, I fully defend the right of Rev Foster to express his honestly held opinions, even if that includes his damning critique of my latest column.

What slightly baffles me about Rev Foster’s Burning Bush article is the relevance of my late dad to the original column on the Christian Church and trans rights. By mentioning my late dad’s past links to the Free Presbyterian Church (dad was minister of Mount Merrion Free P Church in Belfast in the 1950s) and the mainstream Presbyterian Church (dad was both minister and minister emeritus of Clough Presbyterian Church, near Ballymena), I suspect there is the perception that the real agenda behind Rev Foster’s letter and Burning Bush article is to ‘have a go’ at the Presbyterian Church!

For the record, this is not my first appearance in the Burning Bush. I’ve had a more positive critique in the January to March 1987 print edition, when it was billed as the magazine of Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church and Independent Christian School. I visited the school in my capacity as Ed Corr at the News Letter.
The front cover of the January to March 1987 print edition of the Free Presbyterian
magazine, The Burning Bush, which said I had written a ‘fair and impressive report’!

The Burning Bush carried a critique of my feature article under the headline: ‘Belfast Newsletter visits our school. A fair and impressive report given. New pupils enrolled as a result. Hallelujah!’

The Burning Bush said:

Belfast Newsletter Education Editor, Mr John Coulter, visited our School on Friday 6th March and interviewed Mr and Mrs Foster at length on the formation and running of the School. An accompanying photographer took photographs of teachers and pupils at work in their classrooms. The report in the newspaper was watched for with mixed feelings by one and all in the School. When the article was read no criticism could be made concerning the fairness of the writer and Mr Coulter is to be congratulated for that.

The day following the publishing of the article a family contacted the School as a result of reading the story. They had recently returned from Australia where their children had been attending a Christian School and they were anxious to enrol them in another Christian School. The press report was for them an answer to prayer. Their two children started School the next Monday along with another little girl.

Not a bad accolade from The Burning Bush given that the magazine presumably now regards me as being one of these so-called ‘apostate Presbyterians’!

 Screen dump of the review of my article praising my
visit to a Free Presbyterian Christian school!
The current Burning Bush is not so sympathetic towards my assertions of the use of rock music in Christian witness. Carrying a photo of me wearing one of my AC/DC tee-shirts, the Burning Bush stated: 

John Coulter, the son of a Preacher man who believes that a path to the “Saviour” can be found in heavy metal music.

Given my time in the music recording industry, and especially the Gospel recording scene, heavy metal and punk genres were never ever going to be popular tools of praise evangelism for militant fundamentalists.

For many of these militant fundamentalists, only two instruments could be used in Christian praise - the church organ and the piano. Guitars (especially the electric variety), percussion, and anything else was probably viewed as being ‘off the devil’.

However, it was the globally renowned singer and born again Christian, Sir Cliff Richard, who promoted the Christian rock song ‘Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music.’

Even today, Christian heavy metal bands, such as the American group Stryper, are still pushing a strong and clear evangelical message through the medium of rock. As a young trainee journalist in the late Seventies, I would spend some of my holidays working with the Portrush-based Christian outreach group, Project Evangelism.

It was the traditional Easter outreach and we were holding an open air outreach near the West Strand carpark promenade. There were plenty of Hell’s Angels, bikers and rockers in the audience, but as soon as we produced our acoustic guitars for the praise section, they left en masse.

When I asked them why they had left, their response was blunt - your music sucks, therefore, Christianity sucks!

So, for me, it was a matter of communication method; not diluting the Gospel message of Salvation, merely explaining it through a musical genre rockers could identify with.

And so in 1979, I launched Budj Recordings specialising in Christian punk, metal and rock music. Over the next few years, I produced three albums - the punk band What Of The Night; the heavy rock band Tempest, and the light rock band, Therefore. See link on history of Budj.

I see my use of punk and metal music genres to promote the Christian message of Salvation in the same light as Bible translators have written the Scriptures in, for example, some of the African languages when missionaries are working with the various tribes, especially where English is not the mother tongue.

Likewise, many militant fundamentalists believe that heavy metal music can never be used as a tool for evangelism; that only the organ, piano, and occasionally an acoustic guitar. Given my experience with Budj Recordings, I beg to differ!
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online

Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Four Hundred And Fifty Three


A Morning Thought @ 1693

Anthony McIntyre  ☠  It is much too early to say definitively that a malign pattern is developing in respect of attempts to intimidate journalism from doing what it should be doing - reporting on what it discovers.

Two swallows never make a summer, yet it is undeniable that journalists have been on the receiving end of aggressive nationalist intimidation. Last week the efforts by a Sinn Fein element to intimidate Sam McBride of the Belfast Telegraph was flagged up on TPQ. Since than it has emerged that the Irish Times journalists Kitty Holland and Dara Mac Dónaill have also been the target of intimidation attempts, this time by a much more extreme nationalist element, the far right.

What drew the ire of the far right is a piece worked on by both journalists about an attack on a self-improvised tented shelter inhabited by a number of East European, Portuguese and Indian homeless men near the Tolka River in Ashdown. The brace of Irish Times journalists had been reporting on how the inhabitants of the migrant camp coped with their arduous existence in a country that supposedly welcomes refugees and migrants: 

Having interviewed the homeless and while getting ready to depart on the nearby road, The Irish Times witnessed the men and dogs entering the camp, from which screaming and commotion could then be heard. The men and four dogs – including a German shepherd, an American pit bull terrier and a Rottweiler – were then seen leaving. One man was wearing a black balaclava. The Irish Times has photographs of the men, which cannot be published at present for legal reasons.

According to one of the people sheltering at the camp

It was like a Blitzkreig. Literally, from the moment when I see them coming with the dogs and starting to shout, within a minute they were on the other side of the camp. One had a baseball bat. It was hard to react. They were screaming: ‘Get out. We’ll burn the tents down. Get out now.’

It conjured up chilling memories of footage I had watched a year or two ago in which Russian racists attacked people from a different country on a Moscow street, beating them and vandalising their property.

One of the Hungarian homeless placed the violence at the camp within a wider trend in Irish society:

In all my eight years here, I have not seen so much racism as in the last few months. There is a very nasty racism. I feel it every day, this rise of nationalism.

Enraged about violent racist intimidation being exposed and challenged by the Irish Times, a torrent of online abuse was showered down on Kitty Holland and Dara Mac Dónaill. 

The NUJ has condemned the threats with its Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley stating: 

The abuse of Ms Holland, in particular, is vile and beneath contempt. There have been suggestions that the story was fabricated. Kitty and Dara are journalists of the highest integrity who behaved with utmost professionalism. This was a despicable incident, and their presence thankfully prevented a more serious incident.

It hardly needs reiterated that the function of journalism is vital not just in a society that values transparency but also in societies where malevolence desires opacity so that dirty work can be conducted in the dark. When Kitty Holland & Dara Mac Dónaill shine a light on the violence of the far right against vulnerable and powerless people, they are doing Irish society a great service and demonstrating what Ireland should be about: warmly welcoming those from foreign climes; increasing the chill for home grown racists and fascists.

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

In Defence Of Kitty Holland & Dara Mac Dónaill

Maryam Namazie👭with details of a fresh solidarity campaign.

Dear Comrade,

I’m writing to inform you of the establishment of the Committee for Solidarity with the Iranian Workers’ Movement, a new campaign founded by a range of Iranian and Kurdish socialist and feminist activists, with support from ourselves and others in the British labour movement.

Our movement at its best has always been radically internationalist, organising solidarity and practical support for workers’ and democratic struggles around the world. The workers, women, and youth of Iran, in struggle against theocratic oppression, and for freedom and equality, need our solidarity now.

Our campaign aims to provide briefings and information on struggles in Iran, and, as far as possible given the conditions on the ground, facilitate direct links between workers’ organisations in the UK and workers’ organisations in Iran.

We hope you will consider joining us in this effort. The campaign can provide speakers for meetings as requested. Please also find attached a model motion for union bodies.

Yours in solidarity,
John McDonnell MP
John Moloney, Assistant General Secretary, PCS

Solidarity With Women, Workers, Youth In Iran Model Motion

This [branch/committee/other body] notes the ongoing revolutionary uprising in Iran, spearheaded by women and young people. Sparked by protests against the death of Mahsa Amini, the uprising foregrounds issues of women’s rights and opposition to gender apartheid, but also raises issues of social freedom and equality, with people demanding the right to democratically determine their future through their own councils and direct representatives.

This [body] further notes the workers’ protests and strikes, involving teachers; nurses; oil, gas and petrochemical workers; steel workers; Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers, and many others. Despite decades of repression, war, and bearing the brunt of economic sanctions, workers in Iran have continued their tradition of militant action and struggled for recognition of the right to form their own independent organisations and to strike.

This [body] further notes the recent establishment of the Committee for Solidarity with the Iranian Workers’ Movement, chaired by John McDonnell MP.

This [body] believes international solidarity with all working-class and democratic struggles for freedom is a core labour movement principle, and supports the struggles of Iran’s workers, women, and youth against the Islamic Republic.

This [body] in support of the workers’ movement in Iran therefore resolves:

  • To support work of the Committee for Solidarity with the Iranian Workers’ Movement, circulate its materials to members, and invite a s👭peaker from the committee to a future meeting
  • To promote local mobilisations in support of the uprising in Iran to members, and organise a distinct, visible trade union presence on such mobilisations
  • To submit this motion to [relevant higher/national body within union] to mobilise support at [regional/national] level
  • To specifically support workers’ struggles in our sector in Iran, and aim to make direct links with the workers involved if possible
  • To request that the national union audits whether we organise workers at companies or in supply chains that have economic interests in Iran or ties to the Islamic Republic, to establish whether action by our members could directly aid workers’ struggles in Iran
  • To condemn the arrest of protestors, and the executions of Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard and other imminent executions.

🖼Maryam Namazie is an Iranian-born activist and Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All.

Solidarity With Women, Workers, Youth In Iran Model Motion

The Guardian Un-redacted report released in 2020 revealed how archbishop failed to take proper steps to act on complaints about dangerous priests.

Christopher Knaus

The royal commission found that, by 1973, George Pell was ‘conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy.’

The child sexual abuse royal commission in 2020 released a bombshell un-redacted report examining the failings of George Pell during his time as an assistant priest, bishop, auxiliary bishop and cardinal in Australia.

The report found he both knew about child abuse, particularly within the Victorian diocese of Ballarat, and failed to take proper steps to act on complaints about dangerous priests.

The findings – which Pell always disputed – were arrived at after an exhaustive, five-year royal commission.

Here’s what the commission found about Pell’s conduct.

Pell’s knowledge of child abuse by paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale

Gerald Ridsdale is one of the country’s most notorious paedophile priests.

He committed more than 130 offences against children as young as four between the 1960s and 1980s, including while working as a school chaplain at St Alipius boys’ school in Ballarat, and continues to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes, most recently in October.

Continue reading @ The Guardian.

George Pell💡What The Five-Year Royal Commission Into Child Sexual Abuse Found

Right Wing Watch 👀 Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin Claims Religious Mandate for Men to ‘Force’ Women to Submit.

Kyle Mantyla

During a recent podcast, neo-Nazi and admitted “rape promoterAndrew Anglin declared that Christian men must dominate women and force them to submit because that is the only way that women can be genuinely happy.

Anglin, who was booted off of Twitter in 2013 only to be reinstated late last year, is the publisher of “The Daily Stormer,” a neo-Nazi website named after a Nazi propaganda newspaper. He maintains close ties to white nationalist Nick Fuentes and others within Fuentes’ far-right America First movement, including multiple streamers on Fuentes’ “anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Black, antisemitic” Cozy.TV platform. 

Those streamers are fully aware of Anglin’s toxicity and thus make halfhearted attempts to disguise his identity behind the less-than-clever pseudonym “Wang Lin” whenever he appears on their programs.

It is via his “Wang Lin” persona that Anglin recently teamed up Cozy.TV streamer “Paul Town,” whose real name is reportedly Evan Zenker.

On a recent episode of their “Wangtown” podcast, Anglin declared that the founders of Christianity and early church leaders were basically “incels” who taught that the only way for women to be happy is for them to be forcibly subjugated by men.

Continue reading @ Right Wing Watch.

Women Must Submit To Religious Mandate

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Four Hundred And Fifty Two


A Morning Thought @ 1692

Brandon Sullivan ✍ with the second part of his dig into the British state's Dirty War in the North.

“All my life here I’ve spent, with my faith in God, and Church, and the Government” - Belfast Child, Simple Minds

It’s worth taking a bit of time to consider how appalling a situation William Black was in. Here was a deeply religious man, with military experience, who volunteered to join the UDR to try and do something about what he saw as a campaign of terrorism. Because of these convictions, and his initiative, he became a target for the very government he swore to protect and uphold. I have often felt a great deal of sympathy for law-abiding unionists, particularly in rural areas, who found themselves stuck between two ruthless and determined entities (the IRA, and the British Government), neither with much regard for them.

The Attacks on William Black Step Up

In fear because of the attack on their home, Mr Black and his family moved to another property, a house with a yellow door at 174 Ainsworth Avenue, in the Shankill. Around this time, the UDR sacked Sgt Black, saying that he had been off sick for too long. Black pointed out that other men were off for far longer, and with much less distinguished service than him, but to no avail. He requested, but was denied, an audience with a senior officer to plead his case.

On the 20th January 1973, the Black family heard a burst of machine gun fire outside of their home. A house opposite, number 147, which had a yellow door like the Black’s home, had been sprayed with bullets, fortuitously with no injuries. The Black family assumed their home had been the target, and the RUC confirmed this. The Black family collected the spent cartridges, which former British soldier Sgt Black was able to confirm were British military munitions. Terrified, and now convinced that elements of the British army were after them, the Black family moved again, this time, albeit with understandable reservations, to the strongly republican area of Lenadoon.

The Black family were not intimidated by locals, and there were no attacks upon their home from any quarter. One incident did occur, however, and it concerned one of their sons. He was arrested in the vicinity of a car theft, despite numerous witnesses confirming that he was not involved. This arrest provoked a strong community response, and it was seen as petty harassment by the army. Mr Black, angry at this treatment of his son, went to the RUC station he was being held in. By chance, at the police station, Black met then Stormont assembly man Kennedy Lindsay and eventually told him the full story of what had happened to his family since August 1972. Lindsay brought the story up in the assembly and told various reporters, but it failed to make a stir or catch up publicity. As Vincent Browne put it: “[Kennedy Lindsay] has a richly merited reputation for unreliability and wild and extreme allegations."

The SAS Attempt to Murder William Black

Vincent Browne noted that the Black family were fond of the outdoors, and frequently holidayed in County Wicklow in the Republic. So it was that William Black rented a holiday cottage in Saintfield, outside Belfast. Mr Black, Vincent Browne reported, was keen for his children to "escape the strife in Belfast." On Friday, 25th January 1974, William Black arranged to sell a boiler to a colleague. The colleague brought two men with him to assist, and the group of four set off for the Saintfield cottage in two cars. What happened when they arrived is disputed. According to an RUC file (05/02/74), William Black smelled cigarette smoke, realised someone was inside the house, and went in to challenge them. There had previously been a spate of burglaries in the area. His companions heard shooting, and made their way to alert the police. Three soldiers were then taken into custody by the RUC.

Vincent Browne reported:

According to the statement later made by Mr Black for the police, when he entered the house he went straight up the narrow stair holding his rifle by his side. From the time he got to the top of the stairs I continue with his own verbatim account; ‘There was a belch of flame towards me and I felt searing pain in my mouth and side. I knew that I had been badly shot. In the light of the flame I recognised what I know to be a Sterling machine gun. I was also able to see a very dim outline of a man. This man at no time made any sound that I could hear. Everything happened so quickly I couldn't tell whether this man was in uniform or civilian clothes. As I fell the shadow of the man seemed to go further into the room and I could no longer see it, After I fell I found myself lying in the corner of the top landing between the wall and the small room door. As I lay in the corner the blood was pouring out of my mouth and I was in great pain all over. I called out to whoever was in the room for them to help me. I was sure that I was going to die. I couldn't understand why this had been done to me for I had wronged no one in my life.

After I called out I got no answer from anyone. I don't know how long I lay there but while I lay in the same place I saw from the corner of my eye another dim shadow in the doorway of the big upstairs bedroom but whether from the shock of my injuries or the darkness of the landing I can't say if this man was in uniform or not. The man moved very quickly into the big bedroom again without a sound. I suppose whoever it was thought I was dead.’

William Black was fortunate to survive, and managed to make his way to a farm owned by a Mr Seawright, who drove him to a UDR base.

The Character Assassination of William Black

A confidential memo titled The Shooting Of Mr Black sent to the Secretary of State, wherein representatives of the British Army and RUC (11/02/74) referred to William Black’s “murky background” whilst a minute of another Cab Sec level meeting noted:

 … an army patrol had mounted a surveillance operation at Black’s farmhouse, following information that he was implicated in extreme Protestant subversive activity. As Dr Paisley has mentioned, Black had formerly been a member of the UDR: he was in fact one of those who had been required to resign from the regiment because of his associations. While the patrol was in an outhouse of the farm, a car drew up outside and Black entered the building carrying a firearm. He went upstairs where one of the soldiers was positioned. The latter told him to put down the weapon but he instead cocked it and the solider then shot him. He died a day or two later. Other weapons were subsequently found on the premises. The RUC were informed in the usual way.

In fact, William Black was not killed. But he was, as per Clive Fairweather’s recollection, “confronted on the stairs of his home by SAS soldiers.”

The character assassination of William Black continued in a military file, notated as “restricted” and titled The Shooting Of Mr W S Black Near Saintfield On 26 January 1974.

This file contained the following rationale for the attack on Mr Back (verbatim, typos not mine):

Information was received that about £5000 of stolen goods plus possibly arms and ammunition were stored in the outbuildings of an unoccupied farm near Saintfield. An operation to investigate this report was commissioned by the Commander 3 Brigade and the Chief Inspector of HMG "G" Division was informed.

Initial enquiries indicate that at about 3:00am on 26 January a 3 man patrol entered the outbuildings of the farm and found large numbers of carpets, refrigerators and cases of wine. They then went into the farmhouse and a 9mm pistol and 200 rounds of ammunition. Since there was a possibility that people who had hidden the stolen goods at the farm would return more soldiers were sent to the farm and in all, six hid themselves in the house.

The following day at about 1:30pm one of the soldiers, L Cpl Cooper saw two cars approaching from the direction of Saintfield. He warned the others and managed to take some photographs of the men.

One of them entered the house, and the patrol Commander, Staff Sergeant Abbot, gathered that he was looking for some keys. He heard one of the other three say that he thought there was someone in the house. At this, the man - Mr Back - went out to his car and took out a .22 Remington rifle from the boot and went back into the house.

L Cpl Cooper, who was hiding in the small bedroom, heard Mr Black coming up the stairs. Suddenly the door of the room was thrown open and he could see Mr Black holding what looked like a shotgun. L Cpl Cooper identified himself as a member of the Security Forces and told him to drop his weapon. He saw Mr Black raise the weapon as if he was about to fire, moved sharply to his left so that the door was between him and Mr Black, and fired 5 rounds from his SMG through the door.
Vincent Browne noted that:

The British army version of these events was issued in three conflicting statements and included an allegation that Mr Black had opened fire on them from a field and they had shot him; that they had seen him get out of a car with a gun and had called on him to halt and on his refusing to do they shot him; and that they had arrested his three companions in the barn. British Army Intelligence at Lisburn now admits that all the initial Army version of the incidents were 'mistaken' and say that the shooting should never have happened.

Browne noted that the British Army was obstructing the RUC’s attempts to investigate the shooting, and the claims about stolen goods. None of the RUC officers noticed any of the stolen goods on the day of the events - and the inventory included £1,500 (£14k in today’s money) worth of carpets, and 27 refrigerators, and the goods were not presented the police for several days. Browne also noted that the RUC’s investigations had, so far, managed to corroborate many aspects of William Black’s testimony.

Browne also noted an intriguing fact:

There is one especially intriguing aspect to all this - a Star pistol allegedly found by the Army in the farmhouse transpires to have been the personal issue of a UDR man called Todd who was shot dead in strange circumstances on the Shankill Road in Belfast a year ago.

The shooting of UDR Private John Thomas “Jackie” Todd, Shankill Road, 17th October 1972

Jackie Todd was unarmed, according to a friend of his, who claimed the two of them were drinking in Shankill Road bars the day of his death, and Jackie deliberating left his pistol at home. The army claimed that they shot a man who aimed a rifle at him. The coroner, Mr James Elliot, said there were many conflicting stories surrounding the case. He said there was little corroborating evidence to support the army, and that a post mortem had shown there was no alcohol in Todd's blood, which contradicted his friend's story (Belfast Telegraph 23/08/73).

Jackie Todd was a member of the UDR, but also seemed to be in the UDA. Uniformed members of the UDA marched at his funeral, and a volley of shots was fired by “men in civilian clothes” outside UDA HQ when his funeral cortege passed by. Death notices were left by a number of organisation, including his battalion, 10 UDR, the “officers and volunteers of the loyalist prisoners of war” and the “staff and customers of the Salisbury Arms” (Belfast Telegraph 20/10/72).

“Captain Black”, Sergeant Black, and Private Todd

Photo credit – Buzz Logan

Captain Black is synonymous with the UDA murderer, John White, and someone (probably White) identified himself using the moniker when he claimed responsibility for the savage knife murders of SDLP Senator Paddy Wilson, and his friend Irene Andrews. By the time of the 1974 attack on William Black, John White was interned without trial. His partner-in-sectarian murder, Davy Payne was still at large, however, despite his involvement in crimes every bit as sadistic and vile as White’s being well known to the authorities. I have in fact written about White & Payne’s whereabouts in February 1974 in this piece.

Davy Payne, 1975, BBC Rewind

 John White, 90s, Boston College

The identities of these men would have been no secret. If the SAS or MRF wanted to kill either man, then they presumably could have. That they didn’t, and instead focused their efforts on targeting a member of the Plymouth Brethren in his 40s is, to put it mildly, very strange.

I asked my ex-military contact why they were so keen to kill William Black. He replied that simply because he had interfered with an MRF operation. If that is the case, there are still a number of intriguing questions:

  • Did they want to kill William Black to eliminate a witness, or to intimidate potential witnesses, or simply because, as Clive Fairweather put it, simply because they could?
  • If they could, why could they? And could they not target more deserving personalities?
  • Why was Jackie Todd killed? And who within the British army killed him? And how did his personal weapon end up in a house which had been taken possession of by the SAS?

If you have any information about anything relating to this story, please contact me:

⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys. 

Killing Captain Black? The Curious Case Of The UDR Sergeant Targeted by Undercover British Soldiers – Part Two

Irish Times 📰 Seminar hears how communities being targeted by anti-immigration elements are ‘on a knife-edge.’

The situation in some communities where the “far right is gaining a foothold like never before” was “on a knife-edge” and “could go either way”, depending on how the issue was responded to, a seminar this week heard.

The event on Wednesday was hosted by the Far Right Observatory (FRO), a civil society organisation which monitors, analyses and strategises to counter far right activities.

FRO director Niamh McDonald said activists were “whipping up fear and panic” in communities that had “lost trust” in political leaders, institutions and the mainstream media.

“This is time to make tracks on the ground that will lead to the local elections in 2024,” she said. “We can’t fool ourselves about that. They are going to start running candidates in every area. Right now, these situations are on a knife-edge.”

We want to bring the temperature right down, which is in complete opposition to what the far right are doing

Responses to far-right rhetoric should be led by “trusted actors” within communities, Ms McDonald added. 

Continue reading @ Irish Times.

Far Right In Ireland ‘Gaining A Foothold Like Never Before’

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