Maryam NamazieWe fully support Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles – Maroc and Ibtissame Betty Lachgar in their launch of the “Traditional Virginity Test” campaign, introducing sets of blank bed sheets that denounce and fight the demeaning ritual of ‘virginity testing’.


• There is no scientific evidence of a woman’s virginity (1).
• A study on 36 pregnant women from 2004 showed that 34 of them still had an intact hymen (2).
• Only 50% of women bleed during their first intercourse (3).


M.A.L.I. Movement has chosen February the 14th, Valentine’s Day – a day that epitomizes love and togetherness, to launch a campaign against women’s ‘virginity testing’, breaking the myth of the ‘unbreakable’ hymen and shedding light on a patriarchal concept that still roams around the world, even in modern societies: ‘women’s virginity’ ; a symbol of women’s oppression.

For years, bed sheets have been used for ‘virginity testing’. The ritual is performed in Morocco and many countries across Middle East and North Africa to prove a woman’s ‘purity’, basing her worth on a bloodstain. During the night of the wedding, guests wait outside the room for the virginity to be publicly proved after the first intercourse. Not bleeding can be life-threatening and might include physical and verbal abuse, shunning, divorce, rape, ‘honor killing’ and suicide, affecting the women’s fate, the fate of their family, their ‘honor’ and safety.

M.A.L.I. is turning the tables by using the bed sheet to debunk the hymen myth and fight this demeaning ritual. The campaign’s hero asset, the bed sheet is packaged in a colorful crafted box, including a 24-pages informative booklet describing the perils of ‘virginity testing’ and denouncing this retrograde and sexist practice. The bed sheet kit is listed for sale on an exclusive microsite (traditionalvirginitytest.com), where visitors are surprisingly re-directed to a series of real-life testimonials and facts, upon adding the product to their carts.

M.A.L.I. Movement once again raises awareness concerning the virginity myth, hoping to incite a positive change and inspire the abrogation of article 488 of the Moroccan penal code, which allows ‘virginity testing’ on girls and women that have been victims of rape and accordingly, inflicts more severe punishments against the perpetrator for raping a “virgin” woman than a “non-virgin” one.

The spokeswoman of the movement, Ibtissame Betty Lachgar, said: “The virginity membrane is a patriarchal and archaic concept used as a mean to persecute women all over the world and has no scientific validity. Controlling women’s body and sexuality is a women’s rights violation. ‘Virginity testing’ is a humiliating practice, an act of torture and a sexual violence that can lead to harmful psychological – as well as physical – health consequences. This barbaric practice should be abolished immediately”.

Walid Kanaan, Chief Creative Officer at TBWA\RAAD said: “We are proud to put our creativity at the service of a good cause and raise awareness to such a controversial issue. It is really disappointing and frustrating to still witness today, despite all of the advancements that we humans have achieved in technology, healthcare, education and science, such an unfair practice against women. There should instead be a strong focus on diversity, inclusion and gender equality.”

1.Who Stands Up For The Right To Health 

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

#StopVirginityTest

Dublin Review Of Books delves into a documentary on Britain's Dirty War in Ireland. 

Farrel Corcoran

Clandestine communications have long played an important role in politically unstable societies, where power is contested to the point of insurgency and where the prevailing media culture is steeped in censorship and misinformation. In the pervasive atmosphere of mistrust and fear in the period of the samizdat press in the USSR, forbidden texts were reproduced by hand and often concealed by the craft of the bookbinder inside ideologically approved books, to be shared with friends under the noses of Soviet censors. When the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini was forced to move to Paris from his first exile in Iraq, good French telephone and postal services gave him the opportunity to swamp his home country with recordings that preached revolutionary ideas inside mosques and private homes in Iran, despite the vigilance of the shah’s secret police.

During the conflict in Northern Ireland, a small number of documentary films were made which debunked many of the media stereotypes of the Troubles and challenged the dominant state narrative of the conflict by focusing on its causes and its victims. Pirated copies of films banned by the British government were circulated between families ...

Continue reading @ Dublin Review Of Books.

Hear No Evil

Christopher Owens ✒ What a great idea for a book.


One of the more obscure facts about the conflict is that the Provisionals did attack British bases in Europe. Although nowhere near as frequent as some would have liked, they certainly generated publicity for the Republican Movement and demonstrated the ability of the Provisionals to move the war beyond bombing London.

So, a tome dedicated to this particular angle has potential to shed some new light, not only on the Provisionals but also on the various intelligence services involved. What could go wrong?

Well, things get off to a bad start with this clunker:

For a long time, but more intensively since late 1968, the Catholic community, led by the Derry-based Civil Rights Association, had been protesting against institutional suppression of and discrimination against Catholics…with the ultimate aim of seeing the 32 counties of the Republic of Ireland be reunited with the six counties of Ulster to form a united Ireland.

Firstly, Ireland does not have a total of 38 counties. Secondly, NICRA did NOT aim for unification. It’s aims were:

1. One man, one vote.

2. An end to gerrymandering.

3. Prevention of discrimination in the allocation of government jobs.

4. Prevention of discrimination in the allocation of council housing.

5. The removal of the Special Powers Act.

6. The disbandment of the B Specials.

As Eamon McCann has repeatedly expressed, the demands were intentionally framed as British rights: the notion that the people of Belfast deserve the same rights enjoyed by the people of Birmingham. This was done in order to sidestep the usual ‘orange/green’ narrative and make it akin to the civil rights marches in America at the time. Admittedly, NICRA did later adopt a more nationalist tone in the wake of internment and Bloody Sunday (for obvious reasons). However, it is factually incorrect to say that it began with such intentions and, by doing so, Farr inadvertently reveals himself to subscribe to the baloney claim about the movement being controlled by the IRA.

Here’s how Farr deals with August 1969 (while sprouting the same cliches about I Ran Away and no mention of how ex-members were fighting alongside current members):

After three days of sustained rioting in the Catholic Bogside district of Derry and the death of a Belfast man, Herbert Roy, at the hands of an IRA gunman, British Army troops were sent to Northern Ireland… 

Such a bald statement, alongside the previous NICRA claim, is designed to imply to the reader that the IRA were largely responsible for August 1969. Hence there is no mention of the fact that Herbert Roy was involved in the rioting. And no mention of the likes of Patrick Rooney, Hugh McCabe, John Gallagher, Samuel McLarnon, Michael Lynch, Gerard McAuley (all Catholic) or even David Linton (Protestant)? Now why would that be?

Unbelievably, that’s not all.

Farr also claims that: “…the first ever IRA General Army Convention was held…in December 1969.” Yet, according to Des Dalton, two had already been held in 1965 and 1968 respectively. Oh, and Farr describes Bloody Sunday as an event where “…the Parachute Regiment…opened fire on a mixture of innocent protestors and IRA volunteers…killing twelve Catholics”. It was actually thirteen, with one dying later on. 

All of these occur within the first four pages of the introduction. Combined with various other stupid mistakes throughout (Frizzells was a fish shop and not a butchers, the FBI video of Gerry McGeough purchasing missiles shows another IRA man made the claim about representing the Provisional and not McGeough, quoting Sean O’Callaghan), leading me to severely question the main narrative which, considering the subject matter, is written in a laborious style and the reader finds themselves feeling incredibly bored when reading about Gibraltar as well as attacks in Germany and Holland

Curiously, in the acknowledgement section, he writes that “…Ed Moloney…provided valuable insights into the political and strategic issues that drove the IRA’s campaign in Europe…” Yet Moloney posted the following to the Irish Republican Education Forum: 


And, with Farr depicting Adams as realising, by the late eighties, that the war could not be won, one wonders if Farr actually bothered reading the entirety of A Secret History of the IRA.

Flirting between partisanship and neutrality, littered with mistakes that would make any semi-serious student of the conflict wince and shabbily written/edited, this should be approached with extreme caution.

Steven J Farr, 2021, The Overseas Department: The Provisional IRA on Active Service in Europe, Self-published, ISBN-13: 979-8572196658.

⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist. 

The Overseas Department




A Morning Thought @ 1000

Matt TreacyWe live in wondrous times.


Not only are our own Gardaí taking time off from tackling the nefarious Visit Granny Who Lives 6km The Other Side of the Town racket while multi-tasking by Dancing Against the Pandemic, but other police forces are also pitching in.
 
Photo Credit: Mersdyside Police via Twitter;
Shawna Coxon via Twitter

The good folk of Liverpool, now that it has been freed of drug pushers, muggers, knife attackers and grooming gangs, are being kept safe from being Offended. Well, actually, it is possibly more to do with warning them not to be Offensive. Which is not quite the same thing. Anyway, the Merseyside Police recently launched a “Being Offensive is an Offence” campaign. Replete with posters carried by police vehicles now happily no longer required for ferrying Wrong ‘Uns to the barracks. Unless of course they have offended someone.

The posters are rainbow coloured which elicited some interesting responses from gay Scousers, some of whom thought that maybe they would feel safer if PC Plod was cracking down on street crime and house breaking, rather than this sort of stuff. Especially when no one is even certain to what type of stuff it is referring to. And in any event, why would gay people be anymore prone to being offended than anyone else?

It is complex. Anyway, that segues nicely into the appointment of one of the new Deputy Garda Commissioners, Shawna Coxon whose appointment was ratified by the cabinet on February 9. She is the former Deputy Police Chief of Toronto where she was “very vocal and visible for years promoting LGBTQ+ rights and more recently speaking out to remember people who have lost their lives following transphobia.”

Coxon tweeted last November from a police event in Toronto “to memorialize those who have been murdered by transphobia on this Trans Day of Remembrance. We raised the trans pride flag above Toronto Police headquarters,” she tweeted.

This may have given rise to the misunderstanding that the murder of transgender people was a common or even recent occurrence in the city. That is not the case. While there was a widely-reported murder of a transgender activist in Toronto in 2019 it was not, as was suggested in several news reports, linked to transphobia. In fact, what went largely under reported was that the murderer was a friend of the victim, and himself a transgender advocate.

In this country, “transphobic violence” is hardly of a scale that necessitates any specialist overseas intervention in aiding An Garda Siochana in such matters. Off the top of my head I would imagine that the rate of such crime is pretty far down the scale in comparison to gangland murders, drug dealing, sexual assault against actual women, people trafficking, and so on.

Apart from that, Conor Lally of the Irish Times, quoted above, refers more appositely to reports of the “demoralising” impact within Garda ranks of this latest in a succession of appointments of police officers from outside the jurisdiction to senior positions. As did Paul Williams in the Irish Independent.

Current Commissioner Drew Harris is the most notable of these, and he of course comes with a background in RUC police intelligence in the north. The Policing Authority has a key role in the recruitment and recommendation of candidates for such roles. It is of course healthy that any police force is not self governing, but it ought also not be run according to any other political criteria.

Is it the case that the authority and the Government to which it is responsible is ultimately more concerned with finding a “progressive reformer”, as one report described Coxen, and one best known for this rather than crime investigation, than someone who might be effective in furthering the objective of An Garda Síochana in protecting the citizens against real crime?

The feeling, rightly or wrongly, among some members of the force and the general public who pay attention to such matters, is that perhaps the Policing Authority and its political patrons are more concerned with nebulous concepts of “equality” and ticking items off an agenda that has little to do with the vast majority of people, rather than practical policing matters.

The only equality that ought to be the business of the police force of any open society is equality before the law. It certainly ought not be regarded, as with the Merseyside Police, as a part of a left-liberal political movement. The marriage of policing and the state for such purposes has given most languages of the world a stark descriptive.

Estado policia. That’s the one. Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a country in which the government uses the police to severely limit people’s freedom.” We are still a long way from that
but it should be borne in mind that most of the police states in history have not begun with the cops cracking down on burglary and double parking, but by enforcing decrees that were designed to improve people’s lives. Think about now.

No harm to Deputy Commissioner Coxon who no doubt is very competent and genuine with regard to her police work. The issue here is to do with the priorities of An Garda Síochana, and the potential politicisation of its role to encompass matters that ought to be no business whatsoever of either the state or the police force. The framers of “hate legislation” and new censorship laws obviously see things differently.

Matt Treacy has published a number of books including histories of 
the Republican Movement and of the Communist Party of Ireland. 

Will Someone Save The Country From Woke Gardai?

Caoimhin O’Muraile
✒ Throughout history various extreme right-wing, fascist, movements and political parties have played on people’s fears and opposition to certain rules and laws in society, claiming to champion the peoples cause.

From Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Francisco Franco, Augusto Pinochet and in Ireland our own Blue Shirt fascist movement led by Eoin O’ Duffy to individuals like Enoch Powel in Britain and more recently Margaret Thatcher and later Nigel Farage, all have jumped on popular frustrations of their day among the populace. Adolph Hitler threaded anti-Semitism into German society, initially with little success. He then reverted to attacking global capitalism, particularly that of the USA – despite his own movement being pro capitalist and funded by German companies like I.G Farben and Krupp armaments who benefitted hugely under the Nazis – as the German people were not automatically anti-Semites. His Nuremberg laws of 1935, though not overtly opposed, nobody dare, were not widely popular. Germans married to Jewish people did not relish having their marriages declared null and void but were too afraid to say so. Then, in 1938, a German diplomat, Ernst Vorm Rath was shot dead in France. His assassin was a German Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, unhappy with the Nazi persecution becoming increasingly more violent of the Jews in Germany. This gave Hitler the long-awaited opportunity to reignite his anti-Semitic campaign, this time with more success. The German people having had this rammed down their throats for over a decade by the NSDAP (Nazi Party) this time in many cases swallowed this rubbish. Hitler played on the now growing anti-Semitism and unleashed “Kristallnacht” or Night of Broken Glass resulting in riots and Jewish properties having windows smashed and burnt along with Jewish books and literature. Synagogues were torched as mayhem broke out across Germany.

Today in Britain far-right groups, like Britain First who have links to six county loyalist organisations, spread their anti-Muslim propaganda and play on people’s fears and prejudices. In Ireland we too have a growing far-right neo fascist movement, tiny at this time but ignore them at your peril. There are a number of groups and all reportedly have links to the far-right in Britain and, therefore “Ulster” loyalists. These people are playing the anti-immigrant card and some speeches by individuals may have come straight from the pages of Mein Kamp, page after page of drabble written by Hitler. These Irish groups are playing, at the moment, on the anti-lockdown and anti-mask feeling among elements within the population. For the record, we are perhaps all anti-lockdown in respect none of us like it, neither do we look forward to wearing facemasks. Most of us realise that these measures, certainly for the time being are necessary in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. That does not mean we like them! The situation which could change if the government are perceived to be needlessly dragging their feet lifting restrictions. The majority who presently accept the necessity of lockdown are unlikely to show goodwill forevermore.

These right-wing groups organising anti-lockdown demonstrations resulting in public riots, as occurred on Saturday 27th February in Dublin, care nothing for Covid-19 and lockdown. It is an excuse to recruit people for their more sinister agenda. That agenda is to pedal racism, xenophobia, homophobia and numerous other hatreds into society, just as Hitler threaded anti-Semitism into German society, and Enoch Powel in Britain when in 1968 he made his “rivers of blood” speech. Once they have a large enough audience, under the anti-lockdown guise, they will unleash their real agenda. They will, by such time have the ear of many who, genuinely, believe only protest will force the government to hurry things up regarding lockdown. Once they have this audience and no longer have to look for receptive ears, their true colours will come out. There will be less and less mention of Covid-19 and lockdown and more about irrelevances such as the presence of black people, Muslims and other racial and religious minorities who obviously have nothing to do with the pandemic and resulting lockdown measures.

It does not help the situation when constitutional politicians show little knowledge of the subject, they are paid a fortune to know, politics. The Irish Justice Minister, Helen McEntee displayed a lack of knowledge, or certainly confusion, between far-left and far-right political ideologies. Despite Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris making up for his botched statement claiming at a press conference “a number of groups, including far left and far right, had been involved” (Irish Daily Mirror 01.03.2021 page 4) which he later withdrew claiming “there is no corroborated evidence of extreme left factions being involved” (ibid). The Justice Minister then claimed; “some of those who attended were individuals with previous connections to far-left violent groups or organisations.” She also claimed “the Garda Commissioner had clarified that far-left groups at the protest were violent republican groups” (ibid). She had obviously not read the Commissioners retraction of his earlier statement or is oblivious to the difference between far-left and far-right political ideology. The gap between these is as wide as the Cheddar Gorge and any minister should be aware of these huge differences in ideologies. It is tantamount to claiming Arthur Scargill (NUM President during the 1984/85 strike) and Margaret Thatcher (British Prime Minister at the same time) were on the picket line together, or held the same political ideologies and outlooks!

As unpopular as lockdown is, as is the wearing of masks, I would urge people not to follow these neo fascists and their extreme right-wing agenda, which has nothing to do with what they claim the protests are about. They claim to be Irish “patriots” and even have the cheek to claim allegiance to the men and women of 1916. How can this be when their bedfellows have links to loyalist organisations? They try to invoke the 1916 leaders in what they consider to be a patriotic stance, they obviously know little of the seven signatures on the proclamation. James Connolly, one of the leaders during the rising, was a trade unionist and a Marxist. During the 1903 Wood Quay election Connolly stood on the socialist ticket and had his election literature translated into Hebrew so that the Jewish community could understand, in their native tongue, what and where he stood. He viewed anti-Semitism and sectarianism as two sides of the same coin. While in the USA Connolly championed the rights of the black working-class, the most downtrodden section of the proletariat. He remonstrated with the descendants of George Washington, Americas own so-called “father of freedom”, over the word “freedom”. Connolly argued for the freedom of black people who the Washington’s employed as servants claiming they, Washington’s descendants, were taking it for granted a black girl would spend her life in servitude and expected any children she had to do the same. This family who spoke so flippantly of freedom and their famous forefather were more than happy to sentence others based on skin colour to a life with no freedoms. Not content with this they were condemning any children this black servant may have had to the same life. Connolly also argued with sections of the Irish/American working-class about equality for Italian and Polish workers, asking why they – the Irish – attacked fellow workers, as they themselves were attacked on their arrival in the US, and demanded they stop such actions which divide the labour and trade union movement. Such policies as those held by Connolly are an antithesis to these far-right groups who play on ethnic and racial divisions, as well as hating trade unions, claiming to be patriots and falsely to be disciples of James Connolly and the other 1916 leaders. A distortion of historical fact if ever there was one!

If these groups, or their ideologies ever get their hands on the reins of political power any benefits in working conditions and pay increases the trade unions have wrought from the employers will be reversed. They will enact laws which will make lockdown look like toytown, just as their predecessors in Italy and Germany did. 

Do not be bluffed by their false concern about civil liberties, free speech and lockdown. If they ever get to have any say then civil liberties, free speech – which they claim to champion – will be consigned to the dustbin of history. Strikes or any form of industrial action may well be banned by law which perhaps brings us to one last question. 

If these right-wing organisations presently on the fringe of politics, at best, ever ascend to governmental power, backed by the capitalist class who in crisis would turn to such fascist ideologies, and if they passed laws based on race similar to Hitler's 1935 Nuremberg laws, then would An Garda Siochana or any other police force in any country uphold such laws? Would they say the same as they do today, “we are here to uphold the law?” Would they begin rounding up people, undesirables in the eyes of the fascists, for deportation based on skin colour, ethnicity or political belief? Would they be prepared to take people away to “resettlement” camps as has happened in the past? Would they police and uphold the fascist laws as efficiently as they try to enforce lockdown and mask wearing? Let us hope we never find out and we can start by not allowing these far-right groups to use Covid-19 as a cover to gain support for their more sinister vile agenda. 

It is important people consider these far-reaching consequences if the far-right get a foothold, therefore no matter how frustrated with this inept government’s handling of Covid-19 people may feel do not fall for the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Fascist groups claiming to champion free speech and civil liberties, these groups are in fact the opposite of such rights as free speech. 

Caoimhin O’Muraile is a Dublin based Marxist. 


The Far-Right, Populism And Lockdown ➖ The Wolves In Sheep's Clothing



A Morning Thought @ 999

Peter Trumbore
answers thirteen questions in a Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What are you currently reading?

PT: I have two things I’m currently reading. One is Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind. It is an exploration of the history of scientific research into and potential for psychedelic-assisted therapy to treat things like anxiety and fear of dying among terminal cancer patients as well as drug and alcohol addiction. It’s really fascinating, especially if, like me, you have taken at face value the societal fears and stigmas that in the 1960s became attached to these substances and those that used them. Turns out that establishment reaction against psychedelics derailed very promising research that had the potential to revolutionize the treatment of mental illness and psychiatric disorders. I will say that I find the chapters in which the author describes his own “guided trips” with psilocybin and other substances to be pretty uninteresting, and I wish he spent more time on the historical and ethno-cultural dimensions of psychedelics, especially among indigenous societies. But those are pretty minor criticisms of what is overall an eye-opening book. I’m also completing my annual rereading of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This is a book that for a number of years now I have made a point of rereading, generally when I’m on break from university and have time to devote to it.

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

PT: I think for me, one of the things that defines best or worst book hinges on whether you’d be willing to read it again once you’ve finished it. By that criterion, I’d have to put LOTR in the category of best, and even more so when we consider its place within the world of lore and literature that Tolkien created. So with the original trilogy, I consider The Hobbit and The Silmarillion as part of that “best” group. Which brings me to worst. Hands down, it would have to be Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. But I will admit that the first time I read it, right after it came out and was getting all of this acclaim, I found it to be a riveting page-turner, the kind of book you can’t put down and keep reading late into the night even though you’ve got to get up early to work the next morning. So about a year ago I went back to reread it, and was astonished by what utter garbage it is. How hackneyed and clichéd the writing and how one-dimensional the characters. I actually felt a little embarrassed that I’d found it so compelling on first read.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

PT: This is a difficult question to answer. I began reading very early, and read most everything I could get my hands on that was in the house. But probably the thing that I read at a young age that has stayed with me is Jean de Brunhoff’s The History of Babar the Elephant, first published in French in 1931. That, and subsequent volumes, I found really captivating. Now today I understand that those books are, in a pretty transparent way, a celebration of French colonialism in Africa and the “gift of Western civilization” bestowed upon primitive peoples by their European betters. But as a kid none of that was in my head. They were just fun illustrated stories with some surprisingly dark plot turns. I haven’t seen those books in years and would love to get my hands on them again.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

PT: This is another difficult one because I read so many varied things as a kid. But if I had to pick one, I’d give the honor to L. Frank Baum for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and subsequent books set in the Land of Oz. Baum and his books opened me up to fantasy literature, and by the time I was 10 I had moved well beyond Oz to discover the pulp fantasy and horror authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and so on. Those authors led to Fritz Leiber and his Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone stories, and finally to Tolkien.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

PT: I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this, but if you mean books that I keep thinking about long after I’ve read them, I’m going to have to go with C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Whatever you might think of Christianity, or organized religion in general, or Lewis’ own religiosity, Screwtape is full of deep insights into human nature and character, and is, in many ways, a powerful indictment of the hypocrisies that so easily take root among those who consider themselves people of faith and the religious institutions they belong to and support. I find the book to be a helpful check when I start to get too smug about my own faith and how I live into it. A close second is Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God as a reminder that people of faith shouldn’t be afraid to ask challenging questions about what we believe and why. 


TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

PT: This is a weird answer, and let me caveat it by acknowledging that there are a lot of objections to my favorite male author. H.P. Lovecraft was a deeply flawed man whose works are, for a lot of people, irredeemable because of the currents of racism and anti-Semitism that run through them. But, for me, Lovecraft’s place in my thinking about favorite authors rests on his ability to invoke existential horror, to put his finger on the insignificance of man in a cold, uncaring universe which is beyond our ability to comprehend, and to paint vivid pictures of the decaying and forgotten remnants of colonial America that made up the landscape of his native New England at the turn of the 20th century. Favorite female author is a much more challenging question for me. To my embarrassment, I have to admit to not really reading a lot of the work of women authors, outside of my professional reading. There, Martha Crenshaw and Mia Bloom rise to the top. I don’t think I have any conscious bias against women authors, I just find that most of what I turn to for my pleasure reading has been written by men. Let me offer a couple of names though. First, the classical historian Mary Beard is a wonderful writer. I read her magisterial history of the Roman Empire, SPQR, a few years ago and it is on my list to read again in the near future. If I go back further, the first female author whose whole catalog I read was Laura Ingles Wilder’s Little House books. Growing up in a small town in a very rural part of central Florida, where farming was the main industry and many folks I knew still hunted and fished both for fun and for food, Wilder’s stories of frontier and small town life struck a familiar chord.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

PT: Given what I do, I read a lot of nonfiction, and I’ve been a history buff for as long as I can remember. And a lot of what I read is not what most folks (like my wife) would consider “fun” reading. For example, one of the books I recently reread was Joel Harrington’s The Faithful Executioner, a fascinating look at the society and culture of 16th century Germany through the lens of the journals of Nuremburg’s professional executioner. But if I want to actually relax and indulge in pure escapism, then its fiction all the way, especially the heroic fantasy and science fiction stuff that fired my imagination as a kid.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

PT: I don’t read much of these. But a few years back I did read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. As a White man who grew up in the American South in the 1960s and 1970s, I was aware of the overt and covert expressions of racism that permeated the society I lived in. But Coates’ pulls the curtains back on the racial violence that is at the heart of American history and society in a way that forces White people like me to come face to face with a reality our Black brothers and sisters live daily. And to accept responsibility for our part in sustaining that reality.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

PT: Anything by Malcolm Gladwell. I made that mistake once and never intend to repeat it.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

PT: Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, by archaeologist Neil Price. This book takes just about all the fields of study that intrigue me and brings them together in a way that lets you feel what these people were like, in all their complexity. It’s all here: history, myth and legend, anthropology and ethnography, archaeology, linguistic development, economics and politics, religion. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I read it in a few days and immediately went back and read it again. It’s brilliantly and beautifully written. As a scholar, I envy this work. It is deeply erudite yet accessible to a mass audience at the same time. I wish all academics could write like this. I wish I could write like this. This book captures all the things I’m curious about and which have sparked my imagination since childhood. 

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

PT: The last time I gave books as a present was last Christmas. I gave my adult daughter Mary Oliver’s Devotions: Selected Poems, and to a friend Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

PT: I am eagerly awaiting the new attempt at turning Frank Herbert’s Dune into a watchable movie. The 1984 version, written and directed by David Lynch, was a train wreck.

TPQ: A "must read" you intend getting to before you die?

PT: This is more out of obligation than real desire, but as my wife points out, I am woefully negligent in my reading of actual “literature.” So on my list is to finally read Moby Dick all the way through.

 ⏭Professor Peter Trumbore blogs @ Observations/Research/Diversions. 

Booker's Dozen @ Peter Trumbore

Alex McCrory writes of the PSNI playing the same dirty tricks that became such a defining feature of it  back in the day when it went under its old name the RUC.

Recently an article appeared on The Carnary about my ongoing trial written by Peter Kearney. It covered some of the evidential aspects of the case relating to voice analysis and the destruction of evidence. I feel some further elaboration of the issues is required as the trial reaches a critical stage. It is only natural that I come at this from a defence perspective.

There were two voice experts for the Crown in this case: Professor French and Dr Kirchubble. How two experts came to be involved was as a result of Professor French misidentifying a voce of the tape, allegedly that of Harry Fitzsimons, with that of another person not before the court. Dr Kirchubble was brought in to explain how this fundamental error occurred. As she was an employee of French at the time, she was basically attempting to correct her boss's mistake. Unsurprisingly, she reached the same conclusions saying the mistake was with an 'margin of error'. A convenient excuse, if I may do so.
 
But the inherent flaws of the voice analysis is deeper than the misidentification. From the outset, the experts were provided with a police transcript that named the three defendants as suspects. Additionally, large portions of speech was attributed to each of the three accused, and all of this before the experts commenced their analysis. In their evidence, the experts admitted to having had relied of the police transcript throughout the course of their work, with the exception of the first of seven drafts that were produced. 

As the analysis was being carried out, French and Kirchubble partook in a 'collective listening' exercise with the investigating officers. The evidence showed they had discussed the recordings and compared notes. Neither the expert nor police officers kept a record of precisely what occurred at that meeting. But, clearly, they were in cahoots.

At the end of giving his evidence, Prof French opined that he would not do the voice analysis the same way today. When asked by the judge why not, he said he would be careful to remove contextual bias, i.e. he would not introduce the police transcript until later stage in the process. Kirchubble also accept that she was susceptible to the same cognitive biss because of her use of the police transcript when compiling her reports. 

The role of an expert is to provide independent and impartial evidence to the court free from any external influence.

Another point touched on in the article is the defence claim that MI5 destroyed the original evidence. As with the Craigavon Two, the devices in this case were wiped clean within 24-hours of being retrieved and downloaded onto USB sticks. The net effect of this is that it is impossible to compare what was originally captured on the devices with the contents of the USBs. 

Strangely, the MI5 operative who downloaded the devices had no personal recollection of wiping them, although he said it had to have been wiped by him in the circumstances. According to his evidence, it is a matter of MI5 policy to wipe devices for redeployment purposes. Apparently, MI5 is not concerned with the retention of evidence which is a basic legal requirement. 

And it gets better: the computer that was used to download the recordings onto the USB sticks was also destroyed. Short of having access to the devices themselves, which the court previously ruled out, the computer was the only other link between the devices and the USB sticks. All this has put the defence in the impossible position of not being able to independently verify the recordings. 

The Canary article mentions the discovery of malware/viruses on the two of the USB sticks, but not on the third one, which has simply vanished into thin air. Since all three USBs allegedly were created at the same time using the same computer, the absence of the viruses on the third stick is a mystery. It is suggestive of a separate process about which nothing is known. 

Basically, the malware offered third-party access to the computer and/or the devices with the ability to edit or alter the data. A defence expert in the field of computer technology opined that the very existence of the viruses undermined the integrity of the evidence. 

These are some of the matters being disputed; there are others.

Alec McCrory is on trial in a Diplock Court
in Belfast where PSNI evidence tampering is the real story 

PSNI & Evidence Manipulation



A Morning Thought @ 998

Helen McClafferty remembers an old friend who made the journey from Swainlinbar, County Cavan to New York and who died in recent days. 


Aristotle figured there were three kinds of friendships. Friendship of utility. Friendship of pleasure. Friendship of good. Aristotle thought friendship of good was invaluable and he was right.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said "Many people will walk in and out of your life but only true friends leave a footprint in your heart". Hugh Lunney was one of those people.

I met Hugh in the late 70's at various Irish-American functions, protests and activities related to furthering the cause of Irish freedom and reunification. We worked on many campaigns together and through our shared beliefs and commitment to Ireland's right to self determination and our shared Catholic religious views and involvement in the pro-life movement, we eventually developed a close bond and a lasting trusted friendship of over 41 some years.

Hugh was a pleasure to know in general. He was a witty man with a good sense of humor, a great smile and always a warm welcome for everyone he met along the way. He was a man who brought people together and looked for the positive in everyone. He was a creative businessman, a great family man, a proud Irish Republican, American, and a practicing Catholic. However, some of these traits only scratched the surface of who the man Hugh Lunney really was.

To those of us who were fortunate enough to have Hugh as a friend, he was a rare man. He possessed all of the great qualities anyone could possibly want in a friendship. Hugh was kind, thoughtful, generous, honest, trustworthy, dependable, authentic and loyal. He was a good listener and man of unquestionable integrity.

To quote Albert Schweitzer:

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

That was Hugh Lunney. 

Thank you my friend. He will be truly missed by so many. 

Rest In Peace Hugh.

Helen McClafferty has long campaigned in the US in support of Irish republican matters.  

Hugh Lunney

UnHerd Revealing secrets has become a commodity with the power to make or break a career.


If you Google Jen Polachek, she doesn’t seem to exist anymore, but for a few days in January 2014, she was the biggest thing on the internet. She had written a post for the now-defunct women’s interest website XO Jane, and everybody — everybody — hated it. XO Jane specialised in the personal. Its pitching guidelines told prospective writers: “It helps to always be brutally honest and radically transparent. Don’t fake anything.”

Polachek’s mistake was probably to take that advice seriously. In her piece — titled “It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes And I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It” — Polachek confesses that the arrival of a “young, fairly heavy black woman” in her yoga class had made her feel awkward in her “skinny white girl body”. Why were black people so scarce in yoga, she wondered? How could the discipline she loved be made more inclusive?

... Polachek doesn’t do anything to protect herself from embarrassment. This is brutal honesty and radical transparency.

Continue reading @ UnHerd.

Confessions Of A Female Journalist

Peter Anderson ✒ Every now and again a team comes along from mid table obscurity to stick it to the big boys. 

This phenomenon usually involves the serendipitous coming together of multiple strands of skill and luck; a popular chairman, an up-and-coming coach, a blend of skillful players at opposite ends of their careers. 

These teams are always a joy to watch unless they are playing your team! If they are on live TV you'll always make an effort to tune in. My first such team was Bobby Robson's Ipswich. 

The legendary manager drove his young largely homegrown team to two second places in the league as well as FA and UEFA cup glory, supported faithfully by the Cobbold brothers as club chairmen. His team boasted the likes of Paul Mariner, Terry Butcher, Alan Brazil, John Wark, Kevin Beattie and Arnold Muhren. All unforgettable names. It was always a treat when they were on Match of the Day or Sportsnight.

Another such team was Kevin Keegan's Newcastle. After Newcastle had fallen into the second division and were in danger of going even lower, John Hall won control of the club and appointed the inexperienced Keegan. They recruited well and filled the ranks with the likes of Shearer, Andy Cole, Rob Lee, Ginola, Asprilla, Albert and Les Ferdinand. Although they won nothing, they shook up the big boys and had Fergie's dominant Red Devils on the run. Who could forget the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool or Keegan's infamous "I will love it if we beat them" line after being wound up by Fergie. Ultimately Man Utd saw them off and Newcastle won no trophies, but provided plenty of entertainment!

Which brings me to the current Leicester City team who are quickly developing into my new favourite "second team". When Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha took over the club after the death of his popular father in 2018 one of his first major decisions was to bring in the Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers. I must admit a soft spot for our Brendan. His Swansea team knew how to play football and when he went to Liverpool, he came within a whisker of winning a well-deserved title. His Reds played superb footy with the SAS (Suarez and Sturridge) up front. I was delighted when he left Celtic to return to England and thought the well run league winners of 2016 were a great fit. Leicester had a proven track record of canny signings. The likes of Kante and Mahrez were bought for buttons and sold for millions. 

Rodger's current side boasts a midfield of Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison and Harvey Barnes with the evergreen striker Vardy still terrorising defences into his 30s. All of this is shored up by Johnny Evans and Kasper Schmeichel at the back. None of these players broke the bank but have played with great enterprise. The perfect blend of a dynamic coach looking to re-establish himself, a canny popular chairman and a blend of young and old, hungry players has taken the Foxes to second in the Premier League and the quarters of the FA cup. 

Brendan knows how to set up a team. His team know how to thrill and win. The question is: can they stay together long enough to emulate the Ipswichs and Newcastles of yore and really worry the big boys? Time will tell, but for now, I will be sitting back and enjoying the ride.

Peter Anderson is a Unionist with a keen interest in sports.

The Foxes