Former blanketman Seamus Kearney is the author of a book detailing his experience of those desolate years when he and many other prisoners both protested against and prevailed over British government attempts to depict resistance to British policy in Ireland as an aggravated crime wave.  

No Greater Love - An epic story of the triumph of the human spirit will be launched in both Dungiven and Derry City this Saturday the 4th December 2021.

The Dungiven venue is the Arcade Bar: 1200-1400. The book will be launched by Gerald Lynch, the brother of the deceased hunger striker Kevin Lynch.

The Derry City venue is William Street Ex Prisoners Centre: 1500-1700. The book will be launched by former blanketman, Patrick "Stumpy" McCourt.

Seamus Kearney is a former Blanketman.

No Greater Love Dungiven And Derry City Launches


A Morning Thought @ 1266

Michael Praetorius ✒ I was talking to Jean last night about Jean-Paul Sartre, the big cheese of Existentialism. 

I pointed out that as an ex-boxer and confirmed womanizer, he was ideally equipped, physically and mentally, to tackle the no-laughing-matter issues head on.

But, because she is a Protestant and therefore sees all non-scholastic philosophy as treasonable conspiracy, she wouldn't listen.

I merely wanted to enlighten her as to what Existentialism teaches us about the human condition. It's all quite simple:
  • there is no God;
  • you're on your own;
  • you're a pathetic, useless fraud and waste of space, whatever you do or tell yourself to the contrary, and everybody else can see it;
  • everything is your own fault;
  • life and the universe? - random, meaningless, pointless;
  • default emotional responses to living? - dread, alienation, angst, apprehension, anomie, inauthenticity, estrangement, terror;
  • nobody likes you;
  • to be happy is to be a fruitcake;
  • there's nothing else for it but to look back with embarrassment and forward in despair;
  • you can't choose not to choose;
  • something terrible will happen soon;
  • you're about as funny as a migraine;
  • you're shite at everything, so get used to it; not that it matters, since everything is appalling anyway;
  • you'll die roaring.
I have to say, with all due modesty, I wouldn't be the fully formed, relaxed, self-assured man I am today if my life hadn’t been informed by these insightful truths.

Michael Praetorius spent his working life in education and libraries. Now retired, he does a little busking in Belfast ... when he can get a pitch.

The Existential Question

Sex And Censorship ✒ The teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools was one of the main concerns of voters.
A year ago, in the aftermath of the US Presidential election, I wrote an article entitled Why is the Minority Vote Shifting to the Right?, which noted a surprising trend in the voting numbers. Although Donald Trump had been continuously accused of racism, sexism and homophobia, he had significantly increased his vote among all racial minorities, women and LGBT voters. In fact, Biden only won the election at all because his vote increased among white men (the most regressive of all groups, if you believe the woke Left).

I had predicted this result, on the basis that, under the cover of noisy anti-racism, the Left was becoming increasingly racist. It was clear that many non-white people were tiring of being patronisingly regarded as ‘oppressed’. As I wrote then:

In short, “antiracism” has become a toxic brand, largely driven by white people, and increasingly alienating non-whites, who feel patronised by it. So for some time, I have predicted that, win or lose, Trump would increase his share of the black vote at this election...

Continue reading @ Sex And Censorship.le.

The Republican Win In Virginia Is Another Woke Legacy

Peter Anderson ⚽ After many years of talking and little action, the Independent Regulator for English Football (IREF) has finally been endorsed by the British government. 

I think the combination of many Tory MPs now having red-wall constituencies in the north and last spring's attempted breakaway European super league, has finally seen the idea get off the ground. They endorsed a report by Tracey Crouch MP which proposed a regulatory body with swingeing powers to, for example, hold owners to account, put a levy on transfer fees that will help the lower leagues and women's game, and powers for fans to overrule owners on matters like the super league or changing the club name. This is great news for football in England. I doubt the IREF will be as powerful Crouch proposes but even if it is most of what she has recommended, then the ordinary supporter will benefit.

In recent years we have seen both Bury FC and Macclesfield Town go under; we've seen the owner of Hull City try to change the name to the Hull Tigers; the owner of Cardiff City propose changing the club colours from blue to red, and the emblem from bluebirds to a dragon; and we've seen the attempted breakaway of the rich and entitled owners of the biggest clubs in England to set up the European super league. We've also seen many international hedge funds and investment companies buy local clubs and not always with the fans, or the good of the local game, at the top of their agendas.

As it stands there are no independent bodies which can support local fans trying to take on rich and powerful people and organisations. Crouch, in an interview with Sky Sports News said, "The vested interests in football....will be completely removed". Big words indeed, but can she deliver a regulatory body with that sort of clout? Let's hope so.

At the moment the EPL contributes money for the lower leagues and grass roots development but not the clubs themselves. Crouch proposes that they contribute from club profits. Clearly the club chairmen are not happy and the inevitable pushback has started. Some chairmen have said the IREF will "hamstring" the league as it seeks to compete with other rival leagues. I disagree, having the fans happy and supporting the club is what makes English football so special. The grounds are always full and the atmospheres are something special compared with similar leagues. The one area where Crouch doesn't tread upon is the problem of agents. She says that the response needs to come from FIFA and UEFA, and unfortunately, she is probably right.

So, altogether a promising start to the process of setting up the IREF. If all goes to plan it should be up and running for the 23/24 season. Crouch has done well so far, and I hope that Boris accepts what she proposes and gives the fans a regulatory body with real teeth and claws, one that English football fans deserve.

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

Independent Regulator For English Football


A Morning Thought @ 1265

Sean Matthews  ✒‘Before you mock children who believe in Santa Claus remember there are adults who still believe in Sinn Fein’- Meme.

The decision by Provisional Sinn Fein to drop its vague and ambiguous opposition to non-jury special criminal courts in the South should come as no surprise given that it has long abandoned any counter-insurgency strategy to becoming an active partner and gamekeeper of the status-quo. Indeed, it is only a logical conclusion from embracing the various armed wings of the British state.

As usual we are treated with the usual rhetoric of this Ard fheis decision being supported based on ‘special circumstances’. This comes from a long line of drivel and hog wash designed to keep the republican base in tune from ‘a new phase of struggle’, ‘new site of struggle’, ‘transition’, ‘opportunity’, ‘staging post’, ‘national reconciliation’ and ‘historical momentum’, the republican leadership, aided by the deliberate ambiguity of the peace process, was able to present a series of unprecedented departures from republican principles as great steps forward. So much for an ‘Ireland of equals’ if you happen to be a republican or otherwise dragged before the Special Criminal Court with no trial and condemned by various international human rights bodies across the world.

The gloves are off and Sinn Fein has finally nailed their colours to the forces of the Crown and Harp. There is no shame in defeat, of course; it can be an opportunity to take stock, learn lessons and search for a new form of politics that can address the continuing reality of imperialism and a brutal capitalist system that can never be uprooted by using the master’s tools.

As an anarchist, the transformation of the Provisional should be another wake up call that the state can never be utilised as an instrument of working-class emancipation and it will always be the gravedigger of any radical project. What about 'tactics' and using all means to advance objectives? you might reply. The question is where have we heard all this before?

As Mikhail Bakunin warned over a century ago:

This explains how and why men who were once the reddest democrats, the most vociferous radicals, once in power become the most moderate conservatives. Such turnabouts are usually, and mistakenly, regarded as a kind of treason. Their principle cause is the inevitable change of position and perspective. Power and position have gradually stifled their conscience and they have not the strength and honesty to swim against the current… They have become the strongest bulwark of capitalism.

⏩ Sean Matthews is an anarchist activist and writer.

Long Line Of Drivel And Hog Wash

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of One Hundred And Three

With celebrations already in full swing to mark one of the most important occasions in the Christian calendar, the birth of Jesus Christ, contentious commentator Dr John 
Coulter maintains its high time the various Churches united to combat the influence of fundamentalist anti-vaxxers within the faith.

‘Depart from me ye cursed’; the words of Christ Himself taken from the New Testament Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 25 verse 41 should be the ethos of a united front by the various Christian denominations against the false prophets peddling conspiracy theories about the vaccines to combat the Covid pandemic, a pandemic which has claimed millions of lives across the globe, including thousands in the island of Ireland.

And to inappropriately misquote the words of a former Sinn Fein president in relation to Covid 19 and its variants - ‘they haven’t gone away, you know.’ Ireland is still gripped by the pandemic.

The full verse from Matthew states: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

I’m a mainstream Presbyterian minister’s son married to a Baptist pastor’s daughter. The Christian Church has been a major part of my life since I can remember.

I know how important the Christian Church still is in the lives of many folk on this island. That’s why the Christian Church needs to step up to the mark in terms of its moral duty in combating the pandemic.

So let me state categorically as a born-again Christian where I stand on the pandemic. I fully support the vaccination programme and indeed whatever measures the Stormont power-sharing Executive takes, and especially the health department, to curb the spread of a virus which makes malaria, yellow fever and even ebola look like a mild common cold.

I am double vaccinated and as I write, I have already booked my date for my Covid vaccination booster. I’ve also had my flu jab.

The anti-vax movement within Christianity fires out its ludicrous conspiracy theories as if they have just had an all-expenses paid trip to Area 51 in the United States to see alien spaceships.

In Ireland alone, how many fundamentalist preachers have mouthed off against vaccination, or the contents of the vaccine, or how the vaccine was conceived, and then succumbed to Covid or worse still, told someone not to get the vaccine only for that person to get Covid - and die?

If you want a conspiracy theory - how’s about the danger of the supposed anti-vax movement being infiltrated by Far Right extremists who want to ‘milk the gullible’ for their own devious ends?

As a journalist with 43 years’ experience under my belt, I fully support the concepts of a Free Press and freedom of expression. Both are solid pillars of any proper democracy. But as a society, it is our moral duty to take a stand against the myths being peddled by the anti-vax movement, especially those emanating from our Christian Churches.

Such heresy must be stamped out once and for all in our Churches. The vaccination programme has been implemented for a purpose - it's simple, to combat a killer virus which, historically, will probably rank as one of the biggest killers of the 21st century.

Mind you, the so-called Christian anti-vax movement is dangerously subtle in its propaganda, mixing the pro-life campaign with the anti-vax message by pushing the myth that the vaccination was based on an aborted baby.

This so-called Christian anti-vax movement also likes to twist Scripture to try and convince people the Covid jabs are the ‘mark of the beast’, as foretold in the New Testament Book of Revelation Chapter 13 and verse 18: “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast for it is the number of a man.”

The Book of Revelation deals with the end times of the world, so fundamentalist anti-vaxxers will want to push the interpretation of this chapter as suggesting the Covid vaccination programme is the ‘mark of the beast’ and that prayer alone will protect you from the virus.

I wonder how many of these fundamentalist myth peddlers have had a flu jab or an anesthetic injection at the dentist and not moaned about having the ‘mark of the beast’?

Now under freedom of thought, these anti-vaxxers are perfectly entitled to have their crazy conspiracy theories. The problem as always for the Christian Churches is when they start ramming these myths down folks’ throats and people start falling ill, and dying. Quite often, when these supposedly Christian anti-vaxxers are challenged about their conspiracy theories, their retorts are blunt - read your Bible!

So let’s play the supposedly Christian anti-vax movement at its own game - the Bible.

As a born again Christian who has been vaccinated, I take my Biblical stance from the New Testament guidance from First Corinthians Chapter 6 and verse 19: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God and ye are not your own?”

In practical terms, God has given me a body and I have a Christian duty to look after it as best I can. I got the vaccine because it has been proven to protect me from Covid, and equally importantly to protect my fellow human beings if I am vaccinated.

No doubt, the extremist fundamentalists on reading this interpretation of this text from First Corinthians will be furiously flicking through pages of Scripture to find verses which will contradict this and supposedly justify their ridiculously silly anti-vax stance.

Put bluntly, the supposed Christian anti-vax movement is no better off than the spiritual weirdoes who dance about with poisonous snakes as part of their worship.

This single article will not shut up the supposedly Christian anti-vax movement. Tragically, it may take a situation when they, or a loved one, are dying of Covid because they didn’t get vaccinated to convince them of the stupidity of the anti-vax propaganda.

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

Christian Churches Need Unified Front Against Anti-Vaxxers


A Morning Thought @ 1264

Anthony McIntyre🔖 Since the onset of Covid I have started an affair with podcasts. 

The promiscuity of my curiosity means it is not just one podcast but a diverse range of them: science, history, secularism, current affairs, politics, philosophy, religion inter alia.

Having acquired a taste for them, engaging with a podcast is just like reading a book while walking. The information is absorbed via the ears rather than the eyes. Whether more of what is absorbed is retained is another matter, something for the experts to work out.

Recently, I took up the suggestion of a friend, Jake, to listen to audio books. I updated my library membership and within minutes was listening to Red Station as a sort of trial run, mostly as I walked the dog along the Boyne, and occasionally before I fell asleep. The problem with that is that I never got to the end of whatever chapter I was listening to and would have to go back over it the following day. Still, as good a night cap as a whiskey.

Harry for some reason is a name I have come to associate with good crime fiction, in this case a spy novel. Often the line between crime and spying is so blurred that to insist on any distinction seems pedantic. Harry Hole, Harry Bosch, Harry Pearse of the TV Drama, Spooks and now Harry Tate. Because it is in the espionage genre, Harry Pearse is the image that springs to mind as the reader follows the exploits of Harry Tate. There is something to be be said for having a face to focus on. It builds peaks and troughs on the otherwise bland flatness of a mugshot, accentuating that identifying characteristic so unique to humans.  

In the brilliant Mick Herron novels there is a place of internal exile for MI5 operatives who mess up: it is called Slough House, or more derisorily Slow Horses. In Red Station it is not as far out as Siberia but distant nonetheless: South Ossetia, somewhere in Georgia.

The faux pas up was not exactly a mess up but more typically a cover up. A drugs bust had gone wrong, resulting in fatalities. Heads had to roll, and in the kiss up kick down structure that is the British intelligence services, somebody on the ground was always going to take the hit. Golly, dear boy, what else are the buggers there for?

Tate was never the type to go silently into the night. Once he copped on to what the real purpose of Red Station was and the ultimate destination of those who ended up there, he castled for defensive purposes before beginning his foray out into the board, moving adroitly and unafraid to lop the head off a king. 

Not long into South Ossetia, it becomes glaringly obvious to Harry that he is being tailed. So, it seems is everybody else. Yet those spying on the spies have a mysterious provenance of their own. The story concludes not in South Ossetia but in England close to the HQ of MI6. But not before the grand tussle is fought out in the lanes and countryside of foreign climes. Trickery, deceit, assassination, dubious Georgians - all go into the mix.

The rise of the pawns was a phenomenon class snobbery was averse to. The grandmasters of espionage found life not so grand after all when faced with an adversary more resilient than they had reckoned on. Would the Queen fall to protect the King? Marcella Rudmann and Lord Bellingham might just have contrasting ideas about that.

From the get-go, a pacey thriller, in which the mockery of the security services is the persistent undertone. The men and women in suits are so unlikeable that they are set up to fail. When they do, the reader can burp with approval, the appetite satiated. 

The pull of the audio book is the dexterity with which the narrator delivers. The pitch and accentuation, the subversive mimicry of the toff establishment accent. They are all a literary delicacy that simply reading a book does not serve up.

Harry Tate survives to fight another day. His voice shall be heard again.

Adrian Magson, 2010, Red Station. Publisher: ‎Severn House Publishers. ISBN-13: 978-0727869395

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Red Station

Friendly AtheistEnd Times Preacher Sharon Gilbert: A Reptile Alien Imitating My Husband Tried to Sleep with Me. 


Continue reading @ Friendly Atheist.

Desperate Derek

Irish Times ✒ Teaching of sex education has been considered by three ministers, but still an issue.

Marie O'Halloran

There is an urgent need for adequate sex education for young people that is “informed by science, not religion”, the Dáil has heard.

Social Democrats education spokesman Gary Gannon said the issue has “already spanned” three successive education ministers but has not yet been properly addressed.

He was speaking as he introduced his Education (Health, Relationships and Sex Education) Bill which seeks to “ensure that every single student and school that receives State funding will receive the same fact-based health, relationship and sex education regardless of their school’s ethos”.

The Dublin Central TD said the Bill “balances the right of a school to protect its ethos and the right of a child, more importantly, to receive relationship and sex education that is informed by science, not religion”.

He said some schools have programmes that are “biased and not providing objective information, precisely because of religious teaching that places one form of relationship in a hierarchy over others”.

He said the programme created by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference - Flourish - states that “the church’s teaching on marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted, and that puberty is a gift from God. These are not facts. This is preaching.”

Continue reading @ Irish Times.

TD Says ‘Urgent Need’ For All Children To Be ‘Informed By Science, Not Religion’