Reflections … And Memories Arising

Henry Joy casts his memory back to politically violent events in Fermanagh.

Reflecting on exchanges, in the comments section of the ‘What England Get Out of Ireland Means’ recent article, between Steve R and AM about allegations around ethnic cleansing, I was pulled back through time.

And though I can readily understand many in Steve’s community did have a perception, and still retain it, that attacks on part-time security personnel were but cloaked attempts at ethnic cleansing I too, like AM, respectfully but vehemently reject those interpretations.

Having been told accounts from republicans who were active in border areas and where operations were aborted because they did not meet the criteria of legitimate targeting (current membership of Crown Forces), I therefore can’t accept accusations of ethnic cleansing as sustainable.

I recall one pertinent case I heard of, from way back in the '70's where a IRA volunteer was pulled off - and pulled off at the eleventh hour - from an assassination assignment of a very active UVF cell leader operating in Fermanagh. The local IRA had the UVF man under close observation for some time and had acquired evidence linking him to alleged involvement in the murder of Patsy Kelly, an Irish Independence Party Councillor from Trillick in Tyrone, and also had identified the UVF man in question as allegedly the shooter in the assassination attempt on Frank McManus. Frank was the Westminster MP for the area at the time (he miraculously escaped with minor flesh wounds). It is also now a matter of record that same individual was also the chief suspect for the bombing of Belturbet in 1972 in which a 15 year old girl and a 16 year old boy lost their lives. (link to

The UVF man had at one time been in the UDR but for whatever reason had no longer been spotted in uniform. Nonetheless because the intelligence was substantial for his involvement in Loyalist terrorism an operation to eliminate was urgently set in train. In fact, it had reached an ‘all ready to go’ stage based on the assumption it'd be sanctioned without question. However, McGuinness, then Director of Operations Northern Command, wouldn't green-light it because the target wasn’t fully confirmed as a serving member of the security forces. After a dash back into the operational area by McGuinness’s emissary the IRA volunteer, who was by now armed-up and secured in an overnight billet close to the planned ambush point, was pulled of the op.

This particular disclosure remains memorable as it was to unfold with ironic and tragic consequences.

The pulled IRA volunteer was arrested in the following months on a subsequent operation and went down for eight years. When he was in prison the UVF man, the one that had been mysteriously spared (most likely by McGuinness but maybe by the dispatcher), murdered a brother of the said IRA volunteer.

The brother who was later murdered, I'm told, sometimes collected his sister - a resident of Balinamore in County Leitrim - and drove her all the way to Belfast to visit her IRA brother in the Crum, where he was being held awaiting trial on possession and membership charges.

The one who drove her, having opposed the path his brother had taken, chose to wait in the car while the sister went on the visit; such were the differences between both men.

Robert Bridge, known locally as Bridges was detained for questioning after the assassination attempt on Frank McManus. No charges were brought in relation to that nor was he successfully pursued about UVF bombings in Monaghan or Belturbet which had links back to Enniskillen.

He was though subsequently arrested, tried and convicted for the murder of Paddy 'Pio' O’Reilly and sentenced to life.

‘Pio’ O’Reilly was a brother of IRA Vol. Malachy O’Reilly, the same volunteer who had been tasked with taking Bridges out.


Malachy O’Reilly as a young volunteer cut his teeth as a Republican soldier in Dáithí Ó'Conaill's Teeling Column on the Border Campaign of the 50's. During that phase he was captured while attending his father's funeral and interned without trial in Crumlin Road Gaol. Refusing to ‘sign out’ he would remain there for the next 4 years until ‘Operation Harvest’ was wound-down. On release he moved to England for work, returning and reporting back to the IRA on the outbreak of renewed hostilities.

Serving as area OC for a period he was captured for a second time, and reluctantly having accepted orders to recognise the court, was sentenced again. He served a second four years of prison-time in Magilligan Camp (50% remission still existed) where, so I'm told, he was affectionately referred to by his younger comrades as 'Messiah', largely in part because of the innovative brewing and distilling skills he brought with him from his time in the Crum!

On release from prison again, and having been advised of internal security breaches in his operational area during his period in gaol, he was urged to cross the border immediately if he wanted to avoid likely further and longer prison time. If I remember the story correctly, the late Frank Maguire MP (one time fellow-internee) collected O’Reilly at the camp gates in an attempt to thwart possible re-arrest and got him swiftly across.

A single man, he lived out the rest of his life peacefully, and generally with his usual good cheer, in the Kildare/Dublin area where he remained ensconced in the broad republican family. I remember one time when visiting and hanging out with him being introduced to Billy McKee who was also working/living in the same establishment as he.

Malachy O’Reilly died some years ago and is buried in the same graveyard as his brother ‘Pio’ at Coa, a few miles outside Enniskillen, in his native Fermanagh.

⏩ Henry Joy is a frequent commenter on TPQ.


  1. HJ,

    As a by stander during the conflict, I never bought into the notion that any Republican group had a policy of ethic cleansing..Today I buy into the notion there was one even less. The maths don't add up. On the Loyalist side of the fence, I am more convinced after reading Lethal Allies By Anne Cadwallader and listening to the talk on the book launch I can't say the same...

    The link on bombing of Belturbet isn't working. It wont come up as a 'HTTP 404, 404 Not Found'..Simply says missing link. So I googled it (I never heard of bombing before)..I opened a link from the Newsletter on the bombing...

    Legacy Scandal: ‘No group even claimed the loyalist bomb in Cavan that killed my sister’

    In the latest essay in the series, ANTHONY O’REILLY says it is unlikely anyone will be brought to justice for the murder of his sister in Belturbet

    My 15-year-old sister Geraldine was one of two young people murdered in the Belturbet bombing in Co Cavan on December 28, 1972 in an attack attributed to loyalist terrorists.

    There were eight of us and Geraldine was the youngest of the family. She was 15. I left my elder sister Frances and her husband out home that night and Geraldine came with me to get a bag of chips. There was a chipper at the top of the town and it wasn’t open that night, so we came on down to the other chipper in the centre of the town and Geraldine got out and went in. I was sitting in the car, I was double parked, just waiting on her and next thing I didn’t know what had happened

    I thought I was after falling asleep and dreaming, when I came to it I was half out of the car and the car in front of me was on fire and I think the car behind me was on fire, so I got out and ran down the street. I was staggering about, I didn’t realise what had happened at all.

    After a wee while, I went back up the street and I was calling Geraldine, I had realised that Geraldine was with me and I couldn’t hear any sound of her at all. The car was in bits, there must have been steel that went in through it and out through the roof and I don’t know how I came out of it because there wasn’t a window left in the car or anything I didn’t realise what had happened. I hadn’t heard the bomb and I was only 10 feet away from it.

    I was even double-parked so I was nearer to it. It must have lifted the car up with the blast and that’s what saved me probably. Then the doctor and the guards came and brought me in to identify Geraldine, it was her that lay there murdered. It was something you weren’t expecting, just a couple of days after Christmas. I was angry because you wondered who it was and people would have come to me and said, ‘I know it was such a ones’, but I couldn’t be sure. (read the full story by clicking the Newsletter link)

  2. A good piece Henry Joy. On the issue of Fermanagh have you read that Two Tribes book?

    1. if only - great read - abou the regiments that carried out the pitchfork killings

  3. HJ, it's not often I agree with you but on this occasion I do I.e there was not a campaign of ethnic cleansing by republicans upon the Protestant community. Your case above is one example(of many i would speculate) where militant republicans endeavoured not to target non known Brit security forces. No doubt however the incidents where republicans did kill civilians will be used by some to counter the above. Alas it was a dirty war and I would argue we still haven't got to the bottom of how dirty it was and likely never will. For example, the unionist community will never know how many of 'their own' were set up as cannon fodder by 'their own' for various reasons......I have heard accounts of individual republicans on hearing the news of such and such RUC men being killed by IRA attacks, saying that 'he actually wasn't the worst', 'he wouldn't have been your typical bitter peeler' etc etc. If I was a bitter RUC/UDR/unionist terror gang member I wouldn't be too happy if some of my colleagues were displaying acts of kindness and civility to republicans. Just saying.

    1. Don't go dropping your guard just yet Wolfe t! (^_^)

  4. HJ,

    With all due respect I have for you over the years on TPQ I must disagree. Whether the perpetrators were totally convinced of the legitimacy or held moral certainty with regards to their actions is not the point. My community did perceive actions taken in remote border areas against fellow Protestants as ethnic cleansing. Whether they were in uniform or not is a quibble that is not in the equation.

    How else could we possibly view Kingsmill? Or Darkley? They were travelling for work or praying in their church, fairly mundane daily activites.

    Cherry picking an 'op' were MMG divinely interviened to spare some scumbag loyalist is a little strange, given the more recent...assumption that he himself didn't always act in the interest of the Provos.

    1. Steve R says,

      "My community did perceive actions taken in remote border areas against fellow Protestants as ethnic cleansing."

      Of that perception I have no doubt and I did acknowledge as much in the lead-in to the piece.
      However, no broad acceptance of those allegations exists outside of sections of those communities. The charge of ethnic cleansing belies the wider context, the longer time-line, not to mention the hard facts.
      As others have acknowledged Darkley and Kingsmill are broadly accepted as war crimes whereas the attacks on members of the security forces are not.

      By your own words you acknowledge that ethnic cleansing is a perception. I'd go further and say its a myth, an extension of your community's outworn and outdated 'forever beleaguered by the troublesome natives' foundation narrative.

      I have written often enough about the Republican/Nationalist foundation myth but its also important to see and understand the same processes working in Unionism and acknowledge its 21st century irrelevance too Steve!

      Foundation narratives become corrupted and distorted into foundation myths in most societies; nothing unusual or unique about that. Yet its important to bear in mind their shortcomings.

      "The best mythologies are the ones that manage to explain a complicated world in a clear, compelling way. All questions have answers, and all answers are black and white. What a comfort this is, instead of having to deal with the ambiguity and nuance of real life."

      The above is taken from a recent Guardian article, 'The secret of Netanyahu’s success? A simple tale of good versus evil' by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen.

      Its an interesting piece on how we're all 'storytellers'; storytellers, all susceptible and prone to sometimes swallowing myths whole.

      Anyone interested in such themes can link to it here.

  5. Steve, over the years I have spoken to quite a few from your community, shared numerous platforms with unionists and loyalists, attended conferences with them, jointly ran a magazine with them, spoken in an Orange Hall - I have no memory of any of them mentioning ethnic cleansing despite often being visceral in their condemnation of the IRA. It was a PR term. Many in your community believe in the devil but it is a belief you would dismiss. Something I write abiut the phenomenon years ago

    1. AM,

      Were you speaking with country Prods in South Armagh, Fermanagh or Tyrone?

    2. at various points from all three - and many of them said there was a devil.

      It is intellectually impossible to sustain the ethnic cleansing narrative. As Frankie said there were war crimes.

      The only evidence you present is that somebody believes something existed.

  6. Steve,

    How else could we possibly view Kingsmill? Or Darkley?

    War crimes..Throw into the mix this thought, Colin Worton who lost a brother in the Kingsmill massacre said..

    Kingsmill did stop Catholics being killed in South Armagh but that doesn't justify it.

    You say HJ is cherry picking. So let's cherry pick some more. I could argue that the burning of Ardoyne, Falls and other places at the start of the conflict was a form of ethnic cleansing or a more recent form of ethnic cleansing when The UVF forced Catholic families out of their homes in 2017.

    Then we have Nigel Dodds (from The Detail)..Who is opposing social housing being built in North Belfast because he believes there will be too many Catholics living in them....

    Do you want to continue picking cherries Steve or would you like to move on to picking apples, oranges and pears?

    1. Frankie,

      "You say HJ is cherry picking. So let's cherry pick some more. I could argue that the burning of Ardoyne, Falls and other places at the start of the conflict was a form of ethnic cleansing or a more recent form of ethnic cleansing when The UVF forced Catholic families out of their homes in 2017. "

      That IS ethnic cleansing so I'm unsure what your point is? I'm in no way attempting justifcation.

    2. Steve,

      Apart from Kingsmill being a war crime, it made some people have a reality check. The Irish News reported that the thinking of the IRA in South Armagh just after Kingsmill was...‘ if there was retaliation for Kingsmill then they would “ethnically cleanse’ south Armagh of Protestants by burning out high-profile border unionists and forcing the rest to flee.

      Colm Murphy said that the plot was only called off when it was vetoed at army council level by the organisation's leadership in Belfast.

      The line of thought by members of the UVF/Glennane Gangwas they had ' planned to attack St Lawrence O'Toole Primary School in Belleeks hoping to kill upwards of 30 children.

      The massacre was abandoned on the orders of the UVF's Belfast leadership, who ruled it would be "morally unacceptable" and could have led to all-out civil war. ,

      How else could we possibly view Kingsmill? Or Darkley? They were travelling for work or praying in their church, fairly mundane daily activites.

      Darkley was a war crime.

      You talk how the PUL perceived the border. Tommy McKearney said in an interview that when people seen a postman delivering letters or a milk man doing his rounds, he seen a plain clothes RUC-UDR gathering intelligence..

  7. Steve,

    My community did perceive actions taken in remote border areas against fellow Protestants as ethnic cleansing. Whether they were in uniform or not is a quibble that is not in the equation.

    Forget perceptions. We both live on the same rock and grew up in the same city. I have shown you a few clear cut examples of ethnic cleansing. Show me examples of when Republicans ethnically cleansed protestants from the border?

    The maths don't add up. All anyone has to do is look at the 1981 Fermanagh and South Tyrone election that got Bobby Sands elected and the 2017 elections that got Michelle Gildernew elected and you will find out the vote counts are more or less the same. If there was a policy of Republicans ethnically cleansing then explain the maths on how the UUP 's count remained more or less unchanged? In 1981 Harry West UUP had 29,046 PUL voters. In 2017 Tom Elliot had 24,355 PUL voters. This is the reality of ethic cleansing Steve, Belfast 2019 “The west is Catholic, the east is Protestant, the south is wealthy and the north is a mess,”

    Another reality Steve is this. A piece in The Guardian by Dawn Foster mentioned the mess in North Belfast, Personally I don't believe people like Nigel Dodds wants anything like the pogroms of' '69 or any form of ethnic cleansing, I do believe the DUP policies have the same outcome (no homes for who they perceive be Catholic) While they would oppose Catholics being burnt out of their homes, they are preventing homes being built that will house Catholics.

    The Newsletter carried a piece called ' Border trails show IRA's campaign of ethnic cleansing in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The article is about a tour across Fermanagh that gives a one sided sectarian head count. Yet the vote count for both the CNR community and the PUL community in 1981 and 2017 are more or less the same. What community was cleansed? In an article about a former UDR solider with mental health issues Doug Beattie had to feed the myth about a Republican policy of ethnic cleansing.

    "These symptoms are not unusual for a former soldier, especially one who comes from the border regions of Northern Ireland and has seen first-hand the ethnic cleansing that has gone on in that region.

    That comment opened up a Ethnic cleansing in border regions.

    Show me some evidence Steve..

  8. AM/Frankie,

    I stand corrected, I am wrong. Perhaps emotion got the better of my judgement, I now understand and believe you both to be correct and that war crimes not 'ethnic cleansing' is a more accurate description.

    1. Steve - I guess we all are subject to that and it is never easy to slam the brakes and go into reverse gear so it is admirable that you did so. You set a very good example for the rest to follow: the blog should not be about ego and fear of losing face. We should feel at ease flipping our view when the evidence is not there to support it or contrary evidence comes along. We sometimes have a commenter on, Robert, who brings great clarity and reason to these matters from a unionist perspective.

    2. Steve,

      I wouldn't worry about calling things wrong on a blog, it's not a knee capping offence (yet?). I've had to hold my hands up loads of times because of perceptions I once held. This is an example. I almost got my jaw broke in an Irish bar in Pairs 1994 by a former Blanketman from the New Lodge when I used a line from the forward of The Dirty War by Dillon that Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote..”The Provisionals were nothing more than romantic nationalists.”

      I had just started working in an Irish bar. It was close to 2am on a Sunday morning and two Irish men walked in (bar was opened until 4.30am), ordered their drinks.. They were both regulars and knew I was a newbie in town and they introduced themselves The New Lodge head when he found out I was from Ardoyne, asked did I know 'this person or that family...' I said some ring a bell. I knew some of the names he mentioned were Republicans and I I gave him the Conor Cruise/ Dillon version. About Irish Republicans being romantic nationalists..He spat his Guinness out slammed his glass down, wanted to drag me across the bar. But he stormed out. His friend from South Armagh looked at me and said...”You shouldn't have said that” finished his pint and went after his friend..

      Later the same day I walked into the bar to pick up my wages and a lump of hash from the a barman who worked with me and the New Lodge head was there, He asked to talk to me, we headed to the cellar (thats where the other barman and myself would toke)..He asked me what 'the line' was all about and I told him all about this fantastic book I had just read and what O'Brien and Dillon had to say .Didn't read much then..He just laughed and said..”For someone who grew up in Ardoyne, you are clueless”. He then launched into a mini rant about Conor Cruise that would put Barry's hatred for everything Nazi to shame..While I finished my pint and smoke, he explained a few inconsistency's in Dillons words and how my perception was at least down to nativity , O'Brien's perception of events is because (paraphrasing) “He is a West Brit journalist who given the chance would vote DUP” .. He also had a few choice words about Ruth Dudley's perception of the conflict. Then as we were heading back to the bar he told me how he met the South Armagh head in the H Blocks and became good friends, stayed in touch when they got out and they linked up in Paris. I never asked much if anything what they did they did or didn't do..I remember asking the South Armagh head..”How did the IRA evade the night cameras Dillon talked about in South Armagh?” And he said along the lines..”Dillon wants people believe milk comes from cartons..and because the cameras they had weren't as sophisticated you could have walked across a field using the heat from a herd of cows if push came to shove..”

      The New Lodge head is a huge Arsenal fan and 'hated' everything about Utd. I remember 1999 everyone headed to Flann's to watch the FA cup replay. This is 1999, no internet, if you wanted to watch a match you had no choice but to go to a bar. Flann's, for a lot of reasons was one of the best bars around and everyone made their way there to link up. He was working in Flann's that night and when Giggs scored the goal that knocked Arsenal out...He hurled dogs abuse in Irish, French and English. When the ref blew his whistle .I will never forget his face... A few weeks later I watched the Juve/Utd 2nd leg when Utd came back from 0-2 with an Italian head in the leafy suburbs. I remember he let out a few words..only in Italian.

    3. AM/Frankie,

      Thanks. I guess we all are learning something new about the conflict as days stretch into decades.

  9. It is a bit rich for somebody who on the pages of TPQ publicly supported the call by the late journalist Helen Thomas for Jewish Israelis of Eastern European heritage to go back to Poland to be trading accussations of ethnic cleansing.

  10. Steve/Barry..

    Steve if I was to ask you for your perception of either Dominic McGlinchey or Dessie O'Hare..You would tell me “Frankie, O'Hare was ruthless, just ask Don Tidy and McGlinchey was involved in a sectarian murder spree” In late 2000 I was having a pint with my boss, in his bar in the 5th arr. I had just phoned through for a beer delivery for a bar in the 6th, he was reading the figures. He made a joke about Dessie O'Hare and fish fingers and it went over my head. He explained the joke then went on to tell me “Frankie, Dominic McGlinchey and Dessie O'Hare were my 'drinking buddies' at one time” and said O'Hare was as ruthless and more at times than most people perceive and how he got 7 yrs for INLA membership /robbery charge in a 26 county jail (cant remember the name of the jail) in the early 80's. He said the perception people have about McGlinchey is wrong. The Dominic McGlinchey he knew, who's daughter would sit on his knee was an Irish Republican but he wasn't a one man sectarian hit squad that newspapers made him (or Dessie) out to be.


    Why do your posts more often than not come across 'angry' .Who is trading accusation's? All that happened was a few things got lost in translation on a blog, no biggie.

    Chill out Barry and leave the Jews alone for some comedy video one , video two or video three and relax....

    1. Frankie,

      there's another account that comes to mind, which I heard from a very reliable source, about Dominic; as a young volunteer himself and a comrade entered a RUC man's home with the intention of killing the cop. The policeman on hearing their entry barricaded himself into the bathroom and stripped out of his uniform ... on breaking in the door and finding him now 'out of uniform' (in uniform was a necessary requirement at that point in time) he had to abort the operation.

      (On a matter of clarity; you're mixing up the Don Tidy kidnapping with that of Dentist John O'Grady. O'Hare is alleged to have severed the little fingers of each of O'Grady's hands with a hammer and chisel.)

    2. Hj/

      Henry it was O'Grady. My mistake. My old boss (Wexford head) would have put Del Boy and Arfur Daley to shame in the wheelin' and dealin' department. He had the French jumping through hoops, last I heard he went back to the island around 2003/04.. The New Lodge head got framed/set up on a false charge of having a pistol in suspicious circumstances and spent a bit of time in a French prison. Around 2001 I bumped into the the South Armagh head on Rue de Rivoli he told me he was in Normandy because the postcard in Paris was gone. Malaga Murphy and myself, we were still having a good time and hoped the French would come to their senses..How wrong we were.

      I can easily believe there was lot's of op's called off at the 11 hour for the reason you gave HJ ( going against Green Book rules, too many innocent people will get caught up, wrong intell). I will never buy into the line Republicans during the conflict were (or modern day PFR ) simply sectarian thugs out to line their own pockets. The maths don't show that. I have to throw into the mix any of the former PIRA or INLA vols I have met on my travels never once showed any sign of sectarianism or violence towards anyone. To me they were ordinary young men caught up in very unordinary time in the history of this place. To me, they are good men who I had laugh with, had pints with..some I worked with.

      Same as I can't buy into the perception all Loyalist's were or are sectarian bigots. As I have shown, the UVF called of an 'op' that would have caused the slaughter of school children.

      For just over the best part of the last 2½ yrs I was crashing in a homeless hostel on the Sandy Row (July 2016 until recently). The member of staff who signed me in, showed me to room 303, became my key worker. He is a Loyalist, a big Liverpool fan whose views on the team aren't much different to Anthony's, personal friends with Jackie McDonald, his wife is the PA/secretary for Christopher Stalford. He is also an avid reader of Irish history and Belfast history. And sometimes he also acts as a community representative who can help sort out local issues from paper work to easing tensions in local disputes that may lead to someone getting hurt. I have total respect for the fella, he can't stand sectarianism, never showed any bigotry towards me, it was the opposite.. He went out of his way to make sure I was ok, backed me in disputes to the hilt.

      Every other Tuesday someone from NIHE would arrive in the Hostel to help with housing , points etc.. It got to the stage were I was going around in circles and told the NIHE to “fcuk off and stop reading from a script” That caused a huge row and my key worker pulled me to one side and said, “you aren't doing yourself any favours, let me have a look at the problem.”.. I refused to speak to the NIHE and he fought my corner and forced the NIHE to admit they fcuked up. And today I believe through personal experience that the NIHE are a very big part of the problem why parts of Belfast, Derry, the high ways and by ways of the border, the glens are still 'ethically cleansed' today. Their housing policy is 'up the left.'

      Same as some of the people who also work in the Hostel and live on the Sandy Row, they treated me with respect. One staff member would go to Benidorm now and then and when she came back she would always give me a few pouches of baccy free, now and then would smuggle in my Jack Daniels.

    3. Barry..

      The McDonald piece talks about how the perception of ethnic cleansing is just that a perception. “and relatives believe, rightly or wrongly, that they were targeted so that they could be driven off the land in the spirit of the Defenders rather than Tone

      The other day when you mention about how I would feel being called a Fenian Bastard.. The woman who smuggled my Jack D. for me etc, we would wind each other up. She would call me all sort's in jest and would we both laugh when I reminded her that her fav. son in law is a Fenian Bastard. There was head reading The Irish News in the Hostel on day, I gave him the Marty Flynn line “Is that the Vatican Times” He got up and called me “an Orange Cunt”..When he found out I am from Ardoyne, that I knew a few Rockabilly's who lived in Divis Flat's (he is a Divis head), he asked me about 'The Vatican Times' remark..I told to try and think out side of the box and laugh, less stress.Try it sometime Barry, to think outside the box and laugh...Read this article about peoples perceptions and one persons reality.. Gerry Anderson:: Gary Glitter was a great guy

      Some music to finish, 65 years ago today Barry, this iconic song was recorded, that helped change popular music forever..

    4. Frankie,

      didn't realise you'd been through such challenging times of late. Heartened though to hear there were kind & decent people who had your back.

      (Some of those experiences might make for an interesting article?)

    5. Frankie - things have been a bit fucked up for you lately. That is not good to hear. Hope it picks up. The vignettes are brilliantly told and insightful. They make for good stories in their own right.

    6. Frankie

      Enjoyed Bill Bragg's docu on the origins of skiffle on BBC4 last night.

    7. Hj/Anthony,

      How I ended up back on the island and ended up living on the Sandy Row isn't complicated. It was July 2016 and I was sitting in a McD's in Birmingham having a coffee (close to 11am). I don't take my laptop out, unless there is a good reason like going to a friends to stream a match and theirs is down. For what ever reason I had it with me and I took a 2p piece from my pocket and said to myself "if this comes up heads, I am going back to the island". It came up heads. While I finished my coffee, I done a very quick google search and figured out Brum-Lon-leafy suburbs' is much of a muchness to 'Belfast-Dub-lefty suburbs.' When I got back to my flat I started pack a few bags etc and put a plan together that ended up going like this, coach to Liverpool, slept on the boat and the following morning I was having another coffee in a McD's only this time it was just after 8am in Belfast. Cost me just over £20. Fcuk O'Leary and Ryan Scares excess luggage charges. That Friday morning just after 10.30am, I was handed the key to room 303 by a head who became my key worker. The following night (Sunday morning), I was in room 206 with a few good men, having a few beers, smoking someones weed, streaming Carl Frampton beat Santa Cruz on his 55 inch TV..

      Challenging maybe, fcuked up deffo. In a lot of ways I am better off for the experience. My perception of the Sandy Row up until then was out bounds for Catholic's. I found out I was wrong. Once I started to look beyond the flags, bunting and UFF murals, I started to see working class people getting screwed my the same system that is screwing their catholic neighbours on the opposite side of the Boyne Bridge.

      There is a community center on the corner of the Sandy Row and Blythe Street called Friendship House. The place is owned by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and hats off to the all the staff. No matter what the weather or what was going on within their private lives every Monday morning at 9.30am (outside of school hols) they would make bacon, eggs and beans for hobo's from the hostel. When I started going there was probably about ten heads but for one reason or another people stopped going until it got to the stage I was the last man standing and they stopped the fry's (put on hold). They ended up throwing toast, pots of coffee and beans out. For a while I was getting extra bacon, I was up. We had strange convos over Monday's fry from flat earth, guessing how long a new resident would last before they got evicted to try figure out why so many young people are dropping like flies and system pay lip service to the problem. Every few weeks someone connected to the place, was found dead.William the minster for that part of the world is a cool customer and never once gave it the habdullahs, Just before St Patricks day he told me he was having a St Patricks night in the hostel, complete with stew and he was giving a talk about about who he (Paddy) really was. William is big into Irish history especially the King Billy-Tone period. If religion ever cropped up in any of our convos they were never sectarian or political. He would arrive just after 10am most Monday's. As a rule I would be there close 9.30am Monday's. William would say “hello” to whoever was there, look at me and say “no flat earth talk, it's Monday and doing Gods work is stressful enough”.. We would have a coffee and just chat about everything and nothing. Somewhere around 11-11.30am William would go back out and continue doing Gods work, I'd leave at the same time, we would always shake hands. He would give me the Dave Allen about my god going with me and I would leave him with a thought for today from TPQ.

      One thing shocked me was seeing a young black kid 14/15 yrs old marching in full uniform down the Donegal Road to a flute band practice A few months later I found out he died from a suspected over dose in a park 5 mins walk from where he lived in the Village.

  11. Henry McDonald has written in Gunsmoke and Mirrors: How the Provos turned Defeat into Victory (I think) that that the Head of PIRA Northern Command on taking over in 1978 (Martin McGuiness most likely) directed that PIRA intensify the killings of part-time UDR and RUC reservists in border areas in Fermanagh and West Tyrone in order to prevent any power-sharing accommodation between the SDLP and Ulster Unionists. By no means all of the victims were serving security force members e.g. Ronnie Funston gunned down near Pettigo in March 1984 has left the UDR eight years previous and relatives believe, rightly or wrongly, that they were targetted so that they could be driven off the land in the spirit of the Defenders rather than Tone. Yes, there was no Bosnia style ethnic cleansing campaigns during the Troubles; rather locally imposed violent redrawing of communal boundaries as in North-West Belfast for example. My views is that victims' groups should be listened to be they Ballymurphy, Bloody Sunday, SEFF, Omagh, Dublin/Monaghan, Birmingham etc.

    1. Barry - I am sure local animosities came into some of it but that was a particular rather than a general. Victims groups are listened to but they can only give a perspective based on their experience and lack the power or authority to veto a solution.

  12. Barry,

    A few day's ago you mentioned you watched a BBC Four documentary on the British skiffle craze..I haven't watched it yet, I will, although I doubt I will learn anything new, I have been a Rockabilly and listening to Skiffle since I have been 6/7 yrs old (when first heard Hank Williams). If you liked what you heard, check out The Belfast Skiffle Sessions.

    Anyhow, what the BBC (stand to be corrected<—haven't seen it yet), wont tell you is while they explained how Lonnie would listen to Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, trad Jazz etc and in between Lonnie's chewing gum it losing it's flavour in the Cumberland Gap..He also cut a few Irish Rebels songs...He done great versions of both Kevin Barry and The Dying Rebel

    Some more rock'nroll triva Barry, Odetta (US civl rights activist, singer and song writer) whose version of Bob Dylan's 'Tomorrow is such a long time' was the version Presley heard first and loved, Presley's version is very similar to Odetta's (have to fact check but memory tells me Dylan had yet to release his version). Any how Odetta cut a fantastic version of The Foggy Dew …...

  13. Frankie, every day is a school day with you and I mean that as a compliment.

  14. Wolfe tone, there are better teachers than me on this blog. I got educated by accident. One Thursday evening in the leafy suburbs in 2006 I discovered a blanket that kept me warm. I would go and print reams of paper re-educating myself, I would read Anthony's thoughts, Tommy McKearney, Tommy Goram...Brendan Hughes, Billy Michell and I found out I was as clueless as the New Lodge head said I was....I am still on a very steep learning curve....

    As for the music...I am simply an Ardoyne Rockabilly.