Dr John Coulter ✒ Whatever the UK can do, we can do better! Maybe that’s the reaction of certain EU member states with vibrant Eurosceptic lobby groups when they hear the British Government throwing down the gauntlet to Brussels over the fate of the Northern Ireland Protocol. TPQ Monday contentious political commentator believes the so-called ‘Truss Triumph’ could signal the start of the break-up of the European Union.

Why do I get the feeling that British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s ‘hardball’ speech in the Commons basically ‘dishing’ the Northern Ireland Protocol is really her pitch to eventually become leader of the Tory Party?

As I suspected, the crisis in the Ukraine forced the European Union to take its eye politically off the Protocol ball - and that’s when the UK Government decided to strike!

Then again, in spite of the DUP also playing ‘hardball’ using the Northern Ireland Assembly and its power-sharing Executive, we still need to pose that awkward question, who is using whom in this game of Protocol brinkmanship?

Basically, the EU is the one player in this high stakes political poker game who has blinked first. The EU has underestimated the degree to which the Conservative Government would use Northern Ireland as a battering ram against the EU.

Effectively, in talking about legislation to reduce the impact of the Protocol, the Tory administration is sending a coded message to other EU member states which have a significant eurosceptic lobby, ‘you too can take on the might of Brussels - and win!’

While the DUP and other anti-Protocol Unionists have sold the idea that to let the Protocol function in its present state will result in the eventual break-up of the UK, in reality either scrapping the Protocol or politically castrating it to the degree it becomes a meaningless piece of paper effectively signals the potential break-up of the EU itself.

Put bluntly, who will be next to hold a referendum on EU membership, or even dump the euro as their preferred currency and return to their own individual currency? Why? ‘Well, if the British can take on the Protocol and win, why can’t we?’ That’s the growing eurosceptic sentiment quietly being whispered not just in the corridors of power in Brussels, but also in the corridors of parliament in Poland and Hungary - and maybe even in the corridors and tea rooms of Dublin’s Leinster House.

‘Don’t be daft’, the europhiles in Dublin will yell, ‘there’s no way the Irish Republic will either dump the euro and see the return of the historic punt as currency or even contemplate leaving the EU given all the millions we get from Brussels!’

But when David Cameron as Tory PM decided to hold his historic referendum on EU membership in 2016, the Remainers never contemplated the UK as a whole would vote ‘Leave’.

The Dublin administration comprising the historic pact between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to keep Sinn Fein out of a coalition government needs the Protocol to work in Northern Ireland.

If opinion polls are correct, Sinn Fein is on course at the next Dail General Election either to have an overall majority in the Dail, or at the very least, have enough TDs to become the major partner in a coalition government. There simply may not be enough non-Sinn Fein TDs to keep the republican movement’s mouthpiece out of power in Leinster House.

That’s why the establishment parties need the Protocol to show the Southern Irish voters they can deliver Irish Unity via the back door before Sinn Fein tries it.

Even if the Protocol is reduced to a meaningless piece of legislation, what magic rabbit can the Southern establishment parties pull out of the electoral hat at the next Dail poll to halt the Sinn Fein electoral roller coaster in its tracks?

Likewise, Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland needs the Protocol, not just as a back door to Irish Unity, but also to prove to those same Southern voters that it is capable of running a government - and what better way to do this than to run the Northern Ireland Assembly with Sinn Fein First Minister Michelle O’Neill in post?

What we are effectively witnessing in Northern Ireland is the Assembly’s version of the 2006 James Bond blockbuster movie, Casino Royale, and the famous high stakes poker game sequence. The question is, who will be the James Bond winner, and who will be the Le Chiffre loser?

For the DUP, at what point does it trust the Tory administration that enough has been done to politically neuter the Protocol so that it will nominate a Speaker for the Assembly and nominate a deputy First Minister to serve alongside Michelle O’Neill?

For the Tory Government, how long does it allow the DUP to play hardball with the Assembly before it decides ‘enough is enough’ and decides to scrap the Assembly in the same way that another Tory PM, Ted Heath, got rid of the original Stormont Parliament in 1972 and introduced Direct Rule from Westminster?

If the Assembly is finished in the long-term, and Direct Rule imposed, could the DUP campaign for the Northern Ireland Office to be staffed by Northern Ireland-elected Westminster MPs instead of having MPs parachuted in from constituencies in Great Britain.

This could suit both the DUP and SDLP whose MPs take their seats in the House of Commons, while Sinn Fein - in spite of having MPs who would be capable and competent of holding ministerial office in the NIO - still adheres to its outdated policy of abstentionism at Westminster since the party was founded in 1905.

Just as Sinn Fein changed its abstentionist policy to allow its elected representatives to take their seats in Stormont and the Dail, could we see another historic U-turn whereby Sinn Fein MPs take their Commons seats to allow them to hold ministerial office in a Direct Rule NIO?

However, this DUP hardball tactic would be on the assumption that if the Assembly fully collapsed, that it would be Direct Rule from Westminster and not some form of Joint Authority between London and Dublin which would replace Stormont.

In such a scenario, would Parliament Buildings become the home of the new Stormont Secretariat, similar in operation - but with much greater legislative powers - to the Belfast Maryfield Secretariat which was established under the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement giving Southern Ireland its first real say in the running of Northern Ireland since partition in the 1920s.

Just as we witnessed Michelle O’Neill leading her Sinn Fein MLAs into Stormont as the largest Assembly party, could we see Sinn Fein TDs led by Taoiseach Mary Lou McDonald walking up those same Stormont steps to implement joint authority in Northern Ireland?

The answer to these questions is simple - who blinks first politically?

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

EU’s Protocol Thrust To Stop Further ‘Exits’!


A Morning Thought @ 1436

Anthony McIntyre  ⚽ It might be the title of a Baltimore located blockbuster box set but this afternoon's decisive final games of the English Premier League went right to the wire.

TPQ's Tuesday columnist, Peter Anderson, is an avid Manchester City, fan so congratulations to him on his team securing yet another Premiership title. It must have been nerve-racking, It would have been harsh for arguably the best side in English soccer to return to a trophy-free zone.

For me, it was very much a tense affair - Liverpool at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, it should haver been a stroll in the park. If the Reds won and City were held to a draw or beaten, the EPL title was destined for Anfield. Yet keeping the Wolves away from the door for most of the game proved a strenuous challenge. The men from Wolverhampton were ahead with just two minutes gone and could easily have doubled their lead had their striker been more composed a little later with the goal at his mercy.

Tip to to tail in Liverpool attire I downed a half bottle of Powers in ninety minutes, so expletives competed with excitement on hearing that Aston Villa had gone into a 2-0 lead at Manchester City. My son asked are you blocked? Something of a brass neck given the state in which he rolled home last night. Was Steven Gerard about to regain his footing after the slip against Chelsea back in 2014 which many felt lost the Brendan Rodgers coached side the championship? I don't blame Gerrard for that - it happens, the footing goes. On the day Liverpool were unable to break down a Jose Mourinho blue bus parked in front of the 18 yard line.

Two years earlier Manchester City had snatched the title in the final minute of the final game, beating QPR 3-2. It was the stuff of real champions. Writing after the victory I quoted a fighting great: ‘a champion is someone who gets up when he can't.’ City are worthy champions, today again getting off the canvas to deliver the knock out blow and claim the title. It was a remarkable performance and they deserve their victory. Over the course of the season they were marginally the best team. But small margins count in soccer as Liverpool know only too well, having lost the most important league title in their history when they squandered a head start to Arsenal in 1989 on the final day of the season.

Today, Liverpool did not play well but still secured the points. It would not have mattered had they won 50-0. Once City secured a victory it was season over.

Liverpool might rue their failure to overcome Spurs in their recent home game, but there is no point in crying over spilt milk – had they won City might just have upped their game to beat West Ham instead of being held to a draw. Then the Etihad side were 2-0 down but we know what they are capable of as was demonstrated today, coming back against the Hammers only to miss a penalty which would have secured all three points, effectively making today's business superfluous. It was just pleasing that Liverpool did what they had to do. After that all hopes were placed on Villa holding City to a draw. It didn't happen and some consolation is to be derived from Liverpool not having blown it as they did in 2019 when seven points clear at Christmas. In January this year they were 14 points adrift off the lead yet still pushed City to the wire.

A worrying thought - does this Liverpool side have the mettle to beat Real Madrid in Paris next Saturday?  I don't think it does. Its two trophies this season have been marginal victories, won on penalties. It is doubtful Madrid will let them get that far. 

Still as Studs Terkel titled one of his books, Hope Dies Last . . . even for an irredeemable  pessimist like me. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

The Wire

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Two Hundred And Eighteen

Humanists International ✒ The Humanists Malta, a Member of Humanists International, was founded on 7 April 2010.

Christian Colombo is the Chairperson of the Humanists Malta.

It champions secularism and reason-based morality in Malta, including being a strong voice during the Divorce referendum campaign, fighting for LGBTI+ rights, and providing Humanist Ceremony services, amongst many other contributions.

With the number of organizations operating under the umbrella term of Humanism growing worldwide within the context of very diverse national realities, it might not be easy to pin down the common thread across them all. This short article (the longer version of which appeared in SHARE 17 magazine by Philosophy Sharing Malta) attempts to do just this.

At the heart of Humanism is a reason-based stance which maintains that as human beings we alone are in charge of ourselves. Humanism is a worldview which by definition encourages the person to take responsibility for their own life, for creating their own meaningful lives, and for taking ethical decisions based on reason and compassion. Of course, it’s not as simple as that in practice; you’re rarely free to take moral decisions without considerable constraints, competing priorities, consideration for the rights and freedoms of others, and uncertainty about the results of your decisions.

Continue reading @ Humanists International.

Humanism ✑ A Worldview Committed To Self-Reflection And Maturity

National Secular Society has warned the government that education about religion and belief should be reformed, rather than enforced, amid calls to compel schools to teach religious education.

Religious education bodies are calling on the government to compel schools in England to teach RE amid concerns support for the subject is waning.

An analysis by the RE Policy Unit found 34% of academies do not include RE on the school timetable. It also found 500 secondary schools are teaching zero hours of dedicated RE in Year 11.

The organisations are calling for school inspectorate Ofsted to work with schools not currently teaching "sufficient" RE to "ensure they comply with the law".

RE is a statutory part of the basic curriculum and all state schools must provide RE lessons.

RE popularity falls

The RE Policy Unit, which is made up of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education and RE Today Services, has called for RE to receive greater funding in recognition of "parent and pupil support" for the subject.

But its own analysis found entries for the full course RE GCSE fell by almost 20% between 2016 and 2021.

Continue reading @ National Secular Society.

Prioritise RE Reform Not Enforcement, NSS Tells Government

Right Wing Watch ✒ Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano won Tuesday’s Republican primary election for governor. 

 Peter Montgomery

Mastriano, who built a statewide campaign with the support of Christian nationalists, Big Lie supporters, and QAnon conspiracy theorists, had the backing of Trump world activists like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and won a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump days before the election.

Mastriano was one of the most energetic proponents of Trump’s false stolen-election claims in Pennsylvania. A few weeks after the 2020 election, he hosted a hearing at which Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis appeared—and which Trump called into by phone to spout his baseless claims about a stolen election. Mastriano ended the hearing with a call to arms, saying, “The time for dithering and deliberation is over. It’s time for decisive action.” Mastriano pushed for Arizona-style “audits” in several counties.

Mastriano also took part in prayer calls organized by religious-right activists to try to keep Trump in power. On one call, he denounced “weak and feckless” officials in Pennsylvania and prayed that “we’ll seize the power that we had given to us by the Constitution and as well by you providentially.”

Continue Reading @ Right Wing Watch.

Big Lie and Christian Nationalism Promoter Doug Mastriano Wins GOP Primary for Pennsylvania Governor


A Morning Thought @ 1435

Brandon Sullivan ✒ In the literature available covering the Troubles, the area of sectarian murder of Protestants by Catholics has not received much in-depth attention. 

There will be a number of reasons for this, among them the reticence of republican leaders to acknowledge, let alone rationalise, sectarian murderers within their ranks.

Incidents such as Darkley and, most notoriously, Kingsmill demonstrate Catholics deliberately murdering Protestant civilians. But away from these headline grabbing incidents were scores of murders with one or two victims which, if community of perpetrator and victim were swapped, would have appeared as standard loyalist murder gang modus operandi.

I plan to look at a few of these in depth. Simply, incidents I have managed to gather together some information about that is not included in the most widely read accounts of the troubles.

South Belfast

The murder of Gerard David Turkington – 9th July, 1972

Gerald David Turkington was one of 11 people to die on the 9th July 1972. He was abducted along with another man, named in the Belfast Telegraph as Witness A in Madrid Street and brought to the Markets area of Belfast, where they were both beaten over a period of at least three hours. Witness A also had a tumbler shoved in his face. The brutal treatment meted out to these men was no different to that endured by many nationalist victims of loyalist killers. The Turkington killing stands out for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Witness A survived and gave compelling testimony to his ordeal. But it had other effects.

Turkington was a member of the UDAs “G Company” in East Belfast, and had been on “barricade duty” in East Belfast that night. A former IRA source told me that despite his membership of a loyalist organisation, Turkington’s killing led to anger within the IRA’s Belfast Brigade, which sent a high-ranking member to visit the units involved, warning them that they would be stood down if they killed any more Protestants.

In 1988, a man named Peter Anthony Burns was charged with Turkington’s murder, the attempted murder of Witness A, and a number of other IRA offences. Burns had been living in Burnley, found God, suffered psychiatric issues, and gave himself up, saying to detectives “I shot the Prod, a UDA man.” At Burns’ trial, Witness A was called, and gave testimony as he had done during the 1973 inquest. Burns was found guilty, but the conviction was overruled in 1991 on the grounds that he had been suffering from schizophrenia when interviewed.

1974, a 24 year old man named Peter Anthony Burns was sentenced to three years for arson. He, with others, in January 1972 had burned down a primary school, for what were noted might have been “sectarian reasons.” His rationale in court was that he had “had a row” with his wife. He was arrested in London and brought back to Belfast to stand trial for this action. I could not independently verify if it was the same man charged in relation to the Turkington murder.

Capturing the UDA - 1974

Another East Belfast man, Robert Ronald Trimble, was abducted by IRA members in January 1974. Trimble had entered a pub in a nationalist area and aroused the suspicions of IRA men inside it. The IRA men interrogated Trimble, who named Sammy Tweed as an active UDA man. The IRA sought permission from the IRA leadership in Belfast to kill their captive, but this was denied to them. They tried to kill him anyway, but missed. Trimble, like Witness A two years earlier, had a lucky escape.

Trimble’s naming of Tweed is interesting. Three months later, Tweed escaped from a courtroom where he was answering arms charges. He evaded capture for more than 40 years, but was finally brought before a court in 2012. He was also interviewed, in 2015, as a suspect in the 1972 torture and murder of Patrick Benstead. The Irish News reported that Tweed was a member of a gang which included Albert “Ginger” Baker and Ned McCreery, and which tortured and murdered a number of politically uninvolved Catholics in the early 1970s. The unfortunate Mr Benstead had been tortured with a red hot poker, with the number 4 branded on his back. The Irish News posited that this was a reference to the murder being committed by the “G4” unit of the UDA’s East Belfast bridge. I am unaware about whether this is true. Martin Dillon suggested that the “4” referred to Mr Benstead being the gang’s fourth victim.

A number of DUP politicians, including Peter Robinson, wrote letters in support of leniency for Mr Tweed when he was finally brought to justice for the arms possession trail he escaped from.

North Belfast

The Third Battalion’s sectarian murderers: Killers from Ardoyne.

In 1979, Ardoyne man Brendan Patrick McClenaghan was convicted of four murders, including that of Nicholas “Nick the Brit” White, a former British soldier and community activist who lived in Ardoyne, and the hapless UDA leader Sammy Smyth who opined to a room containing IRA activists that any member of the Catholic community was a legitimate target for murder. Another victim of McClenaghan was a former member of the Parachute Regiment, John Lee, who settled in Mountainview Gardens in Belfast. The 35 year old was shot dead in after leaving the Crumlin Star Social Club, in 1977.

McClenaghan was found not guilty of the murder of James Carberry, a 20 year old Protestant, who worked at the Rumford Street Loyalist Club. According to Lost Lives, on 12th July 1975, Carberry was abducted off a street and taken to the Saunders Club, in Ardoyne. McClenaghan admitted bringing Carberry to a house in Ardoyne, tying him up, and leaving him there. Either at the Saunders Club, or the house in Ardoyne, or both, Carberry was “subjected to violence” and was bound hand and foot with carpet wire, gagged, and blindfolded, before being shot twice in the head near what is now Belfast International Airport, his body being left covered with a “bullet riddled and bloodstained sportscoat.” The drive from Ardoyne to where Carberry was murdered would have taken at least 20 minutes, and it is unclear how long the ordeal he endured prior to his death lasted. A man charged with crimes related to this murder said “He was shouting something when he was on the ground. It sounded like, ‘help me.’”

Again, the brutal nature of Carberry’s demise is similar to that experienced by many nationalist victims of loyalist killers except that, arguably, loyalist murders of this type have been covered more extensively in histories of the troubles. Carberry was a member of the West Belfast UDA, where he is remembered as Jimmy Carberry.

Charged alongside McClenaghan were two other men from Ardoyne: John Joseph Todd, and Norman Patrick Basil Hardy. Along with Brendan McClanaghan, they were all members of the IRA’s Third Battalion. Norman Hardy was acquitted of the Carberry murder but, with Todd and another man named Michael Donnelly, was convicted of a heinous double sectarian murder.

Turkington and Carberry were members of the UDA. That is not to say that either were involved in sectarian actions – there is no evidence for this, though through Carberry’s employment at the Rumford Street Loyalist Club it is likely he will have known many leading loyalist paramilitaries.

In The Times newspaper, 11th November 1974, Robert Fisk wrote that there seemed to be a rise in Catholic gunmen bent on killing Protestants out of revenge. 12 days later, and following an attack on the People’s Garage in which a 20 year old Catholic woman, Geraldine Macklin was murdered, Catholic gunmen made Fisk’s words a grim reality.

The murders of Heather Thompson and George Thomas Mclean were sheer unadulterated sectarian murder. Three Ardoyne Provos went to Edenderry filling station on the Crumlin Road with murder on their minds, and shot dead the 24 year old garage manager, Mr McLean, and garage assistant Ms Thompson.

At trial, according to the Belfast Telegraph, "Hardy said that as a result of murders of Catholics he decided to carry out a retaliation and he approached two friends and told them his intentions." The report also stated that Hardy claimed the murders “had not been done on behalf of a political organisation and were not politically motivated.” Whatever the truth of this statement, it did not stop the men serving their time on the IRA blocks and wings in prison.

Heather Thompson, like John Lee, lived on Mountainview Gardens. A two minute walk away, lived James Carberry on Moutainview Parade. The Ardoyne Provos killed three people from this tiny adjacent pair of streets from 1974 to 1977. A report from December 1976 claimed that Mountainview remained a mixed area, but that people lived in fear.

Brendan McClenaghan was the subject of a “comm” sent out HMP Maze detailing a serious beating he received at the hands of prison warders. He later joined Republican Sinn Fein, and, when asked in 1999 about the possibility of Irish republican bombs going off in England said "Nothing has changed much to suggest to me that it isn't a possibility that something like that could happen again."

Norman Hardy, also known as Basil Hardy, returned to Ardoyne, where his presence was used as an excuse for the Holy Cross attacks on Catholic schoolgirls. Hardy has also been involved in community work, part of which involved cooperating, to an extent, with the PSNI about a savage attack on a member of his local community.

The Provisionals in Ardoyne seemed to be particularly active in sectarian murder in the 1970s. Other killings committed by their members will be covered in the second part, which I am working on now.

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

The Sectarian Murder Of Protestants By Catholics – Part Ⅰ

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Two Hundred And Seventeen

Steven Are 😈 Due to the sheer incompetence, indifference and lack of foresight displayed by the PUL parties in ‘Norn Iron’ I reluctantly accept absolutely no-one’s recommendation for the role of Benevolent Dictator.

First order of affairs…

1. All the so called “Peace Walls” are to be removed and the residents of both sides are just going to have to get used to it. If you don’t get used to it I will dump 10 thousand Ukrainian refugees in the area because there’s nothing quite like solving a problem by creating another, far larger one in it’s place.

2. Irish Language Act. Irish will be taught in All primary schools as a class. It will be entirely optional in Secondary education. Some kids will have an aptitude for it and some won’t. This will stop the nonsense of making language a political weapon and allowing the kids to pursue it if they choose will stop it being shoved down their throats.

3. Education up to and including University will be free. No bollocks “Gender Studies” or other woke nonsense will be considered a worthy subject and not allowed to be taught.

4. Healthcare will be properly funded via taxation of corporate profits. Businesses don’t like it? Others will take your place. Pay your fair share, arse wipes!

5. Protocol? Shove it up your yer hole. Let Norn Iron take advantage of it’s unique spot by being a strategic staging post between the EU and the rest of the UK. There’s jobs to be created here, and taxation for the rest of my diktats!

66 Historical justice? Amnesty across the board. Let’s see who knew what and when. There will be no prosecutions and I know both sides will feel hard done by but Both Sides Will Feel Hard Done By. Suck it up and get over it. Looking backwards means you walk into things.

7. Parades? Not on the bloody streets you don’t. I’m sick of the mess you lot leave behind whether it’s the 12th or St Patrick's Day. If you act like children you’ll be treated like children. Consequently I’m shifting parades to a suitable area in the country side where you can bang your drums all you like. None Of You Get To Leave Before You Clean Up After Yourselves.

8. All Churches and faith based groups to have tax free status immediately removed. Howl all you want, you lot have created enough shit in the six counties for long enough.

9. Any day over 25oC is a public holiday. But for crying out loud keep your clothes on. Nobody wants to see a sea of fat verandas on the way to get cheap booze and an inflatable pool at Lidl’s. Anybody caught wearing a teeshirt hanging out of their shorts will be kneecapped.

10. On Mother’s Day all the Mums get one thousand pounds. I may be a Dictator but even I’m scared of the Mums and there telepathic abilities to know us inside out!

That is All 

General Mayhem.

Steven Are is a Belfast quiller now living in Australia.

Benevolent Dictator


A Morning Thought @ 1434