Culture wars

Pic by Charlie McMenamin

‘Over 1,000 attended a Uniting Ireland conference in Derry’ will read the Sinn Fein press release after yesterday’s event in the Millennium Forum.

The conference (coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday), comes just days after the Sinn Fein led lobby for bringing the 2013 All Ireland Fleadh to Derry successfully won over the Comhaltas organisers (after much wrangling). The internal unease within the north/south split in Comhaltas in Derry and the reversal of the Ulster council’s initial decision, has somewhat tarnished the campaign to bring the Irish music festival into the six counties for the first time.

The stuttered process has provided oxygen for those unhappy with the UK City of Culture title and those opposed to Sinn Fein and the entire political process, including the Real IRA, who are most likely behind the bomb attacks on the City of Culture office (which brought plenty of negative coverage) and Derry City Council’s tourist HQ just last week.

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Fear and loathing once more

It’s difficult to put into words the anger and distress that is emanating from Omagh and the surrounding areas this week.

On Wednesday evening I attended a significant victims conference held in the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh that featured Terry Waite, Richard Moore and Baroness May Blood. It was organised by the Omagh Support & Self Help Group (OSSHG), founded in the wake of the Omagh bomb and which has within its membership, 170 victims of the August ’98 atrocity.

Among them is Michael Gallagher, father of Aidan Gallagher, one of the 29 victims. As he took me around the exhibition entitled ‘Remembering the past – Looking to the future ‘, he pointed to the 43 banners on display. Each one carrying the story of 43 people from the last 43 years of our history. I began to read a few.

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On the ‘death’ of the newspaper

The latest Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) six month figures have predictably enough shown almost all daily and weekly newspapers across Ireland and the UK taking a further tumble in sales.

The regional northern Irish dailies; the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News and the Newsletter have all been sliding to some degree as Alan in Belfast’s fine graphics illustrate over on Slugger.

The Belfast Telegraph’s 11 .7% decline over the last six months is clearly the most pronounced, dropping 8,862 copies, somewhere in the region of 340 per week. The Irish News, while still recording a 3.2% decline, registered a less dramatic gradient, albeit still a declining one.

One of the key differences between the rival dailies has been the on-line news strategy. While the Irish News exclusively operates a pay-wall system, the Belfast Telegraph have set the standard for free online news content in Northern Ireland. Read more of this post

They’re not going anywhere you know?

Brian Arthur’s recent Sunday Tribune interview with Suzanne Breen (October 24) has raised some eyebrows among those who aren’t in tune with on-goings in East Tyrone.

Breen claims the split among Republicans in East Tyrone was “previously unreported”, which isn’t strictly true. The following account appeared on Indymedia a year and a half ago, which I blogged about during the build up to this year’s Easter commemorations. The Provisional’s apparent loss of much of its East Tyrone grass-roots support won’t be news either to the 1,000-3,000 (depending on who you listen to) who turned up in Galbally for the Martin McCaughey/Dessie Grew commemoration last month, where Brian Arthur’s and Peter McCaughey made similar comments to those repeated to Breen in the Tribune. (McCaughey and Grew were shot dead by undercover British soldiers in 1990.)

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The A5: ‘Mo money, mo problems’

The most significant factor regarding the fate of the A5 dual carriageway between Aughnacloy and Derry, is not the arguments eschewed by either of the respective pro and anti lobbies, but rather where the Department of Regional Development (DRD) is going to find the funds to pay for their share of the project, which latest estimates put at a massive £500m.

“Isn’t the Irish Government paying for it?” I hear you rhetorically ask. Well yes, Dublin did promise £400m toward the project, however that money is also destined for work on the A8 Belfast to Larne carriageway. Rough estimates from Wesley Johnston’s online labour of love devoted to road projects, puts the split between the respective projects at 85/15 (based on the roads costing the same per kilometre). Rough yes, but a £340m is still a reasonable, if not modest estimate of the A5’s share.

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The DPP and me

Tonight was my first experience of covering a local District Policing Partnership (DPP) meeting as a journalist.

Driving through the wind and rain over the atrocious Fintona to Trillick road in absolute darkness, at times more akin to tarred sand dunes, I eventually found the venue in Trillick for October’s monthly meeting of the Omagh DPP. (No thanks to directions to completely different venue from a colleague who actually lives in the village).

I had my homework done before hand, arriving having already digested the six month DPP report, which is normally handed out on arrival at the meeting. But a diligent reporter I work with managed to procure a copy earlier, which definitely helped.

I know already from experience of covering health trust, education and library board meetings etc, that it is always better going into a meeting knowing what you are looking for story-wise, rather than arriving cold with a wait-and-see approach. Although, the content of DPP meetings is infinitely easier to digest compared with jargon fuelled health trust/ELB board meetings. That is no doubt down to the fact that the whole ethos between the DPP is public participation and police scrutiny, however there wasn’t too much of either tonight.

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