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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Best of frenemies – thoughts on the last four years

I wrote the following after spending the day in Stormont on the last day of term. I intended posting it earlier but after the week that was, it didn’t feel appropriate.

There was a distinct feeling of summer last week as I passed Carson on my way up the long symmetrical road to Parliament Buildings on Stormont’s hill.

It wasn’t just the blue skies, blinding sunshine or the freshly cut green grass, but the distinct atmosphere bouncing around the marble floors and pillars of Stormont’s Great Hall that rang; last day of school. For all intents and purposes March 23 was the end of term at the Assembly, albeit not a school term, but the final sitting of the four year session of the latest incarnation of our local devolved government.

Although for many observers, school is an appropriate enough analogy for Stormont, given the prevailing political immaturity and on the job learning that many MLAs have been cast into. Read more of this post

Sinn Féin to target four Assembly seats in West Tyrone







Sinn Féin will seek to extend their political dominance in West Tyrone in 2011 by attempting to add a fourth MLA to the three Assembly seats they already hold in the constituency.

Chairman of Omagh District Council Declan McAleer (above right) and Chairperson of Strabane District Council Michaela Boyle (above left) are the two new additions for the 2011 campaign, joining Barry McElduff and Pat Doherty (centre). Strabane based MLA Claire McGill will step down at the next Assembly election on May 5.

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GP MLA’s two day week draws criticism

Assembly voting records published during the week surprised no one in West Tyrone when they revealed Dr Kieran Deeny lay joint bottom of the table with a lowly 23% attendance for votes in the chamber.

Of course this is nothing new and the independent Assembly member makes little apology when these stories surface, reiterating the fact that he opts to remain a practicing GP and focus mainly on health issues. He repeated again this week;

Because of the insecure nature of politics, I could not give up my GP job and I think people are aware of that. I’m committed to working two days a week and so sometimes that means I have to do constituency work on an a Monday or a Tuesday. Read more of this post

Strong words but short memory

Ógra Shinn Féin’s vitriolic attack today on unionist unity candidate for Fermanagh South Tyrone Rodney Connor revealed a three-month sea change of opinion from Sinn Féin.

Barry McColgan of Dermot Crowley Ógra Shinn Féin opens the latest blog post with the following.

“In the upcoming Westminster General Election in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, a single neo liberal, pro imperialist, sectarian, Tory bigot will stand against a progressive, inclusive, Republican Candidate.”

Mr Connor stepped down from his role as Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council recently after signalling his intention to retire in January. However the Castlederg native has been launched into the middle of a political maelstrom by accepting the nomination as a single Unionist candidate to oust sitting MP Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew.

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Then and now: McGuinness still divides

When news that Martin McGuinness had been filmed and interviewed in 1985 for a BBC documentary reached the ears of the British Government, all hell broke loose. Thatcher had already warned that broadcasters must “starve” terrorists of the “oxygen of publicity”.

But that warning was routinely ignored by an opportune Paul Hamann, an experienced BBC documentary makeer. He had, by chance, secured an extended ‘at home’ style interview with McGuinness and his wife, as well as with a vitriolic  Gregory Campbell.

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Who holds these graves?

Martin McGuinness will be the main speaker at the Easter Rising commemoration in Carrickmore this Sunday.

In an unusual move the organisers have arranged a street re-enactment of the 1916 Rising, incorporating narrative and song. Though I daresay the interpretation may be a tad more partial than Sean O’Casey’s drama on the historic day, staged last Monday night by Omagh Players in Carrickmore’s Patrician hall during the Mid Ulster Drama Festival (Not in anyway aligned to the Easter commemoration.)

This new approach to the annual demonstration represents a continuing  move away from the traditional format of the Easter commemoration by mainstream Republicanism. The commemorations have been suffering something of an identity crisis in recent years with smaller crowds, less relevance the political direction of Sinn Fein have made the concept of colour party and dogmatic oration increasingly redundant. Read more of this post