Thursday, 26 November 2009

Ar aghaidh linn..............

Tuesday night saw me leave the Slugger O Toole Awards and head over to the Chinese Welfare Association's brilliant new centre on the Ormeau Road.

Party activists from across our Comhairle Ceantair area had gathered to select their nominee's for the next Westminster election.

Alex Maskey was the only name in the hat for south Belfast and mine for the east of the city.

Gerry Kelly was our guest speaker, he was joined by Vincent Parker our party rep in Balmoral who chaired proceedings and Mary McArdle from Sinn Féin Cúige Uladh who oversaw proceedings.

East Béal Feirste was up first and I was nominated and seconded from the body gathered in the hall. I was asked to come forward and sign the Sinn Féin candidate pledge and say a cúpla focal. I won't bore readers of the blog but I think it's fair to say what I covered on Tuesday evening will be covered by this blog over the coming weeks and months. Thanks to Kells for his kind words also. Next up was the south of the city, naturally enough Alex was nominated unopposed and endorsed fully by the body of the hall.

Alex also signed the Sinn Féin candidate pledge and said his piece.

This will be the second time my name has found its way onto a ballot paper for Sinn Féin and it truly is an honour to be selected by friends and comrades from different generations and different experiences of the republican struggle. It is a very humbling thing to have them entrust me with representing the party in any election. Go raibh míle maith agaibh, is cúis bróid domhsa é.

The reality is, as Alec said on the night, that no one candidate can operate in isolation, and while we in south and east don't have the same amount of people as the north and west of the city I think its fair to say we are truly punching above our weight and that is down to the standard of activists we are lucky to have.

From people in the hall who are approaching their sixties and have been involved in the republican movement their whole lives, to those who were there who are much much younger, but are just as committed and just as determined to advance our republican objectives.

On another personal level, it's an honour for me to be selected alongside someone as respected as Alex, who is a true leader within our party, its humbling to watch him and to learn from him and for me, who better to learn from. He is a friend and a comrade and I wish him all the best in the time ahead.

Go neirí linn!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Seminar success!

Bairbre de Brún & Declan Allison (Friends of the Earth) with myself and Balmoral Rep Vincent Parker

Friday morning saw Alex Maskey host a seminar entitled “The Road to Copenhagen: The need for global agreement on climate change”.

Unfortunately Alex wasn’t able to attend, he was in Baghdad, but Sinn Féin’s Representative in Balmoral, Vincent Parker stepped in to chair the event.

The main address was delivered by MEP for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún who spoke extensively on her work in the EU Parliament on the issue of climate change and in particular on her role on the environment committee. Bairbre opened her address as Gaeilge and made clear that while the language of the seminar would be English she was more than happy to take questions and answer them in Irish. During the Q&A a interesting question on the cost of becoming ‘greener’ was put to Bairbre as Gaeilge.

Bairbre has recently returned from Washington DC where members of the Environment committee were lobbying the US Congress and Senate on this very issue. Bairbre also spoke on the role of the EU in the run up to the global conference in Copenhagen which she will attend.

Bairbre was joined by Declan Allison from ‘Friends of the Earth’ who spoke of measures that we can take locally in terms of individual action but also in terms of political lobbying to help tackle the problem of climate change and global warming.

A varied group of interested organisations were represented at the seminar and during the question and answers session it was interesting to hear many of their contributions on both speakers contributions.

Afterwards lunch was served and I think that was where the main discussions took place, people took the opportunity to speak to Bairbre and she clearly enjoyed the opportunity to touch base with such a varied group on an issue very close to her and to their hearts.

The event will be covered more extensively in this weeks An Phoblacht.

UPDATE: Link to the article from An Phoblacht

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

de Brún to host Climate Change event in south Belfast

Lunchtime Seminar


The need for global agreement on climate change


Middleton SuiteWellington Park, Hotel - Belfast on Friday 20th November, 2009 11.30am - 1pm

Guest Speakers: Bairbre de Brún MEP and Declan Allison, Friends of the Earth

CLÁR 11am - 11.30am: Registration

11.30am -11.35am:Welcome and introduction by Vincent Parker, Sinn Féin representative for Balmoral

11.35am -11.50am: Bairbre de Brún MEP to report on her work on climate change in the European Parliament and on her meetings in Washington and Brussels on the prospects for a global agreement on climate change at December's UN conference in Copenhagen

11.50am -12.00 noon: Comments by Declan Allison of Friends of the Earth - Think Global - Act Local 12.00 noon - 1pm: Questions & Answers - Chairperson: Vincent Parker

1pm - 1.30pm: Buffet Lunch

constituency round-up

First off is the on-going work at the junction of the Mountpottinger Road, Albertbridge Road and Castelreagh Street.

I have been lobbying for some time now to have a permanent, right turn put in place at that junction. Anyone who navigates this turn will know it's a difficult one; and one that has proved to be an issue of concern for the many commuters, both locally and from outside the area, who use it day and daily.

I actually took the opportunity to raise this issue with Roads Minister Conor Murphy recently and thankfully we are now seeing the work undertaken and I have no doubt drivers, as well as pedestrians will benefit from it when finished!

Next up we have the issue of the Housing Executive planters along Mountforde Road; they have been a bone of contention for residents along there for some time now. We had lobbied the HE last year and were successful in getting the vast over-growth removed from them, but at the wishes of the residents who live alongside the planters we ploughed ahead in trying to get them fully removed.
The Housing Executive acknowledged this and credit to them after some time, they agreed to remove the unwanted and unsightly planters.
Work is well underway at the minute, so me and local Sinn Féin Cumann member Gerard Pridgent took the opportunity to call and see local resident Tony Ward, who to be fair had been suffering greatly as a result of the planters presence in terms of unwanted dumping, litter, bad smell and anti-social activity.
So we are happy that the work is started and look forward to seeing the final results!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Hurler on the hill

Regular visitors to the blog will remember this blog post from July this year

It was even carried on BBC Politics Editor Mark Davenport's Blog

But I came across this interesting image over on Máirtín Ó Muilleor's Blog of well known Hurler and GAA enthusiast Edward Carson:

Monday, 16 November 2009

Ógra SF National Congress 2009

Symbolically it was probably fitting that building work was taking place in the Irish Republican Felons Association’s club this weekend; it was the venue for the Ógra Shinn Féin National Congress. A lot of building work is going on within our party too!

It was clear from the few events I attended over the weekend that Ógra are to the fore of this building work.

On Saturday afternoon I ventured over the bridge and into Castle Street where I bounced into a Black Hack and took the journey to the Felons. I was met at the door by outgoing National Organiser of Ógra Barry McColgan, he looked every bit the busy man. I was looking forward to the debate being held inside, ‘Ireland’s Future? Free, Green and Left.’ (I would have added ‘Gaelach’ to the title, possibly an oversight on the part of Ógra) Eoin O’Broin from Sinn Féin, fellow east Belfast man Steven Agnew from the Green Party and Dónal Lyons from Labour were to lead the debate; sadly Dónal sent his apologies.

I’m sure Ógra will cover the content of the debate on their own blog and I know that they also videoed it, so it’s probably better that I don’t venture into too much of the details other than to say it was a worthwhile debate and I think a necessary aspect of any event of this kind, definitely something Ógra should look to build upon in the coming years. I think it’s fair to say Steven Agnew took a lot of flack on the current standing of the Green’s in the 26 Counties, I don’t think he had expected anything less!

That evening it was back over the bridge, this time to the city centre and this time in the company of Alex Maskey. We were attending the celebration dinner in honour of 100 years of na Fianna Éireann. Gearóid Ó hEara was the main speaker and spoke of the role of na Fianna over it’s century of history. It was an emotional evening, given the vast amount of families of those Fianna who were in attendance; each one receiving a presentation on behalf of Ógra, a tremendous gesture and I think worthy of special recognition; maith sibh Ógra!!

All in all, for the small amount of events I was able to attend I was hugely impressed by the work ongoing in Ógra, it was fair to say that in the Felons on Saturday afternoon there was over 100 young people from across Ireland in attendance. Ógra have a vital role to play both within our party and within the wider struggle; I wish all of those who attended this year’s Congress (no doubt some of them being new to our party) all the best for the future and look forward to working with them in pursuit of our Republican objectives.

Beirigí Bua!!!


Friday, 13 November 2009

Part of the real talking in East Belfast

Part of the real talking in East Belfast

I have blogged on several occasions about the ongoing themed discussions taking place in East Belfast, organised jointly by the Short Strand Partnership and East Belfast Mission.

I have been fortunate in that I have been able to attend each one so far, and these discussions along with ongoing engagement in various formats in the East really make for interesting insights.

The topics of the discussions, which have been held in both the Short Strand and the Newtonards Road have been ‘Constitutionally Different, Politically Similar?’, ‘Civil Rights or Civil Unrest?’, the last one was on the issue of Parading and the latest on the whole topic of Policing and Justice.

The panel was Brian Maguire (PSNI Superintendant South & East Belfast), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) and Alex Maskey (Sinn Féin).

If I’m honest, last nights debate was probably the most heated to date (and that’s certainly not to exaggerate it either because thankfully all of these nights have been respectful and measured). Given that on this occasion we were on the Newtonards Road I think it’s predictable that Alex got a lot of questions directed towards him, and that’s fair enough.

In saying all of that, the other two panellists didn’t get off easy, in particular Brian Maguire was challenged on the shared issue of concern around police effectiveness in this part of Béal Feirste. Just what were they doing to tackle anti-social behaviour, burglaries, the scourge of drugs? This was an issue raised by people from both the Short Strand and wider East Belfast. Towards the end of the night Jeffrey was challenged by an audience member who was most definitely opposed to DUP policy on sharing power with Sinn Féin, he indicated clearly his opposition to equality and partnership government and even predicted the DUP taking a hammering at the next election because of their stance on the issue; Jeffrey challenged him to put his name on the ballot in Lagan Valley next time round.

Other issues raised were the whole issue of the PSNI full time reserve, any threat posed by so called dissidents and when and how Policing and Justice Powers will be devolved.

Once again I enjoyed last night’s engagement; of course I took the opportunity to ask a question too! I look forward to many more and once again commend Joe and Gary for the work they are trying to do in relation to these discussions in trying to build a degree of respect and in my opinion most importantly understanding of each other’s position. It isn’t always easy, as last night proved; at times things can be frustrating and sometimes even depressing when we listen to the views of some who are still out there but at the end of the day that needs to happen in order to be overcome. We still have a fair deal of work ahead but I think events like last night’s and others will go someway in making sure we all have a say on where we are and where we are going.

Go n-eirí linn!!

some of us who attended the debate last night

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Aimsir den scoth!

Báiligh muid taobh amuigh den Tionól inniu le céiliúradh a dhéanamh ar 125 bhliana den Cumann Lúithchleas Ghael.

Ar an droch uair bhí aimsir uafásach ann ach sin mar atá an saol is dócha!

We gathered on the Stormont Estate earlier today to join with Tom Daly, President of Ulster GAA, in celebrating 125 years of the GAA.

The weather was miserable but the spirits were high!!

Gerry Adams had hosted the event and it follows on from a similar one held a few months back on the Black Mountain, an Sliabh Dubh.

Above are some quick snaps I got (even I got in for a sneeky one!!), the weather didn’t do me any favours where that was concerned!

As I write my shoes are resting on top of the radiator in the office, they’ll need to be there a while!

Ach ar aon nós, go mairfidh na crainn agus go n-eirí leis an CLG le 125 bliain eile!!
The weather was that bad we could have played a match, after all, Gerry Adams did encourage us to form a Stormont team, I'n sure Edward the Hurler would look down favourably upon that??????
Beir Bua!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Belfast Health Rally

Sinn Féin activists and representatives put in a great presence at the Health Rally yesterday in the centre of Béal Feirste.

Our picture shows some of us, Vinty Parker, Sue Ramsey, me, Alex Maskey, Conor Maskey, Marie Cush and Janice Austin.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Irish Congress of Trade Unions Day of Action

I will be joining other party activists from across Belfast at the ICTU's rally in the city centre tomorrow at 1pm. the rally is leaving the Royal at 12pm and is one of many national demonstrations taking place in various towns and cities in Ireland.

Gerry Adams has blog significantly on this issue and you can read it over on ttp://

I would urge as many people as possible to attend.



Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Some of our MLA’s should be careful they don’t fall in!!

Some people will say I should spend less time looking out the office window and more time at the desk, but such is life!

As myself and David had a look over the grounds of Stormont from the window in Séanna’s office we weren’t too sure if what we thought we saw was actually what we were seeing!

“It’s just leaves!” says I

“I’m telling you, it isn’t, it’s something else!” says David

After I went down and had a look, turned out he was right.

Seems we have ourselves a Fairy Ring on the grounds of Stormont.

I made sure I didn’t fall in, who knows if anyone would even bother to pull me out!

Anyway, much folklore and legend applies to the presence of Fairy Ring’s or Fáinní Sídhe, and if I was the man who mows the grass in Stormont, I’d be careful to make sure I avoided it!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Coiste open day brings vital information to ex-POWs

Coiste na n-Iarchimi held a successful information day in An Culturlann MacAdaim/O'Fiaich in West Belfast on Saturday 31 October.

Speakers representing a number of ex-prisoners groups from across Belfast outlined areas of work that they are involved in as they challenge the prejudices that former prisoners still face.

It emerged from Saturday's meeting that a number of insurance companies have refused to honour their policies with former republican prisoners because of the fact that they had spent time in prison.

However, Coiste has spoken to other insurers who are happy to provide insurance cover for ex-POWs.

Former Sinn Fein councillor Joe Austin also outlined the work of the Still Imprisoned Project.
Still Imprisoned, which is based in Tar Anall, provides support for former republican prisoners and activists and their families who are affected by addiction.

'Addiction is the elephant in the room', said Mr Austin.

'Many of our people suffer from issues as a direct result of the trauma they suffered during the conflict which includes alcoholism, drug dependency financial management problems, depression and anxiety.

'These people need and deserve the support of their comrades and the Still Imprisoned Project is there to help'.

Jim McVeigh who heads up Coiste's Advocacy and Research project described how Coiste is bringing to the fore issues around the treatment of prisoners during their arrest and conviction and their treatment while in jail.

Mr McVeigh said:
'Some of the issues that we are focusing on concern the convictions of republicans in Diplock Courts, particularly the treatment of young people'.
McVeigh highlighted the case of Derryman Charlie McMenamin whose conviction was re-examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and overturned.

He urged anyone, who was 17 or under, to bring their case to the CCRC.

Coiste's Youth Development worker Danny Murphy made an informative presentation around the work he is involved in.

'Our youth development strategy is designed to meet the specifically identified needs of the children and relatives of political former prisoners. Our youth provision is aimed at addressing the specific trauma, loss and grief experienced by young people who were affected by the prisonment of a parent.

'We are encouraging young people to get involved in our projects', said Mr Murphy.
Other areas of work that Coiste and it's satellite groups cover were outlined by various speakers including Agnes Frazer who is based in Tar Isteach in the New Lodge Road area of North Belfast.
Agnes outlined the breadth of work that she carries out to ensure that the welfare rights of former prisoners are not neglected and that former prisoners are not discriminated against.
Speaking after the information day Michael Culbert, Director of Coiste, described the day as 'a huge success' .

'We wanted to ensure that those attending this event went away with the knowledge that Coiste is working in a multi-faceted way to ensure that the welfare of former POWs is looked after.

'As many as 18,000 people from the nationalist community spent time in prison. We are out to ensure that the social, economic, legal and societal barriers faced by former POWs and their families are broken down.

'Former prisoners still face a range of obstacles and discrimination in their daily lives and Coiste is determined to break these obstacles down.'

should be an interesting debate

more info here:

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A small success

For some time now a number of people living along Mountforde Road have lobbied me regarding the planters at the front of their homes.

The planters had become overgrown and unkempt, like many of these same ‘flowerbeds’ throughout the district the residents living beside them were tired of them and didn’t really see the need or point of them.

Last March, following a site meeting with representatives from the Housing Executive we were able to have the flowerbeds at Mountforde and several other parts of the area improved.

The work continued to have them removed; that is what the residents wanted.

Thankfully we have been able to secure the removal of the planters at Mountforde and with the planned environmental improvements at Strand Walk we are making strides in terms of improving the physical condition of the area but in particular where these planters are in such close proximity of people’s homes.

Initially the work was to improve what was there and many residents were glad that the shrubbery had been removed and that the planters lawned instead. Now, as the residents wanted, the whole planters are to be taken away. This will no doubt improve access and visibility even further.

We will continue to work with the Housing Executive in the time ahead, they are keen to make sure that the planters are replaced with something supported by residents and that will generally improve the appearance along Mountforde Road.

Further information here