Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Thursday, 9 December 2010
Ag Bualadh le daltaí ó Coláiste Feirste / Meeting students from Coláiste Feirste
Sue Ramsey, who sits on the Assembly Employment and Learning Committee, Cllr Janice Austin and I all made our way down to the protest for a while.
Fair play to those young people leading the way on an issue of such importance to them, their families and their future!
Mol an Óg………
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Once completed and after a bite to eat our Council team made their way into the Chamber and the rest of us upstairs and into the public gallery.
Last night saw relatives of those people murdered by the British Army during the Ballymurphy Massacre gathered in the gallery also. They were seeking permission from the Council to host the exhibition telling the story of the Massacre and subsequently their loss and the impact on their lives, to be displayed for a period in their City Hall.
A modest and very human request.
Briege Voyle, whose mother was murdered by the British Army during the Massacre, made a very heartfelt appeal to the Council to allow the use of the City Hall for their story to be told. She was joined by Alan McBride, who lost his wife in the Shankill Bomb. Alan also appealed to the Council to allow the space to be used for the families exhibition which in itself consists of 12 boards, each one telling the story of those eleven people gunned down by the British Parachute Regiment and a twelfth giving information on the Massacre itself.
Following the presentation from Briege and Alan it was clear that ‘good old fashioned’ City Hall bigotry was about to kick into gear.
That bigotry wasn’t as overt as it has been historically and strangely on this occasion it wasn’t the young DUP firebrands who got up to stall a decision on this matter but the so-called ‘middle of the road’ Alliance Party.
In fact, it was my own Councillor, Máire Hendron, who took to her feet seeking a deferral on a decision, citing ‘good relations’ and that the matter be brought back to committee.
I can say without fear of contradiction that when she took to her feet to delay this most basic of requests she certainly wasn’t representing the community in the Short Strand, an area that she allegedly represents and one which knows all to well the brutality of the British Army.
A number of weeks ago the Alliance Party issued a somewhat irrational statement claiming that the new Sinn Féin Councillors co-opted into City Hall would give them;
“serious concerns that the genuine progress made at Belfast City Council in the last number of years could be put in jeopardy by this strategy, as there has been a significant amount of consensus in recent times. I sincerely hope the stability that we have had at the Council is not affected by this move."
They have some cheek given their shameful actions last night.
I spoke with some of the families after this heartbreaking decision was passed. The Families had met with the Alliance Party beforehand and at no point did they inform them that they would seek a deferral. The Alliance came out of the Chamber to tell the families that Unionist Councillors had approached them before the Council meeting expressing concern about the exhibition.
Not only does this highlight the sheer cowardice of the Alliance party to stand by victims of the British Army but it also highlights a sheer unwillingness on their part to stand up to their fellow Unionist parties at City Hall.
Lets be honest, just because the Unionist Councillors asked for a deferral on this issue didn’t mean the Alliance had to give them one!
The families were clearly heartbroken, once again they are being denied the space to tell their story.
As always though they left City Hall as determined and as resolute as ever.
Ironically, despite the excuses from the Alliance and the allegations from Unionist Councillors, the families had sought a meeting with the other parties well in advance; but their requests were simply ignored.
What a pity that some of our civic leaders would be so willing to apply further hurt and trauma onto victims of the conflict.
Despite the inevitable heave-ho of City Hall politics I want to make it clear that the actions of the Councillor for Pottinger certainly weren’t done in my name.
The campaign for the Truth and Justice for the victims of the Ballymurphy/Springhill Massacre goes on.
Monday, 29 November 2010
Sunday, 28 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Sinn Féin MLA for south Belfast Alex Maskey will host a Seminar on global climate talks with MEP for the Six Counties Bairbre de Brún, James Orr from Friends of the Earth and Gary McFarlane from Stop Climate Chaos.
The Seminar will take place in the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast City Centre on the 3rd December with registration between 11:00am-11:30am.
The event follows on from last years successful discussion prior to Bairbre’s participation in the Copenhagen Talks.
The theme of this years discussion is “United Nations Climate Talks – Prospects for Cancun and Beyond”.
Those wishing to take part are asked to RSVP Conor Keenan at Alex’s office on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 02890243194
Monday, 15 November 2010
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay at last nights event as I had to shoot across town to a meeting between residents and Club Representatives in Ravenhill Rugby Ground.
Back to East Belfast though, the event was really well attended in comparison to last year and from looking around the hall it was clear there was a large amount of young people in attendance. It is good that east Belfast now has the opportunity to engage directly with elected representatives in such an open and positive way.
Long may it continue!
Over at Ravenhill I joined Alex Maskey MLA in speaking with some of the local residents who live next to the stadium as well as Club Officials regarding plans for development at the site.
No one wants to be negative but some residents don’t support all aspects of the development plans. Im sure club officials will try to accommodate on outstanding issues. Both Alex and I hope these issues can be resolved and we will follow up with club reps shortly.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
The activist base gathered selected me to stand for Sinn Féin in east Belfast at both the Council and Assembly elections next year.
I am very grateful to them for placing their trust and confidence in me and I look forward to the challenges ahead, not least retaking the Sinn Féin Council seat for Pottinger.
My nomination will now go the Ard Chomhairle for ratification at the weekend.
Tuesday morning saw Alex Maskey , Conor Murphy and Gerry Adams host a breakfast briefing for business figures from across the city. Alex, Conor and Gerry all took the opportunity to give them a rundown on our economic proposal paper, “There is a Better Way” as well as the work that Sinn Féin have been leading in the south of the city. To the fore of this has been Alex’s central role in attempting to resolve the outstanding problems in the Holyland area; to the mammoth work he has put in alongside Conor Murphy in projects such as traffic calming, residents parking schemes, flood prevention, the TUNNELS project in the Market area, meeting with traders on the Lisburn Road, unprecedented and unmatched engagement in working class loyalist areas like the Village and Donegal Pass, and the list goes on.
After an address from Gerry Adams there was suseful and I think positive question and answers discussion with the business people and the party leadership. I have no doubt this will be the first in a series of engagements with the business and SME sector as we move further on the road to trying to steer us all out of the current economic recession.
On Tuesday night activists from the Strand took to the streets to distribute the latest Sinn Féin bulletin for the area. I hope to have it online soon so you can all get a look.
Tonight I intend on heading to ‘East Belfast Speaks Out’ along with the Sinn Féin panellist for the event; I blogged on the same event last year.
I look forward to an interesting debate.
Labharfaidh muid gan mhoil!
Monday, 8 November 2010
I intend to come back to the blog on a more regular basis once again.
Last week saw the Indian community celebrate the Diwali festival. Similar to the our own Celtic celebration of Samhain it was great to see so many at the Short Strand Community Centre last week taking part in the celebrations. There was a great mix of music, craic, food and dance, well done to everyone involved in making it such a success.
Regular readers of the blog will know how important the campaign for the closure, demolition and replacement with the social homes at Mountpottinger Barracks has been to the community in the Strand; thankfully work is currently underway inside the base to dismantle it and we will no doubt see real physical progress in the coming weeks. We must now ensure we keep the pressure on the DSD Minister to ensure the site is developed with Social, Family housing.
At the top of the Mount we succeeded in getting the Housing Executive to remove a number of unwanted (and many would say unnecessary)flowerbeds. Residents were concerned that the flowerbeds were simply being used a dumping spot and were becoming increasingly unsightly to look out their living room windows at. Haven spoken with residents along there, they are glad this work has taken place.
A number of us recently went to planning service objecting to a planning application for 32 apartments on a vacant site beside the shops at the opposite end of the Mountpottinger Road. You can read more on that issue here
Tonight Sinn Féin in east Belfast will hold their selection convention to choose who will go forward for the party in the upcoming elections. I will be sure to keep you all up to speed on that!
PS: And I forgot to tell you that after a long piece of work the NIE have completed work to remove the redundant electric substation at Strand Close. The facility has been removed after concerns that given its inactivity, it because used for graffitti and antisocial activity. The Short Strand Partnership are working with local residents in the hope that they can come up with ideas around what to do with the small, vacant piece of land. One idea has been to locate a piece of community art on the site to brighten the area.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Gerry and other Sinn Féin leaders met with a delegation from the Irish Congress of trade Unions before the launch and has commented extensively on the economic situation here
Cuir in aghaidh Gearrthacha na dTóraithe!
Tuesday, 31 August 2010
What can I say about Sunday’s game other than the last few minutes almost brought on heart failure for half of Croke Park!
Excitement is building ahead of Down’s All-Ireland Final clash with Cork on the 19th of September. Over these past three years a group of supporters from the Short Strand in County Down have travelled near and far in support of the Mournemen – on occasion we have had reasons to be downhearted others to be upbeat and excited, but none moreso than in Croke Park last Sunday!
A Down flag now resides on every lamppost along the Mountpottinger Road, more and more homes are flying the county colours with pride, cars heading in and out of the district are adorned with a miniature Down Flag. It’s a good time to be a supporter and a good time to follow An Dún!
I’m looking forward to the 19th and hopefully a personal return to GAA HQ
I believe we can do it, I believe the skill, the passion, the commitment and determination in is this current senior squad to see Sam brought back to County Down after too long a period away!
Go n-eirí an t-ádh leis na buachaillí ó chontae an Dún!
PS – I hope to get some photos of the flags in the Strand up soon
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
Saturday was just one of those days; a day you are enjoying so much you fail to recognise the importance of it until afterwards.
I said to Richard McAuley early on Saturday morning,
“RG, did you ever think you’d see the day when our flags would be flying at Stormont?”
His answer was simple but significant,
“Yes”, he said. And he is right!
Fair play to Gerry A and the organisers of the event, it was for a good cause and was enjoyed by the hundreds of people, idir óg agus aosta, who came to take part.
Teams from across Belfast took part in the under-10 hurling blitz on the front lawns of Stormont, there was an open Poc competition held adjacent to Carson’s statue which saw serious hurlers, amateurs, tourists, kids and even a peeler take part in it!
Mothers and fathers came to watch their children take part, many had brought along their younger brothers and sisters to see their siblings play in the first ever Poc ar an Chnoc.
And of course there were those who had read about the event in the media and were curious to see this historic first. Some just came to avail of the atmosphere, families gathering with sandwiches and bunógaí, juice and sweets, kicking a ball about the place; together on a Saturday in summer.
Isn’t that what the whole day was about?
Later in the afternoon the celebrity Poc drew the attention of those assembled, eager to see who would win. MPs, MLAs, Ministers, a TD, an MEP, Boxing Champions, TV Presenters, Handball Champions, all gathered in the hope that they would beat Gerry Adams; which of course most of them did!
Finally the senior men and women’s Poc Fada took place throughout the estate with competitors from across Ireland taking part. Hurling and Camogie greats, wearing their specially designed ‘Poc ar an Chnoc’ kits from O’Neills, were accompanied by two of the young gaels from teams who had taken part in the under-10 blitz that morning, set about trying to win this inaugural competition. My money was on Down man Graham Clarke who had won Poc Fada na hÉireann the previous week in the Cooley mountains. I was proved correct when he came first in the men’s competition, and Gráinne Connolly won the women’s.
The participants and winners were presented with their trophies on the front steps of Stormont, under the shadow of the Trinity hurler himself.
It was a good day, a groundbreaking day, a day when Gaels from across Ireland showed that there is nowhere we can’t go, there are no places now where an expression of our rich culture cannot be displayed and more importantly where we can’t come together for a fun day and a bit of craic.
Bhí lá den scoth again uilig agus tá neart moladh tuilte acu suid uilig a d’eagraigh na himeachtaí, maith sibh féin!
The organisers deserve a big go raibh maith agat for the hard work and effort they put in to making the event such a success; I have no doubt that over the coming years Poc ar an Chnoc will only get bigger and better!
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Our photo shows me with Hugh and Alice outside the homes affected by the planters on the Mount - Looking forward to continuing to work with Alice and Malachi as well as the residents to get a satisfactory conclusion to these issues.
Friday, 2 July 2010
.......and build a better future”
Over the years we have always been able to rely on Danny D to encapsulate what we as a community are trying to say. From the darkest days of struggle through to the onset of peace and the inevitability of unity, Danny Devenny has given our communities a voice where others chose to censor us, to discredit us and attempt to criminalise us.
Things began last Wednesday with the launch of a new DVD/CD pack telling the story of what happened that fateful night 40 years ago. Many of those featured on the DVD sat amongst the mixed crowd of teenagers and pensioners, gathered upstairs in St Matthews Club.
St Matt’s was packed for the event and the DVD sold like hotcakes, such was interest amongst young people to hear this important story, but also amongst our older residents who were taken aback by the vivid reflections of that night and the incredible footage of our community used in the documentary.
Next up, and after months of rehearsals, it was the opportunity for the many local young people involved with the play “The Battle of Saint Matthews” to get up and show us all the hard work they had put in.
Saturday saw the launch of Danny’s new mural; I was very honoured and privileged to have been asked to chair this event. Danny is a long time family friend of ours and a man we have enormous respect and admiration for.
Danny’s work is known right across the world and is becoming increasingly in demand and rightfully so! Danny was never a man of art who lost his heart and we as a community are lucky to have him. Like I said previously, his message, simple as it was, depicted the whole point of what we as a community are about and what were very genuinely trying to achieve with the anniversary events and the opening of An Tine Bheo Memorial.
Early on I ventured up to the Club for a private presentation to the families of our Patriot Dead and those named on the Roll of Remembrance. The families received a replica of the monument in the heart of the memorial garden and the families of the dead Volunteers also received a canvass portrait, again by Danny, the same as the faces now featured in the memorial garden itself.
The emotion on Sunday morning was palpable; this was a morning for honouring those who gave all in defence of our area and in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence.
Following a few tears being shed and warm exchanges between old friends and comrades as well as some lovely food put on by Catherine and Co, it was time to gather at the newly erected plaque just outside, at the side of St Matthews Club itself. The plaque honours three men from the Parish who played pivotal roles alongside the Republican Movement in the defence of the Parish, not just on that fateful night but throughout many, many years. Jimmy George, Henry McIlhone and Bobby Jennings now have a fitting tribute to them and all those citizens in the district that rose in defiance of the failed Orange State and its rampaging, sectarian gangs. It was another emotional event in what would be a sad but wonderful day.
Shortly afterwards, after meeting many friends and neighbours in the assembled crowd, I welcomed Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to the Strand; he was the main speaker at the parade to open An Tine Bheo Memorial.
By this stage a huge crowd had gathered on the Mountpottinger Road to take part in the parade, many residents, people who had left the area, friends and relations lined the route, loudly applauding the Colour Party emerging from Mountforde and those relatives of our Patriot Dead that fell in behind it, clutching the now treasured portraits of their loved ones as well as a single lily.
Luckily the weather was with us and with the exception of a very brief burst of rain we had a beautiful day!
We made our way around the area, through the new courts and gardens to the old terraced streets that many of those we were gathered to remember had once walked along, played in and stood in defence of. Faces along the way were solemn but resolute, “we understand our past” they seemed to say “but we are building a better future!”
As we gathered at the monument and I made my way up onto the stage, the full effect of just how many people were there became clear. I had never seen so many people at a parade in this area, it was fantastic!
We went through the normal procedure for these events, Cáitlín read the local roll of honour and remembrance to absolute silence amongst those assembled, Zak played a lament while the Colour Party lowered their flags. This was a point where I could see minds drifting back through many years with quite a few tears being wiped away but also the odd cheeky grin in remembering the qualities of their brothers, their sisters, their mates, their comrades.
Our first speaker was well known local Republican activist and ex-POW Huggy McComb. I have known Huggy all my life (or should I say Huggy has known me all my life!!) and his words on Sunday afternoon summed up the feelings for many people involved with this project but also the unbowed and unbroken Republican family gathered at the side of An Tine Bheo. He did us, and the faces looking on from the memorial, very proud indeed.
We moved to the formal opening of the Garden, I was really honoured to introduce Betty Dorian, widow of Óglach Rab Dorrian to do the honours. So many people have played a part in making the monument a reality but there was no hesitation, either amongst the families or the committee, when it came to putting Betty’s name forward as the one to do this. She has worked tirelessly since the idea of this garden came into being. Fair play Betty!
Then it was Gerry’s turn; he spoke of the history of our Parish and the hurt inflicted upon it, he spoke of the unrelenting pride in our Patriot Dead and in their families, he spoke of his acknowledgement at the hurt caused by Republicans but he focused heavily on that recurring theme of the events; “understand the past, build a better future”.
The rest of the day was passed over to enjoying this momentous day together as a community,old friends, comrades, neighbours and relations to get together and remember the bad and good times. It was a chance for younger people, myself including, to hear about the men and women we honoured that day, to remember that they were ordinary Ballymacarrett people, just like us, but who in extraordinary times have gave all in pursuit of our Freedom.
It is important we always remember them with pride.
I could write forever about that day, for our community it was a hell of a long time coming and now we have a permanent, beautiful monument to our Patriot Dead. The work goes on though, to ensure we build the only worthy one to them and that is an Irish, Socialist Republic.
Tá a lán obair os ár gcomhair ach de réir imeachtaí De Domhnaigh agus roimhe tá mé cinnte go bhfuil an talann, and abáltach agus an inporóid againn an Aisling sin a bhaint amach!
Thanks again to everyone who played a part in any of the events, who gave up their time, assistance, patience, expertise and skills. The day belonged to all of us and An Tine Bheo, “The Living Flame” reminds us what we need to work towards.
Maith sibh agus Beirigí Bua!!
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Conor met with myself, Bernie McCrory from the Short Stand Community Forum and Patrick Devlin, Chair of St Matthews Housing Association.
We went on a walkabout with management of the Translink Bus depot in the area. We held discussions inside about the future of the site and how it fits into the overall strategic plan for this part of the city and in particular the Short Strand community.
From there we looked at a number of problem spots for traffic flow and congestion and raised our concerns about the sheer amount of heavy duty vehicles that are using the Mountpottinger Road as a rat-run.
After our walkabout we headed into St Matthews Housing Association's office in Harper Street. Under the shadow of the monstrosity that is Mountpottinger Barracks we were able to inform Conor about our plans for developing the site for social and family homes.
At our discussion we were able to talk more about some of the traffic and pedestrian issues in the Strand. We also found out from the Roads Service officials where exactly the traffic calming for Madrid, Bryson and Edgar Streets are at; they will be contacting residents there in the next week or so to inform them of where things stand.
Following Conor's engagement we took him round to see the now completed 'An Tine Bheo memorial garden. Like most people who come to see it he was understandably impressed.
Here's some pics