Friday, 26 February 2010

SDLP trying to juggle too much....

So it looks like the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie will replace Eddie McGrady on the ballot paper for the upcoming Westminster election in south Down.

Already some speculation is taking place on other blogs about the somewhat choreographed nature of this announcement, following on from Ritchie's appointment as 'leader' of the SDLP.

What's interesting for me in all of this is that just a few short weeks ago the Minister for Social Development told the SDLP conference in Newcastle that she wanted to be First Minister. (I made the point at the time, given how 'credible' she tells us the SDLP are on Irish Unity why her ambitions ended at First Minister, why not Taoiseach? Why not Uachtarán?)

It seems as with most SDLP politicians, Margaret Ritchie feels she can in some strange way serve the people of South Down, as well as advance her so called 'credible' strategy for Irish unity from the back bench's of the British Parliament in London.

In saying all this, there is nothing to suggest she'll even see the green leather seats she clearly craves, given the other candidate of note on the ballot paper, in form of Education Minister Caitríona Ruane. Despite being in what is generally considered the SDLP's 'heartland' there is a strong, youthful and effective Sinn Féin activist base around Caitríona; the last European election proved that.

So like Mark Durkan and Gerry Fitt before her, this leader of the SDLP seems destined to want a place in the British House of Commons.

This all from the party who's conference slogan was 'Leadership for Ireland's Future' (worth remembering that the slogan from last years Sinn Féin Ard Fheis was 'Aisling do thodhchaí na hÉireann - A vision for Ireland's Future' - Can the SDLP not see anything??!!!) and a party whose last leader stood aside because he didn't feel he could lead that same party from Westminster, rather it needed a leader based in the Assembly in the north.

It's getting confusing, I know.

But amongst the SDLP mire, Caitríona Ruane will carry the banner for Sinn Féin - go néirí leat Caitríona!!

why not keep a good thing going???

I'm on a roll now

This is one of my favourite songs, sadly Christy keeps making a mistake in it when he refers to Volunteers Jim Straney and Liam Tomlinson - They weren't from the Falls but two IRA Volunteers who left East Belfast to fight Facism in Spain.

When he visited the Strand in 2002 to play what was a fantastic concert, we made it our business to show him their names on the local Republican Roll of Honour.

We'll forgive him I suppose and just remember that it's a great song, with a great message!!!


just for fun, and seeing how it's's another!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Preas ráiteas ó Folk4Haiti

AN 28 FEABHRA, 2010: 2.00in - 12 Meán Oíche

Is mian le BELFAST 4 HAITI ‘Folk 4 Haiti’ a fhógairt - lá mór de cheol tíre agus de cheol traidisiúnta na hÉireann san Empire Music Hall, Béal Feirste, an 28 Feabhra ó 2.00in go dtí meán oíche. Is costas £10.00 a bheidh ar na ticéid agus is féidir iad a cheannach ag an doras. Rachaidh an fáltas ar fad chuig Ciste Chrith Talún Háítí de chuid an Choiste Éigeandála um Anachana [DEC -Disasters Emergency Committee].

Rinne an crith talún ba láidre a bhí in Háítí le breis agus dhá chéad bliain an tír
Chairibeach a léirscrios Dé Máirt, an 12 Eanáir 2010. Tá breis agus £41,000 bailithe ag Belfast 4 Haiti go dtí seo agus má leanaimid lenár gcuid iarrachtaí, is féidir tuilleadh a bhailiú do mhuintir Háítí. Tabharfaidh ‘Folk 4 Haiti’ ceoltóirí tíre agus ceoltóirí traidisiúnta le chéile ó Bhéal Feirste agus i gcéin le haghaidh ceolchoirme den chéad scoth a mhairfidh lá iomlán.
I measc na n-aíonna speisialta a ghlacfaidh páirt sa cheolchoirm beidh:
Anne, Ben agus Colm Sands
Gerry O’Connor agus Cathal McConnell
Alan Burke
Barry Kerr
The Rapparees
The Pigeon Top
Caoimhín Mac Giolla Chatháin (Bréag)
Craobh Rua
Conor Caldwell agus Kevin Mc Cullagh
Crúb agus Béal
An Modh Díreach
Conor O’Kane
Breandán O’Hare, Ruadhraí O’Kane agus a gcairde

Tabhair faoi deara go bhfuil an ócáid seo arna heagrú chun leasa an DEC - An
Coiste Éigeandála um Anachana.
Ag amanna éigeandála thar lear, tugann an DEC comhaontas uathúil le chéile den
earnáil chúnaimh, an earnáil chorparáideach, an earnáil phoiblí agus an earnáil
chraoltóireachta chun trócaire na tíre a chomhchruinniú, agus le cinntiú go dtéann
an t-airgead a bhailítear chuig gníomhaireachtaí DEC a bhfuil ar a gcumas acu an
fhóirithint is fearr a chur ar fáil go héifeachtach agus go tráthúil do dhaoine. Is é
sainchúram DEC iarrachtaí gníomhaireachtaí a chomhaontú in amanna anachana -
mar thuilte, crith talún nó gorta - cibé áit ar domhan a tharlaíonn sé. Is é an cur
chuige atá againn in DEC maidir lenár gcuid oibre ná méid an airgid a bhailítear a
uasmhéadú agus cinntiú go gcaitear é ar bhealach éifeachtach agus freagrach.
Uimhir Charthanais: 1062638

PO BOX 999,

Ionad: The Empire Music Hall, Botanic Avenue, Béal Feirste
Dáta: Dé Domhnaigh, an 28 Feabhra
Costas Ticéid. £10 ag an doras Doirse: 2.00in
Is féidir airgead a dheonú go díreach chuig an DEC (Disasters Emergency
Committee) trínár leathanach Just Giving ag an seoladh seo:
Le breis faisnéise a fháil, déan teagmháil le Méabh/Dee ag
Sonraí suas chun dáta ar Facebook:
agus Twitter:

Gaeilgeoirí pay tax too Fred

An tAire Conor Murphy CTR

Sometimes the old notions from Belfast City Hall in the 1980s and early 90s seem unable to leave some of our ‘city fathers’ – or at least that seems to be the case with Cllr Fred Cobain MLA of the Ulster Unionist Party. (Old habits die hard and all that……..)

Fred, who is also chair of the Regional Development committee at Stormont is complaining that ‘public’ money is being spent on providing Irish classes for civil servants working within DRD.

I could go into the whole negative, sectarian, bigoted and repulsive history of Belfast City Council during Fred’s heyday but I think everyone knows the state that particular institution was in just a few years ago and in particular its total hostility to anything relating to the Irish language.

That was then of course, this is now.

The reality is that the Irish speaking community, an ever present and diverse population in Belfast, is growing all of the time. Growing numbers of parents are choosing to educate their children through the medium of Irish, more and more naíscoileanna and bunscoileanna are sprouting up across the Six Counties. I first went to Naíscoil Mhic Airt in the Short Strand in 1987, then onto Bunscoil Phobail Feirste in 1989 and then to Meánscoil Feirste in 1996. Since graduating from university I have worked in the Irish medium sector but as well as this I have the ability to go about my life from day to day through Irish.

Whether its watching TG4 or listening to Belfast’s Raidió Fáilte; whether its getting my news online from An Druma Mór or Nuacht24; its might mean accessing my money out of an ATM that operates in Irish, or getting my shopping from the fully bilingual Sainsbury’s Store in Andersontown; it means meeting friends for lunch in Caife Feirste in the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter; it means going for a pint in Cumann Cluain Ard or Maddens or Kelly’s; it means heading to see a concert or exhibition in An Droichead in south Belfast; it means working on the ground to help the growth of the language in the Short Strand through Dóchas na Trá; it means campaigning for an Acht na Gaeilge and it means having an option if I wanted to send children of mine to a range of first class schools which happen to be Gaelscoileanna.

The list is endless, but it isn’t unique to me, or a few dozen former Bunscoil students, this list applies to thousands of citizens across the north and hundreds of thousands across Ireland. People from all over the world are coming here to learn one of Europe’s oldest and richest languages. Last year some friends of mine were attending classes in the Gaeltacht in Dún na nGall and were learning alongside students from the USA, from Australia, from Sweden and even as far away as Japan. Recently it was announced that a University in China is to offer its students a course on the Irish Language.

And today we hear the news that the Department for Regional Development in the north is offering Irish classes for their civil servants. The key aspect of this for me is that the classes are fully subscribed, with a waiting list of people looking to avail of more ranganna.

The DRD has been to the fore in the promotion of the language since Minister Conor Murphy came into office; from the bilingual sign outside their headquarters in Adelaide Street in the heart of Belfast, to bilingual advertisements in the main local papers, to the Irish language adverts broadcast on Raidió Fáilte informing people of their many services. Translink have also published literature aimed at students in the Irish Medium Sector.

I suppose unsurprising, the announcement of the classes was met with opposition from Fred Cobain. He said;

"It doesn't matter if it cost £1,500 or £5, that's not the issue - it's public money," said Mr Cobain, who is chairman of the Assembly's Regional Development Committee.
"If people want to learn the Irish language, I'm perfectly happy for them to do this, but it has to be at their own expense."

So if we adhere to Fred’s view then the development of the language would receive no government investment or support, of course for many of us that was the case for a long enough time, but as I said earlier, that was then, this is now.
The notion that I, as someone who chooses to live my life through Irish does so to upset a broad section of our society is a nonsense, in fact it borders on offensive!
The idea that my choosing to speak Irish is ok "so long as I do it in private" is simply another form of prejudice and bigotry, all be it a slightly veiled version.
I cherish the fact that I am in a position to speak the native language of this country; I am hugely conscious of the fact that it is a gift that my parents imparted onto me by making the hugely difficult decision (because it was a difficult decision at the time my brothers and I began school) to send me three miles across the city each and every morning so that I would have an education through Irish.
They didn't make that decision to offend anyone else, it was a concious, informed and I believe beneficial decision and I thank them for that. I'm sure other pupils who have passed through the system feel the same way with regard to their parents and the decision they made.
Readers should bear in mind that the decision to do that back then really wasn't an easy one. Schools weren't funded, there wasn't as many as there are today, there wasn't always a great deal of teachers, the schools were usually housed in prefab huts; our school bus passed 3 permanent UDR and RUC checkpoints every morning before it even got to the Ormeau Road and almost daily it was stopped and held for a period of time, usually with one of our parents, who were volunteering on the bus to keep an eye on us, being taken off to be more often than not, searched, harrassed and sometimes arrested.
But I wanted to update this post because I have seen the issue debated on other blogs. Put simply, it offends me when someone suggests my very real love for the language is based solely on the premise of offending others or that it is legitimate so long as I go away somewhere and do it privately, as though it was something to be ashamed of is a nonsense.The core issue here is that the new generation of Irish speakers simply aren't tolerating or accepting that notion anymore. The days of 'croppy lie down' are well and truly gone. Buíochas le Dia!

The reality of this situation is that DRD, much like ALL of the departments, has obligations under the European Charter in relation to the promotion of the Irish language.

Of course when Fred talks about public money he forgets that Gaeilgeoirí pay taxes too; we are entitled to this service, we contribute to the economy through all the things I listed above, as well as through the media and creative industries. These classes were primarily sought out by staff within DRD who recognise their obligations, who see the reality of an ever growing Irish speaking population and the fact that their department is, thankfully, moving into an inclusive and unprecedented place.

I say all power and fair play to them!! Go n-eirí libh!

This news, coupled with the news that the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund has received a £12million boost and that there is an additional £8million for the development of infrastructural Irish language projects, simply goes to show that we are continuing to move forward, continuing to make the language open, available and accessible to more and more people.

Despite what Fred and people of a similar view think, An Ghaeilge has been here for quite some time, it has survived through quite a lot, it enriches all of our cultural experiences and for some of us even our lives, to me, that’s a good thing.

Beirigí Bua!!

PS: Scríobh mé an bhlag seo i mBéarla mar ba mhaith liom na phointí atá ann a leathnú amach i measc an phobail nach bhfuil Gaeilge acu, sílm go bhfuil an t-ábhar tábhachtach do níos mó na Gaeilgeoirí amháin. GRMA

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Celebrating Chinese New Year

The Year of the Tiger

On Sunday Alex Maskey and I joined with hundreds of other citizens in attending the Chinese New Year celebrations in St George's Market. I knew this was an impressive venue for a colourful, family celebrations after being at the POBAL event a few months ago.

Alex, by now, is a veteran of the Chinese community's celebrations, it was evident from how many people came over to welcome him and shake his hand, just how well got he is amongst out local Chinese population.

The event itself was great, the sights, the sounds and the smells were all outstanding and I particularly enjoyed the onstage entertainment.

Already we're looking forward to next year!!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Emotions run high at East Belfast library consultation

Last night I joined around fifty people in the Mount Conference centre on Woodstock link at a consultation on the future of library provision in Belfast.

This was one in a series of meetings being held across the city; some people suggested last night that at the very least the meeting should have been held in one of the threatened libraries.

It was clear from the moment that Irene Know took to her feet to give a presentation on the rationale for the consultation that this was going to be a heated meeting.

A number of other local politicians were in attendance, the PUP’s Dawn Purvis and Dr John Kyle as well as May Campbell from the DUP and members of the Socialist Party and the TUV.

I'm sure people will note the absence of the UUP.

At the meeting both myself and Dawn were tweeting regularly – &

The main thrust of the meeting, with people venting it pretty clearly, was that they believed there is nothing wrong with the libraries that exist, that the review was unnecessary and that to remove the existing library provision would have a truly detrimental effect on the community.

People were angry, some were emotional, people made the case that the library was a resource to help them learn English, to get our elderly neighbours out of the house for a while and save heating at home. Others made the case that they either couldn’t afford to travel to a library further away if the local ones were to close, some made the point that as disabled people they weren’t able to travel any further than their local library.

The Short Strand doesn’t have a dedicated library resource, the Community Centre recently opened the Jimbo Farrelly memorial library, a voluntary based effort in the centre that allows people to bring their old books and take some away. It is a vocal point for bookworms and knowledge seekers in our district. It is a wonderful resource.

It’s important to remember also the role the local, established libraries play to for schools in this part of the city.

Another key point raised by a man who himself works as a librarian, is the ever growing need for computer and internet provision, he made the point that his daughter used the library to do her homework night after night as he had no computer or internet access at home. Sometimes we forget just how valuable the library can be for people.

Most people support library provision, I’m sure everyone has a memory of their first time going to the library. I certainly remember my Da taking me over to Central Library to become a member when I was very, very young. Both my parents love reading; they encouraged us to read too, my Da, myself and my two brothers would be regular visitors to the library throughout our childhood. When we would go to Central Library (which seemed huge to me at the time!) I would look forward to taking out a ‘Garfield’ or ‘Asterix’ book; as I got older it would become Roald Dahl.

Last night it was clear to me that the people in East Belfast are focussed and determined in relation to this matter, most of them were pensioners, and fair play to them, they have my support!

Like many throughout the city I will be watching the progress of this consultation carefully, I will be supporting the retention of accessible, modern and community based library provision in what is the ninth most socio-economically deprived electoral ward in the north of Ireland.

A lot of work lies ahead, after last night I am confident we can do it!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Busy on the Hill

My apologies for not blogging as much lately, things have been 'relatively' busy up on the Hill!

People are more than aware of the outstanding issues that need to be resolved in the immediate time ahead; like everyone else in our community I think they can and must be done without further delay. Sinn Féin have made it clear they are committed to closing the deal.

Having been at Hillsborough, Caisleán Cromghlinne, last week it is easy to understand why this process has been frustrating.

On the ground in East Belfast, we have seen a totally unacceptable upsurge in robberies and burglaries over recent weeks. Some have targeted local business premises, others have been more opportunistic and have targeted the elderly and vulnerable members of our community; very often these incidents are not just traumatic for those victims but can also be violent. The latest incident saw a gym on Bloomfield avenue targeted by two robbers; the PSNI have to do more. This is an issue that has been raised with them repeatedly over recent months, not just in private engagements I'm sure, but also at the very public DPP meetings.

Later this week I will again meet with the developers of the Sirocco site on the Short Strand, this engagement has been an on-going one for some time, I have spoken on the key issues numerous times; they remain much the same. No doubt I will continue to keep you informed of where we are, not just with Sirocco but with Titanic and other smaller developments as well.

Unemployment, training opportunities and housing need remain the issues for this constituency and many others. The Department of Social Development have an ideal opportunity to 'tapaigh and déis ' and cease their policy of 'off the shelf' buying and engage with communities in order to help sustain them well into the future as well as providing employment and economic stimulation.

Bhí ceiliúradh 40 bliain bliain Phobal Bhóthar Seoighe agus Bunscoil Phobal Feirste i gCnoc an Anfa an seachtain seo chuaigh thart. Bhí me fhéin le freastal ar an rud, ach cosúil leis an duine a d'eagraigh an rud, bhí me gafa i gCaisleán na Croimghlinne!

Ach bhí an loachra ghael Caitríona Ruane i láthair agus creidim gur oíche den scoth a bhí ann. Maith sibh uilig, is cúis bróid domhsa mar iar-dhalta BPF go bhfuil ag éirí libh i gcónaí!!
Will do my best to keep you up speed over the coming days, don't forget i'm on twitter @