Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Honour Ireland's Patriot Dead

We gathered in Stormont again this morning for the launch of this years Easter Lilly campaign.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was the main speaker at the event hosted by the Sinn Féin Assembly Team; Committee members from the Belfast National Graves Association were also in attendance.

Easter is the most important date in the Republican calender, a time when we come together at gravesides, country lanes, housing estates and at beautiful memorials, to remember those men and women from throughout our history who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of Irish freedom and independence.

some of our Minister's drivers Mick, Peter and Tony sang a number of Republican ballads

I blogged on last years event here

I was honoured to have been asked to read Forógra 1916, the 1916 Proclamation at today's event. That radical document, the bedrock of our politics continues to inspire and drive our political project today. In the Ireland 0f 2010, it's message has never been more relevant, more important, more needed!

Even as a young Republican, the significance of hosting an event like this in Stormont still strikes me. I am sure the older (or veteran!!) Republicans in attendance acknowledge the significance of it even more so.

south Belfast remembers - Alex Maskey and Vincent Prker with Martin at today's launch

This Easter Republicans are mobilised and energised like never before; we are facing into an important election having just emerged from the last as the largest party in the Six Counties.

As Martin McGuinness noted at today's event, no matter where we go or however far we continue to advance we must remember we are never alone, those who died are always our guides, for us they have laid the solid foundations on our sure path to unity and freedom.

At Easter we once again gather to remember their sacrifice and stand in solidarity with their loved ones. We do so with pride and respect. The Easter Lily as a symbol continues to command respect in amongst our people, it continues to encourage and inspire others to involve themselves in our struggle. Over the coming weeks, during the Easter season we will wear them with Pride.

Beirigí Bua!

Liam Shannon and Stephen McGuigan from the Belfast National Graves Association with deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in his office at Stormont

Monday, 22 March 2010


Bhí oíche ceiliúradh i Halla na Cathrach Bhéal Feirste de Sathairn nuair a bhronnadh gradaim Glór na nGael.

Comhghairdeas don Droichead arís uile, buaiteoirí uile-Éireannach sa chomórtais bliantúla seo.

Léiríonn an grianghraf Stiúrthóir an Droichead Dr Pól Deeds ag glacadh an gradaim ón Aire Éamonn Ó Ciuiv.

Arís eile, comhghairdeas daoibh go léir!!


New mural for east Belfast

This morning I attended the launch of a new mural near Pitt Park on the lower Newtonards Road.

The mural is entitled ‘No more’ and depicts young people from the lower Newtonards Road and the Short Strand coming together.

The mural includes a poem written by local community worker Jim Wilson and his grandson Dylan (who is one of the young people depicted in the mural). Dearbhlagh from the Short Strand is the other young person depicted.

I was delighted to have been invited to attend this morning’s unveiling and well done to Jim and Joe O’Donnell from the Short Strand Partnership who have been working alongside a number of us on various projects in this part of the city.

Often these types of murals could be branded as ‘tokenistic’ and maybe in some cases that’s correct; in this instance however I don’t think that applies. The reason I say this is because this mural (and the mural which will be launched in the Strand over the coming weeks) aren’t happening in isolation. There is work ongoing at a grassroots level like never before; the very fact that I as the Sinn Féin candidate in the upcoming election, was able to go and stand on the lower Newtonards Road, is indicative of just how much we are trying to improve relations for the benefit of both communities.

More often than not our work happens behind closed doors, out of sight, this morning’s event however allowed some of the many people involved in this important work to come out and be recognised for the unprecedented work they are involved in. I am more than happy to play my small part in trying to move us from a situation where anti social activity on the interfaces is impacting so negatively on our communities to a place where there is mutual understanding, possibly even mutual respect for where each community is coming from.

I am proud of the fact that I am an Irish Republican, I know the people in Pitt Park are proud of their viewpoint as well and that’s fair enough; what strikes me, as someone involved in this work, is that we aren’t going to agree on everything, but we can work to help our community. This is particularly relevant in somewhere like east Belfast with all the economic, employment and investment opportunities that will present themselves over the coming years.

Again, I commend all those involved in today’s mural launch and look forward to the rolling out of this project over the coming period; I also look forward to continued engagement between our communities and hope that together we can play our role in ensuring a safer environment and better physical surroundings for everyone.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Welcome for news of public inquiry into runway extension

Copy of the Press Release issued from me this afternoon:

Ó Donnghaile welcomes DOE announcement on Airport Inquiry

March 16, 2010

Sinn Féin’s east Belfast Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed today’s news that the Environment Minister is to ask the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) to hold a public inquiry to consider the application from Belfast City Airport (GBBCA) to extend its runway.

Speaking today Mr Ó Donnghaile said;

“Sinn Féin has made clear our support for a full and open public inquiry into any planned extension to the runway at the City Airport. In particular residents in east and south Belfast, as well as north Down, who are so affected by the Airport as it is are demanding this inquiry takes place.

At our recent Ard Fheis I spoke on a motion from the Martin/Treacy Cumann in the Short Strand supporting the call for this inquiry.

While we are at an early stage I would call on all stakeholders and in particular residents affected to participate fully in this inquiry and make sure that their feelings and concerns are clearly heard.

Obviously we will await the findings of any inquiry with interest. Both myself and my party colleague Alex Maskey will be meeting with the Belfast City Airport Watch Group this week and will continue to engage with them in the coming period on this important issue.” CRÍOCH


Monday, 15 March 2010

Developing the land left at Mountpottinger

Myself, Patrick Devlin (Chair - St Matthews Housing Association) and Joe O'Donnell (Director Short Strand Partnership) ahead of our meeting with PSNI ACC Alastair Finlay

Since the closure of the Mountpottinger Barracks as an ‘operational’ PSNI facility, community representatives in the Short Strand have continued to work diligently in trying to secure the land for the development of much needed social and family homes.

While one campaign was successful, another one began.

As revealed to my comrade Alex Maskey at last weeks Policing Board meeting, the site of the Barracks will begin to be demilitarised over the summer. While that will be a welcome development for the community, the last thing we want to see is a similar situation to that of the land vacated by the Andersontown Barracks site.

The wheels of the community’s plan are well and truly in motion.

As a member of the Short Strand Partnership Board’s ‘Housing and Physical Improvement Sub-Group’ I have been involved in the discussions around ‘what next?’ for this site. Sinn Féin and the Short Strand community campaigned for years and ultimately secured the closure of the Mountpottinger Barracks, now the campaign is to ensure that the land that will inevitably become available is acquired by the Housing Minister Margaret Ritchie for the development on the site.

That is what the community wants, that is what the community needs.

Sinn Féin’s approach to the development of the Mountpottinger Barracks site is part of our overall strategic view for development within the Short Strand community. The potential for development at the Translink Bus Depot, the Sirocco Quays site and our community’s interaction with this site and the Titanic Quarter development all feature in our view for the area in the period ahead.

All of this must be in line with how we continue our social and community based interaction with the rest of east Belfast.

Today I joined fellow members of the Partnership’s Housing sub-group, Joe O’Donnell (Director – Short Strand Partnership) and Patrick Devlin (Chair – St Matthews Housing Association) in meeting with the PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Finlay to discuss the plans for the demilitarisation of the base and ultimately its demolition.

Over the coming weeks and months I intend to outline some of the far thinking and strategic plans that could be developed and help improve the lives of citizens in the Short Strand area and those who live in broader inner East Belfast generally.

Today’s meeting was useful; I look forward to continued engagement with the stakeholders but most importantly, my neighbours in the Trá Ghearr. Next on the list is the Strategic Investment Board.

I’ll keep you all up to date.

Beirigí Bua!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

It has been a busy few days

It has been a busy few days

Last Friday David and I hit the road to Dublin for the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis; thankfully it was a lovely morning and the sun was with us on the whole journey down.

The Ard Fheis is a fantastic event, bringing comrades from across Ireland and beyond together for discussion, debate, craic and everything else! For me it is now a particularly busy few days, both in the run up to and during the Ard Fheis itself.

Leaving Press Office duties aside for a second, our local Cumann, the Martin/Treacy Cumann Short Strand, as well as South & East Belfast Comhairle Ceantair, had a number of motions up for discussion; from supporting calls for a public inquiry for any runway extension at Belfast City Airport, to standing for community involvement in the Titanic Quarter development, to calling on the Housing Minister to acquire the vacant land at Mountpottinger Barracks, to calling for increased Irish Language provision within all levels of the party.

Bhí an Rún ar na moltaí Gaeilge os comhar na hArd Fheise oíche Aoine, labhair mé ar a son dár ndóighe.

with well know blogger Alan in Belfast

Saturday allowed me to get up and support the calls from the Belfast City Airport Watch Group, as well as the many residents effected, for a public inquiry into any planned extension to the runway. I also took the opportunity to get up and propose our Cumann’s motion on, what else, but Mountpottinger!

The highlight of every Ard Fheis is the Presidential Adress and this year was no different.

Gerry’s slot had been moved to later in the evening at 8:30pm and shortened to a half hour as opposed to the full hour. This was a better idea!

From he walked up to the podium until the minute he finished Gerry was trí thinne!

He is the most popular politician in Ireland for a reason and Saturdays powerful performance reminded us, despite the gutter snipe and horrendous attacks, why that remains the case!

First Minister Martin McGuinness didn't miss and hit the wall either, he made our position regarding coalition with Fine Gael very clear

Next year the Ard Fheis will come to Cúige Uladh and be held in my native city, Béal Feirste. I’m looking forward to thousands of comrades, Sinn Féin activists, descending on Ireland’s second city, and bringing with them the same energy and dynamism that journeys to the capital every year!

Saturday night saw the annual ‘Le chéile’ celebration, honouring Republicans from across Ireland and beyond who have contributed so much to the Republican struggle, more often than not, without thanks, without recognition.

The Le Chéile event rightly changes that.

A particular source of pride for me and for the Republican Family in the Short Strand was that it was one of our own, Johnny Doc, who was the Ulster nominee this year. Johnny’s contribution to the Republican struggle over 70 years has known no bounds, Gerry Adams paid a particularly poignant and respectful tribute to Johnny; I was honoured to be in attendance, I am delighted too for Johnny and his clann. Tá sé tuilte agat Johnny Doc!

You can read more about Johnny in an interview he gave to An Phoblacht ahead of Le Chéile.

On Sunday we were back up the road to Béal Feirste, in the knowledge that Tuesday would bring the major debate on the transfer of Policing and Justice Powers away from England and into the hands of politicians elected in Ireland.

This debate and subsequent vote was a long time coming, but thankfully we secured more powers and control being removed from faceless British Ministers and into a political institution with all-Ireland and cross-border arrangements. Nach rud maith é sin ar turas s’againn? Níl se thart go foil dár ndóighe.

Tuesday also saw the launch of Rith 2010 – an All-Ireland event taking its inspiration from Korika in the Basque Country. Rith 2010 is a continuous run from Belfast, finishing in Galway on Lá na Féile Pádraig. I was honoured and privileged to carry the baton during last nights main run along a stretch of the Ormeau Road passing An Droichead! The main purpose, aside from all the sporting, community and health benefits is that it is dedicated to raising funds for grassroots Irish Language projects and organisations. Tuilleadh eolais anseo.

The baton will finish up in Galway where it will be opened and a special message from Uachtarán Mary McAleese will be read to those gathered.

Ag an Tionól, faoi ceannaireacht Rosie McCorley d’eagraigh foireann Shinn Féin Rith dlúthpháirtíochta ar fud an Eastáit Stormont. Glach roinnt mhaith Airí, CTReanna, agus foireann tacaíocht SF páirt agus bhí an aimsir galánta agus lá den scoth againn go léir!

myself and maskey making our way down the Ormeau Road

clearly we weren't ready for this last photo to be taken!!!

Now the preparation for Easter kicks in, a busy but always important time for Irish republicans; where we gather to remember our Patriot Dead and send our continued solidarity to their loved ones. The Sinn Féin Assembly Team will once again launch the Easter Lilly at Stormont in the coming weeks, as they do every year and then we will gather at gravesides, monuments, street corners and housing estates, not just to remember those who paid the ultimate price in pursuit of our Freedom but to recommit ourselves to the cause that they died for.

Tá neart os ár gcomhair, mar is gnáth!!

Beirigí Bua!!

PS I hope to have photos of the Le Chéile celebrations up soon. NÓD