Monday, 29 November 2010

Fáilte Romhat

Further details about this important seminar.
Hope to see you there to join us in discussing this issue of global importance! Make sure you RSVP to the address above.
Bígí Linn!!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

History Makers

Election of Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty as TD for Donegal South-West

Blog report from Gerry Adams on the historic event over on Léargas

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Stop Climate Chaos

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 or on 02890243194

Monday, 15 November 2010

Margaret Ritchie and the Poppy

Much has been made of the SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie’s decision to wear a poppy at a commemoration to British Soldiers yesterday. Three out of four of my great grandfathers fought in the First World War, two of them were injured, all of them went in order to feed their families. This aspect of our family history was never hidden, it was never denied but it was never lauded either; mostly due to the fact that the various grandfathers themselves knew well the dirty, futile war they were forced to take part in given the economic conditions in Ireland at that time and the false promises made by the British Government. I have no intention of wearing a poppy. My father’s paternal Grandfather Jack wore a poppy every year, eventually he made the decision himself that he could no longer wear it given the evident political and sectarian abuse of that emblem during the recent phase of conflict here in Ireland. My mother’s paternal Grandfather was a radio operator during WW1 – his son, my Grandfather, went on to become a Volunteer in the IRA. So many of us throughout the Island have a family history similar to this; mostly due to the fact that Britain colonised our country. Its important to note that my mother’s paternal Grandmother was from a long line of Republicans; she hid bonds to pay for a speaking tour by O’Donnavan Rossa by sowing them under the carpet in what would eventually become my mothers family home in 35 Short Strand. I don’t deny the fact that I have great grandparents who fought in WW1, if I am honest I don’t laud it either. I acknowledge that these men, working class, fathers, husbands, were discriminated out of work in the vast industrial sectors that surrounded their homes in east Belfast and went to fight for the British Army, the reasons for this are multi faceted. Many others have a different analysis of this and given the fact that I live and represent people in east Belfast I know well that for them they have a different perspective. I think they appreciate a more honest approach this issue more so than tokenistic photo-ops. During the Second World War my maternal Grandparents had begun the process of throwing off the shackles of hunger, false promises and lies force fed to Irish people in order to try and trick them into fighting another war on Britain’s behalf. Like many they took part in the Struggle for Irish Freedom. My Grandfather Jim was interned in various jails for his republican activities and his wife to be, Mary, was already an active member of Cumann na mBan. During his tenure as Mayor of Belfast I with other Belfast republican activists joined Tom Hartley in laying a laurel wreath at the City Hall. For me this was difficult at a personal level but in a political sense I was prepared to acknowledge and more importantly remember the real reasons why so many men had to go to war. The story of the British Army is not one of glory. That is why I am genuinely intrigued as to why the SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie thought it would benefit her to take part in a British Army Remembrance Service and to wear the poppy which has become so divisive here over a long number of years. As a symbol it is now even being resisted in England given the pressure people feel under to wear one. I can understand and appreciate the loss felt by families of British soldiers at a personal level and they have every right to remember their loved ones, that is understandable. However I am genuinely intrigued to know what Margaret Ritchie will think, on a human level, the next time she bumps into the Ballymurphy or Bloody Sunday Families on her travels? What if she had of met one yesterday with her poppy in her lapel? What would she have said? For my part I am prepared to discuss this aspect of Irish History with all sectors, I think it is an aspect that needs continued discussion in order to break through the revisionist propaganda. However I have no desire to celebrate the British Army’s roles in countless military escapades across the world, I have no desire to financially contribute to them through the purchasing of a poppy. I am conscious always of those people murdered by the British Army here in Ireland over countless generations, I have no desire to create the false impression that there was ever anything good or beneficial about the role of the British Army here in Ireland, there was not and there is not. Sadly for their families the British Government are still more than willing to send countless men and women to death in unwinnable wars many miles away. So that is why in a very serious way I think Margaret Ritchie has made a blunder. In her PR driven desire to appear ‘progressive’ she will no doubt have isolated those countless people, many in her own constituency, who were harassed, beaten, intimidated and imprisoned by the British Army, each one of them victims. I think most people, from both communities here will see this for what it is. I await to see how Margaret will remember those men and women who fought and died in pursuit of Irish Freedom come next Easter.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Speaking in East Belfast & listening in Ravenhill

Last night's panel at East Belfast Speaks Out - Thanks to Alan in Belfast for the Photo
Last night I joined deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the second annual ‘East Belfast Speaks Out’ – I blogged on last years event here.

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

Going forward

Signing the Sinn Féin candidate pledge following my selection as candidate for east Belfast
On Tuesday night I, along with other Sinn Féin activists from the Martin / Treacy Cumann, gathered in the Short Strand Community Centre for the party selection convention to choose the candidate in east Belfast for the upcoming elections.

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

Táim ar ais

With the girls from the Strand who put on a fantastic show during the Diwali celebrations in the Short Strand Community Centre

I haven’t blogged in a while so apologies for that.

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.
With Mountpottinger Road residents Bernie, Hugh and May during the work to remove the unwanted flowerbeds at the front of their homes

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!

Beirigí Bua!

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.