Monday, 30 January 2012

Wee Harry

Harry with Gerry A and RG during their visit to Palestine

At the 'Le Chéile' event during the Ard Fheis in Belfast

Harry at the parade in the Short Strand to open 'An Tine Bheo' Memorial Garden

At Belfast's '40 under 40' in Queens University

Attending the Ard Fheis in the Waterfront Hall (and no doubt talking about the scéal in Ballymaccarett!)

I haven't written on my blog for some time - but hearing the news of the passing of Harry Thompson compelled me to write down my thoughts on a friend, a comrade and a fellow Ballymaccarett man.

Like most Belfast republicans, I've known "Wee Harry" for years - growing up, he was a regular feature during reflections people would engage in about "years ago". His name always came up - but he wasn't a historical figure by any stretch of the imagination. He was at everything; Saoirse rallies, Easter Parades, Commemoration nights, Republican Family meetings, white line vigils. At all of these things, Wee Harry would be front and centre.

As a kid I got to know Harry because I was in the same school year as his daughter Ellen. He immediately spied me as being from the Strand when he saw me with my parents, who he had known for years. Harry and I immediately struck up a friendship, because that was the nature of the man - he loved people; he loved to get to know them; everyone who knows Wee Harry will recognise these familiar words, or something very similar, that he regularly opened a conversation with;

"Well how are you? How's you're mummy? And what about your da? How are things in the district? Are they going well for you? Great people! Don't worry, you have them with you. Good people, good people."

He always took the time to ask about others. He never complained.

You couldn't help but love Wee Harry - his passion for his family, his community and our struggle was infectious! He never stopped.

Whether traveling the world in support of the Republican Movement, or accompanying Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to Gaza after vicious bombardments, or dedicating his life to supporting republican POWs and their families, Harry played his part.

He was so proud to welcome the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis to his native Béal Feirste for the first time ever in September last year. After I addressed delegates on the Friday evening and was making my way off stage, there was Wee Harry, waiting in the wings. I hadn't seen him in a while and as always it was a great boost and lift, after throwing the arms around him, to hear what his thoughts were on the politics of the day and where the struggle was at.

Appropriately at this years "Le Chéile" event during the Ard Fheis, Harry, alongside Annie Cahill, was the nominee from Cúige Uladh.

In typical, selfless fashion, when accepting his honour Harry didn't think of himself, he thought of others. Unsurprisingly, he dedicated his award to "the women - the women who had done so much for us."

That was Harry.

Another immediate feature people recognised in him was his overflowing love for his Clann - and in return, all of Harry's girls (or Foireann Harry as they call themselves!) doted on their dáidí.

A short time ago I visited Harry at home - I called in between engagements and was travelling in the Mayor's car; I also had the chain of office with me. Harry, Cathy, Ellen, Niamh and Aisling were all there and greeted us in typical Belfast fashion. As always, the house was open; and no doubt the many hundreds who visited their house in recent times will have encountered that same Céad Míle Fáilte.

Harry was up and about that day, he was in great form and had put his suit on - Harry was forever telling me (and anyone who would listen!) about the significance of having a Short Strand man in the office of Mayor. Like many, Harry had struggled through much darker days in Ireland and with thanks to him and them, we are in a changed and better place.

Harry's energy and activism would put many a younger comrade to shame!

Even in illness, he ventured over the bridge and back home to his own Parish and helped us deliver the eve of poll letter in the Strand the night before the elections last May. And that was by no means the exception to the rule. All over Ireland he canvassed, leafleted or organised - and when it called for it, Harry rebelled, agitated and fought!

As always Wee Harry did his bit.

He had a deep grá for his home patch and we in return had a deep grá for him. He never forgot where he came from and was always a friend and supporter to many individuals, families and projects in our district. In recent years himself and Cathy joined a huge squad from the Strand on a holiday to sunny Spain. By all accounts the craic was great and even Dickie was there to keep Harry company.

His last contribution in the area was to play a central role in realising the building and dedication of "An Tine Bheo", the Republican Memorial Garden and Project in the Short Strand. Harry knew the importance of honouring and maintaining the memory of our Patriot Dead and had a deep commitment to it.

Across Belfast, across Ireland and indeed across the world, people will mourn the loss of Harry - not least in the United States where Harry found himself with a new, extended family and developed many relationships in support of the struggle back home in Ireland.

But nowhere will his loss be felt more than amongst his own family. Cathy and his girls. His brothers Seamus, Tony, John and Joe and his sister Lily.

Tá mo croí bhriste daoibhe ar fad.

No few words will sum up the life of Óglach Harry Thompson - he impacted on so many peoples lives and so many people will have fond and cherished memories of Harry and his trusted friendship. There is so much I haven't even touched on about the eventful but happy life of this republican activist - but that's ok as there's no doubt others will feel like me, and want to put their reflections down in black and white.

While Harry's passing will leave many of us feeling sad, we can be sure in the knowledge that Harry played his part - he reared a good Clann, who are equally as committed to their people, their culture and their country as he. With them, Wee Harry really did his finest work, and his daughters and grandchildren are a clear testimony to that. His love for his wife Cathy was as plain as the nose on your face - they had great craic together. She will no doubt miss him dearly.

Harry is from a tremendous generation of Irish people who took the brave stand to finally throw off the shackles of the failed Orange State; to struggle in pursuit of what was and remains our ultimate goal, the freedom and unity of our country.

For Harry and for those many people like him, in communities and in families and in homes right across this island, the onus remains on us to ensure we achieve those goals.

We are extremely lucky to have people like Harry Thompson in our midst; but we're even luckier when we get to know them.

On behalf of the Republican Family in Short Strand / Ballymaccarett - our thoughts and prayers are with his entire clann at this sad time.

Thanks for everything comrade.

Codladh Sámh a chara.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Job Done

So sin é - Elections 2011 are over (at least until the by-election in west Béal Feirste next month!)

There's a lot I'd like to and probably should say, but for fear of loosing you, the faithful reader, I will simply thank all of those who placed their trust in me as well as Sinn Féin and decided to elect me to Belfast City Council.

For all candidates the run up to an election is hectic; from one door to another:

"Hello, my name is Niall Ó Donnghaile; I'm the Sinn Féin candidate for the Election on May 5th. I was just wondering if you had a few minutes for a chat or if there are any issues you wish to raise?"

I sometimes wonder am I repeating this mantra in my sleep?

But for all my messing, mantra or not, it paid off in the end!

To polling day itself; after a period of brilliant weather, my 5am rise was greeted with dull and drizzly weather - typical!

As always, we ventured to St Matthews School, awaiting, what we hoped, would be a vast influx of Sinn Féin voters. As the day went on, we weren't disappointed.

Thanks to those who opened up their homes (and fridges and kitchen cupboards) to our activists working hard on the day and allowed us the space to turn their homes into something resembling the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, with people shouting figures across the room, computers wizzing, printers printing and wires galore we were lucky no one tripped!

As polling day progressed, it became clear that some of the Electoral Office staff weren't entirely ofay with what had to be done given the fact that there were three different ballots on the one day - it also became clear that the three papers were causing a lot of confusion, particularly for our older citizens. We stressed with them the need to improve the process of giving people papers, explaining what they to do and allowing them the chance to exercise their vote. After some time the process improved and we are thankful to the staff for their work on the day.

As the evening drew in we were glad to see a rush of people, returning home from university, work, (special mention to the one who came all the way from Kerry!) and other places to cast their votes - it also saw our team swelling as supporters wanted to play their part in what had the potential to be a great victory.

Again Sinn Féin thanks them all and thanks everyone who voted Sinn Féin number one or indeed those who didn't but heeded our message that sometimes a transfer was just as important!

As for the Assembly Count in Newtonards - well that's a blog (or novel!) for another time.

I am delighted to have been elected to represent the people of Pottinger in City Hall; I look forward to working with my fellow Councillors for the area on the issues affecting our people day and daily on the ground.

For too long now many people (including some from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community) felt that having solely Unionist representation for Pottinger was not allowing a voice for many citizens, particularly those in working class inner east Belfast - following this weeks result, one thing is for certain, that is about to change.

As for Béal Feirste over all - Sinn Féin is again the largest party increasing our share of seats under the 'Dome of Delight' from 14 to 16 - many of us were bitterly disappointed (particularly given the year that's in it) not to be welcoming Mary Doyle, former Armagh protesting POW and Hunger Striker, onto the Council with us. Also the loss of Briege Bownlee, herself a former protesting POW, will no doubt be a blow to the people of the lower Falls who will fell the loss of her hard work on Council the most.

I have no doubt that both women will continue to work for our people and ensure a voice for them enters into City Hall next time around.

As for my newly elected and re-elected comrades; I look forward to working with and helping them all over the term of Belfast City Council. Go n-eirí linn!

A few short weeks ago at Easter, I had the tremendous honour and privilege to speak at the Republican monument in the Short Strand, 'An Tine Bheo'.

I spoke about the importance of what An Tine Bheo (The Living Flame) meant for Republicans right across Ireland as we continue to grow and advance our republican project.

For me An Tine Bheo is the legacy left to us by the men and women who have gone before; who struggled, fought, campaigned, protested and died in pursuit of our ultimate objectives. We continue to take our lead, our inspiration, our courage and our determination from them as we pursue a new era of republican struggle.

An Tine Bheo is not bricks or mortar; it is in us; it is of us; and now it shines brighter than ever in Stormont, in Leinster House, Belfast City Hall and in institutions right across Ireland and beyond.

Beirigí Bua!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Election Campaign 2011

Apologies for the lack of blogging in recent times, while other candidates seems to go into blogging overdrive I can't seem to find the time between putting up posters and rapping doors!

I handed in my nomination papers for the Assembly election yesterday (thanks to everyone who signed them!) at Newtonards. Our photo shows me and my election agent Hugh. Next week I'll submit my nomination papers for the Council elections at Belfast City Hall alongside the other Sinn Féin candidates.

It's a busy time and while every other candidate will tell you canvasses have been 'great', 'brilliant', 'wonderful' srl, I have been happy with the feedback on my own up to this point.

People tend to use the opportunity to either declare their support for what you're doing, raise issues with you, remind you it's they who have the power to elect someone, or indeed tell you to clear off and never darken their door again!

With yesterday evening turning out to have such a bright and pleasant end to the day, we found a lot of people weren't at home while we were on the canvass trail; and who could blame people for taking the opportunity to venture over the bridge for some late shopping or take the kids for a kickabout up in Cherryvale? Or dare I say it, even slide round for a pint or two in St Matts or the Strand Bar??

We were also canvassing in Ravenhill last night, and I'm glad to see people were aware of the fact that in that particular part of the City they vote for Alex Maskey as the south Belfast Assembly candidate and me as the Pottinger Council candidate.

Sin an dóigh!

Well, I'm off for now and will keep up the canvassing and leafleting over the weekend. Maybe if you don't see me on the blog as much we might bump into each other on the door. Beirigí Bua!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Ó Donnghaile: Campaign for alley-gates in Short Strand goes on

Here's a copy of a press release issued from me earlier today:

Sinn Féin candidate for Pottinger Niall Ó Donnghaile has said his party’s campaign to secure alley-gates for a number of streets in the Short Strand will continue.

Speaking from the area this morning Niall said;

“For some time now Sinn Féin, alongside residents in the Strand, has been campaigning to secure much needed alley-gates for a number of streets in the district.

In particular, the entry at Beechfield Street has presented consistent anti social problems which we have raised with the City Council and other statutory agencies for some time now.

Recently I chaired a meeting between Sinn Féin representatives, St Matthews Housing Association, Short Strand Community Forum, the PSNI and Belfast City Council all of whom were very clear about the immediate need for gates at this entry.

In fact the representatives from the Council made clear to those of us in attendance, that Beechfield Street was top of a citywide list for alley-gates, should additional monies become available.

The fact that this matter has gone on for so long, while other areas have secured alley-gating schemes, just goes to show the neglect of this community at a Council level over the past six years.

I commit myself to continue to work on this issue, confident that with the continued support of residents and community representatives we will be able to secure these gates.” CRÍOCH

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A good buzz around the place......

Photographed with the Rev Jesse Jackson are: myself, Cllr Deirdre Hargey, Alex Maskey MLA and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Great buzz around Stormont yesterday for the arrival of Sinn Féin's All-Ireland Team of elected representatives.

TDs (rightfully so!) strolled relaxed through the once hallowed halls of Stormont, being greeted by DUP Speaker of the House Willy Haye.

Other parties were noticeably absent around the building when the evidence of Sinn Féin's national representation became clear for all to see.

One notorious tweeting MLA, who is never too shy in getting his mug on the TV, walked past several times, aghast and open mouthed, in disbelieve at what he was seeing. Of course his party either doesn't want to get involved in 'Irish' politics or on the other hand can't make up it's mind which of the Free State parties it wants to climb into bed with!

But sure as we say as Ghaeilge, ‘sin scéal eile’!

Last night we kicked off the canvass proper in the Short Strand. We have been out and about doing registration over the last few weeks and of course are always in the area engaging with people but last night was the beginning of the campaign proper. People were welcoming, friendly and positive and I thank them for taking the time to speak with us and look forward to continued engagement over the coming weeks!

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting with Civil Rights Champion Rev Jesse Jackson as he visited St George’s Boxing Club in the Market area. His presence and words had an immediate impact on everyone gathered and for taking the time to speak with everyone gathered we thank him.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Conor Murphy returns to Short Strand

Conor Murphy returns to Short Strand

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy today visited the Short Strand to meet with representatives of the local Partnership Board.

The purpose of his visit was so we could put our case forward for a new lay-by at the proposed childcare facility at Pottinger’s Quay.

I’ve blogged about our plans here

Conor and I were joined by interim Dirctor of the board Patricia Johnson and fellow board members Mairéad O’Donnell, Patrick Devlin, Conor Keenan, Jacquline O'Donnell and others.

Conor was joined by officials from Roads Service who seemed more than willing to take our ideas and plans forward; we very much look forward to continuing to work with them on this exciting local project.

We also stopped by the land at the former Mountpottinger Barracks site to keep Conor up to speed on the plans for the development of social housing.

We also thanked Conor and Roads Service for securing traffic calming measures for several streets in the area; Edgar Street, Madrid Street and Bryson Street.
Other political parties have tried to lay claim to this achievement but thankfully locally people saw their cynical move for what it was and can easily see through it as a bit of an election stunt.

I blogged on Conor’s previous visit here

In the meantime here are some pictures from today

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Got to Dance!

Strand Extreme are one of Belfast’s premier dancing troops!

The local hip-hoppers have been to so many championships and won so many titles ive lost count.

One thing that is for sure is that these kids can move.

Particular praise must go to the parents of the kids who have tramped the streets of the Strand in all kinds of weather, as have the dancers themselves, to collect money for Strand Extreme Hoodies, transport and all-round general assistance.

I think it’s fair to say that the people in our area have been very forthcoming in their willingness to help out and fair play to them.

I first encountered Strand Extreme when they ventured one night into St Matthews Club shaking their buckets and putting the onus on those of us who are all so often prepared to criticise the younger members of our community, to put our money where our mouth is and dig deep to help support them!

And they did a brilliant showcase of their dancing that night.

That’s why, with the help of Simon Little from Phoenix Gas’ ‘Energy for Children’ charity I was delighted to have been able to help secure £1700 for new equipment and gear for Strand Extreme and the Doyle Youth Club.

I certainly look forward to continuing to work with Energy for Children to see what continued support they can offer to our young people and those many people who give up their time to provide what is one of Belfast’s, if not Ireland’s, best youth facilities.

Big well done to Coocher and Leanna and everyone involved with Strand Extreme and the Doyle for all the hard work they put in.

Go neirí libh go léir!
NB: Our photo shows me with the Strand Extreme boys & girls as well as their teacher Leanna, senior youth worker at the Doyle, Paul 'Coocher' McCrory and Simon Little from Phoenix Gas on the left

Beep!! Beep!!

Action Cancer’s Big Bus passes through the Strand

This week I, along with other community workers and representatives, welcomed the Action Cancer Big Bus into the Short Strand once more.

The service provide by this facility is valuable and I was delighted to hear that by mid-morning many local people had called into the bus and also into the Doyle where other health tests and services were available.

I want to commend everyone who helped put the Health Day together and thank all those who came in to offer their services. I have no doubt we’ll look to have them all back again soon!

Our photo shows me (usually I avoid heights!) with some of the organisers and workers at the Action Cancer Big Bus which set up home outside the Doyle all day.

St Matthews Attacked

This morning, as I have sadly done numerous times before, I ventured to St Matthews Chapel having just received a phone call to say that the Church had been attacked.

As we all know St Matthews is no stranger to attacks and I have blogged on some of them in the past.

Obviously this paint attack was particularly upsetting to those attending Mass this morning, who, despite the countless attacks on this beautiful building over the years, never get used to it. Of particular concern to the Parish is the damage caused to the spotlights, which nightly light up the stunning edifice of the Chapel, which were smashed and the cost of repair will no doubt run into the thousands.

Here's a copy of the press release I issued today and our photo shows PUP Leader Brian Ervine who, along with party colleague called to see the damage caused to themselves.

That small gesture, alongside the occasion when myself, Joe O'Donnell and Bernie Black went across to the memorial on the Newtonards Road, show that both communities want these attacks to stop and stop now.

Ó Donnghaile condemns attack on St Matthews Chapel

Sinn Féin representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile has slammed those responsible for an attack on St Mathews Chapel last night and has called for community leaders from all sections of the community to show leadership in order to send a clear message to those behind it.

The church had paint thrown at it and several of its exterior spotlights smashed, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Speaking this morning Mr Ó Donnghaile said:

“This attack in wholly unjustifiable and has caused considerable damage. As many parishioners came to mass this morning they were understandably very upset at the damage caused.

“These type of attacks are unfortunately a sporadic occurrence with particular groupings of young people from both sections of our community, who are well known to the PSNI, causing damage and upset on both sides of the interface.

“I along with other community representatives within the Short Strand did not back away from our responsibilities when the local memorial on the Newtownards Road was attacked and vandalised. I was glad to welcome Brian Ervine, leader of the Progressive Unionist Party to St Matthews so he could see the damage for himself; I commend him for that stand he has taken today and I believe that we can collectively send a message on behalf of our communities that we want this to stop and stop now.” CRÍOCH

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Let's get the ball rolling

Members of the Short Strand Partnership Board come together at the site of the former Mountpottinger Barracks site - News that housing is to be built on the site follows a long and hard fought campaign by the community in the area to see this vision realised

Our Pic shows me with Patricia Johnson (Interim Director Short Strand Partnership), Mairead O'Donnell (Short Strand Partnership), myself, Patrick Devlin (Chairman St Matthews Housing Association & Short Strand Partnership) and Jim Black (Director St Matthews Housing Association)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Statement from Short Strand Partnership

Short Strand Partnership Board delighted at Housing for Mountpottinger

The Short Strand Partnership Board have expressed their delight at the announcement from the DSD this morning that the land left vacant following the demolition of Mountpottinger Barracks is be acquired for the purposes of developing social housing.

Interim Board Director Patricia Johnson, Chair of St Matthews Housing Association Patrick Devlin and local Sinn Féin Representative Niall Ó Donnghaile all welcomed the news.

In a joint statement they said;

“Our Partnership has always endorsed the position that this land would be best suited for the development of quality, social housing. We have been part of a long campaign and today’s news is no doubt a result of that hard work.

We look forward to seeing this land developed without delay.

Obviously it will be hugely beneficial for our community and once again we would encourage our neighbours who are in need of housing to ensure their name is on the Housing Executive’s waiting list. It is vital that we see this land best utilised for the common good of our community in a speedy and responsible fashion.

We have no doubt that our local, community based Housing Association, St Matthews, would be in an ideal position to take this exciting development forward.

What we need to see now is a meaningful engagement between the Department and ourselves in the local community.” ENDS

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Conor Murphy to visit Short Strand once more

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy will again visit the Short Strand next month to meet myself and other representatives from the Short Strand Partnership Board.

The purpose of Conor’s visit, where he will be joined by officials from Roads Service, is for us to make the case for improved traffic access at the soon to be childcare facility at Pottinger’s Quay, ‘Water babies’.

As you may be aware the Partnership has acquired the ground floor space at ‘Pottinger’s Quay’ (at the junction of the Short Strand and Albertbridge Road) to develop an exciting new childcare/crèche facility which will provide much needed services not just for people in the Short Strand and inner east Belfast, but for many people travelling into work in Belfast city centre who can avail of the service.

This exciting project will also provide much needed jobs for people from the locality who have been fully trained in childcare provision. It will also allow for further training opportunities in this industry for young people from the locality.

With the support of a number of partners we hope to see the development open as soon as possible and given the predicted demand for space at the ‘Waterbabies’ crèche it is our view that changes to the current road layout would be necessary to create a safe space for parents to drop off and collect their children.

So positive opportunities lie ahead and much like Conor has been able to assist the community in other ways, we are confident he will do his best for us in relation to this.

Also worth pointing out I have contacted Housing Minister Alex Attwood inviting him to a site visit to the now vacant land at the former Mountpottinger Barracks site. I look forward to welcoming him to the Strand and making the case once again that the community want and need good quality social and family homes.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

An explanation please?

No, not of the sign in the picture, like most multi-lingual signage that's very straightforward and easy to understand!
Unless of course you're in the Alliance Party, for whatever reason, they are of the opinion that it's, "divisive", "confusing" and probably worst of all, "tribal".
Personally, I don't see it.
But while the Alliance Party seek to retain the votes they recieved within Unionist East Belfast at the last election, perhaps they could actually come out and tell us 'how' this kind of signage (in areas of course where there is a demand for them and where they are sought out) would be "divisive", "confusing" and "tribal"????
PS: I snapped the picture while canvassing in Chapelizod for sitting Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Housing Executive must step up

This is me with Billy McDonagh.

Billy lives in a bungalow in the Short Strand.

Before Christmas during the freeze Billy rang me to say he was very concerned about the conditions of the windows in his home. This isn’t the first time Billy has been in touch, on numerous occasions I have had to lobby the Housing Executive and their contractors on his behalf.

The extreme weather exacerbated many of his concerns about the condition of his home and despite numerous visits from contractors, no substantial repair work has been carried out to his property.

Without doubt, the impact on Billy’s health has been negative.

During a meeting Sinn Féin held with the Chief Executive, Chairperson and senior management staff from the Housing Executive, I raised Billy’s case directly with them.

But back to the phone call Billy made to me pre-Christmas; he informed me that despite putting oil in the tank and having the heating on, large clumps of ice were forming around the INSIDE of his window frames. I checked the heating and while not an expert, to me it seemed to be working fine. As for his windows, I had never seen anything like it, the only thing I can think of to describe is similar to the ice that forms around the inside of your freezer door.
It is clear that despite his heating being on, Billy's home is loosing it through the unsuitable windows. Billy has informed me that on some occasions he wakes up in the morning and is able to see his breath.

This gives Billy and I cause for serious concern.
Following the holidays I also contacted the local Housing Executive and urged them to review Billy’s case without delay; they have agreed, but over a week has passed with no one coming to see him. While appreciating the Housing Executive are dealing with a substantial backlog of work, given the serious impact on Billy’s health and wellbeing, it baffles me how so much time would be allowed to lapse without even coming out to asses the condition of his home.

Billy makes the case and I support him in this, that his wooden windows are not up to scratch and it is our view that the Housing Executive should seek to replace them with more appropriate UPVC windows.

Appropriately Billy took a number of photos of the conditions of his windows during the freeze and these can indeed be passed onto the Housing Executive.

For our part, south & east Belfast Sinn Féin will be seeking a meeting with the Housing executive management to discuss this and a number of outstanding issues.

Don’t forget you can get in touch with our office if you need assistance on an issue like this or any other @ or 02890243194

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Press Release

Press Release issued earlier in relation to the PSNI seizing over £200,000 worth of drugs within Pottinger

Ó Donnghaile welcomes Ravenhill drugs seizure

Sinn Féin Representative for Pottinger Niall Ó Donnghaile has welcomed today’s seizure of more than £200,000 worth of cannabis in the London Street area of Ravenhill.

Speaking this afternoon Niall said;

“Obviously any move to take illegal drugs off our streets is to be welcomed.

For some time now Sinn Féin have been raising the concerns of residents across the Pottinger area directly with the PSNI about apparent increases in drug dealing in the constituency.

As a community we must all ensure we stand against those who would peddle drugs within our areas.” CRÍOCH

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


.....GIVE US HOMES!!!!

Here I am at the junction of Madrid Street while workers continue the work to demolish the former Mountpottinger PSNI Barracks.

At this stage regular readers are more than familiar with Sinn Féin and the Short Strand Community's long campaign to have this Barracks demolished and social, family homes put in it's place.

Images like this certainly highlight the success of our campaign!

I have been in contact with the contractor regarding the timeframe for complete removal of the base and continue to lobby the Department of Social Development on the urgent need for the site to be acquired and utilised for high standard family homes.

More to follow and as always I'll keep you informed.

Beir Bua


Thursday, 6 January 2011

New Year

Bliain úr faoi mhaise daoibh uilig

I haven't been blogging as regularly these days, between Christmas, snow and a broken boiler and burst pipe here and there, those of us involved in community activism have been somewhat focused on issues on the ground.

While I hope to blog much more extensively on the issue of the severe weather and the crisis which followed, as well as the negative and difficult experience of many constituents, perhaps this short video will give you at least some insight into what Sinn Féin has been doing in recent weeks.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mol an Óg........

With Sue Ramsey at City Hall

Ag Bualadh le daltaí ó Coláiste Feirste / Meeting students from Coláiste Feirste

With fellow Short Strand man Ciarán

"No ifs, No buts, No education cuts........"

That was the cry from students and school pupils protesting against students fees and any planned cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

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

Not in my name…….

Last night I ventured down to Belfast City Hall for the monthly Council meeting. The Sinn Féin Team pre-meeting starts well in advance of the Council meeting itself. There, Councillors and party support staff go through the minutes, motions and issues coming before the Council that night.

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

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.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Say NO to Tory Cuts!

Myself and Gerry Adams at the launch of the party's Billboard Campaign "Say NO to Tory Cuts" at the Assembly earlier today.

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

O’Leary attempts at blackmail will only hurt workers

Sinn Féin representative for east Belfast Niall Ó Donnghaile has slammed the move by Ryanair to pull their services from Belfast City Airport.
Speaking this afternoon he said;
“This is nothing more than the typical type of behaviour most people will have come to expect from Michael O’Leary of Ryanair.It appears that the decision to pull their services from the City Airport is down to the public inquiry due to take place into the proposed runway extension; it would seem that because Ryanair haven’t gotten their own way, they are punishing workers, the Belfast economy as well as current customers.
Sinn Féin’s position on the proposed runway extension has been clear for some time, an inquiry is needed so that all arguments for and against the extension could be articulated, not least the very real health and environmental concerns of the many thousands of residents across Belfast and north Down who are affected by traffic in and out of the airport.
While I’m sure many residents will not be mourning the apparent loss of Ryanair, I think this move by Michael O’Leary is an extremely retrograde step and will only punish Ryanair workers as well as the local economy and air travel commuters.” CRÍOCH

An Dún ABÚ!

Exciting times ahead for Contae an Dún!!

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

Beir Bua!!!