November 16th 09
A Busy Weekend
This Blog had a busy weekend. This last few weekends have been like that.
Hyper! I started off down in South Armagh doing a wee bit of work for Cú
Chulainn Tours. It was a very beautiful day. Bright and dry. South Armagh
is a most heavenly place. On Friday it shone like a green emerald in the
brittle sunshine, small field upon small field, hill after hill. Your man
recalled how the hills used to be defaced by British Army fortifications.
‘The cheek of them’ he said, ‘Describing this as bandit country. Sure they
were the only bandits in the place!’
South Armagh was once part of an ancient Irish speaking area called the
Oriel. It was made up of parts of South Down, North Louth and South
Armagh. There is a very unique song tradition based in that area also. And
before that the Red Branch Knights and the Fianna roamed freely through
this territory. In more modern times the local people resisted, and
defeated, the British Army.
Now in peace time a bunch of former political prisoners have organised tours of South Armagh. This Blog will bring you details of this at another
time. Suffice to say for now if you want a good day out, or even a weekend
of recession-free relaxation and education South Armagh is the place to
be. From Neolithic times, through Cú Chullain’s epic tale to our own times
you are guaranteed a good time.
To Béal Feirste again. To Cumann na Meirleach and the Ógra Shinn Féin congress. There was a very good turn out of young republicans – young women and men – for a weekend of discussion and debate.
This Blog did the welcome and the official opening and then left them to it. Mól an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
From left to right: myself; Mary Lou McDonald; Aidrian Dunbar; Dianne Abbott; Ken Livingstone; Jeremy Corbyn and Janet Behan
Saturday was London time. Or Derrylondon as your man says. We were there
for a fundraising dinner. The first in that city for Friends of Sinn Féin.
And a very fine dinner it was too. In the Crown in Cricklewood.
The main course was slow roasted English. The chef has a very succulent sense of humour.
‘Oh, the craic was good in Cricklewood.
And they wouldn’t leave the Crown.
With glasses flying
And biddies crying
‘Cause Paddy was going to town’.
That’s how Dominic Behan described it in his McAlpine’s Fusilers made
famous by the Dubliners. In those days the Irish were victims of the most
Boarding houses often sported a notice, No Irish, No Blacks No Dogs.
That was then. This is now.
Today the Irish are active in political life, in business, the trade union movement, the arts and within local communities – in all spheres of life in this society.
In 2001, there were 674,786 people in England (1.4 per cent of the population) who had been born in Ireland.
This is the greatest concentration of Irish-born - as distinct from persons of Irish ancestry - abroad anywhere in the world.
In a London poll several years ago 11 per cent of those polled said that one or more of their parents were Irish.
This means that in London the Irish are by far the largest ethnic minority.
I tell you all of this because Sinn Féin wants to tap into the potential of the Irish in Britain.
We are looking for allies to place Irish freedom and independence and reunification back at the top of the political agenda.
Of course, achieving Irish reunification is primarily the work of the people of Ireland, but as with the peace process, the international community and in particular the Irish diaspora can play a vital role.
So, well done to everyone involved in organising the dinner. The organising committee, the musicians, and especially the guests. A fine night was had by all.
Sunday afternoon and back here to the mainland and Belfast and an event to honour and celebrate the life of Ballymurphy republican Liam McParland. Liam died in a car crash in 1969. I was with him that fateful day. In fact we changed seats not long before the car plunged off the MI motorway just up from Kennedy Way at the entrance to Belfast. That was forty years ago. Hard to imagine. Liam was a great guy. A former internee from the 50s period, a gaeilgeoir and a very quiet unassuming fior Gael Liam came from a fine republican family. His mother Annie was a great woman and Paddy his Da, another good man.
Liam was a bachelor. He was in his mid forties when he was killed. A
plaque was erected at a family home, his sister Kate’s in the New Barnsley
estate. Liam Stone spoke remarkably well to a large crowd. There was music
and song. Liam would have been chuffed. Again well done to every one
involved. His brother took the time to tell me Rossa hurlers won
their Under 21 game on Friday night against Dunloy. Comhghairdeas. An Rossa Abú!