Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Dublin City Council vote to protect Moore St: A fine day, thank God: Frederick Douglass

Master Plan for Moore Street Unveiled

Most readers know that Moore Street in Dublin City Centre holds a special place in the history of Ireland. It was in Moore Street and the surrounding streets and laneways and at the nearby GPO that a fierce battle was fought between the 1916 republican forces and the British Army. Number 16 Moore Street was where five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation held their last meeting before the surrender. The National Museum of Ireland has described Moore Street as “the most important historic site in modern Irish history.”

Regrettably not everyone sees it that way. In the late 1990s the Moore Street terrace was scheduled for demolition. Later a developer Chartered Lands produced a plan that would have destroyed much of the site. An alliance of relatives of the signatories, of those who fought in 1916, republicans and a range of other groups and individuals commenced a campaign to save Moore St.

Their dedication to the development of the site as a cultural and historic quarter in which the 1916 buildings and streetscape would be preserved for future generations was matched by the determination of successive Irish governments to hand most of the land over to private developers for profit.

I have visited historic landmarks in other places. Robben Island in South Africa was an infamous prison where ANC and other political prisoners were held for decades under the most cruel regime. It is now a World Heritage Site. In Europe the battlegrounds of former wars are protected and the cemeteries of their dead protected and cared for. The same in the USA. I visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution where debated and adopted. The building is a UNESCO site and is cherished.

But in Dublin we have Irish governments with no sense of the history of their own land, no imagination, no sense of history and no vision for the future.  Only four houses -14-17 Moore Street – were adopted by the Irish government in 2007 for preservation as a national monument. 14 years later and no work has been carried out. The buildings remain derelict and sealed off from the public.

In the meantime another developer – Hammerson – has been trying to achieve what Chartered Land failed at.

The public campaign to preserve Moore Street and the 1916 battlefield site entered a new phase last week with the publication by the Moore Street Preservation Trust and the Relatives of the 1916 Signatories of their preliminary plan for the area. The plan was published several days after the British-based property company Hammerson also announced that it had submitted the first three of six planning applications it intends lodging which cover the Dublin Central site.

In an initial response to the Hammerson plan James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly, and spokesperson for the Moore Street Preservation Trust criticised the Hammerson plan has falling far short of what the site needs.

Connolly Heron was especially critical of the extraordinary intervention by An Taoiseach Mícheál Martin who provided an endorsement to Hammerson which they carried in the media announcement of their proposal.

Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald challenged the Taoiseach on this in the Dáil. She said: We now have the disgraceful situation where we have a Government that ... supports a plan to turn one of the most significant sites in modern Irish history over to a private developer. Shame on the Government for taking that stance.”

Last Thursday the Moore Street Preservation Trust and the Relatives of the Signatories published a preliminary copy of their Moore Street Master plan. Commissioned by the Moore Street Preservation Trust and devised by leading architects Fuinneamh Workshop Cork and Kelly and Cogan Dublin.

The Master plan presents an imaginative and realistic way forward for an area neglected for generations. The 1916 terrace will be restored and the ground floor shops let with over shop living facilitated. Existing ancillary buildings at the rear of the terrace will be converted for retail, cafe/restaurant use. New builds within the block will provide 45 units in mews and loft style developments, a theatre space and public meeting hall. Incubator retail units and workshops will be woven into the ground floor of these developments.

The terrace gardens will be exposed and restored for public use and the centuries old street market trading tradition, long in decline will be retained and enhanced with the re-opening of all pitches and the provision of storage and wash room facilities for the traders.

The Moore Street Master plan conforms to the recommendations of the Ministers Advisory Group on Moore Street 2021 and the Lord Mayors Forum   2021. It also has the support of a wide range of individuals and groups including, The Easter 16 - Relatives of the 16 executed leaders; the GPO Garrison Relatives; Sinn Fein; People Before Profit; the Green Party, as well as well known writers, historians, artists and actors including Adrian Dunbar; Tim Pat Coogan; Damian Dempsey; Frances Black; Christy Moore; Ruan O Donnell; Paul Ronan; Saoirse Ronan; Fionnula Flanagan; Robert Ballagh and Jim Fitzpatrick.

So, if you want to preserve Moore Street and the laneways of history go to https://www.facebook.com/MooreStreetTrust/ and join the battle to preserve Moore St.

Finally, a little postscript:

Dublin City Council passed an emergency motion on Monday evening this week adding the terrace (10-25 Moore Street) to the list of protected structures. These are the building occupied by the Volunteers who evacuated the GPO at the end of Easter Week 1916 and where the last meeting of the Leaders occurred.

The motion was proposed by Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha and was supported unanimously at the Council’s June monthly meeting. This is a hugely significant decision by the Council at a time when some of the buildings are under threat of demolition in a development plan proposed by property developer Hammerson. This vote begins the process of assessment towards listing them and as such they are now legally protected.



A fine day, thank God.

This column is launching a Celebrate the Good Weather While it Lasts  campaign. The CTGWWIL will endeavour to get people to express unconditional delight about whatever weather we have. Down with glum assessments about our clime and that sort of thing.

Maybe its an Irish thing. Maybe not. Maybe other people are also obsessed by the weather. Or maybe not. We Irish  all the time converse about what lies in store for us weather wise, sometimes quothing TV weather forecasters as if they were ancient prophets.

And we are usually pessimestic. Why do we describe a rainy day as a bad day? Why when the day is sunny do we warn all and sundry that it wont last?

Some will even remark; Well thats our summer over after a few hours of sunshine.

When I say to anyone Its a fine day they invarabley respond with Aye ..... but there’s rain on the way!

Nine times  out of ten that,  or a variation of it, is the reaction. Its like they are wishing the sun away.

And it affects unionists as well as the rest of us. Dark clouds are non party political. Many a time even the most sunny cheerful DUP representative has greeted my Good morning. Isnt the weather great? with a Aye but its going to break later this afternoon.

Thats something else that we have in common.

Ive got to thinking that maybe people dont even reflect on what they are saying. Its almost an automatic response. It doesnt help that sunshine in Ireland seldom endures. Little wonder we have  a lot of  Irish  words and phrases  for rain. But rememberwithout the rain our island would not be an Emerald Isle. But you would think we should appreciate the sun all the more when it does visit us?

So lets give thanks for the weather we have. Especially these days when the sun brightens up everything.

I remember talking to a friend of mine who did time in prison in France. He also did time in prison here. He was very unlucky.

What was the difference between doing time in Ireland and doing time in France? I asked him one day.

He reflected for a wee while before answering. Then finally and thoughtfully he said.

Nobody in jail in France talked about the weather.

I rest my case. Up The CTGWWIL!


Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who travelled from the USA to Ireland in 1845. Douglass toured Ireland speaking about slavery and telling of his experience. Douglass gave his first Irish lecture in Dublin in September 1845. Over the following months he travelled to Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Belfast. He returned to Belfast another four times.

Ireland was in his own word “transformative” for Douglass. He said of his time here that he had become a man, rather than a chattel. He also came to see the issue of slavery not in isolation but as part of a wider campaign for equality and social justice.

Professor Christine Kinealy is the foremost expert on Douglass and especially on his time in Ireland. Professor Kinealy is the Director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University and in 2018 produced the definitive account of Douglass’s time in Ireland taken from his own letters: Frederick Douglass and Ireland
In His Own Words.

Most recently she has finished work on a walking map – Frederick Douglass Way, Dublin 1845 – 1846. She is currently working on a Belfast walking map which identifies many of the locations where Douglass addressed Belfast citizens.
Among the places identified are:

·        Grave of Mary Ann McCracken  -  Clifton Street Cemetery - abolitionist and humanitarian – founder of Belfast Auxiliary Female Anti-Slavery Society 

·        Lancasterian School Room, 42 Frederick St. Façade remains of Quaker house -  Frederick lectured on temperance  

·        Cathedral Quarter: Independent Meeting House – Donegall Street – first and final (6 October 1846) lecture. Now Redeemer Central  

·        Victoria Hotel (formerly, Royal Temperance Hotel), 12 Waring Street – Frederick stayed here 

·        Rosemary Street – First Presbyterian Church – Frederick lectured to ‘a large audience’ 

Douglass’s close association with Belfast should be a matter of great public pride. This map will be an important addition to his story. Plans are also advancing to erect a statue to him.

Dublin City Council Commemorations Committee has agreed to erect a plaque to Frederick Douglass.  It will be on the Irish Film Institute, Eustace St, where Douglass spoke when it was the Society of Friends Meeting House.

It was chosen from the Dublin venues which he spoke in because of the central role the Friends played in his tour. The building next door - the current Friends meeting house - has a plaque to the Dublin United Irishmen who met there when it was the Eagle Tavern. The Douglass Plaque should be unveiled sometime this summer. The proposal to take this initiative was put by Sinn Féin Councillor Micheál MacDonncha. This column will share details as soon as they are available.



Monday, June 7, 2021

Preparing for Unity: Well done to loyalists trying to keep the peace:

 Preparing for Unity

Hardly a week goes passed without some new aspect or commentary emerging on the issue of Irish Unity. When will the unity referendum by held? What criteria should the British Secretary of State apply when deciding on the date? What is the role of the Irish government? What will the question/s be that will be asked of citizens? How will the referendums be structured and what new laws might be needed to facilitate them.

The fact is that there will be a unity referendum. When it comes it will be the most important constitutional debate about the future of the island of Ireland in 100 years. As we prepare for it, it is worthwhile reflecting on the recent role of referendums in encouraging greater public awareness of and an engagement in democratic decisions that achieved significant positive change.

The referendums on marriage equality and the repeal of the 8th amendment are the most obvious. The Irish Government helped prepare for these by establishing citizen centred mechanisms – the Constitutional Convention and then the Citizen’s Assembly – to examine constitutional and societal change. This process of maximising democratic engagement in the process of change and in the referendum process was a success.

23 years ago the May 1998 referendums that were held north and south came at the end of an intense period of negotiation and a wide-ranging debate on the merits or otherwise of the Good Friday Agreement. Those referendums achieved a massive majority in favour of the Agreement.

In stark contrast the failure of the Tory government of David Cameron to properly prepare for the Brexit referendum in 2016 resulted in an outcome that has sharply divided British society, encouraged the break-up of the British union and created economic turmoil.

The consequences for the North have been especially difficult. The election last week of Edwin Poots as leader of the DUP saw him trot out the same nonsense of his predecessor – that the EU and the Irish government have flouted the will of the people of the North. Poots went so far as to claim that the Irish government is going to starve Northern Ireland people of medicines no less, cancer drugs and other materials, such as the food that's on our table.”

None of this is true of course. It’s a deliberate distortion to heighten fear around Brexit, the Irish Protocol and the growing interest in Irish Unity. The DUP is intent on whipping-up resentment to a Brexit crisis that it has been instrumental in creating. No mention of the DUP’s aggressive support for the Brexit referendum and for the vote to leave in 2016. No mention of the reality that the majority of citizens in the North voted to remain in the EU or that the DUP consistently refused to support any of the efforts by Theresa May to produce an agreement with the EU.

Democracy DUP style, which has its roots in the partition of Ireland a century ago, is a limited philosophy that excludes the rights and votes of nationalists and republicans. It ignores the reality that political unionism is now an electoral minority and holds just 40 out of 90 seats in the Assembly.

United Irelanders have to be inclusive of everyone. As we work to move the process of change ahead and seek to win the unity referendum we must include our neighbours and fellow citizens who identify as British. To do this effectively and democratically we must plan for the unity referendum and plan to win it.

Last week the Irish Times concluded ...”If it is plausible to think referendums on Irish unity could happen this decade, it would be prudent to plan for that possibility.” Last week also saw the publication of the final report from the ‘Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland.’ The working group is based at the Constitution Unit of University College London. It too supports the imperative of preparing for the unity referendum.

The Working Group is made up of 12 academic specialists in politics, law, sociology and history. They were brought together and have spent two years examining what the Good Friday Agreement provision for the referendum means in practice, what technical and procedural questions arise as a result and what steps are necessary to facilitate it and ensure that it fair and democratic. They have also received hundreds of submissions from individuals and organisations.

The report, which will require careful consideration, runs to 260 pages. It suggests what criteria the British government should use to determine when the referendum is held. These are; election results, opinion polls, qualitative research, a vote in Stormont, seats won at elections and demographic data. It asks whether the Irish government should present a clear model of the kind of United Ireland on offer before the referendum or instead propose a constitutional process to determine that after the referendum takes place and if voters say Yes. It asserts that; “A referendum should be called if a vote for unification appears likely, even if by a slender margin.” And it accepts the Good Friday Agreement principle that a Yes vote requires a vote of 50%+1. The reports states: “It would breach the agreement to require a higher threshold than 50% + 1.”

It also looks at the kind of political structures that might emerge as a result of the referendum and constitutional change.

These are big issues for consideration. And there are many more questions and issues raised in this lesson that we can draw from this report is that there is a need to prepare for the unity referendum. The Micheál Martin approach is not good enough. Sticking your head in the sand and hoping that this debate will go away represents a lack of vision and of leadership. An Taoiseach’s starting point like ours has to be the Good Friday Agreement. He needs to read it again.


Well done to loyalists trying to keep the peace

Last week the 27 leaders of the European Union met in Brussels to discuss a range of issues, including Brexit and the Irish Protocol. Speaking afterward the European Commission President von der Leyen laid the blame for the current crisis at the door of the Brexiteers, including the DUP. She said: There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the protocol ... it is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the European Union single market... If we see problems today we should not forget that they do not come from the protocol but result from Brexit, that is the reason why the problems are there.”

DUP spokespersons and the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) again claimed that the Irish Protocol – which Boris Johnson negotiated and agreed with the EU – will destabilise the political situation in the North and risks violence. It is “oppressive and undemocratic” said Jeffrey Donaldson.

Much of their ire has been directed at the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The LCC Chairperson David Campbell described Mrs Von Der Leyen as an "ostrich with her head in the sand” and he warned that the North is set to "descend into chaos this summer." Like so many others Campbell decided that the LCC could speak for all the people of the North and not just the loyalist paramilitaries he represents with the claim that the protocol has to go and will go - the people of Northern Ireland will not accept this diktat from yet another unelected German."

It is also important to realise that within loyalism there exist different voices and different opinions on the way forward. There isn’t unanimity of approach around the possibility of “chaos” or violence. There are many within loyalism and the community sector working within loyalist working class areas who oppose unionist politicians using their community as a stick to threaten others with. They see “chaos” being to the detriment of their community.

They are also trying to deal with housing need; unemployment; drug gangs; health inequalities; poverty, deprivation and disadvantage. They are especially concerned at the emergence of an underclass of young people – no hopers – who refuse to listen to anyone. The recent street disturbances at some of the interfaces witnessed a section of unionist youth prepared to tell loyalist leaders who tried to stop the violence where to go.

Tackling these problems in a heightened atmosphere of fear and with unionist parties normally disinterested in addressing these issues, is hugely difficult. There is a commonality of challenges facing our society in both nationalist and unionist working class areas. We are best able to tackle these if we are able to do so together.

So well done to those from within loyalism who are doing their best to keep the peace and to tackle disadvantage.



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Two Fearless Belfast Women; Remembering Rab McCullough; Féile na gCloigíní Gorma.

Winifred Carney

Two fearless Belfast Women

Two Belfast women, Mary Ann McCracken and Winifred Carney, will soon have statues commemorating their heroism, leadership and commitment to social justice and freedom erected in the grounds of Belfast City Hall. It was agreed at the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee last week that the Council will now begin the process of costing and designing the statues.

In 2012 an Equality Impact Assessment confirmed what anyone with eyes already knew – that the grounds of Belfast City Hall were overwhelmingly dominated by white, male, upper class and unionist images. The City Hall did not reflect the reality of life in Belfast and especially of a changing Belfast.

To address this imbalance Sinn Féin brought forward proposals four years ago to transform the City Hall and grounds. The process has been slow as some within the Council have sought to frustrate this new direction. However, last Friday’s Council meeting has now moved the proposal around the two Belfast women a decisive step forward.

Winifred Carney was born in Bangor but was reared at 5 Falls Road. She attended the Christian Brother’s School in Donegall Street where she worked for a time as a junior teacher. She qualified as one of the first lady secretaries and short hand typists in Belfast from Hughes Commercial Academy. Subsequently she worked for a time in a solicitor’s office in Dungannon.

Winifred had a keen interest in the Irish language and culture and joined the Gaelic League. She was a strong advocate for the rights of women and was a committed socialist. She was very close to Marie Johnson who worked as secretary for the Irish Textile Workers’ Union. The union had been established by James Connolly in 1911.

When Marie became ill she asked Winifred to take over the responsibility. Two years later Connolly, along with Winifred Carney, published the Manifesto of Irish Textile Workers’ Union – To the Linen Slaves of Belfast.

Carney was also a member of the Cumann na mBan which she joined with Connolly’s two daughters Nora and Ina Connolly. She was also in the Irish Citizen Army. In 1916 she was the first women to enter the GPO during the Rising. She worked closely with Connolly in preparing dispatches. 

When the GPO was evacuated after five days of fierce fighting Carney was with the wounded Connolly as he was carried to number 16 Moore Street. There five of the signatories to the Proclamation held their last meeting as the Provisional Government. Julia Grenan, Winifred Carney and Elizabeth O’Farrell were present and when Tom Clarke broke down at the prospect of surrender Last Words tell us; “Miss Grenan and Miss Carney went across to him to try and consol him but instead they themselves dissolved into tears and Clarke comforted them.”

Following the surrender Winifred Carney was imprisoned in England. She stood unsuccessfully for East Belfast in the 1918 election and continued to work for the Transport Union. In 1920-22 she was secretary of the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Dependents Fund 1920-22. In 1922 she was imprisoned in Armagh jail.

In 1928 she married George McBride. He had fought in the First World War and was from the Shankill Road. They were both committed socialists although differed on the national issue and the Rising. Winifred Carney died on 21 November 1943 and was buried in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast. Belfast Graves erected a headstone on her grave in 1985.

Mary Ann McCracken was the sister of Henry Joy McCracken, executed for his part in the 1798 Rebellion. She was a radical thinker, social reformer, who was implacably opposed to slavery and poverty, was a friend of the disadvantaged, and an advocate for the rights of women.

She was born in Belfast in July 1870 to a wealthy Presbyterian family. Her Uncle Henry Joy raised the funding for the construction of the Poor House by the Belfast Charitable Society – now Clifton House – in 1774. Mary Ann McCracken was a member of the Board of the Society and retained a close personal and working relationship with it until her death in 1866.

In July 1798 her brother Henry Joy McCracken was sentenced to be hanged for his part in the United Irish Rising. In a letter she later described the events:

“I took his arm, and we walked together to the place of execution where I was told it was the General’s orders that I should leave him, which I peremptorily refused. Harry begged I would go. Clasping my hands around him, (I did not weep til then) I said I could bear anything but leaving him. Three times he kissed me and entreated I would go; and, looking round to recognise some friend to put me in charge of he beckoned to a Mr. Boyd, and said ‘He will take charge of you.’ ... and fearing that any further refusal would disturbed the last moments of my dearest brother, I suffered myself to be led away.”

After the failure of the rebellion Mary Ann dedicated her life to many causes. The breadth of her interests and activism is remarkable. She helped provide education and apprenticeships for children through the Poor House Ladies Committee. In 1847 at the age of 77 she was one of those who established the “Ladies Industrial School for the Relief of Destitution” with the aim of helping those suffering as a result of An Gorta Mór.

Mary Ann was one of the first to support the “Belfast Ladies Clothing Society” and raised money for the “Society for the Relief of the Destitute Sick”. She was a member of the committee that lobbied for a change in the law to end the practice of ‘climbing boys.’ Their work involved scrambling up the chimney’s of the wealthy to clean them. The risk of falling and the impact on the health of the boys as they cleared away soot was significant.

Her opposition to slavery was relentless and total. When Waddell Cunningham, a merchant, proposed in 1786 that the Belfast Slave Ship Company be established the scheme was vehemently opposed by those who later established the United Irish Society. This and the publication of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man and the French and American revolutions hugely influenced Mary Ann her brother Henry Joy and all of those who came to found the United Irish Society in Belfast in October 1791.

In a letter written in 1859 Mary Ann recalls how deeply Thomas Russell despised slavery. He was one of those: “ ... who in the days of Wilberforce (campaigned against Slavery in England) abstained from the use of slave labour produce until slavery in the west Indies was abolished, and at the dinner parties to which he was so often invited and when confectionary was so much used he would not taste anything with sugar in it ...”

Her opposition was such that as a small frail woman she would hand out leaflets opposing slavery to those boarding vessels to sail to the USA. In a letter written in 1859 – a year before the American Civil War began, she describes America: “...considered the land of the great. The brave, may more properly be styled the land of the tyrant and the Slave ... Belfast, once so celebrated for its love of liberty is now so sunk in the love of filthy lucre (money earned dishonourably) that there are but 16 or 17 female anti-slavery advocates, for the good cause paying 2/6 yearly – not one man, tho’ several Quakers in Belfast and none to distribute papers to American Emigrants but an old woman within 17 days of 89.”

Frail in body she might have been but strong in heart and spirit she remained all of her days. Mary Ann McCracken died on the 26 July 1866 aged 96.


Rab McCullough.

My condolences to Marian and the family of Rab McCullough. Rab died suddenly last week. He was one of Irelands leading blues musicans. He played with AC/DC, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Hendrix and other global rock stars. He alsotaught Bobby Sands to play the guitar when they were imprisoned in the 1970s.

I wrote a little piece about this recentlyafter Danny Devenney published his iconic print - The Session- featuring Bobby, John Lennon, Che, Woody Gutherie and others having a music session. Rab gave me some details of Bobbys early efforts to learn how to play the guitar and of his musical influences. He, Tomboy Loudan and Bobby used to jam together faoi glas na gallaimh.

Recently I asked Rab if he would join Tomboy, BikMcFarlane and other exprisoner musicans, post the covid restrictions, in a session of music from the 60s and 70s that they played together with Bobby in the Crum and Long Kesh. Rab was delighted to be asked. He rhymed of a list of potential numbers from Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan,John Lennon and others. Tomboy also signed up. Bik agreed to ramrod that gig and we spoke about it only last week. Unfortunately it wont happen now. Not with Rab  anyway. But his music will live on. Belfast Blues is a classic.

Go deanfaidh Dia trocairear Rab. Mo comhbhrón le Marian agus a chlann.


Féile na gCloigíní Gorma.

Last week it was an honour for me to be on a panel discussion about the Belfast Hills. This discussion- on zoom- was part of Féile na gCloigíní and included Lynda Sullivan, Friends of the Earth, Jim Bradley, Belfast Hills Partnership, Maria Morgan, Ligoneil Improvement Association, and Melina Quinn, National Trust.

I recalled the role the local community played in getting quarrying on the mountain stopped and how the campaign for the conservation of the Bog Meadows and Divis and Black Mountain developed. I made the point that none of this would have happened witout local activism and the efforts of Terry Enwrigh Snr, Adrian Crean, Terry Goldsmith and others. Colin Glen has a similar history. Empowered communities can make a differance.

Getting my notes together for this event started me thinking of the time when my family got a house in the late 1950s in Ballymurphy. At that time the Murph was surrounded by green fields. A river, now mostly underground, ran parralell with Ballymurphy. That was one of our favourite places to play when we werent on the mountain.  Springhill was yet to be built. It was a great green space - Husky’s Field- with a big red bricked house used as a clinic, at its centre. We went there for codliver oil and orangejuice. What is now Springhill Avenue was a long tree lined avenue. The powers that be destroyed all that. They eradicated every blade of grass and built Springhill, a grey brick and black taramacked estate with all greenery erased.

Thankfully that too now is gone, following sustained housing campaigns, from Divis to Moyard, Turf Lodge, the Shankill and other remenants of disasterous housing developments from the 1960s.

There were very old houses - The Yellow Houses- at the corner of what is now Springfield Park. They were a reminder that this was a rural area. There were a number of working farms. One opposite Springhill.  Another beside  Corrigan Park. Yet another at the Top of the Rock at the left hand junction of the Whiterock and Springfield Roads. We usually  went up the mountain via the mountain loney.

Therewas an old tin church enroute, opposite Dermot Hill,smaller but not dissimiliar to Saint Matthias’on the Glen Road. Above and behind that there were two flax dams with swans and an epidemic of frogspawn in the earlyspring. At the top of the loney there was a spring of fresh mountainwater, now piped off.  Behind it was a track – now blocked- up to the Hatchet Field. We spent childhood summers on the mountain.That track to the Hatchet Field was our main route upwards towards the acres of buebells which give Féile na gCloigíní Gorma its name.

We also used to walk up to Torneroy - close to Lamh Dearg and listen to the Corncrakes above Turf Lodge.

It is good that Féile celebrates all this. But more importantly it also looks with hope to the future. A future in which humans can live in harmony with nature. In our case as Belfast people in harmony with our Belfast Hills. My thanks to everyone who has made this possible. Many thanks also to all who organise the many events of Féile na gCloigíní Gorma. It is based on the princilples of Community, Solidarity and Wellbeing. Great work and very enjoyable also.