Sunday 28 September 2008

Fuel for thought!

One thing that annoys me when talking about Northern Ireland to those who have an interest in the subject but have never been to the Province is how some (mainly on the left) have this romantic view of those in the IRA being some sort of freedom fighters.

I can understand that the political climate of the 1960's and the start of the troubles in the 1970's would lead some to joining paramilitaries on both sides of the divide with what they thought were good intentions such as feeling they were defending their communities but within a very short time both the IRA and the Loyalist organisations were taken over by criminal gangs. When I was in Ireland we often believed that the rival sides were in collusion when it came to criminal activity in Belfast but it seems that even the supposed Republican stronghold of South Armagh are working hand in hand with the Loyalist gangs of West Belfast.

This BBC news story here details recent arrests in Loyalist West Belfast at a suspected illegal fuel dump, with the smuggled fuel originating in Republican South Armagh.

I spent many months watching fuel tankers move across the South Armagh border and we knew that some of the profit from selling this fuel would end up in the IRA war chest but not many of us would have thought it would have also been helping fill the pockets of Loyalist terrorist gangs.

So forget this romantic views of Michael Collins, Freedom fighters, the majority of the members of both the IRA and the Loyalist gangs were nothing more than gangsters.

A fuel tanker leaves the complex owned by Slab Murphy on the South Armagh border, after a raid by Police from both sides of the border in 2006. Slab has been accused on a number of occasions of being a senior member of the IRA Army Council, wonder if any of his fuel ended up on the loyalist Shankill Road?

Monday 22 September 2008

Ipswich show the way in campaigning.

Ipswich Labour Party's efforts recognised by Conference

Ipswich Labour Party was presented with an Award for Best Practice for Community Campaigning at Labour Party Conference. The certificate was presented by Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP and Party General Secretary, Ray Collins. In announcing the award, Conference Chair, Dianne Hayter, paid tribute to the all-year-round campaigning of Ipswich Labour Party, its MP, Chris Mole and of Labour councillors. The community focused work of Ipswich Labour Party had paid off in May, when the Party gained three seats; two from the Tories and one from the Liberals, in the Borough Council elections.

Pictured collecting the award are: Keith and Lindsey Rawlingson, John Cook, Bryony Rudkin and Chris Mole MP.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Vote for Roy Burgon

Tomorrow will see a by election held in Woodbridge, Suffolk. The election is for Town, District and Suffolk County seats. The election was caused by the Tory, Ben Redsell having to resign after being found guilty of serious sexual offences.

On Monday myself and a large group of Ipswich Labour Party members joined our comrades from Woodbridge and Felixstowe in campaigning for the Labour candidate, Roy Burgon.

It made a nice change from trampling the streets of Ipswich and we were treated to a beer and some lovely food afterwards- so it was not all work!

It is also important that even in an area that would be seen as Tory- we are sending out a Labour message and not just giving up on places like Woodbridge, that is the sort of policy that has led to the Tory Party still totally missing from area's like Liverpool and large parts of Scotland. After reading the Tory leaflet it makes one even more determined that we should continue to fight all seats in Suffolk. It was a leaflet that on one side made no sense with what looked like an attack on the Lib Dems but making no mention that it was the behaviour of the Tory Councillor that had caused this election. More strange is that the Tories have a different candidate for each different council. On arriving in Woodbridge it was nice to see a Labour poster up in a house opposite Notcutts Nursery.

A good night but one did go away feeling that it is the party members in Woodbridge who are being let down by the behaviour of some of our parliamentary members- I am not asking for MP's to just always toe the party line, but it does seem that once the going gets tough there is little loyalty shown by many MP's.

Maybe instead of going to conference, they should be sent out to campaign in seats like Woodbridge and actually listen to what the voting public and Party members want rather than be panicked by the (a Tory run) press.

Woodbridge- not known as a Labour heartland?

Saturday 13 September 2008

Good and bad politicians.

Politicians get a bad press but in most cases that is unfair and in East Anglia we are fortunate to have a fantastic Labour MEP in Richard Howitt, not only does he do a great job for the Eastern region at the European Parliament but he also campaigns all over the east. He also sends out a very informative newsletter.
Below is an interesting article from his September/October newsletter.

In a recent survey in the East Anglian Daily Times on the openness of our region's Euro MP's in relation to claiming their expenses. Richard was described as "number one" for transparency. But the best bit is still to come! Two of the Tory MEP's and both UKIP MEP's refused to give details of the amount they claimed. But for comic value the Lib Dem MEP, Andrew Duff takes the biscuit, he declined to give amounts for travel or subsistence saying "I have no idea how many days I worked last year." And as Richard answers " neither do we know how many days he works!"

Andew Duff the Lib Dem MEP who doesn't know how many days he works!

To read more abour Richard Howitt and the good work he does, check his website, here.

Monday 8 September 2008


Sabbatarianism , as readers of this blog will know, Northern Ireland and football are two topics that are often featured on this site. So a story on the BBC website caught my eye this week. Glentoran are the main protestant team from East Belfast, and I spent quite a few Saturday's watching football at the Oval, one of my favourite locations for a football ground, with the Harland and Wolff cranes in the distance.

Football and politics are often linked in Northern Ireland but this time the story is not of a link to sectarian conflict, this time it is Sabbatarianism that has reared it's (ugly?)head. Unlike the rest of Great Britain, Sunday is still a day of rest in the Province, very few shops are open and the only football to be watched is from this side of the Irish Sea on Sky TV. But this Sunday saw Glentoran play Bangor in the first Irish League game played on the Sabbath.

Now the Oval is a ground used to political protests and hosting games which need a large police presence, they even have a set of turnstiles that are only used when they play the Catholic supported Cliftonville. But this time the dispute was protestant against protestant, Football supporters easily outnumbered the "Keep Sunday special" gang, about 50 protesters turned up in their Sunday best, handing out leaflets and singing hymns, but they could not stop the fans from coming in for what looked like a larger crowd than normal. Now 50 protesters may not seem many but you need to look at the facts about this game in slightly more depth. The Irish FA changed the rules last year to allow Sunday football but no teams have seemed that interested in 'testing the water' and this Glentoran - Bangor game was hastily arranged after it was only postponed the day before. it will be interesting to see if a club will actually arrange a Sunday game with far more notice, or will the fact that 50 protesters turned up with less than 24 hours notice make them worried how many the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church (whose leader used to be Ian Paisley) could get out with longer time to plan and organise.

The game was nothing special and Glentoran only scraped a 1-0 win over their North Down neighbours. Poor entertainment is probably the best hope of the "Keep Sunday special" to stopping Sunday football. it looks like crowds will be higher than Saturday matches, but that could change when a top English team or one of the "Old Firm" are on live TV on a Sunday afternoon.

Irish football will see itself having to make a number of key decisions over the next 2 years, and playing on a Sunday will only be one of them, moving to summer football and merging with the Republic of Ireland's Football League being two which will have far more influence on the future of Irish football than "playing on a Sunday",

Even so, I just had to get the word 'Sabbatarianism' on this blog!
Empty stands in East Belfast- must be a Sunday?

Thursday 4 September 2008

Would have been the top news story once!

Gerry Adams and his mates- now redundant?

True the arrival of the female bear hunter from Alaska is important but even if the "hockey mom" becomes vice president of the USA, it will not have that much effect on us. But Sarah Palin still is the big news story in the UK and I for one am disappointed by this. I know I may be slightly biased as an ex soldier but there are two other stories that should be above Mrs Palin on TV, the web and in our newspapers.

The announcement by the Independent Monitoring Commission that they now believe that the Provisional Irish Republican Army has relinquished the leadership and structures it used in the troubles. In simple words the Army Council no longer exists. Very soon hundreds of ex soldiers will be in London to remember those who died during Operation Banner (the Army name for operations in Northern Ireland), not sure all of those will think the war is over. I for one do believe that the IRA is not what it was but there is still a big worry about the dissident Republican groups and we have seen this with the murder of Paul Quinn in South Armagh and recent riots by gangs on nationalist estates in some of the smaller towns in the province. So many reasons why this story should be above Mrs Palin.

The other story? also about the Irish and the gun- today it has been announced that another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, and this time it happens to be a member of the Royal Irish Regiment. This week the papers have been reporting the success of the British Army of moving the power turbine in Helmand Province. the death today of a British soldier shows that this will be a long campaign but let us all hope that it is not as long as Operation Banner.