Irish Blog Whacked

Sunday, December 2, 2012





    Friday-Thursday, 23-29 November, 2012

2.  Optimism increases for Maghaberry resolution
3.  15,000 march in pre-Budget demonstration
4.  'End impunity' for Bloody Sunday killings
5.  Price family condemns Parole Commissioners
6.  No protest against small loyalist march
7.  Feature: The diggers who fought in Irish Civil War
8.  Analysis: Another issue flying in the face of change



 Republican socialist group éirigí is being subjected to a concerted
 smear campaign following the arrest of one of its members this week.

 A member of the organisation in Dublin, Ursula Ní Shionnain, was
 detained on Tuesday in what appeared to be a carefully planned Garda
 operation in county Offaly, and charged with arms offences.

 A further move to arrest party chairman Brian Leeson bore the hallmarks
 of a 'black ops' campaign against the entire organisation.

 Éirígí General Secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith said Mr Leeson's arrest
 and 72-hour detention was a "cynical exercise" designed to foster "black
 propaganda and misinformation" within sections of the media.

 “Brian’s release, without charge, confirms our view that his arrest had
 a clear political motivation," he said.

 He linked the events to the left-wing party's growing political support
 and its recent decision to contest local elections in the 26 Counties.

 Mr Leeson had played a central role in organising opposition to the
 austerity policies being implemented by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition
 in Leinster House, he said.

 "We are of the view that this arrest and the accompanying coverage by
 some media outlets is designed to undermine opposition to this
 forthcoming budget and to attack our party.

 “We also believe that it is more than just mere coincidence that Brian’s
 arrest came just over a week after the party voted at our annual Ard
 Fheis to contest local government elections in the 26 Counties.

 “We fully believe that these things are most certainly not unconnected.”

 He also said the party would not take steps to distance itself from Ms
 Ní Shionnain.

 “I have no doubt that some of the more sensationalist media outlets will
 try to exploit Ursula's arrest to insinuate all sorts of conspiracy
 theories and to engage in McCarthy-like 'reds under the beds' hysteria
 against éirígí. That, of course, will be nothing new."

 Media depictions of Irish republicans have become more heavily
 propagandised in recent weeks, particularly in the tabloid newspapers. A
 commemorative event in Dublin for prominent local republican and
 anti-drugs campaigner Alan Ryan, murdered by drug dealers in September,
 was described as a "terrorist party" in one newspaper.

 A separate incident in Newry has reinforced a belief that Éirígí, in
 particular, is facing an increased policy of suppression.  An early
 morning raid and arrest on the Newry home of prominent éirígí activist
 Stephen Murney took place on the eve of Leeson's arrest.

 It had demonstrated yet again the political nature of policing in the
 North, said éirígí spokesperson John McCusker.

 “Stephen is well-known as an éirígí party member in the Newry area who
 is very active within his local community. For the past couple of years,
 the PSNI have conducted a lengthy and intense campaign of harassment
 against him.

 “Independent human rights organisations are currently investigating this
 campaign of harassment against Stephen and other people in the Newry
 area. Indeed, they have documented evidence detailing this open
 political victimisation. It has included constant stop and search
 procedures, harassment, assaults, house searches and threats from the
 PSNI officers – all carried out under the guise of so-called
 ‘anti-terror’ legislation.

 The PSNI seized items from Mr Murney's home which included éirígí party
 literature and personal items belonging to him and other members of his
 family. He was then arrested and taken to Antrim Holding Centre.

 McCusker added, “Many of Stephen’s neighbours gathered beside his home
 this morning in a show of solidarity and to demonstrate their abhorrence
 of the PSNI’s actions. I would commend those people for showing such
 communal solidarity with Stephen and his family.

 “Serious questions must be asked about the overt and aggressive
 political policing which is becoming a daily occurrence," he concluded.

 The Republican Network for Unity said the arrests were an example of
 "joined up political policing" between the Gardai and the PSNI which had
 been carried out to demonise Éirígí and its political work.


>>>>>> Optimism increases for Maghaberry resolution

 The remaining block of republican prisoners are to end their protest in
 Maghaberry prison as of today after getting what they say was a
 "goodwill gesture" from Six-County justice minister David Ford.

 A three-man delegation of senior prison staff, which included at least
 two deputy governors, met with representatives of the remaining
 prisoners on protest yesterday in a last-minute push to convince them to
 come off the protest.

 A two-man team of independent mediators have also been working behind
 the scenes to reach a compromise between the prison authorities and
 republican prisoners following 17-months of protest by around 40

 The prisoners have been protesting at the use of strip-searching, the
 use of restrictive controlled movement and other measures intended to
 criminalise their armed campaigns.

 A prison guard, David Black, died in an attack by the 'new' IRA on his
 way to work in Maghaberry prison on November 1.

 Prisoners housed on Maghaberry's Roe 3, aligned to the Republican
 Network for Unity (RNU), have now said they will also end the protest
 which has been ongoing for the past 17-months. The protest has included
 a refusal to take part in prison procedures, and as in the early '80s.
 has seen excrement smeared on cell walls.

 A statement issued on behalf of the prisoners said since the
 commencement of the protest in July 2011, "we made it clear to our
 representatives, that a genuine indication of goodwill on behalf of the
 state would be required before we would consider ending this phase of
 the protest".

 Prisoners aligned to the 'new' IRA and the Continuity IRA called off
 their protests earlier in the week.

 However, the remaining prisoners insisted they receive some sort of
 confirmation that body scanners were to be introduced to replace strip
 searches before they would fall into line with the rest of the
 republicans held in Roe 3 and 4 of Maghaberry.

 On Tuesday, the justice minister confirmed he would be introducing the
 new technology across all three main prisons stating: "There has been
 considerable speeding up of the process."

 In their statement, the 'Cogús' prisoners said they had held back from
 ending their protest until they had received "a genuine indication of
 goodwill on behalf of the state."

 "We would not have ended our protest but for David Ford's announcement,
 yet we stress that our good faith is conditional on him keeping his

 "We asked for a goodwill gesture which was given, we sought assurances
 on scanners and controlled movement. This was also given."

 It is understood that assurances on controlled movement were given
 yesterday by a three-man delegation lead by senior deputy governor Gary
 McClean that visited a representative of the Cogus prisoners.

 In a more cautious statement earlier this week, prisoners on the same
 Roe 3 landing associated with the Continuity IRA said they had also
 chosen to suspend their protest.

 "After 18 months of this second phase of protest, we believe that we
 have shown the prison regime our resolve and determination to oppose
 conditions not befitting Republican Prisoners of War. We also believe we
 can afford them the opportunity at this juncture to implement the
 agreement," the prisoners said.

 "It is our hope that with this magnanimous gesture the prison regime
 will now honour their word. As Republicans we will not shirk our
 responsibility and we believe that it is now necessary for us to take
 this lead in bringing the agreement to its conclusion."

 In his response, Six-County Justice minister David Ford said: "I welcome
 any initiative by the remaining prisoners on protest in Roe House to end
 their protest.

 "The ending of the protest removes a barrier and will hopefully allow
 for a better environment to exist on the wing, which will be beneficial
 for both staff and prisoners alike.

 "The initiative has been taken by the prisoners themselves. The
 Agreement of August 2010 has been and continues to be honoured by the
 Prison Service."


>>>>>> 15,000 march in pre-Budget demonstration

 The Dublin government's fiscal 'kite flying' season is well and truly
 underway ahead of next month's annual 26-County Budget announcement.

 Measures already signalled and likely to be included in the spending
 plans for 2013 are an annual property tax of around 300-500 euro per
 home, and a universal cut in child benefit.

 Other elements being leaked by government officials include a hike in
 motor tax, a 'fat tax' or 'sugar tax', and an increase in the duty on
 the 'old reliables' -- alcohol and cigarettes.


 Over 15,000 marched on Saturday in a demonstration against the
 government's unrelenting austerity measures, which once again look set
 to hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

 Michael O'Reilly, president of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions
 (DCTU), which co-organised the event, said it was just one step in a
 long campaign to reverse cutbacks.

 "The evidence is clear - you cannot cut your way out of a recession," he
 told protesters, outside the GPO on O'Connell Street. "On the contrary:
 with each cut in public spending, and with each euro taken out of the
 pockets of low and average earners in new or increased taxes, we are
 digging ourselves further into a hole."

 But the march was overshadowed by spontaneous protests against the trade
 unions' tacit support for the government, and the public perception that
 it has worked to the advantage of Ireland's wealthiest civil servants.
 O'Reilly himself was heckled by one man shouting, “how much are you
 getting paid?”.

 Like government ministers, the pay packages of Ireland's trade union
 leaders are indirectly linked to those of the state's top civil
 servants. And under the 2010 Croke Park Agreement, unions have vowed to
 take no action against the government while the incomes and job security
 of public service workers -- including those earning up to half a
 million euro a year in pay and benefits -- are guaranteed.

 Siptu President Jack O’Connor criticised attempts to heckle
 O'Reilly and the head of the ICTU, Eugene
 McGlone, who also spoke at the rally. In an unusual outburst, he
 described those involved as "fascists" and claimed they were members of
 Sinn Féin or the United Left Alliance.

 Councillor Larry O’Toole, leader of the Sinn Féin group on Dublin City
 Council, said that the party was not behind any orchestrated heckling or
 booing, but said that many people are criticial of the leadership of the
 trade union movement because of its support of the Labour party.

 Mr O’Toole said that the Labour party is “implementing the brutal
 austerity policies affecting working families and citizens across this
 state. It was inevitable that such criticism would be reflected" at the
 rally, he said.


 Pressure on the trade union to act on social injustice
 has increased this month following fresh reports of the extraordinary
 pay and bonuses being awarded to politicians, state-funded bankers and
 elite public servants.

 The flat and regressive nature of the cut to child benefit is likely to
 prove one of the most controversial measures this year.  Reports today
 suggested that Ireland's wealthiest will be hit with the same level of
 cuts as its poorest, at 10 euro per child per month.

 It was also rumoured a new but as yet unquantified “payroll tax” to fund
 increased health spending is being planned, as well as a doubling of
 prescription charges for medical card holders.

 The elderly are being targeted for extra hardship, with changes to the
 over-70s medical card, as well as reductions planned in other pensioner
 benefits, including electricity and telephone allowances.

 It has also been reported that the time for which unemployment
 assistance is guaranteed for those newly out of work will be cut from 12
 months to nine months.

 Council house residents may also face a rent increase of to 2 euro a
 week, which will generate €50-€100 a year per house.

 Due to the severity of the budget, a new format for the presentation of
 Wednesday’s announcements will see Finance Minister Michael
 Noonan introducing the main
 taxation measures in a 40-minute speech, to be followed immediately by
 Minister Howlin, who will reveal the spending cuts.

 There has been much opposition to the rumoured measures by
 Opposition TDs and advocacy groups.

 Any cut in child benefit would be a “blatant breach of election pleges
 from the Labour party”, Sinn Fein health spokesman Caoimhín O'Caoláin
 said in a statement today.

 It would be an “outrage” shortly after the passing of the children
 referendum to attack child benefit and hit the most vulnerable children
 and families, he said.

 The prescription charge for medical card holders was something Minister
 for Health James Reilly opposed when introduced by former health
 minister Mary Harney, he said.

 “Not only has he failed to abolish the charges as he demanded in
 opposition, but he now proposes to increase them”.

 He suggested that the leaks may be part of a 'softening up' process with
 cuts and charges imposed on budget day portrayed as 'not as bad as they
 could have been'.

 But he added: "These two measures alone - Child Benefit cuts and higher
 prescription charges - would significantly increase the growing hardship
 for low to middle income families, and especially families with children
 in this state. They must be resisted strongly."


>>>>>> 'End impunity' for Bloody Sunday killings

 A number of relatives of those murdered by British paratroopers on
 Bloody Sunday say they will continue to march until those responsible
 for the 1972 massacre are held to account.

 A new group called the Bloody Sunday March Committee announced details
 on Tuesday of a series of events to mark the 41st anniversary of the
 Bogside shootings, in which 14 anti-internment marchers were shot dead.

 The main event is a march which will take place on Sunday, January 27,

 One of the organisers of the weekend of events - the theme of which is
 “End Impunity” - is Kate Nash whose brother, William, was among those
 gunned down on Bloody Sunday.

 She told the press conference that she intends to continue marching
 until those responsible for the murders are brought to justice.


 Earlier this month it was revealed that, to date, not one soldier
 implicated in the murders and the maiming of a further 14 has been
 interviewed, or indeed arrested, as part of the investigation.

 A lawyer representing the families and wounded of Bloody Sunday said he
 was “staggered” that the PSNI have still made no attempts to either
 question or arrest any former soldier involved in the 1972 massacre.

 Peter Madden, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors said there had been an
 “abject failure” to progress the murder investigation which was announced
 back in July.

 Correspondence his firm has received from the PSNI confirmed that the
 police have yet to further the case for soldiers’ prosecutions and have
 yet to appoint a family liaison officer to work alongside families and
 those who were wounded on January 30, 1972.


 Families of those murdered expressed disbelief.

 Joe McKinney, whose brother William was shot dead in Glenfada Park, said
 he was “extremely angry”.

 Citing the example of another historical
 inquiry, he demands a “level playing field” when it comes to
 investigating crimes committed by the armed forces.

 “I read a newspaper report in recent months concerning the trial of a
 man accused of murdering Captain Robert Nairac in 1977. The Crown
 barrister opening the prosecution said that the passage of time must not
 absolve those accused of heinous crimes being brought to justice, but it
 appears to me to grant absolution if the person responsible for the
 crime wore a British Army uniform,” Mr McKinney told the Derry Journal.

 “I am extremely angry that there does not appear to be a level playing
 field and that those responsible for the murders committed on Bloody
 Sunday are not being pursued with any genuine conviction or rigour by
 the PSNI.”


 Claims that the PSNI do not have the money to advance
 the investigation have been dismissed.

 John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was murdered by British
 paratroopers on 30 January 1972, pointed out that the force had all the
 resources necessary for a giant security operation ahead of next year’s
 G8 Summit, which is to be held in Fermanagh.

 “The PSNI don’t seem to be complaining about the money or the resources
 needed to cover the G8 Summit next year, yet still they insist they
 don’t have the resources needed to conduct a major murder investigation?
 That can’t be right.

 “The fact is, we are all waiting for news of this murder investigation
 and now the PSNI will probably spend millions and draft in hundreds of
 extra personnel to police this summit of world leaders.

 “Our words are falling on deaf ears. Since this G8 Summit has been
 announced, there has not been even a whisper of complaint from the PSNI
 as regards resources. Our loved ones mean nothing to them. They are
 second-class citizens and don’t seem to count as far as the PSNI are


 A sister of one of the teenagers murdered on Bloody Sunday said local
 families were still being treated like “second class citizens”.

 Kay Green's 17 year-old brother Jackie Duddy was the first fatality of
 Bloody Sunday.

 “This is still a murder investigation and, while the PSNI take their
 time deciding, they need to realise that time really is of the essence
 here. We are all getting older, so what are they going to do - wait till
 either we die off or the soldiers do? That’s what it looks like to me,”
 Mrs Green said.

 “The one thing we don’t want is to pass this responsibility on to
 another generation, just as it was passed to us from our parents.”

 “Considering we waited so long since 1972 anyway, and the fact that it’s
 been two and a half years since the Saville Report was delivered, not to
 mention the fact that the police didn’t even have the common courtesy to
 inform families about the murder investigation and we actually found out
 about it on the news - I am really not surprised. We are only the
 families, after all. We’ve always been treated as second-class citizens
 and so it goes on - our loved ones mean nothing to them.

 “They have every bit of evidence necessary - evidence that they
 murdered, evidence that they committed perjury - it’s all there in front
 of them. What more do they need?”


 A second theme of the weekend's events is the subject of cover-up, with
 links to the Hillsborough justice campaign in Liverpool.
 There is a widely held view that one reason that the soldiers have not
 been questioned by police is a fear that those higher up the political
 and military chain could become implicated in the massacre.

 The families have launched a website ( to pool
 information on the 2013 march and related talks, film-showings and other

 Kate Nash had a message for those who believe it is time to stop

 “You are entitled to your opinion. It is your democratic right not to
 march,” she said. “However, I also have a democratic right to continue
 marching and I intend to do so.”


>>>>>> Price family condemns Parole Commissioners

 The family of Marian Price has said it is "appalled" at what it says are
 deliberate delays by the Parole Commission in reviewing her case.

 The Parole Commission is empowered to release prisoners if they are no
 longer considered a 'public threat'.  Campaigners have said that Price
 never posed any threat, and that her mental and physical health have
 seriously declined since she was effectively interned without trial last

 The Price and McGlinchey families said there was now a widely held view
 that the Commission was engaged in "a stalling process".  They said they
 had been assured that the Commissioners were in a position to deliver a
 verdict by Stormont Ministers, as well as by past and present British
 Direct Rulers.

 "It is now 18 months since Owen Paterson employed mechanisms to revoke a
 license he claimed Marian was held under. She is now imprisoned for
 offences dating back almost 40 years.

 "Marian has been bailed by the courts yet since May 2011 has remained in
 solitary confinement in prison and present is held in an isolated
 hospital unit.

 "As a consequence of her treatment in Maghaberry and Hydebank prison
 Marian's health has continued to deteriorate. The hospital staff now
 treating Marian's various illnesses have had an arduous task balancing
 highly toxic medications with other treatments. This ordeal for all
 involved should be not be happening."

 "The courts have said Marian should be released on bail and all medical
 opinion has stated she cannot be treated in an environment that is not
 conductive to recovery."

 They said the former prisons campaigner had been in an 'outside'
 hospital since June and is held under guard with all the rules and
 regulations applied to a prison regime.

 "The fact that she has been hospitalised by such a lengthy period
 without improvement and indeed marked deterioration speaks volumes about
 the chronic state of her health.


 The families said that Marian has been forced to endure the brunt of
 'game playing' in a 'legal limbo' to the detriment of her mental and
 physical health.

 "We call on those assigned to adjudicate in this travesty of a so called
 justice system to act now before a shameful situation becomes

 They said the Parole Commissioners had failed to comply with their
 obligations under Article 5 of the European Convention, which requires
 such hearings to take place within a reasonable time

 "The Commissioners dealing with Marian's case must discharge their
 statutory legal duties without interference from any source. Their
 delay in embarking on the pathway to a resolution of this urgent matter
 is tilting the scales towards further deterioration in Marian's already
 serious ill health.

 "At the same time we call on the state to produce the evidence if it
 exists so that Marian's legal team can defend her. The Parole
 Commissioners must swiftly enact the duties charged to them and after
 such a lengthy process come to a just and decisive ruling."


 Meanwhile, judgement has been reserved in an appeal against Price's
 fellow internee, Martin Corey, being returned to prison.

 The British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers has challenging a ruling that
 the Parole Commissioners had breached Martin Corey's human rights in
 keeping him behind bars.

 In July Corey won a judicial review over a decision by the Parole
 Commission to keep him behind bars on the basis of 'secret information'.
 A High Court judge held that their determination on whether it was safe
 to release him had breached his rights under European law.

 The commissioners were directed to reconsider the case and Corey was
 granted unconditional bail.

 But pending a full appeal against the judgment, lawyers for the British
 government secured a stay on the bail order from another judge.

 Corey's legal team are seeking to challenge that determination at the
 Supreme Court in London.

 Meanwhile, the appeal against the judicial review ruling was heard by
 three senior judges. Following submissions from both sides the judges
 pledged to deliver their verdict as soon as possible.


>>>>>> No protest against small loyalist march

 Nationalist residents have asked the Apprentice Boys why they intend to
 hold a parade past St Patrick's Church in Belfast involving just 25
 people. The order has applied to the Parades Commission for permission
 to walk past the church and nationalist Carrick Hill area tomorrow
 [December 1] as part of its annual Lundy's Day celebrations.

 The organisation had not applied for any bands to take part in the
 parade. The 'Faith Defenders Clifton 'want to walk almost half a mile
 from Clifton Street Orange Hall to York Street, from where they are
 expected to make the onward bus journey to Derry for the main parade.

 An Apprentice Boys parade past
the flashpoint earlier this month ended
 in controversy when a loyalist band breached a Parades Commission
 ruling by playing the sectarian Famine Song as it passed Carrick Hill.
 Tensions in the area have been high since the Shankill Road-based Young
 Conway Volunteers were filmed walking in circles while playing the same
 song outside St Patrick's on July 12, and since there have been five
 parades organised by loyalists to pass the church, with violence
 breaking out on one occasion.

 The unusually long Protestant marching season has been linked to a
 continuing low level of sectarian incidents. In the past week,
 nationalists were blamed for vandalising an Orange Hall and a British
 Army war memorial in isolated areas of County Derry and Antrim, while a
 tricolour was placed on an abandoned Orange Hall in Ballycastle.

 Frank Dempsey of the Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Committee asked
 why the Apprentice Boys wanted to walk past the flashpoint again.

 "Why can't they just get on their bus at the Orange Hall at Clifton
 Street, or is this a case of 'we will walk where we want and to
with you'?" Mr Dempsey said.

 "Why would anybody want to walk down past a Catholic area to get a bus
 to Derry when they can get a  bus at Clifton Street, go down a slip road
 beside the hall and be on their way?

 "Another issue is that if they can walk down here this time without a
 band then why can't they do it all the time?"

 However, he said residents had called off a planned protest for
 tomorrow's parade as an "act of good will".

 "Despite the breaking of the last determination on November 10 by
 playing the Famine Song, Carrick Hill Concerned Residents Group has
 decided to call off their protest as an act of good will, both on the
 outward and return journey but will have observers on the streets," he

 "From the outset of the parade dispute all this community has asked for
 is respect and if the Apprentice Boys can walk past in silence on
 December 1 surely then its not much to ask that the bands that accompany
 them in other parades do the same."


>>>>>> Feature: The diggers who fought in Irish Civil War

 by John Connell (for the Irish Echo)

 A hitherto unknown story of Australian diggers who fought in the Irish
 War of Independence and Civil War has recently been uncovered.

 Sydney writer and filmmaker Kerry Casey discovered the hidden history
 while in Ireland earlier this year.

 “I had come to Glenosheen in County Limerick to trace my grand-father,
 Patrick Cornelious (Con) Casey. I began working on the story when my own
 father was dying, so it’s been a very personal project,” he said.

 Ireland had become the breadbasket of the Allied war effort in World War
 I. It was the most popular place for Australian soldiers to go on leave
 during the conflict.

 However, the seeds of political discontent in the country soon led to
 many diggers becoming involved in the independence movement.

 Of the 330,000 Australian forces who served in World War I, 893 were
 illegal absentees, many of whom Casey has discovered served in the IRA
 during the war years.

 Con Casey was a highly decorated soldier, having fought at Gallipoli and
 the Somme, and it was during his 1917 leave in Ireland that he became
 interested in Irish politics.

 Supported by his father in Australia, Casey would buy a motorbike and
 become military advisor to Liam Lynch’s North Cork Brigade during the

 “Con took part in a number of successful raids during the war and was
 attacked more than once by British forces,” says Casey.

 Casey’s research has so far uncovered six other IRA diggers stationed
 around  Ireland, and formed the basis of his thesis at the Australian
 Defence Force Academy.

 “At first military historians laughed at me and said this is not part of
 the official digger story, but now that I’m pulling out more characters
 and information, the facts are speaking for themselves.

 “It has reshaped how we think about the Aussie digger.”


 The story of Mike McGrath is perhaps the most illustrative of this
 hidden history.

 Born in Ireland, the young McGrath worked his way to Australia on the
 White Star Line of Titanic fame.

 He would later go on to join the Australian army and fight on the
 Western Front.

 While on leave in Ireland, he would join Dan Breen’s famous IRA flying
 column and take part in a number of raids and battles.

 McGrath fought with the anti-treaty side in the Civil War and was
 executed in the Curragh prison camp, despite being an Australian
 citizen. He would never get to return to Australia.

 “The simple fact is we just don’t know how many IRA diggers there are,”
 Casey says. “In doing this project I have uncovered a number, but I hope
 in highlighting the story that more families may come forward.”


>>>>>> Analysis: Another issue flying in the face of change

 The present kerfuffle about flying the Union flag over Belfast City Hall
 is a reminder of how long it takes to change anything and of the
 obstacles in the way of change. It used to be that the Union flag was
 flown 365 days a year from anything vertical a unionist could find - at
 police barracks, courts, council offices, libraries, hospitals,
 education offices,schools and, more surprisingly, Protestant churches,
 never mind unofficial efforts on lamp-posts and pylons.

 Until about a decade ago St McCartan's Church of Ireland Cathedral in
 Clogher used to fly four, yes four, Union flags, one from each corner of
 its tower every summer.

 Since the Good Friday Agreement official manifestations have dwindled.
 Most unionists accept that flying the flag on 'designated days' as
 elsewhere in the UK is enough to satisfy honour. Even so, the flag would
 have been a lot less evident if it had not been for the foolish and
 misguided machinations of Peter Mandelson when he was Tony Blair's
 proconsul here.

 In a futile attempt to placate unionists he reneged on understandings
 about royalist regalia at courts and flags at Stormont. The unionists
 got their flags but Mandelson got nothing from the unionists.

 Mandelson's mistakes show that if there is no legislation imposed on
 them, unionist politicians will resist change no matter what it is, even
 if it is for the general good. Not, mind you, that removing a flag will
 make a difference to general welfare but it does make a difference to
 demonstrating parity of esteem and equality of status, concepts no
 unionist politician has ever subscribed to. After all, what was Norn Irn
 devised for except to provide an exclusive enclave for the diminishing
 minority on the island?

 Legally that position has been abolished but in practice it continues
 and there is no provision to change the practice. Unionists know they're
 on a hiding to nothing legally which is why they've been resorting to
 dirty tricks in Belfast, distributing leaflets dressed up to look like
 Alliance ones.

 In the end it will come down to a vote despite all the spurious
 consultations unionist councillors have tried to fix. In the end the
 unionists will lose as they always do, not necessarily this time, but in
 the end. They're on the wrong side of history and of demography.

 You'd think some of them would stretch out a hand, meet Fenians hallway,
 but no. Look at any proposal for change at Stormont. Even if it's a
 motion in the impotent assembly unionists invoke a petition of concern,
 probably the most abused and misused procedure provided for in the Good
 Friday Agreement. True, Sinn Fein does it too, but that's mainly to
 defend its own members or, recently, special advisers from unionist
 attempts to contravene the spirit (and sometimes the letter) of the
 agreement or to score some point about an IRA incident a generation ago.

 In the case of petitions of concern there's no chance of the Alliance
 Party throwing their votes behind change. Alliance don't count since,
 although they're unionists, they refuse to designate themselves as such.
 They pretend they don't take the position of either nationalists or
 unionists when it's perfectly obvious they are a liberal version of
 unionism and oppose national diversity in this society as assiduously as
 anyone in the DUP.

 Unlike the DUP, Alliance won't even admit there are two politico-ethnic
 groups. The result is of course paralysis not just at the executive on
 any matter that counts such as housing or education but on the most
 trivial sectarian items.

 Meanwhile the two governments are completely disengaged - the
 Conservatives because they have no votes and no interest, the Irish
 because the tanaiste for the whole of his chequered career from
 Stickiness to Labour has never exhibited the slightest interest in the
 north. Indeed at the height of the Troubles he seemed more concerned
 with East Germany or North Korea than the Falls or the Bogside. At the
 present time the man who is supposed to keep a watching brief on
 nationalist concerns in the north is more concerned about keeping his
 sinking poll ratings above those of Sinn Fein in the Dail than advancing