News

British Shadow Minister for the North, Stephen Pound MP, discusses Brexit and the Irish border

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James Connolly Irish American Labor Coalition Event

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The James Connolly  Irish American Labor Coalition held a lunch in New York on Friday September 14th to promote the McGuinness Principles of Equality, Respect,Truth and Self Determination for Ireland.

The Principles are an Irish American initiative to raise support for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement including a referendum on Irish reunification.

Over 150 Labor leaders, organisers and activists from the Building Trades,  Electricians, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Operating Engineers, Teamsters, Firefighters, Transport workers, Laborers, Hotel workers and more attended and were an upbeat and energetic audience.

Introducing the event, John Murphy, International Representative of the New York State Plumbers and Pipefitters welcomed the James Connolly Coalition initiative for providing a meaningful connection between Irish America and Ireland which supports issues of mutual interest.

John Samuelsen, International President of the TWU and JCIALC President urged those present to seize the opportunities presented by Brexit to support Ireland’s reunification.

He reminded the audience of the words in the Irish Proclamation read outside the General Post Office in 1916 declaring the republic; “supported by her exiled children in America”. He made clear to everyone in attendance, “we are the exiled children” and called for support of the McGuinness Principles named for the late Martin McGuinness.

John introduced Gerry Adams who asked the audience to add their voices to the growing calls for a referendum on unity and praised the the JCIALC ‘s promotion of the McGuinness Principles which are about implementing the Good Friday Agreement’s core issues. Adams said that Irish unity is being discussed widely and that now is the optimum time to raise the demand for a referendum.” Our job “ he said  “is to achieve these objectives in the shortest possible time with the maximum level of popular support. And we will achieve this sooner with the help and support of irish America.”

Also in attendance  were Mario Cilento,President NY State AFL-CIO, Vinny Alvarez, President NY City Central Labor Council, Bernadette Kelly International Representative of the Teamsters, Bill Lynn  Business Manager Operating Engineers and a group from Chicago headed by James Coyne, Business manager of the Chicago plumbers Union.

Praise for film shining light on Ballymurphy massacre

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Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, September 10, 2018

There has been huge online reaction to the network premiere of Massacre at Ballymurphy, the hard-hitting documentary by award-winning film-maker Callum Macrea which screened on Channel 4 at the weekend.

The film, which was previously premiered at Féile an Phobail, was shown on Saturday, with a reconstruction and forensic examination of the events which started on August 9, 1971.

The documentary contains personal stories from relatives of the 10 people shot dead in west Belfast by members of the parachute regiment over three days of horrific violence.

Paddy McCarthy, considered the 11th victim, died of a heart attack after British soldiers fired shots over his head.

Among the dead were mother-of-eight Joan Connolly and Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot dead going to the rescue of another victim.

The film details a shocking re-enactment of the circumstances of Daniel Teggart’s death.

He was shot 14 times, and most of the bullets entered his back as he lay injured on the ground.

Following the programme Unionist Irish language activist Linda Ervine posted on Twitter: “Before watching #MassacreAtBallymurphy I had no knowledge of what took place all those years ago. A terrible wrong has been done”.

Another documentary maker, Seán Murray, said he hoped the screening of the film by Channel 4 “awakens the British public to the actions of their government during the conflict. Well done to my friend Callum Macrae and all involved”.

Journalist and broadcaster Eamonn Holmes tweeted in support of Mr Macrea, saying: “Regardless of your political persuasion or views on the Northern Irish Troubles, I would urge you to both hear what this man has to say and watch his film if you can. The year is 1971. The subject is the killing of civilians by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy West Belfast.”

Ian Katz, director of programmes at Channel 4, said: “Ashamed to say I knew nothing about the Ballymurphy massacre – the 1971 killing of 11 men and women by the British army in Belfast – till I saw Callum Macrae’s meticulous and shocking reconstruction of it.”

Scottish political activist Tommy Sheridan said it was “absolutely shocking”.

“I am ashamed that despite my limited knowledge of British army atrocities in Northern Ireland I didn’t know about these state murders in Ballymurphy,” he said.

“No wonder the British Establishment have hidden such massacres from the general public for 47 years.”

Former soldier Glenn Bradley said he had “met the Ballymurphy families some years ago and have supported their call for truth since”.

“I watched Massacre At Ballymurphy and my lasting thought is how docile and compliant were the media then”.

Belfast boxer Michael Conlan said: “Watching Ballymurphy Massacre and listening to what families have gone through and still going through, my eyes are filling up, very sad stories to poor innocent families”.

Former Antrim football captain Anto Finnegan said: “This is not rewriting history, this is shining a light into that dark place those in power want to keep hidden.”

‘Dublin must assert rights of northern citizens’ - O’Neill

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Rather than simply bemoaning the lack of an Executive in the North, the Taoiseach should be asserting his government’s role as co-guarantor of previous agreements in order to help re-establish it, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.

The Sinn Féin Vice President was responding to comments made by Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael ‘think-in’ today in Galway.

She said: “It is disappointing to hear the Taoiseach bemoaning the fact that the North is still without an Assembly and Executive as if his government has no responsibilities for ensuring the right conditions are in place for a power-sharing administration to be re-established.

“The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement must be underpinned by the principles of equality, mutual respect and parity of esteem that are guaranteed by that agreement. That is not the case if the DUP, supported by the British Government, persist with denying rights and equality to citizens in the North.

“Leo Varadkar would not tolerate discrimination against the LGBT community, women, victims and Irish speakers in Dublin. He should not tolerate it in Belfast either.

“The Dublin Government should assert its full role as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement in order to help restore the political institutions and address directly the core problem of the denial of rights.

“Leo Varadkar has pledged not to abandon northern citizens in the context of Brexit. He also has responsibilities to them in terms of rights and his government, rather than engaging in party political attacks, should be showing leadership in securing and defending rights which are routinely delivered everywhere else on this island.”

ENDS/CRIOCH

Reasons why a United Ireland is definitely on the way

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Kevin Meagher@IrishCentral

A leading expert argues that a united Ireland is now unstoppable and a question of when rather than if is the only thing left to be decided.

The debate about Irish reunification is now alive and kicking, with endless chatter over the last year about the prospects of a historic border poll taking place in the next few years. There are various strands that are beginning to weave together, creating, what I believe, will prove to be unstoppable momentum. So here are ten reasons why a united Ireland is now on the way:

Demographic change is unstoppable

Northern Ireland was designed to lock-in Protestant-Unionist ascendancy. This is why it only includes six counties of the ancient province of Ulster. (The other three had Catholics majorities). Even so, the last census in 2011 showed that Protestant-Unionists now account for less than half (48%) the population of Northern Ireland, with Catholics on 45%. Of course, not all Catholics want a united Ireland, just as not all Protestants hate the idea, but the figures are still a pretty good indicator of where support lies.

The ground has shifted dramatically in recent years, with Catholics now outnumbering Protestants at every level of the education system. Let’s put it this way, the voters who will ensure there’s a united Ireland have already been born.

Brexit changes everything

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union back in June 2016 has electrified the debate about Irish unity. On average, 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union (with Catholic-Nationalists voting by as much as 88%). For many soft nationalists and even for a growing number of unionists, the loss of their EU citizenship is building support for Irish unity. More than a quarter (28%) of a cross-section of people in Northern Ireland said the UK's decision to leave the EU had made them more likely to vote for a united Ireland, according to a BBC poll. Meanwhile, another poll for British radio station, LBC, found that leaving the EU is more important to average British voters than keeping Northern Ireland in the UK.

The electoral maths

In the 2017 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Sinn Fein came within 1,100 votes from beating the Democratic Unionists into second place. Just 30,000 votes or so now separate parties committed to Irish unity from those who favor remaining part of Britain. At the next elections, scheduled for 2022, SF may well top the poll, with parties committed to Irish unity, or just those in favor of holding a referendum about it, in a majority. If this happens, the British Government, which decides when a referendum on Northern Ireland’s future status can be called under the terms of Good Friday Agreement, will be hard-pushed to avoid heeding the call.

The Good Friday Agreement is the blueprint

The hard bit is already done. The actual process for bringing about a united Ireland was confirmed 20 years ago with the signing of the GFA. It allows for a referendum on Irish unity if “at any time” it appears likely to the British Secretary of State “that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” The blueprint is already in place. All it now needs now are the right conditions to be met.

Scotland may leave the UK first

Back in 2014, the Scots voted narrowly to stay in the UK by just 55-45%.The British political establishment threw everything into persuading them to remain, with dire predictions about life outside the UK. These ‘Project Fear’ warnings had little effect and the campaign for independence got stronger and stronger throughout the campaign. Remember, this was before Brexit, where 63% of Scots chose to stay in the EU.

So the scene is set for another vote on independence in the next few years, with nationalists complaining about being forced out of the EU against their wishes by the English. Scotland’s a much bigger deal for the UK and if goes, taking its oil fields and nuclear submarine bases with it, losing Northern Ireland, in comparison, will feel like an afterthought.

Britain just doesn’t want the place

When people in Britain think of Northern Ireland there’s a general air of bewilderment. They remember the IRA bombings and wonder why Orangemen want to walk down streets where they are not wanted. That’s if they think of the place at all. They have little affinity with Northern Ireland, with many wondering why Britain is still there. There’s also brooding English resentment at the Democratic Unionists, who prop up Theresa May’s government in the House of Commons in return for £1 billion in extra funding. Senior members of Theresa May’s own party were appalled at the arrangement, given the DUP’s blatant homophobia, while the poorer English regions are angry at the special treatment given to unionists at, as they see it, their expense.

Irish unity sees Northern Ireland automatically rejoin the EU

Northern Ireland’s economy is set to be devastated by Brexit. Why would outside investors (many from the US) entertain the idea of basing themselves in Northern Ireland, which, after Brexit, no longer has automatic access to the EU’s single market? In contrast, opening up down the road in the Republic guarantees lower taxes and immediate access to the single market. For many Northern Irish business leaders and farmers, the hard reality of Brexit makes Irish unity the obvious solution.

Northern Ireland’s economy is broken

Northern Ireland amounts to just 1.5% of the UK’s economy and is reliant on a £10 billion grant from the British Government each year. The place makes no economic sense and has seen its traditional industries wane over the past 50 years. A report from 2016 by a team of European academics modeled the effects of Irish unity and found that a single Irish state would generate tens of billions of Euro in extra economic activity straightaway, with the north benefiting most from emulating the successes of southern Ireland.

Southern Ireland will benefit from unity

If Northern Ireland votes to become part of a single Irish state, the people who already live in the Republic will have to vote on it too. So what’s in it for the south? First off, this is clearly unfinished business for most Irish people. The reunification of the country is a deeply and sincerely held belief. (Polls routinely show two-thirds in favor). Furthermore, it will increase the Irish population to nearly seven million, making the Republic a bigger player in the European Union and creating a larger domestic economy.

The arc of history bends towards Irish unity

Northern Ireland simply wasn’t built to last. Its creation was a back foot political compromise from a beleaguered British government that couldn’t defeat the IRA’s guerrilla campaign during the War of Independence, but didn’t want to be humiliated and felt it owed something to unionists, (especially as so many served in the First World War). So it split the difference. History usually tells us anything created as a messy compromise is not destined to last. As Northern Ireland crawls to its centenary in 1921, many are asking, will it survive much longer?