100th anniversary of the Armistice at the Somme Centre, Conlig.

On Sunday morning our group, along with many friends, attended a very special event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice at the Somme Centre, Conlig.




The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and their opponent, Germany.

We also remembered more recent victims of the troubles including many friends and fellow comrades.

The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all. The brave die never, though they sleep in dust: Their courage nerves a thousand living men.

Honour service sacrifice
Lamh Dearg Abu

We remember 11/11/2018






They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

New Mural – Stevie McCrea

On Saturday evening our group attended the unveiling of a new mural dedicated to our friend and comrade Stevie McCrea, fondly known as “X-ray”.


The image replaced an old mural dedicated to Stevie located at the junction of Hopewell Crescent and Hopewell Avenue, Lower Shankill.

The William Strain Memorial Flute Band played a set before speeches explaining the origin of the mural and Stevie’s story. A booklet originally released at the time of Stevie’s murder was also available to the people in attendance.





29 years ago 16th February 1989 Stephen had just finished his last day of work at the Belfast enterprise zone on the “work out” ACE scheme.

Stevie, who was sent to Long Kesh on Halloween Night in 1972 went on to spend the next fifteen years of his young life in those bleak, soul-destroying cages and was not re-involved in any paramilitary activities upon realease. It is well known that there was a strict policy that ‘Lifers’ are not to be involved in current activities. Stevie, while in prison was involved in a marathon escape bid from Long Kesh Camp. At the time, he was being held in Loyalist Compound 19 as a Special Category prisoner. An ‘x-ray’ van was driven into the Camp for the purpose of taking chest x-rays of all prisoners. Stevie realised that the attending Prison Officers were not monitoring the van and making a spontaneous decision, seized the moment and dived underneath the van and climbed onto the axle stand. During the head count that evening one of his comrades done the ‘Colditz Shuffle’ and was counted twice covering for him. Stevie endured two long and freezing days and nights lying under the ‘x-ray’ van wearing only a thin denim jacket and jeans. On the third evening he managed to climb inside the van itself and conceal himself in a cupboard. When leaving the camp the following day it successfully got through the security checkpoint at the Prison Officer’s gate but Stevie was discovered by a young Squaddie at the main gate. He was hastily taken to the punishment cells and held for three days in solitary confinement.





Upon his release from ‘solitary’ Stevie returned to the Compound and from that day on became known as ‘x-ray’ McCrea.

Stevie, in his short period of freedom posed no threat to anyone and sought to re build his life settling down and enjoying the remainder of his life in peace.

On that day after cashing his last pay cheque, he and several of his work colleagues went for a lunch-time drink in the local Orange Cross Club. The drink, was to bid their friend farewell after working together for the past year.

At 1.15 p.m the security buzzer sounded. As the door opened, three IPLO gunmen brushed inside and ordered the men in the room to stand at the bar. In an effort to get people to let their guard down during those murderous days, they pretended it was a robbery. When everyone lined up as instructed the gunmen opened fire indiscriminately. Stevie, in this moment of chaos, thought only of his friends safety. One friend described the scene:

‘I stood in line whenever the first shot was fired and all of a sudden Stevie McCrea dived in front of me. The shots rang out and we all hit the floor. By this time the gunmen had run out of the room and we all stood up again. That is, except for two other men and Stevie McCrea. He had saved my life alright but lost his own in doing so’.

Two days later Stevie passed away at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Upon realising they had murdered a former Loyalist prisoner the IPLO issued a gloating statement in which they claimed to have singled Stevie out for attack, a blatant lie. The truth is that Stevie had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was nothing but blatant sectarianism.

We are free to express ourselves.
We are free of oppression.
We are free of fear.
We all owe our freedom to them.

Honour – Service – Sacrifice

Lamh Derg Abu

Lest we forget







This morning some members of Dalaradia visited graves of our former friends and comrades at a time of reflection in the run up to Remembrance Sunday. When we come together to reflect, let’s remember our duty to educate future generations of our forebears’ sacrifices.









Honour – Service – Sacrifice


and our dear friend R. Warnock

New Mural – 10/11/2018

Tomorrow evening a new mural dedicated to our friend and comrade Stevie McCrea, fondly known as “X-ray” will be unveiled.

The mural is replacing an old mural dedicated to Stevie located at the junction of Hopewell Crescent and Hopewell Avenue, Lower Shankill.

The event will be at 19:00 Saturday 10th November. A band will be playing and a booklet originally released at the time of Stevie’s murder will be available to people in attendance (free of course).

Everyone is more than welcome to attend. Lest we forget

Belts and Boots to Bombs and Bullets

Yesterday evening some members attended the “Belts and Boots to Bombs and Bullets” event hosted by Gareth Mulvenna – Researcher & Author and Beano Niblock in a packed Ballymac Friendship Centre.






Using inserts from Gareth’s book ‘Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries – The Loyalist Backlash’ and poems written by Robert, the event examined the origins and rise of the Tartan gangs in Belfast and their transformation into loyalist Paramilitaries and Robert “Beano” Niblocks perspective being a young man who went from being a member of the Woodstock Tartan to a member of the Red Hand Commando in July 1972 and the violent era surrounding it.






The event also included an impressive scene by John Travers reprising his role as TC from the 2014 production “Tartan”, which brings to life the story of alot of young mens hasty transition to manhood.

The question and answer section of the event highlighted the importance of telling our own story be it through, books, poems or art. Something that struck a chord was when it was stated every story has goodies and baddies and working class Loyalists are unfairly being depicted as the baddies. The Republican narrative through the years is if you tell a lie so much, it becomes reality. It isn’t about glorifying events, its about documenting them for future generations. It was also pointed out that media biases towards Loyalism does not help with anyone remotely trying to tell their story being lambasted with untruths forcing people to withdraw from engaging.





A very enjoyable event and hopefully something that will be built upon.

Good morning Ulster – Tartan Gangs

Gareth Mulvenna – Researcher & Author on Good Morning Ulster this morning discussing the Tartan gangs, the Red Hand Commando and his & Beano Niblocks event “Belts and Boots to Bombs and Bullets” in the Ballymac Friendship Centre tonight at 19:00.

Skip to 2:16


All welcome

Politics in Northern Ireland are sclerotic


Politics in Northern Ireland are sclerotic… a civic forum could hold the answer, but it must be more than just a glorified talking shop

Such a body could become a mechanism for compromise, influencing a more constructive approach to political relationships, write Graham Spencer and Chris Hudson

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning administration for over a year now
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning administration for over a year now

One of the big misunderstandings about Northern Ireland’s connection with the rest of the UK comes from the conviction that fundamentalist unionist politics will preserve this relationship. Such a politics, because of little appreciation for the value for compromise, relies almost entirely on perpetuating a fear of republicanism to keep itself in place.

And a similar tendency can be found in republicanism, which relies on the continuation of fundamentalist unionism to maintain its own support base.

Sinn Fein’s public utterances about trying to ensure Ian Paisley MP was not re-elected recently were more designed to make sure that he was re-elected, rather than not. But the biggest threat to republicanism and the best way to build a stronger and inclusive Union is through moderate unionism. For both the DUP and Sinn Fein, it is moderate politics that is most feared, but which a progressive Northern Ireland needs most of all.

Fundamentalist unionist politics, as epitomised by the DUP, is, if not already dead, then dying. It has nothing to offer Northern Ireland beyond the myth that it is keeping Sinn Fein at bay. It displays no creativity and a resistance to pragmatism, which destabilises the rigid image of certainty that the party relies on.

Though there are individuals in the DUP who conduct good community work, this is not enough to sustain the party over the long-term and the complete absence of ideas or strategy about how to appeal beyond its own immediate self-interests will inevitably fail those it supposedly represents. The first stage of ossification is already evident and the second stage of withering and rot is becoming harder to deny.

There will be a lot more fear politics to come as the party looks increasingly outdated and scrambles to try and prevent its own demise, and Sinn Fein will do what it can to keep that fundamentalism alive to help ensure its own presence and purpose. But, ultimately, unless and until there is a dramatic change in its ethos and approach, the DUP’s game is up.

It is understandable why a unionist/loyalist electorate that existed through the conflict would vote for the DUP. But, as a younger audience with no lived experience of the conflict starts to influence voting patterns more and more, so conflict-related rhetoric is less likely to gain traction.

The best way to address this predicament is to accept that moderate unionism is the only realistic way out of the decline, but to do so it must promote and reflect the core values of inclusive Britishness and not just offer a softer version of the DUP. Those values relate to democracy, the rule of law, liberty of the individual and the tolerance of religious and cultural difference and collectively they constitute a sufficient consensus to keep the relationship between social responsibility and individual possibility intact.

Though the climate of Brexit has brought into focus two oppositional types of anger that compete to influence the shape of a Brexit outcome, it has not been suggested that the core values of Britishness should be jettisoned as part of this dispute.

Indeed, the two forms of anger could be seen as a struggle to try and re-engage with Britishness and understand its role and meaning in the modern world.

As Brexit dominates the political scene and the DUP strives to keep Northern Ireland’s linkage with the UK as tight as possible, this linkage does not extend to accepting other aspects of Britishness which show greater concern for more individualised forms of identity.

Yes, the DUP argument for Brexit is about a national identity, but it has no means by which to conceptualise or articulate a wider sense of Britishness. Nor is it able to grasp what the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama recently described as the change from “identity to identities” that is now reshaping the political climate, or how meanings of self and society are being expressed because of this growing diversity.

Rather, what the DUP is drawing from in its response to Brexit is what it has always relied on: holding the line and resisting and maintaining a strongly fixed position.

And what Sinn Fein is doing in response is recycling a transferable message about the value of a single, agreed, multi-cultural, or other Ireland, where the dogged reach for Irish unity comes with a welcoming face.

If Northern Ireland is in “post-conflict” mode, there is little evidence of a post-conflict politics to reflect this new phase.

The peace process initiated a process of compromise politics, which was then superseded by non-compromise politics, moving from a politics of tolerance to a politics of intolerance. The problem with this regression is that although, at a surface level, it may offer a degree of security, it also means the inability to move beyond very strict limits, since to do so risks undermining the very security being defended.

But since security in this instance depends on stasis, so there is no transformation built into the outlook. Furthermore, there is no dynamic, no optimism and no possibility of modernisation. That is why such a politics has no future and is ultimately doomed to fail.

Intransigence on the basis of resistance to and intolerance of difference creates a problem for Britishness which espouses the need to hold individual liberty and respect for others in some kind of balance. At a political level in Northern Ireland, there is next to no reaching out to those who find themselves not part of the single political and national identity being advanced on either side of the divide.

Fundamentalist unionist politics has no means to expand its popular support because it cannot reach out to those not of its tradition. And, although Sinn Fein’s republicanism may come across as more respectful in approach, it too is similarly contained and driven by the need to keep the DUP tied to its fundamentalist ethos and rigid positions.

But what good is this politics for a modern democracy that has supposedly exited from the terrible years of conflict? As the absence of an Executive for nearly two years demonstrates, dominant politics in Northern Ireland has failed and, indeed, can only fail because there is no mechanism by which to bridge the opposing forces of republican and unionist fundamentalism. Each now functions as an island separated by a sea of perpetual loathing and mistrust.

That said, and in the absence of a dominant moderate unionism, there is a mechanism by which to circumvent the impasse aside from handing power to the remaining political parties who do want an Executive to work and that is the civic forum that was legislated for in the Good Friday Agreement and which functioned for a short time after the Agreement’s implementation. We are told that the forum was unworkable, because it was too cumbersome and was not supported by the dominant parties, which, at that time, believed it to be an imposition and a hindrance to the conduct of daily politics.

The reality was probably different and that the forum was suspended because it either risked increasing expectations of accountability, or it was manipulated to be little more than an extension of dominant positions.

But the value of a forum is surely more important now than it was at the time of Good Friday Agreement? Properly managed and broadly representative in its diversity, a forum could help reactivate a new optimism and create new possibilities to reshape expectations about party politics that remains so obsessed about the past it offers nothing for the future.

Taking into account the different identities and political ambitions in Northern Ireland, the forum should, nevertheless, reflect the core values of Britishness. It should seek to advocate democracy not as a finite entity, but as a process that facilitates new political relationships and elicits fresh political thinking.

It should work to build further cross-community respect for the rule of law and policing. It should strive to try to make Northern Ireland a place where individual aspiration and opportunity become a reality and it should advance compromise and pragmatism in relation to public policy and political difference.

In effect, the forum should be more than a talking shop. It should monitor political responsibility and accountability and act as a think-tank to help deal with divisive issues and points of contention detrimental to the development and progress of Northern Ireland as a whole.

On that basis, its role and function should be expanded to become a new force for a common good, devising ideas and responses to problems that the dominating parties seem unwilling to make, or unable to contemplate. As such, it can become a mechanism for compromise, influencing a more constructive approach to political relationships as a result.

In the absence of a dominant moderate politics, a civic forum offers an opportunity to help advocate such moderation and, in the process, expose the damaging limitations of the fundamentalist outlook that now endures.

Given the advantages this could bring for stability, confidence and progress, Northern Ireland surely deserves no less.

Dr Graham Spencer is Reader in Social and Political Conflict at the University of Portsmouth. Rev Chris Hudson is minister at All Souls’ Church in Belfast

Belfast Telegraph

Dr. David Hume – Ulster Scots

Yesterday evening in conjunction with REACH our group welcomed Ulster Scot historian and writer Dr. David Hume.






A former member of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots, he is a former journalist and senior administrator with a large cultural organisation. David was awarded a PhD in 1994 from the University of Ulster in Jordanstown. David told the intriguing story of the Ulster Scots from ancient times, through migrations, battle and siege, the Plantation of Ulster, the 18th century, the emigration of thousands to America, and the radicalism which underpins the Ulster Scots as a community. He also looks at the present position of the cultural community which defines itself as Ulster Scots and where it is going in the future.

A very enjoyable discussion and insight into Ulster Scots.