Monday, 29 June 2009

Bombay Street-Taken from the Ashes

Bombay Street-Taken from the Ashes

A historically unique series of photographs, taken by an eyewitness and never before seen collectively in public, will commemorate the 40th anniversary of a tragic watershed in the history of Northern Ireland, at Belfast’s Red Barn Gallery.

The exhibition features a unique and previously unseen, black and white images, which were taken by amateur photographer Gerry Collins the morning after a Loyalist mob razed the west Belfast road, forcing the inhabitants to flee and prompting the emergence of the Provisional IRA.

The Red Barn Gallery director, Frankie Quinn (himself a highly respected Belfast photographer) says: “Forty years after the Bombay Street incident I was presented with a box containing 50 stunning images, which had never been seen in public before.”

“These images are the only existing record of that fateful night, and they provide a forceful, eloquent and historically significant first-hand view of its impact.”

“Visitors comments”, said the Gallery, “have remarked on ‘an epitaph of hatred’ and to a street, ‘murdered by hatred’, as well as expressing ‘a pride in survival’ and the hope that such devastating scenes will ‘never be seen again’.

The gallery is in the process of collecting people’s memories of the time and welcomes all recollections, verbally and in writing.

The exhibition runs from June 26, thru July 25.

After its Red Barn premiere, the exhibition will be shown at the West Belfast Festival.

For further information:

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Parades and Protests

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Statue of James Joyce

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Not Quite

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Giant Killer

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Underneath the Arches

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Waiting for Gulliver
As Belfast celebrated with a parade for the Alliance Party’s new Lord Mayor, Naomi Long, Anti-Good Friday Agreement, Republican protestors, were prevented by the PSNI, from marching to Belfast City Hall to protest Armed Forces Day, also celebrated yesterday.

On May 5, of this year, the Belfast City Council passed a resolution to celebrate Armed Forces Day on June 27.

Breandán Mac Cionnaith, General Secretary of éirígí, who orgainsed the protest said, “All the talk of change in recent years has today been exposed as just that – talk and nothing more than empty, hollow talk. Belfast city centre remains a no-go zone for republicans – unless, of course, those republicans are wiling to ask the British state for permission to enter their own city.

“Today was the first so-called armed forces day. By our protest here today éirígí has ensured that it did not pass unopposed. In the years to come we will build on today’s protest and ensure that June 27, becomes a date of protest – not a date of celebration.”

Given the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland, it would be predictable that a large section of citizens would be opposed to such a celebration. Protests however were not confined to Northern Ireland. In Glasgow, Scotland, 13 people were arrested in a protest demonstration.
In Britain “Peace News” called for an Unarmed Forces Day, “Britain,” they said, “doesn’t need and Armed Forces Day, recently invented by Gordon Brown. We already have Remembrance Day.” What Britain needs,” they stated, “is an Unarmed Forces Day - when we can remember those people, like Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie(British peace activists killed by Israeli forces while protecting Palestinians), Abdul Ghaffar Khan (“the Muslim Gandhi”), Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, who dedicated their lives to non-violent social change.

Unarmed Forces Day is a Peace News initiative. It is a celebration of the power of non-violence, a call for real support for our damaged veterans, and a protest against an attempt by the British government to shore up support for its unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by rallying the British public around the armed Forces.”

At the Imperial War Museum, the Movement for the Abolition of War held a forum on ‘The Limits of Military Obedience’, which was addressed by General Sir Hugh Beach; Bruce Kent; (Pax Christi), George Farebrother; (Institute for Law Accountability and Peace), and Chaired by Kat Barton; (Quaker Peace and Social Witness).

The Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed forces, Queen Elizabeth II, presented medals at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh, at a reception for over 300 military personnel and families.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bad Week for Belfast’s tourist image

Belfast Battles the Bigots and the Begrudgers

© Joe ÓNéill 2009

Broken windows at City Church

The majority of the Romanian immigrants to Northern Ireland, who were the victims of racist attacks in Belfast last week, have decided today to call it quits and return to Romania, while the church which gave them sanctuary after the attacks, was itself vandalized in the early hours of this morning.

To date, two teenagers have been charged in connection with the original incidents, two more have been arrested and are being questioned, and one 21 year-old appeared in court today.

On Sunday, a tourist double-decker bus touring West Belfast’s Falls Road, was attacked by youths throwing stones through bus windows terrifying passengers.

In the early hours of this morning, the Café at Belfast Zoo was destroyed by fire. Police and Fire Service have not yet determined if the fire was malicious, but a spokesperson has said that both intruder and fire alarms were activated.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Belfast Anti-Racist Rally

Belfast Says NO!

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Anti-Racist poster at Belfast City Hall.

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Patricia McKeown, President, Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Anna Lo, in March 2007, she was elected to serve as the MLA for South Belfast for the Alliance Party, and consequently the first ethnic Chinese person to be elected to a legislative parliament in Europe.

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Nan Joyce Irish Travellers rights campaigner.
Lady Mayor of Belfast, Naomi Long, Upper Left in Aqua Jacket.

Hundreds of people gathered at Belfast City Hall today for an impromptu rally, to voice their support for Romanian immigrant families, who were victims of attacks by neo-nazis in Belfast last Tuesday. (See Blog Archive, A Long Way to Go)

Speakers at the rally included; Nan Joyce, Irish Travellers rights campaigner; newly elected Alliance Party Lady Mayor of Belfast, Naomi Long; Alliance Party MLA, Anna Lo; Patricia McKeown of UNISON, and current President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions ; and others.

Protest organizers said that they would continue the protests, and bring thousands onto the streets if necessary, until the attacks cease.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller.

Martin Niemöller was a German pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1892. Niemöller was an anti-Communist and supported Hitler's rise to power at first. But when Hitler insisted on the supremacy of the state over religion, Niemöller became disillusioned. He became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler. Unlike Niemöller, they gave in to the Nazis' threats. Hitler personally detested Niemöller and had him arrested and eventually confined in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Niemöller was released in 1945 by the Allies. He continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War II. His poem is well-known, frequently quoted, and is a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy, as it often begins with specific and targeted fear and hatred which soon escalates out of control.

Source Wikipedia

Friday, 19 June 2009

A Great Day for Press Freedom and Suzanne Breen

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Seamus Dooley, (Centre) Secretary, Irish National Union of Journalists, (Ireland) speaks with the press after the hearing, a smiling and happy Suzanne Breen, (Right) and Sunday Tribune Editor Noirin Hegharty. (Left)

Below is a statement from the Suzanne Breen support group
(See Archive for other articles on this subject)
Thursday, 18th June 2009

A great day for press freedom, Suzanne Breen is successful in protecting her sources by winning her case.

The National Union of Journalists has hailed the decision of a Northern Ireland court not to order journalist Suzanne Breen to hand over notes to the police “as a landmark victory for journalism and for civil liberties”.

At Belfast Recorders Court today, Judge Thomas Burgess refused an application which would have forced the Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune to hand over notes, computer equipment and other material following publication of stories relating to the Real IRA.

NUJ President, James Doherty, praised the courage of Suzanne Breen and her editor, Noirin Hegarty, in standing up to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

James said: “At last week’s hearing Suzanne and Noirin proudly stood by the NUJ code of conduct and this ruling is justification of their stand. Journalists everywhere will join with me in congratulating them on the outcome.

“This is a victory not only for Suzanne, but for all journalists and the right to do our job free from fear or coercion. The Fourth Estate should never become a lapdog for a police state."

NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: “The PSNI has failed on this occasion, despite tactics aimed at intimidating the media. We now hope that the security forces will concentrate on tracking down criminals and those responsible for murder rather than targeting journalists.
"The use of anti-terror legislation to target journalists is a worrying international trend and this case is a welcome development in halting the erosion of civil liberties.”

Irish Secretary, Séamus Dooley, was present in court along with NUJ colleagues to support Ms Breen. Reacting to the judgment, Séamus said: “The NUJ welcomes this landmark judgment. No journalist should face the prospect of a prison sentence for doing their job in the public interest.
"Judge Burgess has recognised the central importance of the protection of journalistic sources and also accepted that a journalist who hands over confidential material could put their life at risk.”

In a ruling which took more than 30 minutes to read out, Judge Burgess ruled that requiring Ms Breen to hand over notes and other material would be a breach of her right to life under the European Convention.
Séamus added that the outcome of the case was “a landmark victory for journalism and civil liberties”.

Amnesty International has welcomed the decision in a Belfast court today by Judge Tom Burgess to refuse an application for a court order by the PSNI compelling Sunday Tribune Northern Editor Suzanne Breen to hand over material obtained in the course of her work as a journalist.

"This case had serious implications for the freedom of the press in the UK and Ireland," said Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International.
"Freedom of the press is an essential element of the right to freedom of expression, recognised under international law, and in general includes the principle that journalists must be able to protect their sources. We welcome today's decision but remain concerned at this attempt by the PSNI to use secret evidence and anti-terrorism legislation against a journalist."

The SDLP has welcomed the decision in Suzanne Breen’s court case which defended her right as a journalist to protect her sources.Speaking on behalf of the party, Alex Attwood MLA said:

“The SDLP welcomed today’s judgement that it was always a questionable approach for the police to force a journalist to hand over information, something which the police had never done in all the years of violence and conflict.

“The judgement is also highly important in confirming essential principles around the independence of journalists and the state’s duty to protect them in the course of their work.
“This is a good judgement for journalism, for the citizen and for the community.”

William Crawley of the BBC on his Blog Page poses an interesting question in light of the judgement: “The judgement is a clear advance in protecting a free press. But what of those journalists engaged in sensitive investigations who fear arrest and intimidation from state authorities, but who are not facing grave threats to their lives? It appears that judgment falls short of protecting journalists in that category: they will continue to take their chances in courts, as judges try to the balance "public interest" against journalistic confidentiality and the privacy of sources.”

Jon Slattery asked the questions in her blog: “The question that now has to be asked is why was Suzanne Breen put through this ordeal?

Why was Sally Murrer?

Why was Martin Bright?

Why was Robin Ackroyd?

Why was Bill Goodwin?

Why was Jeremy Warner?

These sources' cases go back more than 20 years. All the journalists won, eventually, sometimes after years of being dragged through the courts. When will the police and other authorities realise journalists will not give up their sources, even if they are threatened will jail?”

Roy Greenslade in his Guardian blog reflects on the judgement: “First, the good news. The judgment sets a precedent on behalf of journalists who receive confidential information from paramilitaries/ terrorists, whether in the form of an interview or when taking a phone call in which the caller is claiming responsibility for a bombing or shooting.
Second, the less good news. Though the judge evidently said he also had to consider the journalist's freedom of expression, it is not a definitive judgment on a journalist's right not to disclose all information received in confidence.

It represents a step on that path, but we still have to fight on for what is called in the US and Australia a "shield law" to protect all journalists from court action by authorities who use the courts in order to discover confidential journalistic sources.”

Alliance Leader David Ford has welcomed Suzanne Breen's court victory which means she is not compelled to hand over information on the Real IRA to police. David Ford said: "I wish to congratulate Suzanne and welcome the court's decision. This is a victory for the free press and for journalism as a profession. "There is no way it could have been considered acceptable for the courts to compel Suzanne Breen to release this information as her life may have been put at risk. Suzanne has been extremely courageous and has been vindicated in the principled stand she took."

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today welcomed the decision of the court in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to dismiss the application of the Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI) about forcing the Sunday Tribune's journalist, Suzanne Breen, to reveal her source for the story she published on the murder of two British soldiers by the Real IRA."This is a historic victory in the journalists' fight for the protection of sources," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is a milestone achievement for Suzanne and the National Union of Journalists in Great Britain and Ireland who have supported her throughout the process."

The IFJ supported the arguments of Suzanne that handing over the material for her story would not just infringe her right as a journalist to protect her source, but also put her at the serious risk of violence from the paramilitary group."This decision spares our colleague a real and serious risk to her safety," added White. "The PSNI sought to turn media into unwilling police informants at the expense of independent and safe journalism."

Henry McDonald argues in a piece for Index on Censorship that, “Journalists operating in Northern Ireland are relieved that Suzanne Breen has won her case. The decision has major implications for other reporters here.

This not only includes correspondents who are under pressure from the state, principally the PSNI, but also from the range of public inquiries into a number of past crimes in the Troubles.”

NUJ Web site:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ):

NUJ London Freelance Branch:

Amnesty International:

Judge Thomas Burgess full judgement:

BBC News:

BBC William Crawley 16:47 PM, Thursday, 18 June 2009:

BBC “Reporter wins Real IRA notes case”:

RTE News: Gazette:
Times online David Sharrock, Ireland Correspondent:

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A Long Way to Go

© Joe ÓNéill 2009

The late Bob Doyle, anti-fascist, who served in the 15th International Brigade on behalf of the Spanish republic. Seen here at the unveiling of the Belfast monument to his comrades in ‘Writers Square’ in 2008. Bob passed away in February. The last living Irishman to have served in the Brigade.

No pasarán!

They Shall Not Pass!

On the same day that British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was lecturing the Mullahs of Iran on the finer points of democracy, a mob of neo-nazis in Belfast were demonstrating the finer points of intimidation and racism, to immigrant Romanian families, the youngest only 5 days old.

More than 25 Romanian families, comprising over 130 persons, were forced from their homes Tuesday night, close to the Loyalist “Village” neighbourhood, in Belfast. As anti-racist demonstrators held a rally at a local church Tuesday evening in support of the families, they were attacked by bottle-throwing youths shouting racist slogans.

After having spent Tuesday night in that church hall, fearing for their safety, the families collected what little belongings they could carry this morning, and were resettled in a leisure centre in the east of the city.

Condemnation from all sections of the community quickly followed, including, the newly elected Mayor of Belfast, Naomi Long, who visited the families this morning, and First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and Jeffrey Donaldson, MP MLA, who met with the families at the leisure centre.

The attacks were the lead story on the BBC national lunchtime television news, and will no doubt by this time have reached a worldwide audience on the BBC World Service network.

The Northern Ireland Executive will face a formidable challenge in countering this kind of publicity. There have been countless trade missions to the United States and other countries, to portray the current Northern Ireland political climate as one that has left its troubled past behind.

The substitution of the sound of the bomb and the bullet, for that of the tramp of the Jackboot, will not be considered progress by foreign investment, and outside venture capital. The community as a whole, and especially, the community wherein these racist reside, have to make their voices heard against racism in our midst. For the sake of all our dignity, not the least, that of our fellow European citizens from Romania, this cannot be allowed to stand.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Update: Suzanne Breen Confidential Sources Case

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary, Northern Ireland Committee, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, (Centre) addresses the media outside Laganside Courts, to his left, Seamus Doherty, President of the National Union of Journalists, (Ireland) and Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ.

Thank you for the support and solidarity

Belfast and District NUJ branch met on Friday and would like to thank all the staff of the NUJ, Trade Councils, ICTU, IFJ, friends, supporters, chapels and branches for your help, messages of support, signing petitions and attending protests and rallies on behalf of the Suzanne Breen campaign. They would also like to thank other trade unionists, human rights groups and the international solidarity shown to our colleague Suzanne. We await the verdict with hope for freedom of the press; but are well aware the campaign may need to continue if the decision goes against Suzanne. Protection of sources goes to the heart of journalism.
Kevin Cooper

I'd just like to say a huge thank you to everybody who attended the protest. At an extremely stressful time, it was heartening to see so many supportive faces from the unions, media, voluntary sector, human right's groups, and academia. I appreciate that you all took the time to go to Laganside courthouse. I'd also like to thank all those international supporters who have sent messages of solidarity and signed the petition. We're back in court next week. Hopefully, justice will prevail.

Suzanne Breen NUJ member and the northern editor of the Sunday Tribune.
Support Suzanne Breen campaign Facebook:

NUJ web site:

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Bloomsday Celebrations

© Joe ÓNéill 2009

John Creighton Murray entertains the audience during readings from Ulysses, in O’Reilly’s Bar and Restaurant, located in San Francisco’s Italian quarter. In the early 1900's, a large number of Italians migrated to California and settled in San Francisco's Italian Quarter (now known as North Beach).

Murray, now in his late eighties, was a child protégé who studied the Tchaikowsky violin concerto with Philip Mittell, who himself studied with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. He also studied Brahms’ concerto with Bronislow Huberman, who had studied with Brahms. He is currently working on a DVD of classical violin pieces.

© Joe ÓNéill 2009

Grania Flanagan performs a reading from the Molly Bloom Soliloquy

Excerpts from the Molly Bloom Soliloquy
“…and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls use or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another ant then I asked with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes”

Ulysses, by James Joyce, was first published in its entirety in Paris in 1922. Having first run in serial form in the American magazine, Little Review, in 1918, publication by the Review was halted when The Society for the Suppression of Vice went to court and was successful in having the book banned on the grounds of obscenity. It remained banned in both the United States and Britain until the mid-thirties. Strange as it may seem, in the climate of an ultra-conservative Catholic morality, that was 1930s Ireland, the book was never banned there.

On this June 16, Bloomsday, the day on which events in Ulysses took place in 1904, celebrations will take place worldwide to commemorate James Joyce and his literary legacy. From down under, in Sydney Australia, to the Canadian east coast town of Toronto, to America’s west coast in Seattle and San Francisco, to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the east, to Dublin Ireland, thousands will celebrate Bloomsday with readings and dramatizations, pub parties, and re-enactments of the period complete with vintage clothing.

Ireland has created a cottage industry out of the legacy of James Joyce, and has generated millions of tourist dollars in recent years from such events. I stand to be corrected on this, but sad to say, browsing the web to date; I cannot find one listing of any Bloomsday activity in the north of Ireland.

Control to Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Is anyone receiving?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Suzanne Breen in court on Thursday for Protection of Sources case

Below is a statement from the Suzanne Breen support group
(See May Archive for other articles on this subject)

NUJ Protests in support of Protection of Sources on Thursday morning at 9.30 am, 11th June, 2009 outside Laganside Courts to support Suzanne Breen the Northern editor of the Sunday Tribune newspaper. The case continues at the Laganside Courts in Belfast at 10.30am next Thursday, 11 June 2009. The NUJ will also be organising a protest outside the Northern Ireland Office in London.

NUJ member Suzanne Breen will be in court fighting against the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) seeking a court order to force Suzanne Breen, Northern editor of the Sunday Tribune, to hand over material, phone records, mobile phone and other data relating to her work in covering the activities of the Real IRA.

Suzanne has widespread support from human rights groups, politicians, journalists, academics, lawyers and trade unionists. More than 2,100 people from as far away as Australia, USA, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Switzerland, Cyprus, and Italy have signed a petition in support of Suzanne and over 700 on Facebook.

The NUJ is asking people to join the NUJ Protests on Thursday 11th June, 2009 at 9.30 am outside Laganside Courts in Belfast. Please bring unions banners if possible and also a protest in London outside the Northern Ireland Office 11 Whitehall, Westminster, London, SW1A 2.
Please circulate this information to as many people as possible and asked them to sign the petition, join the Facebook support group and keep up to date with developments on the NUJ website:

Support Suzanne Breen on Facebook:

Sign the petition:

Please raise the Breen case with UK and Irish politicians:

NUJ Code of Conduct: 7. Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work

There is only a short time left for this campaign so please spread the word.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

SS Jeremiah O'Brien Says Thanks

© Joe ÓNéill 2009
The SS Jeremiah O’Brien undergoes maintenance work at Pier 45
From: shipkeeper
Sent: Monday, 1 June, 2009 22:00:33
Subject: Article on the O'Brien

Nice article. Thanks. The O'Brien is now berthed at Pier 45 at Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco. Tel.(415) 544 0100 -Philip O'Mara Shipkeeper