Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moron Moments - Lord Maginnis

Since the Police Ombudsman's unmasking of the RUC as a corrupt entity, unionist opinion has been muted or steeped in denial.

Over the last few days, Lord Maginnis has provided the loudest voice of opposition to Nuala O'Loan's investigation.

The Ombudsman's report noted that, between 1991 and 2003, RUC Special Branch paid £79,840 to a prominent UVF member who was acting as a police informer. They protected this informer (cited as Informer One) and other informers, and facilitated situations in which informants were able to continue to engage in paramilitary activity. Informer One was involved in ten murders, ten attempted murders, the targeting of an individual for murder, a bomb attack in Monaghan in 1997 and various paramilitary attacks, drug dealing and other criminal acts.

In the course of her investigation, the Police Ombudsman noted that several retired, high ranking officers either refused to cooperate, lied, attempted to obstruct the investigation or gave "farcical" answers, illustrating a "Contempt for the law".

Important documents went missing, were lost or destroyed. Evidence was withheld or concealed. Sham interviews with informants were conducted by Special Branch handlers, misleading interview notes were created and informers were released without charge. On one occasion, Special Branch officers discovered munitions at an informers home and did nothing about it. Junior officers were instructed that records should not be completed and forensic exhibits were destroyed.

On another occasion, after witnesses noted the killer of Gary Convie and Eamon Fox had a goatee beard, Special Branch officers allowed Informer One to shave off his goatee while in police custody.

In short, following in the footsteps of Stalker, Stevens, Cory and Barron, Mrs O'Loan has demonstrated what many already knew or suspected - that the RUC was routinely colluding with loyalist paramilitaries.

Confronted with this damning expose, Lord Maginnis has been barking and bullying his way though a series of TV and radio interviews, demonstrating that he is unable to construct a single, coherent argument to support his accusations that Mrs O'Loan is wrong. Instead, he shoots the messenger, attacks the integrity of the Ombudsman and accuses her staff of ineptitude.

In his apparent role of loyalist totem, through which all unionist psychology is channeled, Lord Maginnis dismisses the report as republican propaganda. His protestations are akin to those of a sex offender who refuses to accept he has done anything wrong, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Such is the nature of the unionist psyche.

Unionists seem unable or unwilling to accept the truth - that their empire was built on discrimination, corruption, collusion and cover-up. Instead of facing up to the realities of the past, Maginnis and his cronies clutch at straws, shriek with unfocused hysteria, point fingers and defend the agents of depravity as their vile little world frays at the edges.

"We've a great deal more experience than the Police Ombudsman's staff," shrieked Maginnis, during a TV interview on Monday. Quite who this "We" refers to is unclear, although it must be noted that Maginnis is an ex-UDR member, an organisation which was riddled with loyalist paramilitarists and had nineteen of its members convicted of murder.

The finding of the Police Ombudsman can not be allowed to be swept under the carpet. It is important that a full, public enquiry be conducted into this issue and that criminal prosecutions follow. The RUC should be stripped of its George Cross and Sir Ronnie Flannigan, Chief Constable of the RUC during the period of the investigation, should be held accountable and sacked as HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Detractors howl in derision at the notion of a public enquiry, citing the cost as prohibitive, although one can only guess how much money is spent on terrorising the citizens of Iraq, where former RUC officers, made redundant as a result of the Patten reforms of policing, now serve as private security contractors.

Indeed, one wonders if the disgusting tactics of the RUC have been exported from these shores and are now alive and kicking in Basra, Fallujah and Baghdad.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

David Ervine is the New George Best

Following its tedious and interminable coverage of the passing of George Best last year, BBC Radio Ulster continues to wallow in its cult of celebrity death. This time, David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party is the subject of adoration.

Mr Ervine died just over a week ago and, as expected, BBC Northern Ireland's airwaves have since been awash with lachrymose eulogies. Yesterday's edition of Talkback dedicated its first thirty-five minutes to mewing over Mr Ervine, often plumbing the most moronic and laughable depths.

One commentator noted that Mr Ervine was an icon for Protestant youth and a leader akin to Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. I restrained myself from falling off my chair at such comparisons, although I couldn't help my mouth falling open.

"He gave me hope for Ulster," said one caller. Another noted that perhaps a scholarship should be offered in Mr Ervine's name, or a college established to "help bring people together."

It was suggested that the new Northern Irish stadium should be called 'The David Ervine Stadium' or that a bronze bust be located in City Hall.

The mewling and rending of garments continued. Blinding light poured from the radio. Phrases such as "The other persuasion" and "The Province" littered the discussion. Presenter, David Dunseith sighed with remorse. A pastor, and friend of Mr Ervine, spoke about hymns.

A caller noted: "I wish there was another airport we could name after him."

At this point, I abandoned restraint and fell off my chair.

Such is the state of reasoned journalism at BBC Radio Ulster. There was no significant exploration of Mr Ervine's role as a representative of an armed sectarian organisation committed to ensuring Unionist privelage through the killing of Catholics. Dissenting voices were absent, doubtless excised at the switchboard. Those whose comments managed to get read out were described as individuals unable to move on. The airbrushed cult of celebrity prevailed.

I searched for an antidote to these exaltations and came across this rather stark post by Liam Mac Uaid. I suggest Mr Mac Uaid be given a slot on Radio Ulster sometime this week, preferably just prior to Hugo Duncan's inane twittering, when an entire nation races for the off-switch.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Belfast Street Art

Here I present some of Belfast city centre’s street art.

This first selection is mainly from Mexican tattoo artist, Dr Lakra and Spanish artist, Geso.

Both artists were in Belfast last summer for Urban Eyes, an event organised by Belfast City Skinworks, Skullduggery Tatu and Catalyst Arts.

Aside from painting on walls, Dr Lakra, who has exhibited in London, Paris, Los Angeles and New York, also works graffiti over old magazine advertisements and found photographs of Mexican idols, masked wrestlers and pin-up girls.

As much as I admire the Day of the Dead-style pictures, their location on a fine, redbrick, Victorian building irks me somewhat. I’ve walked past this outdoor gallery often, but only recently ventured down the derelict College Court to actually examine the works and take some photographs.

Alas, since then, the art has been attacked by Morlocks with spray-cans and some of the painted figures now sport crudely drawn genetalia from their heads and bodies.

This next collage of photographs is of the last building standing in Edward Street, also decorated by Dr Latka.

It probably won’t be long before it’s pulled down to make way for the new St Anne’s Square development (due for completion in Autumn 2008).

Finally, I present for posterity what’s left of a mural from renouned artist, Mode 2.

I think this piece, in College Place North, was realised in August 1998 when Mode 2 ran mural workshops in Belfast. The paint is peeling and the inept tags of local Morlocks have molested most of the original artwork.

I imagine it will soon be painted over to complement the nice new building, which has recently risen up alongside it.