Thursday, March 22, 2007

Moron Moments - Frankie Gallagher UPRG

After the threat of implementing water charges in order to drive the electorate to the polls, the British Government has today announced it will throw £1 million at the Ulster Defence Association, clearly in an attempt to secure unionist support of a new assembly at Stormont.

I'll not bother complaining about how this expenditure is to be delivered to an armed and active paramilitary group, while many small charities are forced to downsize or close due to a lack of government funding. I've done this already: here and here.

Frankie Gallagher of the Ulster Political Research Group, a thinly veiled front for the UDA, appeared on BBC Radio Ulster this morning and tried vainly to justify the merits of this latest funding package. He noted that the loyalist community and the loyalist paramilitaries are one and the same and explained ongoing loyalist violence and racketeering as resulting from the actions of criminals using the good name of the UDA.

Amid the squall of bleats and excuses that ensued, came this wonderful gem of clarity from Mr Gallagher: "We're on the long march, like Ho Chi Minh and all the other Chinese philosophers who did that."

Such is the intellectual capacity of the UPRG and all who sail within it.

Rather than complain any further, I suggest that Mr Gallagher invests his glittering prize in the establishment of an education centre as a matter of grave urgency.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Big Bad Cahal Daly

Inspired by the Northern Ireland Press Photographers Association, whose work is currently on display at the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Assembly Election Blues

Forgive me for failing to wade into the arena of political commentary associated with the most recent elections. I’ve grown tired of the whole miserable and predictable affair. At least one consolation of the outcome is the relegation of Bob McCartney, Diane Dodds and Paul Berry to the skip of political history, although McCartney’s overwhelming vanity will doubtless prompt a reawakening, much in the mould of a returning Buffy villain.

And forgive me for not joining in with the mewling of appreciation directed by all and sundry at newly elected Alliance member, Anna Lo.

I recall Mrs Lo appearing on TV some years back, when loyalists were condemning the Chinese community for daring to consider Donegall Pass in Belfast as the location for their new community centre. Leaflets were circulated noting that the proposals for the new centre ‘undermines the community’s Britishness.’

At the time, Mrs Lo said nothing of the racism inherent in loyalism, failed to point her finger at the villains and ended up issuing only oblique comments on Chinese people not being accepted. Perhaps the beleaguered Chinese community feared that any criticism directed at the loyalist tormentors would result in attacks against them. Unfortunately, it’s not an untypical response from minority groups faced with such intolerance.

In Northern Ireland, there is a belief that minority communities tend to shy away from any identification with the orange and green landscape that surrounds them. A friend of mine pointed out that he felt many immigrants tended to subtly align themselves with political unionism, since it’s the dominant culture and to do otherwise would be to cast oneself as opposed to the state.

I’ve sometimes found that, within the gay community in Northern Ireland, many of the male-dominated groups tend to gravitate towards a unionist ethic, despite the unionist political parties having displayed a woeful and homophobic gay rights record. I think this alignment has something to do with a need for queer activists to engage with Westminster in an attempt to overturn homophobic legislation.

Lesbian groups, on the other hand, lacking any British legislation directed against them, haven’t needed to talk to Westminster to the same extent, which perhaps explains the existence of a more visible republican ethic in many lesbian groups here.

Limitations aside, the gay community (or should that be communities) in Northern Ireland has made many efforts to engage with ethnic minority groups. However, within the ethnic minority communities, there exists an inability – or refusal – to join with the queers in opposition to all kinds of intolerance, no matter where it comes from or what shape it takes. I’ve attended many meetings and rallies where the drive to combat racism is shouted from platforms by the usual faces, without homophobia ever being mentioned. It’s as if the many homophobic attacks never happened, skilfully airbrushed away to placate the apologists for religious dogma who prevail within some anti-racist circles.

I don't want to be too hard on Anna Lo. I'm sure she has achieved a great deal through her work for the Chinese community. However, when she demonstrates an ability to make the kind of minority community alliances that reach beyond those she's used to working with, then I’ll pay attention to what she has to say. Alas, I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Inspired by the Northern Ireland Press Photographers Association, whose work is currently on display at the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast.