Michael McDowell moves in mysterious ways

Ranelagh Arts fest. Senate Debate, Sandford Park school. Ruairi Quinn, Michael McDowell, Eoghan Murphy TD, Noel Whelan. Chair: Dan O’Brien, Irish Times. Photo: Michael Foley. When you see Michael McDowell writing a column about a reunited Ireland, as he does in this morning’s Irish Times, you know that the topic is so central to public […]

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Now hear this: important news…

Producing a book is a bit like being pregnant: much of the time you want to throw up, part of the time you feel pleased and proud, and  in the end you’re seriously relieved to get it out. I started working on this book (my eighth) shortly after the beginning of 2019 and I was […]

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Would butter melt in Nuala McAllister’s mouth?

It’s an odd phrase,  butter wouldn’t melt in  your mouth. Taken literally it’s nonsense: if you put butter in anybody’s mouth (please be quiet, Virginia) you know it will melt quick-time. (With one exception, about which anon.) But the saying does convey the notion of apparent harmlessness and innocence concealing something rather tougher. Nuala McAllister […]

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Prince Andrew, his absence of sweat and other things

Did you watch Prince Andrew being interviewed last week?  I’ve heard people mention all sorts of things about the interview: how handsome the prince is, how fat his neck is, how neatly dressed he is, how his military training is what made it possible for him to sit with his right leg crossed over his […]

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Saturday pics of the week

Pics 1 and 2 are by Paul Burns, who like myself attended this fine institution. He was back there for a visit a few weeks ago, just in time to catch a ferocious snow-storm. Winnipeg: beautiful but frigid… Paul adds “Alma mater gloriosa. Semper fidelis’ Pic 1 Pic 2

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Which side are you on? by Fr Sean McManus

seanmcmaus <sean@worldpeaceprizewashington.org> Which side are you on: Endless division or unity? Disunity or oneness? Alienation, or solidarity in the Beloved Community?  Sign the  “Ireland One Nation” petition. ( And, if you already have signed, please keep getting others to sign.This must be a constant, on-going campaign. It does not cost a penny and only a minute of your time each day. […]

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THE EAST INDIA COMPANY ORIGIN AND LEGACY by Donal Kennedy

The BBC Book of The Week on Ra dio  concerning the origins of The East India Company is a “Warts and All” account of its origins.  Would that all BBC historical and current affairs programmes aspired to its standard. Robert Clive was born into the class that provided the Church of England with its Clergy, […]

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Cops on the frontline: a letter to the Belfast Telegraph by Tom Cooper

November 13th 2019 Sir, I understand why Ruth Dudley Edwards liked Gerry Gregg’s sympathetic film on the RUC (10th November). It was propaganda. I have no problem with RUC personnel telling their stories. They are entitled to their memories, to feeling of triumph, tragedy and despair. I have a problem with this BBC programme as either a comprehensive view of the RUC, or as a comprehensive view from within the RUC. The technique of letting participants, retired RUC officers, tell their own story has merit, if the audience is given a sufficient variety of perspective. Instead, we were presented with political uniformity. The repeated claim that the RUC “didn’t start the fire”, the Troubles, was unquestioned. It is clearly mistaken. Was no retired member of the force capable of stepping outside the bounds of group allegiance to admit that the RUC, a sectarian force in a sectarian state, alienated the nationalist population? Was no former member of the RUC capable of reflection beyond barrack room loyalty? One participant said, “We were hated.” That was left unexplored. RUC personnel in collusion with loyalists received gestural treatment. The conviction of RUC officers Billy McCaughey and John Weir for killing Ahoghill chemist William Strathern served to allow programme participants to distance themselves from those who ‘sullied’ the RUC’s name. Had the programme interviewed John Weir, the audience would have been presented with evidence of collusion further up the ranks. Stathern’s actual killer, Robin Jackson, wasnot charged with that or with other loyalist paramilitary activity. Jackson had associations with security forces, including RUC Special Branch. McCaughey boasted that his RUC Special Patrol Group intimidated out a lone RomanCatholic who joined. He might have spoiled their pastime of harassing Catholics and of enabling loyalists to kill them. The uncritical reference to RUC Special Branch was equally unsurprising, given that the programme researcher served in that ‘force-within-a force’. It was asserted that Special Branch ran agents in both the IRA and in loyalist groups. In fact, Special Branch and British military intelligence ran loyalist groups against the IRA and against nationalist political leaders. Former CID detectives Johnston Browne and Alan Simpson have written critically about how Special Branch operated. They would have made for informative interviewees. Instead, we were given the corporate version of the RUC story. On that basis, can we expect a similar programme containing sympathetic interviews with former IRA volunteers? I won’t hold my breath. Yours sincerely Tom Cooper

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Nelson: a suitable case for concern

Those of  you who are of mature years like myself may remember a much-loved BBC radio soap called Mrs Dale’s Diary.  Its central character, unsurprisingly, was Mrs Dale, and she more than once opened an episode of the soap with the words “I’m worried about [my husband] Jim”. Today, I find myself echoing Mrs D’s […]

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