Sinn Féin IRA’s Golden Boy

We are now a week away from Westminster elections (December 12th). John Finucane is standing for Sinn Féin in Belfast North but this banner is at the top of the Shankill, intended to stir up animosity towards Sinn Féin, and support for DUP candidates, in all constituencies.

The same banner was hung in Tigers’ Bay, York Street, Antrim, and Ballymena, though the Tigers’ Bay one was removed because it was on council property (News Letter).

The banner presents a gallery of Finucane’s relatives John Snr, Dermot, Seamus, and Pat: “The real Finucane family  – human rights abusers – steeped in the blood of our innocents.” The (former) IRA involvement of the three uncles is well documented. Controversially, Sean O’Callaghan (in the Daily Telegraph) alleged that father Pat Finucane was in the IRA, contrary to the findings of the de Silva report into collusion: “Pat Finucane was first and foremost an IRA volunteer, and he exploited his position [as a solicitor with access to prisoners] ruthlessly to wage his war on the state.” The source of the claim that Finucane is the chosen candidate of the PIRA Army Council is unknown. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called the banners “dangerous” (RN). The Belfast Telegraph reported that the Shankill banner was ordered by an alleged planner of Pat Finucane’s assassination, Jim Spence of the UDA (BelTel).

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No Fouling

Neither the Greens and Sinn Féin are contesting the Belfast South seat, leaving a clear path for the SDLP’s Claire Hanna to make up the 2,00o-vote margin of the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly, which she seems likely to do in a constituency that voted 68-32 for ‘remain’ (BBC). Unlike in Belfast North (see Steeped In Blood | The Anti-Brexit Candidate), the UUP is fielding a candidate (Michael Henderson) which, along with the Alliance party, provides an option for liberal unionists. Henderson is against the current proposal for an Irish Sea economic border. The banner shown above refers to campaigning in North Belfast by Shankill bomber Sean Kelly (WP).
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Steeped In Blood

The Westminster election called by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives for December 12th has become a referendum on Brexit, with a pro-Remain pact between the Liberal Democrats, Greens, and Plaid Cymru in 60 British constituencies (BBC). In Northern Ireland, manoeuvring got under way with UDA threats against any UUP candidate who might stand in Belfast North (News Letter). The UUP, which had previously committed itself to stand in all 18 NI constituencies, withdrew (BBC), as did the SDLP (BelTel), leaving the contest essentially between the (pro-Brexit) DUP’s Nigel Dodds and (anti-Brexit) Sinn Féin’s John Finucane (shown second from left). Finucane is current Belfast Mayor but is presented here as part of a “republican family”: he is son of murdered lawyer Pat Finucane (fourth from left) and Shankill bomber Sean Kelly (WP) was seen canvassing for him. The vote in North Belfast is expected to be close. The current Brexit proposal involves customs checks in the Irish Sea (BBC), but the DUP will be hoping for No-Deal or the end to the NI backstop.

For analysis of North Belfast and all of the NI seats, see Bangor Dub.

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This Was Once The Dole Office

The ‘jobs and benefit office’ in Exchange Street was originally built in 1926 for what was then the Northern Ireland Ministry of Labour and was the largest job centre in the UK. It functioned until 2016 and was demolished in 2017 (FutureBelfast). In its early life it was next to the Mariner’s Church of Ireland between Great and Little Patrick streets (FutureBelfast). The banner now on the site – This Was Once Little Italy – was designed by Deirdre McKenna and erected in July, 2019 (BelTel).

See previously: Jobs That Aren’t There in 2013

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The Betrayal Act

Is Brexit more important than the Union? Conservative party leader Boris Johnson, whose current plan involves a border in the Irish Sea, is depicted as betraying the sacrifice of the Ulster Volunteers, formed in 1912 to resist the threat of Home Rule. In response, meetings are being held in different unionist areas: November 1st saw meetings in north Belfast and on the Shankill; meetings are scheduled in Sandy Row and the Steeple (Antrim) for Wednesday the 6th. Rallies and civil disobedience are being contemplated but also that the DUP would join Remainers in order to stop Brexit entirely. “Ulster says “No” to an economic united Ireland”.

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Something In The Air

Clonard monastery (and church of the Holy Redeemer) date back to 1897, built on the grounds of Clonard House (1843) and including 3.5 acres to provide spiritual services to the burgeoning Catholic population of west Belfast, about 30,000 in number (Ita | Rafferty). On the night of August 15th, 1969, the complex came perilously close to destruction, like the houses in the streets around it, but became of focal point of locals’ attempts to defend the area (Murray).

For other posts about the 50th anniversary of the August riots, see The Pogrom Of 1969 | Clonard Remembers | End Apartheid | Derry, Enniskillen, Aughrim, And Ardoyne.

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Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen, And Ardoyne

Martin Meehan joined the IRA in 1966 and was one of a few IRA volunteers defending Catholics in Ardoyne (Ard Eoin) in August 1969. Rioting did not cease there until the 16th, when British troops were finally deployed to the Crumlin Road to block mobs coming from the Woodvale and Shankill. Meehan resigned after the failure of the IRA to defend Ardoyne, Clonard, and Divis. This Magill article from the time summarises the IRA’s actions as “late, amateur and uncertain”.(Meehan would later rejoin the IRA and PIRA.)

After a few years honoring Seán McCaughey (see Chains And Bonds Have No Part In Us), Martin Meehan’s image (along with an RNU phoenix) is back on the Ardoyne Avenue gable that bears his plaque. The title of today’s post is based on the song “The Night We Burnt Ardoyne“.

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Give Sectarianism The Boot

There have been various ‘give sectarianism the boot’ campaigns over the year. This one is not an appeal to bring players from both sides together using sport but criticism of Belfast City Council’s decision to remove a portacabin from the grounds of East Belfast FC (Fb | tw) due to lack of planning permission, as well as perceived inequality in funding compared to clubs in nationalist communities (Facebook).

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British And Proud

The UDA roll of honour mural (led by John McMichael) in Rowland Way was blacked out in the mid-2000s but has been gradually reappearing since then. (The steps painted on the wall in front read “In proud memory of our fallen comrades who lost their lives in the conflict – we forget them not.”) The banner was used for the “flag protests” surrounding the flying of the Union Flag on Belfast City Hall (in 2012-2013) and then was first hung next to the King Billy mural at the bottom of the Row.
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UVF Band 50th Anniversary

The UVF Regimental Band (tw) this year celebrates its 50 anniversary with a banner in My Lady’s Road. For the 50th anniversary mural, see They Said We’d Never Last. See previously: 40th anniversary banner at the site of the mural– Belvoir Bar. The view is from Roseberry Road.
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