Speaking of Derry…

“We too are concerned that there are currently members of the British army on our streets years after we were told that they no longer have an active role in the north.” ~Danny Morrison, IRSP, Derry Journal.

That quote is not a throwback to the Troubles. It is not left over from Operation Banner – the longest deployment of the Army in British history. Operation Banner lasted for over 38 years. Their presence and poor decision making skills fueled the flames of the Troubles for thirty years, and the mission “failed to defeat the Irish Republican Army on a strategic level or have any long term plan,” according to a Ministry of Defence report. The British Army formally ended their engagement (Operation Banner) in the North of Ireland in July 2007.

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The Power of Names

“Londonderry or Derry?,” asked a friend of mine when he was off to the North of Ireland. It’s an age old question and I found myself a little stuck when it came to answering. “That depends” seemed to be the safest bet at the time. However, the next time either of us visit, the question may no longer be an issue since last week Derry city and the Strabane District Council voted in favor of formally losing the London prefix.
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Romper Room Murder

For many people a romper room is a play room full of games and toys or a television show that they grew up watching. It evokes a carefree and silly time in childhood that is full of play, puppets, and joy. For others, particularly in the North of Ireland during the Troubles, a romper room is a place of absolute horror, torture, and death – a room that is akin to a slaughterhouse or a snuff film set. These romper rooms were usually derelict homes or businesses where drinking, dancing, torture, and killing could occur without much fear of discovery or interference. One of the more brutal murders of that era took place in a UDA-controlled romper room in the Sandy Row area of Belfast, 41 years ago today. The victim’s name was Ann Ogilby and her killers were all female members of the UDA (Ulster Defence Association). It wasn’t really a political killing even though the murderous women involved were loyalist paramilitaries – it was more of a jealous feud that ended in Ann’s horrific torture and savage beating death. The story was so repulsive and put such a spotlight on the women’s group that it resulted in the total dissolution of their unit.

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The ___________ 12th

It’s a fill in the blank title, predominantly because almost any adjective in the world could be used to describe the 12th of July in Ireland, depending on where you come from. That said, my own fill in the blank words would include Ridiculous, Divisive, Uncontrolled, and Tragic, just to start with. There are plenty more but I think those are my choices to sum up a whole lot of inflamed feelings, a huge cultural problem, and the profound lack of leadership witnessed all over the North of Ireland and beyond for the last few days.

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No Irish, No Catholics

While we’re on the subject of racism, sectarianism, and discrimination, here’s another tale of Anti-Irish (and Anti-Catholic) riots…not in Belfast but from right here in the United States. Back in 1844, the Protestant extremists were called Nativists, despite the fact that they were descended from immigrants and were not natives in any way. Ignoring that truth entirely, they felt that they were the established rulers of the area and were not pleased with the influx of Irish coming into the States. They began a large scale propaganda war promoting discrimination against the Irish and set out to spread their sectarian platform against Catholicism. By the time the Nativists in Philadelphia were done venting their anger, there had been riots for months, a lot of Catholic churches and businesses had been torched, over 200 people had fled their homes, and fifteen people were dead. Over fifty more people were injured by the end of the fight.
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Heritage of Hate

It’s rare that American news coincides so neatly with news in Ireland. It’s a real treat to write about it when it does unless it is a story full of bigotry and grandstanding which unfortunately, is true today. Often times whenever a group is called out for their bullying traditions or symbols of hatred, their response is always the same. They claim that the behavior isn’t racist or sectarian, that instead it is tradition and heritage – as if the concepts are mutually exclusive. Guess what? It IS tradition and heritage and it IS racist, sectarian and vile. The time has come to accept that and leave horrible traditions behind.
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