Archive for April, 2012

60 MILES FOR 60 YEARS COMPLETED!


2012
04.30

Day 1 departing from Kingsmeadow

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I undertook to walk 60 miles (one for each of my 60 years) to fundraise for charities. In Dublin I took part in the Milltown 25 walk, marking the exile of Shamrock Rovers FC from Glenmalure Park at Milltown quarter of a century ago. The 6 mile (10k) walk was to the new stadium at Tallaght. Back in Belfast, I completed another 5 miles by walking from home into town and back as part of my preparation for the major challenge. As a founder member of the Dons Trust (supporting AFC Wimbledon) I participated in the fifth Walk Further for Wimbledon. This year the route on the London outer orbital path  covered 50 miles over three days, starting at Kingsmeadow and finishing at Underhill, North London, in time to watch the league 2 match between Barnet (who had just dismissed former Dons’ FA Cup hero Lawrie Sanchez as manager) and AFC Wimbledon. Last year’s walk finished at Kingsmeadow in time for the final match of the season (40 miles over two days) but this time it ended at an away game.

Arriving at Underhill

What was even more painful after the walk was completed was to watch AFC Wimbledon being thumped by the Bees 4-0!  As a member of Belfast Lions Club I am also fundraising for the Moorfields Lions Korle Bu eyesight project in Ghana, a trust chaired by Past International Director Lion Howard Lee. The walk began on Thursday 26th April at 9:15 am and finished on Saturday 28th around 1:15pm. Thanks to my fellow walkers for the company on most of the route and for lending a helping hand when needed. I am also grateful to those who have already made donations via my JustGiving page.

MONAGHAN STAGES RALLY


2012
04.24

The roar of car engines filled Tydavnet parish and the surrounding area as Monaghan Motor Club held their annual stages rally. Many minor roads were closed to facilitate the event, but main roads and secondary roads were kept open. However if your house was on the rally route and you don’t like fast cars, you might certainly have felt somewhat inconvenienced as the roads were closed from 9am for nearly ten hours. It can also be a dangerous sport. Ten years ago in the Dunlop rally championship a competitor was killed in a crash near Scotstown and the event was immediately cancelled. During Mass at St Dympna’s Fr Clerkin prayed for the safety of all. The congregation was smaller than usual because of the rally, but most people were able to reach the chapel in time. Safety of drivers and spectators is an important consideration at such events. It was noticeable that the Clerk of the Course and former winner Dessie Keenan from Drumcoo Woods had a team of stewards at all the important viewing points and that spectators were kept a reasonable distance from the cars. There were plenty of thrills and a few spills along the route. The stages were centred on the Milltown and Tydavnet area up towards the border at Drumfurrer. The next section was around Bragan mountain and a third section of stages saw the cars tackle roads around Scotstown, Smithborough and Ballinode, which proved a popular spot to view the rally.

Damage to wall of house at Corrinshigo, Scotstown
When I heard in Knockatallon that one car almost ended up in the kitchen sink at a house, I thought the report might be exaggerated. But on viewing the damage at the scene at Corrinshigo, this is exactly what happened as Strabane driver Aidan Caldwell’s car left the road, hitting a wall and ending up in the yard beside a window! Luckily the occupant of the bungalow was not inside at the time. But she said if it had been a year ago, her sister and her young children might have been outside watching the cars going past. The driver and his navigator also escaped serious injury. But it was a reminder that such events are not without their dangers.
Local drivers inclusing the Moffetts performed well on their home circuit, although three times national rally champion Niall Maguire from Ballinode was forced out with gearbox problems. The rally was won by Daniel McKenna from Scotshouse in an Escort with navigator Andrew Grennan. They were fortunate to finish the event, as they were caught out by a sudden shower of rain on the sixth of nine stages, spinning backwards into a bank and losing half a minute before they could restart. They finished two minutes ahead of Sam Moffett and were presented with their prize at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan, which sponsored the event and provided a headquarters for the organisers.

Daniel McKenna, winner 2012 Monaghan stages rally

 

PAT FINUCANE CASE & DEALING WITH THE PAST


2012
04.20

Speaking at an engagement in Belfast at the University of Ulster, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeated his support for a full public enquiry into the killing of Pat Finucane. The well-known solicitor was shot dead by the UFF in front of his family at his home in North Belfast on February 12th 1989. It was one of the murders I reported on during the troubles and this was among the most high-profile cases. Standing beside the police cordon a well-known BBC reporter came over to me and my cameraman and said “you know who it is?”. He then told me it was Pat Finucane. I had interviewed the lawyer a few times, including at a controversial inquest at Craigavon courthouse. According to the BBC’s Political Correspondent Martina Purdy, Mr Kenny said relations between the British and Irish governments had never been closer, but there were areas where there was a difference of opinion. Paying tribute to Mr Finucane’s widow Geraldine for the way she has campaigned with “great dignity and courage”, Mr Kenny said he supported her in the campaign for a full public inquiry into the killing.

Geraldine Finucane addressed an ICTU-NI fringe meeting in Derry.

An emotional Geraldine Finucane told a well-attended fringe meeting of trade unionists in Derry on Tuesday night that dealing with her husband’s case was an absolute necessity if progress is to continue in Northern Ireland. Mrs Finucane said she had no confidence in a Cory2 process suggested by the British government into her husband’s murder.  She told the meeting the way the Prime Minister David Cameron dealt with the issue showed that the promises of the British government can easily be broken. Clearly still affected by the circumstances of last October’s meeting in London, Geraldine Finucane said she and her family had been lured to Downing Street under false pretences by a disreputable government led by a disreputable man. She said the let-down by David Cameron over the prospect of a full enquiry was one of most cruel & devastating experiences she had had since her campaign began. As RTÉ News reported at the time, Mr Cameron proposed that instead of the full inquiry into allegations of security force collusion suggested by Judge Cory, that a QC should undertake a review of the case. Mrs Finucane had been told in late summer that the Prime Minister wanted to meet her and she said she had been encouraged at the time by the offer of engagement with her family, following the lengthy delay in following up a commitment made originally to the family in the Weston Park talks in 2001.

Alan McBride from the WAVE trauma centre in Belfast who lost his wife and father-in-law in the IRA Shankill bombing also spoke about his own experience. He said the past was not going to go away and he supported the Finucane family’s right to have a full public enquiry. Alan also described how on a visit to the United States alongside some republicans, a former IRA man had told him he was sorry for the Shankill bomb and what happened was wrong. He had helped to humanise his loss, he said, and had acknowledged my pain. Former ICTU President Inez McCormack also addressed the meeting. As NI Secretary of UNISON she had helped to set up the handshake in West Belfast between the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and President Mary Robinson in June 1993 at Rupert Stanley College. I remember that occasion as one when the media were kept firmly outside the door in order to ensure that no pictures of the handshake were taken. Yet it was a defining moment in the lead-up to the IRA ceasefire the following year. Here is one account of the occasion from the Independent.UPDATE: The News Letter reports that the Taoiseach’s comments were strongly criticised by the UUP chair Lord Empey and MLA Danny Kennedy.

NO NORTHERNERS NEED APPLY


2012
04.16

Euro2012 Poland-Ukraine

The headline looks appealing: win an InterRail trip for two to Euro 2012. Come on you boys in green! Iarnród Éireann is offering Ireland soccer fans the chance to win a trip to the European football championship, travelling overland from Ireland to Poland. The prize includes tickets for two to Ireland’s three Group games against Croatia, Spain and Italy, courtesy of North Dublin Schoolboys & Schoolgirls League and spending money of €1,000. The winner will be accommodated at a campsite at Poznan. Interested? Then all you have to do is to submit a sample blog post about a journey you have taken or a sporting event you have attended. Looks great. But I always believe in looking at the small print (terms and conditions). It seems that if you are an Ireland soccer fan from the six counties of Northern Ireland, then too bad, you can’t apply! Rule 3: “Applicants must be 18 years of age or over, and must be resident in the Republic of Ireland”. So if you are an Ireland fan from Newry, Portadown, Lurgan, Lisburn or Belfast, or perhaps a Derry City supporter following the club in the airtricity League, then sorry, you can’t apply, unless you happen to live in Donegal, Cavan. Monaghan or anywhere else in the Republic. This is a clear case of discrimination, where marketing people have not acknowledged the fact that hundreds of Ireland supporters are resident in some cases a few hundred yards across the border along the railway line between Dublin and Belfast. Yet they are not allowed to enter this competition. If you feel excluded then perhaps you should contact competitions@irishrail.ie and complain. But you need to do so immediately as the closing date for the competition is April 27th. Although I raised this matter with @IrishRail on twitter this morning I have not had any response. Sure I’m only a Northern Ireland resident and of course I would never use Iarnród Éireann or ever think about supporting Ireland as I did at Euro 1988 in Germany……

I can see the Republic of Ireland from here (Co.Tyrone) but I can't enter an Irish Rail compeition!

UPDATE: As the comments below show, the blog attracted a response within hours from Iarnród Éireann defending the terms and conditions for the competition. The issue was also taken up by other outlets including Slugger and BBC NI News website. After the response from the rail company, the following thought occurred. Their marketing experts in designing a competition for RoI residents ONLY did not take into account natives of counties along the border such as Monaghan who might follow their airtricity premier league team as well as the national side, but who happened to reside across the border eg in Aughnacloy, Ballygawley, Middletown or Roslea. I was therefore glad to see that a Monaghan and border region perspective was added by Frank McNally in An Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times.