Archive for the ‘BELFAST’ Category


Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher

I have written a series of blogs on various topics since I started up my website in July 2010. I have also had some articles published in various newspapers and I have included them in this section. Now in a move to prompt me I hope to write more blogs on the issues of the day and other subjects of interest (including local history), I have created a dedicated blog page, FisherBelfast’s Blog. I have transferred the blogs from here to the new site, but I will leave the ones for 2010, 2011 and 2012 here for archive purposes. So I am now inviting you to take alook at how I have cast my rod and started fishing for stories on a new page. Thank you to all those who have read my blogs here. Please sign up on my new page for regular emails about fresh stories.




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.



Horslips concert in Belfast

Horslips were always one of my favourite bands. In 2009 when they got together again after a thirty year gap since their last live concert, they played in front of packed audiences in Belfast and Dublin. Twelve months on they were back again, this time at the O2 in Dublin followed in quick succession by Belfast (December 1st 2010). I left it a bit late to buy tickets for the Waterfront Hall gig and ended up on the second floor, up in the “gods” as it were. There were more than a few empty seats at that level. Although the overall view was fine and the sound was good, it did not enable me to see the members of the band in any detail. So I would recommend these fine profile photos by Daragh Owens (copyright) which convey the atmosphere in front of the stage really well. Those who chose to stand and dance or rock along to the music seem to have enjoyed themselves immensely. I could not help noticing the profile of the audience. Most were like myself, in the 50+ age group and showing definite signs of middle-age spread!! The ageing rockers were there to relive the glories of youth. Horslips did not disappoint. There were the usual favourites, including my own, Dearg Doom from The Táin. The lyrics can be found here.

Man who built America

Then came The Man who built America. This was one of the tunes when the lighting (a mixture of blue, white and red) matched the lyrics really well. The original album released in 1978 was produced by Steve Katz of Blood, Sweat and Tears and Blues Project fame. It concerned Irish emigration to the USA and was commercially their most successful album (Wikipedia). For some of the numbers the five lads were joined by three female backing vocalists and a three piece brass section (trumpet, trombone and saxophone). Another tune when the lighting effects blended really well with the music was Sideways to the Sun.

Sideways to the Sun

Sun symbols appeared intertwined with the name of the group.  All in all a great experience. Thanks once again to Barry Devlin, Jim Lockhart, Charles O’Connor, Johnny Fean and his brother Ray who stood in once again for Eamon Carr on the drums. His drum kit was unusual with what looked like two helter skelter type sets of cymbals perched above the main drums. Horslips were back at the Waterfront on St Patrick’s Day 2011 in a live BBC Radio Ulster concert with the Ulster Orchestra. It sounded great but I was one of the unlucky ones in the ballot to get free tickets. The venue was full. Another great night to savour. Alf McCreary gave this verdict in the Belfast Telegraph, rock and reels on a night of true magic. He awarded them four stars out of five for their performance (new page). More recently I have been watching the TG4 series Horslips Rotha Mór an tSaoil The Man Who Built America: Barry Devlin and Jim Lockhart re-trace the steps of Donegal man Micky MacGowan whose memoirs ‘Rotha Mór an tSaoil’ inspired the band to write some of their finest work. From the Steel Mills of Bethlehem to the gold fields of the Klondike the two perform some of the Horslips music inspired by Micky and his journey. Well worth watching. Finally another memory from the Waterfront Hall concert in December:

Green lighting this time



Mist rising from River Lagan

It was a beatiful Easter Sunday dawn as the sun rose over the River Lagan. The early morning mist was rising from the river and started disappearing as people made their way along the path towards the spot where they would mark this special day with the celebration of Mass. The priest was a Jesuit, Fr Bruno Niederbacher from South Tyrol, who has been based in Belfast for the past three months, helping out as a curate at St Brigid’s Catholic parish (new page).  Shortly after 7am the Mass began. By that stage around 150 people had gathered around a large tree where a temporary altar had been set up. At one point during his homily Fr Bruno stopped talking. He urged the participants to listen to the sounds of nature around them and the birds duly obliged! Then to breathe in the fresh air for further inspiration.

Altar set up under a large tree

The choir led the singing and contributed greatly to the occasion. The dawn Mass or a religious service is a tradition in many Christian churches. St Brigid’s parishioners have been participating in a Mass at this spot for several years. It may have been the idea of a former curate who had a love of nature or it may well have been an even older tradition. But this was the first time I have managed to attend. A friend who has been a regular attender with her family recalled how the weather was on occasions not so mild, when it was held in the snow! She also remembers the Mass being interrupted on one occasion by a group of rowdy youths returning from a party.  Fr Bruno ended the Mass with an Irish blessing. Afterward, small Easter eggs were handed out for the children (although that did not stop some adults taking them!) to enjoy.  On Easter Monday, Fr Bruno returned to Dublin where he has been based for the past year as part of his Jesuit “tertianship” or training after ordination. He made a valuable contribution to the spiritual life of  St Brigid’s especially at Sunday Mass and with youth groups during the short time he spent in the parish. Fr Bruno was born in 1967 in Uttenheim, Suedtirol in the Dolomite region of Italy. After his novitiate he studied philosophy in Muenchen and then Freiburg-in-Breisgau (where I once attended a summer course). He also studied theology in London. He worked in a youth centre in Innsbruck and since 1999 has worked at the Institute for Christian Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, to which he now returns. Farewell Fr Bruno and thanks. Go n-éiri an bothar leat.

Easter Sunday dawn Mass beside the Lagan



The past fortnight has been a sad one for me, having said farewell to three media colleagues, two from Belfast and one from Dublin. On Monday there was a large turnout for the funeral of John Harrison at Hillhall Presbyterian church near Lisburn. He was a great photographer who always had a kind word or a smile as he went about his work. Among the hundreds of mourners were the First and deputy First Minister, the former DUP leader Reverend Ian Paisley who was a family friend and a host of others from the political world, the civil service and the Northern Ireland media. Dr Paisley addressed the congregation.  The choir sang beautifully, including a version of “Be thou my vision”.

John Harrison 1960-2010

John was 50 and took ill suddenly having attended a PR awards ceremony where he presented one of the prizes. During the week he had accompanied Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on a visit to an economic conference in the USA. At the end of the service there were moving tributes from John’s children to their Dad. His son Peter had found out about his father’s death while in New York, where he is studying. He told mourners he had been able to meet his father while he was in Washington and said he was burying his father a week to the hour he had met him in the States. His daughter Catherine read a poem. Reverend Paul Jamieson described John as “a true gentleman”.

A week earlier, some of the same mourners had crowded into St Brigid’s church in South Belfast for the funeral of my former editor, Jim Dougal. Again, he was a media person whose work had brought him into contact with politicians and others from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland. He too was decribed as “a gentleman and a gentle man”. Those fitting words were from a Presbyterian minister and former Moderator Reverend John Dunlop, a sign of how Jim had always done his best to reach across the religious divide. It was the first time I had heard a Protestant clergyman address mourners at a Catholic requiem Mass.


Jim Dougal 1945-2010

Jim had the distinction of working for all three major broadcasting organisations in Northern Ireland, UTV, BBC and RTÉ, where I knew him for seven years as Northern Editor until he joined BBC in 1991. He battled cancer in recent years and his death at the age of 65 is sad loss for our profession. One of his achievements while at RTÉ was to find a place for unionists to put their case to an audience in the Republic. Former MP Ken Maginnis was among the politicians who attended the Mass. Another was the former SDLP leader John Hume. His children gave fine tributes about their Dad at the end of the Mass. Burial took place in Carryduff. I had heard the sad news about Jim when I was in Dublin, where I had attended the removal at Glenageary near Dun Laoghaire of the remains of another former RTÉ colleague, John Cook. I knew him in the early 1970s before either of us went into broadcasting. Then when I joined RTÉ News in 1979, our paths crossed again.

John Cook

John was a floor manager at the time, in the days of film. It was always a pleasure to know that he would be on duty as he was, like Jim Dougal and John Harrison, a gentleman. John went on to become a producer and director. On leaving RTÉ he founded John Cook Video Productions in 1986 and as explained on his his website (from which this photograph comes) he immediately set out to become one of the best producers of wedding and events video. Just one look at the recommendations on that website shows how popular his service had become. He will, like the others, be sadly missed. My sympathy goes to the families and relatives of all three great media pros. Jim and John will also be remembered along with other former colleagues at the annual Mass for deceased RTÉ staff at the Sacred Heart church in Donnybrook on November 2nd at 1pm.




Jim Dougal 1945-2010

He was a kind boss. A gentleman and a gentle man, as John Dunlop described him. Jim Dougal was buried after a requiem Mass attended by hundreds of people at St Brigid’s church, Derryvolgie Avenue in South Belfast. Jim had the distinction of working for all three major broadcasting organisations in Northern Ireland, UTV, BBC and RTÉ, where I knew him for seven years as Northern Editor until he joined BBC in 1991. He battled cancer in recent years and his death at the age of 65 is sad loss for our profession. One of his achievements while at RTÉ was to find a place for unionists to put their case to an audience in the Republic. Former MP Ken Maginnis was among the politicians who attended the Mass. Another was the former SDLP leader John Hume. The fact that a Protestant minister, former Presbyterian Moderator John Dunlop, was chosen to give the address was a sign of how Jim had always done his best to reach across the religious divide. His children gave fine tributes about their Dad at the end of the Mass. Burial took place in Carryduff. To Deirdre and all his relatives, deep sympathy on your loss. May he rest in peace.


Hi ye daen! I was away over the 12th, unlike last year when I stayed to watch the main orange order parade in Belfast. Returning home to the Lisburn Road I find more changes. Some businesses have closed in the past year because of the economic downturn. Last month I called into the butchers only to discover that the nearby greengrocers shop had shut permanently. But others have come to take their place, especially in the hospitality sector. I have not done a survey but there are now several eateries in the area including pizza restaurants, some of them situated alongside each other. A well-established one has been joined by at least three rivals and some more further down the road, towards the city centre. Take-aways, fish and chip shops, coffee shops, a tea room and sandwich bars also thrive as well as other types of restaurants. Who would expect a queue outside a coffee shop on a Sunday evening, as happened on at least one occasion. No doubt a sociologist could tell us what this means about the eating habits of local residents! I have just returned from lunch at one of the new pizza restaurants but I will not offer a review here. One positive sign was that when I complained about the taste of the glass of red wine I ordered, it was replaced with another type. It is sometimes difficult to find a good restaurant with a reasonably-priced menu. But when I was in Littlehampton in England this week where I stayed overnight, I discovered a very good fish restaurant at 9pm in the evening, thanks to a recommendation from the bed-and-breakfast owner. In fact the dinner there (scallops starter & fish curry main course, with 2 pints of beer) worked out only £3 more expensive than my Belfast lunch (bruschetta, prawn pizza and a red wine).
This blog page is in its infancy, so please be patient while I construct it. Comments (and followers!) are welcome. In the meantime I continue tweeting @fishbelfast. Go raibh maith agaibh/Danke sehr/Merci/Thanks



Here are some pictures from the May Day parade in Belfast. An NUJ group took part with the union banner, marching behind the SIPTU float. These pictures were taken as we passed City Hall on Saturday 1st May 2010.

For more details see the National Union of Journalists (new window)




Front steps at entrance to Parliament in Belfast

Parliament Buildings at Stormont

The marvels of new technology! This page is at an early stage of construction, starting today. I am looking forward to an NUJ training course in London later this month on web page development. Please be patient as I learn some NEW TRICKS. Which reminds me. The BBC series is now running on RTÉ1 on Saturday nights (10.35pm). It’s always interesting to spot how many clues there are as to the team Brian (Alun Armstrong) supports. It happens to be the same as mine, AFC Wimbledon. So look out for the scarf, the mug and the (early) team photo in the office scenes. It’s great to see the Dons embarking on only their second season in the Conference Premier league, with a mainly full-time squad. There will be plenty more about them on these pages over the coming season as I attempt to make more use of my season ticket. Still on sport and Wimbledon in particular, I’m now going to watch the womens’ final on TV between Serena Williams (USA) and Vera Zvonareva from Russia. Could be a good match.