Big UlstermanThings that never happen in Garvary - Part 1 (10.2.2006, 09:00 UTC)
Here's a new Friday feature. You see, life's different in Garvary - peopled by solid, country folk in Co. Fermanagh for whom Enniskillen's just too pacey.   An Argentinian couple have been arrested for having sex opposite a mayor's office in broad daylight.   The man and woman, in their mid-30s, stripped completely naked to have sex on a bench by the Nahuel Huapi river in Bariloche. And when police officers arrived to arrest them, they demanded to be allowed to finish what they...
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Big UlstermanDirty money? (9.2.2006, 23:26 UTC)
Parliamentary privilege in the UK means MPs can accuse and name names without fear of lawsuits. The DUP's Peter Robinson this week alleged a leading Belfast businessman was linked to "IRA dirty money" (funny, I thought laundering gave it a bluey-whiteness, but there you are). What rubbish. We all know he's linked to Solidarność.
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Big UlstermanYou know how ... (8.2.2006, 10:57 UTC)
... sometimes your left eye gets itchy?
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Big UlstermanIs Republicanism being blown apart? (7.2.2006, 19:51 UTC)
The Belfast Telegraph, which is becoming more of a sensationalist tabloid with every day that passes, carries a 'revelation' story today alleging that MI5 and senior officers from the PSNI's Crime Operations Department were the source of intelligence information that "not all IRA weapons were decommissioned last September".   If it's true, the Republican leadership has lied and is unfit for government or any more political sops from Downing Street.   If it's false, the DUP heap...
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Big UlstermanPolitical health (3.2.2006, 07:42 UTC)
As we know, the state of male health in Norn Iron is pretty poor. No surprise that, us being the country that gave the world panady, boxty and the Ulster Fry, but I have the answer. The picture shows a trendy new residential complex planned for Bristol or somewhere equally undeserving. Bring it to Belfast, says I. It'd make a great new parliament building. In the spirit of equality, the buildings are part orange part green, and politicians would have a full range of fitness facilities on han...
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Big UlstermanIMC Report (1.2.2006, 12:03 UTC)
Well, it's out. The long-awaited first report of the year by the Independent Monitoring Commission. Although the DUP and Sinn Féin will be issuing their usual inflexible rhetoric, the report contains absolutely nothing we didn't know or expect. Durng the period under review, the IRA has committed no terrorist offences, no beatings, no bank robberies. But some of its members are still involved in organised crime (inexcusable). And the IRA's still gathering intelligence (which might...
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Big UlstermanIt's good to talk (28.1.2006, 14:36 UTC)
I was on the phone pleading with a customer to put some business my way when I heard those familiar beeps indicating an incoming call. "Sorry, let me put you on hold for 10 seconds", says I desperately trying to remember the code for switching calls. Amazingly I got it right, and on came the familiar rubber voice of my answering service. "Hello, I'm a bored middle-class housewife who accepted peanuts from your phone company to record inane crap for them. Oh, is that the time? You have one new...
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Big UlstermanBloody Sunday departure (27.1.2006, 12:03 UTC)
I'm delighted that this year's Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture - organised by Nationalist/Republican people in Derry - will be given by Alan McBride, a Shankill Protestant whose wife, father in law and seven others were blown to pieces when the IRA detonated a bomb in Frizell's fish shop in 1993.   It was Big to invite him, and it was Big to accept. He's said that he's going to lay down a challenge or two for the Nationalist community, and that's probably no bad thing either. We...
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Big UlstermanNo Plan 'B' (24.1.2006, 10:13 UTC)
Ian Paisley is in London today trying to persuade Tony Blur of the merits of the DUP's 16-page mysterious unpublished document entitled, we understand, "Facing Reality". We're told it contains proposals on a way forward without power-sharing.   Why is our time being wasted like this? Lord knows, over the last 40 years we've tried all the conceivable models of government (except a united Ireland), and they've all failed to deliver because of one thing only: it was always...
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Big UlstermanSF 'wants to back police' (21.1.2006, 21:53 UTC)
It's been a long time coming - and no one's sure if it's really on its way yet - but New York Congressman Jim Walsh has said he reckons Sinn Féin wants to back the police force in Northern Ireland, although the timing may be uncertain. The encouraging thing for me is not the words, but the fact that he was saying them just after meeting Gerry Adams.   This is a commonly used tactic for testing the political waters, much beloved of statesmen everywhere. By floating a radical idea...
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Big UlstermanThe fine line (19.1.2006, 09:22 UTC)
In the rather public "has the IRA gone straight?" debate between NI security minister Shaun Woodward and the police service I see Woodward has hit back, saying "there are complex assessments to be made in distinguishing between criminality by individual PIRA members for their own gain and criminality carried out by PIRA members which is authorised by the organisation."   Basically, he says he's convinced the PIRA leadership is trying to take the organisation straight but that certai...
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Big UlstermanPSNI trumps Woodward (18.1.2006, 09:18 UTC)
Only a wee while after British NI minister Shaun Woodward said the IRA had ceased all illegal activities, the police force has now stated publicly that, although the IRA has stopped punishment beatings and killings, it's still (I paraphrase) involved in organised crime, in common with other (ex-)terrorist groups.   So who's telling the porkies? Is the PSNI really engaged in "political policing", as Sinn Féin has been quick to allege, or is it merely stating what it knows to be tr...
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Big UlstermanTony Banks (12.1.2006, 13:53 UTC)
People of principle make a refreshing change to our media-driven world, and I love a politician who speaks his mind. Like Tony Banks who died yesterday. He was one of a small breed of British politicians who used sound-bite politics not to feed us superficial crap but to keep everyone's feet on the floor. He had the guts to go against the flow - a Labour politician who was a friend of Tory David Mellor just because he liked him - and speak his mind with a candour which disarmed high...
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Big UlstermanFinally some sense (12.1.2006, 13:02 UTC)
Well whoopidoo. Peter Hain and Tony Blur have finally got the message that their proposed de-facto amnesty for terrorist crimes committed pre-1998 is immoral and wrong, and they've abandoned the plans. Maybe now we can get back to having a national government which fully endorses punishment of all crimes that contravene national legislation, whether north or south of the Irish border.   Of course, this is not just bad news for IRA and UVF terrorists still scared to come home and face ...
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Big UlstermanSoon-to-be-famous Nobber (12.1.2006, 12:34 UTC)
Forgive me for straying a wee bit off topic so early in the year, but I see residents of the village of Nobber in County Meath have stumbled across a few 10th century Celtic crosses during a graveyard clean-up and are now preparing to take all the tourists away from Newbridge. For English readers, Newbridge is what Stonehenge wants to be when it grows up ;-)   Still, if they want to put Nobber on the map, you'd think they could've capitalised on the name a bit better.
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Big UlstermanSense at last (11.1.2006, 15:32 UTC)
Well whoopidoo. Peter Hain and Tony Blur have finally got the message that their proposed de-facto amnesty for terrorist crimes committed pre-1998 is immoral and wrong, and they've abandoned the plans. Maybe now we can get back to having a national government which fully endorses punishment of all crimes that contravene national legislation, whether north or south of the Irish border. Of course, this is not just bad news for IRA and UVF terrorists still scared to come home and face the music, i...
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Big UlstermanAre you going to Nobber? (10.1.2006, 11:17 UTC)
Forgive me for straying a wee bit off topic so early in the year, but I see residents of the village of Nobber in County Meath have stumbled across a few 10th century Celtic crosses during a graveyard clean-up and reckon they're now up there with Newgrange in the tourist stakes. For English readers, Newgrange is what Stonehenge wants to be when it grows up ;-) Still, if archaeology fails to put Nobber on the map, certainly the name offers some deep potential.
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Big UlstermanTony Banks (10.1.2006, 09:50 UTC)
People of principle make a refreshing change to our media-driven world, and I love a politician who speaks his mind. Like Tony Banks who died yesterday. He was one of a small breed of British politicians who used sound-bite politics not to feed us superficial crap but to keep everyone's feet on the floor. He had the guts to go against the flow - a Labour politician who was a friend of Tory David Mellor just because he liked him - and speak his mind with a candour which disarmed high-and-mighty...
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Big UlstermanFreedom fighters? (10.1.2006, 09:50 UTC)
The Big Ulsterwoman is (gasp) English. Well, we all have our faults. As part of her rehabilitation therapy I recently took her to a traditional musical evening at a nearby pub. The band played all the songs you'd expect, and we had a great Guinness-assisted time singing along to the Irish Rover, Whiskey in the Jar, The Leaving of Liverpool and all the other greats.And then the singer announced a song honouring 'freedom fighters' and my thoughts sped back to 1981 West Belfast with housewives bang...
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Big UlstermanMy favourite Irishman (9.1.2006, 08:36 UTC)
One attraction that graced many an Irish blog last year was an invitation to vote for your favourite Irishman of all time, with most of the praises going to people like Wolfe Tone, Eamon de Valera, Padraig Pearse; even Mary Peters and George Best.   Each of us comes this way only once and there's surely not one of us who hasn't spared a thought for what history will make of him or her. It's interesting that, for many people, their image in the great record of world history ...
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Big UlstermanSpies like us (3.1.2006, 15:06 UTC)
OK, the posts proper start next Monday, but in the wake of the Denis Donaldson affair - the IRA ex-prisoner and senior Sinn Féin official who recently admitted to being a British spy for 20 years - I see the police have called at the homes of several prominent Sinn Féin members to warn them that the IRA are (allegedly) investigating them as potential spies within the Republican ranks.   Bluff or not, this is a tactical twist worthy of Frederick Forsyth. If the PSNI are ...
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Big UlstermanHappy new year (3.1.2006, 14:44 UTC)
A happy new year to all my readers. My aim this year is to write posts most days - from next Monday onwards - on politics, current affairs and also do a bit of humorous writing, mainly on Fridays so we can hit the weekends with spirits that are light enough to do Big things.   I want to hear your opinions too. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say, all comments are welcome. If you disagree very strongly, go and have a nice cup of tea first. No, I haven't bri...
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Big UlstermanA knight to remember (27.12.2005, 00:38 UTC)
I've just finished watching First Knight, that Hollywood take on the Arthur legend starring Seán Connery, Richard Gere and that woman that looks like a girl I used to fancy on the school bus. Much buckling of swashes, etc. The film depicts Arthur as running a Camelot based on quite stunning levels of equality, democracy and active Christianity. Two thoughts wouldn't leave me: 1. People really are very squidgey. Watching Gere thrust his sword downwards into the prostrate bod...
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Big UlstermanHappy Christmas (23.12.2005, 08:55 UTC)
To all my visitors: thanks very much for taking an interest in what I've had to say since starting this blog in the late summer. I've enjoyed the discussion and hearing what all my e-quaintances have had to say. Have a Big Christmas.
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Big UlstermanOTR (On The Ropes) (20.12.2005, 17:26 UTC)
Sinn Féin has rejected the British government's On-The-Runs legislation. You almost feel sorry for Tony Blur's government. Yes, the man who brought us 'constructive ambiguity' and, as a poorly disguised sop to the IRA, passed legislation through the Commons to let all terrorist murderers off without spending a single day in jail has just been dealt the ultimate humiliation by the very party whose nether regions he was tongue-probing. If it wasn't so sick, it'd be funny. ...
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Big UlstermanWise up! (16.12.2005, 10:52 UTC)
I see the PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde reckons (senior) Republicans need to "wise up". They should stop thanking the police off the record for stopping loyalist riots but criticising the police force in public and to the press.   Now this might be a bit embarrassing for Sinn Féin, and as sure as eggs are eggs we'll see the PR machine go into backlash, but it's very encouraging to be reminded that Republicans can see past their own self-image enough to have a bit of heart ...
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Big UlstermanOnly muggles smuggle (13.12.2005, 22:37 UTC)
The PSNI have been homing in on counterfeit goods at Jonesborough market in south Armagh, a stone's throw from the Irish border. Now I'm no expert on south Armagh. I just drive through on my way to Dublin, and I've never stopped long enough for someone to come up and say, "Psst, wanna fake Armalite?". Hat-tip: over at Balrog, Chris has voiced his favour of smuggling and counterfeiting , with MS Office for the kids at 5 quid a throw. Beats any subsidy Bill Gates could offer, but I'd love to ...
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Big UlstermanWhen a deadline is not a deadline (13.12.2005, 08:38 UTC)
Peter Hain needs his head examining. He said yesterday he'd scrap the NI Assembly if a devolution deal isn't worked out by the next general election. Whoa! I seem to remember it's enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement - who does Peter Hain think he is? Certainly not a competent politician, that's for sure because, as the rest of humanity has already twigged, the DUP are just about the most stubborn people on planet earth, so if this is some sort of imperial bully-boy tactic to get Ia...
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Big UlstermanPlane mad (11.12.2005, 22:43 UTC)
My travels last week took me to Düsseldorf airport. With caffeine levels lower than a limbo-dancing flea, I decided to go to the airport coffee bar. I remember when these places used to sell coffee but, progress being progress, I had to have a choc-sprinkled latte macchiato with a double left-handed twist of ox grindings and hand over what remained of my holiday money, so you can imagine the gloom with which I sat looking out onto the freezing apron, watching mummified baggage handlers goin...
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Big UlstermanMeat for the goose (2) (2.12.2005, 12:58 UTC)
Guess what? It's OK to let IRA terrorists off the hook for murdering policemen, but it's just plain wrong not to pursue members of the security forces who killed active terrorists. According to Gerry Adams, that is.   Adams has been down in Dublin's fair city bending Bertie Ahern's ear.   To be honest, you'd be forgiven for getting a bit sick of all the recent Sinn Féin moaning - by a party that's now clearly able to influence the actions of the UK government and has had a ...
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