It has now been exactly ten years since I had happened
upon a small Socialist table in Belfast city centre.
Then, a short while later, I had walked into a meeting
of people counted on one hand, and who were not
known in real terms, outside of those ranks. Indeed
they were unknown and completely irrelevant to the
activist and political world as I had sat there
and listened to that first talk before going home
and looking up a dictionary on the list of words
I had needed to seek meanings to. This, as the talk
of the Proletariat and Historical Materialism, and
much like, although relevant, it was complete Double
Dutch to a working class lad like myself.
a situation had taught me that when I had started
to write, to write in a way that was real and could
relate practically to working class people and their
everyday thoughts and lives.
so I was to talk of, and to write of, the situations
of daily and political life but within each such
article to provide a political message.
write to relate to the masses, rather than to write
to be read solely by intellects or to talk over
the heads of ordinary people.
relation to the once Belfast SWP and six or so years
on from walking into that room, we were then to
be at the forefront of a mass Anti War Movement.
I had left, for reasons recorded elsewhere, and
I had been told at that time that if I was to leave
the SWP then I would become irrelevant, similar
as others that had left. Yet as has materialised,
and as I had predicted, it is they who had become
in very real terms, once again, as irrelevant as
had been the case at that first meeting.
is unfortunate, as it holds good individual activists,
but their actions, which I had argued against at
the time, in part, directed this outcome
the last two years, as recorded and played out,
has shown that while they have organised absolutely
nothing new onto the streets of Belfast, it though
has seen me with others in the continuance of still
mass and historic Movements and working class victories.
various reasonings for this can be found on
the link provided, as I state and account such,
as essential lessons for activists need to be learnt
from this if we are to move forward.
This link is the definitive link of my two years
since leaving the once termed Belfast SWP, indeed
within it one can both read, see pictures and find
links to all those actions and much more seen on
the streets of Belfast since then.
Diary indeed was a continuance of this West
Belfast Blanket series which had accounted
for my time with the Belfast SWP, and the Blanket
as a whole holds all the definitive links of that
time, while the online Diary holds the accounts
of my first two years since leaving the Belfast
SWP. Indeed within each there are also accounts
of my thoughts and memories of my Childhood as a
black kid growing up within the heart of West Belfast
and the War during the height of that Conflict,
1970's and 80s'.
shall be doing one more article for this online
Diary in a few months time, and that will be the
final entry. Similar this is the final entry for
the West Belfast series, and also attached here
is a picture of me as a kid.
third part of this trilogy, (and to tie it all together
is my book), and so within all three, that is, the
West Belfast series, my online Diary and the book,
they will give that definitive account of my life
(my first 35 years on this earth) and my activism,
from the height of war through to the peace and
that present process.
will then begin the write and account for the next
part of my life and activism in another online project,
via the Blanket.
Well over the last few years I have done lengthy
interviews on TV for those who wanted to interview
me about my life growing up in West Belfast, this
from NVTV through to the BBC, then I had did various
radio interviews around the globe for those who
had wanted to interview me solely about my activism.
it was an interview by a student who had wanted
to interview me - about me in that entirety, past,
present and future, which had made me think of my
life to date, and therefore it is on that past,
present and future that I finish of this West Belfast
I look back on my thirty five years on this earth
there had been many ups and downs, indeed growing
up within a war as a child and various additional
situations had made life in those early days at
times unbearable. But, I survived, just, this when
many I had known unfortunately had not.
so on the twenty fifth anniversary of the Hunger
strikes I had again went up to Black Mountain and
as I had stated in my online diary (in the May edition).
moved originally from the 'Murph estate down to
the Lower Falls in the mid seventies, we then
eventually moved to the Twinbrook estate of Bobby
Sands (Hunger Striker), at the start of the 80s.
Although one of the reasons for the move was for
a new modern house, in large part though, it was
also to get the kids away from it all (away from
the heart of the war being played out within the
Murph and Lower Falls).
then was in the countryside and a far cry from
the lower Falls. Yet it had turned out to be a
case of from the frying pan into the fire. It
was only a short time, as a child, before I was
once again looking into yet more friends, neighbours,
and children coffins, seeing more mangled bodies
and those lumps of meat that where once walking,
talking and living. Also smelling that nauseating
smell of burning and burnt flesh and much more
- through to banging my bin-lid on the news of
Bobby Sands death, before a short time later,
looking upon his face as he lay in his coffin
in his home.
was not long after Bobby Sands death and others
locally that I had went back to the Murph. On
doing so I had went back upon Black Mountain one
evening and sat and listened to the war and all
the events below.
it had started to rain ever so lightly and with
that I knelt up upon my knees with my arms out stretched,
and looked up to the heavens as the rain slowly
came down and soothed my skin, and in part my mind.
And with that, and from that position, and from
the very depths of my soul, from the very core of
my being I let out the most almighty and heart wrenching
cry which echoed not only around the streets below,
but I believed around the city of Belfast.
a child, I had no gun - but nevertheless, I too
was fighting a war.
time though I had not gone up alone, Marie and a
few relatives had went up with me for a picnic and
to enjoy the heat-wave we were getting. And as they
sat there and sunbathed or chased our wee dog around
the fields I had once again looked out upon the
city of my birth, and upon the streets of my childhood.
one of those situations happened that have become
in recent years quite regular for me. Indeed on
that point I had mentioned before of the nauseating
De Ja Vu and predicting experiences, amongst other
such. Yet I will say that despite having been quite
disorganised in many practical areas of life, I
though in recent times have found skills of mind
that some may find hard to understand. Indeed, as
much clears in very recent years, such senses and
abilities have and are becoming more enhanced and
particular situation though falls into my 'as if
it where pre written' category, and this is one
of the very mildest of things that indeed happens
so often that it now no longer phases me. Some may
find this interesting while some may find it weird
but nevertheless I account for it as but a very
small and milder snippet of such regular and more
the last few months prior and about once every week
when I had got up in the mornings at differing times
and opened my blinds, a large sea bird came and
landed on the backyard fence at the exact time I
opened the blinds, and it just sat there for a while
staring at me before flying off. This of course
is not unusual in itself, even though the bird was
quite a distance from the sea and perhaps comes
there for scraps of food people may feed it, but
let me return to upon Black Mountain.
so as Marie and relatives were playing or sunbathing
and chin wagging, it is hard to explain but everything
went quiet as I sat and stared out upon the streets
below. Then for no reason I felt a single tear beginning
to run down my face which I was surprised at as
I was not feeling any such emotions, and with that
I had breathed in. And as the tear ran down my face
and hung on my chin, I, in my mind had decided -
and I don't know why -that I was only to breath
out when the tear fell. With that I moved my head
forward and when I thought I could hold my breath
no longer the tear drop fell upon Black Mountain
and with that three things happened.
I let out a huge gasp of air that I could almost
see and with that I then again heard Maire's and
the other voices around me. At that same time I
heard a shrill from above and close by, and as I
looked up a sea bird and I am sure it was the one
that I had seen regular, was circling directly above
me. It did so for a few moments before then flying
out towards the sea. Since that day I have not seen
the bird, although it may still come in the mornings
but I no longer see it, but more importantly and
the reason for this account is that since then I
feel as if something has been lifted of me, a burden
or a heavy weight that I was carrying inside of
stated such things and very more overt and regularly
occurring situations happen, and some would find
such interesting as I do, and indeed have come to
study and know that there is much that we do not
understand about our minds and indeed our very existence.
other people may see such as weird, yet I remember
thinking as a kid that if you were to talk to God
then it would be praying but if you went around
telling everyone that God was talking to you then
you would probably be locked up.
And so, it really depends on how one looks at things
and what angle you wish to come at it. For me I
look at all angles both in politics and now equally
so on the fundamental questions of and on life.
back to childhood I had dreamt of a time in which
I could travel and see the world and of being a
great sports person.
with six kids or so in a small bedroom with the
daily brutality and discrimination by the Unionist
and British state, with being labelled as a failure
by the state as a child, I therefore like many others
had seen such dreams as being but dreams. Indeed
all such against oneself was also coupled with the
real poverty that had seen us being provided with
the EU yellow canned food through to the hand me
down clothes, yet we were meant to be living in
the affluent and Western World.
Such aspirations and thoughts throughout ones dreams
in youth, I had wanted to do, albeit with such travel
I had thought being pure fantasy. Yet when I had
looked back on the past thirty five years as I talked
to that young student I actually was surprised as
to what I have both done in my life and many of
the historic situations I had been involved in or
with such a childhood, and a working class kid with
mild dyslexia much was against me. Yet I had a loving
and large extended family and indeed as a black
kid growing up in a white working class neighbourhood
who were at the forefront of the Irish war, I indeed
had many friends.
starting off in childhood each of my streets that
I had moved to as a child holds figures and events
Ballymurphy a young Gerry Adams had lived a few
doors away from me, also my grandfather Jim Carlin
(I was born on the 4th of October 1970 and I lived
with my grandmother and grandfather for my first
several years) was in the Ballymurphy Tenants Association
(BTA) in those earliest of years along with Frank
Cahill, the brother of veteran Republican Joe Cahill.
At times the BTA had held its meetings in our home
where my mum would serve up tea and biscuits and
would also have helped out at some of the social
functions etc organised by the BTA. My home was
also where people would come into our garden in
large numbers to pray as their sons and daughters
went of to defend the Murph, and so my Gran became
known as the Rosary woman.
I had at times quite a strict Catholic and religious
upbringing. I was also an altar boy in Clonard Monastery
during the late seventies and early eighties and
was always the 'Wise man' in the nativity plays
at Xmas. I had also went to St Finians Christian
brothers school on the Falls Road. On moving to
Sevastopol street with our house 'held' for us,
as was the norm then, I had learnt that a person
who had lived in my childhood home previous to myself,
that of 6 Sevastopol Street was a man now famous
in the annals of Republican history, his name was
Seamus Twomey. He had gone on to become a renowned
IRA leader and its chief of staff. He was involved
in the now infamous escape from Mountjoy prison
where he was airlifted out by helicopter.
few doors down from our house was the Sinn Fein
Head Quarters where one could see that picture of
when Gerry Adams had stood at the window to the
cheering crowds on his first election victory.
had also amongst much I had seen there, seen Ronnie
Bunting being shot. Ronnie Bunting was the son of
Major Ronald Bunting, a one-time aide to Ian Paisley.
He was a once Belfast commander and a senior chief
on staff of the INLA (Irish National Liberation
Army) while having also been a founder member of
the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party). Bunting
was to be the only Protestant to be interned without
trail in 1972. He was eventually killed after several
attempts on his life along with Noel Lyttle in 1980.
after that I had moved to Twinbrook and it was the
Workers Party this time with the now General Secretary
John Lowry in my street. Yet it wasn't long after
arriving there that I was looking upon the face
of Bobby Sands at his Twinbrook home, an image that
went around the world.
top of that during the War I had experiences ranging
from seeing death close up through to my family
and me, we believe, having a narrow escape from
the Shankill butchers. And of course there was the
Brits brutality to oneself as detailed elsewhere,
as well as other things I had to suffer.
events and persons I would read about and watch
at times on screen as I grew up. Yet despite coming
from such a background it was nevertheless but a
matter of time that many of those same faces and
many others that I had seen on screen in youth,
I would then be sitting around tables or sharing
platforms or TV and radio studios with. Some such
in the process of debate and discussion while in
other cases in the search for resolutions.
two decades or so later from sitting upon Black
Mountain at the height of the 1981 Irish hunger
strikes as a child, I had in the political activist
scene pushed forward and reached out on many matters.
of such activism is briefly outlined below, but
can be read in full throughout the Blanket
or on my online
diary and throughout the links provided within
I had played a key local role that had mobilised
the largest Anti-Sectarian rally in the North's
history, and I had also organised with others
walkouts of workers against previous attacks and
threats, both by loyalists and Republicans, at
the time in the late nineties.
was to be a founding member, organiser and spokesperson
of both the Belfast Anti War Movement and the
Stop the War Coalition, that had, amongst all
other actions, mobilised the largest such Anti
War march and Movement ever seen in the North
was to be the founding member, Chair, and Spokesperson
of the Anti Racism Network, that became a Movement
that had seen amongst many actions us mobilising
the largest such Anti Racism rallies and marches
ever seen in the North of Ireland.
was to be a founding member and Chair of the events
committee of the Northern Ireland Make Poverty
History Movement. A Movement that had seen us
mobilise the largest such Anti Poverty rally seen
in the North while in tandem both mobilising and
inspiring the largest such mobilisation from the
isle of Ireland to an International protest.
from this I had been a spokesperson and local
organiser for the termed 'Historic' Falls and
had with others initiated and played a key role
which had seen the unprecedented backing down
of a Irish minister against deportations while
another similar type victory occurred that had
seen, as termed then, 'a historic victory' won
in the re-instalment of a trade unionist.
had also been on the Red Branch Committee (Branch
8 NIPSA) that was at the forefront of the most
important workers' struggle in 20 years. I had
also within that time ensured all such publicity
of our actions was carried within the mainstream
media and facilitated such interviews between
journalist contacts and Branch 8 at the time.
as we as a rank and file branch were at the forefront
in seeing thousands of civil servants walkout and
march through the streets in actions that were called
illegal and wildcat. Indeed our influence and respect
(as one branch) was to the extent that the then British
Minister publicly singled out and condemned our branch,
this out of the whole civil service before directing
their resources against us.
local events and more I was to the forefront in, this
notwithstanding the Anti Capitalist movement and the
local and International protests and discussions I
partook in, from Belfast to Genoa and Geneva.
throughout such it had seen me debate and discuss
on TV and radio, people such as Mayors, through to
leadership and senior figures from the UUP and the
had shared similar platforms and debates with leading
and senior figures of Sinn Fein through to senior
figures of the DUP.
reared in the 'Republican heartlands,' I had sat around
tables with those ranging from the Loyalist Combined
Command and Commission through to having spoken at
a loyalist conference that had seen the then British
Secretary of state in attendance at it.
had debated professors, academics and scholars on
various shows across the globe, this a working class
lad with mild dyslexia from West Belfast, and had
held my own in many people's views.
had rallied thousands from upon platforms and had
been flown to London to be interviewed live in front
of millions as part of Black history month.
have been interviewed around the world and my writings
have been and are requested, quoted and collected
by many organisations and individuals the world over.
all of such I have found much support visible and
otherwise from within every aspect of civic society.
I would never have thought such as I had knelt upon
my knees almost 25 years ago as a child, wanting so
much to end the pain inside.
I had since then got off my knees and vowed never
again to bow my head to such injustices and inequalities
of unionist discrimination and such unjust British
state governance and brutality.
so I work today via many avenues to ensure another
generation does not have to bear the brunt of such
injustice, brutality and discrimination as I had done.
as that child that was labelled a failure by the state,
brutalised by the state, had felt that I could take
no more, and much more, I could never have thought
that I would have been able to have had such a profound
impact that had both touched and changed many peoples
lives for the better, as I am told. I know of so many
who had so much to give, but injustice, discrimination,
inequality and death, had meant they were afforded
little avenue to seek such.
inequality and injustice exists still today and all
us visible and otherwise, step by step, presently,
need to effect that change for the betterment of all
our children and citizens.
of my dreams as a child, as stated, was to travel
and indeed I have and will continue to do so as I
have a thirst for such.
oneself I had been in the civil service all through
the nineties and up to a year or so ago when I had
left. I had worked myself up to a T/P position of
Executive Officer and with much work and overtime
I therefore secured that dream.
the Americas to Africa, from virtually ever country
in Western Europe and in the years ahead, Asia, I
had travelled to dozens of countries the world over.
I had back-packed, cruised, cycled, rambled, skied,
raved and chilled and in doing so I have breathed
in differing cultures, traditions and experiences
of all our peoples that make up the human race.
I had wanted to achieve well at sport and as a youth
I had played a major Gaelic final in Casement Park,
a major Soccer final at Windsor Park, as well as in
major Northern Basketball and Handball finals. I had
also played on Premier League footballs grounds both
in Scotland and England.
had also stood on winner's podiums in Northern finals
ranging from table tennis, and athletics through to
school choir of the year and a disco dancing Champion!
I had also been in a film called 'For the greater
Good' with your man from the Professionals, Martin
Shaw, in the late eighties, and I am also soon to
be an author.
I have done everything that I had as a child ever
dreamt of doing, and more, but thought I would never
have the chance to. On doing that interview I had
began to realise how much I had packed into my still
young thirty-five years on this earth.
for the future?
firstly, on travel, in the years ahead my partner
and I intend to travel to the further reaches of our
planet and explore and visit people and cultures that
would not be the norm for holiday destinations.
also to finalise one further ambition which is to
gallop beautiful horses along a golden beach and through
clear waters in a far off land, and to facilitate
that in the years ahead we will take up horse riding
sport, well my partner and I are keen walkers, cyclists,
and swimmers and have joined a gym, which we attend
twice weekly. We are in early August to again do the
Race Against Racism at the opening of the West Belfast
Feile, with a view of travelling somewhere and to
incorporate a half marathon into our schedule at some
the personal, well I am to start back to college and
University, with this year studying two new languages.
Indeed, by the end of my thirty-ninth birthday I wish
to be fluent in several languages, to have graduated
and achieved a Professional qualification and a progressive
career, and to have learnt to play the piano, all
of which I will do. My partner is also to gain further
qualifications in a continuance on from last year,
as well as holding down other roles and vocations.
I had said before, learning should be life long and
both self taught and established, and one is never
too old to go back to study.
to do so, the resources, facilities and opportunities
need to be there, both for young and old and including
for those driven into the conflict, and that therefore
brings me on to my future and that political activism.
I start by saying that I have found, in very real
terms, that in many cases the pen is weightier than
the sword. Secondly with my experiences in life I
now know if I am to be Categorised then I stand in
the ranks of the Libertarian Socialists, indeed a
growing force in Ireland, this as opposed to Authoritarian
who get involved in politics for the long haul will
eventually come to their own understandings of what
they wish to embrace, this both throughout life experiences
and political activism.
activism as I have long stated is not about people
in collectives and rag clothes digging up the earth
in some field to be self sufficient, indeed it is
about real politics, it is about as I have long stated,
practiced and argued, the here and now.
is about trying to change people's lives for the better
while moving forward with your own, if that is possible.
believe in a fundamentally different world and a different
system, yet rather than attempt to create a reality
I have always sought to deal with the reality with
that new country and world in mind at all times.
thirst for knowledge and the understanding of many
things and so I am finding that I read and study such
in detail. Indeed I always question and seek to find
answers too many things.
me in the time ahead the primacy of my activism will
be on writing and working specific activism and campaigning,
this both on local and International issues.
I also seek to become a more established and complete
writer while pushing forward on such issues for essential
that regard many of my writings in the years to come
will be here on the Blanket, and a new Blog,
possibly in a while ahead.
also see the Just Books Collective as an essential
activist avenue and provision, and urge full support
for this from across the Movement. As I stated recently,
Just Books Collective will
be having a launch shortly of a new initiative.
term and long term thinking has went into this,
from providing an online radical and labour bookstore
through to seeking to provide in the longer term,
new premises, a social meeting space, internet access,
a multi-lingual resource library, as well as a projector
for showing films. We hope to open the centre as
a practical commemoration of the Spanish revolution.
another essential avenue is the Conway Mill on the
Falls Road, indeed we have seen the vast resources
being lauded and poured into expensive venues for
the people who can afford them in Belfast, while
such essential venues like the Conway Mill being
ignored for the people that need them.
is a situation that needs to change as so to provide
such facilities and opportunities for those having
grown up in such working class areas, and who in
many ways faced the brunt of the war, children and
one seeks and works for fundamental change there
is much progressive change that still needs be won
and to happen, and therefore it means there is still
much to do.
so I leave the West Belfast series with one more
small snippet of my life back then, as I return
to my childhood and the Falls road of the late seventies.
a scarf around my head and little black hands
sticking out of the sleeves of my jumper, I did
not realise that I was not fully covered, but
it didn't matter. We rocked and rocked on the
large van as it swayed to and fro seeking to turn
it over before setting it alight. One of the older
boys told me to get back but I wanted to be part
of turning it over, I wanted the barricades and
road blocks up before those 'Black Bastards' came.
rocked the van with many other of the older boys
with my tiny child hands before one of the boys
removed me to the side. I stood there wide eyed,
covered in dirt and smelling of burning tyres
and more, as I looked up and down the Road waiting
for those hateful Brits.
I did my anger built and my adrenaline grew as
I held bottle and brick in hand watching all unfold
could feel the sheer anger burning in the back
of my throat, as I waited once again for them
I was but a child, but had lived already to date,
the life of a wronged man.
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