Northern Irish punk rock and anti-racism

This punk rock music video says about itself:

Stiff Little Fingers – Alternative Ulster (Live 1980)

SLF formed in 1977 in Belfast Northern Ireland. This is the 12th track from their debut LP Inflammable Material (1979 Rough Trade) This footage is taken from Rockpalast [in Germany] 1980.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

Friday, December 20, 2019

Still rocking against racism

Louise Raw talks to JAKE BURNS of Stiff Little Fingers about anti-fascism, life growing up in Belfast, mental health and the capacity of music to spread a political message

“Not being an arsehole isn’t actually that hard.”

That was Jake Burns’s no-nonsense response to my Twitter comment that he didn’t seem to have gone the way of so many childhood musical/political heroes.

Not all pull a “Full Morrissey”. but those we have musically loved find numerous ways to disappoint.

So it was nice to discover Burns on social media, sporting a red “Made Racism Wrong Again” baseball cap, still recognisable as the bloke whose band I’d gone to see from the age of 13 (I was the short one in unflattering bondage trousers, getting crushed at the front by the taller, older, cooler people).

I’d have been happy to know then that Burns would remain both untouched by rock-star hubris and as righteously pissed off with the state of the world as when the first Stiff Little Fingers album, Inflammable Material, charted on his 21st birthday.

A US citizen now, living in Chicago since 2004, he took citizenship partly with the goal of being able to vote Donald Trump out of office.

It seems incredible that it’s 40 years this year since Burns and the band (then also comprising Henry Cluney, Brian Faloon and Ali McMordie), played to 20,000 people in the Rock Against Racism carnival.

RAR was inspired by two “pre-Morrissey moments”.

In May 1976, David Bowie was photographed at Victoria station giving what looked like a nazi salute, later telling Playboy magazine: “I believe very strongly in fascism … Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars.”

The same year in Birmingham, Eric Clapton told black audience members: “You should all just leave … Not just leave the hall, leave our country … I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man. I think we should vote for Enoch Powell … send them all back.”

Leftie activist Red Saunders, until that moment a Clapton fan, wasn’t having any of it. In an open letter to Clapton he wrote: “Half your music is black. You’re rock music’s biggest colonist. You’re a good musician but where would you be without the blues and R&B?”

Rock against Racism was formed. Picking up on traditions of anti-racism established over generations by the blood, sweat and tears of black and Asian activists in Britain, RAR organised an astonishing 500 gigs over the next six years.

On April 30 1978, the Carnival against the Nazis was 80,000-strong — the march four miles in length.

Next September Stiff Little Fingers played at Brockwell Park, Brixton, with Aswad.

I asked Burns how it felt to be a new band and suddenly playing a mega-gig in front of 20,000: “I don’t know that we gave it much thought, to be honest,” he says.

“I’m sure we must have been nervous as it would have been the biggest crowd we had ever played in front of, but we were a very late replacement for Sham 69, so the whole thing is a bit of a blur. We were in the middle of a tour supporting the Tom Robinson Band and had to get to Cardiff after the festival for a show that night.”

He laughs when I ask if he can recall what songs they played: “No! But, it probably would have been the 30 minutes or whatever we were playing on Tom’s tour. The only songs we knew at that stage were what made up our first album, so probably just that, minus Closed Groove, which I know we hadn’t written at that point.”

SLF had hit the ground running just two years earlier. Formed when Belfast-born lead singer Jake Burns was 19, their first single, Suspect Device, was a blistering tirade against British oppression in Northern Ireland.

Louise Raw (LR): Jake, the cover was designed to look like a cassette bomb — is it true one record company had to ask for a replacement, as they’d thrown the first one in a bucket of water?

Jake Burns (JB): We were told that but I think it’s probably apocryphal. I’ve been in a lot of record company offices since then and I’ve never seen a bucket of water lying about the place!

LR: You’d gone from doing covers to a full-on punk band; you’ve credited Joe Strummer and the Clash with that (their lyrics politicised me, as did yours).

You’ve never sounded derivative, though I suppose your use of direct, unpretentious, sometimes funny lyrics is quite Clash-y. What sort of music do you think you’d be making if punk hadn’t influenced you early?

JB: I was, and remain, a huge Rory Gallagher fan. So, that was the road I was headed down. Although, just prior to punk “happening”, like a lot of people I had started to tire of the endless guitar solos by bands like Deep Purple etc.

I’d started paying more attention to the songwriting side of things, listening to people like Graham Parker and Bob Marley etc. I was also a big Dr Feelgood fan, so when punk arrived, I was a pretty easy recruit, although I did need to be convinced of its staying power and relevance beyond shock value.

That was where the Clash came in. A song like Career Opportunities really opened my eyes to the possibilities in the music.

LR: Was punk your biggest political influence (as well as life in Belfast presumably)?

JB: Growing up in Belfast at that time, politics was unavoidable. It wasn’t just something that was on the news or in the papers. It was everyday life in a way that it wasn’t anywhere else in the UK. So, you couldn’t help but be influenced by it, even if you weren’t overly aware that you were being.

LR: What were your parents’ political views/backgrounds?

JB: My dad was a socialist. A machinist in a textile machinery factory/steel foundry, he was a shop steward and always stressed the importance of a union.

That was something that was impressed on myself and my sister from an early age. My mum was a seamstress. What was interesting about both of them, in the sectarian hotbed that was Northern Ireland at the time, was that they were both implacably opposed to hatred of any kind.

Sectarianism and racism were both railed against whenever the subjects came up and my dad in particular was a great proponent of the argument that working-class folks would be better served fighting for better conditions together rather than apart.

LR: You once said your mum was a bit worried about you touring with Tom Robinson because he was (then) a gay activist — was she socially conservative, and if so, how did she take to having a punk rock star son?

JB: I wouldn’t say she was socially conservative — she simply had no experience of meeting gay people, so it was “fear of the unknown”, I suppose.

And you have to remember that homosexuality was illegal in Northern Ireland at the time, so on some level, she may have thought I was about to go hang out with a criminal!

I honestly don’t know, and sadly she has long passed away so I can’t ask her. With regard to what we were doing and however successful we became, I think like most mums, she was concerned that it wasn’t a “real” job. She only ever saw us play once. A “triumphant” return to the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

She came backstage afterwards and I was expecting at least some praise, but instead I got a clip round the ear for “swearing so much” on stage!

After the break-up of SLF, Burns formed Jake Burns and the Big Wheel — Burns on vocals and guitar, Steve Grantley on drums, Sean Martin on bass guitar and Pete Saunders on keyboards.

JBBW’s 2002 single She Grew Up was a rather lovely reflection on post-punk life — “I’d met her before somewhere, I knew the face /But she had green spikes in her hair, back in ’78/ Now the plastic bin liner skirt and the safety pins /Have given way to a zip pocket shirt and designer jeans.”

LR: It’s nice that the lyric of She Grew Up just muses on the passage of time rather than looking down on this woman for “selling out” as some rock stars would. Was it based on an actual incident?

JB: My songwriting partner, Gordon Ogilvie, wrote that lyric. I’m not sure that he had any one person in mind, more a reflection on changing times, I think.

LR: You moved to Chicago in 2004. You were pro-Obama — but disappointed by him in the end?

JB: Yes. He was such a breath of fresh air compared to what had gone before. Suddenly, it seemed like there was intelligence in the White House as opposed to the perceived buffoonery of George W.

My problem with Obama was he didn’t push as many social reforms through initially as I felt he could have. When you see the way Trump attacked the presidency, having control of both houses, and moving like gangbusters through his “reforms”, I felt Obama could have done that.

However, he was much too conservative (with a small ‘c’) for my liking. But then, any mention of socialism here gets you branded a communist, as Americans can’t seem to distinguish between the two schools of thought.

It’s endlessly frustrating talking to someone who will agree with everything I say in terms of the bettering of their situation and then say: “Yeah, but no-one will go for it, because it’s communism.” It’s what will always dog Bernie Sanders, for example.

LR: Instead of Trump driving you out of the US, you said you were applying for citizenship just so you could vote him out. Have you ever thought of moving back?

JB: Not because of Trump, no. It’s true that the night he got elected, I made up my mind to take citizenship. I’d already been living here for about 11 years at that point and I guess being in a liberal city like Chicago, I’d gotten lazy regarding my civic duty.

The election of Trump changed all that and I felt I needed a voice again, beyond railing on record albums. Of course, Chicago will probably always be staunchly Democratic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make myself heard.

In 2009, Burns formed Chicago punk-rock super group The Nefarious Fat Cats to raise money for local charities. Apart from five years in the 1980s when they were completely broken up, he’s also kept Stiff Little Fingers alive and continued to add to their legacy, rather than impersonating his younger self.

Members have come and gone — the band now features guitarist Ian MacCallum and drummer Steve Grantley, who’ve been part of the act for two decades now, and bassist Ali McMordie, who was with Burns as part of what’s considered the classic line-up, and has come back to the band after leaving for much of the ’90s.

While SLF are not too proud to play the old hits, Burns takes pride in keeping them current, too.

“Obviously at this stage of the game being 40 years into it there’s an element of, “This is one we wrote back in 1970-whatever,” he has said, “but it’s always important to us that we moved forward and didn’t live off past glories — basically fight the temptation to become a cabaret act.”

Appropriately, SLF’s last studio album was 2014’s was called No Going Back.

LR: Jake, you struggled at first with that balance of past and present, and scrapped a load of material at the last minute? Why?

JB: The songs felt too “formulaic.” Like “writing by numbers.” They didn’t reflect where I was as a 50-year-old man.

I was still trying to write like I did when I was 20. So, I needed to change some of the subject matter and challenge myself a bit more with regard to melody and structure within the songs. (Doesn’t sound very punk rock, does it?)

Of course, within that, I also had to try and make the songs exciting. When I’d finished the writing and listened to the songs back, my first thought was: “Shit. Who’s going to want to hear a late middle-aged man moan on about being depressed and not being able to pay his mortgage?”

As it turns out, quite a few people. I’d always tried to stick to the old adage of “write what you know”, and by reflecting my life, it turned out I was reflecting quite a few of our audiences lives as well.

LR: I’d always assumed the reason you didn’t write love songs was that you were too cool for it — love songs were too cheesy, too pop. But you said in a later interview it was actually because you found it hard to write personal lyrics?

JB: Yeah. They always came out sounding like bad sixth-form poetry. You know how every year the Guardian awards a Bad Sex Award to an author who has written a particularly awful description of a passionate encounter? That’s how my “love song” lyrics always seemed to me.

So, rather than wait for a national newspaper to give me an award for bad writing, I decided I’d self-censor and not bother writing them in the first place.

LR: But then came My Dark Places, definitely not a love song, about your own depression. Did you hesitate to write something so personal?

JB: I did hesitate. Not to write it, but to record it. I didn’t think it was a particularly strong song, it has a very simple chord structure, for example. But, the rest of the band, Ali in particular, were very keen that we play it. Three chords and the truth, you know? It works.

LR: Is depression something you’ve had for a long time, or did it hit in later life?

JB: I think it started after my divorce. I thought I just felt guilty about that but it obviously triggered something much deeper and that something is still there. Not every day. I’m lucky, insomuch as I’m not at the suicidal end of the depressive spectrum, but I am prone to periods when everything seems futile and I’d rather hide away and not speak to anyone. Hide away and rock back and forth. It’s definitely a physical pain as well as mental.

LR: You credit friends for helping you through, and presumably family too. How did that work for you? Did you have to learn to honestly express your feelings (some blokes do) or were you always able to do that in your private life?

JB: No. Like most men, I bottle things up. I talk about that whenever we play the song live. I know it’s the wrong thing to do, but it’s still my, and a lot of men’s, knee-jerk reaction.

LR: The first time I spoke in Belfast as a historian, I had a long talk with some people in their sixties afterwards who spoke about collective, untreated PTSD from the Troubles. Do you think that played any part in your own depression?

JB: That’s an interesting point that has just come up recently. I was talking with my sister about it earlier this year. I think everyone who lived through that period carries some form of “hangover” from it.

It may be something as simple as a sense of unease walking home late at night that your companions who didn’t grow up there don’t feel. Or it could be something much more traumatic. But I do think we all carry something, whether we’re aware of it or not.

LR: You haven’t given up political songwriting — Trail of Tears is about brutal immigration enforcement in south-western America. I think your old songs stand up, too, which is quite something — I was playing Alternative Ulster to my son recently and the raw anger of the vocal still connects. What do you feel when you hear it now — do you feel close to “that” Jake Burns?

JB: Well, I did have some help! Gordon and I wrote that song together although I did do the lion’s share on that one.

I’m not a person who does “pride”, I’m not comfortable with it. But, I’m pleased that the song has lasted this long and that people like it and take something from it.

As far as feeling close to the 20-year-old me … I can still see him in my head. He was a determined little bugger, and I still have a lot of that left in me.

I ask Burns what he would say to young bands and acts thinking of getting involved with anti-racism; in an interesting echo of Red Saunders’s admonishment to Clapton 40 years ago, he replied: “Why wouldn’t you? The chances are extremely high that your music is influenced by another culture at some point in its evolution. Why wouldn’t you want to include as many people as possible in your music? It’s pretty simple as far as I can see.”

Indeed, those who have long proclaimed the death of effective political music may have been hasty — in recent years we’ve seen Grime for Corbyn, and this year Stormzy’s support for voter registration had a huge positive effect.

On the third of this month, the R3 sound system and Stand Up To Racism/Unite against Fascism turned the London anti-Trump demo into a virtual rave with thousands of young (and not-so-young) demonstrators dancing in Trafalgar Square.

I watched groups of bemused fascists circling, and though a few made the token, cowardly and strongly rebuffed gestures of trying to kick over the SUTR stall and threatening a female steward, the average age of the audience (as well as tight security) were almost certainly factors in them slinking away defeated afterwards.

Also in the crowd that evening was none other than Red Saunders, who tells me: “At 73, I still really enjoyed the thumping contemporary DJs and their anti-racist music.

“The big issues don’t change much. The central aim of RAR was to put black and white bands on stage together to break down people’s fear of one another — to make rebel music, music of its time.

“One of my slogans of the time, ‘Love Music Hate Racism’, is today’s manifestation of the spirit of RAR.”

Paul Sillett of Unite against Fascism agrees: “Jake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers and everyone involved in Rock against Racism made a massive difference, shifting young people away from racists and fascists, who were trying to recruit them.

“The National Front and British Movement are history now but sadly, racism and fascism aren’t. Today’s political acts like Stormzy can and do help in the fight. Rock hard!”

Pine marten help Northern Irish red squirrels

This August 2006 video says about itself:

Native pine martens seen in the forest near to Aspenwood Holiday Cottage overlooking Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. For more information on the cottage and wildlife in the area visit www

From the British Ecological Society:

Northern Ireland’s recovering pine marten population benefits red squirrels

But the urban red squirrel poses a problem

December 13, 2019

The recovery of pine marten in Ireland and Britain is reversing native red squirrel replacement by invasive grey squirrels, according to new research presented at the British Ecological Society’s annual meeting in Belfast today.

Researchers at Queens University, Belfast and National Museums Northern Ireland have found red squirrels are responding positively to the increased presence of pine martens across Northern Ireland. So, where pine martens occur, it increases the chances of red squirrels occurring, simultaneously reducing the likelihood of grey squirrels being present.

Historically, persecution of pine marten and loss of their preferred habitat led to severe declines across Ireland and Britain. In Northern Ireland, small, remnant populations were all that remained, but today, the species is recovering, and this comeback may help ensure the long-term future of the red squirrel in Ireland.

Joshua Twining, who will be presenting the research at the conference, commented: “the red squirrels’ ‘positive response’ is likely due to grey squirrel disappearance rather than red squirrels and pine martens working together.” Pine martens eat both red and grey squirrels, though the key difference is that red squirrels have evolved alongside pine martens over millennia, making them able to coexist.

Twining said, “The ability of the pine marten to control the grey squirrel and help red squirrel recovery in Ireland and Britain is limited by three things; its ongoing recovery, the lack of forest cover on the island and the presence of urban areas. Twining and co-authors suggest that grey squirrels will persist in the latter as results show pine marten are forest specialists and avoid urban areas.

Although the red squirrel population is increasing in Northern Ireland, the researchers warn that “unless the issue of control within populated areas is addressed, we risk creating a situation where marten-savvy grey squirrels could recolonise the wider landscape in the future.”

Consequently, as the pine marten “does not occupy urban areas anywhere within its European range, it is not likely to be the sole solution to the invasive grey squirrel” said Twining.

If pine marten are to extend their positive impact on red squirrels, issues impeding pine marten recovery need to be addressed. At present, Ireland and Britain are among the least forested countries in Europe with only 11% and 13% of forest cover respectively. The pine martens’ sphere of influence is limited to its forested havens. Increasing forest cover would lead to concurrent increases in the pine marten’s ability to control grey squirrels and aid in recovery of the red squirrels.

Recovery of the pine marten could be further compounded by the potential of illegal persecution by a human population not used to its presence. Conflict could occur when pine martens predate on poultry or den in attics for example. Pine martens are still at the early stages of recovery, and human persecution remains the greatest threat to the species.

The researchers used presence-absence data to calculate the likelihood of a species occurring in a location. To collect the data, citizen scientists deployed a camera trap at sites with a minimum of 5 ha forest cover for one week at randomly selected locations. The study used data from 332 sites across Northern Ireland covering all sizes and shapes of woodlands from inner-city Belfast to the Mournes, from the Glens of Antrim in the north to the Ring of Gullion in the south.

Multi-species models were used to estimate the probability of occupancy of arboreal mammals including the grey squirrels, red squirrels and pine martens throughout Northern Ireland. These models consider the effects of the interactions between species and their habitats. They combine information on the occurrence of an animal from the camera trap records with local habitat and environmental data accounting for imperfect detection.

Fungi in Northern Ireland, video

This 9 November 2018 video says about itself:

Fungi are mostly hidden from view, but they are all around us. Neither plants or animal, they play an important in ecosystems, acting as recyclers or partnering with plants in mutually beneficial relationships.

Autumn is one of the best times to spot fungi. This is when many produce their spore-containing fruiting bodies. These can take the familiar mushroom form, or more unusual shapes such as brackets.

In this 360° film, join Sophie Atkinson from the Natural Trust at Springhill House in Northern Ireland. With the help of members of the Cookstown Wildlife Trust, she leads a fungi walk through the grounds of the house.

British Conservatives’ homophobic Irish allies, parody song

This 16 October 2018 parody musical video from Britain is about the DUP, the fundamentalist religious Northern Irish party with links to terrorism, on which the British Conservatives depend to prop up their minority government since they lost their majority at the last election.

It says about itself:

Bally Joel – DUP town Girl

Last night there was an electrical storm in Northern Ireland and a radio playing Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” was struck by lightning. This is the result.


DUP town girl
Get an abortion and you’ll go to Hell
And if you just so happen to be gay
The Lord will come on down and he will say,
I’m gonna smite you

DUP town girl
No, evolution did not make the world
Nor is it under threat from climate change
You know that Planet Earth has only been here
Six thousand years

We’ve got a covenant for government enshrined
One billion smackers for confidence and supply
Old Testament is back!
Listen mac, whip goes crack

On a DUP town girl
You know we can’t afford to buy her pearls
Oh hang on, yes we can, ‘cause now we’re rich
Theresa May signed up to be our bitch
So now we’re rich

DUP town girl
She’s in a room with Angela Merkel
Negotiating for the whole UK
And now there’s no sign of Theresa May
Where did she go?

British Conservative May’s Dolly Parton parody song

This 11 October 2018 music video from Britain says about itself:

Theresa May (aka Folly Partin’) pleads with DUP leader Arlene Foster not to collapse her premiership with this haunting take on “Jolene“.


Arlene, Arlene, Arlene, Arlene
I’m begging of you, don’t collapse my premiership
Arlene, Arlene, Arlene, Arlene
Please don’t, because I’ll never hear the end of it

I bribed you guys a billion quid to prop up us Conservatives
Is this how you repay me, Arlene Foster?

Yes, I blew my majority and came to you, the DUP
Remember how you said, “Eh, it’ll cost ya”
Your aims are contradictory: no border in the Irish Sea
And none on land either, that doesn’t work!

You don’t believe in dinosaurs and rights of women to abort
Some unionist you are, you utter berk

Arlene, Arlene, Arlene, Arlene
Don’t f**k this up, for absolute f**k’s sake
Arlene, Arlene, Arlene, Arlene
I’ll give the money tree another shake

Irish homophobic politician Paisley’s Sri Lanka massacre scandal

This 18 July 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

DUP‘s Ian Paisley Jr suspended from parliament for 30 days

Ian Paisley junior will be suspended from parliament for thirty days, effective in September, following an investigation into his lobbying for Sri Lanka after receiving all expenses paid holidays there back in 2013. This will cut the government’s working majority by one – and THEORETICALLY allowing a by-election to occur if a petition of his constituents reaches over 10% of residents.

Ian Paisley junior is a prominent politician in the sectarian homophobic Northern Irish DUP party, with links to terrorism; and on which Conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May depends for the survival of her minority government. Ian Paisley junior’s father, the ‘reverend’ Ian Paisley senior, founded the DUP.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ian Paisley has been caught bang to rights

IAN PAISLEY’S suspension from Democratic Unionist Party membership after the House of Commons decision to exclude him for 30 sitting days from September 4 displays a belated recognition by the DUP leadership of the seriousness of the charges he faced.

He might well have imagined he could brazen out his wrongdoing as DUP leader Arlene Foster did over the hundreds of millions of pounds lost on her watch through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, but there is no comparison between the two scandals.

Paisley put on a bravura performance in the House of Commons last week, complete with Tony Blair-style catching of breath to indicate he was close to tears.

He apologised for failing to declare two luxury family holidays paid for by the Sri Lanka government, following which he lobbied the British government to undermine a UN investigation of mass state-sponsored slaughter at the end of the Sri Lanka’s civil war.

The North Antrim MP expressed regret, acknowledged embarrassment and apologised to Foster, but he has stuck obstinately to his yarn that he had made a “genuine mistake”.

When? Accepting the first family jolly worth up to £50,000? Or the second valued at an equal sum? Or failing to declare either of them to the Commons? Or doing the Colombo government’s dirty work by trying to devalue the UN probe?

The major question Paisley has refused to answer is why he acted — or failed to act — as he did.

His priority appears to have been to defend his right to continue in office as North Antrim MP, displaying truculence by smearing those calling for a by-election as “opportunists” and insisting that he will fight in any such by-election, “as I have never run away from an election in my life.”

He was backed by East Antrim DUP colleague Sammy Wilson, who said Paisley “has admitted that he did wrong and he has apologised to the party, to Parliament and to his constituents for that”, after which there should be no additional sanction imposed.

Fortunately, the rest of the House thought otherwise.

In the wake of successive expenses scandals and ministerial misdeeds, for Paisley to have been given a rap on the knuckles would have signalled that MPs continue to see themselves as members of an exclusive club to whom normal rules don’t apply.

Compare the indulgence Wilson extends to Paisley with the brutal consequences for benefit claimants who make real mistakes brought on by the stress and hardship in which they survive.

Paisley has been caught bang to rights. He should step down without the need for 10 per cent of his constituents to sign a petition. His time is up. He should go now.

UK: Ian Paisley suspension exposes efforts to assist cover-up of Sri Lankan bloodbath: here.

Now, Northern Irish women’s rights

A sign in Ireland advocates repeal in the referendum on Irish anti-abortion legislation

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Now for Northern Ireland

IRISH women can be congratulated on the outcome of Friday’s referendum on repealing the ban on abortions in their country.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar will be hoping to take credit for holding the vote, using it to gloss over his government’s right-wing economic record with a progressive sheen, but the victory is the result of years of fearless campaigning by women who refused to be intimidated by the power of patriarchy.

In the Irish republic the struggle will now move to the implementation of the referendum result and our Irish sisters know they have the support and solidarity of the British labour movement in that struggle.

The overwhelming mandate for change highlights the anachronism of laws in Northern Ireland, where women are still denied the right to terminate pregnancies.

As Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth says, this situation is surely unsustainable now that women in the rest of Ireland are set to join women in Britain, which continues to rule the territory, in enjoying that right.

Nonetheless, Theresa May has made it clear she will resist any bid by MPs to vote on liberalising laws in the north.

She knows full well that a majority even in her own party would favour such a move — as has been made clear by Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt.

But she cannot risk the collapse of her shaky alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has made it clear it will block any reform.

Hiding behind Westminster’s role as a “caretaker” administration in the north because of the continuing absence of a Stormont government is a poor excuse when May has done nothing to press the DUP to address republican concerns and restore power-sharing in Belfast.

The Alliance for Choice will be continuing its campaign to press politicians within Northern Ireland to change their ways, and is entitled to whatever assistance comrades in Britain can provide, including by confronting the issue directly in Parliament.

If that splits the Tory Party, ends the DUP alliance and forces new elections in Britain, so much the better.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, women's rights demonstration. AFP photo

Theresa May’s reliance on the DUP hobbles her response to the Irish vote: here.

Wales: UNISON assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie told the annual Merthyr Rising trade union rally today that victory in the Irish referendum to repeal restrictive abortion law was an object lesson for trade unionists. “This was a massive statement by the people of Ireland. People got up and organised themselves, their families and their work colleagues. This is the start of a process, not the end,” he said: here.

Irish midwives for abolishing anti-abortion law

SATURDAY was a historic day for Ireland. The 8th amendment introduced in 1983 has finally been removed and the face of Ireland is changed utterly. Contrary to what the Establishment political parties have already started to say, the credit for this victory rests squarely with the women of Ireland: here.

THE Catholic Church-dominated state of the Irish Republic was rocked to its foundations on Saturday when the results came through after the referendum on abortion. This showed that the 23 May 2015 shock for the state when a referendum agreed to ‘same sex marriage’, was not a one-off, and that the huge gulf not only remains between the Catholic Church and the masses, it has widened, with the mass of the working class, which has borne the full brunt of the economic crisis since the 2008 crash that destroyed their living standards, fighting back in every way that they can: here.

People attend a People Before Profit protest calling of for provision of abortion in Northern Ireland, at Belfast City Hall

Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are incompatible with human rights, Britain’s Supreme Court rules: here.

English nazi arrested about Northern Ireland

This BBC video from Britain says about itself:

28 September 2015

Britain First are a far-right political party who say they want Islam to be banned and would hang their enemies if in power. … The anti-racism group Hope Not Hate say they’re “the most dangerous group to have emerged on the British far right scene for several years”. The Victoria Derbyshire programme’s Benjamin Zand finds out who they are and meets them at one of their protests in Rotherham.

By Lamiat Sabin:

Fransen arrested over speech in Northern Ireland

Monday 20th November 2017

[Neonazi paramilitary gang] BRITAIN FIRST deputy leader Jayda Fransen has been arrested over a speech she had made at a rally in Belfast in August.

The 31-year-old was arrested on Saturday in south-east London by Police Service of Northern Ireland detectives assisted by Metropolitan Police officers.

A video posted on YouTube by the far-right group soon after the demo shows Ms Fransen addressing about 50 people calling themselves Northern Ireland Against Terrorism.

In the footage, she says that Muslims “are baying for our blood … The biggest threat to civilisation across the world is Islam … the world is at war with Islam.

Every single Muslim is obliged to kill you — and your husbands and your wives and your children.”

The demo took place on the same day as a republican march organised by the Anti-Internment League to mark the use of detention without trial by the British army during the height of the Troubles in 1971.

A Northern Ireland police spokesman confirmed Ms Fransen’s arrest and questioning under public order legislation.

Stop British governmental homophobia

This 2013 video from Ireland says about itself:

A recent debate on the Nolan Show involving a DUP man saying homosexuality is an abomination. This is not the first time the DUP has been involved in a spat with the gay community, many other DUP politicians have had similar comments including Edwin Poots and Iris Robinson.

By Maria Exall in Britain:

The Tories can’t be trusted with our LGBT rights

Wednesday 13th September 2017

The TUC must oppose the Tory-DUP alliance and defend our equalities legislation, writes MARIA EXALL

ON JULY 1 trade unionists, human rights campaigners, LGBT+ activists and their families and friends marched for equal love in Belfast. Northern Ireland remains the only part of Britain and Ireland where marriage between people of the same sex is not allowed.

This is due directly to the reactionary position of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on LGBT+ rights.

The DUP has vetoed the democratic will of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It has organised a “petition of concern” and is committed to prevent equality legislation from being passed.

In the motion to Congress from our conference earlier this year, the TUC LGBT+ workers’ committee calls on the TUC and all affiliated unions to oppose the alliance between the Conservatives and the DUP, and to work with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to defend existing equalities legislation across the UK and further their expansion, including equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

The reactionary position of the DUP is driven by a connection between the party and a particularly deeply embedded socially conservative strand within Protestantism in Ulster.

Unionism, in its religious conservatism, is not only anti-LGBT rights but also supportive of literalist interpretations of the Bible, such as creationism.

This is the place where Ashers Bakery refused to provide a cake for a gay celebration and, with the support of the Christian Institute, tried to drive a cart and horses through hard-won legislation on equal access to goods and services in the whole of the UK.

Some — including the occasional LGBT activist — failed to see the significance of the case as a principle of equality rather a matter of religious freedom.

The reality is the Ashers Bakery case challenge was a dog whistle in preparation for a defence against equal marriage and any promotion of LGBT+ rights in the six counties.

Northern Ireland is the most religious part of the UK — as measured by church attendance and commitment to religious affiliation.

It has a history of certain Christian denominations having a massive influence in its politics — something it shares with the Republic of Ireland.

But secularists and progressive people of faith there have emerged from the shadow of a crumbling theocracy to vote for change.

Just as south of the border, the demand for equal rights in Northern Ireland is mainly driven by young people who are forcing the pace of change.

By no means do all members of the Protestant communities in Northern Ireland oppose progressive social change, and many young people from those communities are speaking out.

Indeed it is clear that the issue of LGBT+ rights is causing serious soulsearching among sections of the Unionist-supporting communities.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently in suspended animation but even if direct rule was in place, it is not clear that things would progress.

The alliance between the DUP and the Conservative Party means that support from Westminster for change is unlikely. The Tories will not want to annoy the party that keeps them in power.

The Conservatives are compromised in any initiatives they put forward on equality by their deal with the DUP. There is, however, another reason why we should not expect change in Northern Ireland under a Conservative government, and that is the voting record of the Tories themselves.

Despite David Cameron’s championing of same-sex marriage as leader of the coalition government, the majority of Conservative MPs in the last parliament failed to support the Bill. It was Labour votes that won it.

The issue is not only the deal with the homophobic DUP but the persistence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia within the ruling party in the UK.

It is worth remembering that support for retaining Section 28 — the law which banned local authorities from portraying homosexuality in a positive light — and opposing positive LGBT equality legislation was the official position of the Conservative Party until 2009.

Until then it opposed all the progressive legislation brought in by Labour in the parliaments since 1997.

This Tory government cannot be trusted with our hard-won rights. It is up to us to keep fighting for our equality. The struggle for equal marriage in Northern Ireland is a top priority for all LGBT+ trade unionists in the UK.

Maria Exall is the chair of the TUC LGBT+ committee and a member of the CWU.

Human rights groups urge Egypt to halt crackdown on LGBT people after rainbow flag waved at concert: here.

British Theresa May’s homophobic Irish allies

This satiric video says about itself:

3 May 2016

Here at PinkNews, we decided to make a more accurate version of the Democratic Unionist Party‘s 2016 [Northern Ireland] Assembly [election] broadcast.

By Donal O’Cofaigh in Northern Ireland:

The DUP’s long history of bigotry towards lesbians and gay people

Friday 7th July 2017

Prejudice towards the LGBT community, corruption and hypocrisy may define the DUP to many but earlier this year they received their highest ever share of the vote as hundreds of thousands of Protestants voted for them amid heightened community divisions, writes Donal O’Cofaigh

The Democratic Unionists (DUP) are propping up Theresa May’s minority government — but how many British readers are fully aware of their history in regard to the issue of LGBT rights?

This is a party with a long pedigree of prejudice towards the LGBT community, which has repeatedly voted down equal marriage — using the petition of concern, a mechanism meant to guarantee community rights on either side, to veto change after majorities in the Stormont Assembly have voted for equality.

So who are the DUP?

The DUP grew up as an opposition to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), who ruled Northern Ireland as a one-party state for 50 years after its foundation. The UUP oversaw systemic discrimination against Catholics but also against working-class Protestants.

Northern Ireland — an intrinsic part of the UK — did not have one-person-one-vote until 1974 and that only after years of civil rights protests, the eruption of violence on the streets and the proroguing of the Ulster unionism’s seat of government, Stormont with the imposition of direct rule from Westminster.

While standing against “big house unionism,” the DUP was not motivated by class-based politics, instead it was founded on fundamentalist Protestantism — anti-Rome rhetoric was mixed with populist demands and attacks on anything verging on power-sharing.

The DUP was shaped by the largerthan-life personality of the Reverend Ian Paisley, who received his doctorate in divinity from the Bob Jones University in South Carolina. The DUP were the political wing of his church, the fundamentalist, evangelical Free Presbyterians.

Whether in the pulpit or on the streets his message was one of intolerance to Catholicism, ecumenism and homosexuality. The goal was to save the Ulster people from the “evils” of social liberalism, militant Irish republicanism and, worse still, the threat of godless communism.

Despite its strong unionism, the religious zealotry of the DUP has repeatedly led it to oppose the extension of progressive British legislation to Northern Ireland.

In 1977 the party launched its “Save Ulster from sodomy” campaign in response to attempts to extend the decriminalisation of homosexual acts under the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. As a result of this opposition, decriminalisation only took place in Northern Ireland in 1982 as a result of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

In the following years, the DUP’s opposition to LGBT rights has remained every bit as strident despite the fact that it has now totally obliterated its Ulster Unionist opposition and is led by an Anglican, Arlene Foster.

Ian Paisley’s son, a leading member of Parliament, recently referred to homosexuality as being “immoral, offensive and obnoxious” and that he was “repulsed” by LGBT people. Another MP, Jim Wells, claimed that children growing up in same-sex households were more likely to be subjected to abuse before being forced to apologise. He also claimed the LGBT lobby was “insatiable.”

Such comments abound in the party — filled as it is with creationists, climate change-deniers and anti-choice campaigners but their moral pronouncements are often deeply hypocritical. The DUP are quite possibly the most corrupt party in Stormont with a strong history of flirtation, if not outright and open support, for paramilitarism but they portray themselves as righteous defenders of “democracy” and “freedom.”

Perhaps the most emblematic case of this is hypocrisy was almost a decade ago when the partner of former DUP leader Peter Robinson, Iris, also a member of the Stormont Assembly, referred to homosexuality repeatedly as an “abomination” causing her to feel “nauseous” and claiming that when she encountered LGBT people she referred them to a psychiatrist (who was also a political adviser). The political fallout from this claimed her psychiatrist friend’s career but despite that she went on to claim that homosexuality was worse than child abuse.

By April 2009 both herself and her husband, the first minister of Northern Ireland, were involved in public furore as it was exposed that the pair were drawing more than £571,000 a year in expenses, not including a further £150,000 for family member advisers, earning them the nickname “The Swish Family Robinson.”

But worse was to come when at the end of 2009, details came out on how Ms Robinson was having an extended affair with a 19-year-old businessman for whom she had secured an undeclared £100,000 donation from two different property developers.

Castlereagh Borough Council, which the Robinsons were known to have run as a fiefdom, was forced to conduct an investigation into the award of a catering contract to the same young man, that she was said to have influenced.

Iris resigned from public life being admitted to acute psychiatric care at the same time as the police raided the offices of Castlereagh Borough Council. Notwithstanding this bad publicity, her husband continued on as first minister until the beginning of 2016.

Scandal, corruption and hypocrisy may define the DUP to many but earlier this year they received their highest ever vote share as hundreds of thousands of Protestants voted for them amid heightened community divisions.

Sinn Fein had almost caught the DUP in an Assembly election — the prospect of a border poll was raised against the context of Brexit. Protestants voted in huge numbers for a party that takes its own working-class base for granted — many against their better judgements.

In the absence of a cross-community progressive alternative in Northern Ireland, society here continues to polarise.

The DUP are now propping up the Tory government. They have secured a few crumbs from the table for an act of betrayal against the working class throughout these islands. This is an outcome that will only further divide communities; something that suits both sides of the power-divide.

Those of us who are trying to build a cross-community labour movement to overcome division find ourselves pushing a boulder up an even steeper gradient but perhaps, at least, the DUP’s feet of clay as well as their regressive social policies will be subject to much greater scrutiny than ever before.

Donal O’Cofaigh is a campaigns and communications officer for Unite in Northern Ireland. This article is written in a personal capacity.

Senior DUP figures appeared to be resigned to the likelihood of a Westminster North Antrim byelection following the findings against Ian Paisley by the Westminster committee on standards. The committee’s recommendation that the MP should be suspended for 30 sitting days from the House of Commons for failing to register taking two family holidays to Sri Lanka paid for by the Sri Lankan government has opened a door for his political opponents: here.