Saturday, April 23, 2022

THE IRA CEASEFIRE 1994
My part in its downfall ...

(with apologies to Spike Milligan RIP)

Wilton Park, February 1996
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As this conference took place under Chatham House rules, I am not allowed to tell you who said what. For once this is very convenient as I can't remember a single word of who said what at this remove.

I have also been told that I can't tell you who was there, but that's me in the third row from the front with the photographer's flash reflecting in my glasses.

I can tell you that there are seven people who were there who aren't there.

So thanks to Chatham House I am able to present you with a mystery that not even Monsieur Poirot could solve.

However, I'll put you partly out of your misery by filling in a little of the background.

The theme of the conferene at this UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (as it was then) Centre was:
BRITAIN AND IRELAND
Their Future in a Changing Europe

and everybody almost who was anybody in this area was there, government officials, press correspondents, university reasearchers, representatives of important institutes, and a whack more.

There was even one member of the Irish Seanad (Senate), whom I cannot name, but who was actually a neighbour of mine some years earlier. I'm not sure we were both living in the same place at the same time then, but if we were she was on my paper run. A most civilised lady.

Anyway, we were not long arrived at the conference centre on the first night when reality struck a deadly blow.

This was 1996 and the IRA ceasefire had been in force since 1994, at which time all sorts of momentum had picked up for cooperation between the two camps within Northern Ireland, between the North and the South, and between Ireland and the UK (which we used to call England).

The bolt from the blue that night was the breaking of the IRA ceasefire with a massive bomb in London's Canary Wharf (or close by).

The attendance was stunned when this came across on the television. Even an on-screen Gerry Adams looked a bit put out.

There was an immediate, and slightly undignified, rush for the door by a small but select number of very senior government officials from both sides of the Irish sea. Ministers to be briefed etc.

The reason I was there was that I was about to inherit the EU Northern Ireland Peace Programme and the EU Irish INTERREG programmes in the Irish Department (Ministry) of Finance.

And what a start that was, with lots more excitement to follow over the following five years until I was unceremoniously plucked from this area of work to man the blade of one of the Department's financial axes as it fell on the "outside" Departments allocated to my benign control.

THE END.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

PERCIVAL LEA-WILSON DI RIC

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While on a visit to Gorey, I was told that there was a Harry Clarke window in the Protestant Cathedral in the town.

I was aware of Harry Clarke and his extraordinary Geneva window, a work of absolute beauty. So I paid a visit to the church in Gorey.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that the window had the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) crest (above) worked into it. Now, I have RIC in my family history, too many of them maybe, so I was immediately intrigued by the window and wondered about its background.


The dedication was to the memory of Percival Lea-Wilson who had been an RIC District Inspector in the town and who had been shot there in June 1920 by members of Michael Collins's squad.

Now, at that time there were RIC members being shot all over the place, so what had this guy done that merited the squad being sent to liquidate him.

Well, it appeared that after the leaders surrendered in the Easter Rising, they and others, were herded into the garden of the Rotunda Hospital and, on the orders of Lea-Wilson, made to lie on the ground for 12 hours, soiling themselves in the process. And Tom Clarke, the ageing leader of the Rising, was ordered by Lea-Wilson to be stripped naked and beaten.

This led to Michael Collins vowing revenge which he finally got in 1920 in Gorey town.

Lea-Wilson's widow commissioned the stained glass window in memory of her husband and the theme of choice was St Stephen the first Christian martyr.

Click on the image for a larger version

This is the full window. The two insets are the RIC crest and the Wilson family crest. Ironically, the motto on the family crest is facta non verba, deeds not words, which ironically could be applied both to the treatment of Tom Clarke by Lea-Wilson and the subsequent treatment of Lea-Wilson by Collins. No messing.

Incidentally, it was Lea-Wilson's widow who ended up, in the 1930s, donating a painting, which has only lately been discovered to be an original Caravaggio, to the Jesuits. The Jesuits have now loaned it indefinitely to the National Gallery of Ireland.

You can view a good video on Percival Lea-Wilson here and commentary on the stained glass window here.

You can also check out my own RIC connections here. I haven't yet delved into the full implications of all of these particular connections.

You can follow up on the RIC generally here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Gorey стоє з україною


Click on any image for a larger version.

And this is no exaggeration.

When I was in Gorey just a few weeks ago but after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there was not a single sign of support for Ukraine to be seen.

Today, they are all over the place, ubiquitous but not universal. They are there in sufficient number, though, to warrant the slogan reproduced at the top of this post. It is taken from a shop window and is not the only one on display. The alternative is the Ukrainian flag and support is not always lacking a sense of humour or ingenuity. However the wee piece of humour I noticed may just have been inadvertent.

The pictures below are taken in just one street, well two actually, Main and Esmonde Street. The latter is a continuation of the former. So all one street for my purpose. I think I have managed to record every premises in the street indicating support for Ukraine. You can see these below. I think they must account for about three quarters of all the shops in the street.


Redmond's had two roundels and a bespoke display in the window. Strong sentiments.


I spoke to the lady behind the counter who was very engaged with the Ukranian situation. She told me there was a Polish girl down the road whose family in Poland had taken in two Ukranian refugee families. So there is a serious connection between Gorey and Ukraine which may, at least in part, explain the profusion of signs of support in the town.


This one brings me down a rabbit hole but I'll be back to the sequence asap.


Spotted in the window of the shop above along with the Gorey backs Ukraine roundel. I have posted on this product a fair while ago so look if you will and we'll pass on.










































































This is particularly clever.

This was the only shop displaying a notice of what the Ukranians needed.

Click on image for a larger version

As well as listing items, the notice offers to deliver to Ukraine any items received.






Even the little people have been conscripted into the cause, perhaps inadvertently.


Equally, here, I couldn't make up my mind whether this was a subtle display of support buried in what amounts to an advertisement or an opportunity for such foregone. The absence of a roundel or flag makes me suspect the latter.


You be the judge.




Finally, the only premises I could find last time round that bore any resemblance to the Ukrainian colours has not signed up when push came to shove.