About Us

The REACH projects aim is to deliver the hopes of the P.U.L. community, helping them to understand their history and culture. To educate both the young and the elderly so it helps our people to move onto a peaceful and brighter future for all of the people of Northern Ireland. To deliver a single identity program based around renewing, engaging and advancing community hopes in the Newtownards Road/Ballymacarrett area using history and culture.

  1. To engage, educate and inform the parents, helping them understand their history and culture. 2. To engage, educate and inform the young people, helping them to understand their history and culture.

If you have any questions please feel free to call – 028 9045 7657


LATEST – 19th November

As the people of Ireland, North and South prepare to remember the fallen of Ulster and Irish Divisions at the Somme 100 years ago , we would like to thank the man who made it possible.

In 1975, a leading French academic, Professor Rene Fréchet contacted a Belfast paediatrician and author Dr Ian Adamson on the publication of Dr Adamson’s book “The Cruthin – The Ancient Kindred “. Building on this relationship “ Dr Adamson helped found several community organisations including The Farset Youth Project.

Building on this European theme, with assistance from Tomas, Cardinal O Fiaich, Farset took a group of teenagers from the Shankill , Falls, Tallaght and Inchicore through France to follow the footsteps of Ulster’s great Christian, St. Columbanus of Bangor . Returning home Adamson de-toured to the dilapidated

Ulster Tower explaining to the teenagers the role all Irishmen played during WW1 in France, Belgium and the Dardanelles.

From this Farset Project a Somme Association was initiated on July 1st 1986, hosted by Mayoress Rhonda Paisley. Dr Adamson was to propose that complexes close to the Ulster Tower be built, Thiepval Wood be purchased, and Helens Tower be opened to the public to honour both Unionist and Nationalist who fought at the Somme. Assistance was secured from Dr Paisley, the European Parliament, French Embassy and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

On September 12th 1986, Dr Adamson with Dr Paisley, F. Proctor, and J. Hewitt visited the Somme battlefield, Ulster Tower and Beaumont- Hamel. It was proposed that the Ulster Tower be re-opened with provision of oral documentation and photographic displays. Back in Belfast’s Old Town Hall on 17th November 1919, Sir James Craig proposed a memorial for Ulster’s fallen, the Ulster landmark, Helens Tower seemed an ideal template. Standing 70 feet tall on the German front line the tower was the first official memorial erected on the Western Front, being dedicated on 19th November 1921. By the 1980s with the tower in disrepair, Dr Adamson convened a meeting of the Farset Somme Project on April 21st 1988, then employing D.Campbell as Supervisor and J.Hewitt as Manager the Project pushed ahead, then on 21st June 1988 at a press conference in the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum the re-opening of the Ulster Tower was announced, this then took place on July 1st 1988 with Dr Adamson as Chairman overseeing the arrangements.

Later as a guest to Kensington Palace with Sir Robin Kinahan , Dr Adamson consulted with HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester who agreed to re-dedicate the Ulster Tower, on July 1st 1989. In 1990 Dr Adamson formally established The Somme Association with The Duchess being its first President. In 2004 Dr Adamson visited the Duchess shortly before she passed, her son, HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester agreed to carry on her role, having opened The Somme Heritage Centre, Conlig. The Centre also contains an exhibition on Nationalist and Republican Ireland as part of our shared history.

As Founding Chair of the Somme Association Dr Adamson travelled to France and Belgium each year since its inception to remember those from throughout Ireland who fought and died there. HRH The Duke of Gloucester has officiated several times, also meeting with Irish President Mary McAleese in Turkey. Dr Ian Adamson also was the first to lay a wreath on behalf of the Somme Association on the grave of Major Willie Redmond at Locre.

On September 10th , 2007 at an exhibition in The Somme Heritage Centre Irish President Mary McAleese and First Minister Dr Ian Paisley shook hands , a symbolic milestone on the road to reconciliation ,saying , “ congratulations to Dr Ian Adamson and all members of the Somme Association for this labour of love “. This key event was to pave the way for the visit of her Majesty The Queen to the National Irish War Memorial, Longbridge, on 18th May 2011 where Dr Adamson again represented The Somme Association.

It has been an honour to work with Dr Adamson OBE, Paediatrician, Lord Mayor ,Author and visionary community representative without whom we would all not be able to properly commemorate the Ulster Tower at the Somme in this centenary year,


R Williamson , Chair , Dalaradia Historical Group.


21st July

The Loyalist Communities Council has considered Lord Frost’s statement today and gives it a cautious welcome.

It is clear that our Government recognises that the NI Protocol was a mistake and that it has caused a detrimental change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of its people being sought or obtained. It is also destroying trade with our kinsfolk in Great Britain that has endured for generations.
The LCC maintains that the European Commission and the Irish Government in particular have had malicious motives for imposing the protocol on our people. Their failure to listen and to adhere to the core guarantees of the Belfast Agreement as it pertains to both communities here, is the main reason for the problematic impasse that has been reached and why this Protocol will never be accepted in Northern Ireland as a workable solution to Brexit.
If the Irish Government wishes to repair some of the damage it has done over the past two years then it should be urging the EC to engage in a positive renegotiation, inclusive of representatives of Northern Ireland this time, to reach a pragmatic solution that is consistent with the Belfast Agreement. 
The LCC commends the unionist community for the restrained but determined protests across Northern Ireland against the imposition of the Protocol. We will now await the response from Dublin and Brussels before determining if there should be any resumption and escalation of protest action here.

24th May

Ben Lowry sounded alarm bells when writing in his column, Sat, March 27th ‘There should be no Irish Language act, but it’s too late—DUP agreed it . He further commented “ The Irish Language will be key to the push to make N.I. unrecognisable as part of the U.K. Adding “ Wait until you see how Belfast’s radical new Irish Language sign policy is seized on by republicans “.

This is potentially a terrible development for unionists coming at a time when the unionist community already feels betrayed and let down. Having made enquiries and talked to Academics  and other knowledgeable commentators I am convinced that there is justification for the alarm and I fear there is evidence of unionist compliance with an Irish language Act that is firmly in our faces and designed to further erode the Britishness of Northern Ireland.

My understanding is that the Executive are overseeing preparations to process Irish Language signs through instructions to the respective departments and local Councils . Millions of pounds will be spent on signage on streets, roadways, motorways, train and bus stations and all government sponsored buildings including Belfast City Hall. Clearly  Sinn Fein believe that they have the green light to press ahead with Irish Language signage across our cities, towns and villages. 

The one potential saving grace is that unionism now has new leaderships about to take office and ample evidence on the ground that grass-roots unionists will simply not tolerate and further diminution of their identity. Can we therefore get answers to the following questions:

When will we see the draft Bill ?

Will the unionist leaderships categorically confirm that any Bill that surpasses or contravenes the language provisions in the Belfast Agreement will not be countenanced ? including that Irish Language signs will not be erected in Belfast and across the country? Remember, the use of including Ulster-Scots is not an acceptable compromise and will be perceived as a Trojan Horse.

Will the Executive confirm if any process to prepare for the erection of Irish Language signs is underway including if Irish Language experts at Queens University have been commissioned to translate existing English signage into Irish?

Edwin Poots and Doug Beattie along with their MLAs and Councillors must publicly commit to voting down any Bill that breaches the Agreement and requires public bodies (and potentially private bodies) to promote the use of the Irish Language including signs. This issue may well determine who speaks for unionism after the next election and is every bit a threat to peace as is the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Jim Wilson, Chair , REACH UK, Belfast


19th May

Centenarian receives new NI Centenary flag from LCC in Belfast | Belfast News Letter

The Loyalist Communities Council launched its new Northern Ireland centenary flag on Wednesday with a presentation to a centenarian in Belfast.

Mrs Emily Clarke being presented with the first of the LCC's NI Centenary flags at the Somme Nursing Home in east Belfast.

Mrs Emily Clarke being presented with the first of the LCC’s NI Centenary flags at the Somme Nursing Home in east Belfast.


Mrs Emily Clarke, who celebrates her 100 birthday on July 3, received the first flag at the Somme Nursing Home in the east of the city.

The LCC said it is aware that flags and emblems “can be highly potent symbols of community allegiances” and are also “important demonstrators of our loyalist and unionist heritage and culture.”

In a statement released following the launch, the LCC said: In recognition of the first centenary of our country the LCC would encourage all commemorations to be conducted in a spirit of respect, pride, and enjoyment and mindful of continuing covid restrictions.

“The LCC would wish to prevent our national emblems being left on display in a dilapidated state and would ask that steps are taken to prevent this occurring.

“Accordingly, the LCC has agreed the following protocol for the display of flags and emblems.”

The LCC said that although there is no means of enforcing the proposed protocol, it has appealed for its widespread adoption, and adherence to, in loyalist and unionist areas.

The three-point protocol states:

1. The national flags of the United Kingdom, and of Northern Ireland should be displayed and flown in our communities in a respectful manner, in places where they will command such respect and not be used for provocative purposes, and they should be maintained in good order.

2. In recognition and respect for the centenary of our country the LCC has commissioned a special flag. This flag will be erected in our communities subject to appropriate respect being shown in the vicinity of churches, schools, and other cross-community buildings.

3. Flags may be acquired from recognised regalia shops or from local loyalist community organisations.


12th May

The Loyalist Communities Council can confirm that a small delegation of its members led by Chairman David Campbell met with Lord Frost and Secretary of State Brandon Lewis on Monday.

The delegation emphasised the need for significant change to the NI Protocol to bring it back into consistency with the Belfast Agreement and to remove the clear change in the status of Northern Ireland that has occurred due to the imposition of the Protocol.

Members advised Lord Frost of the efforts they had to make to try and calm the wider unionist community and appealed to him to ensure that the Prime Minister honoured his commitments to seek, and if necessary unilaterally legislate, to reach an agreement on a workable alternative.

The LCC also advised Lord Frost that they were seeking a meeting with EC Vice-President Sefcovic to ensure that he understands how the Belfast Agreement has been breached by the Protocol.

7th May

Yesterday evening Dalaradia unvield their new Centenary mural. It celebrates not only the Centenary of the land we hold so dear, it also recognises local Orange lodges, flute bands, the Northern Ireland football team and Ulsters connection to Rangers Football Club.




A big well done to Winston Irvine and Pride Of The Shore Flute Band who took part in the unveiling.

Respect – Heritage – Culture

9th April

Loyalist Communities Council statement


5th March

20th February


Community leaders on frustration at article 16 and fears of violence returning

Loyalist Jim Wilson on the Newtownards Road in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Davison

Loyalist Jim Wilson on the Newtownards Road in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Davison

Jim Wilson has seen tension on the streets of Belfast for much of his life. Today, he uses the image of the boiling kettle to describe the atmosphere in loyalist areas: “It’s simmering and simmering.”

“And then it’ll start to come to the boil. A lot of us are trying to calm it down … but the frustration in our communities, it is really serious. People are trying to keep a lid on it.”

A former member of the loyalist paramilitary group, the Red Hand Commandos, Wilson is now a community worker in east Belfast trying to calm tensions caused by the controversy over the Northern Ireland protocol.

“The very last engagement we want in our communities is violence of any description,” says Wilson; the only thing the flags protests of 2012-13 achieved was to give over 300 kids criminal records, he emphasises.

‘One minute the vote for Brexit was a UK-wide thing, but now what they’ve said is the UK voted to leave but Northern Ireland, you have to stay a wee bit there’

“Violence has hurt us in the past and it’ll hurt us in the future and we don’t want violence,” he goes on. But his declaration, speaking to The Irish Times, comes with a caveat.

“I’m not saying violence is totally out the window. We’re a bit long in the tooth, there are younger lads coming through … they’ll push us aside and say, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter what you say’.”

Graffiti voicing opposition to the Irish Sea Border and the Northern Ireland protocol – which loyalists oppose because it places a customs and regulatory border between the North and the rest of the UK – first appeared in January, and has mushroomed since the controversy over the European Commission’s hastily aborted plan to trigger article 16 and the temporary withdrawal of some staff at Belfast and Larne ports amid concerns for their safety.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) subsequently said these threats were not credible, with both the police and loyalist sources attributing them to individuals or small groups, not loyalist paramilitary organisations.

However, the concern now is that the further tensions are raised, particularly among the younger generation, the more difficult the situation might be to control.

Jim Wilson at a mural for the Titanic on the Newtownards Road, in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Davison
Jim Wilson at a mural for the Titanic on the Newtownards Road, in Belfast. Photograph: Stephen Davison


“It just seems to be taking and taking and taking of the unionist community,” says Wilson. “[The Protocol] is probably the biggest kick in the teeth we have had from the government in the United Kingdom in a long, long while.”

“One minute the vote for Brexit was a UK-wide thing, but now what they’ve said is the UK voted to leave but Northern Ireland, you have to stay a wee bit there [in the EU],” says Jim, a north Belfast community worker who works mainly with young people in the Tiger’s Bay area.

He is the only one of a number of community workers from loyalist areas in Belfast and north Down who would be fully identified talking The Irish Times because of the past abuse they have received on social media.

There is the sense that unionism is treated with a ‘lack of respect’ by nationalist politicians, and by those in the Republic

For example, there is frustration and anger over how loyalists are portrayed by the media, as well as successive incidents within their own communities that have fuelled disillusionment and resentment.

They list these as including unfounded claims made about loyalist communities in north Belfast following the disappearance and death of schoolboy Noah Donohoe in June.

Then, there is a Belfast City Council motion that clears the way for a minority of people in a community to ask for the erection of Irish language street signs.

Then, there was the unhappiness caused internally when Crusaders FC – a north Belfast club with a strong tradition in loyalist areas – backed calls for an all-island league.

Finally, and this appears often in conversations with loyalists, there is the sense that unionism is treated with a “lack of respect” by nationalist politicians, and by those in the Republic.

Such factors are symptomatic, they argue, of the extent to which their identity is being undermined. “People are now just collectively demonising everything about being British in Northern Ireland, and it’s working,” says Jim.

Brexit has brought a united Ireland forward, “there’s no doubt about it,” says Martin, from the Shankill area of west Belfast. “Somewhere along the line there will be a big, major discussion on a united Ireland

“It’s inevitable, but the way it’s being done at the moment, it’s getting forced down your throat without your opinion or how you feel about it,” he tells The Irish Times.

Of the protocol, he says, “we’re saying clearly in unionist communities it won’t work because we don’t want it to work. It’s aggressive, it’s offensive, it totally demeans our situation in our own state, and nobody seems to care.”

Unionist parties have called for the protocol to be scrapped, expressing concern not just about the constitutional implications but also the impact on businesses and the availability of goods in the North since it came into effect.

A DUP online petition calling on the UK government to trigger Article 16 to secure “unfettered” trade from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, has attracted more than 142,000 signatures. It will be be debated in Westminster on Monday.

Last week Reach UK, an east Belfast community organisation which represents former loyalist paramilitaries, called for “calm and rational” engagement to lower tensions and solve issues related to the protocol; Wilson points out that so far, “the leaders of loyalism have been very, very quiet”.

“This is in the hands of politicians, and if the politicians don’t sort it and fix it then that’s where you run the risk … that then loyalism might look at it in different ways.”

On the streets, “what I’m hearing from young and old, people are talking silly stuff about violence,” says Jim. “These are people who I never would have thought would have talked that way, so you’re not talking loyalists here but all shades of unionism from top to bottom. They’re really angry.”

He puts it down to “windbagging” rather than a serious call for violence. Nevertheless, he emphasises that he and others present lived through the Troubles and “it’s probably those who didn’t engage in violence are shouting it the loudest, but they’re still shouting it and young people listen to that.”

“You stand at the market on a Saturday and you hear someone saying they can’t get the fish from Scotland, and then that ripples around, and that’s where you hear the talk, ‘Oh, we should do this, why don’t the boys get out’, and that’s where it gets dangerous,” says David, a community worker in Ards and north Down. “Somebody will listen to that and think that’s what people want.”

“It’s a catalogue of things and it’s just building and building and all it takes is one kid pointed in the wrong direction and you’ll have kids going to jail again,” says Martin.

His concern is for the summer ahead, and the marching season; he explains that young people now begin collecting wood for the bonfires – traditionally lit in loyalist areas on the eve of July 12th – as early as March or April.

“You know what there is an appetite for? A long, long summer,” he says. “See when the kids start building for bonfires here, and you then have councils going in and moving them … they feel that everything they do as far as tradition round bonfires is getting taken away year by year, bit by bit.

“That’s going to fuel an awful lot of violence from young lads whom people can’t stop over the summer months.”

15th February

Trigger Article 16


Please sign the petition above.

13th February


Reach UK group backs DUP plan to ‘free’ Northern Ireland from protocol

A loyalist sign in Lurgan, Co Armagh, about the Belfast Agreement amid tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire


A loyalist sign in Lurgan, Co Armagh, about the Belfast Agreement amid tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A community organisation which represents former loyalist paramilitaries has called for “calm and rational” engagement to lower tensions and solve issues related to the Northern Ireland protocol.

East Belfast-based Reach UK also gave its support to a plan announced by the DUP last week to “free” Northern Ireland from the protocol.

In a statement the organisation said it “endorses the five-point plan from our country’s First Minister, and call on all to engage with it as a first step to resolving the divisive Irish Sea border and Northern Ireland protocol”.

All parties in Northern Ireland should “calmly and rationally engage with the UK government to address the protocol and Irish Sea border issues, which are causing such alarm within all our communities”, it said.

It is understood these sentiments are backed by the loyalist paramilitary groups the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando, and by loyalist community groups.

Loyalists and unionists are opposed to the protocol – the part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which relates to Northern Ireland – because it places a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea between it and the rest of the UK.

An online petition by the DUP calling for triggering of article 16 in order to secure “unfettered” trade between Britain and Northern Ireland reached the required 100,000 signatures within 24 hours, with the party receiving notification on Friday that it will be debated at Westminster later this month.

The petition was part of its five-point plan which also includes the boycott by the DUP of all cross-Border activity related to the protocol and the opposition of all protocol-related measures in the North’s Assembly.

The DUP leader, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, said on Friday that people needed to “take heed” of what was being said by the unionist community. “There has to be recognition in London, Dublin and Brussels that damage has been done by this protocol and therefore we have to deal with it.”

However, a joint statement released by the EU and UK following talks on Thursday night gave no indication either side was prepared to abandon the protocol, with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the EU vice-president Maros Sefcovic reiterating their “full commitment” to it, and saying they had agreed to find “workable solutions on the ground”.

In recent weeks graffiti opposing the protocol has appeared in loyalist areas, and staff carrying out physical checks on goods at Larne and Belfast ports were withdrawn from work for a time over concerns for their safety.

Questions have since been raised about the decision-making process which led to their withdrawal. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has consistently said there was no credible threat and those responsible were “individuals or small groups”, an assessment backed up by loyalist sources.

Those sources have described growing tensions in their areas, and while it is understood former paramilitary groups have no desire for a return to violence there are concerns that if tensions continue to rise this could become harder to maintain.

Customs checks

Instead of the protocol Reach UK said it supported a mutual enforcement proposal from the pro-Brexit think-tank the Centre for Brexit Policy, also backed by former Ulster Unionist party leader Lord David Trimble, which it claims will avoid customs checks by having the UK and EU agree to recognise each other’s standards in law.

In its statement it called on everyone in Northern Ireland to sign the DUP’s petition “extending the 100,000 signatures to 250,000, not as a party-political exercise but as a measure of province-wide opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol and Irish Sea border”, and called on the British government to fulfil its commitment to “delivering unfettered access” within the UK internal market.

It also warned the Belfast Agreement had been promoted during Brexit “as a totally green document”. If the agreement could not be implemented “inclusively, pro-union citizens will have no choice but to withdraw all support” from it.

13th February

REACH UK Statement

Reach UK endorses the 5 point plan from our countries First Minister and call on all to engage with it as a first step to resolving the divisive Irish Sea Border and NI Protocol. We also ask all within Northern Ireland to sign the relevant petition extending the 100,000 signatures to 250,000, not as a political party exercise but as a measure of province wide opposition to the NI Protocol and Irish Sea Border. We also pledge every support to those legal professionals within the pro union business community who may wish to launch a legal challenge to the protocol and end the uncertainty within all our lives. Reach UK is a non political entity and stress that these should not be seen as party political initiatives but as a societal imperative for us all. We implore all to set aside selfish or political career interests and work for a solution to the benefit of all within Northern Ireland. Reach UK calls on all parties in Northern Ireland to engage calmly and rationally with the UK government to address the NI Protocol and Irish Sea Border issues which are causing such alarm within our communities. As a possible way forward we support the idea, as we understand it, from The Centre for Brexit Policy’s proposal that Mutual Enforcement can provide the way forward. This arrangement would see the UK and EU recognising each others products and services in law, thereby negating the need for checks on goods going between UK and Northern Ireland. As Owen Patterson states under this arrangement only checks on goods going between EU and UK are required allowing for UK sovereignty to be protected and the Irish Sea Border to be abandoned. Mutual Enforcement works by inverting the normal approach to customs enforcement with compliance placed as law on the exporter of the exporting territory, critically the importing territory asserts its jurisdiction beyond its border and the border position becomes redundant. If Lord Trimble, whose role in bringing about the GFA is often downplayed, can support this, we feel it needs to be addressed as a sensible way forward. Furthermore on behalf of all Pro Union people we urge the UK government to fulfil the spirit of its published White Paper which commits to “delivering unfettered access for NI businesses to the whole UK market”, enshrining this principle in law as promised in the New Decade New Approach agreement also that the UK Internal Market will support our commitments on unfettered access, ensuring that they form part of a coherent UK wide system.

As to the Good Friday Agreement, this has been promoted during Brexit, by those in Eire, the EU and USA as a totally Green document serving only Republican/Nationalist interests. The dangers of this blatant sectarian approach have been highlighted by our members to the Eire and UK governments over several years to no avail. The EUs aggressive triggering of Article 16, immediately effecting a hard border on this Island, after years of issuing threats against any such move has driven a stake through the heart of the GFA which may yet prove fatal. Should all pro union stakeholders gradually withdraw support from the political process of the Good Friday Agreement, history will record that it was the EU that killed it.

Indeed if the GFA cannot be implemented inclusively then Billy Hutchinson’s recent assessment that Pro Union citizens will have no choice but to withdraw all support from the GFA would seem to be the only way forward. Were it not for the intensive work of the PUP and UPRG the GFA would never have been delivered, an inconvenient truth for many, so when people like Councillor and Party Leader Billy Hutchinson make this assessment it needs to be listened to. After his article, an example of being demonize occurred when he was dismissed as “a Loyalist Activist” rather than by his position or title by journalists, thus implying he is somehow “shady“. This in the same week as our First Minster being referred to as “Foster“ on television. These offensive discourtesies which never seem to be applied to Republicans only serve to alienate our community along with the Medias continuous referring to Loyalists as Terrorists but the IRA as Operatives. However these pale into significance compared to the SDLP and Alliance hysteria and sectarian contempt vented on those members from the pro union community who dared to engage in democratic and lawful discussions with civil servants on the future of our country, this from parties who engage on a daily basis with “former”(?) Republican terrorists who voted in council in support of Sinn Fein IRA proposals over 85% of the time in a twelve month period, and who continue to sanitise the IRA and its litany of crimes since the days of the Pan Nationalist Front. This contempt for all things Unionist highlighted long ago as a cold house in 2002 by SOS John Reid and again by Tony Blairs right hand man Jonathon Powell when he acknowledged that the UK government, Eire government and others had pandered to every whim of the IRA and left behind and ignored the PUL community have contributed to the current sense of alienation and betrayal, and needs to be addressed urgently.

If we are to continue to resolve our differences by peaceful dialogue then Taoiseach Michael Martin should apologise for the extreme and belligerent attitude taken at all times by Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney during Brexit discussions. With the backing of 28 EU countries they attempted to steam roll over the GFA protections promised also to the pro union citizens in Northern Ireland, a different attitude would have brought us to a better place today, and not destroyed 20 years of genuine North South cooperation and good neighbourliness. Perhaps the appointment of a Special Ambassador in the mould of Bertie Ahearn to repair North South relations would be the first step of conciliation between our two nations, he would find in the Ulster people integrity, courtesy and forgiveness.

REACH UK committed to an inclusive and diverse society for all within the British Isles.


21st January

LCC statement

A delegation from the Loyalist Communities Council has met with the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office, Madeleine Alessandri, to be briefed on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol following the UKs’ withdrawal from the European Union. The delegation comprising David Campbell (Chairman), Winston Irvine, Jimmy Birch, and Robert Williamson relayed concerns from loyalist/unionist areas that Northern Ireland would be treated separately from Great Britain and asked the NIO to ensure that HMG acted quickly to minimise disruption and to ensure that there would be no actual or perceived diminution in Northern Ireland’s constitutional position.

The delegation strongly criticised the Irish government and nationalist representatives for only representing a nationalist perspective of the Belfast Agreement during the negotiations with the EU and asked the NIO to ensure that the new US President and Administration was briefed on the need for impartiality and respect for the majority position in Northern Ireland when it comes to dealing with NI/US issues. The LCC has repeated its appeal to loyalists to remain calm during this transition phase but also warned the NIO that it would be monitoring how Northern Ireland citizens would be treated under the new dispensation and would consider sponsoring legal action to protect the position of unionists if that became necessary.

The LCC delegation also emphasised the importance of appropriate events to mark the first centenary of Northern Ireland and has asked the NIO for an explanation as to why the loyalist community has been excluded from the Centenary Forum established by the Secretary of State.



1st October 


Any approach must ‘have the imprimatur of the governments in London, Dublin and Stormont’

Parliament Buildings in Stormont. Photograph: Peter Morrison/PA Wire


Parliament Buildings in Stormont. Photograph: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

An organisation representing loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland has called on the Irish and British governments and the North’s Assembly to take the “hard political decisions” to remove paramilitarism from society.

The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), which represents the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Red Hand Commando, met the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) on Wednesday.

The IRC – which was set up by the Irish and UK governments and aims to bring an end to paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland – is due to release its next report in November.

“Hopefully out of the meeting today they [THE IRC]are seeing there is an urge and an interest within loyalism to move beyond paramilitarism, to move to a place where it can be helped and supported by governments,” said Jim Wilson of the Loyalist Communities Council.

Citing the example of the Red Hand Commando, which had a request to be de-proscribed – or legalised – rejected, Mr Wilson said that “at the minute there’s nothing for any group that wants to go down the road of removing it from the paramilitary scene … there’s no system that we would have where we could even see it starting and try and get to an endgame. Government needs to do that.”

Speaking to The Irish Times after the meeting, Winston Irvine of the Loyalist Communities Council said any approach needed to be “comprehensive” and must “have the imprimatur of the governments in London, Dublin and Stormont.

“If they want to fully civilianise Northern Ireland and remove the paramilitarism dynamic from society then there needs to be some big political decisions taken and there needs to be careful policy discussions within these [Loyalist] groupings,” he said.

But he warned that the organisations must be involved if the plans were to be successful. “Any top-down approach doesn’t work and won’t work,” he said.


Within the loyalist leadership, Mr Irvine said, there had been “ample evidence to suggest that those groupings are on a transformation and transitioning process.

“They want to see their communities free of paramilitary activity, they want to see a process that deals with the past, they want to see the socio-economic factors addressed,” he said.

“The loyalist intent I think is very clear and evident. They want to see a process under which all of the armed groups, the Provisional IRA included, can bring about a Northern Ireland without paramilitarism.”

However, he warned of a number of factors which he said must be recognised, including the uncertainty of Brexit and the marginalisation of loyalists, who he said had been “criminalised and demonised” whereas the narrative around the Provisional IRA had been “sanitised”.

This, he said, put the loyalist leadership under pressure from the grass roots when trying to achieve progress towards ending paramilitarism.

“If progress towards ending paramilitarism is going to be assessed, there needs to be an equitable approach,” he said.

This was particularly acute when addressing the challenge of bringing all of their membership with them, but said the Loyalist Communities Council’s assessment was that it had the capability to “take the critical mass forward.”

28th September

Plaque wording;

Late 19th century gas lamp donated by Pretani Associates, Dr Ian Adamson OBE and Helen Brooker, to the Dalaradia Historical Group to recognise their work on Common Identity. This work promotes one cultural narrative for the British Isles to which all can belong. A narrative which begins by understanding the first known name of the islands – The Isles of Pretani.

Knowledge brings a light which reveals the way forward towards stability within these islands.

Dedicated by Professor Wesley Hutchinson on the 27th November 2019.

Dalaradia have understood for many years the importance of promoting a Regional Common Identity for the British Isles. Knowing the first known name of the islands – The Isles of Pretani – and therefore the first definite name for the people, the Pretani – reveals a common identity, a common starting point for the history of these islands.

Common Identity promotes one cultural narrative to which all can belong. This cultural narrative will explain all the journeys, connections and identities that are important to people in this region. Common Identity reminds us:

· We all belong to a continent and we all belong to an area of land within that continent

· We all have travelled before settling in an area of land

· We all have strands to our family line

· We are simply the next generation, facing the same challenges, with the responsibility to secure the future of the world.

An understanding of all journeys, connections and identities within a region, often highlights to people that they have more in common with each other than they realised, but it is subsequent invasions and imposition of characteristics over many years which have confused them. The Common Identity narrative allows freedom of expression, freedom of thought and space to create a sense of belonging for all.

Having a broader perspective to history will connect people to their rich cultural history and remove cultural confusion, which is essential for creating cultural stability. Cultural stability is the foundation for achieving political and economic stability. Such stability allows societies to thrive and achieve an acceptable quality of life for all.

To Ian Adamson, a man of great wisdom, who ensured we had knowledge.

10th September


Loyalism is not getting the official help that it needs to transform

Next month marks five years since Jonathan Powell launched the Loyalist Communities Council.

28th August


Archive of loyalist who met with IRA and exchanged letters with President Clinton sells for £11k

“A huge archive of papers belonging to the late loyalist paramilitary leader turned peacemaker William ‘Plum’ Smith has been sold in a Dublin auction.

And the former Red Hand Commando’s collection – which included documents related to secret loyalist talks with the IRA and letters from American President Bill Clinton – went for nearly twice what the auctioneers had estimated.

Whyte’s had predicted the ex- Progressive Unionist Party chairman’s archive would fetch up between €5,000 and €7,000 but in the end it realised €13,000.”

11th August


Our survey. How Unionist are Conservative Party members?


29th July

Congratulations to our colleague at REACH Robin Stewart on receiving a Nominated Neighbour award from East Side Arts.

This recognises his untiring work to his community through the Covid Pandemic.

Aimee from East Side Arts presented the award and a portrait of Robin will feature on their website and be shown in Connswater shopping centre.

Robin is shown observing social distancing  with community volunteers , Chrissie and Dawn from CFNI  whose support to us has been invaluable.



25th July


17th June

5th June

Why the GAA’s rulebook poses a conundrum for unionist president of new east Belfast club – Nelson McCausland



4th June

A list of up coming programs on Loyalist Culture – Not to be missed!

https://www.facebook.com/ballymaccentre/ – Click here

20th May

Executive plan for returning to work.

  1. Executive approach document

2.Our approach document

18th May

Please see below the latest information for offering COVID response in your community and with volunteers. This week we will periodically post these.

Covid19 data

Click here

16th May

Please see below the latest information for offering COVID response in your community and with volunteers. This week we will periodically post these.

Guide to Mitigating the Risk of Infection from Covid-19 for community-based activities

Click here

14th May

Please see below the latest information for offering COVID response in your community and with volunteers. This week we will periodically post these.

Sample risk assessment template (Covid-19)

Click here

12th May

Please see below the latest information for offering COVID response in your community and with volunteers. This week we will periodically post these.

Shopping Support Volunteer during COVID-19 Pandemic

Click here


11th May

Our group continues to offer support throughout different communities during the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic. The simplest thing everyone can do right now is look out for their neighbours and offer help with shopping and other errands.

This week we will periodically post information for doing COVID response in your community and with volunteers. The International Committee of the Red Cross kindly shared various information strategy’s. To start it will be – Frequently Asked Questions

Click here

20th March


10th February

Members of Reach and other community groups doing their course on defibrillator training at the East Belfast Network Centre.


23rd January

Yesterday evening in the Skainos Centre, Belfast our group in conjunction with Dalaradia hosted an evening challenging the idea that Ulster-Scots has a sectarian subtext and that it does not have cross community potential by pointing to evidence in several literary and autobiographical texts that have not received sufficient critical attention.

The meeting was organised following the release of the “NEW DECADE – NEW APPROACH” deal of which it states in section 27/c : “ to enhance and develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots / Ulster British Tradition “

The evening was opened and closed with two beautiful Ulster Scots songs performed by Caoimhe, a BBC radio presenter and singer.
It was followed by a talk by Professor Emeritus Wesley Hutchinson whom we have hosted on many occasion.

Wesley is the Honorary President of Europe’s largest Irish Affairs body, the Societe Francaise d’Etude Irlandaise. He is also the senior academic of Irish affairs at the world renowned Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris.

His global perspective on minority languages was most helpful in celebrating culture without allowing it to be used as a political weapon.

His most recent book, Tracing the Ulster-Scots Imagination, was published by Ulster University last year with the support of the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Pretani Associates. This was the first major study of the Ulster-Scots literary and historiographical tradition across the centuries. Wesley Hutchinson lectures regularly on Ulster-Scots topics, for example at the University of Strasbourg, the Tower Museum, Derry/Londonderry and the Discover Ulster-Scots Centre, Belfast.

Everyone in attendance received a copy of The Country Rhymes by James Orr and a copy of an Ulster Scots translated poster by Dr Ian Adamson made for Cara Friend relating to bullying, suicide awareness, safe school space.

Many thanks to Minister Brian Anderson of the East Belfast Mission for hosting us.

9th January

Last Thursday evening our group in conjunction with Dalaradia hosted an event at the The Somme Association & Somme Museum in Conlig to remember our former patron and friend Dr Ian Adamson OBE on the 1st anniversary of his passing.

Two stained glass pieces of artwork were made by the community and donated to the Somme Museum in his memory. One piece will remain in the museum while the other will be installed in the Ulster Tower in Thiepval, France.

Our Chairperson and Carol Walker, Director of the Somme Museum and the Ulster Tower, highlighted the great work by Dr Adamson in relation to the Somme. Speakers also included David Johnson (NIO) and Robbie Hull (DFA). While in France in the 1980’s, with young people from the Shankill and Falls in Belfast and Tallaght in Dubin, Dr Adamson decided to stop off in the Somme. This would lead to the creation of the Somme Association and the refurbishment of the Ulster Tower.

His legacy lives on through his multiple projects making the past and in particular the Somme, relevant to the everyday lives of people in Northern Ireland.

A British Unionist, an Irish Royalist and an Ulster Loyalist!

Respect – Heritage – Culture
Lest we forget

10th December

This past week members of our group/RATH. Community Group in conjunction with REACH provided 10 homes with food parcels with the last being provided this evening. We also gathered some toys for some families. If we cannot help our own, what is the point in our very existence?

There is a real stigma around food banks with many people too embarrassed to ask for help. There are groups including ourselves who can offer it. Please don’t suffer in silence. In 2019 the number of people in Northern Ireland using food banks has risen by 29% as more families struggle with the cost of living.

In just six months, 17,571 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis here. Almost half of these (7,260) went to children.

A lot of this stems from delays in benifit entitlements. Maybe our government can set aside their petty differences and implement new policy’s. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change. We can only hope and pray!


21st November

REACH presenting secretary of the newly constituted Ulster Tower Street, community and residents group with a starter printer and scanner. Ulster Tower Street community and residents association in the short time they have been in existence have improved the lives of the families that live in an area beside the peace wall that has suffered greatly from violent irish republician attacks that where launched from the shortstrand in the not to distance past. REACH will continue to support the local resident families in their journey.

3rd October

Congratulations to the returning workers.
Members of REACH  attended a protest amid administration fears for Harland and Wolff and it’s many staff, most of whom working class people from all over Belfast and some who have worked for the company for 30 years.
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.

12th June



11th June


28th May

Congratulations to Robin Stewart, REACH’s conflict Transformation Co-Ordinator, on completing ‘Lyra’s walk over the bank holiday weekend – 25th May to 27th May 2019.

Robin’s participation on the walk was a re-confirmation of REACH’s commitment to the Peace Process.  Robin said “ The pain I am feeling in my feet, legs and joints is nothing compared to the pain that is suffered daily by those who have lost loved ones during the conflict in Northern Ireland. The pain that me and my fellow feel will ease and disappear.  The pain of those who have lost loved ones in Northern Ireland never eases or disappears.”

11th May

On Saturday 11th May 2019 members of REACH attended a talk on the Ulster Workers Strike (UWC) at the Somme Heritage Centre, Bangor in the run up to the strikes 45th Anniversary.

A great paper by Aaron Edwards, delivered on behalf of the Messines group with some really insightful stories and a great discussion from the panel including Jim Wilson of REACH.


28th March

R Williamson, Coordinator, Reach UK, 240 Newtownards, Road, Belfast, BT4 IHE

“On Wednesday March 27th, members of the community in East Belfast came together in the Reach UK office on the Newtownards Road to mark the retirement of one of its local heroes, Dr John Kyle.

Dr Kyle has served the East Belfast community as a General Practiconer after graduating from Queens University Belfast and since 1993 he has been based at Holywood Arches Medical Centre. He is also a local councillor, involved with the Oasis Centre, East Belfast Community Health Information Project and the East Belfast Partnership. John is a family man with 5 children and a strong Christian commitment to serving his community.

As an individual of the community, Roy Stewart presented a framed artefact from the Somme to Dr Kyle to open the proceedings and after some short speeches, Jim Wilson, Chair of Reach UK, then presented a cut glass award engraved with the title “Community Champion “ from the Reach UK Project, community development group.

The event was attended by around 60 people from all sections of the local community who came together to pay tribute to a lifetimes service by Dr Kyle, on this the occasion of his retirement.”

Reach UK

22nd March


An East Belfast dad has told how a surprise trip to see Rangers funded by the community ‘turned on a light’ in his ill son.

Adam Stevenson, 14, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The Belvoir estate lad is wheelchair-bound due to the muscle-wasting condition that has limited his life expectancy to his mid-20s.

The community in East Belfast raised money to take Adam and his family to see Rangers V Kilmarnock at the weekend.

Adam was joined by dad Gary, mum Beverley and brother Jake as they got a behind-the-scenes look at the training ground with Rangers legend Mark Hateley.


Gary and Adam

Gary, 53, told Belfast Live: “We’ve been on holiday before to Spain and we’ve been to Florida but this Rangers trip has just turned another light on for Adam. There’s just another level in his life that’s that’s just lit up that we didn’t think was there.

“There was something missing and whatever happened last weekend it switched another level of his life on.”

Donations towards the trip came from R.E.A.C.H, East Belfast Action for Community Transformation (ACT), Rangers supporters clubs from HW Welders, East Belfast Constitutional Club and Lagan Village along with the Union Jack Shop and East Belfast Protestant Boys Flute Band.

The game finished 1-1 but it was a trip the family won’t forget.

Gary said: “We were a good hour and a half at the training ground, watching the players train.

Read More

“We met up with Morales which was incredible, we met all the staff and the two boys were just gobsmacked.

“Mark Hateley bent over backwards for us, he was like a family member and everything we wanted to see he showed us.


The family with footballer Alfredo Morelos

“The game itself was poor but at the same time just being there for Adam and Jake and seeing the crowds was outstanding.

“They couldn’t take it in. They’re still gob smacked, they couldn’t believe the size of the crowds.

“I don’t know what it was – they must have read the article on Belfast Live – because they were coming up and saying: “You’re the family from Belfast”. Everyone had the thumbs up – we were totally taken aback.


Adam all smiles

“And then people who did know us were saying how great it was to have us over.

“We had red carpet treatment the whole way through.”

  • Friends of the family are hosting an event at East Belfast Working Men’s Club on Friday night from 8pm to raise money for Adam. Entry is £3.

20th March


15th March


Rangers tickets surprise for East Belfast lad with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Adam will make the once in a lifetime trip this weekend

The family together

As one of just 65 people in Northern Ireland with a rare, life-limiting condition, Adam Stevenson’s parents know that his life will be short.

But the East Belfast family is determined to make his days memorable.


This weekend he will visit his heroes at Rangers FC after the community came together to raise the money.

The 14-year-old from the Belvoir estate has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a muscle-wasting condition that limits his life expectancy to his mid-20s.

Dad Gary, 53, told Belfast Live: “We found out he had it back in 2009. Adam kept falling over. So we took him to the hospital, they ran a lot of tests and they came back with long faces. They told us he’d Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. We said, ‘OK, well how do we deal with that?’.

“They told us there was no cure for it, his life expectancy is in his mid-20s. We just fell apart, we couldn’t understand. The life-expectancy just took us apart.”

Adam, who is wheelchair-bound, lives with his younger brother Jake, 12, mum Beverley, 48, and dad Gary, 53.

He is especially close with Jake.

Gary added: “They’re right close to each other. If Adam drops anything he would go in and lift it for him.

“They love each other – and fight like normal brothers.

“Jake knows that it’s got worse – but he said, ‘Dad, I’ll do everything I can to help’.”

Adam’s condition continues to get worse and his family is determined to fulfill a number of his dreams.

Adam, left, and brother Jake

Gary said: “It’s getting worse every day. All his muscles are dying. His heart is dying. There is no cure and there is nothing we can do – we’re just at our wit’s end.

“We know the next 10 years aren’t going to be nice.

“He has some dreams for his life. He wanted to go see Rangers, he wanted to go see Chelsea and he wanted to have a cruise.”

The family was approached by Jim Wilson from R.E.A.C.H and the wheels were put in motion for a dream trip to see Rangers v Kilmarnock on Saturday.

Gary added: “Up to two weeks ago, we knew nothing. A family member was approached by Jim Wilson who asked if there was anything he could do.

“Jim got all the community involved and he has made one of his dreams come true.

“The clubs throughout East Belfast that have helped are brilliant – it’s come as such a big surprise.

“To get to see Rangers, to meet the players – it’s like Christmas Eve. We can’t thank enough those who have been involved in making this happen.

“His excitement is beyond words, he’s overwhelmed and we’re so happy that we have this opportunity.



“This is the best thing that has ever helped Adam, he’s just on cloud nine.”

Donations towards the trip came from R.E.A.C.H, East Belfast Action for Community Transformation (ACT), Rangers supporters clubs from HW Welders, East Belfast Constitutional Club and Lagan Village along with the Union Jack Shop and East Belfast Protestant Boys Flute Band.

R.E.A.C.H Chairman Jim Wilson said: “I’d like to personally thank the groups who came together to raise over £1000 to make this possible along with the staff at Stena Line.

“There is a strong community ethos in East Belfast and we are delighted to send the family across to make special memories with Adam and his brother Jake.”


12th March

East Belfast Groups help Adam fulfil his dream.

Young Adam Stevenson will be living his dream this weekend when he meets his idols at Glasgow Rangers. Adam suffers from a life limiting, muscle wasting disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, of which there are only 65 known cases in Northern Ireland. The disease only affects young boys with their life expectancy being around no more than their mid-20s.

Adam, who is wheelchair bound will travel to his first Rangers game this weekend against Kilmarnock and will spend Friday morning meeting the players at their training facility in Glasgow. Adam’s Dad Gary tells us “the family are absolutely overwhelmed by the generous donations from R.E.A.C.H, East Belfast Action for Community Transformation (ACT), Rangers supporters clubs from HW Welders, East Belfast Constitutional Club and Lagan Village along with the Union Jack Shop and East Belfast Protestant Boys Flute Band. These groups have all rallied to make Adams dream come true and we cannot thank them enough”.

R.E.A.C.H Chairman Jim Wilson said “Id like to personally thank the groups who came together to raise over £1000 to make this possible along with the staff at Stena Line. There is a strong community ethos in East Belfast and we are delighted to send the family across to make special memories with Adam and his brother Jake”.

Picture – Adam Stevenson receiving his tickets and itinerary from Robert McCartney (East Belfast ACT). Also pictured is Gary Stevenson, Ernie Devlin and Maureen Wilson (REACH), Jake Stevenson, Beverley Stevenson, John Williamson (HW Welders RSC)

27th February

Ian Adamson


Multilingual doctor with friends on both sides of the sectarian divide who became mayor of Belfast and persuaded Ian Paisley to talk to Sinn Fein.

Politicians liked by almost everyone are a rarity, not least in Northern Ireland. Ian Adamson, an Ulster Unionist best known for being the lord mayor of Belfast from 1996 to 1997, was friends not only with loyalist combatants in the UDA, the UVF and the Red Hand Commando, but also with their enemies in Sinn Fein. He was a friend of the singer Van Morrison and of the Formula One driver Eddie Irvine. As eclectic as his friends were his range of occupations. Although he made his name in politics, not only as lord mayor, but also as high sheriff of Belfast and a member of the Northern Ireland assembly, he started out as a doctor.

He became a leading paediatrician, a specialist in community child health and in immunisation against tropical diseases. He was a linguist who could read Latin and was conversant in several languages, including Ulster-Scots, Dutch, Turkish and Sioux. He was a community activist who was involved in frontline areas of Belfast at the height of the Troubles and remained so until his death. He was a passionate advocate for a re-thinking of Ireland’s role in the First World War. Above all he was a historian, whose research into the ancient history of Ireland and Britain informed his commitment to fostering cross-community dialogue in and a new sense of identity particularly for the Unionist community.

Adamson gave up medicine in the Noughties to pursue his historical studies, having already published a series of books that remain controversial. The most influential was The Cruthin – published in 1974 the yearof the Ulster Workers’ Council Strike, in which he argued that before the Celtic and Gaelic-speaking populations of Ireland were established, the Cruthin (or Pretani) people had already been living in the British Isles.

The Cruthin were eventually controlled by Gaelic-speaking invaders and some were pushed back into Scotland. In this reading of history, which drew on old Irish texts, the Scots Presbyterians who came to Ulster in the 17th century under the plantation schemes were thus, in a sense, returning home and bringing with them a mixed Scottish and Gaelic heritage.

It is an interpretation of history that is challenged by many archaeologists and continues to be the subject of heated debate in Northern Ireland where it naturally irks nationalists. Adamson’s use of it was to help Unionism to re-define its identity and derive a new sense of confidence as an indigenous people of the island of Ireland, rather than an out-of-place group with no stake in the ancient history of the land where they live.

Adamson described himself as “a British Unionist, an Irish Royalist and an Ulster Loyalist.” As a progressive-minded politician he was committed to dialogue – unusually within the Unionist community he spoke some Irish – and he worked continually to foster what he hoped could be a new equilibrium between the two communities. In recent years he grew increasingly concerned that the peace process was still capable of going into reverse.

He was for many years Ian Paisley’s personal physician and advisor, and played a key role in helping to bring the famously obdurate leader of the Democratic Unionist Party round to the idea of coming to a historic agreement with Sinn Fein.

Adamson once took a group of schoolboys from the predominantly nationalist Falls Road in Belfast, from the predominantly loyalist Shankill Road, and from inner-city Dublin on a tour of Europe in the footsteps of St Columbanus, a monk born in Leinster and schooled in Bangor in the north of Ireland who founded several monasteries across Europe. On the way home they stopped on the Somme, which opened a new avenue of inquiry in Adamson’s mind. He went on become a founder of the Somme Association and the driving force behind the restoration of Northern Ireland’s national war memorial, the Ulster Tower at Thiepval.

As mayor of a divided city in the months leading up to the Good Friday Agreement, Adamson was known for his preparedness to talk to anybody anywhere in Belfast. Jane Morrice, the former deputy speaker of the first Northern Ireland Assembly, remembers choosing Adamson when members were asked to pick their favourite member of the legislative assembly (MLA). “He was just an exceptional character – the breadth and width of his learning was unbounded – but he was also a very, very easy man to talk to,” she recalled. “There was no intellectual snobbery. It was never a question of ‘I know better than you;’ it was always, ‘I’d love to tell you more.’ Where he really made his mark was during his tenure at City Hall – Ian was lord mayor of the whole city – he embraced everyone and everything in Belfast.”

Samuel Ian Gamble Adamson was born in Conlig, Co Down in 1944. His father, John, who read widely, was from Bolton in Lancashire, while his mother, Jane, was from Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire. Together they ran the village store. He had two sisters, Isobel and Alexis, who survive him.

As a boy Adamson was a voracious reader, but he was also technically minded, and when his father bought a job lot of old telephones he installed them in the family home so that it was possible to speak to anyone in any room. He attended Bangor Central Primary School, Bangor Grammar School and Queen’s University Belfast.

A loquacious speaker and deadpan wit who was a keen blogger, sharing his views online about everything from religion to social history, Adamson served on Belfast city council from 1989 to 2011. He was appointed OBE in 1998 for services to local government.

For many years Adamson lived with his widowed mother near Belfast, but surprised friends in 1998 when, at the age of 53, he married Kerry Carson, 24, a noted Northern Ireland beauty and daughter of a BBC producer. They met at a Belfast city council banquet while she was still an art student. She survives him. “Kerry’s very talented,”  Adamson said. “She paints me pictures and we talk about art, history and politics. She’s mature for her age and a wonderful woman. I’m a very lucky man.”

He helped many people from diverse backgrounds. One of the biggest names who benefited from his financial sponsorship and counsel was Eddie Irvine, who was from the same village as Adamson. When the young Irvine was trying to make his way in motorsport in the late 1980s, Adamson came to his aid and helped him financially while he competed in his first races. Irvine, who went on to partner Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in Formula One, never forgot the gesture.

“I couldn’t have done it without Ian,” Irvine said. “He was very kind and he knew we were struggling. In all the time that I knew him we never talked about motor racing, not even once. We just discussed Irish history, Ulster Scots, everything but racing. He had an amazing brain and an incredible recall. He was like an encyclopaedia of history, with an astonishing memory.”

Wesley Hutchinson, emeritus professor of Irish studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, worked with Adamson for many years. Summing up his contribution as a historian and politician, he said: “Ian’s work is based on the premise that the past is not a trap; it should be used to open up opportunities for dialogue in and on the future.”

Ian Adamson OBE, doctor and politician, was born on June 28, 1944. He died on January 9, 2019, aged 74.


18th February

Open Letter to Professor Peter Finn, St. Mary’s University College, re Hosting the Hypocritical “Pat Finucane Annual Lecture”

Professor Peter Finn,

Principal of St. Mary’s University College, Belfast.

Dear Professor Finn,

I was shocked at your decision to host in St. Mary’s University (Catholic) College the IRA movement’s “Annual Pat Finucane Lecture” where one could see prominently in the audience leaders of the IRA’s 30 year campaign of abductions, torture, extra-judicial executions, disappearances of civilians/corpses, mass-casualty anti-civilian bombings – in fact leaders who ordered the IRA’s 1,700 murders and innumerable bombings, maimings, disappearances and who still withhold the corpse of Catholic soldier Captain Robert Nairac.

I was shocked because of the absence of balance in your support for the utterly hypocritical Finucane juggernaut which fails to recognise any of the IRA’s murders not only of Catholic and Protestant judges at home in front of their families, or of Catholic judges coming out of Mass, or of family member of judges coming out of Mass – including a graduate of your college, Mary Travers – herself murdered by the IRA coming out of Mass – or of family members murdered alongside their husbands – such as Cecily Gibson blown up alongside her husband on the border – or of almost entire families murdered, such as Robin, Maureen and six-year-old David Hanna of Hillsborough, murdered by an IRA bomb aimed at Justice Eoin Higgins.

Nor is it possible to forget the first judge murdered in Northern Ireland, namely Judge William Staunton murdered by the IRA in front his daughter, Sally-Ann, and other school friends as he dropped her outside your sister Dominican Convent Grammar School on the morning of the 11th of October, 1972.

You must be fully aware that offering St. Mary’s as a venue for the hypocritical Finucane juggernaut where IRA leaders brazenly attend without any repentance whatsoever gives the clearest impression that St. Mary’s approves of the IRA’s campaign of mass murder and is unconcerned that your student body is not made aware of the fact that the IRA murdered not alone judges, lawyers and family members, but entirely unrelated families also in their attacks on the judicial system in Northern Ireland – indeed, murdered one of your own graduates.

One of the greatest evils of the Finucane juggernaut is that nobody associated with it will condemn any of the IRA’s murders of judges or family members or other families mentioned here, nor will they even make any reference to these murders. It is as if they never happened or, alternatively, it was morally correct that the IRA murdered these people.

There is a very real moral hazard flowing from the fact that a college which claims to represent Catholic ethos did not clearly state its opposition to all extra-judicial murders and did not make clear to IRA leaders in attendance at the lecture that the college’s hosting of the event did not represent tacit approval of the IRA’s campaign of murder.

You have the opportunity to clarify these matters – you should take it.

I am happy to give a lecture to your students about the IRA’s Human Rights’ record and the IRA’s practice of torture, extra-judicial executions and disappearance of victims’ corpses if you feel incapable of rendering balance to the college’s Catholic and Dominican reputation.

Please feel free to read the following article on my Blog regarding the IRA’s murders of Human Rights Lawyers and Judges

Regards and thanks for your time,

Shane Paul O’Doherty

The IRA introduced into Northern Ireland the murders of members of the legal fraternity by shooting dead Resident Magistrate William Staunton, a Catholic, on the 11th of October 1972 as he drove his daughter, Sally-Ann, to St. Dominic’s convent grammar school on the Falls Road.



Judge William Staunton

Judge Staunton was shot in his car in front of his daughter, Sally-Ann, and her school friends.

Visiting such trauma on children was of no concern to the IRA.



Sally-Ann Staunton, witness to her father’s shooting by the IRA

Judge Staunton died of his injuries three months later in hospital.

On the 16th of September, 1974, the IRA murdered Judge Rory Conaghan, a Catholic, at his home in front of his 9 year old daughter, Deirdre.

Neighbours ushered Deirdre away from the murder scene.

Once more, inflicting trauma on a child was not a consideration of the IRA – trauma is clearly visible on Deirdre’s face in the photograph.



Judge Rory Conaghan, IRA murder victim, and his daughter, Deirdre, after his murder

Fr. Edward Daly, the priest who famously waved a white handkerchief on Bloody Sunday, was appointed Bishop of Derry in 1974. He recalled in his book, A Troubled See:

In September 1974, I was called upon to officiate at my first funeral of a victim of violence since my appointment as Bishop of Derry… Judge Rory Conaghan was a member of a distinguished Derry family and a man of great intelligence, integrity and faith. He was a personal friend of mine and widely admired in both communities.

He was murdered by a Provisional IRA gunman posing as a postman at his home in Belfast on the morning of 16 September 1974. A Resident Magistrate, Robert McBirney was murdered in Belfast on the same morning.

In my homily I said, ‘The death we mourn today is not just the act of an individual but of an organisation. Before it took place, there was in all probability a meeting, a discussion, a decision taken and a man designated to do the deed. Can any member of such an organisation feel free from the guilt of this crime? Surely the murders of Judge Conaghan and Mr. McBirney must bring home to us the fact that our country has now reached a state where it can afford only one division, the distinction between those who believe in such deeds and those who do not.

Too many people who call themselves Christians offer passive support to organisations that, in their inner hearts, they know are directly opposed to the mind and teaching of Christ. Perhaps these deaths may help to unite all people in our community who are prepared to take a public stand for Christian values. They cannot kill us all. The difference between Unionist and Nationalist pales into insignificance when one is faced with this kind of savagery where a man is sent to his death at breakfast by a teenage gunman.

It would be better to die confronting evil than to live and condone it.’

On the same day, and at the time, the IRA also murdered Resident Magistrate Martin McBirney, a Protestant, at his home in front of his family.



Judge Martin McBirney murdered at home in his kitchen by the IRA

He was standing in the back kitchen of his home when an IRA killer burst in and shot him dead.

Following the murders of Justices Conaghan and McBirney, the IRA Army Council’s mouthpiece – the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau in Dublin – declared that they were murdered because they were “willing agents of a most corrupt, rotten and evil judicial system”.

Martin McBirney was a prominent member of the Northern Ireland Labour Party.

McBirney had married a Catholic and, while a barrister, had acted for the defence in civil rights’ cases and had represented socialist activist Eamon McCann.

He had, among other things, jailed the Rev. Ian Paisley.

The IRA’s statement went on to mistakenly refer to the murder victims as ‘High Court judges’.

They weren’t High Court judges, but were in fact lowly Resident Magistrates, not that this ultimately mattered to the IRA.

The McBirney family’s grief was compounded when Frances Cooke, Mrs. McBirney’s sister-in-law, died of a heart attack after hearing the news of Martin’s murder.

On the 16th of January, 1983, Judge William Doyle was murdered by the IRA as he came out of Mass in St. Brigid’s Catholic church on Derryvolgie Avenue in Belfast.



Judge William Doyle, murdered by the IRA as he came out of Mass, and his later funeral.

Judge Doyle had offered a 72 year old lady a lift home in his car and, as they both exited the church, two IRA gunmen fired at him.

He was hit by six bullets in the chest and stomach.

The 72 year old lady with him was shot in the stomach and seriously injured.

Sixteen months later, IRA gunmen again used the same Catholic church to attack Judge Tom Travers.

One gunman shot his 22-year-old daughter, Mary, in the spine. She fell to the ground and her mother fell with her.

A second gunman shot Tom Travers in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. The gunman then stood over him and fired five more bullets into him – miraculously, he survived.



Judge Tom Travers, and his daughter, Mary, murdered by the IRA

The second gunman then put his gun to Travers’ wife’s head and pulled the trigger twice – the gun misfired both times.

Mary Travers, however, died in her mother’s arms.

The IRA’s intent was clear – to murder the judge AND HIS ENTIRE FAMILY AS WELL.

Gerry Adams had appeared in court in front of Judge Travers a few weeks before the judge and his family were attacked.

Judge Travers never changed his belief that the attack was in some part related to matters that had occurred in the courtroom that day.

On the 28th of April, 1987, the IRA murdered 73-year-old Appeal Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily by bombing their car at the border, with claims of collusion between the IRA and the Irish police, An Garda Siochana, in relation to the passing of information about the Judge’s travel details.



Cecily & Maurice Gibson murdered together by an IRA car bomb

The fact that the IRA bombers were fully aware that Cecily Gibson was traveling in the car along with her husband did not cause the IRA any difficulty in detonating the massive bomb which murdered her along with her husband.

The couple were only identifiable by their dental records.

Fifteen months later on the 23rd of July, 1988, IRA bombers attempted to repeat the border bomb tactic, this time intending to murder Catholic Justice Eoin Higgins who was traveling in his car toward Belfast.

On this occasion, when they exploded the bomb they instead murdered a Hillsborough family returning from Disneyland in Florida, Robin and Maureen Hanna and their 6 year old son, David.

Hanna Family Funeral


Funeral of Robin, Maureen & David Hanna murdered by the IRA

The IRA had mistaken the Hanna’s car for the judge’s car.

Seventeen-year-old Peter Hanna and his nineteen-year-old sister, Pauline, were left to mourn their parents and sibling.

Pauline Hanna was readying a ‘welcome home’ party for her family when news of the explosion broke.

Peter Hanna


Peter Hanna mourns the loss of his parents and brother

The 1,000 pound bomb blew a crater in the road and scattered luggage and body parts over a wide area.

Again there were hints of collusion between the IRA and elements of the Irish police, An Garda Siochana, regarding knowledge of Justice Higgins’ travel plans.

Rev. Gordon McMullan, the Anglican Bishop of Down and Dromore, told mourners attending the Hanna funerals:

”The spokesmen who represent the killers have made their excuses and expressed their regrets. But the fact is that Robin, Maureen and little David are dead because some people set out with lawless intent and deliberate planning to inflict injury and death on other human beings. If it had not been these members of the Hanna family, it would have been the members of some other family. The plotters planned death and death is what ensued.”



Barrister & Lecturer Edgar Graham, murdered by the IRA in Queen’s University

On the 7th of December, 1983, two IRA gunmen shot Human Rights’ barrister and law lecturer Edgar Graham in the back of his head as he stood talking to his friend and colleague Dermot Nesbitt in Queen’s University.

Edgar Graham was not a judge.

As the 29-year-old law lecturer lay dying outside the campus library, cheering erupted among republican students in the students’ union as witnessed by Lady Sylvia Hermon.

Edgar Graham was a rising star in Unionism and he was tipped to be a possible leader of the Unionist Party.

The IRA admitted Edgar Graham’s murder in a statement, adding that it “should be a salutary lesson to those loyalists who stand foursquare behind the laws and forces of oppression of the nationalist people”.

By this reckoning, every Protestant with an opinion was a ‘legitimate target’ of the IRA.

Gerry Adams refused to condemn the killing since he was not prepared “to join the hypocritical chorus of establishment figures who were vocal only in their condemnation of IRA actions and silent on British actions” – Gerry’s “whatabout” paramorality…

That other mouthpiece, Danny Morrison, opined that “It has been a very, very bad time, when it seems everything the IRA has touched has turned to tragedy” – Morrison was referring to the fact that since the previous November, the IRA had murdered 17 innocent people “by mistake”.

You were right, Danny – every single death caused by the IRA was unnecessary, immoral and criminal and only after that ‘a tragedy’.

Commentator Alex Kane, recalling Edgar Graham’s murder, wrote:

“They murdered him because he was the sort of unionist they most feared: a unionist who wanted good, accountable, power-sharing government here; a unionist who was not afraid to criticise loyalist paramilitaries; a unionist who believed that the law was worth upholding; a unionist who could bring new thinking and leadership to the UUP. And, even after all this time, they still don’t like unionists like Edgar Graham. Who knows if Edgar would have become leader? All we need to know, and remember, is that he was killed because he was an enemy of all paramilitarism.”

A current member of Queens University law faculty, Dr. Peter Doran, who had put himself forward as a Sinn Féin election candidate, refused to condemn the IRA’s murder of Edgar Graham, expressing only “profound sorrow”.


For an article on the IRA’s use of Torture, click here.

For an article on the IRA’s Youngest Torture Victim, click here.

For an article on the IRA’s refusal to return the remains of Captain Robert Nairac for a Christian burial, click here.


9th January

It is with the utmost sadness REACH mark the passing of their esteemed friend Dr Ian Adamson.

An incredible human being who dedicated his life to his community, serving as a Paediatrician he served those children most in need. As an elected politician he represented all without fear or favour, also serving as Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and High Sheriff of Belfast.

Working behind the scenes he was instrumental in promoting peace in our society by engaging with individuals across the divide regardless of their background, a work he continued right until the end. His sense of a common identity for all of Ulster’s people was perhaps 30 tears ahead of his time.

As a respected Author and Historian his works on the History of Ulster and its people inspired a generation, not least his pioneering endeavours being instrumental in securing the Ulster Tower and the Story of the Somme forever. A friend of Royalty and Presidents, he never lost the common touch, not least his hugely satirical blog which lambasted the failings of our politicians,- if ever Kipling’s poem “IF” applied to anyone, it was Ian Adamson. “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch. You’ll be a Man, my son!”

A lover of native language, literature and culture be it Pritani, Cruithin, Ulster Gaelic or Ulster Scots / Ullans he showed how culture can be enjoyed and celebrated by all in an inclusive non-threatening way and never used as a political weapon. His final completed book, perhaps the oldest written Ulster story – ” A Journey To The Immortal Isles, The Voyage of Bran” being launched throughout working class unionist communities only a few months ago.

A huge loss not only to his friends but to the whole Ulster Nation. We will remember him through support for Respect – Heritage – Culture

Robed in Red Mantles and with caps of Red
No swords had they, nor bore they sword or shield
But each man on his knee a bagpipe held

All the committee and members of Dalaradia wish to pay their thanks and respect to our valued friend and colleague.

The Loyalist Communities Council would also wish to pay their thanks and respect to our friend.


9th November

Yesterday evening some members attended the “Belts and Boots to Bombs and Bullets” event hosted by Gareth Mulvenna – Researcher & Author and Beano Niblock in a packed Ballymac Friendship Centre.

Using inserts from Gareth’s book ‘Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries – The Loyalist Backlash’ and poems written by Robert, the event examined the origins and rise of the Tartan gangs in Belfast and their transformation into loyalist Paramilitaries and Robert “Beano” Niblocks perspective being a young man who went from being a member of the Woodstock Tartan to a member of the Red Hand Commando in July 1972 and the violent era surrounding it.



The event also included an impressive scene by John Travers reprising his role as TC from the 2014 production “Tartan”, which brings to life the story of alot of young mens hasty transition to manhood.

The question and answer section of the event highlighted the importance of telling our own story be it through, books, poems or art. Something that struck a chord was when it was stated every story has goodies and baddies and working class Loyalists are unfairly being depicted as the baddies. The Republican narrative through the years is if you tell a lie so much, it becomes reality. It isn’t about glorifying events, its about documenting them for future generations. It was also pointed out that media biases towards Loyalism does not help with anyone remotely trying to tell their story being lambasted with untruths forcing people to withdraw from engaging.

A very enjoyable event and hopefully something that will be built upon.


8th November

Gareth Mulvenna – Researcher & Author on Good Morning Ulster this morning discussing the Tartan gangs, the Red Hand Commando and his & Beano Niblocks event “Belts and Boots to Bombs and Bullets” in the Ballymac Friendship Centre tonight at 19:00.

Skip to 2:16



6th November



23rd October


Politics in Northern Ireland are sclerotic… a civic forum could hold the answer, but it must be more than just a glorified talking shop

Such a body could become a mechanism for compromise, influencing a more constructive approach to political relationships, write Graham Spencer and Chris Hudson

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning administration for over a year now


Northern Ireland has been without a functioning administration for over a year now

One of the big misunderstandings about Northern Ireland’s connection with the rest of the UK comes from the conviction that fundamentalist unionist politics will preserve this relationship. Such a politics, because of little appreciation for the value for compromise, relies almost entirely on perpetuating a fear of republicanism to keep itself in place.


And a similar tendency can be found in republicanism, which relies on the continuation of fundamentalist unionism to maintain its own support base.

Sinn Fein’s public utterances about trying to ensure Ian Paisley MP was not re-elected recently were more designed to make sure that he was re-elected, rather than not. But the biggest threat to republicanism and the best way to build a stronger and inclusive Union is through moderate unionism. For both the DUP and Sinn Fein, it is moderate politics that is most feared, but which a progressive Northern Ireland needs most of all.

Fundamentalist unionist politics, as epitomised by the DUP, is, if not already dead, then dying. It has nothing to offer Northern Ireland beyond the myth that it is keeping Sinn Fein at bay. It displays no creativity and a resistance to pragmatism, which destabilises the rigid image of certainty that the party relies on.

Though there are individuals in the DUP who conduct good community work, this is not enough to sustain the party over the long-term and the complete absence of ideas or strategy about how to appeal beyond its own immediate self-interests will inevitably fail those it supposedly represents. The first stage of ossification is already evident and the second stage of withering and rot is becoming harder to deny.

There will be a lot more fear politics to come as the party looks increasingly outdated and scrambles to try and prevent its own demise, and Sinn Fein will do what it can to keep that fundamentalism alive to help ensure its own presence and purpose. But, ultimately, unless and until there is a dramatic change in its ethos and approach, the DUP’s game is up.

It is understandable why a unionist/loyalist electorate that existed through the conflict would vote for the DUP. But, as a younger audience with no lived experience of the conflict starts to influence voting patterns more and more, so conflict-related rhetoric is less likely to gain traction.

The best way to address this predicament is to accept that moderate unionism is the only realistic way out of the decline, but to do so it must promote and reflect the core values of inclusive Britishness and not just offer a softer version of the DUP. Those values relate to democracy, the rule of law, liberty of the individual and the tolerance of religious and cultural difference and collectively they constitute a sufficient consensus to keep the relationship between social responsibility and individual possibility intact.

Though the climate of Brexit has brought into focus two oppositional types of anger that compete to influence the shape of a Brexit outcome, it has not been suggested that the core values of Britishness should be jettisoned as part of this dispute.

Indeed, the two forms of anger could be seen as a struggle to try and re-engage with Britishness and understand its role and meaning in the modern world.

As Brexit dominates the political scene and the DUP strives to keep Northern Ireland’s linkage with the UK as tight as possible, this linkage does not extend to accepting other aspects of Britishness which show greater concern for more individualised forms of identity.

Yes, the DUP argument for Brexit is about a national identity, but it has no means by which to conceptualise or articulate a wider sense of Britishness. Nor is it able to grasp what the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama recently described as the change from “identity to identities” that is now reshaping the political climate, or how meanings of self and society are being expressed because of this growing diversity.

Rather, what the DUP is drawing from in its response to Brexit is what it has always relied on: holding the line and resisting and maintaining a strongly fixed position.

And what Sinn Fein is doing in response is recycling a transferable message about the value of a single, agreed, multi-cultural, or other Ireland, where the dogged reach for Irish unity comes with a welcoming face.

If Northern Ireland is in “post-conflict” mode, there is little evidence of a post-conflict politics to reflect this new phase.

The peace process initiated a process of compromise politics, which was then superseded by non-compromise politics, moving from a politics of tolerance to a politics of intolerance. The problem with this regression is that although, at a surface level, it may offer a degree of security, it also means the inability to move beyond very strict limits, since to do so risks undermining the very security being defended.

But since security in this instance depends on stasis, so there is no transformation built into the outlook. Furthermore, there is no dynamic, no optimism and no possibility of modernisation. That is why such a politics has no future and is ultimately doomed to fail.

Intransigence on the basis of resistance to and intolerance of difference creates a problem for Britishness which espouses the need to hold individual liberty and respect for others in some kind of balance. At a political level in Northern Ireland, there is next to no reaching out to those who find themselves not part of the single political and national identity being advanced on either side of the divide.

Fundamentalist unionist politics has no means to expand its popular support because it cannot reach out to those not of its tradition. And, although Sinn Fein’s republicanism may come across as more respectful in approach, it too is similarly contained and driven by the need to keep the DUP tied to its fundamentalist ethos and rigid positions.

But what good is this politics for a modern democracy that has supposedly exited from the terrible years of conflict? As the absence of an Executive for nearly two years demonstrates, dominant politics in Northern Ireland has failed and, indeed, can only fail because there is no mechanism by which to bridge the opposing forces of republican and unionist fundamentalism. Each now functions as an island separated by a sea of perpetual loathing and mistrust.

That said, and in the absence of a dominant moderate unionism, there is a mechanism by which to circumvent the impasse aside from handing power to the remaining political parties who do want an Executive to work and that is the civic forum that was legislated for in the Good Friday Agreement and which functioned for a short time after the Agreement’s implementation. We are told that the forum was unworkable, because it was too cumbersome and was not supported by the dominant parties, which, at that time, believed it to be an imposition and a hindrance to the conduct of daily politics.

The reality was probably different and that the forum was suspended because it either risked increasing expectations of accountability, or it was manipulated to be little more than an extension of dominant positions.

But the value of a forum is surely more important now than it was at the time of Good Friday Agreement? Properly managed and broadly representative in its diversity, a forum could help reactivate a new optimism and create new possibilities to reshape expectations about party politics that remains so obsessed about the past it offers nothing for the future.

Taking into account the different identities and political ambitions in Northern Ireland, the forum should, nevertheless, reflect the core values of Britishness. It should seek to advocate democracy not as a finite entity, but as a process that facilitates new political relationships and elicits fresh political thinking.

It should work to build further cross-community respect for the rule of law and policing. It should strive to try to make Northern Ireland a place where individual aspiration and opportunity become a reality and it should advance compromise and pragmatism in relation to public policy and political difference.

In effect, the forum should be more than a talking shop. It should monitor political responsibility and accountability and act as a think-tank to help deal with divisive issues and points of contention detrimental to the development and progress of Northern Ireland as a whole.

On that basis, its role and function should be expanded to become a new force for a common good, devising ideas and responses to problems that the dominating parties seem unwilling to make, or unable to contemplate. As such, it can become a mechanism for compromise, influencing a more constructive approach to political relationships as a result.

In the absence of a dominant moderate politics, a civic forum offers an opportunity to help advocate such moderation and, in the process, expose the damaging limitations of the fundamentalist outlook that now endures.

Given the advantages this could bring for stability, confidence and progress, Northern Ireland surely deserves no less.

Dr Graham Spencer is Reader in Social and Political Conflict at the University of Portsmouth. Rev Chris Hudson is minister at All Souls’ Church in Belfast

Belfast Telegraph


12th October

Yesterday evening in conjunction with Dalaradia our group welcomed Ulster Scot historian and writer Dr. David Hume.

A former member of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots, he is a former journalist and senior administrator with a large cultural organisation. David was awarded a PhD in 1994 from the University of Ulster in Jordanstown. David told the intriguing story of the Ulster Scots from ancient times, through migrations, battle and siege, the Plantation of Ulster, the 18th century, the emigration of thousands to America, and the radicalism which underpins the Ulster Scots as a community. He also looks at the present position of the cultural community which defines itself as Ulster Scots and where it is going in the future.

A very enjoyable discussion and insight into Ulster Scots.

2nd October

“Legacy Scandal: ‘London and Dublin must not let IRA snatch victory from jaws of defeat,’ says Ruth Dudley Edwards

In the latest essay in our series, RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS writes that the NIO has come up with is a Sinn Fein wish list on legacy, but it is not too late to fight back (See below for link to rest of series):

In four decades of following events in Northern Ireland closely, I’ve seen much that appalled me, but the legacy scandal is particularly horrifying.

News Letter series for the late summer and autumn of 2018 on how after decades of murder and mayhem in which the IRA was most culpable, the legacy processes have turned against state forces to a grossly disproportionate extent


News Letter series for the late summer and autumn of 2018 on how after decades of murder and mayhem in which the IRA was most culpable, the legacy processes have turned against state forces to a grossly disproportionate extent


If the British and Irish governments aren’t shamed into repudiating this squalid monument to appeasement, so ably analysed in this sequence of essays, they will, quite simply, be letting terrorists snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with shocking effects on the future of the whole island.


The IRA leadership isn’t stupid. It knows very well that it was defeated by the security forces and is relentless in its mission to rewrite history so as to persuade the young as well as future generations that it won.


It does this by the perversion of truth, the contamination of evidence and the cynical use of the institutions of a liberal state against its most loyal servants.

I come from an Irish nationalist, Catholic (though not sectarian) background and was born, brought up and educated in Dublin, but in my late 20s I became a British civil servant.

Ruth Dudley Edwards, the writer and commentator. She is author of The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of the Loyal Institutions and her most recent book is The Seven: the lives and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish republic


Ruth Dudley Edwards, the writer and commentator. She is author of The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of the Loyal Institutions and her most recent book is The Seven: the lives and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish republic

After jumping ship to become a freelance writer I attended innumerable Anglo Irish conferences, and I came to know officials and politicians from both governments — particularly those from the Northern Ireland and Foreign Offices and the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs.

As they worked together before and after the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, I realised that foreign office diplomats were so anxious to see the point of view of the Irish that they were forgetting their duty to stand up for unionism — let alone the security forces who had saved the province from civil war.


It seemed to become widely accepted that the British government must be even-handed but that it was fine for the Irish to be part of a pan-nationalist front with nationalists of all stripes including those of Irish-America.

That attitude became ingrained and goes largely unquestioned. A country that had almost no supervision of its police force supported republican demands to emasculate the RUC and make the PSNI the most scrutinised force in the world.

Latterly, with Fine Gael apparently looking to form a coalition with Sinn Fein after the next election, you have an Irish prime minister opening the West Belfast Festival without one word of criticism of its eulogising of terrorists and bank robbers, and a foreign minister who blunders into disputes about the Irish language and prison conditions for dissidents that are none of his business.

It shocked me in the 1980s how little most diplomats seemed to understand what they were dealing with. John Hume dictated policy to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which persuaded its UK opposite numbers that concessions to nationalism would change the hearts and minds of republicans and that alienating unionists wasn’t a problem since they wouldn’t resort to violence.


In his arrogance, John Hume believed he could persuade republican leaders to follow him: instead, he unwittingly gave them a legitimacy that would ultimately enable them to displace his party.

As a journalist from 1993, I spent time trying to explain to unionists how the southern Irish establishment thought, and to the Irish and British the reality that Sinn Fein was gradually learning how to get its way with diplomats from both jurisdictions (and later, the US) through a mix of charm, cunning and threats.

Neither government seemed to see what was obvious about Drumcree – that republicans were creating the conditions in which they could secretly foment violence, destabilise Northern Ireland, and present themselves on the world stage as victims of bigotry and brutality.

What they succeeded in doing was tapping into the tribalism that is not far under the surface in the Republic. Both governments were in thrall to the peace process, which was used by officials and the nationalist establishment to sweep IRA misdeeds under the carpet.

The few journalists who pointed the finger at paramilitaries were accused of being anti-peace. It was impossible to dislodge the misconception that republicans would embrace peace and become democratic politicians as Irish revolutionaries had in the 1920s.


When Tony Blair swept into power in 1997, determined to become a great peacemaker, it was not long before the republican negotiators who had feared the machinations of Perfidious Albion were sniggering to each other after visits to Downing Street about “The Naïve Idiot”.

As far as the two governments were concerned, the 1998 Belfast agreement was supposed to solve everything, and the default position was to clear every new hurdle with another bribe for Sinn Fein.

When David Trimble was displaced by Ian Paisley, there was no senior unionist negotiator who really understood the republican gameplan. It was on Paisley’s watch that in 2005 the constant republican demand that there be no hierarchy of victims was enshrined in a government document defining a victim as “the surviving physically and psychologically injured of violent, conflict-related incidents and those close relatives or partners who care for them, along with the close relatives or partners who mourn their dead”.

As Sinn Fein diligently continued spinning their lying narrative about the past, as young people were told that the British state was behind most paramilitary murders, that nationalists had had no vote and that the IRA had had to fight for equality and human rights, few unionists did much to make their case in either Dublin or London.

The Sinn Fein leadership directs a ruthless cult intent on gaining power in the Republic and then bullying Northern Ireland into a united Ireland. As the contributors to this series have laid bare, what the NIO has come up with is a Sinn Fein wish list. But it is not too late to fight back.

The DUP are in an unprecedentedly strong position at Westminster and have no excuse for not making the complete revision of these obscene legacy proposals their priority.

They should have a task-force at work studying the many brilliant suggestions that have been made here in order to make truly equitable proposals about how the law can be upheld, the justice system can favour victims rather than perpetrators, the police can be saved from a system designed to discredit them and the story of the troubles can be told by historians.

Few of Sinn Fein’s opponents bother to tell the wider world what is going on here, but it is vital that the republican narrative should be countered at every turn in Dublin and London as well as Belfast.

It’s no good blaming politicians and journalists and civil servants for misrepresenting what happens here.

If you don’t bother to make your case about it publicly, you will lose the argument. Deservedly.

• Ruth Dudley Edwards is a writer and commentator. She is author of The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of the Loyal Institutions and her most recent book is The Seven: the lives and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish republic

For other essays in the legacy series, click here”



28th September

On Friday September 28th , Reach UK hosted what is thought to be an inaugural event between a Loyalist Community Group and members of the LGBT community. Held in the Reach office , Newtownards Road, Belfast. As part of their ethos of an inclusive Britishness for all, Reach UK invited members of the PUL and LGBT communities to come together in a spirit of inclusivity and diversity

About 50 guests including youth workers from the Ulster Unionist Party filled the premises to attend the event which had two themes, Ulster Scots Translations and a Life Time Achievement award ,

First up was the presentation of Ulster Scots translations in both electronic / PDF format and framed posters for the offices of Cara Friend , A series of framed posters relating to bullying, suicide awareness, safe school space and the youth work provided by Cara Friend were presented to members of Cara Friend by the renowned author , historian, past MLA , Doctor Ian Adamson OBE, we are very grateful for the translation of the literature into Ulster Scots which Dr Adamson kindly carried out for us via his Pretani Associates community initiative . Cara Friend provides a unique youth service in N.Ireland which supports LGBT young people through one to one support sessions and the provision of safe-space groups. They have over 500 service users with more than 1000 people in receipt of training.

Secondly , to mark the date, Ulster Day , Reach UK launched its inaugural Lifetime Achievement award which will now take place on September 28th each year , the first recipient was Belfast Councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon MBE, a member of NIGRA since 1975, with a background in the Department of Health , Jeffrey won a 1981 landmark case in the European Court of Human Rights which decriminalised homosexual behaviour. This case also set a president in the USA . He is a Unionist Councillor for Balmoral area where he represents all members of the community without fear or favour. A copy of his book on Montgomery Hyde , the Unionist gay rights reformer in the 1950s was presented to the members of Cara Friend . Reach Chairman Jim Wilson presented Jeffrey with a cut glass trophy award inscribed “ for a lifetimes outstanding achievement , promoting the rights of all “ . Jim also highlighted the work of the PUL community through the years in the promotion of rights and a proud arts and cultural tradition we can all be proud of .

It was with sadness that , as referenced by Finola Meredith in her Belfast Telegraph article , a group of Nationalist , Republican and neutral(?) Councillors in Belfast City Hall prepare to celebrate the LGBT community in the form of a stain glass window, that , perhaps the greatest champion of the LGBT community, Jeffrey Dudgeon MBE has been deliberately and cruelly excluded and written out of history by those protesting the most about discrimination and inequality , this simply because he is a Protestant and Unionist , the PUP Councillor Julie Ann Corr-Johnston also is excluded because of her religion — shame , shame, shame .

Reach UK



25th September



10th August


Stone (second left) at the opening of his exhibition while on overnight release from Maghaberry Prison 4 4


Stone (second left) at the opening of his exhibition while on overnight release from Maghaberry Prison

By Philip Orr

It is understandable that the exhibition by loyalist ex-prisoner Michael Stone should provoke critical comment – especially so in the light of his own attendance at the event and the presence of local community leaders.


It is certainly the case that deep hurt is still felt by relatives and friends of those who suffered at his hands.

However, in a society such as ours, where the release and rehabilitation of ex-prisoners was part of the agreement that brought an end to daily violence, the moral issues are not clear cut.

Ours is a society in which political ex-prisoners, some with a ‘casualty list’ from their own pre-gaol days, have occupied key roles in local government.

They have done more than make art. They have made decisions about our economy, our education and our health.

There is certainly a wide-ranging debate to be had about the manner in which an exhibition such as this should be undertaken – the venue, the publicity (or lack thereof), those invited along and the artistic themes and tone of the artefacts that go on display.

There is also a debate to be undertaken about whether Stone’s violation of the terms of his original release debars him from further generosity. It is a debate that must take into account how, during the Troubles, republican and loyalist combatants sometimes reoffended upon release. This did not prevent the eventual terms of prisoner release, subsequent to the Good Friday Agreement, from applying to them.

I have not seen the exhibition, nor do I know Michael Stone, though I am acquainted with those who do.

However, I am aware that there is a deficit of art, whether visual, literary, musical or dramatic, to offer a view from within the loyalist ex-combatant community of who they were as individuals, what they were collectively, what they did, why they did it and what it means to them now.

At this stage, one thing needs said, however. I am not promulgating the old myth about ‘Protestants not being interested in the arts’. East Belfast, to name just one relevant district, was and is the birthplace of an array of literary talent coming from ‘a Protestant background’, including dramatists such as Stacey Gregg and Rosemary Jenkinson and novelists like David Park, Lucy Caldwell and Glen Patterson.

Stone painting 4 4


Stone painting

And Conall Parr’s recent book on Ulster Protestant culture, Shaping the Myth, has cast new light on an array of Protestant working-class talent from the past, such as Sam Thompson and Thomas Carnduff.

However, the current loyalist community has offered relatively few recent voices that speak out of – and critique – their own experiences. And there are few visual artists to embody the diverse forms which the loyalist imagination might take.

That is why all opportunities to nurture artistic expression coming from within a loyalist context are to be welcomed.

The art of another loyalist ex-prisoner, Geordie Morrow, is a case in point, as is the drama and prose of Robert Niblock. Among Niblock’s plays there is a dynamic play called Tartan, which deals with the gang culture of the early 1970s, which overlapped with the rise of paramilitarism.

His poetry explores the Protestant working-class boyhoods of east Belfast just as the Troubles were beginning to brew.

Then there is the powerful theatre work of Gary Mitchell, with his Rathcoole background and more recently David Ireland, with his origins in working class Ballybeen.

I am not denying that some individual may buy one of Michael Stone’s works merely as a collector of loyalist memorabilia, or indeed out of misplaced relish for the violence of the past.

The true value of this exhibition is not to be found in those responses but in the licence it might just give some young loyalists to ponder the meaning of the word ‘artist’ and the insight Stone’s art should give all of us others into one particular loyalist’s imagination. Art has done that kind of thing in challenging circumstances down through the ages and will continue to do so all across the world.

Philip Orr is a writer and involved in community education

Belfast Telegraph



8th August

Revealed: why 40,000 Protestants fled Ireland in four years


A southern Protestant who always wondered why he felt like “an outsider” says he has discovered a virtually unknown of exodus of 40,000 Protestants who fled the south from 1920-23 due to sectarian intimidation and murder.

Robin Bury, the son of a Co Cork Church of Ireland cleric, studied history at Trinity College Dublin and worked as a history teacher and later with the Irish export board.

Robin Bury, author of the book 'Buried Lives, The Protestants of Southern Ireland'


Robin Bury, author of the book ‘Buried Lives, The Protestants of Southern Ireland’


He made his findings through an M Phil at Trinity, now published in his recent book.


The most dramatic discovery he has made was what happened from 1920-23, when normal policing broke down and hidden sectarian tensions came to the surface, resulting in wide-scale religious intimidation and the murder of up to 200 Protestants.


Protestants made up around 10% of the population in the south in 1911 but had dropped to only 3.2% in 2011 – despite a major influx of foreign national Protestants in recent years, he said.

“I wouldn’t say in my own personal life that I suffered from discrimination, but I suffered more from not really belonging, being a bit of an outsider,” he said. He now lives in Canada, partly because the country “is not preoccupied by what religion you are”.

‘There was a feeling of uncertainty and in some cases there were actual murders of Protestants, particularly in rural areas’

The most surprising thing he found in his research was that “the key to the theme of separation and feeling an outsider was what happened in 1920-23, the War of Independence and the Civil War.

“I established that approximately 40,000 Protestants left the south of Ireland in that period. which I call ‘involuntary emigration’.”


He added: “There was intimidation, there was a fearfulness of what would happen once the Free State was established. There was a feeling of uncertainty and in some cases there were actual murders of Protestants, particularly in rural areas. There was a pretty nasty pogrom in west Cork but there were other incidents of violence.”

READ MORE: ‘Memories of southern terror against Protestants burnt very deep’

Author Robin Bury uses records from the Church of Ireland in his recently published book


Author Robin Bury uses records from the Church of Ireland in his recently published book

READ MORE: ‘Sectarianism not yet gone from Republic of Ireland’

In fact the 1920-23 mass exodus of Protestants is something which “generally speaking other historians haven’t really come up with”.


He carried out his work with support from Prof Brian Walker from Queen’s University Belfast.

“In 1911 there were about 300,000 native Irish Protestants in the 26 counties but there was a drop of 175,000 from 1911 to 2011, or about a 60% drop in the Protestant population.

“This surely tells a story. Emigration and the Ne Temere decree were the driving factors in this decline.”

Ne Temere, the Catholic doctrine on mixed marriages, was seen by many as helping ensure the resulting children were brought up as Catholics.

By contrast Catholic numbers “steadily increased” in the south in the same period and in Northern Ireland increased from about 35% of the population to 45% today.


He accepts that doctrinal differences on birth control may have initially have been a factor – until the legalisation of contraception in the south began in 1980.

His book includes graphic accounts of people who fled the country and later filed claims for compensation for lost property from the Irish state, based on records in Kew national library.

But he also estimates that 100 to 200 Protestants were murdered.

“The most disturbing without any doubt is the west Cork Bandon pogrom that took place in April 1922. They went to murder 28 Protestants in that area around Bandon and Dunmanway and I think they murdered 13. They were shot. One quite young lad, he was 15-16, the rest were men.”

Much of the intimidation came from “the civil war IRA”, there being no police at the time.

Robin borrows the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the most violent period, but says this later evolved into a milder form described by West of Ireland Protestant Fiona Murphy. “She said there was ‘polite ethnic cleansing’. It wasn’t aggressive or violent after the Free State was formed. People were aware of our difference and they were aware that really we were here as a matter of indulgence, as opposed to a matter of right.”

Although “the ice has melted” now, southern Protestants also came under pressure due to the Troubles. “During the hunger strikes there was real fear among the Protestant community of a backlash.

“In fact a Catholic said to me – out of concern: ‘You know, you want to be a little careful because of what is going on in Northern Ireland’.”

The 1926 census of Northern Ireland found 24,000 people had come from the south in the previous 15 years, he said.

“A lot of this has been buried – I think ‘Buried Lives’ is quite a good title for the book – people want to keep quiet about it and don’t want to talk about it.”

• Buried Lives, The Protestants of Southern Ireland by Robin Bury (from The History Press Ireland).

READ MORE: ‘Memories of southern terror against Protestants burnt very deep’

READ MORE: ‘Sectarianism not yet gone from Republic of Ireland’



3rd August

Milestones 2018

A spokesperson of Reach UK said:

“Reach UK supports initiatives from all sections of the community and was invited to consider hosting a free one-week exhibition of artworks from Michael Stone’s ‘Milestones collection. Reach is a non-judgement organisation and volunteered space to host the art pieces and a free-to-attend opening evening in mid-July.

“Reach recognises that art can be a powerful tool to help people deal with personal issues and has been successfully used to promote mutual understanding between unionist and nationalist communities. The exhibition was undertaken with no publicity, in a low key manner bearing in mind sensitivities of the past with full knowledge of the prison bodies which encourage all ex-prisoners to re-integrate into society in a positive and peaceful manner.”



REACK UK – to deliver the hopes of the PUL community , to help to understand their History and Culture to educate the young and the elderly to help our people move on to a brighter future for all the people of Northern Ireland to work with others with confidence of our future.

REACH provides advice and assistance to those most in need in society, regardless of race, religion or creed. We tackle head on the issues of Drugs abuse, Loan Sharks, Suicide, Alcohol Dependency, Anti Social Activity, Housing and Welfare issues and Food Poverty . We also assist and provide skills training to access employment for those suffering the most financial hardship in our community.

Reach UK has a reputation for integrity and supports a culture of lawfulness and the pursuit of justice and information retrieval for victims, survivors including ex combatants. In pursuit of a fair, balanced and equal society we have proactively engaged with politicians, PSNI, clergy, community groups and Republicans (including ex-prisoners), international students and academics from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In accordance with our Mission Statement, we support the integration of time served ex-prisoners into society in a meaningful, structured way which is to the benefit of all. Perhaps some 30,000 paramilitary members passed through the prison system with up to 200,000 families and friends directly affected, the issue reaches into all fabric of society. Having attended a number of civic society events where Republican paramilitaries where introduced as Artists and playwrights we would assume that working class Unionists are given the same equality to move on with their lives and engage in Arts, Music and Culture , particularly if this helps younger people not to travel the same troubled path as a previous generation.

As Danny Murphy , IRA prisoners spokesman says, “its about informing and educating .. ensuring the next generation don’t go into the same conflict of the past. “

“Because someone has a past doesn’t mean he cant have a future” – Trimble

Reach will continue to work towards an inclusive society for all and will continue to host events in the near future which are ground breaking and diverse and provide innovative answers to dealing with our divided society’

30th July

Guinness World Record Attempt!

3000 Volunteers Required – We Need YOU!

Sydenham Road, Belfast – Saturday 18 August 2018 10AM-NOON

Pre-Registration Essential – Register HERE https://goo.gl/forms/txsJ9h9LEUjnNXX83

All Volunteers Must be 16+


26th July


“Not even the most ardent republican could deny the value of the NHS or BBC. Those who wish the Union well need to confront Sinn Fein’s equality and rights-based agenda with a diversity and responsibility-centred alternative, argue Graham Spencer and Chris Hudson

Youths at an eleventh night bonfire 

The concept of an agreed Ireland, which originated from John Hume’s nationalism, but was subsequently taken and used by Sinn Fein, has met no equivalent emphasis on the benefits of an agreed Northern Ireland from unionism. Indeed, the fractured and disjointed nature of unionism has hindered the possibility of common ground when it comes to articulating what the Union, or being British, means.


But is it possible to advocate the benefits of Britishness as a basis for an inclusive and dynamic Northern Ireland? And, if so, what might that look like?

For a start, this would require moving from fixations about the national question which offers little chance for enabling a sense of Britishness that can be broader, more embracing and more dynamic to be heard. Rather, it would require promotion of the merits of Britishness in relation to shared institutions and culture.

Even the most ardent of republicans would probably find it difficult to refute the value of the NHS, the BBC, or the FA Cup – all indicators of Britishness that have wider social resonance and attraction. Yet, by keeping expressions of identity and belonging locked onto fears and insecurities about national identity, wider progress has been stymied on many levels. Poor educational attainment levels on the Shankill Road should not be seen as a loyalist, or unionist, problem, but a social problem. High levels of unemployment, or poverty, in the Strabane area are not a republican, or nationalist, problem, but a social problem.

Poor transport links between Derry and Belfast and a lack of railway infrastructure across Northern Ireland generally are not a republican, or unionist, problem, but a social one. And yet, all too often, the response to such issues is framed in relation to segregated national identity positions and interests.

Routinely, one hears that Protestant schools are not performing as well as Catholic schools and so the reference-point for educational performance remains national division. No such conceptualisation seems to be used in the UK more generally.

Poorly performing schools are seen as socially unacceptable and action is expected on that basis. The problem is considered to be a matter of collective responsibility and understood in terms of fairness, inclusivity and the common interest.

Why has such an approach not found its way into Northern Ireland, some 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement?

Much of the blame for this has to be laid at the door of unionist politics itself. From the outside, unionism looks static, defensive, reactive, inward-looking and obsessed with the past. Regardless of how one spins it, the perception is overwhelmingly negative. It is hard to see how such a politics can help make Northern Ireland a better place in the long-term.

Unionism seems to lack an imagined future beyond the protectionism of now and, because of that, suggests no ambition. To put it another way: it has no aspirational imperative built into its language, or intentions.

The richness of British cultural identity in terms of music, fashion, technology, comedy, art, literature and sport contrasts to the apparent rigidity of Northern Ireland’s Britishness, which is overwhelmingly expressed as a political conflict with republicanism without any ability to creatively neutralise impressions of republican progress except by hoping that demographics will come to the rescue.

Strangely, unionism seems unable to reach out to those of Catholic background who remain satisfied with greater opportunities brought about by the peace process and who appear more comfortable with remaining in the UK as a result.

Indeed, when unionism speaks, one gets the impression that nobody thinks there is any advantage in trying to engage such people through a sense of Britishness based on respect, tolerance, fairness, multiculturalism and diversity.

It has always fascinated us as to why unionism is not able to counter Sinn Fein’s agenda on equality and rights by presenting a more compelling agenda of diversity and responsibility, both of which are conceived not in terms of “us and them”, but “all”.

Diversity and responsibility contrast nicely with the republican agenda that stresses equality and rights. A new agenda that puts diversity and responsibility at its heart, if communicated effectively, would carry a captivating and dramatic sense of Britishness likely to resonate widely, but it needs to be adopted as a common position by all of unionism in order to do that. The tendency to talk in terms of “us and them”, rather than “all”, can be found in the constant recourse to being of a community, rather than a society. Many in Northern Ireland talk about their community and a community is, by its nature, distinctive between those who are of it and those who are not.

The language of community is very different from the language of society and its constant usage has created a staleness and predictability in relation to political and everyday discourse.

The language of society is a language of inclusivity, but the language of community is the language of exclusivity. It is the language of “us and them” rather than “all”. It is the language of local interest, rather than the common interest and invariably it does not respond well to those within who find how that community conducts or presents itself as objectionable.

Arlene Foster’s recent move to engage with nationalist culture by making visits to a GAA final and an Irish school to discuss a language act has been strongly welcomed by the majority who participate in that culture and her presence at public events has challenged the enduring stereotype of unionist intransigence and disrespect. Apart from demonstrating confidence in relation to difference, her actions are representative of society precisely because she showed receptiveness towards others.

Although Brexit complicates the picture, the general impression that emerges for most who visit Northern Ireland, whether nationalist, republican, unionist, loyalist, Catholic or Protestant, is the generosity, kindness and decency of those who live there and yet these qualities hardly transfer across Northern Ireland itself.

When asked what being British means, many unionists and loyalists look to the monarchy, or the unreliability of government to inform their response. For them, this is a Britishness less representative of stoicism, humour, generosity, decency, fairness, or respect, let alone Dad’s Army, the Proms, the Sunday roast, or moaning about the weather, and more the reliability or unreliability of institutions. For them, identity arises through the structures of power that symbolise British endurance and history.

Yet, understandable though this outlook is, it is not tuned towards the future, but the past. Its appeal is necessarily backward-looking and uses the rituals and commemorations of that past to assert feelings of preservation and order.

However, identity is much more than national symbolism and is now being increasingly expressed as individual and minority attempts to challenge existing structures of power and conventions of order.

Indeed, for many in Britain, it would appear that it is minority identities which now create new expectations about what one can be.

Clearly, Brexit indicates the polarisation between an exclusive and inclusive sense of national identity, but a more complex dynamic about being British is playing out underneath the media headlines. It is at the everyday level of identity difference that a new sense of Britishness is taking shape.

The challenges to being British have always informed what Britishness means and, indeed, opened the way for new possibilities. It is about time unionism spoke to this dynamic and advocated the confusion, difference, generosity and ambiguity of Britishness that makes it so fluid and complex.

Unionism should start talking collectively on behalf of society, rather than community.

It should demonstrate more the diversity and possibility of a Britishness that views problems in terms of a common interest.

It should welcome difference and assert the need for a responsibility to communicate not just what Northern Ireland is, but what it can be.

In short, it should develop and use the concept of an inclusive Britishness to argue the benefits of an agreed Northern Ireland.

Dr Graham Spencer is Reader in Social and Political Conflict at the University of Portsmouth. Rev Chris Hudson is minister at All Souls’ Church in Belfast

Belfast Telegraph”


19th July


“The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) launched the UK Government’s consultation paper, “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past” on Friday 11th May 2018.

Not surprisingly it prompted a resumption of the political arguments about the form any process should take.

Since the consultation paper is based primarily on the structures proposed in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) of December 2014 it does not provide one with hope.

The political architects of the SHA have for the past eighteen months been unable to agree on the formation of an Executive so the likelihood of their shifting beyond the toxicity of legacy is without doubt problematic.

The removal of politicians and their narrow and constricted political agendas is vital if we are to develop a non-partisan and inclusive legacy process.

Victims have been ruthlessly misled in terms of what can realistically be achieved in relation to justice. Recently, the Chief Constable accurately and honestly asserted that “judicial closure is increasingly unlikely in the majority of cases”.

The Secretary of State referred to “four important things we must consider”, namely: meet the needs of victims and survivors; promote reconciliation; reflect broad political consensus and be balanced; and that the proposals must follow the Rule of Law.

Given the extent of diversity existing in the victims and survivors sector it is difficult to envisage a process that will satisfy the assortment of demands, claim and entitlement.

The architects of the SHA are working through the folly that there is a critical mass that can be catered for and one that is linked to parity of esteem and fair treatment.

I have in the past questioned the viability of a prosecutorial process, the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and an information recovery process, the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) running in parallel.

What incentive would anyone have to engage with the ICIR when they may well be the subject of a criminal investigation by the HIU? Barra McGrory implicitly concurs with this view when he asked, “The criminal process will significantly inhibit the information process and to what end?”  He goes on to state, “very few convictions will result. People will be as unhappy as they are now and an opportunity to have a process which makes people truly accountable will be lost”.

While recognising victims’  absolute right to pursue justice I would question whether resources would not be better spent on reparation enabling victims and survivors to avail of enhanced services to cater for their physical and mental wellbeing as well as pensions.

A female contributor to the News Letter, who has suffered dreadfully as a consequence of the conflict, “believes the money spent on legacy investigations could be better spent elsewhere”. Adding, “I think the money could be used to help victims rather than chasing dreams.” Such a succinct and important voice seems to be unheard or factored into the SHA.

Even if significant numbers of prosecutions were to take place the journalist Brian Rowan recently asked the question, “Can you have a peace process that releases prisoners and a past process that sends people to jail? Think of that contradiction.”

It is arguable whether any legacy process will promote reconciliation; indeed it is just as likely to exacerbate enmity, if not reignite conflict. The recent conflict was fuelled by events that took place years, decades and even centuries ago. Are we to expose the post-Good Friday generation to daily accounts of the injustices and atrocities that we inflicted on one another? We, in Northern Ireland, are in effect living with an unresolved conflict that has to be managed on a daily basis.

The two primary ingredients that gave rise to violent conflict in the past still remain; a contested constitution and endemic sectarianism. Thankfully, at present the conflict is largely non-violent. However, given the current uncertainty with the political institutions no longer functioning, the divisions over Brexit and calls for border polls do we really need a legacy process to add another contentious layer on top of all that?

While grateful for the relative peace that we now enjoy it is wise not to be complacent.

It is difficult to envisage broad political consensus given that twenty years on from the GFA even the definition of a victim is still vigorously contested. The British government and Unionists will always defend the actions of the state agencies and Sinn Féin will continue to provide justification for the IRA’s “armed struggle”. It is impossible for those two narratives to converge not only with each other but also with the needs of peace-building.

These are lines in the sand that do not cater for wholesome and important shifts in how we build an inclusive and tolerant society. Loyalists, who were significant protagonists in the conflict, were not consulted during the negotiations that led to these proposed legacy institutions. Did the Unionist parties, in particular, believe that they would agree all this architecture and loyalists would simply turn up? I think not. With no proportionate political empathy there is discernible concern within loyalism that they will become scapegoats as they were during the long and unpalatable conflict. The past has effectively become the new battleground for continuation of the conflict.

The Sinn Féin narrative in relation to collusion is a key element of their justification of the “armed struggle”. While one wouldbe surprised if a degree of collusion did not occur given the similar objectives of both the security services and loyalists, it is hard to believe that it was on the scale suggested by republicans. Sinn Féin does not need to prove collusion they merely need to claim it, as doing so silences the memory of republican atrocities. If collusion was as suggested, then it seems peculiar that the republican leadership and key operatives survived the conflict. A mural in West Belfast reads “Collusion is not an Illusion”. Loyalists would argue that Sinn Féin have created an “illusion of collusion” within the nationalist community. This was borne out by the Police Ombudsman when he indicated that if the results of his investigations did not concur with the already held collusion narrative then they were dismissed.

The central goal of any peace process has to be to deliver mutual respect, parity of esteem and a post-conflict society. The political machinations around victims, claims that it is for reconciliation but does not suggest or explain how. The reality is simple and as the SHA shows the central aim is to remain in a proxy war and thus deny the emergence of a truly shared and progressive society. Keep a fire under the victims debate is part of the ongoing repetition of the arguments of legitimacy that were central to the conflict.

Drawing a line under the conflict and mapping out a response that is emotionally intelligent and which truly cares for the emotional, financial and physical needs of victims is a true and proper recognition of our desire to move on together.”

By Tom Roberts (Director Ex-prisoners Interpretative Centre)


10th July

Yesterday evening our group, in conjunction with Dalaradia (www.dalaradia.co.uk) launched “Milestones 2018” – An Exhibition of works by East Belfast Artists Michael and Karan Stone.

The exhibition is in aid of Muscular Dystrophy UK.

The launch was attended by representatives of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, our patron Dr Ian Adamson and sponsored by the Loyalist Conflict Museum, Andy Tyrie Interpretive Centre and the Union Jack Shop, Newtownards Road.

The husband and wife team were presented with copies of the Bible in Scots, produced by the Ullans Academy.

In the last they have exhibited in The John Hewitt Belfast, Malone House and the Ulster Museum. Michael has also exhibited with the PAF at The Long Gallery, Stormont, Belfast City Hall, Belfast Waterfront, Londonderry Gallery and Crumlin Road Gaol. The works have proved popular amongst established and new collectors who appreciate their collaborative styles of subject, colour, texture and originality.
This retrospective of their work entitled Milestones encompasses their past and present experiences in life with humour and their universal belief that “Art transcends politics”.

The art is open to the public between 10-5 today and tomorrow. Everyone is most welcome.


3rd July

REACH  is proud to be hosting Roy Stewarts “Trench Art” exhibition at our offices at 240 Newtownards Road, Belfast.

It marks the 102nd Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Art has been open to the public from Thursday 28th June with Thursday 5th July being the last day it will be on display.

Everyone is most welcome to view the art.



13th June

Yesterday evening our group unveiled Dalaradias new mural in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey. A welcome change to the previous mural which was quite dated and had somewhat of a playful approach and not your conventional style of Paramilitary Mural.

Murals play an important role within our communities. Not only do they offer great artistry, they also stand as historical evidence. Northern Ireland has around 2,000 murals, most of which contain political themes or references to the Troubles. Dalaradia understand the importance of their murals and have worked to preserve and maintain them. Many murals depict gunmen, not to cause fear, not marking territory, not implying its the the present or whats to come in the future, but a reminder of what once was. Thanks to their artistic merit and historical value, murals have become an important tourist attraction in post-Troubles Northern Ireland.

Many thanks to members of the public for attending and to the various group representatives including the Rathcoole Somme Society, Newtownabbey Arts & Cultural Network and Thomas Hogg of the DUP. A big thanks to Councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston of the PUP for opening the mural.

Cllr Corr-Johnston said “This is the first Red Hand Commando mural to be re-imaged. Formerly a mural depicting a militant past it is now a window into the rich historical tapestry of Ireland. It reaches beyond partition, beyond division and promotes a common identity as a way of transitioning from conflict to peace.”

She concluded “I’d like to record my thanks to Dalaradia, a historical and cultural group based in Rathcoole, for inviting me to share in their significant progress. Progress that has been made possible through their extensive consultation with South East Antrim, REACH UK and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.”


Residents in the area received leaflets explaining the mural and its origins. Below is its content.

“The Dalaradia Mural Rathcoole 2018

Dalaradia was one of the Ancient Ulster Kingdoms, sitting in the area now occupied by the Mid and East Antrim Council, it was bordered in the North by Dalriada and in the South by Dal Faitach. In 1967 our borough was to be named Dalriada but following a challenge in court was renamed Newtownabbey. The first mention of Belfast is in 667 when the tribes of Dalaradia in Co Antrim and those in Dal Faitach, Co Down fought for the title “Fir Uladh” – True Men Of Ulster. The Earldom of Ulster was founded in Carrickfergus Castle in the territory of Dalaradia and St Patricks first noble convert was Bronagh, daughter of the Dalaradian King , Milchu, also St Comgal a Dalaradian warrior monk founded Bangor Abbey which became the Centre of European Christianity.

The Pretani, – “ Cruithin in ulster gaelic “ – were the indigenous British people of Ulster and Dalaradia in particular. Both Ptolemy and Caesar wrote of the Isles of the Pretani when referring to the British Isles, the larger island known as Great Britain and Ireland known to them as Little Britain. The original Britonnic – Welsh version of Pretani remains today as Prydin on the second page of British Passports

The outline of Old Ulster – “ Ulidia / Uladh “, the counties of Antrim and Down is highlighted with Dalaradias Lough Neagh behind. Also shown is the field of Crewe Hill, with the Ancient Crowning Stone of Ulster Kings. This is one of Ulsters most historical sites, where huge battles were fought between the Ulster Pretani and the O Niell Gaels , the literal translation of the word Gael meaning “ Invader / Stranger “. A generic image of an Ulster Warrior overlooks the Kingdom.

Ulsters most potent symbol, the Red Hand, has many legends attached to it, from King Hermon cutting off his hand and throwing it ashore to claim the land, to stories of the Right Hand of God and older Legends telling of the Blood soaked hands of the Red Brach Knights and Conall Cernach putting a blood stained image on his standard as he avenged Cu Chulainn s death.

Rathcooles famous Landmark, the four tower blocks support the mural, paying tribute to our local community and their place in History, It is emblazoned with Dalaradias motto, “ Respect , Heritage, Culture” , representing our spirit of a common identity of inclusiveness and diversity as a way of transition from a troubled past to a peaceful shared future.”



8th June

Yesterday evening our group had the pleasure of a book review from  Dr Ian Adamson from his recent release – A Journey to the Immortal Isles, Immram Brain maic Febail – the Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal.

The event took place at the White House, a location that perfectly reflected on the story given its history. The White House, which has recently been restored, has nestled on the Northern Shore of Belfast Lough for over 400 years.

It tells both the story of the Williamite and Jacobite Wars from a European perspective and the story of this historic building’s past right up to the present day. The building itself dates back to the 1500s but the most famous story associated with it is in 1690 when William of Orange landed at Carrickfergus on the 14th June. William’s army landed at the ancient quay near the White House and William rode from Carrickfergus where he met with General Schomberg and other people of note.

Unfortunately it fell into disrepair in the 1800s then later used as a gospel hall until 1997. It has now been restored and preserved and has been transformed into a beautiful and informative visitor centre. Through a range of colourful displays including artefacts, images and interactives, you can explore both the past and present of this unique historical site.

A very enjoyable night and many thanks to Ian, as always, you could hear a pin drop during his ever popular and enthusiastic story telling. To get a copy of the book – please visit http://www.colourpointbooks.co.uk/more_details.php?id=1950


30th April

The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University

Text of presentation by Cllr John Kyle, 14th April 2018, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

I would like to thank Professor John Brewer and the Senator George Mitchell Institute at Queens for the opportunity to contribute to these exchanges. At a time when the political discourse has become increasingly polarised the need for reflective debate has rarely been greater.

‘Healing our society needs to be placed above the challenges of the political process. A shared future should be about respect and equality for political, cultural and religious difference. We share a common humanity. Authentic reconciliation will depend upon us all embracing new thinking, having conversations to build new relationships between all sides.’

Not my words but Declan Kearney’s.I couldn’t have said it better myself. Healing our society needs to be placed above the challenges of the political process, and yet the political rhetoric,‘break the bastards’, ‘if you feed the crocodiles’,is inflicting more damage, not healing our society

Sinn Fein have made reconciliation one of their buzz words. “Republicans seek authentic reconciliation with Unionism. A new phase of the peace process based on reconciliation and healing must be our future.” Declan again, a couple of weeks ago. I completely agree that reconciliation and healing must be our future. I am old enough to know how bad it was and how far we have come, and I know we are stalled, badly. Frankly reconciliation is receding into the far distance. There are major obstacles in the way, first and foremost sectarianism, deeply entrenched and passed from generation to generation. So how could anti-sectarianism be wrong?

Anti-sectarianism is wrong when it is perceived as hypocrisy. When someone whom you consider to be sectarian accuses you of being sectarian-and this is the experience of Unionists and Loyalists when listening to Sinn Fein.Whether you agree with me or not, this is the perception of many Unionists and Loyalists.

Let me give you some examples:
* Demanding Irish language signs in the university while banning the sale of poppies
*Imposing increasing regulation and restrictions on bonfires while demanding cultural equality and rights
*The refusal by a Councillor to condemn the Enniskillen bombing while proposing a motion in Enniskillen Council condemning sectarianism.
* Calling for victims’ rights while naming a children’s playpark after a convicted terrorist.
* Demanding respect and equality for Irish identity while banning British Armed Forces from school recruitment events and continuing to talk of the ‘British occupation’. I am British and I am certainly not occupying Northern Ireland. My family have lived here for generations and this is home to me, my children and grandchildren.
*Sinn Fein leaders making speeches about ‘Unionist death squads’ while in the same speech eulogising IRA volunteers who bombed and murdered innocent men, women and children.
*Demanding truth and justice for all victims while focusing exclusively on Republican and Nationalist victims and offering nothing to victims of IRA violence. If all victims have a right to truth, Sinn Fein’s silence is deafening regarding La Mon, Claudy, Kingsmill, Enniskillen, Birmingham, Hyde Park and many, many others.

Before you come back at me with counter arguments and justifications, or John Brewer accuses me of a severe case of whataboutery let me say that sectarianism is endemic in the Unionist community as well. I know that I can react in a sectarian way if the right buttons are pushed.

Unionists need to begin the painful task of facing up to our sectarianism, our failings in the past, our need to change, our culpability for thirty years of conflict, our responsibility to create a just and fair society. Too often Unionists have been acquiescent towards sectarianism if not actively complicit. We have failed to recognise its corrosive and egregious effects. Some Unionist politicians have treated Republicans with distain,if not contempt. That is wrong and I for one do not agree with it. However, from our perspective what we experience is Sinn Fein claiming exclusive right to the moral high ground, virtue signalling about how blameless they are in regard to rights, equality, tolerance and respect-if only those Unionist bigots would stop being sectarian reconciliation would be possible.

To stamp out sectarianism it is imperative we begin with our own tribe, or to use the biblical analogy, take the plank out of our own eye before taking the speck out of our neighbour’s. Self-critical evaluation is necessary, shows integrity, gives moral authority, opens significant opportunities for reconciliation, makes people more willing to engage with you and facilitates conflict transformation. Reconciliation offers enormous benefit to us all, but to achieve it we need to come down from the moral high ground. True reconciliation will involve finding level ground on which to interact and be reconciled.

The Unionist community has experienced massive suffering, trauma and injustice at the hands of Republicans who show no perceptible evidence of contrition, repentance or ofasking for forgiveness. Unionists simply do not trust Republicans. Republicans may well say the same-that underlines the magnitude of the task facing us.

To move forward we need to be agreed that we want this place to work. We need to agree that we want our people to live together peacefully;our children to grow up happy, confident and well educated; our economy to be vibrant and successful;our artists, musicians, sportsmen and women enriching our lives with their skills;our elderly, infirm and vulnerable well cared for; a society that is fair and equal,based on mutual respect. This needs to be prioritised above the constitutional question or, in Declan’s words ‘Healing our society needs to be placed above the challenges of the political process.’

The best way to overcome sectarianism is through respectful cooperation, working together to achieve economic and social prosperity. In the past twenty years we have had periods of relative success, glimpses of what might be achieved. But we need to do better. We can do better, but not as ourselves alone. Neither Sinn Fein, successful as you have been, nor the DUP, dominant as they are in Unionism, can do it alone. We can only do better by working together.

As the GFA stated ‘The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We acknowledge the substantial differences between our continuing and equally legitimate political aspirations. However, we will continue to strive in every practical way towards reconciliation and rapprochement within the framework of democratic and agreed arrangements.’Renewing that commitment would be a start.

Anti-sectarianism is to be welcomed and embraced, but the long road to reconciliation begins with the painful process of self-examination and confronting one’s own sectarian attitudes. The prize, as Senator George Mitchell so eloquently spoke of recently, is peace.


21st April

Happy birthday to Queen Elizabeth II who turns 92-years-old today.

Image may contain: 1 person, close-up
Long may she reign over us.


9th April

A Loyalist Declaration of Transformation from the Red Hand Commando, Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force

Delivered 11.30am, Monday 9th April 2018 at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast

Embargoed until 12.00 midday, Monday 9th April 2018

“The Good Friday Agreement was created in a spirit of accommodation and its promise was a more inclusive Northern Ireland. There would have been no Agreement without the involvement of loyalists. However, it is time to recommit to the creation of a Northern Ireland that enables all to realise their potential and aspirations. Any community left behind in that ambition represents a failure not only for the peace process, but for Northern Ireland as a whole.

For too long we have been berated for our past and not able to imagine a better future. We must challenge that outlook by no longer being apologists for conflict but advocates for change and working to create a society that is at ease with itself in its diversity and difference.

It was made clear at the time of the CLMC 1994 ceasefire statement that ‘abject and true remorse’ existed for suffering inflicted during the conflict and that remains the case today. However, no-one should ever be excluded from playing a constructive role in the future because of past actions. We therefore seek to fulfil the commitments we made in 1994 by continuing a process of transformation.

We draw attention to the fact that even in the context of republican reliance on divisive identity-politics we continue to maintain a commitment to the peace process. We are fully committed to participation in such a process and will approach it with honesty, integrity and sensitivity. We also recognise the importance of a legacy process designed to help Northern Ireland confront the past and from that experience build a society of possibility and hope. We have made this clear many times and have indeed contributed to previous work on dealing with the past.

We fully support the rule of law in all areas of life and emphatically condemn all forms of criminal activity. Individuals who use criminality to serve their own interests at the expense of loyalist communities are an affront to the true principles of loyalism.

We reject and repudiate as unacceptable and contrary to loyalist principles any criminal action claimed to have been undertaken in our name or attributed to any individual claiming membership of one of our organisations. We further declare that any engagement in criminal acts by any individuals within our organisations will be regarded as placing those persons outside the memberships. This has been collectively agreed. We cannot allow criminals to hinder transformation and the ground on which such people stand is now shrinking.

We seek to make an important contribution to the construction of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland and to support this objective intend to provide strong community leadership and positive influence to promote social, economic and political development.

Loyalists must have ownership and control of their own future. Now is the time for a renewed loyalism, with a new impetus, to meet the challenges ahead. We want to see a better future for all in Northern Ireland and where the residual effects of conflict are recognised and addressed in a reparative manner. We must shape our own destiny, and with the co-operation of others, ensure loyalist communities are at the centre of Northern Ireland’s peace and political transformation.










26th March

On Saturday morning our group attended the Good Relations Conference & Awards Ceremony at the Crusaders Social Club, Shore Road. The event was to celebrate and recognise the efforts and participation of various groups including Old Comrades, Baron Hall, White City, Alexandra Church Hall, Hubb Ladies Group (The Millies) and the Grave Diggers. Various group attained OCN accredited awards for their work in a cross-examination of Northern Irelands rich cultural and historical tapestry.

The morning started with registration with tea/coffee.

A warm welcome from the HUBB chair Kerry Johnston opened the morning discussions followed by David O Briens entertaining “Raised on songs and Stories”.

Fergus Whelan, a Historian and Author whose main area of interest is Radical Protestantism in Eighteenth Century Ireland was up next.

This was followed by round the table discussions and feedback from the audience.

Dr Ian Adamson OBE then took the floor for a talk on “Why are they called the British Isles – Pretani Associates”.

Afterward there was a digital Evaluation and Quizdom then finally closing remarks from the HUBB manager Jim Crothers.

Lunch followed with the day ending with a performance from the
Hounds of Ulster.

A very enjoyable day for our members in attendance.


21st March


Sinn Fein ‘ignoring’ result of consultation over bus signs in Irish

“Sinn Fein has been accused of ignoring the results of a consultation that suggested there was “very little appetite for Irish language signage” on buses in Co Londonderry.

The consultation, which was carried out by Translink in the spring and summer of 2017, proposed bilingual English and Irish destination screens onboard Ulsterbus vehicles in the nationalist west bank of Derry.

The project was piloted on the Slievemore route, with a plan to roll it out to other areas of the city if it successful. Bilingual signs are already in operation on buses in west Belfast.

But according to response to a Freedom of Information request by DUP MP Gregory Campbell, almost three-quarters (74%) of the 9,421 people who completed the survey were against the idea.

Last month talks to restore Stormont broke down due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Fein over legislation for the Irish language. Mr Campbell – who was barred from speaking in the Assembly for a day in 2014 after making fun of the Irish language – called on Sinn Fein to explain why it had “ignored” the results of the consultation.

He said: “Around this time last year, Sinn Fein in Londonderry claimed they had been lobbying Translink since February 2015 for a consultation about bilingual destination signage on scheduled Ulsterbus service vehicles in the area. The results were forwarded to the Department for Infrastructure late last year. This survey, requested by Sinn Fein, has demonstrated that there is very little appetite for Irish language signage even when Sinn Fein promotes it.

“Either Sinn Fein is aware of this consultation outcome and has decided to keep it hidden or Sinn Fein is unaware of the outcome and didn’t ask because they were afraid of what the outcome might be. The public have a right to know which it is.”

Translink said that given the consultation results, it currently had “no plans” to introduce bilingual destination screens in Derry.

It added: “Translink will continue to offer information primarily in English, subject to future statutory requirements.”

Sinn Fein insisted there was “significant support for bilingual signs”.

It said: “The trials in west Belfast have been very successful and Sinn Fein would wish to roll that out in other places where bilingual signage is welcome. Bilingual bus signs are already used every day in Derry on Bus Eireann vehicles and there has been little or no opposition to that.”

Belfast Telegraph”



14th March

A big thank you to Michael Stone and his partner Karen for creating and sharing a recent piece of art embracing the REACH Projects goal in moving forward.

‘Aslan of Eastside’

“This kaleidoscopic work embraces East Belfast’s’ REACH philosophy of moving forward from the tragic past period of political & social upheaval – A strength and unity within the working classes of all cultures & traditions – Supporting the aspirational youth of the East with creative ability to excel in their endeavors in career, arts, sport or literature.

M. Stone 18″

In the past he spent time each week teaching art to teenagers in deprived areas of East Belfast, something he got great satisfaction from. Quoted by the Guardian in 2001. “Sure, I’m like some Rambo character to them when they first meet me and they ask questions about what I did. But I just tell them it isn’t big and clever to kill people. Then we get down to work, making things and doing things.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs or facilities in their area but they’re good kids and they’ve got to be encouraged to make the most of what they have.”

28th February


We the undersigned desire a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberties and in so doing challenge assumptions that such values are not embedded within civic unionism, pluralism and other identities.

We are motivated by the desire to build a society for the betterment of everyone.

Signatory Dr John Dunlop, former Presbyterian moderator


Signatory Dr John Dunlop, former Presbyterian moderator


This cannot happen when such a commitment is perceived as being vested in one community or political persuasion.


We find it frustrating and puzzling that civic unionism, pluralists and other forms of civic leadership have been rendered invisible in many debates focused on rights and responsibilities.


It has reduced our capacity to be heard and undermines the power of reconciliation to shift society away from stale and limiting notions of identity.

We have worked for peace and reconciliation and in so doing have had open and transparent engagement with civic nationalism.

Signatory Dawn Purvis


Signatory Dawn Purvis

That has included recognition of the need for equality and most importantly the urgent need for polarised communities in Northern Ireland to reconcile and deal with barriers to a better future.

To achieve this requires the recognition that withholding truth presents as such.


This is not unique to any institution or section within our society but where it is a selective process, healing a pernicious and destabilising past remains as a challenge to us all.

Civic unionism, and other identities are not resistant to claims of equality and full citizenship.

Signatory the artist Brian John Spencer


Signatory the artist Brian John Spencer

These identities are central to the development of an authentically fair and tolerant society.

We wish to unite, not divide, and in encouraging transparency we call upon civic nationalism and others to engage with us in frank and fulsome debates about the many values and beliefs that are commonly shared and are vital to transforming the issues that we face.


Signed: Brian Acheson; Ian Acheson; Irwin Armstrong; Arthur Aughey; Stuart Aveyard; John Barry; Doug Beattie; John Bew; Elizabeth Boyd; Gavin Boyd; William Boyd; Glenn Bradley; Michael Briggs; Daniel Brown; Jonathan Burgess; Paul Burgess; Jason Burke; Alison Campbell; Stevie Campbell; Lesley Carroll; Jim Crothers; Jonny Currie; Vince Curry; Glenda Davies; James Dingley; Brian Dougherty; Jeffrey Dudgeon; John Dunlop; Janice Dunwoody; Aaron Edwards; William Ennis; Brian Ervine; Linda Ervine; Isabella Evangelisti; Neil Faris; Albert Flanagan; Dean Farquhar; Stewart Finn; John W. Foster; James Gallacher; Richard Garland; Brian Garrett; James Greer; Trevor Hamilton; Barry Hazley; Helen Henderson; Maureen Hetherington; Chris Hudson; Fiona Hutchinson; Mark Irvine; Kathryn Johnston; Georgina Kee-McCarter; James Kee; Julia Kee; Lauren Kerr; John Kyle; Paul Leeman; David McAloanen; Chris McGimpsey; Shirley McMichael; Lesley Macaulay; William Matchett; Andrew Mawhinney; Lindsay Millar; Lewis Montgomery; Derek Moore; Pamela Moore; Steve Moore; Gareth Mulvenna; Mike Nesbitt; George Newell; Hannah Niblock; Russell Orr; Jenny Palmer; John Palmer; Len Peace; Claire Pierson; Andy Pollak; Catherine Pollock; Dawn Purvis; David Ramsey; Chris Reid; Stafford Reynolds; Trevor Ringland; John Shackels; David Shaw; Stephanie Shaw; Peter Shirlow; Frank Shivers; Philip Smith; David Smyth; Neil Southern; Brian Spencer; David Stewart; John Stewart; Robin Stewart; Kyle Thompson; Brian W. Walker; Garth Watson; David Whiteside; Robert Williamson; Steve Williamson; Andrew Wilson; James Wilson; Terence Wright

20th February


Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has poured cold water on Sinn Féin demands for a stand-alone Irish language act, warning it has to be conscious of the feelings of unionists.

“If anybody seriously believes that you’re going to convince the loyalist people in the Shankill that they should have Irish signs – they’ll be waiting,” he told RTÉ’s ‘Claire Byrne Live’ last night.

He said the act “can’t be seen as a victory and we’re going to shove it down their (unionists) throats”.

“I think that the message has been received so, in fairness to Sinn Féin, it has seemed to receive that but it has to be seen and understood, otherwise loyalists and unionists are going to get at Arlene, which makes her position untenable.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney met new Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and her deputy, Michelle O’Neill, at Government Buildings last night.

They spoke for around 90 minutes and agreed on their united commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.

Bertie Ahern poured cold water on Sinn Féin demands for a stand-alone Irish language act. Photo: Steve Humphreys 22


Bertie Ahern poured cold water on Sinn Féin demands for a stand-alone Irish language act. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Both sides also agreed any move towards direct rule from Westminster would be highly regressive and something Dublin could not countenance.

Mr Varadkar spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May on the phone following the meeting. He reiterated Dublin’s “firm position” that the Good Friday Agreement must be implemented in full, and that the Irish Government does not want to see the introduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland.

A Downing Street spokesperson last night said Mrs May told Mr Varadkar that she believed “there was scope for agreement” and reiterated that it was still her government’s priority to get devolution up and running again. Both leaders agreed to remain in close contact.

Earlier, Mr Coveney had warned that the re-imposition of direct rule would “rip the heart” from the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Coveney is travelling to New York and Washington this afternoon for a series of meetings with the Trump administration. He is due to give an address at Columbia University on Brexit and give the keynote speech on the Good Friday Agreement at a special event in New York entitled Ireland’s ’20 Years of Peace’.

Mr Ahern also took a pop at Mrs May last night. He said she has been preoccupied with addressing the various battles within her own party which has distracted her from her responsibilities in Northern Ireland.

“I think Theresa May has not given enough time to Northern Ireland as she’s trying to keep about five sides of her own cabinet together.

“It’s not good enough to breeze in and meet nobody – that’s not negotiating at all.”

Irish Independent

14th February

The group would like to offer our deepest sympathy to the Anderson family on the sudden passing of our friend and comrade Jim Anderson.

We owe our freedom to those men and women who have served their country and its interests in time of need. Not for glory, nor riches, but for their people.

Lest we forget – Lamh Dearg Abu




15th January

Naive Alliance has become a Sinn Fein patsy in republican takeover of Belfast City Hall

They vote together and they care only about so-called progressive policies, claims Ruth Dudley Edwards

Alliance leader Naomi Long got involved in Twitter row over Kingsmill cartoon


“What has happened to the Alliance Party, which used to pride itself on its independence and its commitment to democratic values? Here are just three recent disturbing examples of how far it has fallen.

First, in September the UUP’s Jeff Dudgeon, who had fought for a permanent memorial in the grounds of City Hall to the 1,000 victims of the Blitz, admitted defeat.

Since Nazi bombs had killed Catholics and Protestants alike, it didn’t seem a contentious issue.

It was, however, to Sinn Fein – which is ambivalent about the Second World War because the IRA supported Germany.

Cunningly, it linked the Dudgeon proposal to its request for a statue of Belfast woman Winifred Carney, who was with her boss James Connolly in Dubin throughout the Easter Rising.

Alliance endorsed the proposals being dealt with collectively, thus scuppering any agreement.

Mr Dudgeon was disappointed but not surprised.

“The Alliance Party, has, yet again, taken sides with Sinn Fein and turned the statues into a contentious issue,” he said.

“They want conflict, so they can sit above it, so they can resolve it. It’s a peculiar facet of liberal terror.”

Michael Long, leader of the Alliance on the council, accused him of “showing his prejudice in his comments about our party’s voting habits”.

Having “actually done some research of figures rather than assumptions”, he said, the party had found that in terms of recorded votes over the past two or three years, “half the time we voted with Sinn Fein and half the time we voted with the DUP”.

But that was wholly untrue, according to DUP councillor John Hussey, who checked the voting record of the previous two years and found Alliance had voted 22 times with Sinn Fein against the DUP and only 8 times the other way around.

Then there was the amendment to standing order No. 30, which was proposed in December in the strategic policy and resources committee by Sinn Fein’s Charlene O’Hara and seconded by Alliance’s Sian O’Neill.

“A Member shall not impute motives or use offensive expression in reference to any person or section of society, including any such expression that shows contempt in relation to their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious belief, age or disability,” it said.

As Mr Dudgeon – yes, him again – pointed out, this would, for instance, preclude anyone from being rude about the motives of bankers for closing bank branches.

It’s a charter for people who want to stifle free speech.

At present Sinn Fein and Alliance are propelling it through the system.

Then last week we had the drama of Mr Long’s wife Naomi, leader of Alliance, Barry McElduff, a brilliant cartoon by Brian John Spencer and tweets by the DUP’s Christopher Stalford and the UUP’s Doug Beattie.

Mrs Long tweeted Mr McElduff after he had deleted his disgusting video, asking him what he thought he was doing and asking if he had made any apology to those “deeply hurt by your antics whether deliberate or not?”

Mr Spencer, who was appalled by the hurt done to the Kingsmill victims and the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein in continuing to lecture others about its “red lines” on various issues, produced his magnificent, savage cartoon depicting the Kingsmill van with 10 lines of blood leading straight to Gerry Adams bellowing about equality.

Among the thousands who retweeted it were MLAs Stalford and Beattie, both of whom were pompously ticked off by Mrs Long for engaging in “irresponsible, inflammatory and insulting behaviour which is unbecoming of their role”.

The Alliance and Sinn Fein Twitter mobs joined in, and because of a request from a Kingsmill relative, both politicians deleted their tweet.

Yet other relatives and other victims welcomed the cartoon. Alliance has become the party of identity politics and virtue signalling and Sinn Fein has taken full advantage of its naivety to use its support to help conquer Belfast City Council for republican ends.

Shinners may eulogise murderers, boycott Westminster and bring down Stormont, but hey, to Alliance, they’re preferable to dinosaurs who disapprove of gay marriage and think free speech matters, even if it hurts people’s feelings.

Someone should explain to the party that it is being eaten by a crocodile.”

Belfast Telegraph – https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/ruth-dudley-edwards/naive-alliance-has-become-a-sinn-fein-patsy-in-republican-takeover-of-belfast-city-hall-36486970.html


6th January

We call for Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduffs resignation after posting an absolutely outrages video mocking the Kingsmill Massacre on its 42nd anniversary.
Kingsmill is a well-known brand of bread in Northern Ireland. It shares a name with the south Armagh village that witnessed one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles in 1976 when IRA gunmen stopped a van carrying Protestant textile workers on their way home where they were lined up at the side of the road and shot. Are we to believe this was purely coincidence and not intentional? Please do not insult our intelligence Mr McElduff, stand down and hang your head in shame.



2nd January

Dalaradia were delighted to host a discussion workshop on Ulster Scots, Ulster Gaelic and Ullans language, culture and traditions at the Reach UK office.

The event was chaired by Dalaradia Patron Dr Ian Adamson OBE with Helen Brooker of Pretani Associates.

Guest speaker was the Professor Emeritus Wesley Hutchinson, Honorary President of Europe’s largest Irish Affairs body, the Societe Francaise d’Etude Irlandaise.

Professor Hutchinson is the senior academic of Irish affairs at the world renowned Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris.

His global perspective on minority languages was most helpful in celebrating culture without allowing it to be used as a political weapon.

His work with Dalaradia and Reach UK will feature in his forth coming book examining the Ulster Scots people and space throughout history.

8th November


A Carrick man has spoken of his involvement in a project assisting staff at an orphanage in Africa and the personal development he experienced.

The LCC team of volunteers pictured with David Campbell (LCC Chairman) and Bob Thompson.

Robert (Bertie) McWilliams has returned from Tanzania after spending a month there as part of a Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) delegation.

Bertie was one of eight volunteers from across Northern Ireland who travelled to the east African country under the stewardship of project leader, Bob Thompson.

The group spent four weeks working with the Kidzcare orphanage and schools in Tanzania from September 17. The purpose of the project was to promote team building within different loyalist communities, offer international work experience and personal development and to expose the volunteers to different cultures, religions and challenges, while at the same time benefitting the children of the orphanage. The aim was to make a difference both at home and in Africa.

Ahead of their departure, Bertie was unsure how his special diabetic dietary requirements were going to be met in Africa. He also questioned his participation in the project as he knew he would miss his six-year-old daughter a lot.

Bertie, who works as a window fitter/joiner, was able to use his skills in Africa to carry out maintenance at the orphanage.

Commenting on the duties he performed in Tanzania and his interaction with the orphans, the east Antrim man said: “Straight away we got stuck into general maintenance work around the orphanage and whilst doing that we met the beautiful kids that stayed there.

“All our hearts were touched as these kids really have nothing and they are the most happy and friendly wee kids I have ever met. We soon learned that these kids are very much the lucky ones compared to others, as they have a safe life and love at the orphanage and without the staff they would be desolate and abandoned.

“Listening to their individual life stories would melt the hardest heart. My thoughts went back to my own daughter and I realised just how well-off she is compared to these kids.”

Although most of their time was spent carrying out work around the orphanage, the LCC volunteers were able to experience African culture on a rare day off.

Bertie explained: “We spent our day off by having a beach day with the kids.

“We had a fantastic time enjoying the beach, the warm Indian Ocean and most of all having fun with the kids. The trip home on the bus was amazing with the kids entertaining us with selection of Swahili songs.”

On his return, Bertie, who said he would be keen to volunteer in Africa again, said: “I learned to respect a lot of things back home, such as hot water, food and family. Everyone realised just how well off we are back home and none of us will take things for granted again.

“We went to Africa as strangers and returned as a family of the LCC and we will support each other from now on. I now see things very differently and I am so glad I got the opportunity to do it.”

Bertie would like to thank everyone for their support, the sponsors, the LCC and its chairman David Campbell for the idea and Bob Thompson the project leader for putting it all together.

For more information about the orphanage and the project, check out www.kidzcaretanzania.org

 7th November

Why Micheal Martin is a key unionist ally against resurgent republicanism


 18th October

Finally the LCC Tanzania Project challenge is over.
All arrived home safe and sound yesterday evening and with the exception of a few mosquito bites everyone is in good health and condition.
Berty, a member of Dalaradia/REACH, remarked “the trip started with three groups of strangers and ended with one group of family”.
The month away raised some challenges but as each challenge was overcome the bond of friendship grew stronger. The children of the orphanage touched their hearts and have shaped their lives for the future.
This is something we hope to build on for the future helping less fortune people. One very important aspect of motivation is the willingness to stop and to look at things that no one else has bothered to look at. Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
Well done to everyone involved, you are a credit to your community.
For more information on this project check out:

26th September

On 12th May 2016 the Loyalist Communities Council launched a Flags Protocol.

Its aim, to prevent our national emblems being left on display in a dilapidated state and asking that steps were taken to prevent this occurring.

REACH, as part of the LCC, ask that, as agreed, all remaining flags be taken down on or as soon as possible after Ulster Day – 28th September 2017.

Flags and emblems are highly potent symbols of community allegiances and are important demonstrators of our Loyalist and Unionist heritage and culture.

Please treat them as such – many thanks.



20th September 2017


The Loyalist grouping known as the Red Hand Commando (RHC) has officially requested to be removed from the list of proscribed organisations. The request was made in London and will be looked at by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd. At the time of writing it is not known how long it will take for a decision to be made. Reaction to the request has been somewhat mixed.

The application has been made under Section 4 of the Terrorism Act (2000) which allows for members of a banned group to contact the government to request deproscription without themselves facing the threat of being charged with membership. The theory being that deproscription could help an organisation move forward towards integration and obviously away from previous association with violence.

The initiative is being supported by the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), the umbrella organisation set up by Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell to steer paramilitaries away from criminality, and the LCC’s chairman, David Campbell, said that Mr Powell supported the application to the Home Secretary. Mr Campbell argued that in retaining the paramilitary name, rather than disbanding, it would be harder for dissidents to seek to revive it at a future point. There has always been a fear that ‘dissident’ Loyalists could use the name of the three main Loyalist paramilitary organisations as a cover for criminal activity.

Senior Loyalist Jim Wilson (a former RHC prisoner) stated that;

“This organisation is not about glorifying murder, bombings, shootings – it happened in a conflict that we got engaged in as young lads and it’s not something that people want to run about and gloat about and to have it pushed into people’s faces. That’s not what deprosciption is about – it’s about allowing us to move to the next phase which is out of conflict, away from what happened in this society and all those people that were hurt by our organisation, Gusty Spence couldn’t have said it any better – it is true and abject remorse. But we were brought up in a society where there was violence and young lads from our Protestant community engaged in it and that’s it – the organisation couldn’t be any clearer; it’s sorry for the people that had to be hurt in this conflict.”

The words obviously hit a nerve with Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein as he described the move as ‘abhorrent’. When it was pointed out to him that his actions and the actions of his former IRA colleagues went beyond abhorrent into mass sectarian genocide and that it was hypocritical of him to even comment on this move he decided to skulk off elsewhere. But there was widespread concern amongst victims groups that, in not dealing with the needs of victims and their families first, this type of move could be seen as too soon and too upsetting. Others welcomed the move and saw it as progressive and potentially ground-breaking.

Then there is the “politics” of it all and the repercussions should such a decision be given a positive outcome. Some seasoned political commentators queried what sane government would give the go ahead to legalise a former paramilitary group? What are the benefits to a Tory government when the media exposes Loyalist criminality (or what purports to be Loyalist criminality)? This idea could prove toxic to a government with a slim majority. In turn would those groupings intent on criminality latch on to “legal” groupings to ensure a type of “cover” or veneer of respectability? And the government will worry about the negative headlines around this. Then again the U.K. Government might just offer the suggestion that all this is pointless and groupings should leave the stage voluntarily. Which in turn creates a vacuum to be filled by criminal elements masquerading as loyalists. It is a complex issue indeed.

There is no doubt that within Loyalism there continues to be great desires to remodel and copper fasten the progress achieved during the last decade. Any new initiative to speed up reintegration must be viewed through a prism of positivity if we are to bring everyone forward. The removal of proscription carries with it many risks and it will be interesting to see how the mainland politicians deal with such a request.”



19th September 2017

Various articles relating to announcement:  Belfast Telegraph –  Eamonn Mallie.comBelfast Telegraph 2Slugger Otoole

12th September 2017

First Loyalist group applies to Home Secretary to be legalised. For more details click the following link – http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/first-loyalist-paramilitary-group-applies-to-home-secretary-to-be-legalised-1-8145559

RHC full statement

LCC statement

PUP statement

10th August 2017

A group from Loyalist communities (Among them members of REACH) have been selected to participate in a pilot scheme to undertake charitable work with a local orphanage in Tanzania. For more details click the following link – http://www.reachproject.co.uk/events/tanzania-project/

9th August 2017

REACH are facilitating a history course commencing 7pm Wednesday 6th September 2017  at REACH offices,240 Newtownards Road, Belfast to Bodenstown. 6 Workshops, 2 site visits (Belfast and Saintfield) plus a 2 day residential in Wicklow. If you are interested please contact our office on 02890 457657 or email reachni3@outlook.com. The course is FREE to attend.

23rd June 2017

REACH are now providing First Aid courses for the local Community. For more information please click the following:



22nd June 2017

REACH are now providing a food bank to distribute food to those who have difficulty purchasing enough to avoid hunger. For more information please click the following:


1st May 2017

Proposals on Past open path to Truth