PRESBYTERIANS ON MARRIAGE

Reverend Ian McNie is installed as Presbyterian Moderator  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Reverend Ian McNie is installed as Presbyterian Moderator Photo: © Michael Fisher

The incoming Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Reverend Ian McNie has reaffirmed his church’s support for the traditional view of marriage. He spoke at a service tonight at Assembly Buildings in Belfast to mark the start of the church’s General Assembly.

Dr McNie, 64, of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney, took over as Moderator from Reverend Michael Barry. He was nominated by 12 out of the 19 presbyteries who met across Ireland in February. Dr McNie was formally elected and installed at the service. His son, Reverend Stephen McNie from Ballyalbany church in Monaghan, said one of the prayers during the service.

Dr McNie spoke of an increasing intolerance to the church’s world view on a range of issues from the beginning and ending of life, the family dynamic, freedom of conscience and the sanctity of marriage. In reaffirming the church’s commitment to “the biblical and historical position of marriage,” he also recognised society’s right to express its opinion. At the same time he said the church had “the right to expect the same level and proportion of tolerance afforded to us that other groups expect afforded to them. Tolerance is a two-way street”, he told the congregation.

Presbyterian Moderator Reverend Ian McNie Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Presbyterian Moderator Reverend Ian McNie Photo: © Michael Fisher

Earlier the outgoing Moderator Reverend Michael Barry also spoke in defence of the traditional view of marriage. He said:

“We are clear on what we believe about biblical marriage – that it is between one man and one woman. And there is much more. But our (Presbyterian) beliefs are grounded on Scripture as the Word of God, which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Not everyone likes what we believe. But we do not conform to the world’s opinions. We do not change our beliefs to fit in with the ways of the world. There will be times we are out of step.”

Reverend McNie’s remarks can be accessed here and those of the Reverend Barry here.

Unlike some previous years, there was no official representative of the Roman Catholic church at the opening service. Tomorrow guests will be formally welcomed from the following churches:

  • Church of Scotland
  • 
United Reformed Church
  • 
Presbyterian Church of Wales
  • Church of Ireland (represented at the service by the Bishop of Clogher, Right Reverend John McDowell)
  • The Methodist Church in Ireland
  • Irish Council of Churches
  • 
Religious Society of Friends
  • 
Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian
  • Scripture Union Malawi
  • Presbyterian Church of East Africa
  • Presbyterian Church of Pakistan
  • The Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal

TIME OF OUR LIVES

Colm Arbuckle  Photo: BBC Radio Ulster

Colm Arbuckle Photo: BBC Radio Ulster

A new programme on BBC Radio Ulster at 2pm ‘Time of our Lives’ is presented by Colm Arbuckle and produced by Owen McFadden. Tune in to hear the over 60s reclaim the airwaves! My contribution can be heard halfway in, around 30:30 on playback. If you think my voice sounds strange, it seems to have been slowed down to suit the potential mature audience! I think when they were doing a digital cut, the speed was altered and not restored to ‘normal’ setting! I hope they will invite me back so you can hear what my voice really sounds like! Apologies if you thought something strange had happened in the years since I left RTÉ News…

WPFG Volunteer Michael Fisher with Kim Harper, Las Vegas Guns & Hoses at the Odyssey Arena July 2013  Picture: © Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye

WPFG Volunteer Michael Fisher with Kim Harper, Las Vegas Guns & Hoses at the Odyssey Arena July 2013 Picture: © Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye

IN RETIREMENT

Well, how are you? What’s the weather going to be like today? It’s a question I continue to get asked, nearly five years after my retirement. Or, more correctly, since I gave up a staff job as a television news reporter and took a voluntary retirement package.

So where, you might ask, does the weather come in? My job was always about news. Since 1984 here in Northern Ireland, that inevitably meant covering sometimes daily killings, and several major incidents. Before that two of my biggest stories were in County Kildare: a train crash and also the disappearance of the racehorse Shergar.

It’s true that my first story on my first day as an RTE News reporter in January 1979 was weather-related, when the temperature dropped to a record low of -18C. The story concerned the transport disruption caused by the snow and ice.

Back then it took me a while to work out why people from the farming community I was introduced to by my then fiancée would usually start a conversation by asking me about the weather. 35 years on and now in semi-retirement, that same question was posed to me as I looked out over the stony grey soil of Monaghan.

NOW I realise that the sunshine or rain enquiry was not because my interlocutor had heard or seen my reports on radio or on the box; it was because he or she thought the famous BBC weatherman Michael Fish had landed in their midst! So if that is my solitary claim to fame when I finally retire, I will be happy in the knowledge that I did have some impact as a television celebrity!

What also pleases me at this stage of my life is to know that manners and respect for older generations can still be found amongst 21st Century youth. When you reach your sixties, and become eligible for the brown travel card, you are glad of the courtesy shown when someone stands up on a bus or train to give you a seat. Or when a stranger unexpectedly offers to carry something for you. I’m already looking forward to the next stage: the blue pass, which entitles the holder to cross-border free travel, as well as within Northern Ireland.

Retirement has given me more opportunity to travel. Two years ago I persuaded my other half to go on a cruise departing conveniently from Belfast to Norway. We already knew a few of those on the trip. By the end of it we had made a number of new friends. Many couples on board were retired. Some, like us, were taking their first cruise. But the vast majority who came from different parts of Ireland had experienced cruises before and were enjoying a new stage of their lives.

If my plans work out, I will do some travelling while my health is reasonable. I do not need to look far for inspiration. My neighbour, who turned 70 recently, loves climbing mountains. He was in Australia before Christmas and travelled to Thailand in February. In October he will be heading to central Nepal and is currently raising funds for the area affected by the earthquake.

I have found that fundraising for charity has been a very productive way of spending some of my retirement. Today I will be helping out at a 10k run that will raise funds for the Special Olympics Ireland team. Previous volunteering shifts included the World Police and Fire Games, which led in turn to the Giro d’Italia cycle race.

All this unpaid voluntary work is my way of putting something back into the community and enjoying a role as an ambassador for Belfast and Northern Ireland. Next week you might come across me in Newcastle, helping to look after the many visitors to the Irish Open Golf. But if they ask me about the weather, I reckon I will just have to check my mobile phone.

FINBAR FUREY IN BELFAST

Finbar Furey playing tin whistle www.finbarfurey.com

Finbar Furey playing tin whistle http://www.finbarfurey.com

A great concert tonight by Finbar Furey at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. But as he told Patrick Freyne of The Irish Times in January, he’s on his last big tour and is “winding down the clock” at the age of 68. The outstanding song was probably his rendition of Willie McBride, in which the packed audience joined. He started off with The Lonesome Boatman, playing the large tin whistle. At other stages in the show he played banjo, guitar and the uilleann pipes. He was accompanied by on double bass.

Finbar Furey at the Lyric Theatre Belfast Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Finbar Furey at the Lyric Theatre Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

**********

“Finbar Furey loves the idea of his music bringing people together. This happened at theWorld Cup in 1994, he says, when Holland were playing Ireland. “At half time, the Dutch fans started singing ‘Het Kleine Café’,” he says. “And the Irish fans were all saying, ‘Hang on a minute that’s [Fureys’ song] The Red Rose Café, so they started singing it. And Paddy says, ‘Aren’t them Hollish people brilliant, singing one of our songs for us. Fair play.’ They didn’t know it was a Dutch song. And the Dutch are saying, ‘Ah, the Irish have learned one of our songs.’ It was the only time two sets of football fans were seen kissing and cuddling each other.”

He laughs. The 68-year-old is sitting forward in his chair in a Dublin hotel. He’s wearing a white fedora hat and a leather jacket and he’s looking sprightly and tanned. “It’s a bottle tan,” he says. Actually, he’s recently come back from Spain. He’s also just had “a big feed of bacon and eggs”, which may explain the sprightliness. “I’m not supposed to. Not after the bang: the heart attack I had two years ago. I haven’t had a fry-up for 2½ years.”

He’s doing publicity for a spate of gigs across Germany, Ireland and South Africa. He also just completed an album of uilleann pipe music, which he promises will be “an eye-opener”, and he’s hoping to begin another record in South Africa with local musicians. It’s probably his last big tour. “I’m winding down the clock,” he says.

He has been playing music for a long time. “[My father] would take me to different parts of Ireland with him. We’d go into a pub and start a session in the pub, [then] he’d move on to another pub someplace else. He would have taken music from county to county long before there was radio or telephones. Can you imagine two Irishmen sitting down at a crossroads in 1932 writing out sheet music to each other, swapping pieces of music? That’s an amazing scene when you think of it: a fiddler and a piper just swapping tunes.”

Finbar Furey at the Lyric Theatre Belfast Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Finbar Furey at the Lyric Theatre Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

Musical family

His whole family was musical. “My mother played the five-string banjo, a thing called ‘breakdown’, which is done with two fingers.” He mimes the picking and sings softly: “I come fromAlabama with a banjo on my knee, and I’m going to Louisiana, oh my true love for to see.”

As we talk he frequently sings a few lines of music for illustrative purposes. He says that singing a song should be like “when an actor goes on stage in theatre. You’re living the character. You can’t just look around and think, that’s a nice wave I got there from Seamus. You have to live the part until you finish the song.”

He and his brothers and parents would play in O’Donoghue’s pub in Dublin alongside the likes of Ronnie Drew. He and his brother Eddie began playing as a duo in the UK and they were asked to join the Clancy Brothers when Tommy Makem left the band. “It was fantastic,” he says. “The first gig we did with them was in 1968 in Carnegie Hall.”

Touring with the Clancys, he met famous people such as Liza Minnelli and Edward Kennedy, and he appeared on Johnny Carson’s show.

He and Eddie partied, but not too hard. “What saved our lives was that we never went near the top shelf. We never touched spirits. We’d have a couple of beers . . . We were kids. We enjoyed Coca-Cola and pizzas and things kids love.”

But ultimately, playing with the Clancys left him unfulfilled. “There’s only so many times I wanted to sing I’ll Tell Me Ma When I Get Home,” he says. And he missed playing the pipes. “After the concerts would finish, I’d run off to a club somewhere in Chicago and find somebody who was playing a bit of Irish music and start a few tunes.”

Intermission in Edinburgh

After leaving the band he went to Edinburgh where his wife, Sheila (“The most perfect woman I’ve ever met”), was about to have a baby. They rented a railway cottage. “I didn’t do anything for a year,” he says. “I tarred a roof in Scotland. Walked seven miles to work every morning and back.”

He and Eddie were friends with folkies such as Eric Bogle and the Incredible String Band. And they were particularly close to Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty, then a duo. Rafferty gave them his song, Her Father Didn’t Like Me Anyway. Their version became John Peel’s song of the year and their careers took off. “We were very experienced with an audience and we knew exactly what we wanted to play. We’d already been to the top and back.”

His brothers George and Paul were following in their footsteps with their friend Davey Arthur in a band called The Buskers. Finbar decided they should all join together – partly, he says, so he could “keep an eye on them”.

They never chased success, he says, but the Furey Brothers and Davey Arthur were nonetheless hugely successful. They appeared on Top of the Pops playing The Green Fields of France, on the bill with Kool and the Gang. They thought it was all hilarious. They had to re-record the backing track because of some obscure union rules.

“We had to join the British Musicians’ Union and then we had to get an orchestra and re-record the song. But I switched the tape and they played the Irish one anyway. They didn’t know. I threw the English one in the Thames.”

He loved working with his brothers. “There was no bosses in the band. We all had a say and we always made room . . . My brother Paul was asked one time what he liked about being an entertainer or musician on the road. He said ‘room service’.”

But he felt the band were repeating themselves, that they weren’t going anywhere. For the second time in his career he got itchy feet and walked away from a successful band. “The boys were happy but I had other things I wanted to do. I had all these songs and ideas of music I wanted to play. I just knew there was something different out there I wanted to play.”

Leaving broke his heart, he says. He couldn’t let go. “I’d watch them from a distance and make sure they were all right.” He would ring venues to make sure they were doing okay. It got worse, he says, after his brother Paul died of cancer in 2002. “I kept blaming myself, thinking that if I’d been there he mightn’t have died. But I know now I couldn’t have helped him anyway.”

The grief coincided with an injury to his shoulder that looked like it might end his career playing the pipes. “I went through a bad time,” he says. “I knew I’d never be able to play the pipes as well again, I’d always be struggling with them. I can only play them for about 20 minutes and then my shoulder starts really aching me again.”

He was also creatively blocked. “My brain was in a knot. Just the guilt of leaving the band and all sorts of things and not spending enough time with Paul before he died. And everybody was disappearing: all our uncles and aunts and people we used to look up to.”

In 2008 he had an operation on his shoulder. Then in 2009 he went on a holiday before going on a short tour in America. “And I went apeshit playing great music again,” he says. “I went around places I’d wandered years ago with the Clancy Brothers. When I came home I decided to get busy and I started writing. I started to think about the future instead of thinking about the past.”

Finbar Furey playing banjo www.finbarfurey.com

Finbar Furey playing banjo http://www.finbarfurey.com

Back in action

The creativity is back, he says, a serious heart attack notwithstanding. He is writing, recording and touring. He and Sheila live in a house that is littered with banjos and guitars and that he makes sound like a drop-in centre for his musically gifted children and their friends (his son Martin is a member of The High Kings). In 2013 he appeared in the TV show The Hit, for which he recorded an actual hit, a number one, with Gerry Fleming’s song The Last Great Love Song. Aren’t reality television talent shows very different from the musical tradition he comes from?

“How would I describe it?” he says. “Take all the great musicians like Joe Heaney andJohnny Doran and the Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers. Now imagine there’s a well and all the heritage goes into the well and every day this well gets bigger and bigger and bigger and all you have to do is take a cup and dip in anywhere you like. The Hit is no different. It’s part of that Irish heritage now and it was a wonderful song.”

After years when the music wasn’t coming, he’s on a roll. “I never want to get into a rut again,” he says. “I have to write about what’s happening now, tomorrow. I have a young man’s life. I never ever stop searching. If I had no hands and still had a brain and I could talk I would still speak about music or hum into a microphone.”

Then it’s time to go and he shakes my hand firmly and warmly. “There’s too much doom and gloom,” he says. “We need more singing.”

Finbar Furey CD cover www.finbarfurey.com

Finbar Furey CD cover http://www.finbarfurey.com

Finbar Furey tours Ireland in February and plays Dublin’s Vicar Street on June 12th. Details here.”  

Irish Times January 19th 2015.

MAY DAY PARADE BELFAST 2015

 

NUJ Belfast and District Branch: Robin Wilson, Bob Miller (Chair) and Joe Mitchell await the start of the parade Photo:  © Michael Fisher

NUJ Belfast and District Branch: Robin Wilson, Bob Miller (Chair) and Joe Mitchell await the start of the parade Photo: © Michael Fisher

MARCHING FOR A BETTER AND FAIRER WAY – May Day

March for People Jobs and Services.
March for Peace, Progress and Equality.
March for a Better, Fairer Way.

The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is pleased to announce the details of its annual May Parade. The annual parade to celebrate workers’ struggle around the world is being held today, Saturday May 2nd, departing at 12:00 noon from Art College Square in Donegall Street, parading around the centre of Belfast and returning to Donegall St.

Participants in the parade are being asked to assemble at 11:30am at Art College Square (UU Belfast), where the Belfast Lord Mayor Arder Carson will welcome guests and participants, followed by short speeches by trade union leaders, Mick Whelan (General Secretary ASLEF) and Larry Broderick (General Secretary, IBOA – the Finance Union).

The Parade will march off from Donegall St/Academy St at 12:00, passing Royal Avenue, Belfast City Hall and returning to Donegall Street via High St. The Belfast May Day parade is still the largest such workers’ event on the island of Ireland, regularly attracting 5-10,000 marchers from every trade union, as well as myriad campaigning and community organisations. It is uniquely multi-cultural, especially for Northern Ireland, although it always has a political message.

In L’Derry, the annual May Day parade will gather at 1pm in Guildhall Square. March off is at 1:20pm, and will be led by the Jay Dee Jazz Band, with some speeches at the end of the march, back at Guildhall Square.

This year’s message is resistance to the austerity programme of the outgoing Westminster government, and the detemination of the trade union movement to ensure that the failed experiment in heaping the cuts and the blame on working people and the most vulnerable will not be supported by any of the eighteen MPs to be elected next Thursday by the people of Northern Ireland.

For more details, download the full programme from the Congress website or pick up a copy of the leaflet from bars, cafes and trade union offices around the city. Copies of the brochure are also available from the ICTU office, Carlin House, 4-6 Donegall Street Place (Behind the John Hewitt Bar).  siptunujlogo_burgundy

PAT FINUCANE ANNIVERSARY

Peter Madden addressing the meeting  Photo: Madden & Finucane

Peter Madden addressing the meeting Photo: Madden & Finucane

Speaking on the 26th anniversary of the killing of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, his partner from the legal practice Peter Madden has renewed the call for an independent, international inquiry into the shooting. At a meeting in North Belfast he also rejected the findings of the 2012 de Silva review into the case ordered by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr Madden accused British QC Desmond de Silva of exonerating the secret British army unit Force Research Unit (FRU) of its role in the Finucane killing when he concluded that the unit, based in the British army’s headquarters at Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn, did not know the UDA was targeting Pat Finucane.

Mr Madden also asserted that de Silva was being “selective” in respect of the intelligence material he analysed saying “the de Silva review is one man’s analysis of a large amount of material”. Mr Finucane, who was 39, was shot dead at his home in North Belfast in front of his family by the Ulster Freedom Fighters, a cover name for the UDA, on February 12th 1989.

Also speaking at the event organised by the Finucane family and Relatives for Justice (RFJ), held in the Lansdowne Court Hotel on February 12th 2015 was the veteran BBC journalist John Ware, whose Panorama programmes revealed to a sceptical British audience the extent of collusion between the British army, RUC and loyalist paramilitaries.

Geraldine Finucane with Panorama reporter John Ware  Photo: Relatives for Justice

Geraldine Finucane with Panorama reporter John Ware Photo: Relatives for Justice

The first to address the packed hall was Mark McGovern, who for the past number of years has been working with RFJ examining the “patterns of collusion and collusion as a policy” focusing mostly in the Mid-Ulster area. Mr McGovern also raised the need, when analysing collusion, to look at the hundreds of people killed by loyalists in the early 1990s, after the importation of arms from South Africa and the political objectives of that campaign.

Pat Finucane Anniversary Talk  Photo: Madden & Finucane

Pat Finucane Anniversary Talk Photo: Madden & Finucane

TITANIC RESTORATION

Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices Photo:  HLF website

Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices Photo: HLF website

Good to see some progress regarding the plans to restore the currently derelict Drawing Offices at the former Harland and Wolff headquarters, where the Titanic was designed. A £4.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will enable The Titanic Foundation Ltd. to restore the building, unlocking plans to transform the site into a luxury Four Star hotel.

The Harland and Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices on Queen’s Island in Belfast were the control centre for the largest shipyard in the world.  It was here that Belfast workers created and designed over 1,000 ships including the White Star Olympic Class Liners – Olympic, Titanic and Britannic and naval warships such as HMS Belfast. The Harland and Wolff building has been vacant since 1989 and has been considered ‘at risk’ for almost a decade.

The restoration of the B+ listed building into an 84-bedroom boutique hotel has the potential to create over 100 local jobs. The Lottery grant will specifically focus on developing the two historical drawing offices as spaces for public use. The boutique hotel will also tell the story of Belfast’s industrial heritage, focusing on the authentic spaces – Board Room, Telephony Room and Entrance Lobby – as well as the fixtures and fittings that relate to the local shipbuilding industry.

The grant has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme. It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable.

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, was delighted with the announcement: “Titanic Foundation in partnership with Titanic Quarter Ltd has been working on this project over the last two years. It has been a long process but worth it. With HLF’s support we will safeguard the drawing offices for future generations and unlock the commercial potential of the entire building as a boutique hotel with heritage at its core. This is a truly unique and authentic project for Belfast that could not have happened without the support from Heritage Enterprise Scheme.”

Head of HLF NI, Paul Mullan  Photo:  HLF

Head of HLF NI, Paul Mullan Photo: HLF

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fun in Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, looks at the history of the building where the Titanic was designed:

By the first half of the 20th century, Belfast was one of the world’s most dynamic industrial centres.  It was within the walls of Harland and Wolff’s HQ where the leading minds in ship design and engineering broke new ground to produce ships that were the envy of the world.

Sadly, the decline of city’s shipbuilding industry was mirrored in the steady decline of Harland and Wolff’s HQ.  Once a symbol of Belfast’s international importance, just over a decade ago it was placed onto Northern Ireland’s buildings at risk register.

But that memory of a dynamic shipyard has awoken in recent years. Today, Titanic Belfast is an incredibly successful tourist attraction. The SS Nomadic, which was built to ferry passengers to and from the Titanic, has been brought back to its former glory and is the highest rated tourism attraction in Belfast.  Close by, HMS Caroline is undergoing a transformation from being a forgotten piece of naval heritage into a museum which will tell a story of sea battles from both the First and Second World Wars.

The result is more than one million visitors to the Titanic Quarter each year. With this success comes a return to fortune for the derelict Harland and Wolff HQ.  £4.9m from our Heritage Enterprise programme will convert the building into an 83 bedroom hotel, with the potential to create over 100 jobs.

The £27m development will bring much wider economic benefits by bringing more visitors and investment to Belfast.  This unique hotel will gives new purpose to an important part of Northern Ireland’s built heritage, building on the Titanic theme of the Quarter whilst providing a stunning setting for visitors.

It also shows how we can use historic buildings creatively, in a way that helps people fully appreciate its past whilst enjoying its present uses and harnessing the collective resolve of both the private and public sector for the benefit of everyone.

We now need to bring this sense of purpose to our many other buildings at risk by challenging not-for-profit groups to partner with commercial operators to bring back into use those buildings which provide us with a direct link to our past.

This isn’t a nice to do but something that has a strong economic and revitalising value. Over two years ago a report on the economic value of Northern Ireland’s historic environment marked out this opportunity, making a strong case for this type of investment.  Today, in the Titanic Quarter and across the UK, Lottery money is helping people to realise the untapped potential of our vacant and underused historic buildings.

 

 

 

CASEMENT PARK

New Casement Park Aerial View  Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

New Casement Park Aerial View Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

It was to be the GAA’s showcase in Ulster: a completely revamped £77m stadium at Casement Park in West Belfast that would seat 38,000 fans. It would take over from Páirc Naomh Tiarnach in the border town of Clones in County Monaghan as the venue for Ulster football finals. Now a judge at the High Court in Belfast has found that the planning application approved by the North’s Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan was “irretrievably flawed“.

The judicial review that lasted thirteen days heard that defects were also identified in the environmental survey, with no assessment of the impact on local residents of extra stadium facilities such as conference suites, bars, restaurants and car parking. A further hearing is expected later this week to decide the final outcome of the case.

Environment Minister Mark H.Durkan announces approval for project, December 2013  Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

Environment Minister Mark H.Durkan announces approval for project, December 2013 Photo: Casement Park Redevelopment Project

The new stadium was set to be included in the list of GAA venues to be used as one of the Ireland’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Hugo McNeill, the chairman of the bid, last month said that the Casement Park upgrade was “crucial” to the Northern Ireland component of its proposal.

Chairman of the Casement Park Project Board, Tom Daly, said they were “deeply disappointed” by the decision. “The proposed redevelopment of Casement Park would have provided the opportunity of a world class provincial stadium for the GAA and the broader community in the heart of Belfast. It would also have provided much needed economic and social benefits to west Belfast and beyond, including financial investment, new jobs, apprenticeships and community projects. Over the coming weeks we will reflect on this decision and consider what the next steps are for Casement Park”, he said.

The redevelopment of Casement Park is part of the Northern Ireland Executive’s policy to upgrade the three major sports grounds in Belfast – soccer’s Windsor Park, Ulster Rugby’s ground at Ravenhill and the GAA stadium at Casement. Three new stands have been constructed at Ravenhill. Work is ongoing on modernising Windsor Park, the home of Irish League club Linfield and the Northern Ireland international team.

I note that former Clones resident Darach MacDonald says he is not going to gloat about this outcome, which he has predicted several times to general disbelief. However, he thinks somebody needs to explain, and quickly, how a planning process described as ‘irretrievably flawed’ was presented to GAA fans and the general public as a fait accompli. From the outset, this was a politically tainted and contrived vanity project to siphon off public funds on a sectarian pretext for an inappropriate development in a place where it was not wanted, he said. 

Ulster Final Clones July 2013 Monaghan v Donegal  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Ulster Final Clones July 2013 Monaghan v Donegal Photo: © Michael Fisher

Meanwhile, the existing venue for the Ulster Football Final, the provincial showpiece for the sport, has been relegated to a state of neglect pending redundancy (without floodlights or other investment since the early 1990s), disparaged and dismissed by those who pursued their ‘Field of Dreams’. As a life-long supporters of Gaelic games, Darach says he is “disgusted and impatient for answers”.