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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 145: December 2006

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Community TV
Congratulations to Belfast community station NvTv on starting to stream their programmes live on the web. Northern Visions / or NvTv (not "Envy TV" which is what you get with so many stations!) was previously only available within a few miles of Belfast city centre but now can be seen anywhere in the world. All you need (if you don't already have it) is to download RealPlayer to watch it on your computer. Go to and follow the link there. For those in fairly-central Belfast who want it on terrestrial TV, tune in your television set to Channel 62, or Frequency 799.276MHz. Dave and Marlyn who are among those who work there were part of a previous communications revolution back in the 70s [before my time - Ed] [Dirty liar, you were probably already over the hill then - Billy] when they ran the Print Workshop, helping community and political groups in Belfast and further afield get into print at the height of the Troubles. Now that NVTV is on line there are literally 'no boundaries' if you have broadband internet access. Mind you, the local Belfast print media seemed reluctant to give the station any publicity - I know, because I have asked for them to give NvTv listings.

Green machines
Now that global warming is established as a reality, some things are goin' to have to change round here. One is built in obsolescence. Instead, what we need is 'built out obsolescence'. What do I mean? I mean machines and equipment of all kinds which are built to last, and which have easily replaceable parts (some as slot-in-and-out cassettes). At the moment if your CD player ceases to read CDs, what do you do? To get it fixed would probably cost more in £/€ than the CD player itself cost originally, so you will probably throw it away and buy a new one which is a nonsense in terms of resources.

Of course legislation will be required to ensure firms build and sell equipment which has built out obsolescence. They should be required, depending on the type of equipment involved, to sell parts for a set period of time - say thirty years in the case of a CD player. Governments could also subsidise, directly or indirectly, repair services (e.g. by removing taxation from equipment repair).

There are of course considerations in terms of increased fuel efficiency for some equipment which may entail 'new' equipment being a better buy for the environment than 'old' equipment being refurbished. These considerations should be taken into account according to the nature of the equipment and any fuel saving, and the resultant taxation policy. Much equipment now does not need improved in terms of its performance but the system we have is incredibly wasteful and will have to change in any move to build a green, sustainable and survivable future.

Long Kesh, long walk
What can you say about a visit to Long Kesh/Maze prison? It is difficult to know where to start. I was there recently being given the tour (organised by OFMDFM/Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, or more accurately ONFMNDFM with 'N' for 'No'). The name of Long Kesh/Maze itself always reminds me of Windscale being renamed Sellafield - so bad they named it twice. Ground is already been cleared for a big Norn Iron sports stadium on one large part of the site, presuming this is where the stadium gets located (and not in Belfast), and the RUAS/Royal Ulster Agricultural Society may relocate from Kings Hall, Belfast, to another part of the massive site, and all will be altered. It is now six years since the prison closed. What will be preserved of the prison is one H block, the prison hospital, the command centre, and one 'cage' (from the internment era, 1971) which will be moved close to the other prison buildings being preserved. But the context will change utterly. Now, it is the abomination of desolation, the remnants of a prison or a prison camp with an even more haunting presence because it has almost no locks, certainly no inmates, no jailors, and yet an overwhelming aura of Northern Ireland as it has been in the Troubles. Today it is empty of people, certainly, but of feelings, emotions, anguish, and, also hope, no, not empty of these things.

If those walls of corrugated iron, and that razor wire, could speak, it would have stories to tell - of humanity as well as cruelty, of bravery and bravado, of hope and hopelessness, of division and unity. Prisoners and ex-prisoners have been key to the changes which have been taking place in Northern Ireland over the last couple of decades. The first steps of the peace process, that ongoing stumble towards cooperation, began at the time of the hunger strikes, a time when it would be hard to say Catholic and Protestant people in Northern Ireland were ever more divided.

In the H Blocks today, with little in the way of any furnishings left, our eyes turn to the small items that indicate humans lived or worked here; a sock tied to a grating on a skylight, the address and postcode of "HMP Maze" written in marker on a command centre monitor unit, and, most movingly of all, coloured stones or a small dried up posy of roses left on window sills, presumably by family members quite recently, in the prison hospital (where the hunger strikers would have been moved after 21 days and where ten hunger strikers died). A piece of tinsel in the command centre looks rather incongruous. We see the room where hunger strike negotiations would have taken place, and the room where Bobby Sands died. In one room in H4 the ghostly image of a mural of Ireland comes through the overlay of paint, thanks to damp; is that a dove hovering over Northern Ireland on the mural? If not, then perhaps it should be.

There are those who think Long Kesh/The Maze is a Provo shrine. It certainly has a particular resonance for people from a republican background but republican prisoners who were there may have a whole range of emotions - feelings of hardness and cruel treatment at the time of the blanket protest and hunger strikes, but also of much more relaxed regimes later on. However this place is not just of significance for republicans. Loyalists were here in their myriads too, and prison officers. All in Northern Ireland were affected by what went on here and in relation to here. If it should be a shrine to anything, let it be to the humanity which has led us out of a searingly dreadful abyss.

How the proposed international conflict transformation centre there would operate in practice, and how it would relate to either the population at large or more specialist communities (republican, loyalist, human rights, peace and conflict), I'm not sure (though see page 8 of and this among other comments). And the context would feel quite different with the demolition of the main part of the H Blocks. But if you were aiming to have a symbolic place to base a conflict transformation centre then it would be difficult to think of a more appropriate spot. The medium, or in this case location, would be a very definite part of the message. That doesn't mean that it would work in practice and it would have to be done in cooperation with a variety of other institutions in the field or it would be difficult for it to work and would be likely to flounder after a short while. Hopefully all this is being taken into account in planning....?

- - - - - - - -

The February edition of Nonviolent News is where we make our annual Adolf Awards for 'conspicuous disservice to peace' (the IgNobels of the peace world). So please make all nominations to the INNATE address, marked for yours truly, by 29th January. This is your opportunity to get your stinking cap on and make sure your least favourite politician, personality or organisation gets their true reward. Remember, vote early, vote often! And my judgement will be final (bribes in any negotiable currency welcome) [you can't say that - Ed] [I just did, are you going to censor me? - Billy]. [Better to let you discredit yourself - Ed] [It was financial credit, not discredit I was looking for! - Billy]. So, until February, see you at the non-star studded awards ceremony - Billy King

Who is Billy King?
A long, long time ago, in a more innocent age (just talking about myself you understand), there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train' and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor around with you).

Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little about horses even if someone with a similar name is found astride them on gable ends around certain parts of Norn Iron).

Copyright INNATE 2021