Tag Archives: Thales

Billy King: Rites Again

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Sic transit gloria mundi

Martyrs’ Memorial Free Presbyterian Church is the Free Presbyterian ‘cathedral’, the church which Rev Ian Paisley was minister of in the religious denomination which he started. It is situated on Belfast’s Ravenhill Road only 1km or so from where Paisley had his first small gospel hall or church building. The name celebrates Protestant martyrs. Close to the roof at the front of it is the evangelical slogan ‘Time is short’, and a clock face. There was a clock telling the time but that has now been removed, hands and all (“look, no hands!”), whether to be replaced or not I cannot say, presumably it stopped working. So we are left with the slogan and an empty clock face; has eternity already arrived? Time has certainly ceased, it seems a bit ironic. Of course Ian Paisley had a run in with the church once he saw the light in 2007 and was converted to political cooperation, and having been moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church every year since it started he had the indignity of being forced out; sic transit gloria mundi (‘so passes the glory of the world’)

Perhaps I can be allowed [You may – Ed] to repeat an original joke, original to me that is though not to these pages, about what the white van driver texted to the company secretary, whose name was Gloria, when he couldn’t get his vehicle started at the beginning of the week: “Sick Transit, Gloria, Monday”.

The cycle continues

Dervla Murphy, the renowned Irish traveller and travel writer, went on her last great journey on 22nd May, and her death has been fairly well marked in the mainstream media. She was outspoken and fearless to the last. Unlike some south of the border she was not afraid to interact with those of what was then the ‘majority community’ in the North, and wrote a book about her cycling and journeying around Norn Iron, A Place Apart (1978). One of the many things which she illustrated was the value of cycling as a way to get to know anywhere, and its facility in allowing interaction with local people. Here is one story which was told to me by Peter Emerson, a friend of hers, and incidentally another inveterate cyclist in local and foreign parts.

“She wanted to see an Orange parade, and I knew an LOL [Loyal Orange Lodge] met on the morning of the 12th in the youth club where I was working at the time in north-west Belfast. So I asked them – as it happened they were a temperance lodge — and they said ok. She’s from LIsmore. Yeah, no problem. So I told Dervla, and off she went. She arrived in the club at about 8am and the first question they asked her, “Would you like a wee half’un?” .” Slainte! May she travel in peace.


We don’t blow our own trumpet too often [I thought trumpeting on was what your Colm was all about – Ed] but 300 issues of any publication produced on a voluntary basis is an achievement worth celebrating. It is not actually only 30 years (at ten issues a year – the couple of news supplements produced most years in January and August don’t count as issues) but 32 years old as it was first produced in 1990; INNATE began in 1987 but Nonviolent News only became monthly in 1994.

A lot of water has passed under many bridges since then, and many bridges have been built and others destroyed, literally and metaphorically, at home and abroad. The two page paper issue, which was how it started, is still produced as the first two pages of news but the email and web editions are substantially longer – and more opinionated – as you may know if you are reading this, and that is how most people see it these days. Nonviolent News first went online simultaneously with the paper edition in 1998 but all issues, the earlier ones as PDFs, are online.

There are lots of other resources on the website, including posters and workshops, beyond Nonviolent News but as a monthly it is still usually the most visible star in the INNATE firmament. As always we welcome your input or suggestions and support in whatever way possible. It will keep going and the oul boots won’t be hung up yet. After all, we are led to believe peace, ecological sustainability, human rights and social justice have not yet arrived……

Ticked off

I have been ticked off many times in life, often enough justifiably, and often enough due to circumstance. However after a recent visit to the countryside in Co Donegal I found I had a red spot near my ankle when I returned home. Thinking that a small thorn or something might have embedded in my leg, I used my nail to investigate…..and was surprised to find a live tick, at the nymph stage and only just over 1mm long, in my hand. Picking it off with my nail was the wrong approach to take, at least if I had known I had a tick (it wasn’t just the ticket) as you have to be careful removing a tick – look it up online – to avoid leaving part behind and possible infection. I was lucky it came away so easily, it can’t have been well embedded. Ticks have a fascinating life cycle though – just I don’t want to be part of it. After a couple of days of an itchy spot I was fine.

When hill walking I have stout boots and a couple of pairs of socks with my trousers tucked into the outer pair – which is the best way to avoid ticks. But I was also wandering about without such protection in grass and a field where there would have over time been sheep, cattle, dogs, and birds. So I got a little passenger. I am not in favour of parasites though as the African proverb goes, the sharks on land are more dangerous than the sharks in the sea…..I won’t adapt the African proverb to one about parasites. The chance of getting an infection from a tick is small – though I do know someone who got Lyme Disease from walking the hills of Donegal and the effects are like ME/Chronic Fatigue so very unpleasant and long lasting – but just in case of any problems I kept the dead tick in tissue paper in an envelope; had it been a match box I kept it in I could have been accused of engaging in a tick box exercise…… [Tick tock, your time is up – Ed]


The term ‘turncoat’ is used for someone who radically changes their views and allegiances, the origin of the term may be military (literally changing the colour of your uniform by inverting it) but it is not a violent military term; and it is also not synonymous with the term ‘traitor’ since circumstances may have changed radically before the person concerned became a ‘turncoat’, even the nature of the state. I can say I am always fascinated by people who radically change their viewpoint. Ian Paisley, mentioned above, was one such person who ‘saw the light’ of cooperation and compromise, of a sort, late in life, and became involved in power-sharing….which the year before he had said would happen over his dead body. Whether a desire to ‘leave a legacy’ was the major factor in Paisley becoming a ‘turncoat’ is probable but may not have been the only reason.

One figure of interest in this regard, who was a very young, active, and seemingly successful, military republican in the Irish War of Independence but ended up a Zen Buddhist and pacifist, was George Lennon (who died in 1991). His story is told in various entries online and there is a documentary film about him, “O Chogadh go Síocháin: Saol George Lennon” which I haven’t seen. I am not going to give too much about him here except to say he resisted clericalism in the Free State and moved to the USA a couple of times where he permanently emigrated in 1946. From Dungarvan, Co Waterford, he was married to a Dublin, well Dun Laoghaire, Presbyterian, and their only son was baptised as a Presbyterian which was not in accord with the Ne Temere decree of the Catholic Church (but then he was married outside the Catholic church too).

As to what influenced him to become a pacifist, the suggestion is made that being ordered to kill a childhood acquaintance, an RIC man who acted as a British army scout, may have been part of it. He actively opposed the Vietnam war in the States and got up to all sorts of things not mentioned here. Worth looking up. Turning your coat can be a positive move, as Paisley and Lennon both illustrate.

BJ in NI

Boris Johnson visited the Thales (they pronounce the name to rhyme with ‘Alice’) armaments plant at Castlereagh, Belfast during a recent visit to Norn Iron to not sort out the Assembly impasse. He has been doing his best to look like, and failing to be, a ‘war leader’ which presumably is also part of his schtick in attempting to survive as boss of the Conservative Party and prime minister of the UK. Ditto his visit to Ukraine earlier. Why do I get the impression that he actually welcomed the war in Ukraine since he thought it was an opportunity to look like a Big Guy and regain some authority.

However he was looking like a little boy in a toy shop when he described the Belfast Thales arms factory as ‘amazing’ and joked as he looked through the aiming device of a weapons system. Very funny hilarious, such killing machines. Thales does make bazooka type NLAWs which are widely used by the Ukrainian army….but Thales, as INNATE has repeatedly tried to state, also has components in Russian war planes and tanks. Profits from all sides then, as is typical of the arms trade.

What the media North and South has refused to publicise is the corruption existing in the arms trade in general, and relating to Thales in particular (proven in relation to Malaysia, Taiwan and South Africa – the last still ongoing in relation to Jacob Zuma, former President). See Andrew Feinstein’s book “The Shadow World – Inside the Global Arms Trade” (Penguin) on the arms trade for some more detail on this – and lots of astounding detail about the arms trade around the world, not least its links with pollytitians.

Oh, and on another matter, Alliance have shared that on his visit to Norn Iron Boris Johnson didn’t know that Stormont MLAs have to designate themselves as unionist, nationalist or other, and Alliance is therefore discriminated against since the first and deputy first minister have to come from the two largest parties, one from each ‘side’. Not for the first time Johnson hadn’t done his homework but for the supposed, and self appointed, ‘Minister for the Union’ not to know a very basic fact about politics in one of the Terror-Tories in the UK, the most Troubles-some one, is absolutely astounding.

That’s me as summer begins, which, as Irish people know, may be more a state of mind than a warm and sunny season – but the rain is warmer. It is not necessarily the holliers yet but not too far away. I don’t usually make appeals [you are not very appealing – Ed] but if you have a few bob/quid/dolours/yen to spare for a green project, see the ‘water protectors’ piece in the news section of this issue. Anyway, see you soon, Billy.

Billy King: Rites Again

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Mapping violence, oppression and war

For me, the carefully crafted artwork of Tom Weld https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/albums/72157711237159086 brilliantly captures the randomness of oppression and war. By that I don’t mean that the causes are random, no, they are very definite, but that the victims, bloodied, beaten, killed, terrified, possibly starving, made homeless and turned into refugees, may be ‘others’ but they didn’t do anything to deserve that treatment, and if it is ‘them’ today it could be ‘us’ or ‘you’ tomorrow. In that sense the victims are random, anybody and everybody.

Tom Weld’s maps are fictional but for me encapsulate the essence in thinking of victory and territory, not people, they represent inhumanity personified, if that is not a contradiction in terms; perhaps you could say they illustrate what happens when we think only of a cause, our ‘just’ cause, and not of the people affected by war and oppression.

They could have been made for Ukraine and the current war. Do have a look at the link above.

Christianity and contemporary culture

A few decades back, Ireland was very definitely a ‘Christian’ country in its overall ethos. Given the dominance of Catholicism, and to some extent the Catholic church, in the Republic, this enabled Northern unionists and loyalists to talk about the state south-and-west of the border as ‘priest-ridden’ (though it should also be pointed out that only one part of Ireland had a Christian minister and church leader who was also a party political leader – Ian Paisley). In some cases, as in the ‘Mother and baby’ scheme of 1951 there was more than a hint of truth in these allegations, it was glaringly obvious. But situations varied enormously.

However if anyone tried to say today that the Republic was priest-ridden they would be laughed out of court. The only political party where there is an ongoing tussle which is religion-related is arguably the DUP where Poots is of the ‘Free Presbyterian’ very conservative evangelical strand and Donaldson of a more secular but still conservative variety of unionism.

Of course if you looked more closely there were always people of secular, non-denominational or even anti-clerical views. Going back in time some such views would have been hidden or partly hidden. Secularisation and sex and child abuse scandals, particularly involving Catholic clergy, have drastically changed the reality of this aspect of life, particularly in the Republic. The incoming of people from elsewhere to the North has been a very positive factor in moving ever so slightly away from concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them’ meaning Catholics and Protestants but unfortunately that division is still very real even if it is a cultural-political division of which religious background or community is an indicator.

What has been interesting to see for me recently is the reaction of some progressive people, North and South of the border, to the Downpatrick Declaration https://www.downpatrickdeclaration.com/ This was intentionally written not as a Christian document but calling on the cultural relevance of Downpatrick and the three Christian saints associated with it, Patrick, Brigid, and Colmcille and their relationship to peace. It was backed at its launch by Afri, INNATE and StoP/Swords to Ploughshares.

The interesting reaction from the people I am referring to is in seeing it as a ‘Christian’ document because it refers to a Christian context. The Declaration is available to sign on the website but the people concerned felt they couldn’t sign it because of its Christian connotations, that it was a ‘Christian’ document not open to non-Christians.

So does it come across as a Christian document to you? Is it latently, de facto Christian? If so, how could it have been done differently? Would it have meant giving up the reference to Downpatrick and its interred saints? It raises interesting questions about religious, cultural and secular identity and about inclusivity – and individual sensitivities. I hasten to add that by ‘sensitivities’ I am not saying that the people concerned are being too sensitive, they may well be correct in their assessment.

However it does raise questions about how we relate, if we relate at all, to the ‘Christian’ heritage of Ireland, good, bad and indifferent. And, if we are able, to take pride in the ‘good’ parts of that heritage without feeling compromised. But this is all work in progress.

Proudly made in Belfast

Thales arms company (Castlereagh, Belfast, part of a French owned multinational) was proudly basking in the news that their shoulder mounted missiles, a type of bazooka, developed jointly by UK and Sweden, may have been partly instrumental in stopping the Russian column of tanks and armoured vehicles coming towards Kyiv in the Russian war on Ukraine. It is named ‘NLAW’, “Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapons”. What Thales wasn’t quite so keen to publicise, but INNATE did at their St Patrick’s Day demonstration, was that Thales weapons were fighting on both sides. Thales’ Damocles weapons targetting system is in Russian military planes, and they also have two types of thermal imaging/heat-detecting cameras (which may pinpoint humans) in Russian tanks.

Isn’t it wonderful when you can make a profit from both sides. See e.g. https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/Thales-Key-Role-in-Russias-Defense-Industry-04994/ and https://disclose.ngo/en/article/war-in-ukraine-how-france-delivered-weapons-to-russia-until-2020 The first of these refers to a quote from 2008 that ““Few Western companies can boast of the same experience of broad and productive cooperation with Russian aerospace and defense enterprises as the Thales Group of France.”

Thales’ the arms company is pronounced ‘Talis’ (they say, rhyming with ‘Alice’) whereas the ancient Greek guy Thales that the firm is named after, regarded as a founder of western science, can be pronounced ‘Thay-lees’. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/2899262954/in/album-72177720297420924/ portrays the contradiction in the arms company’s name.

Oh, and here is what that NLAW bazooka does: “The weapon can either be fired directly at a tank or just over the top where the armour is weakest. The missile can discharge an armour penetrating, superheated copper cone down into the tank as it passes overhead. This melts through the armour, “splattering” around the inside and setting off any explosives. The shockwave and shrapnel will kill any crew……” What a wonderful use of Belfast engineering skill! https://www.newsletter.co.uk/business/ni-built-missiles-may-have-halted-40-mile-long-russian-convoy-3594143

Thales is also corrupt – a fact that the media in Ireland have been reluctant to state because of their fear of libel laws. However it is well established. Former South African President Jacob Zuma’s trial for corruption involving Thales resumes in April. A former financial advisor to him when vice-president was convicted of taking bribes from Thales but pardoned by Zuma when he came to be president. Thales have also been implicated in major, and very shady, corruption cases in Malaysia and Taiwan; details are given in Andrew Feinstein’s “The Shadow World: Inside the global arms trade”, pages 509-510 in my Penguin edition (you can check the index anyway). The Malaysian incident also involved the murder of a translator for the illegal deal after he threatened to spill the beans.

Thales in Belfast is now developing laser/energy field weapons for the Ministry of Defence in London so that the enemy can be fried, well, there may be no oil used so ‘fried’ may not be strictly speaking true but you know what I mean.

Thus we can report that the Northern Ireland war process is indeed progressing and that profits are well up. A peace process? What’s that?

Well, we had a beautifully warm week or ten days there when it might have been a fine Irish summer (notice the lowering of expectations there). Now we are back to the norm for the time of year. I am always sad to see the daffodils go, perhaps more than any other flower, because their departure signals the end of the pleasant longing for spring and into the reality. I wish you well for the coming month and I’ll see you again very soon, Billy.