Tag Archives: Turncoats

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.