Today is the 80th anniversary of D-Day….

This year’s D-Day commemoration will probably be the last big anniversary with veterans in attendance as even the youngest of them are almost a century old. As the saying goes, these old soldiers will shortly fade away. Thanks to saturation press coverage, almost every one has heard of D-Day but only people with an interest in military history actually understand what it was, how and why it happened and its significance. I have to confess a personal interest in the …

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The Bombing of Gaza. Worse than the Blitz?

I find there are only so many photos and clips of dead and shredded children one can take. The material coming out of the Middle East since October 7th has been heart rendering and anyone with an iota of empathy could not fail to be deeply affected by it. The pictures speak for themselves and for the purposes of this article I do not need to describe the suffering, it is self-apparent. Those who have read some of my previous …

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Your 2024 Old Thompson’s Almanac…

man in gold and brown robe holding black and silver dslr camera

The twenties have been disappointing, haven’t they? So far, we’ve had a global pandemic, murderous wars and a lurch towards irreversible climate change. Our luck has to change, hasn’t it? After consulting my crystal ball and the entrails of various animals, here’s my satirical look ahead to 2024. January – In the United States Donald Trump surprisingly loses the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary to his hard-line challenger from Mississippi, Congressman I. Love-Gunns. Love-Gunns is running in a platform …

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Today is the 19th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami…

Around 230,000 souls met their maker that day, no one knows for sure, making 26th December 2004 one of the deadliest days in human history. I had hoped to publish an account I made a few days after the event when the memory was still fresh, but unfortunately the document is lost in some hidden recess of my hard drive. Still, it was the type of day one does not forget and it remains perhaps, the defining experience of my …

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Algeria and Northern Ireland: Does History Repeat Itself or Does it Merely Rhyme?

white and brown concrete building near green trees during daytime

A few months ago, I was asked to review Rewriting the Troubles: War and Propaganda Ireland and Algeria by Patrick Anderson for another website. The book is well researched and certainly worth a read. It concentrates on how the conflicts in Algeria and Northern Ireland were reported on, primarily by the British press, but also made a wider comparison. Superficially, there are many similarities between the Algerian War of Independence fought against France 1954-62 and the IRA struggle against Britain …

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A history we can agree on?

Slavery is a tough subject. I recently delivered a ten-week Open Learning course on Atlantic slavery at Queen’s University Belfast and at times found myself close to tears by the sheer inhumanity and sadism of the thing. Unfortunately, the lure of a making easy money brings out the very worst in people. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, the well-off in virtually every port in Great Britain and Ireland invested in slaving ships, the murderous .com or crypto of …

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How realistic is the doomsday scenario?

Back in the bad old days a mitigation presented for loyalists convicted of unlawfully possessing firearms was that the guns were stored for a ‘Doomsday scenario’, the doomsday in question being a United Ireland. Nationalists should consider that for a moment. For many Unionists, a united Ireland spells the end of life as they know it, an unknown, full of dread. As a child at the start of the Troubles I can remember such fears being voiced and although one …

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What next for the Ukraine War?

If Vietnam was the first TV war, Ukraine must surely be the first Social Media one. Anyone with a passing interest in international affairs will have seen the war porn; clips of tanks bursting into flames, drones dropping bomblets on armoured vehicles, artillery strikes and even snipers snuffing out lives. Rather than a dearth of information we have too much and it is difficult to separate facts from misinformation or truth from propaganda. What is clear, there is no sign …

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Apocalypse Now? The Ukraine crisis and should we be worried?

kiev, ukraine, city

On 22nd October 1962 President John F Kennedy took to live television to warn the American public that Soviet nuclear missiles had been discovered on Cuba, a mere ninety miles from the Florida coast. The American military, including the Strategic Air Command with its B-52 bombers armed with nuclear weapons, was put on full alert. For the next six days, the world held its breath as the Americans affected ostentatious preparations for an invasion of Cuba and the US Navy …

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For the sake of future generations, we simply cannot go on like this…

I remember back in 1984 being on holiday on a Greek island and wasting an evening drinking largely on my own while a friend who hailed from the loyalist part of the Donegall Road, spent hours trying to convince a friendly English couple that he was British not Irish. After around two hours of the best persuasive arguments he could muster, the woman said, ‘But you’re Irish!’ I learned a couple of lessons that evening, one was not to waste …

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Why Can’t Britain get Over the War?

We are living in tumultuous times, patiently enduring the greatest global crisis most of us will ever live through. We’ve had fear, depression and apathy but I never thought I’d see almost 2,000 die of a new virus in a single day in the UK, with barely an eyebrow raised. We clapped for the brave nurses and doctors; hundreds of whom have been taken by the very virus they fought. Then, on 20th September last year, came a Spitfire tribute. …

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The Toxic Legacy of Donald Trump…

‘There is nothing normal about this president, not in the way he came to power, not in his willingness to dismiss inconvenient facts, to fabricate ‘statistics’, repeat fictional terrorist massacres, nor in his hatred of a free press, his contempt for America’s allies (except Israel), his defence of racist and Nazi groups and disregard of minority rights. Nor, dare I say it, will there be anything normal about his inevitable demise.’[1] I wrote that for Slugger in December 2017 and …

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The controversy over the use of nuclear weapons has never gone away…

Although the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the Second World to an abrupt end, the controversy over the use of nuclear weapons has never gone away. We are far less credible of the justification of military necessity and a desire to save lives than people in 1945 were, and while we know more about what happened than contemporaries did, the context in which the events occurred is less familiar. It is difficult to overstate that the fighting in …

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The enduring tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…

As the 75th anniversary of VJ Day and the end of the Second World War approaches, the world inevitably turns its attention to the enduring tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is often forgotten that World War II was a nuclear war, albeit a one-sided one, and the controversy over the use of nuclear weapons has never gone away. This piece is a slightly modified excerpt from The Lesser Evil, my book on the Second World War. It explains how …

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We Always Kill Our Heroes – The legacy of Winston Churchill…

There is a whiff of revolution in the air. As I write these words the White House is under virtual siege and a statue of a long dead slave master has been unceremoniously dumped into a river. In London, the cenotaph and a statue of Churchill have been defaced. It is easy to dismiss such actions as mindless vandalism but they were calculated to gain attention by striking at Britain’s very idea of itself and by extension, many British people’s …

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VE Day (Victory in Europe) – Then and Now…

I remember one Christmas afternoon when my mother disclosed that her father was a ‘great Stalin man’. I almost choked on my drink at the news but when she explained, it made perfect sense. My maternal grandfather had been a staunch unionist and an Orangeman but became disillusioned after experiencing long term unemployment during the Great Depression. Embittered he looked, like many of the working class, to the supposed workers utopia in the Soviet Union. As a result, on VE …

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‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’

The above quote by the American writer, William Faulkner, could have been crafted with Northern Ireland in mind. We need look no further than the murder of Lyra McKee a few weeks ago for evidence that Faulkner was right on the money. I thought my days of hearing news of the violent deaths of friends had long passed but seemingly not. I woke up to read of Lyra’s death in the news. Not only was her killing reckless and heartless, …

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An Irish Border Poll – learning the lessons of Brexit

Demographic changes and some recent polls have injected an air of optimism, arguably even complacency into the campaign for Irish unity to the extent that its proponents regard it as inevitable within the medium-term. A quick review of the past two years in the United Kingdom however, offers a vivid example of how major constitutional change is not a simple matter, far from it. The problem began with a referendum, posing the simple question: Should the United Kingdom remain a …

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The Ghosts of Bonfires past…

I remember back in  the day, probably around Easter 1971, my pal and I threw down two sticks on an area of open ground in Tyndale Gardens in Belfast and said ‘That’s the boney started.’ Other kids probably do the same thing around the same time of year to this day. There were no pallets then and no tyres. We collected waste wood and the ‘big lads’ cut branches off trees in neighbouring Carrs Glen. I often think about that …

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The last day of Northern Ireland…

Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings - Edward Carson statue

The recent comment by Arlene Foster that she might leave Northern Ireland would have come to no surprise to anyone raised in the PUL community. The Republic has changed beyond recognition from Dev’s day and Northern republicans have moved on too but the old fear of ‘Doomsday’ remains. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek view of the unionist apocalypse. It was perhaps inevitable the Norther Ireland Assembly would fall (again). Joint First Minister Norman Deeds had proposed an Ulster 21 commemoration to mark …

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