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The Troubles

'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland began in the 1960's with civil rights marches in favour of 'one man one vote' and arguments over slum clearance and occupancy in Londonderry (now just 'Derry').  These brawls escalated as loyalist Protestant groups opposed the Catholic protesters. In August 1969 sectarian contests developed into open warfare in the Bogside area and English troops were moved in to restore order.  As yet inexperienced and poorly trained they fired on and killed protestors.

In 1973 both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community.  This provided the customs and freedom of movement conditions necessary for the effective removal of borders between the two countries, facilitating the free movement goods, services and workers.  The island of Ireland would soon be a single commonwealth - like states or provinces in Australia, Canada or the USA.  I remind readers again that Ireland is a country not much bigger than Tasmania with a population not much bigger than Sydney.

Yet those who thought a single commonwealth was the issue were to be disappointed. The provisional IRA did not accept this economic unity as sufficient. Instead it stepped-up its bombing campaign, taking it to London and Britain in general. When I lived in New York in the late 70's, in the Irish Pubs, IRA supporters were like the Salvation Army, with boxes on a stick soliciting donations. Except, instead of supporting the US homeless down the street, these donations went to Heckler & Koch or DuPont, to buy arms and explosives.

Then in August 1979 the IRA murdered the Queen's cousin, Lord Mountbatten, when they blew up his fishing boat, killing him and three others, including his 14 year old grandson. The same day they murdered a number of British peacekeepers. Mountbatten had been the Viceroy who mismanaged the Partition of India and thus, by incompetence, a man with millions of deaths on his hands, yet to Britain murdering an inner member of the royal family was an outrageously provocative escalation.  After that 'The Troubles' went into overdrive and became a full-on war in Northern Ireland, involving British troops in both public and covert operations against the IRA.  Both sides rose to the challenge.

'The Troubles' would continue for two more decades, by which time thousands more had died and the survivors among the leaders were getting old and tired.  At last they agreed to talk, then to lay down their arms, as a condition of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.


See album See album

The Troubles ended in 1998 - or did they
Belfast Town Hall has a 'Reflection Space' white walls covered in text of different sizes,
in which people representing both sides in the Troubles and the victims of 'collateral damage' are quoted. It makes one weep.




# Michael 2020-08-28 06:06
This article is brilliant. I've learnt a lot from reading about these travels
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Southern France

Touring in the South of France

September 2014



Off the plane we are welcomed by a warm Autumn day in the south of France.  Fragrant and green.

Lyon is the first step on our short stay in Southern France, touring in leisurely hops by car, down the Rhône valley from Lyon to Avignon and then to Aix and Nice with various stops along the way.

Months earlier I’d booked a car from Lyon Airport to be dropped off at Nice Airport.  I’d tried booking town centre to town centre but there was nothing available.

This meant I got to drive an unfamiliar car, with no gearstick or ignition switch and various other novel idiosyncrasies, ‘straight off the plane’.  But I managed to work it out and we got to see the countryside between the airport and the city and quite a bit of the outer suburbs at our own pace.  Fortunately we had ‘Madam Butterfly’ with us (more of her later) else we could never have reached our hotel through the maze of one way streets.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

My car owning philosophies



I have owned well over a dozen cars and driven a lot more, in numerous countries. 

It seems to me that there are a limited number of reasons to own a car:

  1. As a tool of business where time is critical and tools of trade need to be carried about in a dedicated vehicle.
  2. Convenient, fast, comfortable, transport particularly to difficult to get to places not easily accessible by public transport or cabs or in unpleasant weather conditions, when cabs may be hard to get.
  3. Like clothes, a car can help define you to others and perhaps to yourself, as an extension of your personality.
  4. A car can make a statement about one's success in life.
  5. A car can be a work of art, something re-created as an aesthetic project.
  6. A car is essential equipment in the sport of driving.
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Opinions and Philosophy

Gone but not forgotten

Gone but not forgotten



Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98.

I had an early encounter with him electioneering in western Sydney when he was newly in opposition, soon after he had usurped Cocky (Arthur) Calwell as leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and was still hated by elements of his own party.

I liked Cocky too.  He'd addressed us at University once, revealing that he hid his considerable intellectual light under a barrel.  He was an able man but in the Labor Party of the day to seem too smart or well spoken (like that bastard Menzies) was believed to be a handicap, hence his 'rough diamond' persona.

Gough was a new breed: smooth, well presented and intellectually arrogant.  He had quite a fight on his hands to gain and retain leadership.  And he used his eventual victory over the Party's 'faceless men' to persuade the Country that he was altogether a new broom. 

It was time for a change not just for the Labor Party but for Australia.

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