Ann Allan: Stormont Square


It was a foggy night in Stormont Square. Arlene the landlady was about to open up and she was worried. The boiler wasn’t firing properly and she’d called in her Special Plumber ADrian, Spad for short. 


He suggested that they replace the boiler with a domestic heating incentive available to landlords or RHI as it became to be known. When Spad suggested that for every £1 they invested they could recoup £1.60 Arlene was convinced. It will work well in the pub she thought. Keep the heat up and the punters will drink more.

She hadn’t counted however on there being a backlash from the residents of the square. When they found out about the plan they boycotted the pub. Arlene had been unkind in the past forbidding Cockney to be spoken in the pub and only allowing Adam and Eve to drink there while barring Adam and Steve. One of her customers Big balls Jonny had recorded Arlene and the guy who ran the vegetable stall, planning to deceive the locals with help of a couple of guys Nelson Redsky and Paisley Og. They had been up to no good. Paisley the younger had been holidaying in foreign parts and conning the governments into paying for it. Redsky was dabbling in dodgy windows. There was no transparency.

When Arlene found out she was raging. I need a holiday more than you she cried. Haven’t you heard that takings are down. My salary has been cut and I’m having to count on the RHI scheme working.

Her first customer that morning was Big balls Jonny.

I need a word he said. I’m behind the RHI scheme and even I have realised that it’s not working. So I’m stopping it.

No you can’t do that Arlene shouted. Here have a drink.


I don’t drink the devils porridge Big balls Jonny replied.

Ok so have a glass of wine instead.

After a couple of sips he began to relax. Give me a bottle of that my good lady he said.

Arlene’s plot to get him tipsy was working.

I’ll try a Guinness he said sleepily.

His tongue was beginning to loosen.

Did you hear the gossip he asked. A couple of senior duper’s are involved in an extra marital affair. I was disgusted listening to all the gory details but I told this guy who works for me, at least  I think he works for me that it was important that he told me every little detail. So I could pray for them, you understand.

At this stage Arlene signalled to a couple of bystanders Big Pete and Simple Simon. Time to take him for a little ride.  You get it boys? Big balls Jonny was last seen singing a song from Breakfast at Tiffany’s as he was dragged out of the pub.

Now get outa ma pub and don’t come back Arlene was heard to shout. 

Cue Eastenders theme.

Ann Allan: Transparency for Accountability -Conference 13 September Riddel Hall


I hope they don’t impeach President Trump before the 13 September. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know my feelings about the President and his ‘fake news ‘ may be wondering why? Well I have to confess, with no assembly and the 06F03B11-F52D-485F-B745-732B2AA2AAF6disaster that is Brexit I have been intrigued by the goings on in the White House.  I know more about the judicial system in the USA than I do in the UK and can name most Republican and Democratic senators and of course Trump’s ex wives and ex-lovers. I was horrified when he won the election. I know now that there is a good chance it was won for him by Russia with which he has an affinity.

So when the Open Government  Network NI of which I am a member were planning their conference Transparency for Accountability and were looking for ideas for sessions I suggested that we look at the influence Trump has had on transparency and openness in his own government and in others around the world. He befriends dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Duerte to whom transparency is an anathema.

So we are putting Trump On Trial on 13 September. And although I want him impeached or for him to resign I hope he stays just a little longer.

Other sessions will look at how the ongoing enquiry into the flawed RHI energy scheme and the effect on our democracy. In Beyond RHI:  How to Restore Democratic accountability at Stormont.   Many flaws in our democratic system have come to light. The question is how do we fix it?

The Magic Money Tree.  I’m sure we’ve  all heard from our parents at some stage that money doesn’t grow on trees. That is unless of course you are a bank that can create money out of nothing. But who is in charge of that tree?

Social media, instantly alerting us to events around the world such as terrorist attacks, social upheaval and natural disasters reminds us that our way of life is vulnerable and that we could face destruction and possible extinction. We will discuss how we face this dilemma in our session The  (Post) Truth about Saving the World.

The final session will discuss How a Citizen’s Assembly  would work in NI.  What topic will it address? Could it provide a voice for civil society in the absence of an assembly ?

So if you haven’t already signed up, you need to do now as places are filling up quickly. Riddell Hall is a beautiful venue. And just look at the line up of speakers.  Lunch and refreshments provided. What more could you ask for? Click on the link below to book and to see all the details including speakers at the event.

NI Open Government Conference: Transparency for Accountability Tickets, Thu, 13 Sep 2018 at 09:45 | Eventbrite

Ann Allan: Dear Arlene, Michelle and SOS

I’m so disappointed in the woman who are not running NI, a job that they have been elected to and are being paid for and in whom we had put our hopes into solving the problems in Northern Ireland.

Women will be more empathetic, we thought. They’ll want to solve the waiting lists, they’ll realise how distressing it is for parents, especially mothers watching their children in pain while being told they may have to wait up until three years for surgery. They’ll want to help partners who they see losing the will to live as they cope with pain and they will see their family members who because of the waiting lists in the NHS no longer have any quality of life. We thought they would see the problem with the lack of places for children in our local schools. We thought they might be more conciliatory to the other side and sit down together and try to work through it. 

But no, like a pair of school girls they adopted the he said / she said mind-set and the Ulster attitude of ‘not an inch’ and ‘No surrender’

Hard to believe that this is happening because some want to speak Irish and insist that this right be enshrined in an ILA and some who see speaking Irish as another step to a United Ireland. Please tell me we are better than this. Improve life for our citizens or hold out for an ILA or reject an ILA . I just can’t square the two. I personally speak little Irish other than what I learnt at school and I’m delighted that others do but if one of my family becomes ill and needs treatment that isn’t there, I assure you the Irish language will be the furthest thing from my mind as will any other language other than bad.

The three ladies in question will not read this but let me say to you anyway, your self righteous attitudes in the case of Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill and the couldn’t care less attitude of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland need to change and soon. When they look back on their lives will they be able to say ‘ I did a great job in the role the people trusted me to do ‘ or will it be ‘ Look at the numbers who suffered or died on my watch when I could have done something but speaking or not speaking Irish was much more important to me.’

We’ve blamed the men in the past but so far the women aren’t proving much better.

Your woman from Westminster ( blink and you’ll miss her) can’t take a decision to save her life and constantly deflects any questions replying ‘It’s a devolved matter’ Do what’s right even if the DUP don’t approve.  Your conscience must tell you that what’s going on here at the moment is not right in a democratic society. We pay our taxes and are entitled to our politicians working for us and not against us. If you are not up to doing the job, resign and let someone who’ll be at least an honest broker, take over, because time is running out and we in Northern Ireland are living in Limbo.

Ann Allan: 1974 Memories 22


1 January 1974
The NI Executive officially took office.

11 January 1974

Two civilians were killed by a bomb attached to their car as they left an Army base in Derry/Londonderry

I was happy to see the end of 1973. Personally and politically it had been a bad year. I had lost my baby and the killing had continued for another year.

Sometime in February I started feeling sick in the mornings. I didn’t dare think what might be causing it. But memories of coming home from a Christmas party a little tipsy and …  Couple dancing. Dance party concept. Cartoon vector illustrationwell let’s say I was hopeful. Eventually I picked up the courage and went for a pregnancy test. No instant results in those days but we were past the stage of the dead rabbit ( if you are curious, look it up.) I think it took a week to confirm that I was indeed pregnant.44519056-01D6-443B-AAAA-DA1D59C72D36 Bitter sweet in that the due date turned out to be within a day to the year of my lost pregnancy.

Was I sick?  Extremely. I hated the mornings and certain smells resulted in a bolt for the nearest loo.  I still find marmalade  hard to stomach. My father -in -law, a man of few words hoped that I ‘could hold on to this one’ and as was the time it wasn’t talked about much in my family. Not sure whether this was a catholic thing or just the way things were in the seventies. I had as a child been vaguely aware of my mother having at least one miscarriage and I also had a brother called Pius who only lived a couple of hours. We were obviously nervous during the early months because of what had happened but as the bump got bigger and I passed the four-month marker we began to relax.

My sister -in -law was also pregnant and her baby was due around the same time as ours. Being the oldest in the family I had hoped to produce the first grandchild but as it turned out it was not to be. She beat me to it by five days.
The news in NI was depressing.  Hardly a day went past without killings and bombings. We toyed with the idea of leaving but we were reluctant because of family ties even though they did live quite a distance from us. It’s impossible to list the number of casualties but it was sickening, no side escaping from the carnage.
Tuesday  14 May 1974


The Ulster workers council strike began. It was to last 14 days and to cause misery for the general population.

Probably the most annoying part of the strike was the electricity being on a four hour cycle. An employee of NIE became an instant personality and a harbinger of doom. He earned the nickname Hugo ‘ on the brink ‘ Patterson. He would be interviewed on Radio Ulster every evening to let us know how much power was left and the areas that would be subject to power cuts. We were always ‘on the brink. ’ Arriving home from a day’s work with no power so no electricity to cook dinner was infuriating and that was if youD11E2F89-6A7D-40A8-857E-CA0EAA49A684 could even get to work. Roads were blocked and there were barricades everywhere. Busses were either diverted or not running or in some cases burned to a shell. As milk wasn’t being collected from farmers, milk was dumped and fresh food was hard to come by. I can’t list all the problems the strike caused but there were many.

Friday 17 May 1974

33 civilians and an unborn child were killed when four bombs were planted by Loyalist paramilitaries in Dublin and Monaghan.

Tuesday 28 May 1974

Brian Faulkner resigns and the Executive collapses. The strike ends and the chance to become an integrated society ended with it. 

My pregnancy was progressing satisfactorily. I remember standing in the living room watching Gordon cutting the grass when I felt that first little flutter. Some refer to it as quickening. I knew everything was ok. I had decided to leave work and look after the baby. There were no relatives living within 40 miles and we couldn’t afford day care. I got a small amount of a maternity grant but only I think for six weeks. I was quite sad to leave work but couldn’t wait to become a mum so it was a bitter-sweet occasion on the day I left.

As the date got nearer on a routine hospital visit my gynaecologist discovered that my baby was breech. It was decided that it would have to be turned. In those days there was no such thing as a scan so I had to be x-rayed to see exactly what way the baby was lying. Picture a pregnant me balancing on my stomach while the X-ray was taken. It was then decided to turn the baby. I was given a mild sedative while they pressed and prodded until she did a 180 degree turn. I awoke bruised and sore but relieved that a breech birth was no longer on the cards.

On 15 September after a long hot summer our beautiful daughter made her appearance. After being 37 hours in labour ( I was induced on the 14 th morning) and with the help of forceps she was finally delivered. The previous evening while dosed up on ‘ass and gair’. ( gas and air I listened to the last night of the Proms on a nearby television interspersed with my mother ringing practically every two hours to see what the hold up was. Gordon had gone home to watch Match of the Day and wait for a phone call to say he was now a dad.

She was beautiful. A head of long black hair and a beautiful tan ( jaundice ) and even the midwives said she was beautiful.


02586A10-96F0-4678-851B-16BA87C51842She still is by the way.  In those days there was no posing on the steps of the Ulster Hospital seven hours after the birth. Instead I
74490028-4C44-4378-A18E-5F920034EF06spent a week in hospital where most of my time was spent sitting on a rubber ring. Ok, I know, too much information.

Monday 16 September 1974

The IRA killed Judge Rory Conaghan and resident magistrate , Martin McBirney in separate inc Belfast.

When we eventually got Louise home, I realised that just because I had helped to look after my brothers and sister, I was ill-equipped to take on the responsibility of a baby.  I’m not sure the hubby had even held one before. There was no support from family as they all lived far away. I pity the local Doctor, Dr. Mitchell.  I had him on speed dial and every time the child cried for more than 15 minutes I was on the phone demanding a house visit. She was a collicy baby who slept little, (funny how that changed at about 11 years old)  and many nights as a last resort we put her in the back of the car in her carry cot and drove her around till she dropped off to sleep.  Maybe that’s where her love of cars comes from.

However we soon got the hang of it. I was breastfeeding so Gordon got off lightly.  Few sleepless nights for the first  few weeks and then lo and behold at two months two teeth started to peep through the gums. Sleep was something we remembered from the distant past. She had been born with teeth already formed. It was overwhelming but we coped, just about.

Since leaving work and having the baby I had discovered my neighbours. All uneven houses from no 1  ( we were no 13) had either babies or toddlers. A routine developed.2345995E-4F5F-424C-A318-10B2B6CC1258 Get up in the morning and go to the nappy pail where cloth nappies were soaking in Napisan overnight. Get out and fill twin tub washing machine, a chore at the best of times, but a nightmare if the tube slipped out of the tub when filling it and a flooded kitchen ensued. I began to realise there was a competition going on 3476615D-9F73-4484-B27F-75010C701A8Band no matter how early I got the nappies on the line, someone would always beat me to it.  On a couple of mornings a week we all met up for coffee around eleven. Added pressure if it was your turn to have the house looking spic and span.

The year ended with Merlyn Rees the then Secretary of State for Norther Ireland promising that the Government would respond positively ‘if there was a genuine and sustained cessation of violence’  This resulted in a short ceasefire by the IRA followed by a return to violence. 1975 was going to be no different

Ann Allan: Don’t mention the hair!

You know what it’s like. Well I’m hoping you do . Let me elaborate a bit more.

It began after a bout of flu which floored me. I lay in bed for almost a week, feeling listless and looking like another clean blouse would do me. But then I began to feel better and decided I needed to do something to improve my appearance. I’m overweight so I immediately vowed to go on a strict diet, exercise more but go for a bigger size in clothes until I reached my ideal weight. Well who wants to feel uncomfortable while trying to force oneself into a pair of too tight jeans. A new image is what I need I thought, as I ate my way through the remainder of a box of chocolates. (I was brought up not to waste food) What can I do while I’m waiting for all this weight to drop off? ( I knew it could be a slow process )   As I had always laughed at those who had resorted to Botox and facelifts, I decided there was very little I could do to my face so the only thing left was my hair. I’m always the first to be recognised in photos as my hair is snow white and I stick out like the proverbial thumb so maybe something could be done to make me blend in better in a crowd.

So with that in mind I made an appointment with the hairdresser. I had visions of me looking younger and possibly blonde but stunning nevertheless. After much discussions the hairdresser convinced me that what I needed were highlights, black highlights. They will look terrific in your hair, she said. Nothing too dramatic, I ventured. No it will be subtle. Just a few light strands scattered through your hair. And that my dear reader is how I ended up looking like a badger. 428BD576-2E4C-4F5C-87B5-B3C104EBDA74

I have shampooed my hair on a daily basis for the last month, sometimes twice a day. I guess I’m just going to have to wait until it grows out. I have mentioned my hair to anyone I meet as a greeting. Hello, yes I know I look like a badger, bit of a mis-calculation with the old hair dye. I wake up most mornings stumble to the bathroom and every morning I get the same feeling of panic when I catch my reflection in the mirror.

So I’m surmising that we all think at some stage that we are not happy with our appearance but before you decide to do something about it, think twice or you too could end up looking like a badger.




Ann Allan : My thoughts on the Nolan Show

I have a confession to make. I was one of those listeners who made the Nolan show the biggest show in the country and I’ll hazard a guess if you’re reading this you did too. I hate to admit it now but I can look back and see how I helped make the big man a big hit in NI. In the past I listened most mornings particularly after I knew that a big story was coming. I’d shout at the radio and laugh at some of the inane ideas and beliefs being bandied about. And even though I disagreed with them, like a guilty pleasure I kept listening. I also have to say that when Stephen tackles a story without the naysayers he does it well and should be  proud of it.

However over the past few years I began to see a pattern developing. Instead of furthering a constructive discussion where points of view were backed up with facts and rational views we began to hear voices from those with extreme views and they were becoming more prevalent and even the norm.

On LGBGT  issues we had Jim Alister , Norman from Bangor and Mrs White being allowed to spout dangerous and insulting comments around the subject of homosexuality. David McNarry with his scare tactics about the ILA and Brexit. Edwina Curry pretending to be an expert on everything. Jude Collins pertaining to speak on behalf of the Nationalist/ Catholic community. Jamie Bryson ranting about just about anything that went against a liberal point of view.  And in the middle Stephen setting them against each other by adding fuel to the fire with incendiary comments.

Now I don’t listen to his show on Radio 5 but I understand it is dignified and completely different in tone. Is that because the audience across the water wouldn’t switch on if it was a similar format to the NI programme?

I’m open to views from anyone who does not direct hate or intolerance to any other section of our community. I’m a liberal, I believe in live and let live if it’s not hurting anyone and I believe we need to act in a responsible manner in putting out extremist views in our fragile society. So until the show changes and starts to help the community moving forward I will not be listening to or watching Stephen Nolan.

Ann Allan: Am I Being Idealistic?

44B12791-9829-40F1-81E8-B94734B6D6A2In the light of comments on my blog

It’s well past time to move on’

the majority of which were favourable one comment made me think. The writer accused me of being idealistic.

What is an idealist? :  someone who believes that very good things can be achieved, often when this does not seem possible…

It made me think. Was he /she right?
What I want to achieve is to leave the past behind where it belongs. It is gone, can’t be retrieved, what is done can’t be undone. We should have learned from it of course but many haven’t.  We need to compensate the victims and then plan for the future. We are where we are and the present and future is what we need to concentrate on.

My ideal future is a non-sectarian society where religion is a personal matter; where we live and let live; recognising that others views are to be respected; where nationalism and loyalism and those who are neither can co -exist without sniping and harbouring suspicion of the either side;  recognising each other’s aspirations and using legitimate arguments to persuade voters. And where we stop harping back to the past.

But how to get there? Looking at the current situation I see both main parties stuck in a quicksand, sinking deeper and deeper. Every taunt, every jibe and they sink a bit further. The smaller parties are on the edge and aren’t influential enough to reach the sinking parties. But then an election will come along and lo and behold voters arrive and give the two main parties a helping hand. Tribal politics wins out again.
What if we allowed the two main parties to sink and voted for those who want to live side by side and practice real politics? But hold on! The problem then is that in NI there is no way that some voters will opt for a party that doesn’t have a view on the union and so the stalemate continues.
Our only hope is that the younger generation will opt for non- sectarian politics.  But then my generation had high hopes for that also. Would this mean a United Ireland or a revamped Northern Ireland secure in its own identity.?  I don’t know. Personally I see myself as Northern Irish and am happy that Northern Ireland remain as part of the United Kingdom.

I don’t know what is going to happen but realise it won’t happen in my lifetime but maybe my grandchildren and the next generation will help to break this vicious cycle and the past will be just what it is the past. So,  yes, I am idealistic but there’s no harm in hoping.

I realise I could have written this 20 years ago, even 10 years ago as nothing much has changed.

Ann Allan: It’s well past time to move on…….


I am almost 69. If I am lucky I may have a few years still to go. Since I was 20 my life has been lived with the spectre of the ‘troubles ‘ hovering over me.  The troubles have defined my country, my life and those of my children. I do not want them to define the lives of my grandchildren  and great-grandchildren. I have mourned with those who have lost loved ones, I have grieved for their loss. I have condemned each atrocity and hoped it would be the last. I have sat up until the wee small hours to ensure my children got home safely, listening to the hourly news in case another bomb had gone off in town. I have stood on the Ormeau Road on internment day while the city was erupting around me. I’ve lain in bed listening to the sound of gunfire and the sound of petrol bombs hitting their targets. I’ve worked in areas of Northern Ireland where it was a relief for my family to know I was home safe at the end of the day.

I’ve had enough.  I no longer want to think about it. I’m sorry for those who have lost love ones. I too have lost love ones, albeit not by a terrorist hand. But loss is loss no matter how it happens. I remember them but I don’t allow their loss to dictate how I live my life. The chances of catching those who committed these horrendous crimes are rapidly diminishing. Meanwhile relatives and friends are allowing their lives to be defined waiting for justice. Well I don’t want to grieve anymore, I want to put the troubles behind me. I want to get on with my life without listening to the rhetoric that has made up our news over the last few days. I would imagine to the younger generation we might as well be referring to the atrocities of the two world wars for all this means to them. We are not allowing our young people to move on, so instead of moving on they are moving out and crossing the water. Most of them will never return.
Life is very short. You look in the mirror or you look at your grandchild and you think how did I get here so quickly. It seems like yesterday…………I would appeal to those involved in politics and those who can influence them to draw a line under the past. Both sides have been guilty of atrocities. Go back into the assembly. No red lines. Get back in. Sort out our day -to -day problems. Deal with Same Sex Marriage and ILA when you sort out health, education and compensation for those victims waiting all these years. Time is short for those on waiting lists who may die while waiting for surgery.
I know some won’t agree with my thoughts on this but you know something you get to an age where it doesn’t matter what others think.  I have no intention of offending anyone. I would say to those relatives and friends of the victims, don’t let the terrorists define your life anymore. They have already taken away most of your quality of life. Live and enjoy what is left of it. I imagine your relatives would want you to be happy. Grieving has to end at some stage. Remembering a loved one doesn’t.

Sunday morning.

It was Sunday morning. The grandkids and the dog had been staying with me for almost a week but were now returned to their rightful owners. I was enjoying the peace and quiet. And then I heard it. Someone was opening the patio doors downstairs. You can tell even from A06A5459-B3C4-4160-A524-11D20E37190Cupstairs that someone had slid the doors across and didn’t seem to be too worried about being heard.

Shall I lie here or get up and confront him I thought to myself. Just lie there I thought, hopefully he’ll go away. But no, suddenly there was a sound that seemed to echo up the chimney behind my headboard. It was a loud raking sound accompanied by the sound of steel upon steel. After a few minutes it stopped and I heard the cloakroom door open. I knew it was the cloakroom door because the original handle dating back to 1929 is still there and there is a distinctive noise when it opens. I heard the  rustling of plastic bags. There is, by the way, an endless supply of plastic bags in our house cause I end up buying at least two every time I shop.73CEB9F6-71E1-49EA-9397-D63A826ACE5E

The door closed again and by this time I was becoming agitated but still didn’t want a confrontation. The clanging of dishes and pots and pans followed. The dishwasher was being emptied. Suddenly I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, the door opened, banging the side of the wardrobe, per usual. Well did you enjoy your ly-in? said the hubby, setting a cup of tea, a croissant and my morning tablets on the bedside table. Didn’t want to wake you, but I’ve cleaned out the fire and emptied the dishwasher while you we’re sleeping and nipped out earlier for the croissants. Great for some having a lie in, he said. You can guess what I was thinking but I said nothing.