And here we are all these years later.

ADAMS: On The Wheels of Time

I have given my good bike away. This marks a defining moment in my life. My good bike sat in the backyard for almost a year. That’s the last time I was out on it. A year ago. It was dawning on me that my cycling days were over except for occasional sorties on a Greenway in some secluded place.

But I was reluctant to face up to that. It seemed to me that as long as I held on to my good bike I held on to the possibility of venturing forth on it. Once it was gone that possibility was gone also. So I hung on. And on. And on. 

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Then it struck me that someone else could be getting pleasure from my good bike. So this week I gave it to Anrai Óg, a fine cyclist, on condition that he is kind to it and that he wears a helmet. I got my good bike in Dundalk about fifteen years ago. It was great for scooting about Dublin when I was a TD.

Richard would be stuck in traffic as I whizzed passed him. It was dangerous cycling in Baile Atha Cliath. Some motorists are oblivious to cyclists. But I survived. And I enjoyed the freedom that a bike represents.

Then I brought it back to Belfast. Here, some motorists are equally oblivious to cyclists. But some were not so oblivious to me. Irate anti-Shinner wannabe death drivers tried to run me off the road a few times.

On my bike with little Michelle Gildernew.

On my bike with little Michelle Gildernew.

Others used to shout abuse as they drove slowly alongside me. Dirty Fenian invective is the ruination of a good spin on a bike. The Sinn Féin traffic police had a word with me so I limited my outings. Then I hurt my back and the bike was grounded. 

Like most activities, it's hard to get started again once you’ve stopped.  But now I think I’ve done the right thing. At least the good bike is getting a bit of exercise. But I miss it. 

I have been cycling since I was a wee buck. Joe Magee and I used to make our own bikes with salvaged frames, refurbished brakes and wobbly wheels. We got very good at repairing and riding our makey-up steeds. We used to wander out to Glenavy and Lough Neagh on Sundays. Once I careered down Hannahstown Hill when it was a straight run down to Suffolk Road. My brakes failed and I screamed across the Glen Road at high speed. Luckily there were no cars to impede my passage.

 I remember when I got my first wages. I bought a new racing bike on hire purchase. From a shop on the Shankill Road. I also remember crashing it into the back of a bus on the Springfield Road just below the West Circular.

The kindly conductor took me and my injured cycle on the platform of the bus and dropped us off in the city centre close to The Duke of York, my workplace. A new front wheel from Garvey’s and I was able to cycle back home again that night. Some years later I dodged Brit Army road blocks and slipped around Belfast on two wheels. 

So you, dear reader, can see how I miss my good bike. Over the years I have come to understand what Flann O'Brien meant when he wrote in "The Third Policeman" that people can take on the personality of their bike. 

"The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles...when a man let’s things go so far that he is more than half a bicycle………. "

So there you are. I’m not half the man or half the bicycle I used to be. But at least my good bike is happy.


Human rights abuses and inequality were at the core of the Unionist Stormont regime. Discrimination in employment and housing, the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries under the Unionist One Party state, were embedded in the DNA of Britain’s colonial outpost in Ireland.

Consequently, when the Good Friday Agreement came to be negotiated, the issues of equality and human rights were central to its provisions. Under these there was to be a Bill of Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was to be incorporated into the law of the North. However, 25 years later, there is still no Bill of Rights and the British Tory government has repeatedly said that it intends to get rid of the Human Rights Act which reflects many of the rights provisions made in the GFA.

The adverse impact of Britain’s refusal to honour its human rights commitments has been underlined in three recent significant reports coming out of Europe.

A report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) confirms that since Brexit, the rights of individuals in the North have been undermined. The PACE Report states: “Brexit has already led to a diminution of the rights of Irish and EU citizens in NI and threatens to do so to an even greater extent in the future."

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) report - The Implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement - was published in January. It found that the British government has failed to live up to its commitment “to continue to facilitate the work of the human rights and equality commissions established under the GFA."

It concluded that the British government has “acted incompatibly with this commitment, in particular in running down the NI Human Rights Commission to such an extent that the UN accreditation committee has declined to renew its UN A Status."

The third report is by the International Jurists delegation which came to Ireland in February. It represents international human rights lawyers from Europe, the USA and South Africa. The wide ranging report - “The Crisis in the Human Rights Framework of the Good Friday Agreement," specifically examined Britain’s proposed Legacy legislation, changes to the Human Rights Act and the impact of Brexit.

The conclusions make for damning reading of the British position. The report concludes that: “The UK Government will violate international law if it passes the Legacy Bill." The delegation called on the British government to end its “legal and political attacks on the Good Friday Agreement.”

Their report asserts that the British government “is not acting in good faith or fulfilling its role as an honest broker in maintaining the terms” of the GFA. The report calls for the Legacy Bill to be withdrawn and that the Human Rights Act should be strengthened, not weakened.

The Human Rights protections that are an integral part of the Good Friday Agreement are under sustained attack from the Tories. A vigorous defence is required but specifically there is a heavy onus on the Irish government as the co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement to employ its diplomatic and political resources to challenge this British strategy.


As Irish republicans enjoy the recent success in the local government election in the North our friends and comrades in the Basque country – EH Bildu – were also enjoying a significant historical electoral victory.

The election was for 12 regional governments and 8,000 municipal councils. The result was bad for the governing Socialist Party and good for the opposition conservative Peoples’ Party and puts it in poll position for the general election which has been brought forward to July.

However, in the Basque country, the pro-independence party EH Bildu made a significant breakthrough in the Parliament of Nafarroa and the county parliaments of the Basque autonomous region provinces of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa.

Arnaldo Otegi, a frequent visitor to Ireland told a press conference: “We are committed to leading the change that people demand, and we are open to building alliances for the benefit of the majority.”

In the weeks ahead negotiations will intensify to form provincial governments. EH Bildu is well placed to make gains. So, well done to Arnaldo and Urko and all of our friends in the Basque country.