Showing posts from July, 2007

Could this be the start of a bug bear?

I’m regularly appalled by the gaps in my reading which no amount of good intention seems to plug. My girlfriend’s parents’ house is replete enough with books of all kinds to send me into an auto didactic, kleptomaniacal frenzy.

A light fingered spree has led to me being in the process of plugging a couple of gaps with Ruth Dudley Edwards’ “The Faithful Tribe” and currently Declan Kiberd’s “Inventing Ireland”.

The Faithful Tribe is an admirable (and occasionally hilarious) attempt to explain Orangeism to the uninitiated and unsympathetic. Edwards may have become too close to her subject, but her understanding of Sinn Fein’s manipulation of the parades issue is impeccable.

Inventing Ireland promises to be the more interesting book however, perhaps principally because its content and nationalist assumptions are jarring with me after only a chapter and a half. Those who buy their own tradition’s myths wholesale are always the most suspect analysts and whilst Kiberd is far too clever and nuan…

Hero Hughes treads the hallowed turf

I have missed the handful of Ballymena friendlies played thus far this season, including a fine 2-0 win against St Johnstone. This Saturday, however I will be in attendance, as the real Sky Blues play another team who answer to the same nickname: Coventry City. Happily there is a tremendous bonus as it transpires that Northern Ireland's legendary winger Michael Hughes is likely to play some part in the game. OWC supporters have many happy memories of Hughes, who began his career as a skillful, pacy wide player and has evolved into a crafty midfielder as age has diminished his pace. Who can forget his brilliant goal against Germany which put us into the lead deep into the 2nd half and awoke the beast of Oliver Bierhoff, Northern Ireland eventually being defeated 3-1? Michael won the last of 71 caps at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff in 2004 and copper-fastened his cult status with a fine challenge on Robbie Savage, which saw the little Larne man picking up a red card and a 3 match ban…

Harry Potter and the Blinded Morons

I am not a man it is difficult to irritate. Indeed the ocean of my annoyance is in constant flux, its water’s rising daily to breach defences and flood fresh antediluvian tracts of human behaviour. But it strikes me that I am not overstating the case whenever I suggest that it would be equitable and just to stab in the eye any adult reading the new Harry Potter book ostentatiously in public.

When one wields this volume in a public place one is presumably embracing some of the following statements:

1) I still believe after all these years that it is quirky and fun to read Harry Potter. Look at me indulging my inner child.

2) I really genuinely love the books and feel no shame at reading a children’s fairy story in public.

3) I am a crowd following sheep who will jump aboard any departing craze.

Any / all of these sentiments deserve at the very least, a blunt object jabbed in those unforgivably abused eyes.

Antics to live long in the memory

I am by no means a man of complete abstinence, but I feel that the bar has been raised in the field of drunken antics inexorably. I feel humbled, nae ashamed to reproduce an e-mail from a certain young man, let us refer to him merely as Douglas Priestly Streat of Carlisle, Cumbria. Dougie, I pay tribute to your virtuoso performance. Quite simply it deserves a larger audience, but in the absence of much chance of that I will post it here:

Cracked open the glens+ orange at around 5 on fri.
Coupled with some tunes, golf and Father Ted it disappeared rapidly. Long gap in memory but am remember burping some puke down breeks at some stage tho NI top appears to have miraculously survived. A delicious curry was made and scoffed at some point and i am reliably informed that i was persuaded to sit through an episode of eastenders on promise of some grisly character demise, tho canna remember a single second of it. Some wine and Ted were on thr go at half four or so.
Predictably slow start…

Defining Unionism IV - redefinitions

Belfast Giants skating on thin ice - har de har

I am never one to pass up an opportunity for a little schadenfreude, but this story is particularly sweet.

During the post ceasefire hysteria, with established Northern Irish sports crying out for money and facilities, the government bent over backwards to attract a soulless sport with no history here and no prospects of ever attracting significant participation. Belfast Giants ice-hockey team represented the crassest type of political correctness, driven by an ill-conceived notion that watching a team full of journeyman Canadians play a sport we didn't understand, with a lot of music blaring and cheerleaders (and I'm hoping that point will get you on board Miss Maxwell!!), would bring us all closer together!

One unprecedented bail-out by the Inland Revenue (a courtesy not extended to Irish League football clubs threatened with closure for one) and a government orchestrated campaign to butter-up other creditors later, they're decamping to Dundalk because gate receipts won…

My experience of the Twelfth of July

Having outlined the apathy which Orangeism and the parading culture inspires in me, I felt it only fair to relate some observations about the Belfast Twelfth having witnessed several of the festivities. Living in South Belfast and staying there during the eleventh and twelfth, it was hard to ignore what was going on and I was compelled to experience it first hand.

Or that at least is my contention, because on the 11th night there was nothing forcing me to take to the bottle. After returning from work and making my way up the road for some celebratory chips, I was intrigued by the fact that one household in the neighbourhood had elected to leave a significant quantity of sagging, antique furniture out on the street, presaging some of the events to come with a very cunning plan to avoid paying the council to remove their unwanted items.
Thus irritated, I acquired my sausage supper and cheese, a copy of the Tele and dispatched myself eventually to Hunters for a browse of the paper and a fo…

Davinity: the new religion of West London

In Will Self’s latest satirical novel he creates a dystopian future London where the citizens worship a 21st century cabbie named Dave. Self’s contortion of godliness in his characteristically fiercely extrapolated world is “Davinity” and it is a word I find myself drawn to for reasons entirely unrelated to the novel.

David Healy, Sir Dave, King David or “the little Lord Jesus” as one enraptured mate of mine insists on calling him, commands an adoration bordering on worship from Northern Ireland fans and I count my self unashamedly amongst the proselytising hordes of the “Davine”.

For years we have been insistent that Healy deserves a greater stage to display his talents at club level. His recent demolitions of defences around Europe in a Northern Ireland shirt, coupled with the departure of “our leader” Lawrie Sanchez to Fulham, have given David this chance and he will ply his trade next season in the Premiership.

Having watched Healy demolish every Northern Ireland goalscoring recor…

Berezovsky wanted in Brazil

Whilst Western relations with Moscow deteriorate, and David Milliband expels Russian diplomats from London, it is puzzling that newspaper in the west have missed a report about a criminal being harboured by the British government. There doesn't seem to be any realisation that Putin's regime might be entitled to see an element of equivalence between the desired extradition of Alexander Luguvoi and that of a self-confessed plotter of violent insurrection, wanted for serious financial crimes not only in Russia but now also in Brazil.

Defining Unionism III - unapologetic inclusion

In the previous two pieces I defined unionism in its wider context as the constitutional imperative for the United Kingdom and examined the specifics of Ulster unionism, identifying the civic strand as more firmly rooted in a genuine wider unionist ethos.

Ulster unionism, when it focuses on the civic essentials, can claim to be an intrinsically better philosophy than Irish nationalism.

Ernest Barker’s view was that nations did not exist before nationalists set about creating them. To paraphrase, nations do not give birth nationalists, nationalists give birth to nations. Nationalism mines fundamental tribal human impulses, evokes ancient precedent and claims it is perpetuating natural law, but nationality is as contrived a notion as any other, on which to base statehood.

Arthur Aughey traced Irish nationalism’s roots to the movement of 19th century romantic nationalism in Germany. This movement was also the wellspring of Hitler and National Socialism. Irish nationalism is about identit…

And the bells were ringing out ....

The most detestable little upstart who has ever pulled on a Liverpool shirt, Craig Bell-end-amy has been sold to West Ham for £7.5m!


Why Orangeism isn't my culture.

Despite strenuously attempting to avoid remaining in Belfast over the course of this Twelfth week, it looks like circumstance has conspired to ensure otherwise. A certain trepidation therefore, may colour these few thoughts that I share about the imminent parades and bonfires.

I may be a unionist, but to be completely candid, the Orange Order, bands, the twelfth of July – none of these things means anything much to me. The Twelfth represents a day off work, and a rather anticlimactic one at that, given that every amenity in the country closes down for the day. It is also a difficult holiday on which to travel, due to the number of traffic restrictions caused by demonstrations.

I am aware that the character of parades differs immensely around Northern Ireland. My limited experience of the Belfast parade specifically (having happened upon it by accident on a couple of occasions) is that it attracts a great number of drunken youths, leaves a very great quantity of smashed glass and rubbish…

The dangerous precedent of Tatarstan

It is a paradox that whilst world economies become more global and multi-national cooperation seems to make more and more sense, recidivist tribal instincts to fracture, separate and diminish, still thrive. Nationalism is a base impulse, but it is an impulse none the less.

The Russian Federation remains, even after the break-up of the Soviet Union, one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe. Given this diversity it has developed a unique system of regional government, which includes, ethnically identified republics, territories (or kraya), autonomous regions and oblasts (provinces).

The republics derive their ethnic character from the titular nationality of the majority, although this is by no means accurately ascertained. Any virulently discriminatory law issuing from these regional governments should theoretically be tempered by the supremacy of federal law.

It should concern Russia watchers then, that a dangerous constitutional precedent seems likely to be set by the Duma …

Sochi to host Winter Olympics

Congratulations to Sochi on the winning bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The venue will undoutbedly be spectacular. The Moscow Times attributes the win in no small part to Vladimir Putin intervening with the type of political charisma we don't often see attributed to him in western reports.

He drank sangria, and came from Barca to bring us joy

But a little sadly Luis Garcia has left Liverpool again. Liverpool fans will have many great memories of Luis' contribution. My personal favourite was a long-range corker just below where I was standing at Old Trafford, to put the reds into the F.A. Cup Final at Chelsea's expense.

Goodbye Luis and all the best. You're gone, but not forgotten.

Defining Unionism II - Ulster unionism and the difference cult

Writers on Ulster unionism have long recognised the existence of two competing forms of the philosophy. Civic and Cultural Unionism, of course, are ambiguous and elusive concepts, particularly when we try and neatly classify unionist politics into either category. Civic unionists have often used the language of cultural unionism to bolster a wavering electorate, there has been a certain amount of crossover between the two strands and many unionists and unionist politicians straddle the two definitions to a greater or lesser extent.

Broadly, the civic unionist position is focused on the importance of the shared political, legal and cultural institutions of the United Kingdom. Cultural unionists are focused on the particulars of the British and protestant traditions in Ireland. There is no mutual exclusivity between the two unionisms, but generally the former has a tendency towards political rationalism, inclusivity, plurality and secularism whilst the latter tends to be narrower, to be…

No religion please Mr Brown

The last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was a churchgoing Anglo-Catholic moving steadily towards Rome. The new incumbent is the son of a Church of Scotland minister, who by his own admission, roots his “moral compass” in his reformed faith.

Tony Blair had the stamp of a conviction politician, charging ahead with an unpopular and unjustifiable war because he felt it was the right thing to do. That irrational streak cannot be divorced from his religious faith and worryingly it seems from his rhetoric thus far that Brown will be similarly reluctant to separate his faith from his work.
It is not the job of politicians to meddle in setting a nation’s “moral compass”. It is their duty to provide laws which allow people to lead their lives safely and freely. It is particularly outside a politician’s remit to exert a morality based on an archaic 2000 year old book.

Britain still harbouring criminal insurrectionist.

Boris Berezovsky's trial begins in Moscow this morning, alas in his absence. Berezovsky lives in lavish comfort in the Home Counties, hatching plots of violent revolution for his native land and enjoying the fruits of his bandit capitalism. That Britain continues to harbour this would-be revolutionary thief is an affront to relations between the two nations.

As below!

I had a rather lengthy discussion with my good friend and UUP councillor Neill Armstrong last night regarding comments made by Rodney McCune and reported in the Newsletter.

Alas we were unable to reach agreement over the comments, but I must admit I wholeheartedly agree with Rodney's characterisation of the DUP as Ulster nationalists.