Showing posts from August, 2007

Is Nigel Worthy?

This day week I will be in Berlin en route to Riga and Northern Ireland’s crucial European Championship qualifying tie with Latvia. Of course I can barely wait and naturally I believe that we can win the game, but that is not to say that I am yet convinced that Nigel Worthington is the man to continue Lawrie Sanchez’s sterling work at the helm of OWC.

In an early post on this blog, I stressed the need for Worthington to maintain a steady ship for the duration of the qualifiers. I suggested also, that his first task should be to speak to his outgoing counterpart and learn exactly what Sanchez’s thoughts were on the strength of the unit he had created. I hoped that Worthington might have had the humility to consider what had been achieved and to try to build on that foundation.

Unfortunately pride and hubris prevented this approach. In an interview in the IFA’s magazine, Worthington boasted that he hadn’t even spoken once to Sanchez. He immediately began to offer an olive branch to player…

Careful tongues: The Irish Language Conundrum

One of the most emotive issues arising in current Northern Irish politics is the thorny issue of Irish Language legislation. Understandably unionists are sceptical about the Irish Language lobby, given the long history of nationalism’s use of it as a political and ethno-exclusivist weapon.

As proponents of an inclusive and multinational United Kingdom however, it is incumbent upon civic unionists to accommodate the minority languages within our islands as generously as is practicable, without recourse to any cynicism about the authenticity of those languages or their proponents.

Within the United Kingdom diversity should be cherished and the strain of Irishness which cleaves to the Gaelic language should be no exception. The Irish Language should be encouraged and fully funded in the educational and cultural spheres.

That is not to say that unionism shouldn’t be firm in maintaining that the language has no practical role to play in areas of public life where efficiency and cost-effective…

John Sweeney isn't MY BBC! He produces populist dross.

I only normally watch ITV whenever there is football on and given that Channel 5 reception is non-existent in our sheltered corner of BT9 that leaves me with the BBC and Channel 4. The latter has already gone to reality show hell in a hand basket, so realistically I’m forced to subsist on the terrestrial offerings of our national broadcaster.

This can be a particularly dispiriting experience whenever we have the offerings of John Sweeney masquerading as the Corporation’s cutting edge investigative journalism. Sweeney is best known for screaming at some Scientologists and that incident was in fact the zenith of his output.

Last night we were treated to an appalling documentary, Weeekend Nazis, in which the intrepid Sweeney uncovered the startling revelation that there are some people with unpleasantly extreme political views in Europe and that some of them like to partake in war-games in the British countryside

The reporter’s style is unrepentantly demotic and his voiceovers could be lift…

It's opposition or bust for the UUP

The most vibrant and vital debate within Ulster Unionism continues to rage rather publicly on the Young Unionist blog.

Many have picked up on the archaic structures of the party, which eschew top-down discipline and allow dissenting voices in the public domain thus undermining a consistent message to the electorate. Whatever people’s views on the need for modernisation to party structures, it is blatantly obvious that a vigorous debate is needed within the party to establish what that coherent message should be.

As someone who considers the present administration as effectively a SF / DUP coalition and regards those twin nationalist parties with the utmost distaste, it is hardly surprising that I see opposition as an opportunity for the UUP to distance itself from them and to present a coherent vision opposed to the current sectarian, ethno-nationalist carve-up.

Ulster Unionist concern about the d’Hondt mechanism and its incompatibility with accountable and democratic government dates ba…

Why the Duke is Special

Last night I was privileged to be present at the last of Duke Special’s 5 themed gigs at the Belfast Empire. I must admit that I’ve rarely been to a more playful or enjoyable concert.

Having watched the Duke supporting Divine Comedy some time ago, I knew that live performance brings his wistful songs on the themes of regret, guilt and loss to stunning life. The singer has a delicate touch and good-natured manner which bring fun to these sometimes sombre preoccupations.

Surrounding his wonderful music, with its attendant sadness and humour, on this occasion, was a carnival of entertainment, the whole being presented through the device of a vaudeville show and the result was hugely entertaining, extremely funny and it both captivated and involved an enthusiastic crowd.

We were treated to a charismatic compere, as well as a series of engaging sideshow acts in addition to the music.

Congratulations to Duke Special for producing something beyond the ordinary and putting on a wonderful show, wh…

Maturity and literature (from a reader's perspective)

Having considered Martin Amis one of my favourite contemporary novelists, it was with a degree of surprise and alarm that I discovered I found Yellow Dog and House of Meetings jarringly over-written and tiresomely contrived, when I read these books more recently.

I am currently reading Douglas Coupland’s J-Pod and it is with increasing dismay that I realise that whilst I loved Girlfriend in a Coma, for example, and found it profoundly heart-breaking, I’m finding J Pod just as profoundly irritating. Coupland’s irony drenched techno geeks no longer engage me at all. They are deeply annoying stock figures. The “Zeitgeisty” tics Coupland’s books employ, the stream of consciousness nonsense used to break up the prose and the computer / adspeak rubbish used for the same purpose are so self-conscious, so contrived, so exasperatingly IRRITATING, that I wonder will I be able to last through to whatever trademark heart-rending, life-changing, epiphany-heavy ending Coupland has in store for his m…

Russia's ethnic nationality policy is flawed

The Russian Empire favoured paternalism, the Soviet Union’s internationalism conferred apparent federal status to nationalities, but retained de facto control through party authoritarianism, Yeltsin presided over the break-up of the Union and urged regions to take as much independence as they could swallow, but in what way is Putin’s Russian Federation approaching its nationalities question?

The short answer is that the two approaches are being spliced and a dangerous disregard is being paid to fostering a sense of civic unity within the regions of the Federation.

The system of republics and autonomous regions operating within the Russian Federation is dangerously dictated by ethnicity. The titular nationalities often dominate their ethnically defined regions with little regard for democracy or minority rights.

Take for example the Republic of Adygea in the North Caucasus. Here the titular nationality comprises only 30% of the overall population, but thanks to language restrictions and o…

Do baldness and obesity make you tell more lies?

There is something almost pleasingly symmetrical about Slugger’s resident Shinner bigot parroting the defamations of another abhorrent mouthpiece from a different tradition.

Clearly incoherent republican propaganda on the internet is one thing, but when the public face of obesity in local sport unravels the sulphurous sphincter of his imagination to dump lustily on the clean floor of truth, the snivelling sycophants who comprise local sports’ journalism gobble up his diarrhoeic offerings with ravenous enthusiasm.

The porcine liar’s vendetta against Ballymena fans seems to date back to taunts referring to his marital break-up. But the fat philanderer seems to see no substantive difference between songs sung by a football crowd and delivering bare-faced lies in a news conference.

Anyone with a modicum of experience of either Ballymena fans or the Irish League in general knows this incident didn’t happen and even Linfield fans are tentatively suggesting that their imbecilic boss has got thi…

A brief history of Rome, or not

The more observant of what I might optimistically term a “readership”, may have noticed my slow blogging over recent days. I’ve been in Rome, an exceptionally enjoyable trip only spoiled by returning to the greyscale drabness of Belfast.

I’m sure no-one wishes to read a blow by blow account of our holiday, but I do have a handful of observations about a city which has established itself as one of the favourite I have visited.

I don’t believe I have ever been anywhere more laden with the weight of history than Rome. Kerry made the most insightful comment of the trip when she pointed out that the historical gravitas of the place means that it can carry the hordes of tourists without losing anything in the way of dignity or individuality.

There is nothing of the museum about the place. The layers of history co-exist amongst a vibrant, occasionally chaotic and always fascinating present. The sheer longevity of the city shows history being reinvented and cannibalised countless times as succes…

Inventing symbols and editing history

In my readings of Kiberd I was struck by his perspicacious observation that nationalities are forged by inventing symbols and advancing a highly edited historical narrative of their own genesis. Of course this is precisely the objection to nationalist politics that those of us who advance civic arguments raise. Nationality is essentially a political contrivance and should therefore have no default claim to determine a state’s constitutional arrangements.

Two newspaper articles from the past two days have brought this observation to mind. The Osbourne bull was not invented to symbolise Spain. It was designed to sell sherry and has organically become a symbol Spanish identity. Catalan nationalists are therefore attacking those who consider themselves Spanish, rather than Spain itself, with their acts of petty vandalism on these hoardings. It is a classic example of provincial nationalist victim culture whereby the identity of the so-called nation is defined in terms of negating the metro…

Identity fetishist of the worst kind

One of the most noxiously abhorrent Bloggers on Slugger O’Toole is Sinn Fein mouthpiece and separateness fetishist Chris Donnelly. His grasp of Byzantine Shinnerspeak constructions isn’t complete or cunning enough to distort the underlying poison they contain. Reading Mr Donnelly’s bigotry can provide a clear and undistorted picture amongst the cleverer republicans’ hall-of mirrors.

Under the guise of “equality rather than neutrality” it is Sinn Fein’s intention to advance a joint-sovereignty agenda under the disingenuous guise of parity for political symbols, thus undermining their rhetorical acceptance of the principle of consent.

This process basically involves accepting any un-inclusive aspects of nationalist culture without complaint, because they are legitimate “symbols” of that tradition whilst maintaining persistent attacks on unionist equivalents. So we have a defence of the GAA’s political constituti…

Real basic, irony but you can still get a hoot!

Witness the following extract from the Cinncinati Enquirer, from their interview with statesman extraordinare, Martin McGuinness.

For the next 26 years he and others like him pushed for peace in Northern Ireland, using politics, confrontation, muscle and other means to finally get to the table with the British and sign the historic Good Friday agreement in 1998.

26 years of non-stop peace work. I am actually speechless.

Indulging thuggery under the guise of culture and rights.

Pity the residents of Fisherwick Gardens in Ballymena, the only residents of the town on whom a dissident republican march is to be inflicted.

What exactly William Orr, a presbyterian United Irishman, would make of the band named in his honour, and the organisers of this parade, boggles the mind. This bizarre and gratuitously offensive event is universally deplored by every party with an elected representative on Ballymena Borough Council and is welcomed by almost no-one in the town. It will now comprise a 30 minute “march” of 100 metres by a coterie of thugs in quasi-military dress, to a single drumbeat, separated from a diametrically opposed coterie of oh so dissimilar thugs who will congregate to register their opposition through the medium of abuse and intimidation, by an expensively assembled mass of PSNI officers and Land Rovers.

All very exciting for the thugs and all very lucrative for the PSNI officers. Not quite as pleasant for those who live in the Fisherwick estate.

Every par…

The GAA is open to "whataboutery" whilst it retains a political constitution.

A senior County Fermanagh GAA player Darren Graham has quit the sport because of persistent sectarian abuse inspired by his protestant background.
Whilst the news has been greeted with something approaching excitement by some unionists, I find the story neither surprising nor particularly shocking. This sectarianism exists in many facets of society and in other sports also.
As a Northern Ireland supporter, however, it is hard not to recall the media frenzy which accompanied Neil Lennon quitting the Northern Ireland team and to harbour a tiny inkling of desire that the same outrage greets a very similar story.
In contrast to Irish Football Association, the Gaelic Athletic Association retains an overtly political constitution and its history is firmly grounded in an exclusive Catholic, Gaelic nationalism. The following are extracts from that constitution:
”Basic Aim The Association is a National Organisation which has as its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity in a 32 Count…


Congratulations to Neill Armstrong and Lindsay on their first baby girl Erin Mary, born yesterday!