Showing posts from September, 2007

Crusaders to move home

I must admit to a twinge of regret and nostalgia on learning that Crusaders FC’s membership has voted to sell Seaview and relocate to a stadium elsewhere.

The Shore Road ground was one of the tightest venues in the Irish League, which contributed to a frequently excellent atmosphere.

Although Seaview wasn’t always the easiest place to gain a result, with the Hatchetmen famed for their physical style of play, Ballymena enjoyed some notable moments at the ground. Few fans will forget a thrilling 4-3 win featuring two long range goals from Neil Candlish. Cult hero Tony “Nobby” Hall also thrilled the away supporters in 1994 with a spectacular Brazilian style banana kick which had the home team’s net bulging. And only last season current favourite Kevin Kelbie netted against Linfield in the County Antrim Shield Final in front of a jam packed stadium.

Seaview of course had its problems as well. Last season a wall behind the home terrace fell down in high winds unto the Belfast – Londond…

Kosovo's independence is not a cut and dried issue

Direct talks will begin today at the United Nations over the thorny issue of Kosovan independence.

Western preference may be for independence to be granted, but thinking on this issue is predictably skewed. The EU/American consensus is that Milosovic era aggression and heavily ethnic Albanian demographics makes Kosovo effectively an exception to international law (which fully recognises Serb sovereignty over the area).

A number of factors should be taken into consideration should the talks break down and should western governments consider recognising any unilateral declaration of independence.

Firstly the current Serbian regime is completely unrecognisable from that of Milosovic. Huge strides have been made to instigate democracy and build civic society in Belgrade. The government, under Prime Minister Tadic, is offering unprecedented autonomy and competences to Kosovan representatives, as well as significant input in federal government. In effect the Kosovan administration's re…

Ulster Museum epitomises lack of delivery on tourism

I often advance an unpopular hypothesis that the favourable tourist reviews Belfast receives are largely attributable to a mixture of post conflict goodwill and low expectations.

The city is pitifully short of decent visitor attractions when compared to other city break destinations in Britain and Europe. In terms of galleries and museums the place is a dead loss and given this dearth it seems scarcely believable that for the last year the Ulster Museum has been closed and no work has been taking place on its refurbishment.

It seems that the next time we can direct a visitor to a decent museum will be in summer 2009!

Of course tourists still have the option of wandering about the Cathedral Quarter which despite 10 years in the pipeline as Belfast’s bohemian district remains a largely derelict area of pawn shops and thrift stores, which any cautious traveller would avoid like the plague! Or perhaps they might choose to wander around the eerily deserted City Centre at night trying to f…

In stark contrast to the previous post

I used to work beside the City Hall in Belfast. Opening a window around Friday lunchtime made it possible to listen unhindered to Northern Ireland’s current First Minister haranguing his future citizens with threats of eternal damnation.

For those of us who identified in the DUP a fundamentalist arm to rival the Taliban, its is with resignation and a sense of inevitability that we read about efforts from their Free Presbyterian wing to encourage the teaching of creationism in science classes.

William Crawley’s Will and Testament blog yesterday noted the questions raised by one such regressive, David Simpson, and addressed to the awe-inspiringly ineffectual Education Minister, Catriona Ruane. True to form Miss Ruane was extremely vague and evasive. This is understandable given that the entirety of her time and attention must be devoted to the single most crucial issue of our age – Irish Medium education. The details of what children should be taught in whichever medium naturally h…

Donaldson highlights the carve-up of inter-communal politics

Kenny Donaldson, a party officer of the UUP, has some interesting points on the possible formation of a new unionist party. Donaldson may be guilty of according the nascent grouping too great an importance, but the precedent he evokes certainly stands up to some scrutiny in terms of mentality.

“Many Unionists of my parent’s generation will feel a deep sense of deja-vu. The reality is that Unionism started internally dividing itself when the present First Minister, Dr Paisley and others decided they neither had the stomach, nor the political or civic responsibility to face up to the challenges of accommodating nationalism within an internal political settlement. 30 years later and the penny still hasn’t dropped for some people. "

The following judgment is indisputable, qualified as it is with the proviso that terrorism played an important part in the hardening of attitudes.

“Let’s be clear; we have the sectarian carve up that we have because people refused to share responsibility …

Conceit and trumpet tooting

Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness has been named as 18th best political blog in Ireland thanks to Mick Fealty of Slugger O'Toole.

The blog will be included in the book Iain Dale's Guide to Political Blogging 2007-2008.

Atonement: not a glorious depiction of the Dunkirk evacuation

The only Ian McEwan novel I have read in full is Saturday and I found his prose rather tortuous and off putting. I consequently went to see Atonement last night with no more knowledge of the book than that furnished by a brief glance through the opening pages and a read of the synopsis.

Without being able to make a comparative analysis of the film and the text, I cannot comment on whether McEwan’s intentions were being followed, particularly as I understand the author declined to adapt the novel himself. Whether the rather post-apocalyptic rendering of Dunkirk was McEwan’s therefore, somebody may wish to clarify for me.

The anarchic dystopia the film presented, which to my mind was almost reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, hardly rang true as a portrayal of one of the greatest episodes of discipline and national unity in the history of World War 2. I acknowledge that these historical niceties may not have been paramount in the mind of the director. My girlfriend, who has a much more astute …

One party unionism - a step backwards

I would be less than honest if I didn’t acknowledge that my concern over an early Westminster poll arises partially due to the complete unpreparedness of the UUP.

Confronting the need for structural change to the party and making real progress in defining the party’s role within the realignment of unionism has been put off, supposedly to this autumn. A snap poll will catch the party napping - rudderless and divided on the direction it should take.

In this context I was interested to read O’Neill’s comments defending the need for more than one unionist party. His observations come in the wake of ludicrous comments made by one of the UUP’s plodding, traditionalist foot-draggers – Billy Armstrong – advocating a merger with the DUP.

O’Neill counters the argument for one unionist party correctly, by raising the electoral flexibility afforded to voters by proportional representation. He also hints at a point which I think needs to be developed. Having more than one unionist party means that mo…

Unsubstantiated rumour

Are unionists preparing to save the grammar schools by backing Catriona Ruane's plans to open Irish Language schools in every board area, continuing to close down existing schools whilst squandering millions to fund these small, minority interest schools?

Watch this space.

Early election won't be good for Northern Ireland

My thoughts on Gordon Brown are ambivalent as I have blogged on previous occasions. Whether growth has been achieved at the expense of a public borrowing time-bomb is conjecture that will become increasingly pertinent as the economy slows down, the property boom runs out of steam and interest rates are forced upward. Criticism of Brown’s inefficiencies in public spending, an insatiable appetite for tinkering with new forms of taxation and excessive fondness for public / private initiatives have been tempered by very concrete reservations about whether the Tories could do any better.

The long-term outworkings of Brown’s economic policies are in supremely just fashion, going to come to fruition during the years he hopes to remain Prime Minister. With unmistakeable signs of economic turbulence ahead and given a public perception that the premier has begun his term solidly, it is hardly surprising that Brown is tempted to go to the country sooner rather than later.

For a new Prime Minister …

Summer in Baden Baden

I am in the process of reading a remarkable an almost indescribable novel, Summer in Baden Baden by Leonid Tsypkin. Written in an unrushing train of prose it follows a narrating intellectual's journey between Moscow and Leningrad during Soviet times and entwines his reading of Anna Dostoevsky's diary. The effect is a startling and beautiful journey, accompanying both the narrator and the Dostoevskys as they travel to Baden Baden and the turbulent author deals with gambling addiction and crippling self-doubt.

This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Dostoevsky.

Putin's legacy: a strong independent Russia

I had intended to blog an excellent article from Jonathan Steele immediately after I read it in Tuesday's Guardian, but I became rather sidelined somewhere by the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Nevertheless it is well worth reading and tallies almost precisely with my thoughts on Putin's premiership. Steele is ahead of the game in assessing Putin's legacy and in acknowledging the stability, economic growth and rediscovered esteem he has engendered.

Duke Special new video

Thanks to Snoopy for sending me the link to Duke Special's new video "Our Love Goes Deeper Than This".

Hats off to the insane

In a small political world like that of Northern Irish unionism, there should be a certain frisson about the possible formation of a new party. However, only the most febrile unionist observers have contrived the faintest excitement over negotiations taking place between 100 basket cases in Moygashel last night.

Attending this meeting were such luminaries as Willie Frazer, who attempted to organise the ill-fated Love Ulster rally of flag waving loyalists in Dublin last year, and Robin Stirling, erstwhile primary school headmaster who has spent his retirement contending his freedom to play Orange party songs whilst mowing the lawn, a liberty which he has vocally proclaimed in Ballymena Borough Council. Leslie Cubitt joined the fun proclaiming that Ian Paisley would not be 1st Minister by Christmas.

The nominal “hinge” of this meeting was Jim Allister, a man reminiscent of the priest in Father Ted with the incredibly boring voice. It’s simply impossible to listen to what he’s actually say…

Republicans can't handle the truth!

There can rarely have been as unseemly a row (even in the context of Northern Ireland local government) as that taking place in Omagh Council’s chambers currently, over the wording of a monument to the victims of the 1998 bomb.

Even in the context of a tragedy which encompassed both sides of the community so utterly and which caused almost universal derision, Sinn Fein deems it appropriate to indulge their impulse to re-write history.

If any proof were needed that the search for “truth” that they recently marched to promote is a one way process, surely the attempted excision of the phrase “dissident Republican car bomb” is it.

Latvia: An uneasy democracy

Another matter arising out of the Latvia trip was a prevailing discontent among the supporters about the confrontational and corrupt policing they faced.

Undoubtedly this was justified to an extent, bribes were extracted and some people had very unpleasant experiences. The Latvian police could teach some people here a thing or two about what the word “heavy handed” really means. When you’re told to keep off the grass in Latvia, a baton around the head and being bundled into an unmarked van can be the sanction applied if you choose to persist.

Admittedly as well, there is an increasing element of uncouth louts following the Northern Ireland team abroad. They pay no attention to local custom, show no basic social manners, have no interest in the culture or history of where they visit and flaunt their comparative wealth in the faces of those who host them. When they aren’t welcomed with open arms or find themselves laid open to exploitation, they whine about it or act aggressively. To…

Worthless continues his demolition of GAWA

Two defeats and a disciplinary incident later, it appears my view that Nigel Worthington is taking the Northern Ireland football team back to the bad old days is to be vindicated.

Worthington was appointed on the basis of a 6 month contract, because he has big ideas about returning to club management in England. On that basis it is quite proper to judge him over a short time period, because quite simply he has failed to do the job he undertook to do.

Bearing in mind the brevity of the contract and the situation he inherited, Worthington’s task was straight forward – to maintain a steady ship and provide continuity from the Sanchez regime. He has chosen instead to plough his own questionable furrow, with obstinacy and conceit.

All that was special about Sanchez’s squad has been undermined by the attitude Worthington has displayed from the very beginning – questioning his own players ability, pandering to those who lack commitment, tinkering with personnel and tactics, losing control of …

Break from blogging

There will be no more blogs before Friday 14th September as I’m on Green and White Army duty in Riga via Berlin.

Here’s to a victory in Riga and a further 3 points in Reykjavik next Wednesday.

For anyone who may harbour concerns, fear not, I will put a lid on the pro-Russian, anti Baltic-nationalism sentiment during my trip. ;-)

Apology sought for IRA man's death!!

Republican hypocrisy is a rising ocean in constant flux, forever swamping fresh swathes of the antediluvian pastures of Northern Irish life, but even so this takes some beating.

Danny Bradley, brother of IRA scum who the British army killed in a no go area, wants an apology as little Seamus was “off-duty” that day! Bless!

SF / IRA will be snowed under by the workload of apologising for a campaign which was predominately based on murdering the security forces when they were off duty.

Unionism and Irishness

On a couple of occasions people have mentioned that I might have certain common ground with the Union Group. This has surprised me, as other than a desire to see unionism presenting itself in a more articulate and thoughtful manner, there is little in the Group’s documents which I could subscribe to.

Central to the documents they have produced are assumptions which I regard as wrong. Firstly they assume that the issue of the Union can only be understood in terms of identity politics, ceding the argument that unionism is a better or more inclusive political philosophy than Irish nationalism. The Union Group’s thesis is that to be inclusive, both political traditions on the island must be accorded equal status. That rather undermines the entire concept of being a unionist and is reflected in the all-Ireland vision the group outlines.

While national identity is an important aspect of Irish politics, it is not the only consideration in ordering a state or political arrangements, nor in my…