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Showing posts from November, 2007

Identity fetishists defend "right" to tribalise areas

Woe betide the man who puts his head over the parapet in Northern Ireland and argues for integration and neutral spaces. The Alliance Party are subjected to vicious attacks from Brian Feeney and today Newton Emerson has been fielding a broadside on Slugger O’Toole for having the temerity to suggest that a neutral ethos needs to be preserved if the Assembly begins to require social housing provision as part of new developments under the 1991 Planning Order. With the carve-up between the TNA in operation, flaunting your symbols is in, separate but equal apartheid is in and the idea that we should look toward a shared future is certainly out.

Emerton highlights the lack of will to instigate mixed social housing. He points in particular to the Crumlin Road plan, where a wrangle over the development being allocated to one community, may yet see no social housing at all on the site. A genuinely mixed development in Fermanagh was attacked by Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew because it doe…

Duma election set to be undermined by Putin's Plan

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Russia goes to the polls on Sunday in order to elect 450 deputies to sit in its parliament, the Duma, for the next four years. The ballot is taking place amidst increasing accusations of unfair electioneering and vote rigging.

The chances of anything resembling a free and fair election diminished substantially from the moment it became clear that the poll would be considered a referendum on Vladimir Putin’s status as “National Leader”. Although the President enjoys popular support in Russia, his presence heading the United Russia list, is not alone sufficient to ensure that the party achieve the 60% plus mandate which Putin feels is needed.

Turning a parliamentary election into a personal approval poll itself undermines the worth of that institution, but a number of strategies have been employed to ensure that the Duma will not comprise any meaningful opposition to Putin or United Russia. Electoral reform designed to stifle independent candidates and small parties had already been i…

A bad day for football as IFA once again live up to Inept Farcical Absurd tag

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The leading Northern Ireland fanzine from a few years ago used to run a series of articles entitled Inept Farcical Absurd, highlighting the incompetence of the Irish Football Association. The series was a long one, sometimes running to several separate ineptitudes per issue, and if the magazine was still alive another couple would have been added to the “to do” list.

Last night the IFA held an Extraordinary General Meeting in order to make much needed changes to the body’s archaic Articles of Association. Having previously failed to gain a 75% majority required to abolish the ban on Sunday football, thankfully the voters stepped out of the 19th century and last night carried the necessary amendment.

No such common sense displayed when presented with proposals to cut the Executive Committee from 18 to 10 members. That would after all have complied with government recommendations which have been linked to a much needed £13 million injection into the sport. Unbelievably this funding ha…

No relation to Warren: more blethering from Feeney

Brian Feeney really is a venomous little man. He has been ranting at the moderate middle ground once again, lecturing them for their temerity in questioning the Twin Nationalisms Axis. Indeed he explicitly indicates that he would take great delight in the Alliance Party being wound up and voters who do not want to take a constitutional position being disenfranchised. His most withering criticism is reserved for anyone who wishes to see democratic accountability introduced in Northern Ireland. This he maintains will never happen, for the simple reason that Feeney says it won’t.

The way he frames his derision for the oppositional system of politics seems to suggest that he views it as some manner of foreign and detrimental British construct, suitable for nowhere but Westminster. Because Mary Harney will survive a no-confidence vote, there is no purpose in opposition and the only politics worth pursuing are those of government. How those who once railed against authority change th…

Don't give in to the Twin Nationalisms Axis' bullying.

The character of the Stormont Assembly and particularly the Northern Ireland Executive is being fascinatingly exposed bit by bit and the picture which is emerging bears no resemblance to a democratic or accountable institution. Finance Minister Peter Robinson has been fulminating at SDLP / UUP dissent over the draft programme of government and budget proposals.

In response Reg Empey accurately described Robinson’s comments as “a thinly veiled threat” to collapse power sharing arrangements and presumably to lay the responsibility at the feet of the two moderate parties.

In the DUP / Sinn Fein carve-up debate is inimical and the two parties wish to impose their will on the smaller members of the executive whilst being fire-walled from the electoral consequences of their policies by forcing their opponents to assume joint responsibility. The most basic concepts of democratic accountability are being undermined.

The most encouraging thing about this Stalinist display of authoritarianism…

Another inviolable human right invented?

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I couldn't help but titter at this story carried by the BBC about a 15 year old "rock music fan" being discriminated against because of his shoulder length hair.

Now whether Grant Stranaghan of Ballyclare High should be allowed to wear his hair long is an issue on which I have not yet formed any view (and nor am I likely to, because frankly it is not a very interesting question). But I will say that the reaction of his father to his son's treatment and the threat of legal action may be construed as just, well ..... A LITTLE BIT OVER THE TOP!

"I could have cried when he told me what they did to him - they put him in a room and threw work at him, no contact with anyone.This is Northern Ireland in 2007. Solitary confinement, I think it's called."

Yes. This is Northern Ireland in 2007 and thus we have a huge song and dance about a pupil being required to work on their own for a while because they've breached school rules. Mr Stranaghan must have a dim vie…

Healy still a wanted man in Prague?

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A rather pertinent point has been raised by David Healy himself, who has reminded the IFA that his return to the Czech Republic may allow a rather sticky legal situation to re-emerge arising from Northern Ireland’s previous visit in 2001.

Back then the GAWA had travelled in substantial numbers to Prague and on the day of the match were transported to Teplice, several hours away and close to the German border, in an endless convoy of coaches. A small square close to the stadium was colonised and several hours of beer and song were shared with Czech supporters. An emergent striker called Milan Baros played a role in the Czech’s 3-1 win, coming off the bench to score a goal in stoppage time, after Kuka’s 88th minute strike had finally edged his side in front. I had missed Phil Mulryne’s equaliser, having already made a move to the refreshments queue just prior to half-time.

Having returned to Prague that evening and spent several hours in the legendary Thirsty Dog pub, a Ballymena / Col…

NBP hoods undermine Kasparov's claim to legitimate dissent

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Garry Kasparov has become the most recognisable face of Russian dissidence remaining in Russia, particularly for Americans. The former chess champion is emblematic in the western media of the Other Russia umbrella movement formed to coalesce disparate political groups opposed to Vladimir Putin.

Kasparov is widely viewed in Russia as a pro-American stooge but in the west he is increasingly seen as something of a martyr for democracy, silenced and bundled into the back of police vans by sinister minions of the dictator Putin. No doubt his latest arrest and 5 days prison sentence will elicit more sympathy.

Whilst it would be hard to argue that political opposition in Russia is given the freedom of expression and democratic rights which it should, it is worth pointing out the nature of some of the membership of the Other Russia and considering whether all of its members would be welcomed unto the streets of many western capitals to protest or whether their behaviour would be tolerated b…

Oxford protests are counterproductive

I find the hysteria over allowing Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak at the Oxford Union puzzling. It seems to me that creating a controversy over their appearance affords them much greater publicity than simply allowing them to speak and ensuring that their unpalatable views are robustly challenged.

Griffin and Irving’s opinions on politics and history respectively are abhorrent. If however they remain within certain legal confines it is not possible or desirable to stifle their right to expound them. Both men already have media through which to express their views and therefore it is important that they should be scrutinised and should be subject to open debate. By this means their poison will be exposed and countered.

What exactly heightens the risk of these men attracting more sympathy? Is it the address that they are making to 450 invited students or the sight of them being barracked by10 busloads of various “anti-fascism protesters” who are to converge outside the Oxford …

A stiff test, but cause for optimism

After I’d passed a frustrating afternoon spent with an ear on Radio Five Live and an eye on Tolstoy’s Master and Man, the BBC finally transferred to Durban and transmitted, frankly confusing coverage of yesterday’s 2010 World Cup draw. In fairness to the broadcaster the bloated, unwieldy and interminable manner of the occasion did not lend itself to an efficient or indeed brief programme.

I soon aborted an attempt to comprehensively note down the groups as they were drawn, scotched by the BBC’s late arrival and the babble of their commentary for an event which is reasonably self-explanatory. Therefore it was left to the presenter to inform me of the composition of Northern Ireland’s group as he insisted on talking over the main draw proceedings.

As the dust settled, it emerged that Northern Ireland would face the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and San Marino. This is an extremely tough draw and far from ideal. Slovakia and Slovenia are arguably the toughest possible oppo…

A lack of understanding or deliberate ignorance?

Disappointment expressed by nationalists at unionist politicians’ non-participation in the Irish parliament’s joint committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement yesterday betray a true lack of understanding of unionism. It is difficult to decipher whether this is borne of wilful naivety or whether nationalism really does disregard the genuine disparity in the vision it has for future constitutional arrangements here and that held by unionists. Do nationalists really not “get it” (to borrow the horrible phrase employed over the eligibility debate) or is it simply a matter of not wanting to “get it”?

The Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent aesthetic whitewash it received in St Andrews reaffirmed that constitutionally Northern Ireland remains part of the UK and so it will remain until such times as a majority here says otherwise. Certain all-Ireland bodies have been established, accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly and further bodies were set up to discus…

Onwards and Upwards

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Rarely have Lawrie Sanchez’s words been more appropriate. After the roller-coaster of the European Championship Qualifying campaign, there is barely time for Northern Ireland’s fans and players to draw breath before the World Cup Qualifying draw is made in Durban on Sunday.

David Healy is understandably optimistic after his remarkable achievements. Already Northern Ireland’s talisman is looking forward to the next challenge.

The FIFA World Rankings were released at 10am this morning and will be used to seed the teams into 6 pots. Eight groups of 6 teams and one group of 5 will comprise the European zone, encompassing the 53 member associations of UEFA. It is my understanding that the pots will be as follows (based on the rankings released this morning):

Pot 1:

Italy
Spain
Germany
Czech Republic
France
Portugal
Holland
Croatia
Greece

Pot 2:

England
Romania
Scotland
Turkey
Bulgaria
Russia
Poland
Sweden
Israel

Pot 3:

Norway
Ukraine
Serbia
Denmark
Northern Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Finland
Switzerland
Belgium

Pot…

Sammy in cloud cuckoo land

No harm to Sammy Wilson, but whilst he may be considered the less obnoxious face of the DUP, no-one is going to seek from him penetrating analysis or cogent political theorising.

He has launched an abstruse attack on the UUP’s unionist credentials in the wake of a motion by the party calling for a Royal Commission to consider the future of the Union.

Wilson actually attacks the party for copper-fastening the principle of consent into the Good Friday Agreement! Can he truly believe that such an assurance, on which the British Government had explicitly predicated its continuing presence in Northern Ireland, was not necessary or weakened our link with the rest of the UK?

The UUP ensured that this principle, which the British Government had already accepted as the proviso for its interest here, became universally accepted by both governments and more importantly by republicans. Whilst Trimble’s negotiation of the GFA could be challenged in terms of strand 1, which ensured the early rel…

COME ON NORTHERN IRELAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Prior to Saturday’s match against Denmark I had been nervous as a kitten for three days. Oddly with the match against Spain imminent and the resolution of our qualifying campaign only hours away, I have lapsed into some manner of Zen-like serenity.

This may be attributable to my non-attendance at the match, an unavoidable consequence of limited holiday leave. Or it may be that in the depths of my soul I have already let go of this campaign, adjudging it a remarkable achievement, but acknowledging somewhere in my subconscious that on this occasion we’re not going to make it.

I suspect that actually it is merely the calm before the storm and that by 7pm tonight my stomach will have clenched into a nauseas knot and a low roar of anxiety will have enveloped my thoughts. As is often the case for the most fraught football matches I watch on television, I am heading home to view it. There I can pass through the agonies only with my father, who will be going through the same.

Perhaps this…

Conventional Kosovo wisdom challenged

How refreshing to read Simon Jenkins sober and sensible reflection on the Kosovo situation at Comment is Free. Redressing the conventional balance, Jenkins fails to follow the unthinking line followed by most journalists on this topic and examines in some detail the complexities of the situation in the Serb province.

Jenkins is correct in stating that the current malaise is largely due to failed NATO strategy and omission in the region. He also correctly asserts that criminals and terrorists have been rewarded and mollified simply because it suits western interests. “He may be a bastard, but he’s out bastard” is a quote normally attributed to Harry S Truman and it still provides a neat synopsis of the high-handed and morally bankrupt foreign policy which allows such people to attain US and EU patronage.

Of course the irony is that by pandering to Kosovan separatism, the west is actually driving Serbia into the arms of Russia, as well as undermining the advancement of nascent democracy…

The Irish Language : failing to learn lessons from our southern neighbours

Contrasting stories regarding ‘Gaelige’ this morning suggest that as Northern Ireland prepares to launch itself into inappropriate territory in deference to Irish Language extremism, the Republic of Ireland is being forced gradually to extricate itself from just such a hornet’s nest.

Demanding Irish Language qualifications from lawyers was ethno-nationalist folly which persists in other areas of life in the Republic such as teaching and the Civil Service. It is undoubtedly an indication of the increased pluralism and self-confidence of society in the south that this requirement is being abolished.

The prerequisite of Irish has been identified as “no longer practical or realistic” and by these criteria, as well as by basic standards of inclusiveness, surely other requirements which seek to prescribe Irish for those working in public jobs must also become obsolete. Ironically the expensive and impractical maintenance of Gaelic as an official European Union language is becoming increasi…

Kosovan chaos closer

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With Kosovo’s likely Prime Minister Hashim Thaci threatening to declare unilateral independence for the Serb province, the sponsors of Kosovar separatism have been put into a spin.

Thaci’s assurance that no declaration will be made “without coordination with our partners Washington and Brussels" will doubtless relieve those who have offered little incentive to Kosovans to compromise with their Serb neighbours but now consider it inopportune that partially reformed gang leaders should display their assertiveness before it suits those who have fostered it.

Thaci himself led the terror group the KLA and was an organiser in the Drenica Group, which provided finances through crime, controlling between 10-15% of criminal activities in the province. The Group were involved in smuggling arms, stolen cars, oil and cigarettes, as well as prostitution and had links with international criminal groups in Albania, the Czech republic and Macedonia. Thaci’s sister is married to Sejdija Bajrush,…

Bennett doesn't allow topic of article to distract from good Irish republian MOPE

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Ronan Bennett was once a convicted IRA terrorist but in his current incarnation he turns out novels of lumpen prose.

Bennett’s wife is the editor of Comment is Free, the Guardian’s Blog, and thus it is in the G2 section of the paper that we are treated to an article, ostensibly about Martin Amis’ wrangles with Islam, which crowbars in a quite remarkable number of allusions to the Irish Catholic (and I use Bennett’s own religious definition) as MOPE.

What is it about the Irish Republican psyche that wants to project their own parochial concerns on every situation of conflict or discord which has ever manifested itself since the dawn of history? Why are they compelled to seek in misery, wherever it occurs, some echo of their own perceived suffering?

Bennett does not make it past his almost unreadably clumsy opening paragraph, before directly conflating the entire religion of Islam with the Irish. Racist supremacism is charged against Amis and the Irish Catholic is of course a perpetual…

Tragedy in Donetsk

In 2003 I spent an enjoyable few days in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine with fellow Northern Ireland supporters. It was with a great deal of sadness that I learned of the tragedy which has befallen one of the most friendly, distinctive destinations that I have visited anywhere in the world.

Ukraine’s coal-mines have a notorious reputation, due to the unusual depth of the seams coupled with antiquated equipment. The Donbass region has suffered tragedies before and indeed the Zasyadko mine, in which nearly 80 miners lost their lives on Sunday, has claimed the lives of its workers repeatedly.

Donetsk is a city with mining woven into its very fabric, both literally and metaphorically. The mines are actually present in the city itself, with passages and tunnels running underneath streets and houses. I played football at Metallurg Donetsk’s training ground, which despite its urban location stood next to a large slag heap. The industry is an essential aspect of the identity of the city’s people…

Healy the king rains at Windsor

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Northern Ireland’s phenomenal, brave football team produced another stunning performance at a sodden Windsor Park on Saturday night, keeping qualification hopes alive, although hanging by the slenderest thread.

The GAWA have become accustomed to these celebratory occasions, but they are never taken for granted. Torrential rain had put this one in jeopardy and there was an air of disbelief when it became apparent that the match would go ahead. The supporters were, by their own ground quaking standards, quiet in the early stages, drenched from their journeys into the stadium and convinced that the referee would put to an end to the spectacle being splashed out in puddles in front of them.

Ultimately though Windsor Park shook with familiar noise, as the team achieved their third comeback against higher ranked opposition to complete another incredible triumph in this campaign. Since early evening rumours had been circulating in packed pubs around South Belfast that the pitch was unplaya…

Republican violence and the law of diminishing returns

Glancing over an Economist article linked by News Hound this morning, I was struck by a phrase which encapsulated perfectly for me, the current attitude to violence within republicanism.

“Violence is yielding diminishing returns.”

Here we have a concise summation of the reasons why small numbers of republicans only are currently involved in violence. This bald statement of course implies no moral engine for the republican mainstream’s abstention from bloodshed. And therein lies its accuracy.

Returns are diminishing, therefore violence has diminished and support for violence has diminished. Recent dissident attacks have garnered little support and have attracted the censure of mainstream republicanism simply because they are no longer strategically valuable for republicans, not because of any sense of revulsion for the nature of the acts or the effects they might have on victims.

Of course morally there is no distinction whatever between the dissidents and mainstream republicans.�…

Spin over substance : the Northern Ireland Executive

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The carve-up of politics in Northern Ireland can be a debilitating and self-perpetuating phenomenon. As this process has become institutionalised and as the electorate has fallen behind the two parties perpetuating it, so the predominant political commentary in local newspapers has followed the electorate to disseminate largely the viewpoint of the same two parties.

And so we have the Irish News, traditional bastion of moderate nationalism, not only modifying its editorial stance to reflect the prevailing currents in nationalism but also giving space to those who simply despise unionists such as Brian Feeney and republican ex-terrorists like Jim Gibney.

Gibney’s evaluation of the first 6 months of the Executive is such a doctrinaire Sinn Fein reading that it may as well have issued straight from a press release. Firstly Gibney plays to the crowd and hails the formation of the Executive as a triumph of Sinn Fein’s reasonableness against unionist intransigence. He actually seems to s…

Northern Ireland must keep eye on the ball

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I don’t know about other Northern Ireland supporters, but I for one can feel the nerves jangling for Saturday’s crunch European Qualifier with Denmark. Not easing this apprehension is a tendency in the media and amongst some fans to look ahead towards the game against Spain in Gran Canaria next Wednesday.

Northern Ireland must not underestimate the task facing them on Saturday. Denmark are favourites to win the match at Windsor Park and the slightest complacency, the least inattention to these first opponents and the trip to Spain will become an irrelevance.

I’m disappointed to hear Nigel Worthington drawn in to speculations about the outcome of the group. His job is to keep his players myopically focused on the immediate hurdle ahead of them.

Worthington is missing 3 crucial players for Saturday’s game. Kyle Lafferty, who produced his best performance in the emerald green in the last game against Sweden, serves a suspension after being given an unjust yellow card in that match. …

Freedive with Sir Walter Raleigh

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Last night I watched an overblown and silly film about Elizabeth I, Elizabeth the Golden Years.

Now I acknowledge that artistic licence is the prerogative of historical drama and that the various shenanigans made for a rather entertaining film, but some aspects of this stylized movie deserve particular mention for being so draw-droppingly daft!

The movie was a brief skite over events leading up to and surrounding the 1588 Spanish Armada, climaxing with the defeat of Phillip II’s fleet. Historically this was masterminded by Lord High Admiral Charles Howard aided by inclement weather, although from the film it was tempting to conclude that victory was mainly attributable to Sir Walter Raleigh.

Some of the most extraordinary scenes accompanied this battle, particularly the moment when Raleigh (Clive Owen) unaccountably executed a graceful dive from his ship and spent several minutes swimming purposefully under the tumultuous battle above. I believe that Raleigh was responsible for the c…

There ain't no Republican like a Sinn Fein Republican

There is always a hoot to be had from the hypocrisy of Irish republicans and the Derry Journal produces an editorial rich in just such hilarity.

The subject matter of the article is of course extremely serious. Rejuvenated attacks by republicans against members of security forces and particularly against members they perceive to be part of their own community.

The newspaper’s conclusions however are ripe with irony. To begin with we have a ringing endorsement of Martin McGuinness based on his republican credentials and the rather sinister condoning of his having “walked the walk”. The article then develops into an attack on those who are currently er… “walking the walk”.

The distinction the newspaper draws between one set of violence and another? “The community” no longer supports it. Who or what this "community" the paper so adamantly evokes comprises is not stated. If it refers to the community in Northern Ireland as a whole, well I am bound to point out that that comm…

'Putin's Plan' gradually emerging

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President Putin has delivered telling criticism of United Russia, the party whose list he heads for the 2 December Duma elections.

"The party has no stable political ideology or principles for which the overwhelming majority of members are ready to fight. ... And, as a rule, being close to those in power, as United Russia is, all kind of crooks try to latch on to it, often with success"

The irony of Putin’s comments is that United Russia’s policy can be summated as slavish deferral to the Kremlin and Putin himself. The lack of political ideology and principles merely illustrates the relative lack of importance of Russia's parliament and the party system to the Federation’s governance.

Putin views the upcoming election as a referendum on the continuance of his personal power. Heading United Russia's list is fairly transparently, merely a vehicle by which to achieve this aim.

"If the people vote for United Russia, whose list I lead, it means that they trust me…

Danish Test Will Prove Nigel's Worth

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Northern Ireland’s European Championship qualifying match against Denmark on Saturday is being billed as the most important fixture the team have played in 20 years. Theoretically this is true, because should Spain fail to beat Sweden in their qualifier and should Northern Ireland take 6 points from the next two games, it is the Irish side which will travel to Austria and Switzerland next summer, rather than the star-studded Spanish team.

This is an unlikely scenario and one which we would not have faced had two appalling performances against poor Latvian and Icelandic teams produced the points we had a right to expect. It is tempting to say that it is also a scenario which we would not have faced had Lawrie Sanchez remained at the helm of the national team.

The team’s confidence should have recovered after an excellent point earned in Sweden, but it is difficult to envisage this feat being bettered with a win in Spain. Saturday’s game is another stiff test with Denmark also carryin…

Representation that works

Predictably i have yet to receive a reply from Edwin Poots as regards the eligibility argument (which I make no apologies for raising ad infinitum on this blog).

In contrast Danny Kennedy MLA's response was swift and he has certainly been true to his word advancing this issue robustly and with intent.

A bus tour of Belfast: stones not included

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For some time I have been fascinated by what exactly the sightseeing tours of Belfast offer their customers. The bus-trips were in the news last week having been subject to attacks in West Belfast, but proving that in some respects all publicity is good publicity, my curiosity was “re-piqued”. And so this weekend my girlfriend and I decided to avail of the services of the main operator and experience their open-topped bus tour.

After the initial shock of being charged £11 each we took up our seats in the lower deck of what appeared to be a reclaimed and almost entirely unrefurbished service bus which had had the roof removed. The upper deck was already fully populated and the lower deck’s windows were smeared with seasonal road dirt, thus inhibiting visibility for the delights we were to be shown.

As we lurched forwards down High Street, our guide (Michael), clad in a red bomber jacket which gave him the appearance of a colourful nightclub bouncer, wrestled with his microphone, ext…

Sinn Féin's galling hypocrisy in condemning Remembrance Day disruption

Dissident republicans displayed their contrition for the deaths of 11 people and the injury of more than 60 in the 1987 Enniskillen bombing by disrupting the equivalent parade 20 years later with a bomb-hoax and actually planting a primitive device at a ceremony in Newry.

In a galling display of hypocrisy Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady condemned these actions with the statement: "People and communities should be allowed to commemorate and remember their dead in peace, without hindrance and in a spirit of mutual respect". But what actually separates the mentality of the dissident groups who carried out these despicable actions at the weekend and the republicans who Mr Brady’s party represents who actually carried out the bombing 20 years ago?

Other than the fact that tactically mainstream republicans have decided that inflicting death and injury on innocent people is for the time being counter-productive, the only qualitative difference is that the PIRA had a greater capacity to a…

Ballymena United fans vindicated and Jeffrey warned

Earlier this season David Jeffrey lied about Ballymena United fans and gifted those with an agenda against local football and against perceived unionist fans.

Unsurprisingly the fact that Ballymena's fans have been unequivocally vindicated with the IFA finding that there was "no basis of fact in the allegations made by Mr Jeffrey" has attracted less publicity.

Mud sticks and the damage has already been done by the bald obese liar.

Jeffrey and Linfield have been given offical warnings by the IFA - this is of course an ineffective slap on the wrist.

Rockin' Raskalnikov

My favourite novel is Crime and Punishment, so it is not without reservation that I greet the unveiling in Moscow of plans to make a rock opera based on Dostoevsky's masterpiece!

Dostoevsky's work has been adapted by composers on many occasions, but the rock opera medium is a first. Fans of the author will be worried to learn that this version abbreviates Razumikhin's role and excises Dunya altogether.

Tim Rice is reportedly interested in bringing the show to English speaking audiences.

The Berlin Wall : ambivalence and re-evalutation

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Today marks the 18th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Guardian reports via Der Spiegel that more than 1 in 5 Germans would welcome its reinstatement. 90% of Germans from the old GDR believe that the East German state afforded greater social protection than the current unified German state.

This ambivalence to the Wall’s demise may seem bemusing and even shocking to those of us who remember its destruction as an epoch defining event. Its fall seemed to symbolise more than any other single event, the failure of the communist system, the demise of the Soviet Empire and the triumph of western values of freedom and democracy.

The survey’s findings seem more shocking still because they pertain to Germany; a state which to external observers has recovered from the legacy of two world wars and 40 years of division, to take its place as a modern industrial powerhouse at the heart of the European project. How can modern Germans look back with nostalgia at a Stalinist basket-…

Speaking too soon

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Yesterday the Moscow Times printed a condescending opinion piece by Yulia Latynina, an anti-Kremlin political talk show host, which suggested that ongoing and increasingly violent protests In Georgia were a sign of “a strong and secure government”.

Interpretation, in Moscow, of the demonstrations against Mikheil Saakashvili’s corrupt and dictatorial regime as an indication of its imminent collapse and of strong public disillusionment with the pro-Western government was merely suggestive of Russia’s atrophied understanding of democracy. In democratic societies, Ms Latyina assured us, such demonstrations were a sign of self-confidence and indicative of a democracy in rude health.

Today the Guardian reports the situation in Georgia as its greatest crisis since the “Rose Revolution”, presumably “in the same spirit, (as Soviet) news reports from the 1970s showed demonstrations in the United States accompanied by self-gratifying predictions that U.S. imperialism would soon collapse”.

Mr Saaks…

Shameful FIFA attempt to wheedle out of decision

Irrelevant, incoherent political whining has paid dividends and having initially indicated that their clear eligibility rules would be applied, FIFA are now attempting wheedle out of their decision and foist an illogical, cowardly fudge to avoid the attentions of ethno-nationalists with no interest in international football beyond their disgraceful political agenda.

FIFA have asked the associations for feedback on this deplorable compromise and if Howard Wells and the IFA have a semblance of a spine, they will reject it in no uncertain terms and pledge to defend their position in court if necessary. Wells’ initial reaction to FIFA’s suggestion is encouraging.

"(the suggestion is) totally inconsistent with the body's own rules which apply to the other 206 countries in Fifa".
"I am extremely surprised about this, to say the least, staggered in fact.
"All we are asking is for Fifa to apply their own rules consistently to all members of their organisation.
"Th…