Friday, 30 April 2010
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
|It's evidence, not blank sheets of A4 paper. Honest!|
The acronym ‘MOPE’ is well known in Northern Ireland. For the uninitiated, it stands for ’Most Oppressed People Ever’ and both ’communities’ here regularly vie for the title. Though, even by our tortured standards, this story just about takes the jammy dodger!
Ex BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter, Jerome Quinn, has taken his former bosses to a fair employment tribunal, alleging ’religious and racial harassment’ because he is Irish (yep only in Ireland eh?). In addition he claims that the Corporation favours ’Protestant supported sports’, like …. the North West 200!
Fans of the Northern Ireland football team will remember that Quinn has a history of taking offence. In 2001 he decided to wear a Tyrone Gaelic football jersey to a home match against Iceland at Windsor Park. Unfortunately the resultant article is no longer online, but some feedback still survives thanks to the BBC website’s archive. (It has been found - thanks Buckie).
Quinn obviously thought that he would provoke a reaction, but alas no-one said boo to him at the game. He decided to construe silence as oppression anyway and alleged that Northern Ireland supporters were giving him the cold shoulder because he was the ’fella who commentated on the GAA’.
So, at least one group of sports’ fans will not be surprised to find Quinn in front of a tribunal alleging that “less favourable treatment than if I was Protestant, British and not associated with the GAA” had led the BBC to replace him with, erm, ‘Orange’ Austin O’Callaghan from Sligo.
For the record, the Beeb sacked Quinn for using its computers to post anonymous criticism of his employer on GAA websites. Whoops!
|Happier Times? Jerome is oppressed by Northern Ireland fans.|
Monday, 26 April 2010
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Saturday, 24 April 2010
No. But he might have made the Conservative task here a little bit harder with his remarks. Because, however incontrovertible their content, he has given his opponents a stick to beat him with.
The Belfast Telegraph, increasingly open about its left-statist bias, gleefully splashed this morning with ‘Cameron: I’ll target Ulster for cutbacks’.
Of course, there isn't even the tiniest doubt that what the Tory leader said was 100% accurate. Anyone with a shred of interest in Northern Ireland’s economy agrees that it is a basket case and the imbalance between the public and private sectors needs to be addressed, urgently.
But during an election campaign it is not enough simply to be accurate.
Cameron must have known how a special mention for just two regions in the United Kingdom could be interpreted. Even if they are the regions where the public-private imbalance needs correction most urgently.
He must also have known that, in those two regions, existing anxiety about cuts would intensify.
Danny Kennedy, the UUP deputy leader, and a candidate for the Conservatives and Unionists provided some context to the Tory leader‘s comments,
"David Cameron has set an ambitious goal for a Conservative and Unionist government - to see the economies of Northern Ireland and other regions, such as the north-east of England, flourishing as the private sector grows. This ambition is shared by the people of Northern Ireland, who want to see jobs, opportunity and enterprise in this part of the United Kingdom. This is the agenda which the people of Northern Ireland can support on 6th May by voting Conservatives and Unionists".
It is a fair commentary, but I believe that more might be needed. When David Cameron comes to Northern Ireland, he must make it clear that his economic strategy is twin pronged.
Yes, the inflated public sector must be addressed, but in tandem the Conservatives will provide concrete help in order to enable the private sector to grow.
Some of these policies are already in place, but, in the light of last night’s interview they need to be personally emphasised and explained to the people of Northern Ireland. Cameron allowed fear to predominate over hope, in the comments which the media highlighted. That is not an election winning strategy.
Because, however necessary and just Christmas, few turkeys will be persuaded to vote for it.
Friday, 23 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
"The voters I have spoken to across the constituency have become more and more weary of the DUP trying to engineer a divide based along sectarian lines rather than on the issues at stake in this election. This election is far too important for DUP stunts.
"The fact is Jimmy Spratt has already admitted he cannot win the seat, that is why he wants me to withdraw from the contest. I have always been clear, from the reception I am getting from all parts of the community in South Belfast, that I am the only pro-Union candidate who can take the seat.
"I look forward to debating the issues in a friendly and respectful manner with Alasdair McDonnell, Anna Lo and others. There is still time for the DUP to join this debate on the issues, but it will require a move from uncosted proposals and a fantasy manifesto to some serious policy proposals on the real concerns of people across South Belfast.
"I will most certainly not be bullied into walking away by Peter Robinson and his party, who have let down their own voters by breaking pledge after pledge.
"The fact that Sinn Fein has now joined the DUP in its sectarian stunts only makes me more determined to win the seat and give this diverse constituency the full-time representation at Westminster that it deserves."
Monday, 19 April 2010
"Brilliant to see on Dr Who that in 1,000 years Northern Ireland will still be part of the UK".
Sunday, 18 April 2010
Friday, 16 April 2010
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
“people who know something about politics in this small, landlocked poor ex-Soviet Republic assert, when it comes to big politics, this week’s “revolution” was nothing more than musical chairs between elite clans.”
This type of regional sniping has become the staple diet of nationalist parties across the United Kingdom. The DUP’s attacks, accusing ‘English’ Tories of neglecting Northern Ireland, are indistinguishable from tactics adopted by the SNP and Plaid Cymru. Scottish and Welsh nationalists are keen to portray themselves as the true guarantors of their region’s interests, opposing the devious schemes of interloping ’London’ parties. The pattern in Northern Ireland is precisely the same.
The truth is that the national Conservative manifesto, and doubtless its regional offshoots too, include plenty of content directly related to the upkeep of Union. At ’Pint of Unionist Lite’ O’Neill has a useful synopsis of the main points. To take a purely local perspective, the Tory commitment to “bring Northern Ireland into the mainstream of British politics” can be set against Labour’s apathy. Everything’s honky dory here according to its manifesto.
There are specific pledges in the national document. A Tory administration would produce a government paper, examining the possibility of a regionally distinct Corporation Tax rate, and end double jobbing. Next week’s Northern Ireland manifesto will drill down into the detail in order to explain what a Conservative government will mean to people in this part of the United Kingdom. It has been written in conjunction with the Ulster Unionist party, a degree of participation which Sylvia Hermon can only imagine, as she attempts to join the Labour benches.
With all the squabbling, ’unity talks’ and candidate pacts, its been easy to forget the pure unionist ideals which animated the Conservative and Ulster Unionist arrangement. It is a commonplace to suggest that unionism is preoccupied with tactics to the exclusion of strategy. The New Force represented a clear and exciting strategy, but it has become mired in tactical minutiae, local rivalry and an incurable compulsion to respond to every brickbat thrown by rivals.
As the election draws closer, and Conservatives and Unionists organise their core beliefs into digestible format, hopefully it is the strategy which will prevail.
The Conservative Party is passionate about the Union and we will never do anything to put it at risk. and, because of the new political force we have created with the Ulster Unionists,.
Monday, 12 April 2010
Last month, to mark the end of forty years representing North Antrim, part-time, at Westminster, Ian Paisley sent a letter, on stationery headed by House of Commons livery, to his constituents. It doesn’t feature the word DUP and although it is deeply self-valedictory, it is possible to argue that the text does not represent campaigning.
Included in an envelope with the document we have a photo of the ‘Reverend Doctor‘, or whatever his fawning acolytes like to style him, posing with ‘óg’, ‘Junior’, ‘Baby Doc’, a chip off the old block.
Perhaps the Conservatives and Unionists should consider another complaint if the Paisley dynasty has promoted itself, at public expense, just before a general election. The relevant question is, is this communication paid for out of Ian Paisley junior's election budget?
Friday, 9 April 2010
The fact remains, however, that, should he win, the constituency will be represented by a Conservative and Unionist MP, with impressive cross-community credentials. For some time before Connor’s candidacy was mooted it was known that Tom Elliott would stand only with reluctance.
O’Neill has already intimated that the new candidate actually offers a better match for the type of politics which UCUNF is supposed to be about
The DUP will try to trumpet some pyrrhic victory on the basis of ‘unity’. Actually what we have is a Conservative candidate who, for appearance sake, and to take into account local circumstances, has agreed to label himself an independent.
It is telling that Irwin Armstrong, the only long-standing Conservative on the New Force candidate list, is happy to endorse Connor’s Tory credentials. In a press release Armstrong commented,
I welcome the decision of Rodney Connor to run as an independent in FST, anyone who knows him will be fully aware that he is completely non sectarian and will attract votes from and represent all sections of the community in FST.
I am delighted that his political views are closely in line with mine and that he will take the Conservative whip at Westminster reserving the right, as all MP’s tend to do to, to vote in his constituents local interests.
He will make an excellent MP and will be a great asset to the Conservative Party as a full time Westminster MP in partnership with the other successful Conservative and Unionist candidates.Sinn Féin and the SDLP will attempt to claim a sectarian carve-up. But their previous enthusiasm for Connor's non-sectarian ethos is hard to reconcile with this new attitude.
This is a compromise. It’s an unpalatable compromise in some respects. And I wouldn’t argue that the ends justify the means. But, by fair means or foul, Fermanagh South Tyrone has ended up with a viable, Conservative, candidate after all.
‘The TUV attempting to bring back the old MP from the last century is a bit like the BBC trying to bring back William Hartnell as the new Doctor Who!’
East Londonderry is crying out for a forward looking, full time, energetic and positive MP. People are weary of the same old faces and the same old negative politics that makes no difference in their lives. I want to see positive change on jobs, the economy, tourism, education and health, for all of us. It’s time for a fresh start.’
Thursday, 8 April 2010
View Larger MapAn image from Google Street View. It's taken on Ballymena's scenic William Street with the inviting 'Sportsman's Bar' clearly visible. But, who's that in the foreground? Could it possibly be BBC Northern Ireland sports' commentator Jackie Fullerton?
The starting gun has sounded and the UK’s political parties are out of the blocks. Conservatives and Labour, determined to secure mandates, are anxious that May’s election should not produce a hung parliament.Yet the DUP, and various nationalists from the UK regions, are hoping for precisely that outcome.Most commentators agree with the main parties, that an indecisive election result would be to the national detriment. Why is there an overwhelming consensus that a hung parliament would be bad for Britain?Elections for the House of Commons are decided using First Past the Post. The merit of the system is that it most often produces a conclusive result and avoids the weak government which minority administrations or coalitions often produce.If there is a hung parliament following the next election it will be only the fifth time that that has happened in one hundred years. They have all been short-lived affairs.A few, unsatisfactory options will then be available to govern Britain.Gordon Brown has already indicated his intention to carry on, in the result of a hung parliament, so he would have first crack at forming a government. Any deal would hinge on his ability to negotiate a coalition or a workable minority administration, haggling case by case on important issues and avoiding defeats in votes of confidence.Whichever option prevailed, the upshot would be government by committee and a lack of direction for the country. The UK would be plunged into a spell of political volatility.Financial markets, which depend on a sense of stability, are particularly susceptible to the effects of a hung parliament. It is almost inevitable that a crash would accompany an indecisive election result. That means jobs lost, in Northern Ireland, as in every other region of the United Kingdom.If a government were to be formed successfully, its chances of long-term survival would be slim.In 1974, the last time a hung parliament followed an election, Harold Wilson’s minority administration lasted a few brief months. Ramsay MacDonald kept together a government for two years, after an indecisive result, but that was in 1929.A hung parliament might give small parties a little blackmailing power - for a month or two. But to rely on it as a political strategy is short-sighted in the extreme. It is also profoundly un-unionist, because a minority administration, or a coalition, would profoundly damage the UK.
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Protestors are intent upon overthrowing Bakiyev’s regime, which they claim is authoritarian and corrupt. The Moscow Times reports that rioters attempted to seize the main government building, while Ria Novosti suggests that other critical sites are in opposition hands, including the state television channel’s headquarters.
These clashes are ongoing, so a clearer picture will no doubt emerge later. However, like Georgia, Kyrgyzstan’s president was swept to power by one of the so-called ‘colour revolutions’. Like Saakashvili, Bakiyev has failed to live up to promises of democracy.
The Iris Robinson sex-and-money scandal forms part of the crumbling of the Paisleyite movement
in Northern Ireland politics’, a new version of an acclaimed book argues.
First published in autumn 2009,The Fall of the House of Paisley, by Belfast journalist David Gordon, charted how Ian Paisley's time as Northern Ireland's First Minister came to an abrupt end in 2008. The new version, published this week, has been updated to examine the impact of the scandal surrounding Iris Robinson which broke early in the new year.
Gordon's book received highly positive reviews and repeatedly made the non-fiction best-seller lists during the Christmas period. The book begins on the historic day in 2007 when the DUP and Sinn Féin stood together and announced they had done a deal to restore devolution in Northern Ireland. This immediately damaged Paisley in his heartland. From there Gordon charts the developments which ripped apart the House of Paisley. The DUP soon lost a council by-election in Dromore, Co Down that it had been expected to win quite comfortably. Then there’s Ian Paisley junior’s resignation which highlighted faults in the Stormont system relating to accountability, public standards, nepotism and use of tax payers’ money. The way this controversy also brought down his father has echoes of a biblical or Shakespearian drama, and it makes for a riveting read.
The Iris Robinson scandal involved an affair with a teenager around the same time she was crusading against homosexuality. She also used £50,000 from property developers to help fund her young lover's business. Sex-and-money scandals are bad news for any political party. But, as the book points out, this was the DUP, with its roots deeply embedded in a stern, censorious brand of evangelical Protestantism. The Robinsons were very much part of the Paisleyite world, where dogmatic religion and politics were mixed. When Iris Robinson launched her salvos against homosexuality she might have caused some embarrassment to her more media-savvy DUP colleagues. She was in fact staying true to the traditions of her party.
As Gordon shows, when Iris Robinson first entered political life in 1989, the DUP manifesto carried a message from leader Paisley under the heading ‘For God and Ulster’. It also stressed the party’s opposition to ‘immoral practices’. Iris Robinson also clearly believed she had divine approval for her entire political career.
Paisley's DUP traditionally had two central themes - blending politics with religion and accusing mainstream unionist politicians of betrayal. Now the party is the mainstream itself, and is Sinn Féin's principal partner in power. The Iris Robinson scandal is likely to help deter DUP politicians from preaching about other people's private lives in future. It seems that traditional Paisleyism is on the way out, along with its founder.
‘Gordon’s account is as sharp as a blade, cutting deep into the murky world of Stormont’, The Sunday Business Post.
‘A fine piece of investigative journalism’, The Irish Independent.
|Reg for South Antrim?|
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
Conservative poll leads have been firmer in recent days. With the party's emphasis on marginal seats, Nick Cohen's view that the election might not be as tight as predicted, looks like sound analysis.
In Northern Ireland this election should offer an exciting departure. The Conservatives and Unionists are offering voters a chance to choose the next government. However the 'New Force' has been rocked by a series of internal wrangles.
Now that campaigning can begin in earnest, there is a chance to steady the ship. Otherwise the most popular response from the Northern Ireland electorate, to an election which sees the main parties in various degrees of disarray, may well be apathy.