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Showing posts from November, 2015

Warplane incident shows Syria has become potential tinderbox

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A multitude of conflicting details, accusations and counter-accusations followed news today that a Russian warplane was shot down, close to the border between Syria and Turkey. 
Russia and Turkey dispute whether the incident took place over Turkish airspace.  There is also some suggestion from the Russian side that the plane was shot down from the ground, rather than the air.  It seems that the aircraft fell inside Syria, possibly about 4km from the border. 
At a press conference, President Putin responded with strong words, accusing Turkey of acting as ‘accomplices of terrorists’.  Meanwhile, Ankara has claimed that Russia violated its airspace and the plane was shot down in accordance with standard practices, after multiple warnings were issued first. 
It’s impossible, so far, to know what happened with any accuracy, but it may be helpful to place the events in a little context.
Firstly, sensitivities around the Turkish / Syrian border are certainly not a new phenomenon.  
Diplo…

Freedom of speech, identity and offence

In a 'news analysis' article for Tuesday’s Belfast Telegraph, I examined the tensions which can exist between identity politics and free speech.  It focussed mostly on arguments around gender identity, and speakers being banned from university debates, but it also touched upon the issue of same-sex marriage, which is so topical and incendiary in Northern Ireland.
Maybe the timing of the piece was unfortunate, because there was a lot of anger around on Tuesday morning and justifiably so. 
On Monday, in spite of a majority of MLAs in the Stormont Assembly backing a motion to introduce same-sex marriage here, it was defeated, because the DUP tabled a ‘petition of concern’.   This mechanism requires a majority from both designations in the Assembly to vote in favour of a measure, if it’s to pass.  Petitions of concern were intended to protect minority rights, but they have been used instead as vetoes on any matters which cause disagreement.  
My article got caught up in the ensuing …