Monday, 30 July 2012

Even more shoddy journalism

Last week I pointed out that Sunday World journalist Richard Sullivan had got his facts wrong in relation to a 'stature' (sic) above the door of St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Donegall Street.  He had stated that it was a statue of the Virgin Mary but as I pointed out it would have been the first statue of Mary with a long flowing beard and a bishop's mitre!  It is of course a statue of St Patrick, after whom the church is named.

In a rather desperate and confused response Richard Sullivan comes back this week claiming that he has 'touched a raw nerve' with his article.  However I would suggest that it was my comments about 'shoddy journalism' which 'touched a raw nerve' with Richard.

He certainly seems to have got himself even more confused and says that my original post was an 'apparent appeasement' of the actions of a flute band.  I don't know what he is trying to say but 'appeasement' is certainly the wrong word.  It seems to be a case of why use a short word when you can use a big word and then use the wrong big word!  In fact my original post was written to correct a series of factual errors in an earlier newspaper article by another journalist.  I acknowledged that the action of the band had been naive and thoughtless but I also pointed out that the journalist had rather embellished the story by her errors.

However, back to Richard's latest article and he really is having difficulty with the statue outside St Patrick's.  He states that in my response I 'delivered a lecture about the sandstone with which the church is built'.  In fact I never mentioned the sandstone of which the church is built, I merely referred to the statue of St Patrick and noted in passing that it was carved from Portland stone.  He seems not to know that Portland stone is actually a type of limestone not sandstone.  It is the same stone that was used for the City Hall and St Anne's Cathedral and is easily recognised by the white colour of the limestone as opposed to the red of the sandstone.  The church was built of sandstone and the statue was carved from limestone.

So where does that leave us?  (1) Richard omits to acknowledge the errors he made in his column last week and which I corrected, (2) he compounds these errors with more errors, and (3) all of this arises from an article in which I pointed out five factual errors by another jouranlist.  Is it any wonder that I wrote about 'shoddy journalism'?

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Marriage - what is it?

The first chapters of Genesis introduce us to some very important truths:
  • The creation of the world by God
  • The institution of marriage
  • The value and dignity of work
  • The principle of a weekly day of rest
  • The relationship of man to the physical world and the environment
  • The concept of divine law, the fall of man and the fact of sin

Here are two key verses about God's plan for marriage: (1:18, 24)
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. ....  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Last month, at the annual conference of the Family Education Trust, the director, Norman Wells, said: 'There are four key elements in the legal definition of marriage: it is voluntary, monogamous, lifelong and heterosexual.'

Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.  That is what God ordained, that is what the Bible teaches and that is how marriage has been defined throughout human history.

Norman Wells said that some people are consciously trying to so broaden the definition of marriage that it loses its meaning and ceases to exist as an institution.  He said, 'Once a word can mean anything, it starts to mean nothing.'

Saturday, 28 July 2012

ONH statement on Ardoyne violence

A report in the Irish News (28 July) provides more information on the activities of dissident republicans at Ardoyne on the night of 12 July.

Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) emerged in 2009 as a dissident Irish republican terrorist organisation.  Now, using a recognised code-word, it has issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack on police officers in which a masked gunman fired 17 shots from an assault rifle. 

The group also claimed that previously unreported shots were fired at police lines from a handgun and that seven blast bombs were thrown during the disturbances.

Some of the initial reports in the media referred to 10 shots being fired at police officers but that was increased to 17 when a video clip of the gunman was placed on you-tube.  However until now there has been no mention of a second republican gunman.

There has been passing mention of blast bombs but this statement is quite explicit, referring to seven blast bombs being thrown by dissident republicans.

Earlier this year the same dissident terrorist group claimed responsibility for a booby-trap bomb attack on an off-duty soldier at Ligoniel.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Why Work?

Some time ago I visited a project in Londonderry entitled Strive 2 Work.  It provided a programme to assist people into the workplace and as I walked round and talked to some of the patricipants as well as the providers, I noticed the following up on the wall.  I though it worth noting down and remembering:
Why Work?
1. feel good about yourself
2. be a role model
3. meet new people
4. gain experience

Many people have difficulty securing work but getting into work can bring personal as well as financial benefits.

A fashion-conscious rioter at Ardoyne?

You couldn't make it up!  Christopher McDonald (23) of Wyndham Street, off the Cliftonville Road, has appeared in court charged with riotous assembly at Ardoyne on 12 July.

A police officer told the court that during the riot McDonald went home to change his clothes and then returned to the riot.

I wonder if he was wet from the water-canon and wanted a change of clothing or whether he was attempting to conceal his identity.  Perhaps it is that he was just a fashion-conscious rioter!

Wyndham Street is not in Ardoyne and from his home McDonald would not have seen the Orange parade.  He would not even have heard it.  Nevertheless it seems that he was so offended by what he could neither see nor hear that he went over to Ardoyne, took part in a riot, went home for a change of clothes and then returned to Ardoyne to be offended again.

This comes after the case of another alleged rioter who travelled all the way from Lurgan.  He travelled 20 miles to be offended.  Is there a pattern emerging here?

Neil Montgomery (20) of Elimgrove Street, which is beside Wyndham Street, was also charged with riotous assembly and it will be interesting to see the final tally of rioters.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

No bail for Lurgan man

PearceToman, a Lurgan who has been charged with rioting at Ardoyne on the evening of 12 July, has been refused bail

In court he was described as one of the most serious rioters at Ardoyne on that evening.  According to a prosecution lawyer he is accused of throwing a petrol bomb and pushing a burning car at police officers.    He has been charged with attempted grievous bodily harm, riotous assembly, possession of petrol bombsand hrowing a petrol bomb.

Toman was identified from a newspaper photograph and from pictures taken from an Army helicopter.

He applied to the High Court for bail but a prosecution lawyer opposed this because of fears that the accused could reoffend.  The lawyer pointed out that Toman had travelled 20 miles from Lurgan to be at the scene of the riot. 

Toman's application for bail was was refused in the High Court yesterday.

However he denied being at Ardoyne and said that the only time he had left his home in Lurgan on the Twelfth was to walk his dog!

God Save the Queen

At the Olympic Games all national anthems have to last at least 90 seconds and that has presented a problem for the United Kingdom squad, known as Team GB, because one verse of the anthem is shorter than the allotted time.  As a result British competitors will be expected to sing two of the five verses of the national anthem, verses one and three.

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign
May she defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Charles M Alexander and his Ulster ancestry

One of the joys of life is the discovery of a good book in a second-hand book shop and today I came across a copy of Charles M Alexander: A Romance of Song and Soul-Winning, which was written by his widow, Helen Cadbury Alexander, and J Kennedy Maclean and published in 1921.

Charles McCallon Alexander (1867-1920) was a famous singing evangelist and successor to Ira D Sankey.  The following short obituary is taken from the New York Times (14 October 1920):
Birmingham, England, Oct 13: Charles McCallon Alexander, the successor of Ira B Sankey as the foremost singing evangelist of the world, died suddenly at his home here this morning.  Charles M Alexander was born Oct. 24, 1867, at Maryville, Tennessee.  Early in life he engaged in evangelistic work directing his activities with great success to organizing and conducting large chorus choirs.  He accompanied the Rev R A Torrey on an evangelistic tour of the world, which occupied four years, from 1902 to 1906.  Dr Alexander made a second tour of the world with his wife, formerly Miss Helen Cadbury of Birmingham, in 1906 and 1907.  He was the compiler of several volumes of hymns, and was engaged in evangelistic work in New York City from 1908 to 1918.
During his tour with the Rev R A Torrey he made the 'Glory Song' famous throughout the world.  At the Royal Albert Hall, in London, he conducted for two months the largest evangelistic choir ever organized, 4,000 persons joining daily in the great services.  He is said to have held copyrights of more gospel hymns than any other man.  With his wife he organized the Pocket Testament League, that has pledged 2,000,000 persons to carry a Bible or Testament always with them, reading a chapter a day.  The League gave 1,000,000 New Testaments to service men in the war.  The services he held here that will be best remembered were those held with J Wilbur Chapman in Carnegie Hall and the Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn.  Just before he left this country, five weeks ago, Dr Alexander inaugurated a Bible revival campaign under the auspices of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches.

As a small boy I learned to play the piano and one of the music books I was given to play was Alexander's Hymns.  I was therefore familiar with the name of Charles M Alexander from an early age.  Alexander's Hymns is less popular than it was at one time but copies of it can still be found in many churches and mission halls.

With the name Charles McCallon Alexander, you might guess that he was a Scotch-Irish American and of Ulster-Scots descent and indeed you would be right.  His parents were John Darius Alexander and his wife Martha Jane McCallon and the biography I purchased records the following of his father.

John D Alexander, a young descendant of  John McKnitt Alexander, one of the famous family of seven brothers  who had fled from the North of Ireland to escape religious persecution.  Everywhere they carried their staunch Presbyterian faith, providing many ministers to teach the evangelical truth dear to their fathers.

A number of Scotch-Irish Americans of Ulster descent have contributed much to gospel hymnody and their contribution deserves to be recognised.  Charles M Alexander was one of them.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A day out for a man from Lurgan

Pearce Toman is 25 years old and lives at Drumnamoe Avenue in Lurgan.  For many people the Twelfth is a day out, a day of celebration, but Pearce seems to have a very different idea of a day out.  He was arrested on Sunday and charged with grievous bodily harm with intent, riotous assembly, possession of petrol bombs and throwing a petrol bomb.

A police officer told the court that Toman did not know anyone in Ardoyne but he travelled 20 miles from Lurgan all the way to take part in the republican riots.  He was identified from a photograph by two police officers.  Police objected to bail and Toman was remanded in custody until 20 August.

It seems also that he was not the only person to travel that day from Lurgan to Ardoyne and a journalist told me that a very senior and notorious dissident republican from Lurgan was at Ardoyne on the Twelfth morning.

Monday, 23 July 2012

More shoddy journalism

Yesterday in the Sunday World journalist Richard Sullivan called for me to resign as Minister for Social Development because I had commented on an incident involving the Young Conway Volunteers flute band on 12 July.

I had indeed commented on it originally on this blog and my comments are there on record.  I do not intend to respond to Richard Sullivan's distortion of what I said because it doesn't merit a response.  However his column does reinforce a comment I made about shoddy journalism.  Sullivan says:
Minister McCausland claimed they did not intentionally stop outside a building which bore a stature of the Virgin Mary over the door and which has been there for nearly 140 years.
I assume that he meant 'statue' not 'stature' but I do suggest that he stop outside St Patrick's on some occasion and take a look 'over the door'.  It is certainly not a statue of the Virgin Mary, as even the most cursory glance will show.  The statue over the door has a bishop's mitre and a long flowing beard and I haven't seen too many statues of the Virgin Mary with a long flowing beard!

It is of course a statue of St Patrick and I would have thought that he might have got a clue from the name of the church ... St Patrick's. 

He may also be interested to know that the Portland stone statue was the work of the Dublin firm of O'Neill & Pearse.  The Pearse in the firm was actually James Pearse, the English father of the famous Irish republican Patrick Pearse.

Perhaps in future Richard will remember the difference between stature and statue and the difference between St Patrick and the Virgin Mary.  On yes ... and then he wonders why I spoke about shoddy journalism!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The North Belfast News and the Ardoyne riots

This afternoon I picked up a copy of the North Belfast News, which is a sister paper of the Andersonstown News and very much a pro-Sinn Fein newspaper.  It is a weekly paper and so this as the first issue after the Twelfth.

I was interested to see what sort of reports they would give of the events of the past week in North Belfast and I was not disappointed.   The North Belfast News managed to inhabit their usual world of denial and delusion.

The second story on page 1 was entitled 'Police handling of Ardoyne violence comes under fire'.   It seems that Sinn Fein held a clinic in Ardoyne yesterday to collect complaints about the PSNI and the report highlights the 'decision by the PSNI to face nationalist residents in full riot gear while loyalists had a 'soft hat and unifrm' approach'.  This was interpreted by 'local people' as 'an indicator of the two different policing approaches.'  You couldn't make it up, could you? 

A dissident republican gunman fires 17 shots at the police from an assault rifle in an attempt at mass murder, crowds of republican rioters cheer on the gunman, republcian rioters throw blast bombs and petrol bombs and pelt the police with misslies hour after hour but what is the big issue for the North Belfast News - the dress code of the PSNI!

'Police handling of Ardoyne violence comes under fire' - a more appropriate issue for the front page might have been 'Police come under fire in Ardoyne' and by 'under fire' I mean dissident republican gunfire!  Ah but then you wouldn't want to damage the reputation of the good republicans of Ardoyne.

Ah well it may be on page 2 but no, we get more of the same article with its criticism of the PSNI.  Then surely the dissident republican gunman will be mentioned on page 3.  Attempted murder surely deserves a mention ...  but again nothing.

On page 4 journalist Gemma Burns is at it again.  This time she reports that the Parades Commission has allowed an Orange Order parade 'through Ardoyne'.  Now I am sure Gemma is a well-educated young woman but she is clearly 'geographically challenged'.  She doesn't seem to realise that the parade goes up the main Crumlin Road and does not go 'through Ardoyne'.

Now Page 5 has a long statement from Gerry Kelly, so surely something about the gunman ..... but once again nothing.  The editorial is on page 6 and the editor is outraged by a variety of incidents but the gunman is not one of them.  There is no mention of the assault rifle at all. It is simply the regular republic rhetoric against the Orange Order with not a mention of GARC, republican rioters or the republican gunman.

Finally after several pages of advertisements and a few more articles, I get to the bottom of page 10 and there at last is an article with the headline 'Twelfth arrests lead to protests'.  The focus is on the white-line protests by supporters of a man charged with attempted murder but there is it.  Thomas McWilliams, from Northwick Drive is charged with attempted murder and possession of an assault rifle with intent to endanger life.  The case against him is not that he fired the shot but that he took the weapon away from the scene. 

The article also reports that Alan Lundy, who has appeared in court charged with riotous assembly, is a member of GARC but there is no reference back to the claim by GARC on page 4 that 'Our people weren't behind Ardoyne rioting', even though both articles were written by the same journalist.

Most newspapers put their big stories on page 1 and page 3 and stories of lesser importance further into the newspaper.  So this gives us some idea of the priorities of the North Belfast News.  An attempt at mass murder, buried at the bottom of page 10 beneath an article about two flags on an empty building.

Oh and the sectarian paint bomb attack on Clifton Street Orange Hall in North Belfast on Tuesday ... well that didn't make it into the North Belfast News at all.  The newspaper consists of 56 pages but there was obviously no room for that.  It's called the North Belfast News but it seems that it's really Some of the North Belfast News.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Bloody Friday

Tonight's television documentary about Bloody Friday was a powerful piece of television and a solemn reminder of one of the worst days in the worst year of the Troubles.

Forty years ago, on Friday 21 July 1972, the Provisional IRA set off more than twenty bombs in Belfast causing chaos and terrible death and destruction.  Nine people were killed and around 130 injured, with some of them receiving terrible injuries.

It was not the first example of IRA mass murder that year.  On 20 March an IRA car bomb in Donegall Street killed six people and injured another 100 and four days later the Conservative prime minister Edward Heath announced the prorogation of Stormont.

On 14 April there were 23 bomb explosions across Northern Ireland and on 14 May Republican News said that the Provisional IRA car bombing campaign, which had been running since early in the year, was aimed at 'striking at the colonial economic system'.  Meanwhile in Libya Colonel Gaddafi, speaking at a rally in Tripoli on 11 June, said he had supplied arms to 'the Irish revolutionaries who are fighting Britain.'

On Sunday 28 May a Provisional IRA bomb exploded prematurely in Anderson Street in the Short Strand area, killing four members of the IRA and four other people as well.  The IRA try to forget just how many Roman Catholics they killed.

Sinn Fein and the republican movement are attempting to rewrite history.  Their strategy is to pick out certain episodes in the Troubles, such as Bloody Sunday, focus attention on them, and hope that other episodes, where the Provisional IRA were the perpetrators, will gradually fade from the public memory and be quietly forgotten.  I have listed just a few of the events in that year, including Bloody Friday, but it is Boody Sunday which has received almost all the attention.  We cannot allow them to get away with that and tonight's programme is to be welcomed.  Indeed it is a programme which deserves to be repeated.

The programme reported that 150 IRA men took part in the IRA operation.  Gerry Adams was one of the most senior IRA men in the city at that time and indeed he had been one of the five IRA men who took part in a secret meeting with the Conservative government in London on 7 July, just two weeks before Bloody Friday.

One short clip in the programme was an interview with Adams when he was asked about Bloody Friday and what role he played on that day.  Adams said 'None' but then Adams has perfected the art of dishonesty.  There cannot be any doubt that he knew all about Bloody Friday and knew most of those involved.

The Bloody Friday programme ended with the words 'No Republican was prepared to appear on the programme.'  We hear constant demands from republicans for inquiries, one after another, and constant demands for the truth.  However they themselves refuse to tell the truth.

My colleague Nigel Dodds has raised the Bloody Friday atrocity in the House of Commons at Westminster.  He tabled an Early Day Motion, backed by the eight DUP MPs and Mark Durkan of the SDLP.  'That this House notes with sadness that July 21, 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the Bloody Friday bombings in Belfast ; further notes that the events of the day were some of the most horrific acts of terrorism ever carried out by the IRA, which set off 22 bombs in the city centre in an 80-minute period, killing nine people and injuring 130 others including 77 women and children; and recognises that many of the victims and their families still bear the mental and physical scars to this day, that we should never forget to honour the memory of those killed and that justice demands that those in the republican movement and Sinn Fein leadership with information should now come forward to provide truth and closure for the victims.'

Nigel Dodds said, 'It is appropriate that on the 40th anniversary of this event that we remember this attack which was aimed not at any military or security target, but at the ordinary people of Belfast.  there has been a great deal of talk about reconciliation amongst some republicans but an important first step must be that those who were involved in this terrible atrocity might come clean and admit their role.'

He continued, 'It is well known that Gerry Adams was a senior figure in the Belfast IRA at the time of Bloody Friday yet he will not even admit to having been a member of that organisation.  Not only should those who were involved step forward and bring forward information about what happened that day but they should also explain exactly why bombs were placed outside railway stations, bus stations and shops.'

Some republicans claim that the IRA were surprised by the death toll on Bloody Friday and had not expected it but that excuse is simply not credible.  They had already seen the death toll in the Donegall Street bombing on 20 March, when they murdered six people.

The Early Day Motion and the documentary are small steps in truth recovery but nevertheless they are important steps and must be followed by others.  It is important that, as long as republicans refuse to answer the questions, we keep on asking them until we do get answers.

Sinn Fein are going on a charm offensive in the Irish Republic and questions about Bloody Friday and the disappeared are the last thing they want, especially since Gerry Adams is now in the Dail and especially since he was a leading member of the IRA in Belfast back in 1972.

Bloody Friday was produced and directed by Lena Ferguson who deserves great credit for researching and creating this exceptional programme.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

GARC and the Ardoyne riots (6)

Last Friday morning Dee Fennell, one of the leaders of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) was on the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster.  He attempted to distance GARC from the rioters but admitted that some of the Ardoyne rioters had broken off from their rioting to join in the march organised by GARC on the Crumlin Road.

However his attempt to distance GARC from the rioters has become even less credible since the appearance in court of 33-year-old Alan Daniel Lundy on a charge of throwing missiles at police officers during the Ardoyne rioters.

The court heard that Lundy was carrying out marshalling duties at the GARC protest when police spotted him ushering parade members into Brompton Park.  Indeed there can be no doubt that he was a GARC marshal becuase he was listed by GARC as one of their marshals in their notification of the march.

A prosecution barrister said: 'He was then observed to move into the middle of the crowd, from where police saw him throw missiles at them.'

Of course GARC have now responded with white line pickets and placards demanding 'Free Alan Lundy' and accusing the Police Service of being the 'Perjury Service'.  Well if they want to play around with words, I would like to suggest that GARC might stand for Greater Ardoyne Rioters Collective.

The cost of alcohol abuse

A quarter of patients who end up in intensive care units in hospitals in Scotland have drink problems, most with chronic alcohol disease, according to a new survey published by the medical journal Anaesthesia.

The study of 771 patients across all 24 intensive care units put the cost of caring for them at about £9m a year.  Many young and less well off people were affected.

The Scottish government has already decided to bring in a range of measure including minimum drink pricing and cut drink drive limits.

The figure of £9 a year represents just one element of the annual cost to the health service.  It does not include, for example, the cost of treating heavily intoxicated people in accident and emergency units.

The cost of alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland is also a major burden on the health service.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Nuala McKeever and the 'Orange band'

Earlier I posted about an article written by the actress and broadcaster Nuala McKeever in the Belfast Telegraph (16 July).  In it she described the Orange Order as 'triumphalist'.  Indeed she went further and said: 'For the Orange Order and their followers, the whole basis of their existence is triumphalism.'

In the same article she also criticised the YCV flute band and it is worth noting what she said about them:
On Facebook someone posted video he'd taken with his phone of an Orange band.  They stopped outside St Patrick's Catholic Church in Belfast and rather than marching on, proceeded to march in a circle, banging the drums and playing flutes, cheered on by the crowd.
When some of the heavies realised they were being filmed, they attacked the guy with the phone.  Respect eh?

On my previous post I dealt with the fact that the band could not 'march on' because the whole parade had halted.  Nuala McKeever also complained that they were drumming and playing flutes - well, surprise, surprise, Nuala, that is what bands do, they play musical instruments!

Therefore I am grateful to a friend for drawing to my attention an interesting insight into Nuala McKeever's article.

The video clip had been taken by J J Magee, a senior Irish republican and member of Sinn Fein.  He posted it on his Facebook page at 00.05 on 13 July and various comments were posted over the next few hours but the most interesting appeared at 9.46 am and it was from Nuala McKeever, yes the very same Nuala McKeever.  She commented: 'Have you sent this to any news media?'

Now I suspect a media-savvy member of Sinn Fein did not need much encouragement to do that but it does let us know that Nuala McKeever was less than forthcoming in her article.  She referred to the person who took the video clip as 'someone' and 'the guy' but in fact it was one of her Facebook 'friends'.  She knew his name, J J Magee, but didn't mention it and she knew he worked for Sinn Fein, but again she didn't mention it.  Ms McKeever was certainly being a little coy.

The great European robbery

A new study by the Open Europe think tank has concluded that Northern Ireland is being short-changed by the European Union.  For every £1.58 paid by taxpayers in Northern Ireland to the EU we are getting just £1 of EU regional development funds.

Between 2007 and 2013 the United Kingdom will have paid in around £30bn to the EU's so-called structural and cohesion fund, but get back less than £9bn.

Commenting on the report Diane Dodds MEP said:

“While Northern Ireland does benefit from significant structural funds from the EU, this comprehensive report has highlighted that, as usual where Europe is concerned, we pay in much more than we get back.
Open Europe have concluded that in Northern Ireland for every £1 we get back in structural funds, we pay in £1.58. By any calculation such a disparity is a bad deal for the people of Northern Ireland. When it is considered that all but two regions across the UK also lose out, the Coalition Government ought to be looking at these figures, the nett loss to the UK and how this money can be more efficiently and effectively used.
Serious consideration ought to be given to taking this policy area back and ring fencing the money that we would otherwise contribute to the EU. If this occurred, it is estimated Northern Ireland could benefit from a 45% increase in subsidies received over a period of seven years. Such a vast increase in structural funds would bring huge benefits to the Northern Ireland Executive and would enable even more projects to be delivered across the Province.
I would urge David Cameron to reconsider his policy on regional funding and deliver what is in the best interests of the United Kingdom. In these times of austerity but growing need, and a backdrop in Northern Ireland of years of underinvestment, these lost millions are money we can ill afford to lose.”

Some people argue that we can't afford to leave the EU but as things are at the moment many others will say we can't afford to stay in.  Certainly repatriating more powers and areas of policy would be a good start.

Open Europe is an independent think tank that seeks to contribute new thinking to the debate about the Europe Union and which calls for a radical reform.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Nuala McKeever and the Orange Order

Nuala McKeever started out her working career as a BBC researcher and then joined the Hole in the Wall Gang on BBC television.  Today she is best known as a comedy actress, writer and broadcaster. 

She is also a regular columnist in the Belfast Telegraph and today in the course of the main article on her page she made the following comment about the Orange Order:
For the Orange Order and their followers, the whole basis of their existence is triumphalism.  We whopped yiz!!! Take that! Slap it up yiz!!!
She refers to 'the Orange Order and their followers' and in so doing draws in a large part of Northern Ireland. When you consider the Twelfth celebrations with the Orangemen, the bands, the families and the spectators, it is clear that she is referring to several hundred thousand people and she says that 'the whole basis of their existence is triumphalism'.  To make such a sweeping and categorical statement about so many people is prejudiced, partisan and ill-informed.

Perhaps it is that growing up in West Belfast, where she attended St Teresa's Primary School, she did not come into contact with the Orange Order or indeed Orangemen on a regular basis.  However during her university career and subsequent to that she must have met many folk who are members or friends of the Orange Order. 

I realise that it must be a challenge to come up with articles for her page week after week but this comment falls far short of what we might expect from a long-established newspaper.  It is certainly a good example of prejudice and someone once said that prejudice is a great time-saver - it enables you to make up your mind without taking the time to find out the facts.

It is also interesting that someone such as Nuala McKeever, who is a public figure and a patron of several charities, should feel it appropriate and acceptable for her to express such a partisan view.  It shows that prejudice against the Orange Order is indeed deeply entrenched in our society.

I can understand an Irish republican such as Donncha Mac Niaillais of the Bogside Residents Group saying, 'Many of us perceive the Orange Order as being triumphalist.'  That is the language of Irish republicanism and that is what I expect from a republican.  However it is alarming that a mainstream entertainer and broadcaster should have no qualms about saying the very same thing.

On several occasions I have heard Nuala McKeever, in her role as a compere, delivering a comedy routine that poked fund at various groups in our society but this statement is not made in the context of a comedy routine.  Clearly it the statement of a writer who is speaking seriously and from the heart and that is what makes it all the more disturbing.

I joined the Orange Order in 1975 and I joined it for a variety of reasons, religious, political, cultural and social.  Triumphalism was certainly not one of the reasons.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

How much money is enough?

In the Belfast Telegraph last night there was a review of a new book entitled How Much Is Enough?The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky.

The review started with these observations: 'Four years ago, Lehman Brothers threatened the entire global financial system.  More evidence of systemic banking and moral failure emerges every week.'  The moral failure to which the reviewer refers is greed and we can see now all too clearly the effects of that greed and the damage it has caused aroudn the world.

Reviewer John Cruddas also commented: 'Our meaning and purpose does not lie in the endless pursuit of money ... It lies in the society of our relationships with family and friends, the places in which we live, and if we are fortunate enough, in convivial work.'

As I read the review, I was reminded of these words from the Bible:
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred [AVm been seduced] from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:10
I was also reminded of some words attributed to the multi-millionaire John D Rockefeller, who was said to be the richest man in the world at that time. He was asked how much money it takes to make someone happy. His answer was, 'Just a little more.'

Western society has become increasingly materialistic but I think it is really no happier. We all need money to live but wealth and possessions will never bring real happiness.

As the reviewer said, meaning, purpose and happiness are found in such things as relationships, and I would suggest it is to be found preeminently in our relationship with God.  In fact God's law is about our relationship to Him and our relationship to others.

Too much of our public discourse is about rights and there is too little emphasis on responsibilities but there is even less emphasis on relationships.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

GARC and the Ardoyne riots (5)

The march organised by Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) on 12 July had a banner at the front.

The same image appears on a wall mural in Ardoyne and it provides a clue to the nature of GARC.

The mural takes the issue of parades and links it to a wider political agenda, which is summed up in '1969 OLD STORMONT 2011 NEW STORMONT - NOTHING HAS CHANGED'.  This is a direct attack on the current political arrangements in Northern Ireland and reflects the views of dissident republicans who do not accept the legitimacy of the Northern Ireland Assembly, or the principle of consent or the legitimacy of the PSNI.

GARC claims that it is 'a non party-political residents group' and it is indeed non-party-political but it is very political and the mural proves that those who are organising and orchestrating the groups are dissident republicans.  The GARC leadership is actually a coalition of dissident republican factions and so is not party-political but it is firmly rooted in dissident republicanism and this mural serves to illustrate that fact.

JJ Magee and the YCV

J J Magee and Conor Murphy at Glengormley

At the 2011 Assembly elections Sinn Fein ran three candidates in North Belfast, Gerry Kelly, Caral ni Chuilin and J J Magee.  Kelly and Caral ni Chuilin, the two sitting Sinn Fein members, were the lead candidates and both were elected.  Magee fell far short with just 3% of the vote and was not elected.  Meanwhile the DUP topped the poll and was the largest party in North Belfast with 37.1% of the first preference votes and three seats.

J J Magee and Caral ni Chuilin

Thereafter Magee disappeared from the news but he has emerged in the last few days as a Sinn Fein cameraman and propagandist.  So what do we know about J J Magee.  According to the description used when he ran as a candidate for Sinn Fein:
North Belfast businessman JJ Magee is a resident of Castle Ward where he has played a leading role as a Sinn Fein activist. He is a human rights campaigner involved [on] the boards of Relatives for Justice and the Ashton Centre.  His work in North Belfast ranges from engagement with the Unionist community to support for the families of Republican prisoners.  JJ has represented Sinn Fein and human rights organisations in Cuba and Palestine as well as throughout Ireland. He is dedicated and a hard worker with a lot of knowledge and experience in the area of conflict transformation.
In other words he is a prominent Irish republican and a leading member of Sinn Fein.

Now back to the role of J J Magee on the Twelfth.  According to media reports he was standing with a group of nationalists and republicans at Carrick Hill watching the parade as it made its way down Clifton Street and into Donegall Street.  He was watching the parade and scrutinising it and at one point left the nationalist group and walked sperhaps 50 to 100 yards down towards the parade to get very close to one of the bands and film it playing.  That short film clip was posted on a New Lodge website and has become the subject of much media coverage, including two full pages in today's Irish News.

The background to this episode is that there is a time when the Twelfth parade halts, to allow the County Grand Lodge officers at the front of the parade to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph at the City Hall.  The ceremony normally takes about 10 to 15 minutes and during that time lodges and bands stop at the point they have reached and wait for the parade to resume.

During that delay two things happened.  The first was that a female republican in the crowd at Carrick Hill shouted IRA slogans in the direction of the Orangemen who were standing at the bottom of Clifton Street and the top of Donegall Street.

Secondly and separately the Young Conway Volunteers Flute Band from the Shankill Road area were in Donegall Street, near St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church.  At the time, as the youtube footage shows, the doors of the chapel were closed and the gates in front of the building were closed.

A report in the Belfast Telegraph (13 July) stated that 'the band stopped to play loyalist tunes outside a Catholic church in Belfast'.  This was in fact untrue.  The band stopped because the parade stopped and during the time they are stationary many bands will perform to entertain spectators.  Moreover this sort of impromptu performance will often involve the band members walking round in a circle as they play.  They are of course marching bands and when a band is stationary the only way the members can march is round in a circle or occasionally a figure of eight.  Later on, as the parade made its way up the Lisburn Road, there was another break and again many bands provided a similar impromptu performance for spectators.

The Belfast Telegraph report was also erroneous in that it named the band as the Young Citizen Volunteers.  In fact the name of the band is Young Conway Volunteers, which I believe is a reference to Conway Street in the Shankill area.

The third error in the Telegraph report was that the band members wore 'Young Citizen Volunteer uniforms'.  They were actually wearing navy band uniforms, with the words Young Conway Volunteers on them, and white caps.  The historic unforms of the Young Citizen Volunteers were grey.

The fourth error in the Telegraph report was the inclusion of a statement by an unnnamed source who claimed that 'the band moved from where they were standing to play outside the church'.  The band could not have moved as there were lodges in front of them and behind them.  They stopped when the parade stopped and they played where they stopped.

The fifth error in the Telegraph was the implication that they only played 'loyalist tunes'.  During those fifteen minutes or so the band played a range of tunes, including Penny Arcade, a pop song which was written by English singer songwriter Sam King and was a hit for Roy Orbison back in 1969.  Glasgow Rangers fans made the Sam King version a hit again last year in an effort to raise money for the Erskine Hospital, which helps wounded servicemen and veterans.  For years the IRA murdered British soldiers but that doesn't make Penny Arcade a loyalist song.

The band also played the tune of Noreen Bawn, which has been recorded by Dominic Kirwan, Daniel O'Donnell and a number of other Irish singers.  It would be hard to describe either Penny Arcade or Noreen Bawn as 'loyalist' tunes.  I have certainly never thought of Daniel O'Donnell and Dominic Kirwan as likely to sing either 'loyalist' or 'anti-Catholic' songs!

Five factual errors in a short report but such is the standard of journalism in Ulster today.

The BBC also reported the incident and according to the BBC website: 'A loyalist band has been filmed stopping to play loyalist tunes outside a Catholic church in north Belfast'.  Note the term 'loyalist tunes'.  Meanwhile on Radio Ulster Wendy Austin said that the band played 'anti-Catholic songs'.  Here again we see a repetition of some of the errors in the Belfast Telegraph.

The band played for fifteen minutes and of all the tunes that were played during that time only one has been criticised, named the old Beach Boys tune, Sloop John B, the words of which have been altered by some Scottish loyalists to refer to Irish immigration into Scotland after the 19th century Famine. 

It can be argued that the band was naive or thoughless or unwise but this whole affair has been exploted by Sinn Fein in an opportunistic attempt to divert attention away from the sectarian behaviour of Irish nationalists at Carrick Hill and even more so from the extreme violence of republican hooligans and dissident republican gunmen at Ardoyne.  The Sinn Fein propaganda machine went into action and an unquestioning media pumped out a garbled and erroneous version of events. 

Finally the video clip by J J Magee was posted on the website  It is worth checking that out, as presumably journalists in the BBC and other media did.  The clip is prefaced by the following introduction:
Orange Parade at the New Lodge area.  We let them march on our roads, between 2 Catholic areas and this is how we are thanked.

Notice carefully the language used by the website hosting the video clip.  Those who posted the clip describe Donegall Street as 'our road', and by 'our road' they mean a 'Roman Catholic road'.  Is that not sectarian?  Is that not controversial?  Is that not the language of Irish republican apartheid?  Surely Donegall Street is a largely commercial street, a shared street, which is part of Belfast city centre.  It does not belong to Irish republicans, although they obviously think it does.  They even describe Donegall Street as part of the 'New Lodge area'.

Yet the sectarian introduction to the video clip, which sets the context for the clip, was never mentioned in the media - another example of shoddy and superficial reporting by the Belfast Telegraph and other media.

Perhaps now that it has been pointed out the media will go back to J J Magee and Sinn Fein and ask them about this sectarian perspective.

Quite frankly the media simply took the Sinn Fein propaganda and swallowed it hook, line and sinker - no questions, no challenge, no investigation.

The County Grand Lodge of Belfast has stated that it will review all parades and look at all the facts over the coming weeks and the Irish News concluded its lengthy report by saying that: 'It is understood that while it is likely that there was no breach of a Parades Commission determination the action may have contravened the voluntary code of conduct of bands playing outside a place of worship.'

The entire parade will be reviewed by a number of bodies and for that reason I will hold my counsel on the matter but it does confirm two things about the media in Ulster:
1. the standard of journalism, especially as regards factual accuracy and context, is very disappointing
2. the perspective of the media can be quite alarming - the issue has been about one band and one tune but one newspaper editor deemed the story of such a scale of importance as to devote his entire front page and another page inside to it.  On that basis the dissident republican violence should have merited an entire issue of the newspaper but that was certainly not the case.

GARC and the Ardoyne riots (4)

On the afternoon of 12 July there were two very different parades on the Crumlin Road and the constrast could not have been greater.

The first was before 4.00 pm and it was a homeward parade by the three Ligoniel Orange lodges.  It was in fact a token parade as it was impossible for the lodges to parade back from the demonstration field before 4.00, as demanded by the Parades Commission determination.  The homeward parade does not even leave the field until around 4.15 and so the Parades Commission had set the lodges an impossible task.  In fact the banners were then taken back to the demonstration field to enable the three lodges to take part in the homeward parade from the field.

The second was the march organised by Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), which is controlled by dissident republicans, including its spokesman Dee Fennell.

The first parade was the Orange parade, which consisted of 15 to 20 Orangemen and the banners of the three Ligoniel lodges.  It was dignified, disciplined and entirely peaceful. 

The second parade was not really a parade at all, it could hardly even be described as a march.  It was simply a mob of almost 2.000 republicans, many of whom gave the 'fingers sign' as they went down the road and some of whom threw missiles.  The items thrown included golf balls, bottles, glasses and even a chisel.  No one goes out armed with a chisel unless they are intent on violence.  I doubt if they brought it with them with the intention of throwing it.  It was almost certainly intended to be used at closer quarters.  One marcher was so keen to give the 'finger sign' and ensure that it was seen, that he waved a pair of crutches in a v shape as he went past!

GARC had applied for a parade of 1,000 people but on the Nolan Show, Dee Fennell admitted that the crowd numbered between 1,500 and 2,000.  He also admitted that some of the people who had been rioting at Brompton Park then joined in the GARC march.

In the past the organisers of parades have been questioned by the police about very minor breaches of determinations.  On that basis the GARC debacle will keep them busy for the next few months.

What a contrast - a peaceful, dignified parade of Orangemen and a gather-up of dissident republicans and rioters!

The GARC march was pure triumphalism.

GARC and the Ardoyne riots (3)

The night of 12 July at Ardoyne was another night of appalling republican violence.

I spent much of the afternoon and evening in Twaddell Avenue and then around 10.00pm, I drove up the Oldpark Road to get to my office.  At the Marrowbone area there is a good view down over the whole of Ardoyne and I stopped to look.  Most of Ardoyne was quiet but the top section of Brompton Park was a scene of mayhem. 

Later on the news reported that around 10 shots had been fired by dissident republican gunmen.  They were almost certainly firing at police officers and this was attempted murder.  Policemen are the prime target for dissident republican killers.  It comes as no surprise that dissidents used guns because they have been using guns in Ardoyne for some time, including punishment shootings of local people.  Getting the guns out of Ardoyne must be a priority for the PSNI.

Year on year republicans turn to violence to get their way - petrol bombers, rioters and gunmen turn out to assert the republican claim that the Crumlin Road is their road and that the loyal orders have no right to use it.

The violence at Ardoyne was fomented by dissident republicans and initiated by republicans.  It was dissident republicans who brought out their guns and it was republicans who threw petrol bombs.  The violence was therefore overwhelmingly republican. 

In spite of the evidence of burning vehicles, petrol bombs and gunfire in nationalist Ardoyne, some elements in the media have implied that loyalists were as much to blame as republicans.  Nothing could be further from the truth and the truth must be told.

During the course of the evening frustration built up amongst some of the loyalists who were present and several people were arrested by the PSNI as a result of scuffles with the police but not a single shot was fired by loyalists and not a single petrol bomb was thrown.

  • Who were the people using guns in Ardoyne?  Answer - dissident republicans
  • Who were the people trying to murder police officers?  Answer - dissident republicans
  • Who were the people throwing petrol bombs?  Answer - republican hooligans
  • Who were the people who burned cars?  Answer - republican hooligans

Finally, we should not forget that the violence which was initiated by republicans is not only about a sectarian hatred of Orangmen, it is also about creating a context in which dissident republican gunmen can try to murder policemen, as they did again this year. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

GARC and the Ardoyne riots (2)

This morning Dee Fennell of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) was on the Nolan Show.  I also took part in the discussion but the contribution by Fennell was surreal.  He exposed in a remarkable way the naked sectarianism and bigotry of GARC and those it represents.

Fennell said that the DUP has refused to speak to nationalists residents in Ardoyne.  I pointed out that he was wrong and that we had met with  Crumlin Ardoyne Residents Association(CARA) to discuss parades.  Initially it was the Ardoyne Parades Dialogus Group which claimed to represent nationalist residents in Ardoyne, then it was replaced by CARA and now there are two nationalist groups - CARA, which has connections to Sinn Fein, and GARC, which is organised by dissident republicans.

He then asked would we meet with GARC as he was a North Belfast constituent.  However I pointed out that there seemed to be little point in talking to GARC.  They have a stated position of no loyal order parades at all on the Crumlin Road.  What is the point of meeting with those who are so intolerant that they want to 'no Orange feet' on the Crumlin Road?  It is impossible to reach an accommodation with those who are so intransigent and intolerant.

Down through the years the loyal orders have reduced the number of parades and have even altered the times of parades to accommodate the concerns raised by nationalists but to date there has been no reciprocation.

GARC and the Ardoyne riots (1)

GARC public meeting in Crumlin Star Social Club

You may not be familiar with the name Dee Fennell but he is one of the leaders of the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC), which opposes loyal order parades on the Crumlin Road and which organised its own march on the Crumlin Road last night.

This morning he was on the Nolan Show and he was utterly unbelievable.  Indeed he is the sort of person who should be on the media more often becuase he exposed the naked bigotry and sectarianism of dissident republicans better than any critic or commentator.  The hatred simply oozed out of every word he spoke.

Fennell described himself as a republican and when he was challenged by Nolan about being a dissident republican he questioned the term and said he was just a republican.  However he is what is commonly known as a dissident republican and dissident republicans such as Fennell and Martin Meehan are at the heart of the GARC organisation.

He then said that he couldn't be sectarian because he was a republican but his whole stance was based on sectarianism.  He is one of those Irish nationalists who believe that they have been the victims of 50, 500 or even 1,000 years of 'British oppression' and therefore they themselves cannot possibly be sectarian.

Fennell saw no contradiction between that and saying that the Crumlin Road is 'our road'.   Who is he referring to when he says 'our'?  He means that the road belongs to the Roman Catholic section of Greater Ardoyne - nationalist and republican.  Fennell believes that because some nationalists live near the Crumlin Road, it has become their property.  This is the language of sectarianism and also the language of apartheid.

He ignores the fact that on the contested section of the road there is an ambulance station, which serves both communities, a library which is intended to be accessible to everyone, a car wash where the owners do not as whether the car-owner is a Protestant or a Roman Catholic, and the Everton Centre, which is also used by people from right across the community.  The shops on the Crumlin Road also serve both communities as does the New Life counselling service.  Does Fennell believe that these facilities are for one community only?  Perhaps then Dee Fennell can tell us what it is that makes this section of the Crumlin Road the property and preserve of one community only?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Republican rioter jailed

A republican rioter who threw a petrol bomb at police during riots at Ardoyne last year has been jailed for two years.  Nineteen-year-old Ruairi Muldoon from Fortwilliam Demesne was sentenced to two years in prison and three years on licence after pleading guilty to charges of riot and throwing a petrol bomb on the evening of 12 July last year. 

Belfast Crown Court judge Tom Burgess said, 'This was a dreadful riot.  Businesses were badly damaged, residents put at risk and the level of fear must have been enormous.'

The case is interesting for several reasons and not just for the sentence handed out to the rioter.

1. The rioter lived in Fortwilliam Demesne, a fine new development of private houses in the prestigious  and tree-lined Fortwilliam Park.  His home was several miles away from the route of the homeward Orange parade but he travelled all that way to engage in a riot.

2. Just days before the Ardoyne incident Muldoon had been involved in throwing stones at police on the Limestone Road, again some distance away from his home.

Muldoon is clearly a young man who doesn't need an excuse to riot or attack the police.

As well as sentencing Muldoon, the judge issued a general warning that involvement in riots leads to imprisonment and the sentence handed out to Ruairi Muldoon certainly emphasises that message.

Muldoon first appeared in court on 1 August 2011, a few weeks after the incident, and yet he has only been convicted and sentenced 11 months later.  That is one of the shortcomings of our justice system.  A strong sentence is a good thing but it would be even better if justice were meted out more quickly.

Another young republican, Kevin McFall, from Moyard Parade in West Belfast was charged on the same day as Muldoon but I have not yet seen the outcome of that case.  Nevertheless he certainly had to travel quite a few miles to get to Ardoyne.  McFall was seen on CCTV sniffing glue while throwing a petrol bomb.  He also exposed himself to police officers and two weeks later he was arrested after a separate incident and charged with aggravated burglary, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault on police. 

Sectarian attack on Orange Hall

Dissident republicans have daubed sectarian graffiti on Greencastle Orange Hall in North Belfast.  This is the latest in a long series of such attacks, stretching back many years.

The attackers also daubed anti-Sinn Fein graffiti on a nearby wall, with the message directed against Martin McGuinness for shaking hands with Her Majesty the Queen. 

This latest attack on the Greencastle Hall shows the depth of the sectarian bigotry that still exists in some sections of our society.  We have come a long way but there is still a long way to go.

Today Drew Nelson, Grand Scretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, was in Dublin, addressing the Senate, and one of the issues he raised was the litany of attacks on Orange Halls in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. 

The picture above is a damning indictment of the sectarian intolerance of dissident republicanism.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Social clauses

Social clauses were introduced by the Department for Social Development into all new social housing and urban regeneration contracts with effect from 1 January 2011. 

Significant sums of public money are spent every year on procuring goods and services and it has long been recognised within government that the use of social clauses within government contracts can deliver significant social and economic benefits.  They have been successfully used within the construction industry to assist people who are economically inactive back into work through the provision of training and help with skills development.  This is particularly important to ensure that we have sufficient numbers of skilled workers to grow our economy.

The social clause contractual requirement is that for every £0.5 million of labour value the contractor shall provide a work placement opportunity for an unemployed person.  This can be achieved in three ways:
  • by three 8 week placements of practical work experience
  • by a 26 week placement of work experience which includes working towards a level 2/3 vocationally related qualification
  • by a 26 week placement of work experience which includes working towards an essential skills qualification
The Programme for Government commits all departments to include social clauses in all public procurement contracts for supllies, services and construction.  I am fully committed to this objective and will continue to review the work of my department to see what added value we can bring to communities.