Sunday, March 27, 2005

A lesson for the Oirish up North

From Limerick comes some sense. Obviously some people in the Republic of Ireland have cut through the rubbish which surrounds the promotion of the Irish language. Amongst the clamour to promote a language such as Irish people somehow forget that it is useful for nothing except for someone who wants to be an Irish teacher.

I have some similar feelings towards the Ulster-Scots language, especially when some people like John Laird seem to feel that it must be seen as the mirror image to Irish. I have nothing against the Ulster Scots language per se, but the academic and linguistic value of the language is being damaged by using it as the anti-Irish. That in turn leads many people to devlaue (and laugh at) the whole Ulster-Scots culture - a travesty that those who claim to want to foster the culture are actually doing it damage.

The furure a while back about Irish on some cash machines and the arguments simply that it must be matched with Ulster-Scots forget the real issue that if people want to use minority languages where they will actually be some use then instead of putting either Irish of Ulster-Scots translations then something like Mandarin Chinese may actually be of some use to people who really cant understand English and would make some real use of extra signage instead of cultural clutter on our signs.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Is Trimble the new Paisley?

One of the myths about Ian Paisley is that he somehow rules the DUP with a rod of iron - what he says is unquestionable law and he is somehow free to take decisions about anything and anyone in the DUP without either asking them or them being able to argue.

Conversely, the myth about the UUP is that it an open and democratic structure. They are very proud to perpetuate that myth. It seems the wheels have fallen off that particular myth this week however, and it seems that the dictatorship boot is firmly on the other foot of unionism today.

The ongoing 'discussions' between the two unionist parties have been of particular interest to me and I see an interesting snippet from Derek Hussey, UUP MLA for West Tyrone in this week's Tyrone Constitution, the local paper in the Omagh area.

Regarding the talks and the proposal by David Trimble that both unionist parties should pull out of West Tyrone Mr Hussey has something to say. (No story on internet version unfortunatlely)

"Reports of a suggestion from my own party hierarchy that unionism should stand aside in West Tyrone are equally galling. Party headquarters have never discussed such a suggestion with my own West Tyrone Constituency Association."

It would seem that the Trimble dictatorship within the UUP has become a little exposed on this issue. Not only did they not even bother to tell Derek Hussey that they were elbowing him to the side in favour of the Carrickmore doctor, but it looks like Tom Elliott has been equally embarassed by his party leadership after his claims that the UUP were actually asking people in West Tyrone to support a different independent candidate! Nicely on queue, the DUP reply that not only was an independent candidate raised before the Schomberg House talks but that Bobby Saulters the independent chairman of the talks will be able to confirm that Deeney was indeed Trimble's man in West Tyrone.

So, what do we have left in this whole sorry scandal. One: Tom Elliott claims he knew the UUP wanted an independent candidate, but not Kieran Deeney. Two: Derek Hussey claims he was never consulted about any kind of independent candidate at all. Three - you cant believe a word David Trimble, James Cooper or any of the UUP hierarchy say. Well, they do say that there is nothing new under the sun don't they.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Accentuate the positive

New film - makers of 'About a Boy' the say. I haven't seen it yet, even a clip or a trailer. But I really do hope with all my heart that the accents of the actors in Mickybo and Me are a little better than the usual attempts we hear when there is a film or tv programme set in Northern Ireland.

Hopefully I won't disturb too many people by ressurecting the memory of that woman in Brookside with her 'Derry' accent! God help us all if that kind of stuff is forced upon us from the big screen.

(Also, its really starting to annoy me now that I cant remember the character name of that woman, so if anyone remembers it let me know!)

If Guilty then out on his ear

The father of a man killed by the UVF in Ballyclare has said that the man who killed his son has not been expelled by the Orange Order. John Allen has passed the details of who he believes killed his son on to the Order but so far no action has been taken.

Firstly, let me say, I'm an Orangeman and very proud to be one. I have great sympathy for Mr Allen and my initial reaction is that this man should be out on his ear at the first possible opportunity. After all, no-one guilty of such a crime is permitted to remain under the Orange Institution's own rules.

However, spare a thought for the Orange Order in all this. They have also passed on the details (given to them by Mr Allen) of the man alleged to have killed his son to the police in the same way as his father has done. However, the police have obviously not been able to put together the evidence to convict this man, if indeed he is guilty.

Murderers have no place in the Orange Order. However, just how right and proper is it to expel someone from an organisation just because someone has made an allegation, which as yet is unsubstantiated with any evidence. Should the man be arrested and charged then a suspension would be in order until a trial has been held. After that, if guilty then he should expelled as soon as possible.

Obviously Mr Allen is searching for justice for his son in just the same way the McCartney family want it for their brother. The Orange Order in this case is not telling their members who know anything to go to their solicitor or some other roundabout route. Indeed they have passed everything they have been told directly to the PSNI. It is the inevitable downside of the McCartney campaign that it highlights the often unfruitful search for justice carried by thousands of other families after their loved ones have been killed by terrorists.

Maybe Mr Allen will find justice for his son soon - I certainly hope so.

Is he back on the booze?

It seems from George Best's statment this morning that he has finally fallen back off the wagon and gone on the booze.

Yes he was a genius footballer and is undoubtedly the greatest sportsman Northern Ireland has produced, but when he comes out with drivel like this then I have absolutely no time for him.

Lets hope he nips home to the Cregagh estate some time soon and explains his desire for an all-Ireland football team to his former neighbours. You cant just join together two national teams because they might be a little more successful. I sat through the awful games under the Sammy McIlroy era - all those long goal-starved matches yet I never once thought that it would be so much better if we only had an all-Ireland team.

I support NORTHERN Ireland. If I just wanted to support a team that was more successful then I would call myself Paulo and pretend to be from Rio. George, if you've got nothing useful to say then say nothing at all, or at least sober up before you speak in the future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The shape of things to come?

The Review of Public Administration isn't one of the world's most exciting things, but the consultation document (1.6mb) launched today by the RPA takes us another step closer to the shakeup of Northern Ireland's local government that it so dearly needs.

Personally I happen to think that somewhere like Northern Ireland with a population of this size could get away with about half a dozen councils, but I think that eleven might be the magic number. This of course would be a rowing back a little from the 7 which was tipped to be the figure a few months ago. Certainly the Alliance Party seemed to think that seven was the number when they opposed it a while back.

If they do go for an 11 council system then the options outlined are:
Strabane, Omagh and Fermanagh
Londonderry and Limavady
Coleraine Ballymoney and Moyle
Dungannon Cookstown and Magherafelt
Ballymena, Larne and Carrick
Antrim and Newtownabbey
North Down and Ards
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Down and Newry & Mourne
Craigavon, Banbridge and Armagh

Fermanagh and Omagh
Strabane and Londonderry
Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt
Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney and Moyle
Ballymena, Larne and Carrick
Antrim and Newtownabbey
North Down and Ards
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Craigavon, Banbridge and Armagh
Down and Newry & Mourne

Omagh and Fermanagh
Strabane, Londonderry and Limavady
Cookstown and Dungannon
Coleraine and Magherafelt
Ballymena, Ballymoney, Moyle and Larne
Antrim, Newtownabbey and Carrick
North Down and Ards
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Craigavon and Armagh
Down, Banbridge and Newry & Mourne

I think that the first of these options might be the more likely to succeed - but surely the review should have been able to change existing boundaries and not just be forced with lumping different councils together. For the life of me I fail to see how the Belvoir estate cannot be considered as part of Belfast. As part of single council beside Belfast its just about plausable, but to have somewhere like the Belvoir estate but to have it administered along with Hillsborough and the rest of Lisburn 'City' Council is a little strange.

Of course the divide of unionist vs nationalist councils will always be counted. It seems that a 6:4 unionist to nationalist split with Belfast hanging in the balance is most likely. If only unionists in Belfast would get off their backsides and vote then that race would be much clearer!

Monday, March 21, 2005

How does Trimble persuade unionists to vote for this then?

The SDLP has today launched their blueprint for a united Ireland. I'll leave aside all the points and explanation as to why he should have saved the paper but it really makes you wonder how Ulster Unionists were going to justify asking unionists in the west of the Province to vote SDLP.

The UUP's proposals (if you can call them that) for united candidates in some constituencies basically outlined that we should be voting for the SDLP in some constituencies. So at the time when the SDLP have decided that they are trying to be the 'supernationalist' and greener than green David Trimble expects unionists to line up and boost their vote tally by about 60,000 votes!

The SDLP really dont have a clue though - this paper wont put them one step closer to saving them from electoral meltdown. Instead of trying to act harder than the Shinners they'd be better off considering the proposals to get the Assembly back up and running with a Voluntary Coalition.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Minister for School Meals

I've just heard on a news bulletin that the Government has decided to take on Jamie Oliver's school meals campaign to improve childrens diets.

I dont necessarily doubt Jamie Oliver's motivations for the campaign. Yes it has given him oodles of very nice PR, but he did also start the Fifteen Foundation which was a risky project and one which he invested large amounts of his own cash into. Improving the diets of our nation's schoolchildren is also a very worthy aim also. He is actually starting to remove a little of just how irritating his 'mockney' accent became at one stage.

However, there is just the niggling doubt at the back of my mind whether this campaign would have been given the slightest bit of notice by most people, and especially the Government had it not been fronted, and indeed thought of, by a very high profile celebrity.

There are dozens and dozens of very worthy causes out there, but the Blair Government epitomises the trend in society where celebrities are taken more seriously than anyone else. You cant help feeling that had this very campaign been started by some health promotion lobby/pressure group that it would not have even made it onto the desk of the relevant Minister.

While in this case it has a beneficial end, it sums up just how policy is most often made as we start out in the 21st Century. Look out for the David Beckham campaign to improve literacy in schools next!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Does he trail his finger along the line too?

Apparently Gerry Adams' reading skills aren't all they are cracked up to be. The poor fella couldnt even get his party conference speech correct.

When he told us that provos could break the law to further their own seedy political ends apparently he was supposed to have put it in the past tense.

We all know that Gerry has to have the parts of his speeches which are in Irish written phonetically so maybe the S(h)inner speech writers should take to using pictures to get the messages across to Gerry in the future or at least keep the words nice and simple so he doesnt get them wrong in the future. Next time you see him speaking keep an eye out for his finger tracing along the line to pick out all the hard words.

At least he has his excuse, its not like English is his first language or anything!!!
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