Monday, 28 July 2014

We will remember them: Introduction to an occasional series

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them
At eleven am on this day 100 years ago Austria declared war on Serbia. Due to the interconnectiveness of treaties across Europe within a week we had most of the major powers declaring they would be taking part in the Great War, the First World War.

I knew that a number of my great uncles had served in the Second World War, but all of them had survived to tell the tale. Though very few of them talked about it much. But with an interest in the family genealogy I was always wondering if any of the family had fought and died in that first world war. The earliest bits of the family tree seemed to indicate that due to a quirk of ages that none of the close to blood line relatives were involved.

But then I started to look a little further afield, up the tree for people who had married in the the family and sideways from the generations who were around at the time, looking for cousins or people from within that the family would have known I found there are names of distant relatives whose names are written upon those monuments that were erected following that conflict to mark the five and half million who had died on the Allies side. Many within my family's history had gone to serve, some had even returned from overseas as the family had emigrated to the USA or Canada and came to serve.

This series will act as a act of remembrance to those close to my family at the time who died in the service of their nation. Little did Laurence Binyon know when he wrote the words that follow (the full version) in the early months of the conflict that the way that we will remember them 100 years on in not necessarily by leafing through old, dusty, newspaper archives but through a medium that they wouldn't even have dreamed off. Radio wasn't even a mass media until after the War. Television some further years off and as for using a screen to access information from around the world in a matter of seconds, well that would have been unthinkable.

On the days that those I have discovered fell I shall writing a little bit about them and the battle in which they gave the ultimate sacrifice and the regiment or service they fought with. I shall remember them.

Ode to Remembrance

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Laurence Binyon September 1914

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Does marriage equality act contravene the Northern Ireland Act?

Something has just recently struck me that the wording in Schedule 2 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 may actually be worded in such as way that the Northern Ireland Act 1998 cannot support the wording.

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 states:

75 Statutory duty on public authorities.

(1)A public authority shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity—

(a)between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;

(b)between men and women generally;

(c)between persons with a disability and persons without;


(d)between persons with dependants and persons without.

(2)Without prejudice to its obligations under subsection (1), a public authority shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.

(3)In this section “public authority” means—

(a)any department, corporation or body listed in Schedule 2 to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 (departments, corporations and bodies subject to investigation) and designated for the purposes of this section by order made by the Secretary of State;

(b)any body (other than the Equality Commission) listed in Schedule 2 to the Commissioner for Complaints (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (bodies subject to investigation);

(c)any department or other authority listed in Schedule 2 to the Ombudsman (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (departments and other authorities subject to investigation);
 Yeah one of the things that a public authority (Schedule 2 includes the Government of the United Kingdom) should have due regard to promote equality of opportunity is marital status. Now besides the fact that Civil Partnerships do not include a mention (even in amendments) within the Northern Ireland Act there does seem a requirement for the Northern Ireland Assembly and UK Government to promote equality of opportunity regardless of marital status.

However, when we turn to Schedule 2 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 we find the following wording:

Northern Ireland

2(1)Under the law of Northern Ireland, a marriage of a same sex couple under the law of England and Wales is to be treated as a civil partnership formed under the law of England and Wales (and accordingly, the spouses are to be treated as civil partners).

(2)The Secretary of State may by order—

(a)provide for the treatment of a marriage as a civil partnership (by virtue of sub-paragraph (1)) to have effect subject to provision made by the order;

(b)specify cases in which a marriage is not to be treated as a civil partnership by virtue of sub-paragraph (1).

Is this equality of opportunity?


A marriage by any other name is not a marriage, even if what was carried out is a marriage and not a civil partnership, it is still a marriage and should be treated with equality of opportunity by public authorities within and pertaining to Northern Ireland.

In their bid to retain institutionalised homophobia the Unionist parties (and at Westminster mainly the DUP) appear to have fallen into breaching the Act that gives them authority to make devolved decisions. In this case it appears to fail the equality of opportunity to have such marriages called exactly what they are and limiting such a marital status to something else.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Statement from the combined NI LGBT Communities

Seeing as the combined unionist parties have this morning issued a statement (vaguely based on the words below), I think it is time for us to seek our cultural expression as LGBT British subjects living in Northern Ireland to be recognised. Hereafter follows the statement:

The combined Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender commuities in Northern Ireland call upon the First Minister to establish a time-bound commission of inquiry with the necessary legal powers and resources to examine the equal marriage, gay adoption and MSM lifetime bloodban impasses and the wider issues these represent.

This is consistent with policy in the rest of the Union he holds so dear.

"The issue of LGBT equality will not go away after the Pride parades.

"This is a further part of our graduated response strategy, and follows on from our raising issues such as bakeries revoking on contracts, The Health Minister's so-called scientific evidence of unknown blood-borne diseases in gay men's blood and the steps outlined by gay agenda (which we have still yet to see evidence of and we're gay).

"In addition, the LGBT Communities are agreed that at every level - council, assembly, Westminster and Europe - the denial of LGBT expression, resulting from Unionist denial that we are less than equal and threats of eternal damnation, will have a consequence determining how our members towards each of these levels of government will participate.

"We intend to seek an urgent and fabulous meeting with the First Minister - the response of the First Minster to the participate in Belfast Pride and this commission of inquiry will dictate the nature and timing of those actions.

"We are mindful of the strong will in the community for all elements of LGBT activism to act in a united manner and channel the rightful anger at this unjust decision.

"We reiterate our call for peaceful and lawful actions."

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Dear Mr Putin,

Thank you for not killing my fellow LGBT brothers, sisters and anyone in between. However, the fact that your state allows them to live and exist is not the same as being anti-gay.

Like your nation I come from a socially conservative part of the world, but here in Northern Ireland which only decriminalised homosexuality 10 years before Russia there are other protections to LGBT people which are lacking in your nation.

Firstly there are laws in place that prevent discrimination against LGBT folk in any area of live whether education, access to health service, their employment or accommodation. While I know that not everyone's experience in these areas in Northern Ireland is universally one of acceptance there is at least a fall back unto the rule of law. Indeed sexual orientation is one of the many areas that our public authorities have to promote equality of opportunity within:

75 Statutory duty on public authorities.

(1)A public authority shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity—
(a)between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;
(b)between men and women generally;
(c)between persons with a disability and persons without;
(d)between persons with dependants and persons without.
By doing something like this you could eradicate the "fiction" and indeed the fact that LGBT people are being discriminated against, attacked and even killed with little action, protection or reaction from your police officers.

That equality of opportunity should allow them the right to meet in peace in a place they feel safe. Such as a night club or bar that caters for them and where they are not judged by other patrons. Such places exist near your Presidential Palace or your favourite resort town of Sochi.

That equality of opportunity also should allow those who are discovering their sexual orientation should be able to seek out advise on how to deal with this. Without the threat of those offering the counsel and advise of being arrested for providing that service. You call this propaganda to minors, I call that protection, advise and safety in how to live before the possibility of ruining it through lack of education.

That equality of opportunity also means that political leaders while talking about stereotypes on one hand talk about LGBT people as "other types of unconventional sexual behaviour" or "non-traditional sexual relations". That is something that I am still working on with one or two of the larger parties here in Northern Ireland as well as individuals within other major parties across Northern Ireland, USA and elsewhere. However, if you are genuine in how you have to "think of the future and improve our legislation" then the language that you use is a good place to start, so that those LGBT people do not feel that you are anti-gay, or associate them with pedophilia or beastiality.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Never before in the history of Northern Irish politics...part 4

...have women secured more first preferences than men in the European seat.

Despite only have 4 of the 10 candidates women broke through a certain glass ceiling in last week's European election in Northern Ireland for the first time they secured more first preference votes than the men.

In 1979 there was only one female candidate Bernadette McAliskey who was standing as an independent republican. Her 33,969 (5.94%) was enough to see her survive the first three stages before she was eliminated, there were twelve men against her in those first elections.

Five years later in 1984 men took 100% of the votes as there were no women among the eight candidates.

In 1989 there was again a sole lady, Myrtle Boal was standing for the Conservatives and secured 25,789 (4.82%) of the first preferences there were nine men against her five secured more votes than her. She was also the first woman not to be eliminated, but then this was an election that the surplus of the stage one winner elected the final seat on stage two and nobody was excluded.

1994 saw Myrtle joined on the ballot by Mary Clark-Glass (Alliance), Dodie McGuinness (one of three Sinn Féin candidates), June Champion (Independent) and Susannah Thompson (one of three Natural Law candidates). It was the most congested Northern Irish European ballot so far with 17 candidates. Between them the five women won 47,477 (8.48%) votes.

However, after the high of five female candidates there were none again in 1999 when 8 men filled the ballot.

In 2004 women returned to the ballot and one of them was to make a little history. Bairbre de Brún (Sinn Féin) was to become the first female Northern Irish MEP she was joined on the ballot by Lindsay Whitcroft (Green). The two secured as record 119,351 (21.73%) first preferences for women.

2009 was to see another ground breaking result with two of the three seats being won by women. Diane Dodds (DUP) was to join de Brún in Brussels but they were the only two women amongst the 7 candidates. Bairbre de Brún was also the first woman to top the poll as between them they secured 214,530 (44.27%) of the first preferences.

Which brings us to this year de Brún had been replaced as Sinn Féin candidate by Martina Anderson, along with Dodds they took the top two spots after first preferences. Anna Lo (Alliance) was 6th and Tina McKenzie (NI21) completed the quartet. Between them their 345,961 votes was greater than the 6 men they stood against who got 285,164. So in the 2014 European Election here in Northern women secured 55.25% of the first preferences from the 626,125 valid votes.

Never in the history of Northern Irish politics...part 3

...have the pick three not dominated in European quota collection.

Many have passed comment on the length of time this European election has taken. But unlike in previous elections no candidate or pair of candidates has dominated enough in first preferences to make the transfer of their surplus more or less decide the election.

In 1979 Ian Paisley was elected on first preferences of 1.19 quotas, John Hume was second on 0.98 quotas and was swiftly elected with the exclusion of the various independent and smaller nationalist/republican votes in the third stage. The UUP actually had 0.87 of a quota in the first round but this was split between two candidates which had them sitting 3rd and 4th on first preferences and it wasn't until his running mate Harry West's vote pushed John Taylor over the quota.

In other words the big three had 3.04 quotas between them.

In 1984 Paisley sailed in with 1.34 quotas and the UUP putting up just one candidate this time also saw John Taylor in with 1.08 quota on first preferences. Hume for the SDLP was slightly further away this time with 0.88 of a quota, but was soon elected no the fourth stage with the exclusion of Alliance and UPUP.

However, the three who got elected had ensured that 3.3 quotas were theirs from first preference.

1989 saw Paisley in first with 1.20 quotas and Hume also sneaked in on first preference with 1.02. Jim Nicholson replacing Taylor on the UUP ticket was on 0.89 which was close enough to see him elected on the transfers of Paisley's surplus at stage 2. Between then the 3.11 was enough to ensure they were all elected without the elimination of another candidate.

In 1994 Paisley and Hume again sailed through on first preferences with 1.17 and 1.16 of a quota respectively. Nicholson was just under with 0.95, but once again it was enough for his election on the surplus of Paisley. The 3.28 quotas was just behind the peak of 1984 for centralising the vote within the big three.

Paisley's last European election in 1999 saw him once again top the poll with 1.14 quota. Hume also facing his last Euro electorate also was safely in with 1.12 and Nicholson posted at the time the poorest showing for one the big three with only 0.70 of a quota. It was still a respectable 2.96 of a quota. The elimination of all four of the lowest candidates made it a two person run off for the last seat, but it was only when Paisley's surplus was distributed in stage 3 that Nicholson was elected.

In 2004 we saw new faces for all but the UUP of the big four.But Jim Allister then still with the DUP carried on the Paisley legacy securing 1.27 of a quota to be elected top, Sinn Féin's Bairbre de Brún was also over the threshold with 1.05 of a quota. Nicholson faired worse still with only 0.66 of a quota which meant that the Allister surplus didn't see him over the line but the elimination of all bar the SDLP candidate did.

The top three parties were still polling 2.98 quotas. But there had been a shift in the nationalist vote and now the SDLP found themselves just behind the UUP in 4th.

Last time out in 2004 was the first time after 4 cycles that only person achieved the quota on first preferences. It was Bairbre de Brún who managed it with 1.04 of a quota a drop in the share she had last time. Nicholson rallied slightly to 0.68 but Diane Dodds replacing the defected Jim Allister only secured 0.73 enough to be ahead of the UUP but the DUP's worst ever showing in the European elections. The reason for this was the 0.54 that Allister himself secured for his new TUV party.

However, the net result was the that big three only had 2.45 quotas between then and only 0.04 of a surplus from first preferences. However, elimination of the Green and Alliance for stage 2, followed by the TUV in stage three soon saw the UCU-NF candidate safely over the threshold, and Dodds deemed elected due to the small surpluses not being enough to get the SDLP above her.

Which leads to this year, Martina Anderson of Sinn Féin was elected first round but with only 1.02 of a quota the smallest winning quota ever in Northern Irish European elections. Diane Dodds improved to 0.84 but Nicholson only just sneaked over half a quota on 0.53, the SDLP weren't far off with 0.52.

It meant that the three largest parties had dipped even further down to 2.39 and the battle was entered to secure almost double their first preference between the UUP and SDLP. Allister for the TUV had 0.48 of it and would not be eliminated until stage 7 and the three non-designated parties (Alliance, Grenn, NI21) had 0.42 of their quota their highest ever. This is why the election went so deep, there wasn't masses of other naturally unionist votes to be transferred until a late stage.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Never in the history of Northern Irish politics...Part 2

...have the Alliance votes transferred so poorly to unionist candidates.

In 1979 the Alliance candidate was eliminated after the election of John Hume SDLP elected after stage 3 and all the last Independent nationalist Bernadette McAliskey who was eliminated at stage 4 so we have no idea how else the Alliance vote would have transferred.

In 1984 Alliance were eliminated along with UPUP candidate Jim Kilfedder but the only parties left after their elimination were SDLP and Sinn Fein so it is impossible again to guage the split in preference.

In 1989 we didn't get to the elimination stage and with DUP and SDLP elected on stage one the Paisley surplus was sufficient to elect Jim Nicholson UUP. The same thing happened in 1994.

In 1999 there was an option as to where the Alliance vote may have transferred to. At the time of elimination Sean Neeson had 14,391 votes. But he was eliminated as the same time as the PUP, UKUP and Natural Law candidates. Jim Nicholson UUP and Mitchell McLaughlin Sinn Féin were both left. But as only 1709 went to Sinn Féin and even if all of these had been from Neeson was only 11.87% of his vote.Over 50% of the Alliance vote that would have transferred therefore would have gone UUP assuming that 33% was non transferable.

In 2004 there was no Alliance candidate as they along with the Workers Party, Conservative and Labour parties were backing John Gilliland the outgoing President of the Ulster Farmers' Union.

To complicate matters in 2009 once again the Alliance were eliminated at the same time as another party. This time it was the Greens. Combined they transferred 38.44% to the SDLP but 43.78% to UCUNF, DUP and TUV unionist candidates. The Alliance had the bigger share of those transfers with 62.88% of the combined total that was reallocated.

That leads to this week, Anna Lo was eliminated by herself in stage 6. 44.58% of her vote went to the SDLP with UUP, DUP and TUV still in play. The unionists got only 21.25% of her vote.

Hypothesis 1

Taking this back to 2004 it would have equated to the SDLP getting 11,903 votes off Alliance of the 16,325, but would have left 23,012 votes to go of which 15,764 would have been a totally transferable Green vote. For the sake of argument let's assume that they did all transfer that leaves 4,422 Green votes left to fill up the SDLP vote and 11, 342 going to unionism. That would still result in 7,248 Alliance votes that could go unionist but even that is 27.15% of the Alliance transfers.

Clearly there would not have been 100% transferable votes from the Greens. Therefore there has to be an even bigger reduction in the proportion of Alliance votes than the mere 6% that this hypothetical scenario shows.

Hypothesis 1b

Lets assume that a universal 17.77% of non transferables for both parties (7,548 of the 42,463 combined was actually non transferable) of those Green votes were non-transferable, this would come off the resultant unionist vote. It would mean 8540 of their votes go to unionism, leaving 10,050 of Alliances vote or 37.64% heading to unionists.

Hypothesis 2

The Green Party candidate Ross Brown was eliminated at stage 4 along with NI21's Tina McKenzie. Their combined vote of 21900.53 at the time of elimination saw 8661.10 going to Alliance to we discount that  to leave 13,239.43.

Of that 3107 (23.46%) went nationalist and 5809 went unionist (43.87%)

Applying that to their 2009 vote 3,699 votes went nationalist and 6,916 unionist.

The impact this would have on 2009 would be that 12,626 (47.29%) Alliance votes were nationalist and 11,674 (43.62%) unionist at a 91% transferability rate.

As it is I suspect that the Green vote would have had a higher proportion of nationalists to NI21 which means that the proportion of Alliance votes going Unionist would actually have been higher in 2009.

The Alliance has for a while not transferred toward DUP in large numbers and as a by product TUV. But has been relatively happy to go UUP. However, this time that has not been the case.

The reasons are pretty clear. The outright attack on Naomi Long even before the vote in Belfast City Council on flag and the lack of timely or outright condemnation of the attack on Alliance party office or elected reps homes that resulted from the Unionists. There is also the issues of equality on which the UUP have been as intolerant as DUP but the SDLP and Sinn Féin more liberal. This could be borne out by those who campaigned for equal marriage saying if your not prepared to vote for us and ours you'll not get our vote.

As I also said there was 17.8% non transferable from Alliance and Greens in 2009, but 33% non transferable on this occasion. So even those that would not transfer to SDLP have not transferred to unionism.

Hardline unionism may well benefit them in FPTP Westminster elections (providing they work on the pacts) but it is damaging the unionists on getting transfers from Alliance in other elections in Northern Ireland.