Tuesday, 2 February 2016

When the DUP quote Peter Thatchell...

Peter Thatchell[s comment piece in the Guardian has suddenly started to appear in DUP politicians time lines. When this starts to happen you know that something is seriously wrong with what he has said.

It is not so much the fact that he has changed his opinion on the Ashers case. Nor that his comments on that case are based on a lack of knowledge the various laws that the judge made judgement on and indeed gloss over the depths of the evidence that were cited in the judicial review.

No what the DUP are picking up on is the points that Thatchell is making about political discrimination and freedom of expression. They are turning these into the appearance that their views are the victim of political discrimination and that they are facing a limit on their freedom of expression. Both issues that negate the fact that only their MLAs have to step forward together to prevent political movement of any kind and indeed was used to block the last vote on marriage equality when a majority were in favour.

What Peter Thatchell fails toe recognise in his comment piece about Northern Ireland is the level of comments that LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland can be the equivalent to what the rest of the UK heard in the mid 80s. These comments are almost repeated daily on our radios, certainly regularly within our hearing, and often from people who are family friends or even members of our families (nuclear or extended).

Some of the ideas that some people in Northern Ireland have about LGBT+ people should be unlawful, the fact that some of those ideas have oil heaped on their flames by the party that is now quoting Thatchell should be worrying. They are jumping on the fact that a gay rights campaigner thinks they should be allowed to espouse their ideas, to ignore the ideas of those seeking equality. That they will use his comments to protect people against discrimination as as means to allow homophobes to be able to avoid promoting ideas with which they disagree. In so doing he has given a rally cry for the DUP's call to bring in a conscience clause to protect businesses. I know this was not his intention but less than 24 hours in that is what is happening.

So in conclusion I'd like to thank Peter Thatchell for putting LGBT+ equality in Northern back a little this week by not thinking of the implication that stating those views in the way that he did will have to the fight for equality in Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sir Terry and me

Wake up to Wogan news this morning. I'm not sure what his other listener will be doing to mark the sad passing of the great raconteur but my thoughts are with the current Lady Wogan and the rest of the family.

Sir Terry may well have been doing the Radio 2 Breakfast show for longer than even I could remember. I must apologise for in my rebellious youth listening to those young upstarts on Radio 1 or even Virgin (although that voice sounds awfully familiar with my Radio 2 wake up no).

When I was driving into Edinburgh for a decade of work it was always Sir Terry who accompanied me, up until the morning that he bade us, both me and the other listener, that emotional farewell. But of course he also twice a year formed two televisual highlights of the year.

The first of course was accompanied by a six foot teddy bear with a spotty bandana over his bad eye. The millions of pounds he raised as part of Children in Need over 35 years is his greatest legacy, so much so that when he reached the limit for years he could serve as a Trustee of the charity he was made a life President so he could still be involved in the board.

The second was the running commentary (as the wine flowed) of Eurovision and more and more proposterous voting led to a result that more often than not didn't reflect well on Royaume-Uni. Indeed so much was Terry an essential part of Eurovision that on the one year that my partner was in Berlin on the evening with me in Scotland we spent the whole show on the phone, just so that Terry's commentary could be shared.

He was also of course part of the revamp of the mid 80s BBC evening schedule hosting his chat show Wogan three days a week in the slot he shared with a certain little show called Eastenders, I wonder whatever became of that show. Also for a while Sir Terry held a sporting record for the longest televised putt in golf when he holed a whopper at Gleneagles on Pro Celebrity Golf.

This is it then. The day we've been dreading. When we will no longer be able to wake up to the knowledge that Sir Terry Wogan is in our world and will at some point make us smile again. Wogan Towers will be a little lot quieter in the future with his passing.



Sir Terry Wogan 3 Aug 1938 - 31 Jan 2016

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Equal Ever After and the missing Scottish footnote

This morning I received my copy of Equal Ever After  by Lynne Featherstone. As one of campaigners from the LGBT+ community from one of the political parties that pooled resources to achieve great things in the arena of same sex marriage I wasn't going to hang around to get reading this book.

Of course I have great praise for Lynne and the role she had in making same-sex marriage happen in England and Wales, but her telling of the tale omits one very important part of the tale both of her party's and the nation's move towards that goal. The fact that before the May 2010 election Liberal Democrats in at least one part of the country were able to answer to answer questions on this that is was party policy where they were standing and they hoped that if elected they would pursue it across the UK. Two of those the candidate for Falkirk and his agent, who also happened to be the candidate next door in Linlithgow and East Falkirk,  were even able to talk about the role they had played on creating that policy.

Sadly the fact that the Scottish Liberal Democrats had debated, voted and passed a policy on equal marriage and equal civil partnership in the run up to the 2010 election does not appear to warrant a mention, not even as a footnote to history of Lynne's history of the fight for same-sex marriage. \It is one significant footnote in our party's fight for LGBT+ equality, as well as footnote in the history of LGBT+ equality in our nation that is missing.

Obviously as somebody who was there on that platform helping to propose that Scottish policy motion to conference who now finds himself back home in Northern trying to close the circle in that "corner of our United Kingdom" that has "set its face against marriage equality" my fight goes on, waiting for us all to be equal ever after.

Why Northern Ireland is incompatible with woman's rights #abortion

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
When the High Court in Belfast ruled last month that Northern Ireland's abortion legislation was "incompatible" with human rights law, I expected there to be some objections. However, with both the Attorney General and Justice Minister lodging appeals against that decision.

Now the Justice Minister unlike the Attorney General admits that some change does need to be made to Northern Ireland's abortion laws, his words show a certain bias none the less. David Ford has said:

"The judgement from the High Court does not fully clarify the law and potentially leaves open the possibility there could be abortion on demand in Northern Ireland on an even wider basis than is the case in the rest of the United Kingdom."

Firstly the use of the phrase abortion of demand ignores the fact that many Northern Irish women already access abortion within the confines of the law in the rest of the UK. The way to stop there being legal challenges as to the compatibility with human rights law is to act in a positive direction to relax the restrictions not challenge a ruling that says you need to act.

What they need most is support prior and post the terminations which do happen. We need that support on demand! Hoiwever, with the current archaic laws in Northern Ireland they fear being arrested for taking whatever means they have done to terminate a pregnancy. The fact that future gynecological issues may arise because of earlier terminations, but such women in Northern Ireland may fear seeking assistance for these because of their secret, taboo, history.

I do not think any makes a decision for termination lightly. It is an emotive subject with heated arguments on both sides of the debates. But the people for who it is the most emotive are not the protesters outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, not are they the feminists who stand up loudly against just such protesters. Not the people for whom this is most emotive are of course the women carrying the foetus/unborn child (depending on your viewpoint) and those who care for them secondly.

So while we continue to fail to move any distance on abortion here in Northern Ireland we are incompatible with human rights law and that is we are enslaving many women to a live of fear of authorities finding out what they may have done in their past, or might have to consider in the future.

Personally I want to see the 1967 Act extended to Northern Ireland but I certainly believe we need to go some distance further than even the limited position that the Department of Justice has said it is prepared to move.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

New Year New Role

I know it isn't quite the start of the year but hey it is still the first month.

Yesterday I had to give my apologies for the AGM of Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats, this also meant that I had to send in my report on behalf of LGBT+ Lib Dems Northern Ireland to be read out in my absence. But of course the other order of the day of any AGM is the appointment of the officers.

Therefore it is pleasure to know that the members of my party graciously elected me* the new chair for the coming year.

It is honour to have been elected to this position at the first AGM into the Lib Dem Fightback and even though the Northern Ireland party do not contest elections if not mean that I will be sitting idly by and not being involved in that Fightback. As regular readers will know I was already up for the fight even as I waS travelling back to Northern Ireland after the disappointment of election night.

Being chair here in Northern Ireland is a challenge that I will look to embrace especially as the General population are more liberal than many in the Assembly would care to acknowledge. There are a number of issues that I feel it is important that a Liberal Democrat voice is heard, you can be sure that I will be doing all I can for that voice to be heard loud and clear. Fellow Liberal Democrats will have heard me joke often in the past that I am too liberal for politics here in Northern Ireland, thankfully many people here are catching up to my point of view. You can be sure I want to bring that viewpoint to the fore amongst all the closed, narrow minded and self preservationist views that dominate opinion here, showing people that there is a hope for a better way forward.

* Don't worry this wasn't an abuse of my absence I had previously given consent to being nominated.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Extra Night Accomodation - The Lib Dem Conference debacle

So it appears that some people (probably based in the south) have considered that having a full day Saturday and ending Autumn Conference on a Tuesday is going to safe people money on accommodation. As someone who many times has travelled from the northern reaches to the southern coast I beg to disagree.

Travelling from Scotland or locations up north the later start on the Saturday often allowed people the option of travelling on the first train or plane in the morning on the Saturday and if they wanted to getting to those consultative or training sessions that take place on Saturday ahead of the conference rally. Also depending on when our transport could be booked we either left before the leader's speech to head for trains north on the Wednesday or immediately afterwards.

If you are going to make a full day Saturday and a full day Tuesday people coming from further afield are going to have to come down a day early and stay overnight on the Friday and probably are still going to need somewhere to stay on the Tuesday night after a full day thus meaning an EXTRA nights accommodation at GREATER COST. This could actually result in having to take an EXTRA DAY OFF work for those wanting to get to conference from any distance.

Travel on a Friday is often dear than on a Saturday and harder to come by as weekly commuters also are looking for travel option at this time especially in the evening, which is the time that most from the North will probably be hitting London looking to get to those south coast resorts that hold the majority of our Autumn conferences. Of course Northern Liberal Democrats could break their journey here and like the London and southern based Liberal Democrats travel down on Saturday morning when fares are cheaper. But we'd have to find more expensive accommodation for one night in the capital.

Yes the proposals are clearly not to make conference cheaper for delegates outside the London commuter belt, in fact they are bound to make it more expensive for those in the North and Scotland to attend Federal conference and are merely a way to make it cheaper to host but will make it more Southern Centric and less democratic as an upshot.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

BBC letting the bad guys take over Dodge (or SSE Arena*)

I've come home to the news that the BBC journalist Andy West has been suspended because of his comments that he's ashamed of his employers fail to admit their error in giving Tyson Fury a platform on SPOTY. Seeing the coverage that the story has been getting on the BBC over recent days actually rebroadcasting his views unedited and as spoken I feel that Andy West is not the only person to be ashamed.

The BBC brand themselves as Your BBC meaning that it really is "Our BBC". It would appear that in the case of this incident it applies providing you aren't gay or a woman. It must not be forgotten that Fury's comments that he is repeating are both homophobic and misogynistic.


The hosts of SPOTY include Sue Barker, Gabby Logan and Clare Balding. Three strong women who have succeeded in the macho world of sport reporting. The later of course is also married to her same-sex partner. If a gay journalist is ashamed, and Clive Myrie calls him a dickhead live on air how much must these three women (as well as fellow nominee Jessica Ennis-Hill) feel uncomfortable sharing the studio with Fury in 10 days time. Is it right that the BBC allow these women to take part in a live event with a man whose words are clearly set to provoke, who remains unrepentant and continues to accentuate the anguish his initial comments passed with every time he is asked for comment.

The BBC continue to dig a hole for themselves over this issue. Sadly it might well bury the corporation if they are not careful.

*The SSE Arena in Belfast is the venue that will be hosting the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) awards on 20th December.