Monday, 26 November 2012

The other face of UKIP child care prejudice

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Can't be good for Nigel Farage as he is attacked Rotherham Social Services for removing three foster children from members of his party in one by election constituency when in another, Croydon North, his candidate says:

"If you couldn’t look after your child and you had to put them up for adoption would you honestly want your child to be adopted by a gay couple?
"Would you seriously want that or a heterosexual family? Which would be more healthy for the child?

"A caring loving home is a heterosexual or single family. I don’t believe (a gay couple) is healthy for a child."
So, do UKIP really care about the fact that children will be brought up in a stable environment? Or are they really letting their prejudices rise to the fore?

There is of course no evidence that a child adopted or raised by a same-sex couple is any worse off for a child. The child's health is not at risk (even though I suspect this is a misuse of the word healthy). Indeed there has been studies done which indicate that there may actually be some advantages for the children adopted by a same-sex couple over those with natural parents who are unable to provide the care most of us would expect.

Mind you here is that same candidate standing as an independent for Croydon's Mayoral election 4 years ago:

Update: Mr McKenzie has since gone further and called adoption by same-sex couples child abuse saying:
"I am having you adopted by two men who kiss regularly but don't worry about it' – that is abuse. It is a violation of a child's human rights because that child has no opportunity to grow up under normal circumstances."

Following Sir Edward Garnier's logic I shall call my car a bicycle

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

According to the logic of former Solicitor General Sir Edward Garnier MP QC for the constituency of Harborough I shall call my car a bicycle but there is no need to change the law as a result.

Under the logic as I own a car bicycle I shall not be subject to road tax for my car bicycle. My car bicycle will still transport me from point A to B. As I now travel in on my car bicycle to work though I shall not be allowed to travel on the motorways, but I will have access to the excellent cycle path alongside the M5 from the Harbour Estate to Whiteabbey. As I am driving riding along in on my car bicycle seeing the other drivers cyclists scurrying for cover as I hurtle gently pedal along I know that I am fully within my rights.

My next car bicycle
I am a bit concerned that I shall have to purchase a helmet to wear in on my car bicycle, but at least I do not have to wear a seatbelt. I do not need to renew my driving license as from now on I will be driving riding my car bicycle everywhere, including to the filling station (merely to buy my papers you understand).

Of course me calling my car a bicycle is ridiculous, nobody else will see my car as a bicycle. When it comes to legality certainly the police would not take too kindly to me flaunting the law of the land by claiming that I am a cyclist from the comfort of my driving seat. When it comes to people of the same sex referring to their civil partnership as marriage and their other half as their husband or wife instead of their civil partner it is still not the same thing. On forms they fill in they cannot tick the box for married and sign the bottom that all information is correct if in fact they are civil partnered and that box is left unchecked.

So if Sir Edward Garnier is happy for same-sex couple to call themselves married why is he not prepared to equalise it in the eyes of the law?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Are 'progressive' DUP looking to turn back the clock

The DUP at their annual conference handed out to their members a survey.

According to Slugger O'Toole there are the usual things you'd expect to see on a membership survey. Opinions on level of subs, views on merger with the UUP, how the party should change, women representation in politics and views on quota of female candidates. None of this stuff would generally look out of place in any survey of party members anywhere.

Image by Alan in Belfast CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
The DUP has taken to calling itself the party of progress, though many of doubt how far that progress has got apart from agreeing to form an administration with Sinn Féin.

However, in this survey there is also then a section seeking opinions on various issues of the days.

  • view on academic selection for entry to secondary education - a Northern Irish hot potato since the state exams have been done away with yet the Grammar schools are largely using their own sets of unregulated tests now instead
  • view on legalising abortion - with the opening of the first private abortion clinic in Northern Ireland another hot potato
  • view on the UK adopting the Euro - as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border with the Eurozone and many shops accepting both here another live issue
The final 'issue' in this section is three words:

homosexuality is wrong

In each case of the four above respondents are asked if they Strongly Agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree/ Disagree/ Disagree strongly. Now I'm wondering how the last of these can be viewed as progressive.

For the last one to be interjected into that section screams out as just the contrary to the progressive image that the party keeps talking up about itself. For a start the Belfast agreement means that respect has to be given to each community and minority in Northern Ireland, that includes based on sexual orientation. Also the hot potato in that area can either be marriage equality, adoption by same-sex couples or the blood ban. But the DUP is asking instead if the decision 30 years ago to legalise homosexuality here in Northern Ireland is wrong.

It is a rather pointed and short statement. It harks back to the debate on equal marriage in Stormont where the only person to take the debate on equal marriage back steps was Sammy Wilson, who alone said he didn't think Civil Partnerships were a good idea. Is this question a bid by the DUP to take the situation back to pre-1982 if they feel they have the support. 

If they do it would be bizarre after a question about the UK adopting the Euro as its currency to go against and European Court on Human Rights ruling. Considering the party is also considering taking the unusual step here in Northern Ireland of running two candidates for the European Election in 2014 they are seeking to be sole Unionist voice under our STV election it would appear they want Europe but only on their terms.

However, when part of those terms is to say that any of the groups covered by section 75 of the Belfast Agreement are wrong, whether that is by sexuality, by involvement in the troubles of whatever how can they claim to be progressive?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Fisking some of 118 Tory MPs on Marriage Equality

So the Daily Fail (apologies for this link) are naming 118 Tory MPs who are liable to vote against marriage equality, in the biggest sign of just how much the Conservative party haven't changed on LGBT issues since the last time Westminster voted on any.

So I shall fisk in red each of the statements from those quoted:

"I Marvel at why we're bringing this forward. There is no clamour for this at all within the gay community." Conor Burns - Bournemouth West

I've already dealt with the Belfast born, gay, MP's comments earlier (see here) 

"I believe marriage is an institution ordained to sanctify a union between a man and a woman. If a vote is called, I shall vote in accordance to my beliefs." David Jones - Clwyd West

I need to define a couple of words to start this so the free dictionary says:

a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
b. To authorize as a rabbi.
2. To order by virtue of superior authority; decree or enact.
3. To prearrange unalterably

1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate.
2. To make holy; purify.
3. To give religious sanction to, as with an oath or vow.
4. To give social or moral sanction to.
5. To make productive of holiness or spiritual blessing.

Yeah you get that, both words have significant religious connotations. So for something to be ordained to sanctify something surely it has to be religious. So would Mr Jones be voting, if there one called to do away with civil marriage?

"I share the view of a great many Christians and people of other faiths who have a strong conception of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. When it comes to redefining the concept of marriage in law, I don't think that Parliament should seek to alter the current position." Stephen Crabb - Preseli Pembrokeshire

Time for another definition:

a. Formation of a viable zygote by the union of the male sperm and female ovum; fertilization.
b. The entity formed by the union of the male sperm and female ovum; an embryo or zygote.
a. The ability to form or understand mental concepts and abstractions.
b. Something conceived in the mind; a concept, plan, design, idea, or thought.

I take it he refers to the latter. So it is only an understanding of a mental concept. Like once we thought the earth was flat, the earth was the centre of the universe, we mocked Einstein's theory of relativity, or continental drift. So see out conception of so much has changed as our understanding has grown. The last two of those in the last hundred years and indeed at the same time that we were actually coming to terms that gay sex should be allowed. Conceptions change and unlike Mr Burns Mr Crabb doesn't say that everyone is of the same opinion I know a number of people of faith Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight who all want to allow faith groups that want to to carry out same sex marriage. They have a different concept of marriage yet the same faith.

"I remain concerned that re-defining marriage is unnecessary given the established legal rights, which effectively mirror marriage, for same-sex couples through civil partnerships." Esther McVey - Wirral West

If something were effectively giving a true representation of something else in mirroring it everything would be the same. We would have civil and religious ceremonies, of course we don't. We have the legal rights but only one of the options is open. Any same-sex couple of faith has to leave their god, favourite Hymns of religious passages at the door if they want to be joined in civil partnership. 

"I think there is something a little arrogant about ministers supposing that it is for them to redefine communal rules that have existed for centuries." Douglas Carswell - Clacton

First off this is going to a vote in the commons the ministers aren't doing it without the representatives of the people having a say, isn't that the way our parliament works. Second there are some rather ridiculous and outmoded communal rules still on the statute book, that is the point that the Lib Dems raised in the General Election a Great Repeal Act to do away with some of them, some of them have been around for centuries and serve no purpose in the 21st Century. This is being taken forward by Government, how arrogant of them!

 "People's private lives are a matter for them. Marriage on the other hand is not an entirely private matter. It is a civil institution.

"If, as I hope, there is a free vote in Parliament on this  issue as it is a matter of conscience, I shall be voting against the law to introduce marriage between homosexuals." John Hayes - South Holland and the Deepings

 I agree with the first paragraph of the above. The first sentence being key. It is a matter for each individual, no body else marriage impinges on the marriage of anyone else. It is a civil institution. 

James Wharton  - Stockport South "unique religious connotation of marriage"

I refer you to the answer I gave to David Jones, there are such things as civil marriage. These have not hindered people of faith having religious marriages, they have merely allowed those that don't adhere to a faith to get married without making oaths before a god they do not believe in (or maybe just share or doesn't look kindly of their divorce).

"As a Christian, I am only too aware of the controversies, not only surrounding this issue but others to do with equality.

"While I fully support civil partnerships, which I believe allows two gay people to declare their lifelong commitment to each other, I am afraid that at this stage, the concept of gay marriage [sic] is too much in advance of public opinion and I am afraid that I would not support it in a vote in the commons." Simon Burns - Chelmsford


"I shall almost certainly be voting against any proposal to bring forward gay marriage. I do not consider myself to be homophobic, but, apart from anything else I do not think there is any demand for this." Andrew Robothan - Blaby

I'm afraid to tell Mr Burns that there is only one recent opinion poll that shows public opinion that anyone claims is against "marriage equality". That was when Catholic Voice  but didn't actually ask a question about expanding marriage yet was used to claim that 70% of people objected to it. As for Mr Rothbothan similarly deciding something purely on demand while very free market in outlook, fails on the basis that there obviously is some demand or else it would have got this far.

I believe that Parliamentary legislation should focus on those issues that matter to most people across the country: safeguarding their well-being and restoring the economy to health." Andrew Tyrie - Chichester

Strangley at the end of last month Mr Tyrie who is chairman of the Treasury Select Committee found time to vote on the issue of circus animal wellfare. Of course due his his committee chairmanship most of his utterances in the House have been on economic matters, but of course Parliament does talk about other things, and as I have mentioned before even during the war other things were discussed rather than just war related business.

"I wish it were not happening...don't try and tamper with the timeless concept and meaning of marriage, which for most of us means one man and one woman."

Well if marriage's definition is so timeless how come the bible had so many ways to define it.


 Update: Interestingly the Daily Mail have removed Conor Burns and a full list of names from its article.

Co-opted Councillor resigns from party

In Northern Ireland should a councillor (or for that matter a MLA) die or resign his seat there is no by election but a co-option by the party that held the seat. That change for Councillors came about in 2010.

So it was that in March this year Adam Harbinson, who had failed to get elected in May 2011 for Ballyholme and Groomsport was selected to replace the late Tony Hill in Bangor West. Hill had been the Alliance Councillor for 11 years since 2001, Harbinson hadn't even managed 8 months before this morning announcing he was resigning from the party while at the DUP conference. He has not said that he is changing allegiances, merely thinking about it.

Earlier this month Harbinson was the one Alliance Councillor here who had voted against the marriage equality motion before council. He was entrusted with the seat on behalf of the Alliance Party and now less than a year on he trod all over the legacy of that faithful and dedicated party man he replaced.

There is no mechanism that can make Adam Harbinson resign his seat. Although as he himself does not have a mandate and is co-opted on behalf of the Alliance Party and vote for Tony Hill I believe he should do the honourable thing and resign his seat on council as well as resigning from the party, otherwise he is stealing the seat from both. He probably should have done that in the other order seat first and then party though.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Bullying for me

There is a saying that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I suppose in my case at primary school it made me faster, that was my way to avoid the bullies that came after me every break time. If I could manage to avoid them for the 15 minutes I would avoid getting hit. Lunch time was somewhat easier as we tended to play football and the guys on my team didn't like it too much if one of their fastest players was distracted by two numpties chasing him down.

Because I was bullied at school I ran, I learnt to sidestep and probably would have been an effective rugby player if I hadn't been bullied while doing that by a member of staff and some of the team while doing that in first year of secondary school. So I carried on running.

When I got to the top end of secondary school I was spotted out running by one of the guys in the years above me. The athletics coach invited me to join the elite team running during games. We ended taking most of the first of the periods to climb from school to the road leading to Scrabo Golf Club and then back in along the main Comber-Newtownards Road. I got unto the cross country team I was that good a runner.

Then I earned the school honours tie for athletics because of the number of times I had run for and represented the school's senior team. In my sixth upper year I was the only boy in our school to wear a predominantly green tie (the girl's colour) as at that time it was the only sport taken by both sexes and there were his and her prefect's ties.

You'd have thought that would be the end of the bullying, but there is a knife mark in the back of tie where someone from school thought they could still bully me.

Today's marks the end of anti-bullying week, I have stopped running from the bullies. Indeed some years ago I was in town with friends when I ran into one of the guys who bullied me in school. I went up to them and simply said to them, "You were right", he looked confused and said "Huh!", I went on, "I am gay I just didn't know it when you thought it was fun to beat up the gay guy at school."

I'm lucky enough to still be around to confront my demons. Lucky enough to have gained the self confidence to be able to do that, confident in who I am and what that means, not just to me but to others. I suppose admitting that you are gay in a debate on national TV kind of means that you can't hide that particular fact. But for many it isn't that easy they still cower from the bullies in their daily life for whatever reason. It isn't all about sexuality some of from a different race, or have a disability or are different in some other way, whether they are smarter, musically gifted or whatever. Sometimes it is those with a talent who get bullied by those who don't even try or don't bother to develop what they might be able to achieve.

And it isn't always physical but often it is the words. The adage about sticks and stones is wrong, words can hurt, you just don't see the scars that words leave in the same way that a beating can. Someone can be hurt by the words but afraid to speak out and they can end up slowly beating themselves up, maybe self harming or contemplating suicide.

Be aware of those around you, if they are drawn in and reclusive there may be a reason you know nothing about, built them up with words and deeds. You never know you may be the anecdote to teh bullying they have suffered or are suffering, you may become someone that they can lean on when they need to.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Blue is the colour, 15 minutes of game

An anonymous email from inside Stamford Bridge has come to this blogger's attention. I have printed it below for the public good.

To: All users

Subject: Blue is the colour

Top secret
Anyone telling the press will be sent to Chukotka

I was recently looking for pictures in Chelsea colours to decorate the executive board room, and I paid a few roubles on this one attached. So I started looking into the painter, da. He was Andrej Ondrejovich Varhola, but he had a very interesting thought that I think we can bring into the club structure.

He said that everyone will one day have their 15 minutes of fame, then I realised we at Chelsea can help 8 such people have that fame on match days. Every manager shall have their 15 minutes in charge of the mighty Chelsea. три in the first half, один to give the half time team talk и три for the second half. Another will have his chance in the post match interview.

Think of the speculation that we will gain each week in the papers, not just who the starting 11 will be but which 8 managers we will be employing that week. Each one will have a set contract of only 15 minutes so we can save a lot of money on buying out their contracts like we are at the moment. And even if I decide to let them go after only 2 minutes the cost of buying out the other 13 minutes will not drain my Swiss bank account of roubles.

Is Benitez still there at the training ground? If so, we need to give him his marching orders and hire the eight managers we need for the weekend match.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Onward, Church of England, inching to reform

Rather appropriately the tune to Onward Christian Soldiers is written by Arthur Sullivan, no doubt if he and W.S. Gilbert would be getting down to write and Operetta about the Church of England, women bishops and gay clergy right about now.

In the meantime here is a little something to sing to that tune of his.

Onward, Church of England, inching to reform
With selective bible standards cited as the norm.
Christ, the royal master, treating women as the men
But he got that wrong, for ever and Amen!


Onward, Church of England, inching to reform
With selective bible standards cited as the norm.

Women though not silent, nor to husbands subject,
While some preach from pulpits shall not rise to Bishopric.
With their heads uncovered, they can sing your praise
But the House of Bishops can not bend to their ways

Sisters in Scotland or Ireland, Bishops they could be
But we can't allow that in the C of E
We are all divided, not one body we,
Kick out hope for doctrine picked selectively.

Crowns may pass to women, Bishops' thrones no way
The Supreme Governor wears a dress, but our Bishops nay.
We'll let you ordain women, but glass ceiling will prevail,
They'll not wear a mitre, now in purple cassocks sail

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with yours our voices, women Bishops are wrong.
Glory, laud and honour, and misogyny
Shall for countless ages rule the C of E.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Looking at the OED in response to Cllr Brian Wilson

In this weeks Spectator (pictured) there is a report of the debate on Equal Marriage. One of the Councillors Brian Wilson the independent for Bangor West is reported to have said:

"the definition of marriage was not a matter for the council but for the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary."

Now the OED is a fluid document and definitions there do get redefined all the time; marriage is one such word actually.

In older editions it was defined as:

marriage, n.
1a the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife:

But by 1989 in the (second edition) there is a subtle but important change.

marriage, n.
1. a. The condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between married persons; spousehood, wedlock.
Note that the 'and' becomes an 'or' it is also extended beyond a formal union to include common-law husbands and wife within the wider definition as a result. But the or is important and does not imply that there is one of each gender required any more.

We move along to 2007 and we have a further revision:

marriage, n.
1. a. The condition of being a husband or wife; the relation between persons married to each other; matrimony. The term is now sometimes used with reference to long-term relationships between partners of the same sex.
Apart from the final part of the main definition which is quite clear, there is another subtlety. The relation between married persons becomes the relation between persons married to each other. At this stage of course some countries and US States had already introduced same-sex marriage, therefore there is subliminal recognition of these unions.

Elsewhere in the same volume is another definition.

gay marriage n. a relationship or bond between partners of the same sex which is likened to that between a married man and woman; (in later use chiefly) a formal marriage bond contracted between two people of the same sex, often conferring legal rights; (also) the action of entering into such a relationship; the condition of marriage between partners of the same sex.
 But the OED are not alone in recent version of the Merriam-Webster's dictionary marriage is defined as:
marriage, noun
1 a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage same-sex marriage> b: the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union marriage of painting and poetry — J. T. Shawcross>

 So the OED and indeed other dictionaries have already redefined marriage. Why then did Brian Wilson not vote for the OED definition of marriage but instead called the motion on Monday a political stunt?

PS Of course governing by dictionary definition is almost as bad as governing by wikiopedia definition.

Don't let this man near Hearts

I've heard that Angelo Massone has put in a £4.5m bid for Hearts.

My first thought is about half that money was probably laundered from Livingston FC, my second is don't anyone let this man anywhere near another football club ever. This is the man who single-handedly ignored fans, almost ran my team into ruin.

If Hearts fans want a businessman to take over the £4.2m of debt and tax bills and turn the club around Massone is not the man to do it. He's has proved he is incapable of doing that on a smaller basis. Within months of taking over at Livingston we heard that wages were not getting paid on time. We heard that food bills were not getting paid and then the lights got turned off when the electricity bill.

I know many Hearts fans think that Vladimir Romanov has been bad for the club but Angelo Massone would be even worse.

Friday, 16 November 2012

It's's INXS

Earlier this week one of the bands that I spent a lot of my hard earned paper round money on vinyl announced that they were stopping touring. Now that is some time ago, even more spectacular is that is had been 15 years since their charismatic front man Michael Hutchence was found dead in a hotel room. But after 35 years as an excellent live band INXS have announced that they are parking the tour bus for good.

Many people will only have heard of INXS for the first time after I already had a fair amount of them on vinyl on 13 July 1985 when they were this Australian insert into Live Aid. This is how they blasted into many people's lives and made it a lot easier for the rest of us UK fans to find their singles and albums.

However, even after Live Aid that single What You Need only reached 51 in the UK charts, it did reach number 5 in the US Billboard Charts though.

As I said I was into them thanks to a penfriend from Australia who told me they great and to look out for their stuff as early as 1983 (another from New Zealand told be about Split Endz who later morphed into Crowded House). So I was into them a whole Album before the Album Listen Like Thieves.

I can't find videos of The Swing but somebody has very cleverly linked the phrase "Heart shaped hedges, Japanese Gardens" as inspiration with the music of Johnson's Aeroplane for this very effective montage.

It was only when they performed on the Sound Track of The Lost Boys with Jimmy Barnes that they actually broke into the top 40 with a number 18 hit with Good Times.

That was followed by Need You Tonight  their only US number 1, number 2 here in the UK, their highet UK chart position.

Unfortunately a lot of the clips I can find of their last concert on  YouTube are disabled for embedding. But here is Never Tear Us Apart which I think should be a fitting epitaph.

But I know you want to see a little of that last gig so here is Falling Down the Mountain (Kiss the Dirt).

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

PA two intials that everyone knew

Some people like Madonna or Kylie are known by one name, but others are known simply by their initials. Today the LGBT community in Northern Ireland lost the man who initials we all knew.

There are two names that are closely associated historically with the fight for LGBT rights in Northern Ireland one of course is Jeff Dudgeon who took his test case to the European Court of Human Rights to get homosexuality legalised here, the other was known to all of us simply as PA.

Picture by Phil O'Kane at 2011 Belfast Pride Ball
PA Mag Lochlainn was the President of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association from before many of us younger LGBT activists in Northern Ireland were either out or born.

PA was often the go to voice that the media would turn to for comment about the latest LGBT issue to affect Northern Ireland in the 30 years since Dudgeon's test case he would often be the one that would appear on the local Northern Ireland news programmes or be quoted in our newspapers for comment.

At the 2011 Belfast Pride Ball to mark the 21st anniversary I was fortunate to be sitting at the table with these two men as there were both honoured; PA for services to Belfast Pride. One thing that struck me on that occasion was these two names at the very forefront of all things LGBT here in Northern Ireland was the interest and encouragement they took and gave in those of us with 'less' years under our belt.

Earlier this year while we were celebrating the success of Dudgeon v UK thirty years ago I was standing around afterwards talking with PA and Jeff. We were there to celebrate a break through event but the two of them were talking about how they were glad there was a whole range of vocal and able younger LGBT activists to take up the torch and carry things through for many years to come.

The last time I saw PA in person was on 1 October this year, we were sitting beside each other as the MLAs voted on the equal marriage motion. We were facing the Aye lobby and trying to work out who was going through those doors. He remarked how he was pleased to see one of his fellow SDLP members head through the door with "Good, there goes Alban," little did we know he was also to vote in the No lobby. Then when the voting came to a very close defeat, he turned to me and said, "We'll get it next time."

Since I found out the news this evening that PA passed on this morning I've been thinking of all the meetings I will be going to in the future and the chair that PA will no longer fill. The laugh that was so distinctive and the encouragement that was always genuine. I think that we will never wait in anticipation before any Pride parade to see what costume PA will turn up wearing as he prepared to set off on his mobility scooter with the rest of us.

One thing that also comes from the likes of PA and Jeff is that the two men were firm friends through years of association, showing that the LGBT community was one of the first in Northern Ireland to unite people from across the traditional divide. Something that those in the unionist community would do well to remember.

PA may have gone but his years of serving the LGBT community here in Northern Ireland will be a lasting legacy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Council vote not synonymous with progress

The following are taken from the websites of two Northern Irish political parties:


"We want to normalise our institutions and political arrangements to demonstrate that democratic standards apply and fairness and equality of opportunity is the right of all.

"We wants to strengthen our relationship within the United Kingdom.  Our representatives in Westminster dedicate themselves to involvement in the affairs of the Nation and in partnership with their Stormont colleagues maximise Northern Ireland’s contribution to the United Kingdom.  We will work to increase the respect and status of our region within the Union....

"We want the name of Northern Ireland to be synonymous with progress." 


"We recognise the value of culture, arts and leisure in encouraging economic growth as well as maximising quality of life for the people of Northern Ireland. Cultural identity is an important aspect of our make-up."

I'll give you no prizes for guesses that these are the two Unionist parties, first the DUP then the UUP.

Well this evening being synonymous with progress, maximising the quality of life for all people, normalising institutions to bring about fairness and equality of opportunity for all saw these two parties, along with the independents and Adam Harbinson the co-opted Alliance Councillor for Bangor West, all feel this meant voting down an equal marriage motion in the chamber.

As a result North Down's contribution was defeated as giving fairness of opportunity to all to get married. The DUP may want "the natural beauty and the friendly character of our people to be promoted to make Northern Ireland 'the place to visit'". However, they have shown once again that they don't really want it to be the place that the LGBT community in Northern Ireland can see the friendly character.

Of course I know of a number of North Down residents who want to have the option of same sex marriage. What would happen should we go to Scotland, England or Wales once they introduce same-sex marriage and have a ceremony there? Should we come back to Northern Ireland we would not be civil partner and civil partner, but husband and husband or wife and wife.

Of course the people here in Northern Ireland including one of our MLAs who during that debate last month said this was a Scottish issue are ignoring the fact that without recognition that Northern Ireland will not be recognising legal UK marriages if they carry on in mindless opposition. The Equality Minister Maria Millar at the weekend said that laws would be introduced that would prevent same-sex couples suing churches that refused to marry them. Of course civil marriage or allowing churches that want to would not be affected by this, indeed these were the areas that tonight's motion was actually outlaying.

Sadly the DUP or UUP cannot bring about normalisation of politics here while they continue to legislate for only one narrow world view of what should be allowed. While they continue to put up the blinkers and barriers to LGBT equality legislation and only pay lip service to anti-sectarian or anti-racist measures they are only going so far. Once against they show myopia about what equality actually entails.

Update meanwhile normalisation in Belfast means distributing a leaflet in Alliance Party colours over flags from the DUP.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

DG falls on sword, but will Schofield fall off his sofa?

The Director General of the BBC George Entwistle has resigned after only 54 days in the job.

He committed the Hari Kiri step too late for the evening news, so many of us switched over to the BBC News channel and missed the start of the Festival of Remembrance. You'd have thought that the DG would have tried harder to have his resignation statement carried live during the news on his stations own main channel.

His crime was being in charge when Newsnight hinted at but did not name, nor display a list of names, anyone in a story that hinted that a high ranking Conservative politician of the Thatcher era may have been involved in child sexual abuse. The Newsnight team had also failed to show the victim the correct picture of the person who they felt that they had collared their guy.

This was on the back of failing to air the investigation into Jimmy Savile at the end of last year, not on Entwistle's watch, although the fall-out was.

This does raise the question about the Good Morning sofa over on ITV. On Friday Eamon Holmes was filling in for Phillip Schofield. But what if ITV bosses need someone who will not fall for internet speculation, produce it in front of a guest without checking, foolishly twist it towards camera. It needs someone used to dealing with live television as Schofield did as the continuity link of Children's Television all those years ago. Who could be a long term, cuddly replacement that fits the chat remit. Someone that could bounce of Holly Willoughby, be a favourite of the audience and the guests would relax with.

I give you my potential replacement.

Friday, 9 November 2012

David Cameron's remark 24 hours on in Northern Ireland

Growing up in Northern Ireland I was rather blessed by my name. My surname is neither Protestant nor Catholic. Indeed look at historic records for the middle of the 19th Century and in Londonderry/Derry there are an even split of both with the surname.

My given names especially my, controversial to some members on the staunch loyalist side of the family, middle name meant that I could be known by either to fit in with side depending who I was with and where I was.

As some of you know I also have both a British and Irish passport.

Therefore bizarrely I have never felt threatened by my community identity passed on where I went to church, nor where my family was from. Indeed I called Northern Ireland's second city by whatever name was more appropriate to the people I was with as another tool of camouflage.

In the last 24 hours when I have ventured out I have done what I always do and pick up snippets of conversations around me as I sit and drink coffee, or go shopping. In that time here in relatively affluent and educated Bangor in Northern Ireland I have people interchanging gay and paedophile more than I have heard in political debate here even from the DUP in recent years. In fact I don't think I heard the common person on the street mention that linkage since my return here over 2 years ago.

All that changed yesterday.

There are snippets of conversation that I pick up on. Of course me being me there are certain key words that spark my ears to hone in. There has been a lot of those snippets in the last 24 hours and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

The thing is of course I don't have a wife to hide behind. My name has appeared in the letters pages defending LGBT rights. Anyone who Googles my name will of course find out just who I am, and probably even quicker than Phillip Schofield's 3 minutes can ascertain my sexual orientation. Here is the worse case of conversation that I overheard earlier today in a local supermarket.

Person A: So David Cameron doesn't want a gay witch hunt.
Person B: Why not? All those gays are at it, no young boy is safe

Now David Cameron warned yesterday against starting a witch hunt. But it appears that in certain people he has started one. One nationally known homophobe tweeted last night in relation to this:

It's time for the majority of gays who are not attracted to children to put their house in order by turning in beasts. 

This after he made what appeared to be unfounded allegations against certain men. He then later added a PS that is also applied to white, heteros as well.

The thing is of course that one individual on a widely watched national television programme in response to a question about paedophiles directly linked it to a certain section of society. Even if one case may well be related to that there are other ongoing investigations that are not, but are also subject to a witch hunt.It may well be that the case he was questioned about fitted the caution he was calling for, but the use of words in the minds of some has reinforced a prejudice that many have worked hard to eradicate. In the space of six short words on a sofa in a studio in London David Cameron managed to rekindle that thought in some, so much so that they feel able to articulate it out loud.

In certain areas of the country homophobia and misunderstanding of the LGBT community is higher than others, none probably more so than here in Northern Ireland. What I have witnessed in the last 24 hours gives me cause for concern.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Dave paedophiles are not a subset of gay men

Update I was not going to post this until I saw this by Tom Chivers in The Telegraph and then heard the way this was reported on the evening news.

Phillip Schofield may have ambushed David Cameron with a list of suspected paedophiles on This Morning but it is the PM's immediate response that this somewhat startling.

"I am worried this could turn into a witch hunt particularly against people who are gay.

"I've heard all sorts of names being bandied around and what then tends to happen is that everyone sits around and speculates about people some of who are alive and some of who are dead."

He did this without even looking at the names. Now if he was concerned merely about it becoming a witch hunt that would have been a fine response. But why did he add the caveat "who are gay"? Indeed until it was raised by David Cameron this morning nobody was linking the latest peadophilia with the gay community, there were a few individual cases but it wasn't so strongly linked.

The fact that the Prime Minister actually hesitated as soon as he said especially does seem to think that maybe his brain did try and catch on from his saying what came after he'd started with the caveat. Maybe his political brain kicked in, but it was too late he had already said especially. Where could he go after including that?

Not all of the victims of this high profile paedophile ring that are coming forward are male. But the linking of gay men to the accusation of paedophilia by being at the front (or indeed anywhere) in the Prime Minister's response does nothing to pull gay men away from the stigma and finger pointing that has historically been the case. It is often used by people opposed to any LGBT equality, especially the teaching of it in schools. Remember that Cameron himself voted for the retention of Section 28.

Does this 'slip' of the tongue actually reveal the true feelings of the Prime Minister about the LGBT community? Does the inclusion of this caveat actually reveal that he is not actually as comfortaable with LGBT equality as he would like for political expediency to make out.

One thing that is worrying is that by making this connection on national television David Cameron has actually thrown that image, that link back into people's minds. He may have tried to prevent a witch hunt but his misspeaking may very well have created one of his own.

Yes the speculation on the net about names can be a witch hunt, but that is not exclusive to one sexual orientation. The victims don't fit the narrowing of that definition of a witch hunt. So in mathematical terms this Venn diagram is not true.

What we do know from case histories is that men and women, straight and gay prey on underage victims.

This is the actual representation of the issue, though not to scale.

I spent a long time today musing over the rightness of posting this. As I said David Cameron was quite right not to support any witch hunt over the paedophiles that are being used. Indeed the news are highlighting not on the issue of the witch hunt but on it being about a witch hunt on gay people. Therefore my concern that more people will link paedophilia with homosexuality has as a result of Cameron's words already increased.

Thanks Dave for putting the positive message from the LGBT community back slightly all because of six words you did not need to include in your rebuttal of this issue. Having heard some comments from some of the This Morning audience while out earlier some people are talking about the link which isn't there already.

Whether he intended to or not, unprompted David Cameron went on daytime TV and linked paedophilia with homosexuality.  He took it too far and the response in some quarters will be a return to linking the two.

Update I have noticed that the comments this morning have given Nick Griffen something to rant about inaccurately (warning this is the only time I will link to a Griffen Tweet).

It can happen to even the greatest cyclists #roadsafety

Not Bradley Wiggins crash
The news that Bradley Wiggins has been involved in a crash on British roads while riding his bike shouldn't come as a surprise to any who cycle. The fact that it happened in a relatively quiet village and  to the winner of the Tour de France has garnered media attention of this scale.

While I was a student in Kingston I soon learnt that not all road users could follow simple rules such as:

  • Lane markings: I once got squeezed between two cars while turning right, the one of my left was in a left turn only lane at the lights.
  • Overtaking without due caution: I was once looking to turn right, and waited for a van to come past me before heading to the centre of the road. As I checked over my shoulder to move out the van broke right in front of me breaking my jaw.
  • Pulling across lanes without checking: I was once cycling along in a cycle lane in rush hour traffic for a car to turn through the gap left my a car right in front of me. I couldn't break in 1m so took an excursion over their bonnet.
  • Open doors without checking: On a different day but on the same stretch of cycle lane a car once parked in a no-parking zone for that time of the morning, straddled the cycle lane. I had to pull out to go around them, only to be greeted by an opening driver's door in the face. Fortunately the car behind me managed to stop just in time to merely tap my back as I lay on the ground.
There are just a few of the examples, the ones where I came off due to contact. There were other occasions where avoidance action was taken, sometimes throwing myself and/or bike out of the way of inconsiderate drivers.

I admit those misadventures happened over 20 years ago. However, they did total a couple of bike frames and several wheels, and could easily have been fatal, bike helmets weren't en vogue then and I wasn't wearing one. However, there are still stories about cyclists who are obeying the rules of the road suffering injuries or death as a result of other road users, protected in their steel shell not seeing  them or taking attention of them.

Here are some tips.

  • If there is a cycle lane, check if there is a cyclist in it
  • Even if there isn't a cyclist may be coming up the inside of traffic.
  • If you are a cyclist obey traffic lights and stop signs (indeed any part of the highway code) yourself
  •  Leave room on the inside of a slow moving queue of traffic, that is where the cyclists should be able to go safely.
  • If you are going to be parking all day (while going to work etc) don't park over a cycling lane on a main road use a side road
  • Cyclists wear a helmet, armour sadly is a little impractical for side impact protection.
  • Give cyclists room both while overtaking and after you have overtaken, don't take an immediate left after overtaking them wait for them to cross the junction first
  • If driving always be aware of cyclists
  • If cycling always be aware of other vehicles and ride at an appropriate speed for the surroundings (it isn't always a individual time trial)
 I hope that Wiggo has a speedy recovery from his broken ribs to get back into training for next season and that all road users will learn to respect others especially those who are vulnerably exposed on their bikes.

Friday, 2 November 2012

S onewall and the great bigot debate

I've posted before about the use of the word bigot. I've always said that while people may agree with your point of view that doesn't make them a bigot, what does lead to bigotry is the way that you over expound the difference using non-factual, inaccurate arguments or even over-egg the debate.

Yesterday was the Stonewall awards and as is traditional there is the bigot of the year award. Hardly surprisingly Cardinal Keith O'Brien who won it spoke out against the award, but so too the recipient of the politician of the year, the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Now the Cardinal had compared equal marriage to slavery (though not in the correct historical context), called it a grotesque subversion of a universally [huh? hardly universal] accepted human right and declared a war on gay [sic] marriage. All of which I personally think fit into the dictionary definition of bigot:

big·ot  (bgt)
One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
Definition from The Free Dictionary 

Even if the Scottish First Minister and Ms Davidson disagree with me on the issue of whether LGBT organisations should be pointing out bigotry, or whether the Cardinal met those criteria. Sadly many of us in the LGBT community face bigotry everywhere we go. Here in Northern Ireland we can face if from our elected and elevated politicians (one of whom was shortlisted for the award the Cardinal won). 

Personally I'd love there to be no need for Stonewall to award a Bigot of the Year award. As I said before I don't mind a debate on LGBT rights, I don't mind people having a reasoned debate to oppose things. But when I hear that being in love with a human being of the same sex is equivalent to beastiality. Or that what two consenting adults get up to is the same as pedophiles. Or that LGBT people seeking equality is just like the Nazis denying it to groups (including the LGBT one), then there clearly are bigots out there.

However, one nominee I want to see for next year's Stonewall awards is the audience at last night's awards who booed Miss Davidson. They are bigots and we should not shy away from calling them thus. 

It's Friday....It's Movie Night (sort of)

It has been a while since I did one of these It's Friday it's five o'clock things. So before I start here is the prerequisite safety announcements. Even if you have read by blog and the It's Friday series please pay attention, especially around 1:40

Of course the film of the week is Skyfall which sadly because of this horrid flu I have yet to see. Though I am still looking forward to seeing it having followed the videoblogs in the built up. There were so many to choose from but here is one that gives an insight into the underwater world.

Of course the big movie news of the week was that Disney have bought LucasFilm and will be producing Star Wars Episodes VII-IX. Sadly I can't find a good parody YouTube clip yet of that merger. But here is some gratuitous Princess Leia in that dress costume parody that will please some of my readers.