Thursday, 31 October 2013

Public health warning: Never mix equal marriage, Stephen Nolan show and breakfast

Earlier today Rev. David McIlveen came on The Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Ulster. The reason for his appearance was that the Equality Commission had said that they had come to the opinion that, with movement on the issue in the rest of the UK, Same-Sex Marriage should be extended to Northern Ireland.

But it was some of this comments that caused concern, especially as these were echoed by a number of callers.

Firstly he said that homosexuality should never have been legalised in Northern Ireland in 1983. When challenged by Pink News editor Benjamin Cohen about what would be the penalty Rev McIlveen said that was his place to come up with the penalty. Of course he was stating that the bible should be the basis for the law. The penalty in that is that if men sleep with men they should be stoned. But the Reverend was very careful to say that he did not condone violence against people.

He said he was unaware of what rules applied before 1983. When challenged with the past punishments he said that those were a "totally nonsense response". Well maybe he should read a little more about this. The Labouchere amendment to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (which itself lowered the punishment from death to life imprisonment) said the following:

"Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with an other male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof, shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour."

This was the law under which Oscar Wilde was sentenced and was still in force in Northern Ireland in 1983. It did not merely apply to prostitution but where two consenting men were doing anything even in the privacy of their own homes. It was because of this law being in place in the 1970s that Jeffrey Dudgeon was questioned by the RUC which lead to him taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

However, Rev McIlveen went on to say that he would continue to advocate the Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign was an "right and honourable campaign". Before quoting that the court case ruling for his church while allowing the gay community to have their point of view also allowed his church to have theirs. So how is not allowing gay people to be gay people fulfilling that? Which is what the Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign was about.

On the subject of the law, Benjamin Cohen also challenged him when he had quoted that Jesus had come to fulfill the law, that he did not eat pork, or shellfish, and was circumcised as laid out in the Torah. How much of that law did Rev. McIlveen fulfill? You may guess this but Rev McIlveen avoided answering that.

Scarily one of the callers who was obviously listening to the show not far from me in Bangor, came on and said that being gay was a treatable mental illness! Yes, in 21st Century fairly liberal Bangor some people/person think(s) I am mentally ill because I am gay.

I should remember not to listen to Stephen Nolan while eating my breakfast, there are still bits under some of the keys which makes typing somewhat slower than normal.

He is an ex-politician

In light of the latest news about the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath the Monty Python crew would probably say the following:

SCENE: The constituency offices of the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Constituent: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.
(The case worker does not respond.)
Constituent: 'Ello, Miss?
Case Worker: What do you mean "miss"?
Constituent: (pause)I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!
Case worker: We're closin' for lunch.
Constituent: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this member of parliament what I voted for not three years ago from this very constituency.
Case worker: Oh yes, the, uh, the ex Prime Minister...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?
Constituent: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E appears to be dead, that's what's wrong with it!
Case worker: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's resting.
Constituent: Look, matey, I know a dead politician when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.
Case worker: No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable MP, the ex-Prime Minister, idn'it, ay? Beautiful taxpayer fundes offices!
Constituent: The office don't enter into it. It's stone dead.
Case worker: Nononono, no, no! 'E's resting!
Constituent: All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at MP's office)  'Ello, Mister Brown! I've got a lovely fresh bit of case work for you if you show...
(case worker knocks the door with a broom)
Case worker: There, he moved!
Constituent: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the door!
Case worker: I never!!
Constituent: Yes, you did!
Caseworker: I never, never did anything...
Constituent: (yelling and hitting the door repeatedly) 'ELLO GORDY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!
(Opens the door and sees a model of Gordon Brown sitting in the chair. Throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor.)
Constituent: Now that's what I call a dead politician.
Case worker: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!
Constituent: STUNNED?!?
Case worker: Yeah! You stunned him, just as he was wakin' up! Ex-Prime Ministers stun easily, major.
Constituent: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That politician is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not three years ago, you assured me that its total lack of action was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged period of activity in House of Commons.
Case Worker: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for Number 10.
Constituent: PININ' for NUMBER TEN?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why did he fail to respond to any of my letters as soon as he was no longer PM?
Case worker: The ex-Primee Minster prefers keepin' on it's post bag small! Remarkable MP, id'nit, squire? Lovely office!
Constituent: Look, I took the liberty of examining that politician when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had not been voted out for inactivity was because this government has failed to delivery a recall facility, which with his amount of inactivity and failure to respond would have been quite easily arranged.
Case worker: Well, o'course a recall procedure is a bad idea! If we'd had a recall procedure, it would have cost all his staff their jobs, put us out on the street, there is a recession on after all, and BOOM! Feeweeweewee!
Constituent: "BOOM"?!? Mate, this politician didn't "boom" even when he was chancellor. Ending boom and bust he said, so if things went bust whose fault was it. He wouldn't respond even if he were to get a shot of  four million votes through him! 'E's bleedin' demised!
Case worker: No no! 'E's pining!
Constituent: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This politician is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and not yet gone to the other place! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace, but not on the red benches! If you hadn't nailed his name outside this office 'e'd be pushing up the old Lord and Ladies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' hereditaries!! THIS IS AN EX-POLITICIAN!!
Case worker: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of politicians.
Constituent: I see. I see, I get the picture.
Case worker: (pause) I got a slug.
Constituent: Pray, does it talk? Make speeches in the House? Vote in divisions*? Respond to constituent's concerns? Actually work for its constituents?
Case worker: Nnnnot really.
Case worker: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)
Constituent: Well.
Case worker: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to come help elect the next Labour MP?
Constituent: Why? Who is it?
Case worker: Gordon Brown**?
Constituent: Is he LABOUR?
Case worker: Yes!
Constituent: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

 * Since the 2010 General Election Gordon Brown has only voted in 13.3% of divisions, only the Sinn Féin MPs have voted in less.
** he continues to draw his MPs salary and expenses and donates income from his engagements as an ex-PM to charities but fails to carry out the amount of work expected of someone drawing an MPs salary. Reports from his local party are that he intends to stand again in 2015.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Ineos go all in, Unite fold

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The best analogy of the deal that was reached over the Grangemouth plants future this morning comes from the world of poker.

Ineos possibly sick of the infighting and continuous threat of strikes from the Unite Union yesterday announced they were shutting down the petrochemical part of the plant and considering the future of refinery. It was the equivalent of putting all your chips unto the table and being prepared to lose everything.

Unite had rejected the 'last chance survival' plan offered by Ineos, but this morning with 800 jobs apparently already gone and 570 others threatened they capitulated. Accepted all the conditions laid down by that plan as they say "warts and all". Equivalent to throwing all your cards away in poker.

This afternoon we also saw the new Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney together in Grangemouth to talk with Ineos this afternoon.

Addressing the press after that meeting Mr Carmichael said:

"We are in a much better place today in relation to the future of the plant than we were yesterday.

"There remains, of course, a great deal to be done."

Mr Swinney added:

"This plant has got a great future, everybody accepts that Grangemouth has got a great future.

"What we need to do is resolve these outstanding issues, get the investment plan implemented and take forward and improve the prospects for the people that that work in this plant."

The past 24 hours has certainly proved to be a long time in the  life of 1,370 highly skilled jobs in Grangemouth and I hope that in the future both sides will sit down and discuss differences in a constructive and respectful manner long, coming to a conclusion long before it escalates to such potentially damaging circumstances.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The wider impact of the loss of Grangemouth peterochemical jobs

Around 800 people across West Lothian and Falkirk are to lose their jobs with the announcement today that Ineos are to shut down the Grangemouth petrochemical plant with immediate effect. The fate of the remaining 570 jobs linked to the refinery on the same site are yet to be determined.

It is one of the biggest loss of jobs in the area following on the the 3,100 lost with the shutting of the Motorola plant at Bathgate in 2001, the same number lost their jobs at NEC, Livingston the same year. More recently 500 lost their jobs with the shutting down of the Bausch and Lomb plant at Livingston.

But the danger of losing jobs in the petrochemical plant is nothing new. Indeed back in May 1992 my some time sparring partner the MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk mentioned then recent job losses at the plant in his maiden speech:

"The town of Grangemouth is at the centre of Falkirk, East and has been noted for some time as a petrochemical town, boasting substantial production facilities for BP Oil, BP Chemicals, ICI, General-Electric Plastics, and Rhom and Haas (Scotland). My constituents are pleased at the commitment to investment by those companies, notably the £600 million investment by BP Chemicals in an ethylene cracker plant, the process technology labs of ICI and the Rhom and Haas plant upgrade. However, all is not what it once was. Harry Ewing noted the vast expansion of Grangemouth in 1971, but in 1971, when speaking about new employment, he said that the position was rapidly changing. I say without criticism of local management in Grangemouth that, in 1991–92, more than 1,000 job losses were announced in the town. Some 300 jobs have gone at the BP refinery, 250 have gone at ICI and 200 more redundancies are being sought. In addition, there were major job losses in the timber yards, which were made much of in 1971 by my predecessor."

It is sad day for the 800 who have lost their jobs today. However, both sides have been acting like stubborn mules in recent days, if not years. The owners seem to be doing all they can to get what they view as a white elephant off their books, while at the same time the workers are not prepared to take any chance in pay and conditions, fearing their own job without considering that all the jobs in the sector could be gone.

When Ineos came with what they called a survival plan, you would have thought that alarm bells would have been ringing with the workers. The fact that the plant has survived so long without a major change in conditions when others the area have had to accept such adjustments, knowing that if they didn't their job could disappear.

But the Grangemouth plants is almost a fifedom of Unite. The same union that has been at the centre of the Fallkirk Labour Party's election shenanigans. The Union appears to have been promising the workers take a stand and we'll see that everything will be alright, only to have found that Ineos were also not going to budge. it appears that the 570 jobs in the refinery are now also in danger. But with that there is also other jobs in the oil industry and possibly the ability of Scotland to actually process the oil that lies off its shore.

The last element is going to be of extremely great concern to Alex Salmond because part of the way he was going to fund an independent Scotland was through the production and processing off 'Scottish' oil within Scotland. If the Grangemouth plant were to totally close and be mothballed or decommissioned it could take years if at all to be able to get the processing of oil within Scotland up to the speed that would make it capable of supporting Scotland's economy to the extent that Salmond wants it to. If the oil is going to have to be processes and refined elsewhere that would be extra costs and less value added within Scotland causing a rather big hole in his economic plan.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hitchhikers Tour hits financial barrier and quotes God

The tour of the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show, which I had previously tweeted had  been pulled from coming to Belfast, hit the final buffers today. Last night it showed before a full house, somewhat ironically in Kingston, the town that the first UK researcher on to reach 100 solo entries [i.e. me] went to university.

Part of the message from the producers echoes God's last message to mankind


"We're sorry for the inconvenience."

The full message was:

"The Radio Theatre Company deeply regret to announce the immediate cancellation of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show 2013 Tour. Tonight's performance at The Hawth, Crawley and tomorrow's at the Watford Colosseum will not take place, nor will any of the remaining scheduled shows in October and November.  Ticket holders are being contacted and should contact venues for refunds.

"Although a well-loved show, Hitchhiker's Live has been subject to the same extreme economic pressures as many productions touring the UK this autumn. Ticket sales across the board have been lower than average and we have not escaped this trend. A difficult financial environment for such a large and technical show means that covering operating costs has become impossible. As a result in the last 24 hours we have had no option but make the extremely hard and painful decision to stop the tour.

"We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and share the extreme disappointment and frustration felt by many who were looking forward to seeing the show. we sincerely hope that it can be brought back in the future."

While it makes the rumours that us in Belfast heard that the reason for not coming to Belfast was financial turn out to be true, even though 10 days later than being upfront would have been appreciated.

There is on the Facebook page a personal message from the star Simon Jones (Arthur Dent) and director Dirk Maggs:


"With infinite regret, despite happy audiences and 5 star reviews, we have been forced to curtail this tour ahead of schedule due to economic adversity. Having worked so hard to put on a show worthy of Douglas Adams and his devoted fans, we are utterly devastated.

"It has been a pleasure to be a part of a company, band and crew who have become a close knit family. We know people hoping to see the show will be as horribly disappointed as we are, and offer our heartfelt apologies for any inconvenience this has caused."
 As well as the numerous fans who like me had found out that the show they had wanted to see was not longer an option, now of course the actors are also out of work.

As Mitch Benn (Zaphod Beeblebrox) tweeted:

with a follow up...

I'm hoping Mitch's home is a little more secure than that. If not he might be stealing a spaceship near you and going on the run.

Of course the tour was to go on until the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and Doctor 6 was to have played the book next month. Here is what Colin Baker tweeted:

Sadly not even prayers to the Prophet Zarquon could turn this show into a success in the current situation. It is a rather sad day when top class touring productions cannot manage to reach the regions. We cannot allow top class theatre to end up only being shown in the West End, or maybe in the few major centres around the country.

Murdo Fraser's stigmatising questions of equal marriage

Murdo Fraser
Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser has laid down four questions that make for rather worrying reading when taken as a whole in relation to the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill that is progressing through Holyrood.

The first:

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will amend the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill to state that the current definition of marriage is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society.

Now I believe in freedom of speech. So I would want to protect people right to say that they disagree with the definition of marriage. Nobody should be forced to change the way they practice marriage, but the state can lead the way and at the same time enable faith groups to follow if they choose. In fact that was the reason that when it came to drafting Scottish Liberal Democrat policy on this that we let faith groups decide for themselves if they wanted to bring in same-sex marriage within their group.

However, when you lift the right of someone to say they disagree to the level of a belief there is a problem. Opposition to same-sex couples getting married in and of itself is not a complete belief structure. Indeed there are many people within most of the faith groups who disagree on this point to varying degrees. Some will oppose it absolutely, some oppose it within any faith group, some only within their faith group but are happy for others that want to to go ahead and others that are open to it however it happens. There is no straight forward belief in how people are opposed to same-sex couples getting married. It is as diverse a belief system as the faith groups themselves. 

Which leads to the second question:

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will seek to amend the Equality Act 2010 to (a) include in the protected characteristic of religion or belief, support for the current definition of marriage and (b) ensure that people opposed to same-sex marriage should not experience any detriment because of their views.

Here as I said above even those within faith groups have differing views on the current definition of marriage. What the current Bill is seeking to do is to respect whatever decision each faith group comes to via its own governance and procedures. In Scotland we have less state control of religion than in England and Wales. 

This amendment would seek to ensure that people opposed to same-sex marriage should not experience any detriment because of their views. But what if them avoiding detriment comes to their views comes at the detriment of those in a same-sex marriage. You cannot impose a cover all as this amendment does. Imagine an extreme example:

"I'm sorry my Lord, but I disagree with same-sex marriage and when I found out the couple next door were 'gay married' I collapsed our connecting wall unto them stoning them to death as stated in Leviticus 20:13 I should do with man who lies with another man. But under the amendment to the Equality Act 2010 I should not suffer any detriment for acting upon my views."

Extreme maybe, but if that amendment were to be added to the equality act as it is written is there really any response that a court could make to such a defence?

Then unto question three:

To ask the Scottish Government, if same-sex marriage was introduced, what its position is on whether it would be appropriate for public sector employers to take into account the views on this of (a) applicants for posts and (b) staff when considering their suitability for employment.

Now public sector employees cover a wide gamut of positions.

First there is the obvious front line position of registrars who would have to carry out same-sex marriages. Mind you these people already carry out marriages between people of faith and those without (which their beliefs could oppose), same sex couples in civil partnerships, and even divorcees. We do not see Murdo Fraser or anyone else for that matter wanting these believes about the current definition of marriage being similarly protested.

Also what about in the workplace. Will people engaged in same-sex marriages be allowed of have pictures of their spouse and family around their work station, or would the objector who has their opposite-sex spouse and family on his object and force that to be taken down?

Then there are other public servants, the police who have to deal with homophobic abuse against a same sex couple who are married. Medical staff who would have to admit the spouse of a same-sex marriage into a patients room when only family are allowed. The benefits officer adjudicating on the benefits that a couple deserve as a respect of their marriage. Etc, etc. 

In other words as far as public servants go they have to serve the public. Their views cannot get in the way of them carrying out their duties. I know that this question was aimed solely at the task of registrars, but by being so openly worded to avoid looking targeted and openly homophobic in one area of public service, there is no way that such an open ended statement can be allowed anywhere near this Bill or its consequences.

Which leads to the final question:

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will amend the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 to specify that organisations opposed to same-sex marriage will not fail to meet the charity test because of this view.

Now I thought the aim of all the charities in Scotland was to help those in need. Whether that is adults or children. Would a charity aimed at helping children not help a child if their parents were or had been in a same-sex marriage. Would a charity fail to help someone because there were in a same-sex marriage, if they were hungry, thirsty, needed clothes, were sick or  in prison. Because if they failed on any of these definitions of charity they fail not just the charity test laid down in law but that laid down by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46. 

So Murdo is looking to protect faith charities from one part of the bible by allowing them to break another part of it. If they want to provide a charity they should follow the examples of the one they base their faith on surely. He didn't seem to differentiate between those worthy of his charity and those who didn't. In fact he broke the norms of his time reaching out to those groups that those of his faith felt were unclean, rather than banishing them from his help.

All of these 'amendments' from Murdo Fraser are probably meant to address very specific areas but in order to appear to not be stigmatising people who will become married to a same-sex partner  he has opened his parameters wide. The result is that in trying not to focus on particularly homophobic language and instances he has opened the gap far too wide. 

It shows total disregard to his first question looking for respect in a democratic society. If people who are opposed to same-sex marriage want to be respected in a democratic society they should also respect those who want to be married to a same-sex partner. That respect will allow them to disagree without discriminating.

Those of us who support equal marriage also support freedom of expression. Our expression doesn't impinge on those who object, but their trying to squeeze how far our equality goes does make some of our number more anti allowing them to keep their freedoms.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Alex Salmond and the Royal Mail

So in his speech today Alex Salmond said that after independence he would return the Royal Mail to public ownership. Now I make no apology here for being a philately geek as this is where the issues arise from what Alex has said in such a blasé manner.

First up there is the name, he would have no powers over the Royal Mail. The only postal service in the World that does not need to use the nation's name in its title is that of the United Kingdom as in 1840 they were the first to offer a universal set price postal service. Every other nation from the USA to South Sudan has to have the name of the country in its postal service name and on its stamps.

I have no qualms about Alex salmond saying he would restore a public postal service, but I do when he says that it would be the Royal Mail.

However, on the subject of a public postal service, does that mean that the franchised counters out to grocery stores or other shops in our rural communities would also be brought back into public ownership and therefore into a custom state run enterprise. You see if Alex truly means that all units of the Scottish Mail Service are to be public we cannot have rural post services run in the local shop. Nor can we have grocers delivery groceries and mail as an all in one service. You see the post service has not been entirely publicly owned for some time. Sometimes the franchised counters do not live up to expectations or occasionally the store into which they have been franchised run into difficulty. Then the Royal Mail has had to find some alternative arrangement, and this has not always been immediate, nor it is always fit for the purpose that those locals would like to expect, initially.

Then we have the matter that Alex Salmond's post service would have to operate outside of the UK. People will know that the cost of posting to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man is the same as to the UK. But these are crown dependencies. What Alex Salmond is wanting is a fully independent Scotland within the framework of  the UK.

While in the UK to post a letter up to 100g currently costs 60p first class and 50p second class. If I wanted to post something from Londonderry to Letterkenny, it would cost 88p minimum (up to 10g) but rise to £2.38 for between 90 and 100g. This is because Ireland counts as being in the EU. I know of people close to the border who have family in Northern Ireland who will order to the Northern Irish address as it is cheaper by quite some way.

Independence and the mail will have an affect on Scottish jobs.

Amazons largest fulfillment centre is in Dunfermline. But with increased mail costs to the rest of the UK will it be economically viable to keep both the one there and the one at Gourock? Probably not. So they will probably close the Gourock centre and scale down the one at Dunfermline. The same applies to other distribution networks that have based themselves in Scotland because of the space. With increased postage as shown above being quite steep for even small items the cost of distribution by mail order would mean a scaling back of these type of industries. That would mean a lot of lost jobs in the central belt where the M8, M9 and M80 triangle have prided themselves in becoming a distribution hub.

Independence would affect these jobs, these industries. Therefore is not enough for Alex Salmond to merely say that under independence the Royal Mail will be returned to public hands. Under independence mail will cost a lot more to send outwith Scotland and that has an impact on the cost of running companies and on people's jobs.

The Royal Mail is an essential service to people all across the UK. But under independence 5.25 million of those citizens will find it has an impact on them, the work they do, keeping in touch with family and friends and maybe even their job. People in the borders will be able to get around this, they'll use the address of their family or friends in Carlisle or Berwick to order stuff from English based firms. You don't believe this. This already happens with people from the Republic ordering stuff from UK companies to their f&f in Derry/Londonderry, Newry or Enniskillen.

There are more questions that Alex and his SNP team have to answer about postal services under an independent Scotland, because this is another area where we are Better Together.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Eric Cantor effectively elected Dictator of the USA

For the last 16 days only the leader of the Republican Party (the majority party) or his designate has had the ability to move an amended join resolution of the House and Senate. Why? Because on 1st October the Republican led house moved to change centuries of House standing orders. So now you know that only person had the power to reopen the US Government and he wasn't elected to rule over the USA, by all the people, but merely by the 750,000 people or so of the Virginia's 7th Congressional District. Of whom 222,983 gave him their vote. His name is Eric Cantor, his party's 241 other representatives elected him the dictator of the USA at the start of this month.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Fisking UKIP Councillor Henry Reilly

Newry and Mourne's District Council's UKIP member Henry Reilly wrote and opinion piece in the Belfast Telegraph today. I have decided that the best way to deal with this is Fisking it line by line (as usually my comments are in red).

As a democratic and libertarian party definition of libertarian - a) an adherent of libertarianism b) a person who advocates civil liberty, UKIP believes the state should play only a minimal role in the lives of its people. Marriage for instance, happily existed for millennia without any interference from the state whatsoever so the 1753 Marriage Act where you had to be married in the Church of England was not interference for the Roman Catholics, dissenting churches, Jews, atheists, Hindus, Muslims was quite correctly lifted in the 1836 Marriage Act it was an end to state interference. While I personally cannot condone the 'gay' lifestyle Here we go with the lifestyle thing again. Is it my drinking coffee, going out to work every day, shopping on the street, enjoying time with friends, or falling in love that you cannot condone, or is it merely what I may get up to in the privacy of my bedroom you want to 'interfere' with which I believe is damaging to the individuals as I said before where is the damage in my lifestyle which doesn't differ than much from others involved I recognise that not all people have the same values and beliefs as me.

Civil partnerships are a recent development. UKIP recognises that they provide a way of allowing  people to formally register relationship commitments wonder if he calls opposite-sex marriage a way to register relationship commitments, this is about love is it not? and have a legal means of dealing with the problems that had been identified in the past like tax arrangements and the distribution of joint property assets legal means yes, but in a way of keeping that love commitment separate and compartmentalised away from those who object and do not condone the so called 'gay' lifestyle. The civil partnership  arrangement allows all people the same fundamental rights as married heterosexual couples not all as those LGBT people of faith who want to marry a same-sex partner are not allowed to be joined in a faith setting with hymns. prayers or God being mentioned, nor faith groups that currently want to the ability to fulfill this equality if they choose. Why? Because Northern Ireland currently is alone with in the UK in not lifting this prohibition.

A difficulty arises however when the state seeks to punish those for practising sincerely held principles or religious beliefs again there are those who religious beliefs differ on this issue of same-sex marriage and indeed homosexuality in general. I believe that it is profoundly unjust that Christian business people like B&B operators or printers should be subjected to the threat of jail for simply practicing what they believe or council staff and church ministers who believe that marriage is a sacred Christian rite between a man and a women. First up these people are providing a service. If you have advertised that you are providing a service and then refuse it merely because of the sexual orientation of the customer you are discriminating. No Blacks, no Irish ring a bell.

That’s what the Progressive Unionist Party effectively called for at the weekend, when it passed a motion to introduce homosexual marriage in both Northern Ireland without an MLA they cannot introduce anything, but they did pass a motion to support marriage equality twice debated in Stormont and are one of the first unionist parties to do so and the rest of the UK like UKIP the PUP have no elected representatives in the rest of the UK legislators. Admittedly, David Cameron promises those who object to homosexual marriage – most notably churches – in England and Wales will be protected from it. But like any of ‘Cast Iron Dave’s’ promises, they’re not worth the paper they’re written on in England, Wales or anywhere else I don't read of any churches having to marry Jews after 1836 lifted that prohibition, indeed the 1753 Act meant they had to, clearly the paper that previous marriage acts was written on was worth it.

For so long as the UK remains subservient to the European Court of Human Rights, it is inevitable the law will be challenged. It is similarly inevitable it will be deemed to be ‘unfair’ by a panel of judges in Strasbourg, which interferes in everything yet is accountable for nothing.

Consequently, there is a real danger that ministers, church officers, registrars and wedding venue owners could be jailed or heavily fined if they fail to agree with David Cameron or Billy Hutchinson actually if there is any forcing of ministers or church officers being forced he should come and see me, I don't feel that they should be any coercion but faith groups that wish do so can come to their own conclusion. As for registrars they already carry out the civil partnerships that UKIP apparently recognise and many refer to is as being like marriage and venues would surely love the extra revenue.

That’s wrong; no person or group can be allowed to force their ideas on society or compromise hard won personal freedoms there is a juxtoposition of ideas here. He is claiming that one group can not force their ideas on society while at the same time allowing another group to do just that. We are talking about two personal freedoms, allowing people of the same sex to marry doesn't affect anyone else, but denying them that equality certainly does so just whose personal freedom is worth more, a true libertarian would say nobody's personal freedom is worth more than anyone else's. Therefore, while I understand civil partnerships, I’m opposed to state-enforced homosexual marriage the state is not enforcing anything, but lifting an enforced prohibition. The motion passed at the weekend’s PUP conference is profoundly illiberal leader Billy Hutchinson said in his speech "However, it is also important to point out that the motion
adopted today does not discriminate against those who hold opposing views on this
just like the Act from Westminster and the Bill before Holyrood, even if it is regretfully consistent with the PUP’s apparent desire to become the foot soldiers of the European Union and a ruling, metropolitan, socialist elite. So nothing to do about being the same as the rest of the UK then, strange that a UKIP Councillor should want part of the UK to not be the same as the rest.

This is me:

In conclusion yet again you have somebody trying to argue for a liberal or libertarian approach that the removal of the prohibition, imposed by the state, is a state imposition of same-sex marriage. They are arguing for the case of personal freedoms but are placing some people's personal freedoms on a higher pedestal that others. The same was once said about women, before that non-caucasions, or Jews and before that slaves. 

Just because personal freedoms have historically favoured one part of societies personal freedoms giving those same freedoms to a group denied them doesn't mean that group lose their own freedom, they merely have respect for others to move at the same level as themselves.

How can removing a state interference be seen as state interference? Especially for a so-called libertarian such an argument is pure nonsense. How can increasing personal freedom and indeed faith groups freedom to operate as they want be seen as restricting them?

There is somewhat a catch 22 situation here. Giving some people the personal and religious freedoms that you yourself have seems to be seen as taking away those freedoms from you. Surely that is not right.

Has the BBC have mislaid the USA

You know the way that when you move some paperwork always seems to get mislaid or hard to find.

Well the reason that the USA has taken so long to come up with a budget agreement may be for just this reason. "Why?" you ask, well according to the BBC the USA is now part of the Middle East.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Looking at Poots' preferred Blood Banning nations - The Truth

"The same legislation that applies today in Northern Ireland applies in the USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.  I will pose a question.

"The vast majority of countries apply that legislation.  So are all those people prejudiced or is the question that is being posed by others that I am prejudiced just a stupid one?"

Now that was a question posed by Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland's Health Minister, yesterday. However, if is possibly the wrong question. All of these nations brought in such legislation during the 1980s when it was believed that HIV was a disease that only affected gay men and also at a time when testing for the virus was not as good as it is now. 

So while politicians in these countries maintain this ban what have the medical advisers in some of the countries listed by Poots have actually said:

USA: The American Medical Association earlier this year has advised the Food and Drug Administration who oversee blood donations there that:

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science. This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."  
Canada:  On May 22, 2013, Health Canada approved proposals from Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and Héma-Québec (HQ) to change the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men (MSM) from a lifetime deferral to five years. This regulatory decision came as a result of proposed licence amendments submitted in December 2012 from both blood operators.

Germany: The German Medical Association (BÄK) earlier this year has also said that it will do everything “within its means” to remove the blanket ban on men who have sex with men, those with lots of sexual partners and prostitutes, from donating blood.

France: A Government report earlier this year stated that prohibiting gay donors is now unnecessary because all donated blood is effectively screened for HIV. One of their advisers said:

"There is still this stereotypical image of all gay men having AIDS, which comes from the 1980s. People simply thought AIDS was a gay man’s disease and we are stuck with that view today.
"Most gay couples are simply like any other heterosexual couples in terms of their sexual practices.

"Allowing homosexual men to give blood will take away the risk that people lie on the questionnaires. People who give blood are normally responsible people. They do it for the benefit of someone else and will not do it if they think they pose a risk."

Netherlands: In the government's LGBT  equality plan it says: "The cabinet will consult the Sanquin blood bank and explore the possibilities for amending the rules regarding blood donation so that for men, sexual contact with other men will no longer lead to life-long exclusion from donating blood. In this regard, needless to say the safety of the recipients of blood products has the highest priority."

Sweden: Actually are rather erroneously on this list. MSM have been allowed to give blood after a 12 month deferral period there following a change in the rules as far back as 2010.

Luxembourg: In June 2013 the Minster of Health said "sexual orientation cannot be a reason to ban blood donation.Sexual orientation is not a risk in itself." However, he is awaiting the results from the UK and France (see above) before making his own decision on this. Meanwhile the study in their country found that homosexuals with a single partner were no more likely to contract HIV than heterosexuals, while homosexuals with frequently changing partners were indeed found to be at a higher risk to contract the disease.

Singapore: It is still a criminal offense under the old British imposed penal code to consensually have sex with another man in Singapore. It therefore seems a little remiss of Edwin Poots to compare this nation with Northern Ireland as for a man to admit to having sex with another man while donating blood there (instead of counseling could face a 2 year jail term)

Mr Poots also fail to mention Australia (12 month deferral), New Zealand (5 year deferal), Spain, Portugal, Italy.

In opening his remarks yesterday Mr Poots said:

"There is no ban on blood donation by gay men per se.  The lifetime ban is based on sexual behaviour, not sexual orientation."

Actually this is contrary to the SaBTO report and many of those reports carried out in other nations that are cited above. A monogamous homosexual couple in a long-term relationship are no more susceptible to acquiring a blood borne infection than a heterosexual couple. Nor is a man who had sex with other men over one year ago, any more at risk than another individual bases solely on that one criteria. Also not all MSM are gay men. From the criteria still used by the Northern Ireland Blood Tranfusion service it involves any man who has had any sexual contact either anally or orally, with or without a condom at any point in their life. For some men this may have been a one off in their youth that excludes them, if could also exclude their wife of x years for a 12 month period beyond the time they stop being sexually active.

When actual behaviour is taken into consideration, number of sexual partners, casualness and anonymity of those partners, risks of the sex involved with that individual, then Mr Poots can really say that the ban is based on sexual behaviour not orientation. I'll even allow a deferral period on MSM.

But he is also insulting nations such as the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands and indeed the Nordic nations especially Sweden when he says that they maintain the same prejudice as that which he claims he is merely echoing. They have commissioned reports which find broadly similar findings to that of SaBTO. The recommendations may vary from 6 months, through 12 to one year, for the deferral period but that recommendation has been made by those medical professionals. The same has recommendation has been made by SaBTO.

Three of the four health ministers acting swiftly in their deliberations on the findings of SaBTO. Only one is lagging and has attempted all manner of legal shenanigans to first fight the move to lift the lifetime ban. Secondly the prevent the information he based his judgements on being released. Most of the countries that Mr Poots listed are looking to see how and when they can lift the lifetime ban on MSM giving blood, unlike him who has spent the last two years working out how he can avoid doing so.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Being dumped by a dear old friend

Growing up in Northern Ireland in the 80s I was used to disappointment. Every week I would scan through the tour lists in the back of Smash Hits and see if any of my favourites were about to tour. By in large when I scanned the list of dates there was often one omission:

It wasn't because of a lack of suitable venue, we had that it was bands being scared to come here.

Thankfully in recent years things here have gotten better. Bands do come here and we have an even better and more accessible stadium venue that they can perform in now.

As many of my close friends will know for 35 years of my life I have had an obsession with a radio show, that became a TV series, then a computer game, then an online font of knowledge B.W.* (Before Wikipedia) and then a film, before becoming a touring production. Rather an odd progression, but then it is rather fitting for an extraordinary tale which is the story of a rather remarkable book.

You see last Summer the Hitchhiker's  Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live Tour took place in June and July, it was only a short run and Northern Ireland was no included, and I couldn't consider going anywhere else to see it. 

This year when the dates were announced I was trying to work out my itinery to see if it would be best to see it in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dunfermline or somewhere else. But then I ended up back in Northern Ireland so Belfast it was. A friend of mine, a fellow fan and contributor to was going to celebrate her birthday with a trip to see it and invited me along on the same night. So tickets booked we were starting to look forward to it next Wednesday.

Then on Friday, not Thursday, but then I never did get the hang of Thursday's I received the following email, from the Royal Opera House in Belfast.
Thank you for booking tickets with us for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show Live - unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, this production has now been cancelled. Please contact our Box Office on 028 9024 1919 to obtain a full refund for your tickets.

Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience or disappointment caused by this cancellation.
Inconvenience! Disappointment! The only thing worse would have been if my planet had been demolished to make way for an intergalactic bypass. 

Later on the Facebook page for the live show said the following:

The producers of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Live are very sorry that they will be unable to present the tour in Belfast at this time. They sincerely apologise for the disappointment and inconvenience caused and hope that they will be able to bring the production to the many fans in the North of Ireland at some stage in the future.

If you had bought a ticket we'd like to offer you a free audio download of one of our other shows. Before you return your ticket for a refund, just send a scan or photo of it to and we'll contact you within a few days.

Now if I really want to listen to a recording of the original radio scripts I can do that, by pulling out my tapes or CDs of them. And the first two series have the bonus of having actual Peter Jones as The Book. Although I was rather looking forward to having Rula Lenska (Lintilla for series two) filling that role.

I hope that they do rearrange dates for Belfast. And I hope that they contact all of us who have bought tickets for something a little special, maybe a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster after the show with the cast or something. Reading some of the comments yesterday on the page and from friends it is rather a disappointment. But also the not knowing why is even worse.

You see we do wonder if having eleven security alerts and two fatal shootings might just have had a little something to do with the sudden cancellation of this shows. We all hope it does not, but being Northern Irish in the back of your mind that sort of thing always does cause concern.

As it is next Wednesday I may be pouring Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters by myself, raising a glass to absent friends not just Douglas Adams but most of the original cast who should have been there in front of me.

I may not know where, or if I'll ever get to see the show, but I know where my towel is.

* Indeed so much so that I was one of the first two researchers to write 100 solo entries for the Guide.

Friday, 11 October 2013

If the UKBA want to watch gay sex that is what the internet is for

So refugees coming to this country seeking asylum because they face persecution back home for being gay are being made to hand over tapes of them having sex to prove it.

Now I have one short thing to say on this matter:

If the UKBA want to watch gay sex that is what the internet is for.

On a serious note though, there is also an assumption here that the asylum seeker and their partner are both seeking asylum at the same time. This is not necessarily so, only one of the partners may have been able to flee, the other may be incarcerated or have been killed in the land that the asylum seeker is fleeing. Or may not even have had a long term partner but were under threat from the authorities back home because they were gay.

If so the individual is having to find another gay wo/man to have sex with a film it to pass on to others. Are the UKBA therefore guilty of soliciting a single gay wo/man in order to procur a tape of his sexual exploits with another fe/male?

Also if the asylum seeker has recently lost a partner or had fled without them they may not be ready to have sex with someone else. We all go through such experiences when we lose someone we love. By forcing them to provide a sex tape, they may not be able to perform as they would with a long term partner. As a result such a tape may condemn them to deportation because the system has inaccurately determined their sexuality.

Northern Ireland Health Minister 'irrational'

This afternoon the High Court in Belfast has ruled that the maintenance of the lifetime ban on men who have had sex with other men (MSM) in Northern Ireland by the Health Minister Edwin Pots is "irrational".

After the ban was lifted and replaced with a 12 month deferral period in England, Scotland and Wales pressure has been placed on Mr Poots to follow suit in Northern Ireland. Twice he appeared to have reached a conclusion that he would not do so. On both occasions when I raised a Freedom of Information request with his department to find out what additional information he had received and meeting he had had with his opposite numbers about this I was told this was still a live case the final decision not yet being reached.  Therefore not all the information was not forthcoming.

The judicial review was brought by one individual who claimed that the minister had displayed apparent bias that went beyond religious beliefs and into the realms of prejudice. Ironically one of the defenses used by Northern Ireland's Attorney General, John Larkin QC, was that the individual has in the past been paid for sex (which would have been a separate disqualification on him donating) which just heightened evidence that this was a prejudicial decision that failed to look at the full picture of case law.

The judge, Mr Justice Treacy, in making his ruling said:

"The minister has decided that MSM (males who have sex with other males) behaviour creates such a high risk of infection to the donor that such donors must be permanently deferred with the result that such blood cannot enter the Northern Ireland blood stock.

"Importing blood from other places which do accept MSM donors, even in limited quantities, leaves the door open for MSM blood to do just that.

"There is clearly a defect in reason here."
 Adding that the decision was irrational and that:

"If there is a genuine concern about the safety of MSM-donated blood, such that the blood stock must be protected absolutely from such blood, then the security of that blood must actually be maintained absolutely." 

He went further to address the accusation that the Minister had breached the ministerial code as the lifetime ban was both controversial and cross-cutting, taking in equality issues, saying:

"As such the minister had no authority to act without bringing them to the attention of the Executive Committee which he failed to do.

"In doing so the minister breached the ministerial code and... had no legal authority to take a decision in breach of the ministerial code."

This is another decision in the High Court after the one that the ban on same-sex couples that has taken a step towards equality for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland. Sadly we know that Mr Poots was not happy with that previous decision and has decided to appeal it to the Supreme Court. I do not hold up hopes that he will not attempt to do the same again, even though he is criticised already for breaking the ministerial code.

However, the ruling that once again the personal prejudices rather than actual scientific evidence have clouded the decision making process of the Minister on a matter where equality comes into play is a welcome. We can only hope that in future cases will be based on their scientific merit rather than prejudice without one of the minorities supposedly protected in the Belfast Act having to take Departments to the High Court to ensure carry out "their duty".

Unfortunately I expect the LGBT community will have to go to court once again in Northern Ireland before they can get married in the morning.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Reponse from the Royal Ulster Academy

My friend Padráig Ó Tuama  also was upset about the story in the Belfast Telegraph about the removal of Paul Walls The Kiss from their exhibition. He said:

"Having heard about this, I wrote immediately to RUA. Colin Davidson, the president of RUA, wrote back to me within minutes. He is aghast at how his words have been misrepresented in the media. He said that the painting in question is of an adult nature, and that the decision has nothing to do with the gender of the individuals kissing. Given that school aged children come to the exhibition, they decided, together with the artist, not to include the picture because of the adult nature of the image - not because of the fact that it is two women kissing."

He received the following statement from Colin Davidson, President of the Royal Ulster Academy 

"The Royal Ulster Academy's schools programme attracts large numbers of school children from across Northern Ireland.

"In this context, the painting 'The Kiss', by Paul Walls, was regarded as inappropriate for child audiences (by the Museum, the Academy, and Child Protection lawyers, as well as most who have seen it). Paul Walls appreciates how inappropriate it is for child audiences. It would not matter if the imagery was of two women, two men, or a man and a woman. Mindful of artistic freedom of expression, the RUA and the Ulster Museum considered that the painting could remain in the exhibition subject to the placement of appropriate notices that the gallery contained artwork which could be regarded as being of an adult nature.

"As an Academy, we are concerned that this could deter schools and families with young children visiting the exhibition. As a result Paul Walls decided to withdraw the painting from the exhibition. Censorship had nothing to do with it."

I am sure that Colin would be happy to hear from you ( - but be aware that the reasons given for not including the picture have not been represented well in coverage.

Therefore the piece I wrote yesterday was based on inaccurate and incomplete information from the Belfast Telegraph and  I would like to apologise for any offense that may have been caused from my comments.

Two Fatal shootings in Northern Ireland

Yesterday after the body of a man was found in a lake in Alexandra Park in North Belfast. He was reported missing on Tuesday. But although he body was found in the lake it was not a drowning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland have reported that the victim was shot.

The group that calls itself 'the IRA' a new dissident group formed in 2012 have claimed responsibility for this murder.

This morning there was another fatal shooting this time in the heart of Northern Ireland's second city in the Shipquay Street area of Londonderry. Shipquay Street is one of the four streets that lead to the Diamond in the heart of the walled city centre. It was reported to police just before 11 o'clock and so parts of the centre of Derry have been cordoned off to deal with this incident.

The recent escalation of bomb threats causing disturbances and now these two fatal shootings, one if which has been claimed by a terrorist organisation is a step back into the past that the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want to take. Both these shootings appear to have taken place in shared spaces which the general public frequent and anyone could have be caught up in the incidents.

Times have changed and Northern Ireland is benefiting from the peace that it has experienced from sides working together over the last 15 years. Now is not the time to return to a violent, insecure and unpredictable past.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Say Hello to the Belfast cultural revolution

Update Please read the update at the bottom of this piece about information received since I wrote this.

The other day I was actually thinking over the possibility of keeping a track of the number of hetero-normative signs of affection I saw out in public and compared them to homosexual ones. Being back in Northern Ireland can do that to you.

The reason why you may ask was sparked by one straight couple having a great big snog right in front of a group of school children. Then yesterday in Starbucks I watched a couple in the window seat with her almost certainly checking where the edge of her husband/partner/lover's boxer/y-fronts/briefs/nothing came down to underneath his trousers.

When you are hearing people say that they don't want LGBT people forcing their lifestyle unto others you do start to notice how much the heterosexual 'norms' are welcomed as OK, but shows of same sex affection are driven largely underground for fear of the repercussions.

Thus it is with great sadness that I learn that the Royal Ulster Academy has removed a painting by Paul Walls called The Kiss* from its annual exhibition at the Ulster Museum. Colin Davidson from the RUA said that exhibitions are tailored for every age-group and as a result attract large numbers of schoolchildren across Northern Ireland.

He said: "In this context, the painting The Kiss, submitted by Paul Walls, could be regarded as inappropriate for child audiences."

So what is so inappropriate about a picture of a kiss. Well reading the Belfast Telegraph link it doesn't appear to have involved a nude. Though there are nudes or in a great state of undress paintings in the Ulster Museum collection. No the reason the picture is inappropriate appears to be because the two people kissing are female.

Again I am reminded that in Northern Ireland apart from one area of Belfast and a few isolated bars elsewhere. Or on one day of year in Belfast, Londonderry/Derry and Newry on Pride Parades LGBT people are fearful of showing any expression of affection because of what others may thing or say about them. Yet all around us are straight couples showing far more affection that a mere holding of hands of a quick peck.

It leads to the question would this The Kiss be acceptable in a Northern Irish art exhibition?

If not many great art museums must be out of range of Northern Irish young people as more nudes either in sculpture or paintings will be presented to them. If two fully clothed individuals kissing is not appropriate for children audiences then we certainly are doing something wrong. We are education the next generation of young people here to be wary of the unknown and potentially bigoted to it.

Then again my nine year old nephew still goes "Ewwww!" whenever anybody kisses in his presence, so maybe, just maybe it is because all children of a certain age just don't like to be exposed to kissing. Though I seriously doubt it.

Update 10 Oct 15:00

My friend Padráig Ó Tuama  also was upset about the story in the Belfast Telegraph about the removal of Paul Walls The Kiss from their exhibition. He said:

"Having heard about this, I wrote immediately to RUA. Colin Davidson, the president of RUA, wrote back to me within minutes. He is aghast at how his words have been misrepresented in the media. He said that the painting in question is of an adult nature, and that the decision has nothing to do with the gender of the individuals kissing. Given that school aged children come to the exhibition, they decided, together with the artist, not to include the picture because of the adult nature of the image - not because of the fact that it is two women kissing."

He received the following statement from Colin Davidson, President of the Royal Ulster Academy 

"The Royal Ulster Academy's schools programme attracts large numbers of school children from across Northern Ireland.

"In this context, the painting 'The Kiss', by Paul Walls, was regarded as inappropriate for child audiences (by the Museum, the Academy, and Child Protection lawyers, as well as most who have seen it). Paul Walls appreciates how inappropriate it is for child audiences. It would not matter if the imagery was of two women, two men, or a man and a woman. Mindful of artistic freedom of expression, the RUA and the Ulster Museum considered that the painting could remain in the exhibition subject to the placement of appropriate notices that the gallery contained artwork which could be regarded as being of an adult nature.

"As an Academy, we are concerned that this could deter schools and families with young children visiting the exhibition. As a result Paul Walls decided to withdraw the painting from the exhibition. Censorship had nothing to do with it."

I am sure that Colin would be happy to hear from you ( - but be aware that the reasons given for not including the picture have not been represented well in coverage.

Therefore the piece I wrote yesterday was based on inaccurate and incomplete information from the Belfast Telegraph and  I would like to apologise for any offense that may have been caused from my comments.

Update 20 Oct: Finally here is the picture in question

* Sadly at this time I cannot source an image of the painting in question.

Just what is the gay test?

So the Gulf states are to conduct medical tests to detect gay men from entering their countries. Just how are they going to detect gay men?

They are going to introduce routine clinical screenings of expatriates as a way to detect gay men they say. I'm just wondering how this is possible? My blood is undetectable from that of any straight man. As for sexually transmitted diseases none of these are particular to one sexual orientation. So is it possible that anyone who is HIV+ will be prevented from entering irregardless of their sexual orientation or how they contracted the disease (even if they were born with it from an infected mother). Straight people may well be branded gay based on outmoded assumptions about such things like calling HIV 'the gay disease'.

You see there is no test that will unequivocally detect a man who has sex with other men. Some gay men are top class athletes, some straight men have skinny, skeletal frames. There is no body type that will give away who is who.

Then there is the fact that human sexuality isn't a binary system, there are various degrees of bisexuality. So even carrying out some sort of test to see the reaction of someone to sexual images is not going to be 100% fool proof. But of course to be able to detect such a reaction you are going to have to carry out very intrusive examinations of everyone, there will be public outcry if they try to do this to too many straight men.

That is unless the Gulf states are planning to only pinpoint certain people who they think are gay for such tests. In which case they will be relying on profiling that is based on stereotypes. which are hardly proven medical tests. But you know who also used profiling to prevent certain groups of people from getting on in life, 1930s Germany introduced such a system of profiling  and we know where that ended up.

Then there is also the assumption that all LGBT people in the Gulf States are expatriates. Or course they are not! There are gay people who are born and raised in these nations. What happens if they leave for a holiday, or education, or work and return? Will they also be blocked from returning to their homeland, will they also be subjected to such testing.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Dear Edwin, What about the rights of the child?

I'm back on the subject of the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Edwin Poots, so soon after my previous comments. But then if he will say:

"It is not a human right to adopt a child for either a mixed-sex couple or a same-sex couple."

While this is not enshrined in any version of human rights anywhere the United Nations have a Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 3 (Best interests of the Child) states:

With regard to decisions that affect a child, his/her best interests should be taken into consideration.  This provision extends to legal and administrative decisions.  When parents, elected officials, and other adults make decisions, they should think about what impact their choices and actions will have on children.
Article 20 (Protection for Children without Families):

Governments should provide appropriate, alternative care for children who cannot be looked after by their own families.  Examples include guardianship, kinship care, foster placement, and adoption.  It is within the best interest of children to be looked after by people who respect their ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic background.

Article 21 (Adoption):

Children have the right to a family.  However, certain circumstances prevent a child from living with their families, such as children who have been orphaned or whose families are unable to care for them.  In these instances, children may be eligible for adoption.  Children should only be adopted if it is within their best interest.

So while Mr Poots may be right that nobody has the right to adopt a child, the child does have the right and the onus is on the Government to ensure that as far as possible the child has the right to a family, and that is achievable via adoption. No where in the UN Convention on the Right of the Child does it stipulate that the family has to consist of one father and one mother however.

So Mr Poots while you are arguing against people having the right to adopt, what about the rights of the children who languish unadopted in Northern Ireland to the right to a family.

Northern Ireland gay couple find a way to adopt

Edwin Poots, the Northern Irish Health Minister, must think of King Canute as something of a personal hero. There he is going through every layer of court that the land and Europe has to offer to try and stem the tide of change on whatever issue of LGBT equality he is trying to stop.

Well there is a little chink in his armour, a small wave has beaten through his defenses and there is a gay couple in Northern Ireland who have adopted two little boys. Their social worker helped them out, saying that while they wanted to adopt from within Northern Ireland that path was one that was closed to them, but there was other options. What they did was to go to England and adopt two boys from there which they did at the start of the summer and who have started primary school last month.

However, this does not deal with the hardship of the many children in Northern Ireland who are still looking for a family to adopt them. Nor does this route help those children of one partner in a same-sex relationship be adopted by the other spouse.

The irony as ever in Northern Ireland is that those who speak out loudest against same-sex couples adopting are also those who speak loudly against abortion. Therefore they are wanting to create a case of more unwanted children while at the same time not allowing some people who want those children the ability to adopt them. While both abortion and same-sex adoption are not allowed in Northern Ireland there are two ways hardship can hit children here in Northern Ireland. They can be unwanted when they are born, and find that those who want themThose who claim to speak up for the rights of the child should really look at what is best for the child who they so desperately want to keep alive.

Carmichael's return to the Front Bench

So the first change announced in the Government reshuffle was not replacing the Tories who resigned yesterday, but did involve another change in the Whips Office. It saw Michael Moore replaced by Alistair Carmichael as Secretary of State for Scotland.

With less that a year to go before the referendum the return of Alistair's voice to the debates in Westminster and to the front bench is to be welcomed. His speeches in this Parliament have been confined to moving the writ for the Eastleigh by election as he has been restricted by his whips duties. To have him addressing Scottish issues from the dispatch box like he did in opposition for our party will strengthen the voice for better together. His law training will be able to unravel the bluster and bravado of the Nationalists as he forensically will take apart their arguments.

I'm sure Alex Salmond heart will have sunk a little when he learnt that Alistair was once again taking up the remit for Scotland. It is an area that the Northern Isles MP knows well having shadowed it from 2007-2010 (with a slight gap when he resigned to vote in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty). In those years when the SNP were first in charge of the Scottish Parliament he was as combative against the SNP Government as he was the Labour Scottish Secretary, taking the fight to them on issues where they were letting down the people of Scotland. Now he is able to stand up for the Scots as the Government minister with responsibility in Westminster.

Normally there would be a wee dram to welcome the new Secretary of State for Scotland, but this one is currently going sober for the month to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. So may I suggest joining me with a donation there rather than a dram.

Michael Moore had done a good job since he was elevated as part of the first reshuffle less than a month into the Parliament replacing Danny Alexander as Secretary of State. For three years he has been very vocal and visible is stating the cause of Scotland being part of the UK. I'm sure he will still be very vocal in the Better Together campaign and giving his backing to Alistair in  his new role. But sometimes a change is good, especially in the run in to a important decision. This will be a change in style rather than substance, but as Alistair was the MP leading the General Election campaign for the Lib Dems in Scotland he is the man to have at the helm leading into this referendum.

I also expect his role in the Whips Office to be taken by a non-Scottish Liberal Democrat. We want all the Scottish MPs to be making contributions in the house over the next 11 months adding to the reasons that we are better together and that there are Scots in Government working for the best for fellow Scots who want to ensure that continues into the future.

Update As I was typing this is was announced that Don Foster the MP for Bath has replaced Alistair at the Whips Office.