Thursday 27 September 2012

Every day and in every way, I am getting better, and better.

 So said Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in The Pink Panther Strikes Again while in the asylum as a result of being in charge of Inspector Clouseau.

Well today the man who played Dreyfus Herbert Lom who portrayed Dreyfus with a more pronounced tic under the strain often related to Clouseau has passed away.

His career spanned 60 years and although he appeared in The Ladykillers, Sparticus and El Cid, it will be always be as Peter Sellers character's nemesis that he will be best remembered.

Lom was born into Austrian nobility in 1917 in Prague, the son of a count. His actual name was Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevič ze Schluderpacheru. He chose the name Lom (Czech for quarry) for the Czech films he made at the start of his acting career, because it was the shortest in the phone book.

 But he fled what was to become the Czech Republic in 1939 ahead of the feared Nazi invasion. Making his way to England he appeared as the villain in many 1940s films. But he twice played Napoleon in The Young Mr. Pitt (1942) and War and Peace (1956). He secured a seven picture deal in Holywood but was refused a visa for 'political reasons' so Holywood's lose became British cinema's gain, as he went on to appear in a number of Hammer Horrors including The Phantom of the Opera (1962). Playing the phantom behind a full face mask his precise diction and annunciation were a genius stroke of casting.

He also appeared on the stage in the original London cast of The King and I  he played the King of Siam.

His last film was the 1993 Son of the Pink Panther in which he said:

"I knew a man named Jacques. When he died, ten years ago, I thought "Thank God!" I never thought another one like him could exist... and then I met your son."

However of Sellers he said:

"Peter was always a mixed-up guy, a childish fellow. But if you're fond of children, you're also fond of childish men. He was always very helpful to me. After he was famous, and when I was still in trouble with the US embassy, he wrote a letter in support of me which was magnificent. But it is true that he was very cruel to his children. He was so hurt by the way children treat you when you're their father. I have been hurt by my children. But he was not in possession of a proper brain when it came to these things."

Herbert Lom (né Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevič ze Schluderpacheru) 
11 Sept 1917- 27 Sept 2012

Where Ulster Covenant fails the LGBT community

These are the words of the Ulster Covenant whose centenary people in Northern Ireland are celebrating this week.

BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.

And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.

Now for me a key line of that is our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom. I admit it had different ramifications one hundred years ago. But let us not forget that the Unionist politicians are all joyously celebrating the retention of that equal citizenship on the one had while denying it to many whose forebears also signed those words.

I'm talking of course about the LGBT citizens in Northern Ireland.

If we had leaders who truly cherished a position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, we would allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt. We would allow men who have had sex with men to donate blood after one year and we would already have all the parties clamouring to get a consultation on equal marriage out to the public.

Of course sadly that is not the case, and rather ironically the Northern Irish health Minister is actually co-joined with the authority of that other Parliament in Dublin rather than the rest of the UK on the issue of blood donations.

So while members of the DUP, UUP and TUV seek to honour the covenant this weekend let us not forget that one of the things that those they celebrate did 100 years ago was cherish equal citizenship with the rest of the UK, something that for some sections of Ulster life is missing today.

So maybe in Stormont today's Unionists would rewrite the Covenant like this:

BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule Devolution would should not be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious take on civil freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire United Kingdom, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Her Gracious Majesty King George V Queen Elizabeth II, humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our straight children, our cherished position of equal citizenship unless you are LGBT in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland comply with LGBT equality legislation from the rest of the Union which digresses from the rest of Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament legislation being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
You think I am being harsh. Well the first test comes after the weekend when on Monday there will be a debate in Stormont on marriage equality.

Blogging a Re-arrange

Last week I was looking at my blog and realised how little on here over recent months has actually been about politics. See as that was the initial main thrust of the blog the revelation did rather startle me. Of course I do blog a lot of local political stuff either at Northern Ireland Lib Dems or LBGT Lib Dems Northern Ireland.
I also

It may have something to do with not being in work, as I used to commute in every day while composing something political to write about. it may also have something to do with my last job being one where I was limited to a small area of political activity and I limited my other political views.

But largely it was because I have blogged so much about sport.

Therefore I have set up a separate blog to archive my sport contributions (past ones will still remain here) and dedicate this one more to politics (though other stuff will make occasional appearances). Therefore I'd like to introduce Stephen's Sporting Almanac for your sporting pleasure. Although the transfer of the archive is a bigger task than I first thought.

This blog will once again I hope become a focus of my liberal and Lib Dem political views first and foremost.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Equal Marriage to be debated in Stormont

There is some good news here in Northern Ireland on the subject of Equal Marriage. Green Party MLA Steven Agnew, along with the Sinn Féin MLAs Bronwyn McGahan and Catríona Ruane have got a Private Member Equal Marriage motion tabled for a plenary debate before the Assembly on 1st October. The text of the motion reads:
Equal Marriage

"That this Assembly believes that all couples, including those of the same sex, should have the right to marry in the eyes of the State and that, while religious institutions ought to continue to have the right to define, observe and practise marriage within the bounds of their institutions, all married couples, including those of the same sex, should have the same legal entitlement to the protections, responsibilities, rights, obligations and benefits afforded by the legal institution of marriage; calls on the Minister of Finance and Personnel to introduce legislation to guarantee that couples of any sex or gender identity receive equal benefit; and further calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to ensure that all legislation adheres to the Government’s commitments to promote and protect equality for all."
We have less than 2 weeks for supporters here to get writing to our MLAs to urge them to support this motion. So the Equal Marriage NI campaign is going to have a very busy two weeks.

The motion contains the element of religious groups not being forced to do anything very much in line with the Alliance Party's recently passed policy. However, parties like the UUP and SDLP have yet to show how they will stand on such a motion. The above does maintain freedom of religion while seeking to increase equality. It is actually the first home grown LGBT motion to be discussed before the Assembly and it is calling on the departments responsible to bring forward the legislation. There is slight worry that there was a parallel motion tabled in the name of the leader of the UUP Mike Nesbitt and his party colleague Danny Kinahan. The title for a start show a lack of understanding of the issues, theirs instead of being called Equal Marriage is called Same Sex Marriage. It reads:
"That this Assembly recognises the diverse views which are held on the issue of same sex marriage; further recognises the concerns of religious institutions with regard to changes to the current definition of marriage; and calls on the First Minister and deputy First Minister to ensure that adequate equality legislation is in place."
It appears to be a counter motion, which only seeks to ring lock the concerns of the religious institutions without taking into account certain of the diverse opinions that it gives passing mention to at the start. Surely in recognising the diverse opinions something has got to be done about all those diverse opinions and this motion (which we do not think has been selected) will probably form the basis of the counter argument.

Things will not be straightforward here in Northern Ireland as even a sensible motion like that above will not be enough to overcome of the prejudices of many who will go through the division lobbies when this goes to the vote. There is a distinct inability in many to separate Church and State here. Even though the motion to be debated lays out that that separation will be maintained and is actually calling on OFMdFM to come up with appropriate legislation to make this possible many will still say this is a Westminster thing and not something that needs to come to Northern Ireland. At least Mike Nesbitt recognises there is a diversity of opinions on this, I just hope that our MLAs manage to come to terms with this diversity of views and allow equality to move forward.

Monday 17 September 2012

Correcting the Covener of the PCI General Board

I read in today's Newsletter that both the Catholic and Presbyterian Church have formed an unusual alliance to oppose equal marriage, whether a civil marriage or a religious grouping that wishes to do so, in joining the attack on the Scottish Parliament.

I do have one issue with Dr Donald Watts the Convener of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's General Board. The Newsletter says that when he wrote to the Westminster Government in March that:

"Dr Watts said he was writing on behalf of the most representative body of the church, the general board"

Sadly for Dr Watts this is not the case. The PCI's own website describes the General Board as:

The General Board is the most widely representative body under the Assembly, with over 160 members. This includes Assembly Conveners and Presbytery Clerks. This Board deals with both routine and exceptional matters that fall between meetings of the General Assembly; and may issue public statements on behalf of the Church. It may also deal with matters that concern two or more Boards, or matters that do not fall within the boundaries of a particular Board's work. It can call ministers to work as chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the Armed Forces and assesses the suitability of all appointments outside the Church's jurisdiction to which a minister may be called by some other Board. 

In 2012 the General Assembly had over 1,200 delegates  representing every congregation both clergy and session. This is the most widely representative body in the PCI. But the issue by being dealt with by the General Board was therefore not raised in the more public forum of the General Assembly where they would have been some descent possible to the course that the church decided to take.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Farm tragedy is Ulster Rugby tragedy

There is a cruel reminder that not everything can go as you plan when you read the last comment made early yesterday on the Nevin Spence Official Facebook page.

"Like milk? ..Everyone likes milk! I'll be updating progress from rugby and life on the farm (and everything in between) over the next few months. Get 'liking' the MilkItNI facebook page to keep up to date!"

By the end of the day that farm was to claim the lives of Ulster's 22 year-old center, his father Noel and brother Graham in a slurry tank incident. Early reports seem to suggest that his father had fallen in trying to rescue a family dog, but when the efforts of his brother Graham ended up with him too falling in Nevin also went to the rescue. Sadly the close knit family ended up losing three of their members in the incident.

Nevin hadn't taken part in the game against Munster on Friday as he was recovering from injury, but had played earlier in the day for the Ulster Ravens against Munster A. He was looking for a return to form to continue to try and play himself into contention for the Irish 6 Nations squad with whom he had trained earlier on in the year.He had turned out in an Ireland jersey for a Barbarians match earlier this year.

As well as being a gifted Rugby player Spence had also representing Northern Ireland U-18s at football and on occasion those football skills proved decisive on the rugby field.

My thoughts, as well as all Ulster and Ireland Rugby fans, are surely with the Spence family who have lost three members in this tragic accident.


Update more details on the BBC  even Irish language websites are leading with the story.

Obituary on the BBC website. 

Thursday 13 September 2012

Want to hear what Fermanagh Councillors think of #equalmarriage demonstration

The Impartial Reporter is the local paper in Fermanagh. This evening at the first full council since they became the first council in Ireland to vote against supporting equal marriage there was a protest attempting to hand the Councillors a letter.

Here is the response that some of the Councillors gave to the paper, there are audioboo clips in the report.

Please listen to them this is an example of the stance that too many of Northern Ireland's elected representatives give on this issue.

Northern Ireland gets gold...

....letter boxes that is.

Northern Ireland's Paralympic medalists
l to r: Bethany Firth, James Brown, Michael McKillop,
Jason Smyth
There were three towns in the UK that bred Paralympic heroes who were left out from the original phalanx of gold paint from Royal Mail engineers. Their 'crime' was that these Paralympians competed for Ireland and not GB.

Eglington, Glengormley and Seaforde have all welcomed home gold medal winners, respectively Jason Smyth, Michael McKillio and Bethany Firth, now each will receive an honourary gold post boxes. In a statement from the Head of External Relations for Royal Mail in Northern Ireland, Barbara Roulson said:

"Honorary [sic] gold post boxes for Jason, Michael and Bethany are an appropriate tribute for our local Paralympic heroes given their tremendous achievements and the very clear community support for this."

So well done to the Royal Mail. Northern Ireland is not the sole non-gold black hole on the map of this summer acheivements

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Mike Nesbitt and his bigot question

Yesterday there was a rather bizarre tweet by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Especially when you consider that Mike Nesbitt is a media professional in his former life and this tweet came  over 5 hours after Nick Clegg's office sent a correction to it's earlier press release.

That earlier release said:

"Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we 'postpone' the equalities agenda in order to deal with 'the things people really care about'. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once."

Corrected to:

 "Continued trouble in the economy leads some people to demand we 'postpone' the equalities agenda in order to deal with 'the things people really care about'. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once."
So what of the word in question:

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

From the way the question is phrased you expect that Mike wants to hear @allianceparty, who recently passed a policy in favour of equal marriage, come out and say yes, or give some indication that they lean that way. Even though the Lib Dem and Alliance Party's policies are both tolerant of those that disagree with equal marriage in not forcing anything on anyone.

But the headline grabbing word, even if later rescinded, itself is nothing without the full context.

Even if the first form of the words were used the caveat is there that pursuing greater equal and fixing the economy are what the 'bigots' that Mike is asking about think is impossible. There is never the intention that all who opposed equal marriage are in that category, if someone opposes marriage equality on religious grounds for example and sticks to that line that is not hiding behind economic turbulence.

Opposition to the idea appears to not be a issue, finding excuses to not face the argument would appear to have been the issue, that is from people who do not believe their argument is strong enough to face the debate and therefore want postponement probably to the end of time.

Now Mike Nesbitt himself has said that marriage equality is not in his opinion 'necessary', he went on to say there was no 'realistic prospect' of it coming to be in Northern Ireland and in fact called those in favour dancers to a Republican tune. Is he one of those advocating no debate on this until the end of time. Is that why the sentiement of the idea is cutting him close to the quick and why he decided to come unto twitter to ask such a question?

So maybe Mike should ask himself is he one of those who says that the equality agenda on this isn't one issue that should be pursued or is he prepared to back up his own objection to it in realistic terms that takes into account the views of everyone here in Northern Ireland. In other words is he prepared to look for a solution over this or is he prepared to take the side of the vocal objectors who may well contain bigots?

Reading and hearing some of the comments in Northern Irish media against marriage equality the opposition does show a lack of tolerance of people in same sex loving relationships even without marriage being an issue. Some DUP elected representative are even on record that they'd want to do away with civil partnerships if they had the chance. So there certainly is a lack of tolerance to people with opposing views. Therefore there probably is an element of bigotry.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

It was 79 years ago today...#USOpenFinal

On the 10th September in New York a British number three seed won his first Grand Slam title in five sets.

His name was Fred Perry, three years later at the same venue he was also to be the last British man to do so, until a tornado on Saturday evening caused a delay in the second semi-final 79 years later.

By a quirk of nature the final 79 years later was to feature another number three seed from Britain who had never won a Grand Slam title. But found himself in a final on that same iconic date. Although this one had just the month before won the Olympic title at the venue where that other great champion's statue looks down. He sadly no longer wears the brand that bore than great champion's name like he did at the start of his career.

Andy Murray may have missed the Olympic parade in London today, but his gold and silver medals in London 2012 have spurred him on to do this, and even given him that little bit more confidence that he could do so. Finally at the fifth time of asking Andy Murray has managed to join the club of Grand Slam winners at the venue he once one the boy's singles title. Just like his coach Ivan Lendl it took him four times in the runner's up position before.

Picture via BBC website
During the match when Andy was up two sets to love I did joke that was this his bid to make the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year short list. I think he may well be trying to make an additional mark on this year, this summer, of outstanding sport to try and make it into that list of ten (if there is only ten on that list this year) a merely getting one of the 63 Golds may not be enough. Like another the other gold medalist who has also achieved something outstanding on a global stage bookending the other end of the Olympics/Paralympics, Bradley Wiggins, who was also competing today, Andy had to miss the parade.

This is a where were you moment, it may have been after 2am but judging by my twitter feed many people across the UK will be getting very little sleep tonight, but then it has been a while since the last time a British Man lifted one of the big four in Tennis. Many may have been sat next a radio, rather reminiscent of Fred Perry's days as the final wasn't covered live on terrestrial TV.

PS This year the top four men shared the titles. Novak Djokovoc won in Australia, Rafael Nadal in France, Roger Federer at Wimbledon and in New York Andy Murray added the US Open to his Olympic title. The first time since 2003 that four different men have shared the titles.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Royal Mail golden stamps 21 #London2012

It was down to the last day of competition, GB Paralympics weren't going to give the Royal Mail any break in producing stamps.

There were only two chances of GB athletes taking medals on this last day both of them over 26 miles and 385 yards. First away were the men's T54 marathon and GB's hope had already won gold in the 800m 1500m and 5000m. But David Weir was in the lead group all the way and once again was ready when the race came around the Victoria Monument for a final push up The Mall pulling away from Marcel Hug SWI and Kurt Fearnley AUS to make if the full four golds.

 Next up was Shelly Woods who finished in a group of four. But didn't manage to add to the golds but did come away with a silver.

So GB end the Games with 34 Golds 43 Silver and 43 Gold medals for 120 in total.

All that is left is the Rugby and seven-a-side football medal matches then the closing ceremony will bring to a close a marvelous summer of sport.

So sport by sport in the Paralympics GB won

Archery 1 gold, 1 silver
Athletics 11 gold 7 silver 11 bronze
Boccia 1 solver 1 bronze
Cycling 8 gold 9 silver 5 bronze
Equestrian 5 gold 5 silver 1 bronze
Football 5-a-side 5th
Football 7-a-side 7th
Goalball women made the quarter-final
Judo 1 silver 1 bronze
Powerlifting 1 bronze
Rowing 1 gold
Sailing 1 gold 1 bronze
Shooting 1 silver 2 bronze
Sitting volleyball neither team progressed on their debut
Swimming 7 gold  16 silver 16 bronze
Table Tennis 1 silver 3 bronze
Wheelchair basketball 4th
Wheelchair fencing best of 8th in the men's team foil
Wheelchair rugby 5th
Wheelchair tennis 1 silver 1 bronze

Saturday 8 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 20 #London2012

It was the final full day of activity in the Paralympics though there is some action tomorrow, but our GB Paralympians weren't letting the Royal Mail rest as there was more gold in the offing.

First up at Brands Hatch David Stone (keeping up the look a like train looks like David Millar) got on his Tricycle in the T1-2 Road Race, he's lost his time time title the other day but was determined to hold on to his other title from Beijing. He ended up taking on Giorgio Farroni of Italy in a sprint finish taking the gold by 7 seconds.

It is hard to think that tomorrow it will all be over for another four years. There are six medal events tomorrow. The 7-a-side football, wheelchair rugby and four categories in the marathon. There are still two chances for GB medals David Weir in the men's T54 and Shelly Woods in the women's T54.

Friday 7 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 19 #London2012

Targets reached for the team, but there is no stopping them. There were yet more medals but only one of them gold today for Paralympics GB meaning more for the Royal Mail to do to keep producing those stamps but a light day.

Early on today was an gold in the morning session in the F51/52/53 women's discus. Josie Pearson threw a F51 world Record of 6.58m in the third round; her third of the competition. She didn't throw any further in the final three rounds but she didn't need to securing GB's 32nd gold. As it was a mixed classification event it was decided on points not distance, but none of the other categories broke their world record even once so gold was coming to team GB

It wasn't the only UK athlete to win gold today. Jason Smyth from Eglington, Derry won his second gold of the Games defending his T13 200m title for Ireland and smashing the world record in the process. His time of 21.05secs for someone who is partially sighted is impressive, he was 0.9 seconds clear of silver medalist Labzin from Russia.

Thursday 6 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 18 #London2012

Paralympics GB finished yesterday with more silver medals than Beijing and the same number of bronzes. With 25 golds, only 2 more yesterday, so far they are 17 down on what they achieved then, but within striking distance of the Olympians. Today was to be no exception in continuing the Gold Rush though meaning more Royal Mail stamps.

First up down at Weymouth there wasn't enough wind to be able to compete in the medal races, however it didn't prevent GB's first ever medals in Paralympic sailing and one of those was gold. Helena Lucas may have been the only woman in the 2.4mR class fleet but after yesterday's race she was guaranteed at least silver with her lead over Germany's Heiko Kroger. A gold post box will appear in Portland.

Then there was hiStorey being made over at Brands Hatch. Yeah that women Sarah Storey won her fourth gold of these Games in the C4-5 women's road race. She was in a lone breakaway and finished 7 mins 22 secs ahead of the rest of the field: she actually caught the men's C1-3 peleton that was 2 minutes up the road. As a result she has equaled Tanni Grey-Thompson as the female GB Paralympian with the most gold medals they both now have 11. Also level with fellow 'swimmer' David Roberts with his 11 golds. Will there be more at Rio to add to Storey's 20 year career in the pool and on the bike.

For the record Storey has 11 gold 7 silver and 3 bronze to Grey-Thompson's and Robert's both with 11 G, 4 S, 1 B. Only Mike Kenny has more golds 16 plus 2 silvers. She also is the British athlete on the most gold medal far.

Next in the Aquatic Centre 15 year-old Josef Craig took three seconds off his own world record in the Men's S7 400m freestyle which he took off fellow Brit Jonathan Fox in qualifying this morning, who this time finished outside the medals. He took the lead at 150m and never looked like getting caught from there. He won in 4:42.81 and was the baby on the men's swimming team.

Then it was over to the Olympic Stadium where the 29th Gold matching the Olympians and 104th medal surpassing Beijing came in one 32 seconds of explosion. Hannah Cockcroft beat her own Paralympic Record set in the heats to win the sprint double in 31.90secs and 2.26 seconds ahead of the rest in the women's T34 200m. Her second gold medal winning push will see a second golden post box.

But things were not over in the stadium just yet. Within an hour Dave Weir was up for the third and final of his track finals in these Games; the T54 men's 800m. He sat in second from the break until coming off the last bend into the home straight as he pulled away to make it three in London 2012.

In the very next race the men's T44 100m Jonnie Peacock beat Oscar Pistorius, Alan Olivera and others to be the fastest man on one leg. The crowd were roaring 'Peacock, Peacock' before the start which caused Jonnie himself to ask them for silence. He ran away to the line in 10.90seconds. 

Three days to go but already surpassed the number of medals from Beijing and the target set by Paralympics GB. Also more Gold medal stamps for the Paralympians than the Olympians.

Royal Black Institution issues apology

In an open letter published today the Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution there is an apology to the parishioners of St., Patricks on Donegall Street, North Belfast.

"Through its stand for the Reformed Christian Faith, the Royal Black Institution has doctrinal differences with the Roman Catholic Church but we want to make it absolutely clear that the anger of the Royal Black Institution is not directed at St Patrick’s Church. We apologise for any offence to the clergy and parishioners of St Patrick’s Church. 

"We have always had good lines of communication with the Roman Catholic Church and we would intend to continue to maintain and consolidate these, away from the public gaze"

The bulk of the letter is a tirade against the Parades Commission, but the way it says things like putting the word 'contentious' like that inside emphasis while at the same time apologising does seem to somewhat fail to see that there was contentious elements to that route in light of what a band representing another Loyal Order did the month before. 

While the apology is welcome the way it is phrased in this letter does somewhat detract from it. The fact is that someone is apologising for causing offense on a parade under his control, then attacking the Parade's Commission who came up with a ruling only affecting 200m of that route, which that parade then decided it couldn't be bothered to uphold. If the parade marshalls had done so the apology would not have been made and North Belfast would not have been a tinder box in recent days.

Maybe before the Loyal Orders do attack the Parade's Commission they really should look at the specks in their own eyes first. If they can control their own parades and respect those residents that maybe they have to pass by there will be less contentious decisions that have to be made as a consensus will have been reached. Through that dialogue that takes place away from the public gaze.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 17 #London2012

So at the start of the day there were 23 Golds for Paralympics GB, but Dame Mary Peters was calling for all 27 of the UK gold medalists to be honoured with gold post boxes. She was referring to Bethany Firth a swimmer for Seaforde, Co. Down, and athletes Jason Smyth from Eglington, Co. Derry and Michael McKillop (with 2 golds) from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim.

Either way the Paralympians were closing in on the 29 golds won by the Olympians, so today there was to be no rest still for the Royal Mail stamp design team.

However, what was the story of today. Well the Storey got underway over at Brands Hatch with the cycling women's C5 Time Trial. Of course in the Olympics we took gold with Bradley a multiple Olympic Champion, so our very own Storey added to her haul of gold medals win a third at these Games, her fifth in cycling to go with her five in swimming. She won by 94 seconds over the 16km course.

Finally in the pool we had a golden Hynd in the men's SM8 200m medley when Ollie Hynd made his breaststroke count to take the lead and go into the final length well a head and nobody ever looked like getting anywhere near him. His big brother Sam however was just outside the medals 4th in the same race, but Ollie like Lee Pearson now has a full set of Gold, Silver and Bronze from London 2012. So Ollie will be expecting to see a golden post box in Kirkby in Ashfield.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 16 #London2012

It is another day at the Paralympics and the golds just keep on coming to keep the Royal Mail stamp designers busy.

The first gold of the day took the total for the Paralympic Games to 20, or two bullseyes for the winner of number 20. It wasn't a tense matter of would Britain win gold in the compound archery final at the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich, but which one would win gold. Defending champion Dani Brown was up against Mel Clarke. It came down to the last arrow with Clarke needing a 10 to wrest the title from her British team mate, but she shot a seven her worst of the final to leave Brown as the champion once more. It is still an improvement for Clarke who took bronze in Beijing. She'll get her gold post box in Lothersdale, Yorkshire.

The Lancastrians didn't have to wait long for a bit of roses balance. The next gold was over to the pool in the women's 100m backstroke S8 where Heather Frederiksen (a bit of a Becky Adlington lookalike) took gold in 1:17.00, ahead of hotly tipped American Jessica Long. It was a defense of the title she won in Beijing, though in the other three events she medaled at in Beijing, Long had won gold. Frederiksen had been an able bodied swimmer before an accident in an open water event caused her a nervous disorder. She'll bring a gold post box to Leigh.

Where else would the next one come from but over at Greenwich Park in the Dressage and Sophie Christiansen in Grade 1A became a triple gold medalist with her freestyle dressage. Another gold post box for Sophie heading to Maidenhead.

Then in the Olympic Stadium David Weir stepped up for the second of his gold medals in the men's 1500m T54. He played in very well strategically, always sitting in the top three but ready to take it on from the bell and from that point he was never headed.

Monday 3 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 15 #London2012

Another day and more golds meaning more stamps for the Royal Mail to produce. The first two of the day were actually people claiming their second gold medals of these Games matching the achievement of Sarah Storey so far.

First up back at Greenwich Park Natasha Baker won a second gold in the Grade II freestyle dressage. She was inspired to take up the sport after watching Lee Pearson in the 2000 Paralympics when she was just ten, she won today with a score of 82.8% over 5% more than her nearest rival. While her inspiration only took bronze for his Bond themed freestyle ride later in the afternoon. A second Uxbridge post box will be going gold in Natasha's honour.

Then Ellie Simmonds added another in the women's SM6 200m medley. Who beat her own World Record for a second time in the day powering to 3:05.39. She has now set the 200m medley world record in the Aquatic Centre three times. For her second gold post box Swansea where Ellie trains with the elite Paralympic swimming squad will be honoured.

Next up over in the Olympic Stadium there was a someone upgrading from silver. In the men's 100m T53 Mickey Bushell, the world record holder, pushed his way to a new Paralympic Record of 14.75 secs. He'll be hoping for a second like the rest of today's winners in the 200m. He'll get a gold post box in Telford, in fact he chose one just down the road from his family's home.

Is this another case of Alliance fence sitting? #equalmarriage

Reading the comments from the Alliance Party leader David Ford on the front page of today's Newsletter I'm a bit confused by this one.

"It was made very clear that this would be party policy but on an issue of conscience such as this there will be no question of enforcement of the whip if someone cannot go along with it."

I posted in praise of their motion on Saturday, but now I'm a little less enthusiastic about they are presenting and talking about it. I already had an issue with the wording "robust protections" for faith groups and religious celebrants that don't want to, to not have to be forced to carry out same-sex marriages. Surely adequate protections by enshrining religious freedom in law on this is enough and the use of the word robust is already appeasing to those who don't want to have this on their conscience.

So with these robust protections in place what is there to still object to?

Well Trevor Lunn MLA for Lagan Valley is the first to raise his objections and a shows the same sort of failure to differentiate individual beliefs and representation of equality for all that he represents.

There is also the fact that the Alliance are saying they have no intention of bringing this motion before Stormont! Yet Stormont is the only body that has responsibility for bringing in Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland. David Ford is saying the Sinn Féin are not including the issue of churches (surely he means faith groups: Editor) in their council motions, but surely that is the reason to work with other parties to form a motion to bring to Stormont that does deal with these rather than to sit back. Does that mean that should a motion get before Stormont without those robust protections that the Alliance want that instead of working to change it they would vote against? Surely the time to work on getting those protections in place is while forming the original motion and not later on.

So the Alliance Party have a policy that they appear to not be actively doing anything about. Also one to which none of their elected representatives appear to be bound by. This is not just another case of fence sitting, but one of trying to appease people by appearing to be liberal, but being so conservative in outcome that they will not forcing the issue where it actually matters.

Update After having a few discussions with members of the Alliance and others I am seeking clarification of these issues from my MLA.

Update 2 I'm getting news of different responses from MLA's responses to me and others. Some are saying the whip will be used and others that pragmatism is required for those with personal difficulties with this so that they can be brought along. I'm none the wiser after a day of discussing what is being meant by this.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 14 #London2012

It may the Sunday in the middle of the Paralympics, but just like their Olympic counterparts the Paralympians were not giving the Royal Mail stamp designers a day of rest.

Over at Eton Dorney there was the first gold of the day. The Mixed Coxed Four LTAMix4+ of Pam Relph, Naomi Riches, David Smith and James Roe and cox Lily van den Broecke took the gold to add to their world championship. Gold post boxes will appear in Weston Turville (for Pam), Marlow (Naomi), Stratford upon Avon (James), Aviemore (David) and Oxford (Lily).

Over in the Olympic Stadium there was a young 21 year-old going for his second medal of these games in his preferred event. Aled Davies in the Discus F42 threw 46.16m in the final round after already a guaranteed gold to add to his bronze in the shot putt. So there will be a gold post box in Bridgend for the Welsh thrower. His medal was presented to him by the future Princess of Wales, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.

Then it was over to the velodrome where there chances in all three events on the final day. In an all British final in the men's tandem sprint saw Anthony Kappes and his pilot Craig MacLean take the first race. They then took the banking round and jumped with over a lap and half to go than Neil Fachie and pilot Barney Storey had to settle for only silver today and had sat up before the bell.

Next up the gold rush headed into the Aquatic Center in the women's 200m Freestyle S14 Jessica-Jane Applegate was only 4th at the half way stage and third at 150, but in the final 50 metres she came through to  touch out with a win by 0.55 secs.

At Greenwich Park Sophie Christiansen onboard Janeiro 6, surely a horse named for four years time scored 82.7% in Grade 1A Dressage.

Sophie's win along with Natasha Baker in her class yesterday and the three silver in the other classes also ensured that Team GB yet again took the team gold. So Lee Pearson wins his 10th with Sophie Wells and Debbie Criddle also forming part of the team. Gold has been the exclusive domain of the GB equestrian team since Dressage was introduced to the Paralympics in 1996.

Finally back on the track in the last race of the night it was time for another GB Paralympics poster boy to follow in the footsteps of Mo Farrah and take men's T54 5000m gold. Dave Weir did not disappoint coming into the back straight of the last lap he was starting to come up on the rear wheel of the leading Korean and then with 200m to go he went on the attack and surged away in the last 100m to win with a gap between his rear wheel and the chair behind. So a gold post box for Wallington, Surrey.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 13 #London2012

Day three and the GB Paralympic gold rush continues so too do the stamps, though not until Monday. It really was a Superhuman Saturday

First up in the velodrome there was success in the men's B 1km for Neil Fachie and his sighted pilot Barney Storey (yes keeping the gold rush in the family is Sarah Storey's husband). Neil gets a gold post box in Aberdeen and Barney as well as getting a gold medal (a first for the pilot riders) gets a gold post box in Disley, Chesire.

The track produced our next medal with our very own homegrown bladerunner Richard Whitehead in men's T42 200m. Richard is a marathon runner normally, but there is no event over that distance for his class. So not wanting to have the opportunity to compete before a home ground stolen for him he asked the IPC what he had to do, they said run the 200m, so he did and broke his own world record to win in 24.38. He certainly did have to steal away his medal as his gold post box will appear in Robin Hood country in Nottingham.

Greenwich Park saw a continuation of gold in the dressage ring from the Olympics. However, not in the form of Lee Pearson who only managed to add silver to his 9 golds so far. But Natasha Baker in Grade II took a first equestrian gold for GB Paralympics. Uxbridge, home of Brunel University (not Abraham Lincoln University my American friends cf Olympic Opening Ceremony) will be the location of her gold post box.

The gold kept on coming not just in the velodrome, but also in the Storey household. Yeah Sarah was back to her winning best in the women's 500m time trial C5. So if Disley can manage a third post box to be painted gold they will all be due to the Storeys. Sarah isn't finished yet as she will be looking for more on the road at Brands Hatch.

In the pool the whole debate about whether Victoria Arlen was in the wrong category as for the first 300m she was racing just ahead of Ellie Simmonds in the women's S6 400m freestyle. In the last hundred Ellie made her move and smashed the world record by 5 seconds 5:19.17, Arlen whose record it was also smashed it just 1.01 seconds down in silver. So Ellie not only just gets her face staring down from bill boards but her own gold post box in Aldridge, Walsall.

Alliance join call for equal marriage

Today we are glad to welcome the Alliance Party to the cause of marriage equality here in Northern Ireland. When Belfast City Council was the first to debate this issue they were behind the curve and caught on the hop, but after completing a consultation with members today they passed the following motion.
"That, in line with Alliance's core commitment to equality and to freedom of religion, party council supports the extension of civil marriage provisions to same sex couples, provided that robust protections are provided through legislation to ensure that faith groups and religious celebrants will not be forced to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies or to have them conducted on their premises.

"In recognition of the importance of freedom of religion, Alliance further believes that faith groups which, in conscience, wish to marry same sex couples should not be prevented by the state from doing so.

"We would also support the extension of the authority to solemnise marriages to accredited humanist celebrants, which cannot currently do so."
This is very close to the policy that Lib Dems have had in position for a couple of years now. Although the addition of robust protection is obviously to appease the Northern Irish churches.

Now along with Sinn Féin, Green Party, Labour Party in Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats there is a stronger voice from our parties for fairness and end the discrimination that equal but different civil partnerships brought about.

Royal Mail Golden Stamps 12 #London2012

Sorry for not doing this yesterday on the second day of the Paralympics but I was seeing Games Makers, the Paralympic Agitos hanging from Tower Bridge and watched some of the coverage on the big screen at Potters Field next to City Hall after I had a job interview.

So day two saw two more golds.

First up was the first Paralympic stamp for Wales and a gold post box in for Tredegar in Blaenau Gwent because of Mark Colbourne's win in the men's C1 individual pursuit.

The athletics started in the Olympic Stadium and there was gold from the start with Hannah Cockcroft finishing 10m clear of the field in a new paralympic record of 18.06 secs. Halifax will get a gold post box to celebrate the winner of the women's T34 100m. (Is there still any gold paint left in Yorkshire?)

Don't go looking for their stamps yet though as they are not being released until 3 September, i.e. Monday.