Sunday 28 October 2012

Why the clocks needed to go back

As with every time the clocks clock back this morning I have seen friends (mainly from down south) say we should have kept them as they were to have an extra hour of darkness in the evening.

Yesterday here in Belfast the sun rose at 8:17am, today it rose at 7:19am. Without the clocks going back it would rise after 8:30am by the end of this week and 9am on the 18th November, it would next rise before 9am on the 8th February without the clocks going back to GMT. That would over 3 months.

In Cardiff the sun would rise at 9am for the first time on 4 December until 25 January only 7 weeks, or in London 15th December until 14 January or only 1 month. Only of course if the clocks were not to go back.

In London people never have to arrive for a 9am start in the dark. The latest sunrise there is 8:06am GMT in Belfast it is 8:46, Glasgow 8:48 and Inverness 8:59.

There is of course the journey to work time to be considered. Which takes us even further apart into how much darkness different parts of the country have to face. Now let us not forget that GMT is actually the time that the sun is overhead at noon rather than an hour later as in BST.

Now the argument is put that we need an extra hour in the evening for a healthier lifestyle. Of course keeping BST will only provide that extra hour from when the sun sets. If you are working 9-5 that extra hour will still be within the hour of you leaving work no matter where you are in the country. But add in the winter weather and it likely to get darker earlier as a result of cloud cover anyway, again this may be more prevalent in the north than the south. So while there may be an extra hour of light in the south often in the north where the sun is lower in the sky at this time of year the clouds may mean lights come on earlier.

So those that want to take away a chance of getting to work in daylight for a few weeks more in the north will only make negligible gains for what they want and again probably not be of benefit to those in the north.

The earth rotates on an axis, the sun is overhead at different times. If you want to work with Europe you can do so for most of the hours of yours and their working day. And lets be honest how much work do most people want to do with others in the last hour of their working day anyway. As someone who has worked in a global position I'm used to arranging calls when most people are available. That may include when the Americans are at their desks so early afternoon. It can include the Chinese so first thing in the morning. When doing business you adjust to the times of work going on elsewhere to get the job done, you don't disadvantage everyone else around you for the sake of it.

Let's bin the idea of keeping the extra summer time hour through the winter. The reason it works then is that there is more daylight to benefit from outside the working day, it doesn't apply in the winter months.

Friday 26 October 2012

Animation of a rousing Obama speech

I have been somewhat quiet this week because the power cable to my laptop failed in the earlt hours of Monday morning. A smartphone is only good for so much.

Plus I'm not feeling great these last few days so have spent much of it in bed.

However, this just needs sharing

Tuesday 23 October 2012

And so the end is near....

In an few hours time Dame Mary Peters will complete the digital switch over, turning off the analogue signal here in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's first TV transmitter
For the last hour of analogue from 10:35 BBC Northern Ireland and UTV will be hosting a simulcast hosted by our very won Eamonn Holmes that will look back over the 60 years that we have had dedicated television here in Northern Ireland since 1953. It was the year that a month before the Coronation the first television transmitter here came into service on May Day in Glencairn, Belfast. 

Before then TV signals could be picked up along the East coast from transmitters in Scotland or Cumbria but obviously the signal was intermittent.

Havelock House home of UTV since 1959
Six years later in 1959 with the creation of commercial television BBC Northern Ireland was joined by its younger cousin Ulster Television.

Today that analogue signal will be switched off. In an Olympic year who is more appropriate than Northern Ireland's most famous Olympian Dame Mary Peters. She will be the one to flip the switch, as which point I may well have to head off around the house and retune Freeview boxes galore so we can carry on watching.

Saturday 20 October 2012

The biological cul-de-sac

hat tip (do bloggers still do that or is that Old School?) to Caron

According to my friend Caron Gordon Wilson the former leader of the SNP has been quoted in the Telegraph as telling a fringe meeting for the Coalition for Marriage at the party conference:

"Only a man and a woman can naturally have children and what I would call family marriage is the best way of bringing up children. It's a law of nature. Same-sex marriage is a biological cul-de-sac."

I agree with the first bit that only a man and a women can naturally have children. But after that he goes awry. Their conference is in Perth, the same location that a few years ago I was on the platform moving part of what now is Liberal Democrat policy on this issue.

Now I would officially class myself as bisexual though heavily on the gay side of the gay end of the Kinsey scale, some of you including Caron have actually met the one, unique women who truly stole my heart for five years.Therefore in honour of of such absurdity I have turned to verse:

Speeding along into a biological cul-de-sac

Two roads may diverge in a narrow wood
But they also in each life converge
Two drivers who meet on love's highway
That's nature for you I guess.

Those two can be male and female,
Or two of each don't you know
Sometimes that can lead naturally to children
But it ain't necessarily so.

Now as our lovebirds progress ever onward
They don't want to ever look back
They want to cruise on off into the future
Not trapped in a biological cul-de-sac.

But those that chose a same sex companion
Are not going to increase the population
Its not that they don't want marriage and family
Just that they're unable to multiply naturally.
So get off your high horse and assume they can change
Some just aren't a nought on the Kinsey range.
So asking a six to have sex with a partner
Who doesn't recognise as the same gender
Just ain't gonna happen however you plead.
But marriage equality is going to succeed
No matter how grumpy your arguments get
Like the facist comments when history you forget.

So let the two lovers speed along loves highway
Cause love isn't anyone's cul-de-sac.
Biology says four fifty species have them also same sex
Only one's homophobic a worrying fact.

Stephen Glenn 20 October 2012

Almost time to hang up the trowels

In the words of the famous Beattie BT advert I have an ology.

Even though I also passed physics and chemistry, Beattie thought that only an Ology made you a scientist. Therefore in the first year of sixth form the extra subject I could fit into my time table around my three A-Levels was archaeology. I loved it so much doing an extra qualification in just one year, in fact at the start of the next year I did check out the archaeology department at Queens University Belfast on the Open Day.

After I had graduated, in economics not archaeology, Channel 4 introduced the show that continued to whet my appetite for all things archaeological. You probably know it too, Time Team. As the show progressed from 1994 you knew that Tony Robinson was taking in facts from the experts that surrounded him. I only had a one day field trip and no dig, but Tony went on three day digs year after year and has done 250 now. Those expert teams were usually led by either Mike Ashton or if it was a Bronze or Iron age dig Francis Pryor. They were assisted by others like field archaeologists West Countryman Phil Harding, Carenza Lewis who was replaced with Helen Geake in 2005, John Gater who introduced many of us to Geophys[ics], Stewart Ainsworth the archaeological investigator looking at the lumps and bumps and Victor Ambrus who brought the site to life by illustrating what would have been there. There were others some of the diggers became short term additions.

As well as the archaeology there was often some reenactment of what would have been going on at or near the site of that weekends dig. Whether the food, production of some good, or recreation/fighting skills.

It is reported that since 1994 although they only do short excavations the Time Team have produced more papers than all the archaeology departments in the UK. So it wasn't just entertainment but adding to the combined knowledge of our past including a number of interesting revelations.

The announcement that Channel 4 is pulling Time Team comes as a bit of a mixed sadness and pride for me. I know that in the 20 years the show has been on the air others have been inspired, educated and entertained. But I am sad to see it go, but it is to be replaced with more factual programming.

It hasn't gone yet, the next year will see a series of highlight shows with a grand finale of four special taking the show into 2014. 

For the record I didn't just get an Ology, I got an A in that particular AO Level (AS equivalent).

Friday 19 October 2012

Two hundred days today

It is 200 days until the 31st Deep Rock Belfast City Marathon.

It is a race that I have never completed all of, though I have run several legs of the relay along its changing course. My late father also entered team of members of the Boys' Brigade in the event through the years.

In 2007 I got a phone call while at work in Edinburgh to come home quickly as my father who had walked into hospital the previous night for a routine appointment did not have long left and was in the Marie Curie Centre in Belfast. Those of you who know me will know that I didn't make it in time, although I was flying over Belfast I used my local knowledge to work out from the street lights just where he was and said "I'm on my way dad," little knowing that was the time that he had breathed his last.

The former runner in me has had itchy feet especially since my father passed on to do something that will raise money for Marie Curie in memory of my father. That is why I have set myself the task of running twice as far as I have ever run before (and that was when I was training a full programme). So on 6th May 2013 I will be lining up outside Belfast City Hall ready to face 26 miles 385 yards to get to Ormeau Park in what will be the longest mile and a bit of my life*.

I'm not expecting to run my first marathon anywhere near as fast as the twenty year old me thought I would do when I stepped up to that distance, but that is not the point. The point is that I am doing to raise funds for Marie Curie. I trust that a lot of my friends will help me raise the target that I have set. So with 200 days I reckon £5 a day is a reasonable target. You can donate to my Just Giving Page by clicking on the link below.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

* The actual distance from start line to finish is about 1.5miles by the shortest walkable route.

Thursday 18 October 2012

How did the Northern Irish parties respond to adoption judicial review

I'm leaving this blog post largely in the words of the various parties in their own words as to how they have responded to today's judicial review on adoption here in Northern Ireland.

The DUP have nothing on their own website but speaking to the BBC the Health Minister Edwin Poots has said:

"It is my intention to urgently appeal this judgment and I am taking this action with a heavy heart.

"I have already publicly declared my intention to reform Northern Ireland adoption law because reform is much needed and long overdue.

"This judicial review has already delayed plans to introduce a new Adoption and Children Bill in the Assembly and I fear that this will lead to further delay."

Sinn Féin said:

Sinn Féin MLA Sue Ramsey said she is disappointed by the Health Minister’s decision to appeal a High Court ruling that a ban on gay and unmarried couples is unlawful.

The West Belfast MLA and Chair of the Health Committee at the Assembly said:

"This is a disappointing decision by the Health Minister Edwin Poots considering that our laws on adoption where out of date and not reflective of modern society and life-styles.

"The primary focus when it comes to adoption has to be the welfare of the child. It has to be the determining factor and guiding principle when it comes to anyone adopting a child.

"A single person or unmarried couple should be able to adopt a child, regardless of their sexuality, providing they can provide a stable, caring home with the child’s best interests at the heart of that decision.

"This extension of the eligibility criteria in line with modern society will significantly reduce the number of children in care." 
 SDLP said:

SDLP Health Spokesperson Conall McDevitt has welcomed this morning's ruling that the current bar on unmarried couples and civil partners adopting is unlawful and has called for a legislative remedy.

The South Belfast MLA was speaking after Mr Justice Treacy's decision to grant the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission a judicial review into current arrangements regarding adoption.

He said:

"Mr Justice Treacy's ruling is very welcome and a positive move forward towards creating uniform equality on adoption across these islands.

"This ruling, however, is only one step forward. If full adoption equality is to be achieved and Northern Ireland’s arrangements are to be made lawful, in line with Britain, a legislative framework must be drafted and brought forward for ratification without delay."

The Alliance Party said:

Alliance Health spokesperson Kieran McCarthy MLA has welcomed the court ruling that stated that the ban on unmarried couples from adopting was illegal. He said that this was great progress and would allow unmarried and same sex couples to adopt.
Kieran McCarthy MLA said:

"This is a tremendous victory and a great day for progress. The ban on unmarried couples adopting was illogical and wrong. The only issue that should matter is the needs of the child and not a blanket ban on certain groups from adopting. This is an issue of equality, so I am glad that the correct decision was reached

"The previsous rules did not make sense. Only one member of an unmarried couple could previously have legally adopted a child which could have resulted in the other partner having no rights to the child if the legal parent died.

"We have far too many children waiting to be adopted for us to be picking and choosing who we think should be able to adopt.

"This ruling will obviously result in unmarried and same sex couple being able to adopt which I fully support. I would urge any unmarried or same sex couple who believes that they would be able to provide a stable home to a child to consider applying to adopt a child."
Traditional Unionist Voice have said:

Commenting on Treacy J's ruling in favour of same sex adoption, TUV Leader Jim Allister said he was disappointed with the outcome and hoped the Attorney General and Department would appeal.

"There was, in my view, inadequate attention to the paramount benefit to the child of adoption within a regular family unit of a father and a mother and unwarranted equivalence of such to the unnatural setting of a same sex relationship. Once more we see the human rights mantra being exploited to further divorce the law from the moral expectations and norms of the society it exists to serve."

The Ulster Unionist have said nothing on their website.

The mixed up world for Northern Irish foetuses

Here is the world facing the unborn in Northern Ireland in one

The Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast opened, offering abortion under the tighter that the rest of the UK regulations on who qualifies, to protests (pictured).

The High Court rules that same-sex couples being banned from adopting in Northern Ireland is unlawful.

Despite there being insufficient suitable placements for those currently looking to be adopted the health minister has said that he will challenge that ruling.

Now I suspect that many of those protesting and insisting that the women who wish to abort in Northern Ireland go full term (as well as the over 1000 a year who do not meet the regulations and go elsewhere) would probably support the Health Minister in his challenge. It is the sort of argument that the religiosity of the Pro-Lifers in Northern Ireland would stretch to. So yeah that is the mixed up world an unborn child may face here in Northern Ireland.

The choice a women faces is abide by the 9 weeks gestation rule and only if health physical or mental to the mother is as risk and abort, go elsewhere in the UK, go full term and give up for adoption in an under subscribed field with many not getting adopted. So if the women protested for Pro-Life really want the best for every unborn child have they really thought through all the consequences.

I suspect they haven't, but I also suspect that each women who finds herself pregnant that exercises her own choice without prejudice or judgement from others has considered all the options very carefully based on the reality of their own situation.

Update: No sooner had I posted this than I noticed that BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport was looking at today's events along similar lines.

Update 2: BBC report on the adoption story

Ostrich MP for Bournemouth on Marriage Equality

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Everyone has the right to their own opinion. That is why I don't object to politicians saying they are not in favour of equal marriage (at least you know where they stand) or say they see no need for it (there is room to show them there is a need).

I do not even mind when the politician who says such things is LGB. Not everyone who is gay wants to get married anymore than everyone who is straight. Indeed someone like Rupert Everett clearly dispises the who institution.

What I do not have time for though is politicians who say that the reason they do not support equal marriage is because there is no clamour or demand for it. That is clearly not the case or else the churches wouldn't be so strongly on the offensive to try and coral those Christian soldiers that they can in the defense of 'traditional marriage'.

Therefore I am bemused and upset when a gay politician says:

"I marvel at why we’re bringing this forward; there is no clamour for this at all within the gay community."*

I see no clamour for marriage equality - Conor Burns MP
That politician is the Ulster-born Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, Alderney and Branksome East Conor Burns.

Now I know that being an MP is a busy task and Mr Burns may not be spending a great deal of time out clubbing in the gay clubs in Bournemouth in his constituency, or the ones near this weekday office in London. But surely he can be abreast of the call from his own party's LGBTory group.

This morning on their website their lead story is  Why lobbying our MPs on equal marriage is absolutely vital. Ouch! Rather embarressing for an MP saying that there is no clamour for equal marriage within the gay [sic] community when his own party LGBT group are saying this is vital stating:
"It is vital that we speak out, because otherwise, those who would rather lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people did not exist, or those who believe that a particular religious definition of marriage is the only one, could well, in their minority, see a great victory, regardless of whether they achieve their ultimate aim of defeating these legislative proposals."

Clearly Mr Burns needs to heed that message from those within his own party.

No maybe as he was talking to a Northern Irish paper he was meaning there was no clamour in the LGBT community here for equal marriage. Strange then that on the day it was debated in Stormont (1 October) I didn't spot Mr Burns at the front of Parliament buildings when campaigners for Equal Marriage including many from the gay community were demonstrating in favour of the motion up for debate. Joined by MLAs from the Green Party, Sinn Féin, Alliance, SDLP and UUP to talk about why they were supporting it. Nor was he in the public gallery during the debate when there were many from the LGBT community there to listen to the MLAs debate the issue below them.

It can hardly be called no clamour when we were present on the steps and in the public gallery for the first debate on a home grown motion on LGBT issues.

So maybe the Ostrich representing Bournemouth West, Alderney and Branksome East should take his head out of the sand. See and here what the LGBT community even within his own party are saying on the issue of marriage equality realise that there is a demand for it and just be honest saying that he is not in support for his own personal reasons.

* For the record, the full quote from Mr Burns on the introduction of legislation on equal civil marriage is:

"I marvel at why we're bringing this forward; there is no clamour for this at all within the gay community.

"I'm very concerned – and I'm going to need some serious convincing about this – that while the Human Rights Act remains in place we cannot give the guarantees that I would want to see that churches would not ultimately be forced under human rights legislation to conduct such ceremonies.

"I would want, if this bill becomes law, cast iron guarantees that any religious organisation who on religious grounds object to it would not ultimately be compelled to do that.

"And at the moment, given that the Prime Minister came to the House of Commons and said it made him feel physically sick that prisoners would get the vote but there was nothing he could do about it because of that law, that law’s still in place.

"So how can we have those guarantees? Until those guarantees are in place, I have massive reservations."

Yeah I could have said so much about the fact that people who have done nothing wrong apart from fall in love with someone of the same gender are being compared to prisoners by Mr Burns but there is enough in how he starts out on this line of thought to be going on with.

Sunday 14 October 2012

One giant leap for man

If taking the final step off a ladder unto the moon just below you is "One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind" what is jumping off a platform 39km above the earth?

In the last hour that is precisely what  Felix Baumgartner did.  Following the words from the man whose 52 year-old records he was setting out to break, Joe Kittinger.
"Item 38. stand up on the exterior step but be sure to duck your head down low as you go out that door....The rest is yours."

About to leap

He had already set the world record for the highest manned balloon flight merely to get himself this high. His leap became the highest altitude for a freefall, something that he did for the next 4 minutes 22 seconds before he deployed his parachute, not a longer time in freefall that Kittinger. Telemetry did indicate that he was traveling at the speed of sound but all the records need to be verified from the GPS and telemetry systems on both Baumgartner's suit and the capsule. But it looks like he's secured three of the four records he set out to achieve.

The delays to his attempt during the week meant that by being the first man to break the sound barrier in freefall Felix did so exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager became the first man to fly faster than Mach 1 in 1947.

It took him 2hrs 21 minutes to get to the level he needed to start but he was back on earth within 10 minutes. You can watch his jump here. He even made a very impressive landing on his feet at the end of all that.

Update:  Ahead of the press conference back at Mission Command in Roswell this guy was spotted in one of the control seats.

  Update 21:34: Confirmation of the numbers of FAI preliminary data:

Highest freefall jump exit alti 128,100 ft 39,045m
Longest freefall without a drouge chute: 119,846ft 36,629m
Velocity maximum: 373 m/s 1342.8km/h 883.9mph Mach 1.24 breaking the speed barrier.

Friday 12 October 2012

European Union Nobel Laureate

The winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize is the European Union.

There has been some mocking of the award from a mixture of sources. But maybe it is time to look at history and I'll take you back to Robert Schuman. You may not know who Robert Schuman was but in 1950 he was the French Foreign Minister. On 9 May of that year he issued the Schuman declaration in light of the two world wars that had centred on Europe in the previous 35 years.

The French had realised that justice across Europe and perceived injustice had led to the two wars and therefore for a lasting peace it could not be restrained to the State apparatus alone so the French Government issued the Schuman Declaration.

  • It marked the birth of Europe
  • It made war between Member States impossible
  • It encouraged world peace
  • It would transform Europe by a 'step by step' process (building through sectoral supranational communities) leading to the unification of Europe democratically, including both East and West Europe separated by the Iron Curtain
  • It created the world's first supranational institution and
  • the world's first international anti-cartel agency
  • It created a single market across the Community
  • This, starting with the coal and steel sector, would revitalise the whole European economy by similar community processes
  • It would improve the world economy and the developing countries, such as those in Africa.
There has not been a war between the member states since 1945, the membership has now increased to include some of those cold war enemies. It has acted together as a European peace keeping force at times of genocide elsewhere, it has helped  developing countries financially as a means to peaceful growth.

Apart from the Balkan war in the 90s and other civil unrest in some countries in the lifetime of the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and now the European Union Europe the continent that sparked the two bloodiest wars in world history has been at peace. Surely this is due to the binds that were established between them as a result of Schuman's declaration and the bodies that have followed on from that.

Surely for the length of maintaining Peace the EU is a more worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize than a US President in his first year of office.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Conform or else no job for you - Osborne

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.

"We recognise that the independence of individuals is safeguarded by their personal ownership of property, but that the market alone does not distribute wealth or income fairly" Two extracts from the Preamble to the Liberal Democrats Constitution

How then do we find ourself in coalition with a Chancellor who is offering to lift employment rights for new employees in return for share options?

As someone who is currently seeking work I don't want to have as a question in interview:

"If you were to be offered this job would you be willing to do without employee rights in return for some shares?"

Maybe it is because I am an economics graduate who knows that share values are only of value while there is a solvent company behind them. Or maybe it is because many of my former colleagues in The Signet Group were tied into share bonuses while the company's share price plummeted.But mostly it is because as a Liberal Democrat I do not want any individual to be trampled over in the name of business. Those rights are there to protect not only the employee but the employer.

We are looking at a large number of people who are unemployed. Every job I currently apply for is heavily over subscribed so even being called to interview is a rarity. So how would I, or someone less tuned in to their rights and how shares work going to respond if they were asked that question? They are likely to be given the job, those of us who do not want to waive our employment rights will be shunted to the end of any list when it comes to awarding the job. We would be made unemployable as there might be someone out there who is prepared to take the shares and give the employer permission to do whatever they want them to do.

If we as a party do not believe that people should be enslaved by conformity, this new option may end up leading to those that do not want to conform to Osborne's ideal being enslaved to poverty being unable to find work as they will not take the shares.

There are arguments going around in senior Lib Dem circles that this is only voluntary and nothing to worry about. How can they be so blind? Employers will make it appear voluntary but take the option that best suits them, ie those that agree to waive their rights. The pressure will be applied to return us all to Victorian working practices ie that the employer has all the rights and the employees none.

We need to stop Osborne from making this ridiculously backward step. We need to not be distracted by the voluntary language that is being used. We need to stand up for the individual, every individual and protect tehir employment rights as it is clear that the Conservative Party are not going to even hide that they don't want to.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The morning after the night before #BBCNI

Last night BBC Northern Ireland apparently only turned off the signal to BBC2 Analogue. While there was some fear about what would happen to RTE services as part of the switch over it appears the matter is a little closer to home.

Is it BBC1 or not?
Well trying to find anything on the BBC here this morning today you will be hard pressed. I can only get a signal on one station (apparently BBC1) although it appears to be CBeebies and is currently scrambled. Heaven help all those mothers who are having to reconcile toddlers that their favourite programme just isn't available today. So I could not watch David Cameron's speech from my TV. Could not watch the news.

So digital switch over off is going exceedingly well here in Northern Ireland. All those days of disturbances in the force signal in advance of this day obviously eased over all none of the problems that turning off the analogue signal would cause to Freeview viewers. So in two weeks time do I look forward to being in a house with six TV (two Digital ready, four with Freeview boxes) and nothing to be seen on any of them?

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Dear Lord Carey reach for your dictionary

So at the Coalition for Marriage rally on the fringe of the Conservative Party conference the former Archbishop of Canterbury resorted to inferring many involved in the campaign for equal marriage Nazis including the Deputy Prime Minister. He seems to have lost the plot as well as the dictionary when he said in response to the press release that was retracted by Nick Clegg over the word bigot he said:

"Let’s have a sensible debate about this, not call people names. Let us remember the Jews in Nazi Germany. What started against them was when they started to be called names.

"And that was the first stage towards that totalitarian state. We have to resist them. We treasure democracy. We treasure our Christian inheritance and we want to debate this in a fair way."
Apart from the fact that Lord Carey, like so many others, forgets that the Holocaust included not just the Jews but the gays, there is also the mistaking of what totalitarianism is especially in light of how equal marriage is being discussed and introduced here across the UK.

Now a dictionary definition:

to·tal·i·tar·i·an  (t-tl-târ-n) 

adj. Of, relating to, being, or imposing a form of government in which the political authority exercises absolute and centralized control over all aspects of life, the individual is subordinated to the state, and opposing political and cultural expression is suppressed from the Free Dictionary

So let me get this straight. Those wanting legislation that allows everyone the right to marry in a civil manner and allows the religious groups that want to do so to also carry out same sex marriage is totalitarian. Isn't treasuring that Christian inheritance to the extent of imposing your will as the only way just that. They have used words such as unnatural, not traditional against same sex marriages. And indeed in the recent debate in Stormont politicians said the idea was 'greedy', in it for 'temporary gain', a threat to 'civil and religious liberties', 'pointless', a 'worthless course', a 'slippery slope'.

The sensible debate about this is that there are some religious groups in this nation that are prepared to carry out same-sex marriages. What has been proposed for England & Wales, in Scotland and was debated here in Northern Ireland was the lifting of the States prohibition on marriage being between a man and a woman only. There was no lifting of the number of people nor the inclusion of a creature of another species in the TWO that would be married. Also in none of the three places this is being discussed is there any requirement on religious groups to carry it out, that is left to the governance of those religious groups separately.

So far from being totalitarian the equal marriage proposals are not centralising all control on this issue.
  • Each religious groups governing body is free to make up its own mind. 
  •  Religious freedom is not being suppressed either by the state or by any other branch of religion. 
  • Individuals are not being coerced into whom they can marry although the opposite is true as Michelle McIlveen stated during her speech in Stormont:

"Moreover, everyone is free to choose to marry.  There is no bar or prohibition on marriage. People are free to marry provided they marry someone who is of the opposite sex."
  • Gay people of faith have the right to invite their deity into a marriage which they cannot do in a civil partnership again no suppression of civil or cultural expression
So just who is totalitarian?
  • The Church is seeking control on civil society
  • It wants outright control on marriage something it hasn't had since civil marriage was allowed outside of the Anglican Church
  • The individual is subordinate to the Churches teachings even those that do not follow those teachings or who view them in a different light
  • Opposing political views, even if they allow the churches views freedom, are to be blocked at all costs

Thursday 4 October 2012

UKIP now has an MLA

In much the same way that UKIP managed to get short lived first representation in the House of Commons and also its three members in the House of Lords so it now has a Member of the Legislative Assembly sitting at Stormont.

David McNarry now of UKIP
Nigel Farage tweeted yesterday "Off to Stormont tomorrow and looking forward to welcoming David McNarry as UKIP's first MLA". So the former Ulster Unionist MLA would appear to set to become the first member of UKIP in any of the devolved Assemblies.

McNarry is a former UUP party whip and ran for the leadership in 2005 when Reg Empey won and he pooled poorly. He was removed as Vice Chair of the Assemblies Education Committee by then leader Tom Elliott, after going to the press about talks with the DUP. He was to have had the whip suspended for a period of nine months but when new leader Mike Nesbitt took over he did envision a return of the whip even after the period of suspension. So in a week when the whole debate about the UUP sleepwalking into unionist unity flares up again one of the earlier whistle blowers is making his own news.

Bizarrely his defection to UKIP comes in the one jurisdiction of the UK that has land boundaries with another European Union member that his new party wants out to step out of. The amount of cross border trade and employment especially in our border regions can only be harmed by a United Kingdom outside of the agreements of the European Union. Yet this is the party that David McNarry has chosen to cosy up to. Also if he has to the £ page as part of UKIPs campaign to safe the pound would have have to avoid any local shops that say €uros accepted here. Just think he couldn't buy a paper at Belfast Central or use all manner of stores.

Bob Spink the only Member of Parliament that UKIP had following his defection from the Conservatives in 2008 only stayed with the party less than five months (including the summer recess) so we wait and see if Mr McNarry lasts as long as a representative of UKIP here in Northern Ireland.

The people of Strangford now after the Iris Rosbinson scandals have a MLA who wants them out of Europe, the leader of the party he has defected from, an Alliance member who cannot bring himself to vote for marriage equality and three members of the DUP representing them.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

David Ford issues apology for Monday

The leader of the Alliance Party David Ford has issued an apology following the way only half his party voted in line with the party policy on marriage equality on Monday and one actually voted against.

I would also like to apologise to anybody who was unhappy with the outcome of the vote on the Assembly motion on equal marriage. I recognise that many people, particularly those in the LGBT community, are disappointed that not all Alliance MLAs voted in support of the motion. At the September meeting of our Party Council, an overwhelming majority of 81% voted for our policy in support of equal marriage, with robust legislative recognition of the right of churches, faith groups and clergy to opt out of conducting such marriages if that is their wish. It is therefore the formal policy of the party.

Monday's vote reflects the fact that this has been a difficult issue for some party members and elected representatives. The Party will consider the decisions made by its Assembly Members through an internal process, but regardless of last Monday's vote the party policy will remain unchanged.

Notwithstanding what happened on Monday, the party will continue to promote support for its policy at every opportunity, and efforts will continue to persuade those inside the party who have their own concerns with the policy and those in wider society who are opposed to equal marriage.

The DUP*, Equal Marriage and Me

Whilst you may have read that I am upset about the Alliance Party's votes on equal marriage yesterday by far the biggest concern was the attitude of the majority of unionists. The obvious exceptions being Basil McCrea for his words and vote, plus Danny Kinahan and Michael Copeland. I would have expected to see long time friend of LGBT equality John McCallister on that list had he not been otherwise distracted by events yesterday.

Roy Beggs opened his contribution to the debate with the words "I declare an interest as a committee member of Raloo Presbyterian Church." Danny Kennedy also mentioned in his that he had "responsibilities as clerk of session and Sunday school superintendent at Bessbrook Presbyterian Church". I take it their interest came from the letter they received from their church about yesterday's debate and while they may be willing to support fracking and the demolition of the environment, they don't want to take a risk on demolishing society by letter people of the same sex enter into marriage like they have. It is bizarre then that two other Presbyterian Church elders David Ford and Stewart Dickson, both from the Alliance Party, did not feel bound by such advice from their church but voted yes.

Mike Nesbitt says that this is matter of conscience for his party, earlier in the day he had sacked John McCallister for seemingly disagreeing with him on something. So the fact that he is on record as also  saying there is no need for Equal Marriage may have swayed a few consciences for the fear of future exclusions.

Of course the main villains of the piece were the the DUP.

For a start they made sure that one of the movers of the motion and the Alliance couldn't affect the outcome from a petition of concern. In other words even if every non-Unionist had voted for the motion there was no way it would pass despite having a majority in the house. Last time I looked the LGBT community in Northern Ireland was catholic and protestant, nationalist and unionist. Our rights are hardly one that will adversely affect either community more than the other.

Then there are three personal stories of DUP elected representatives.

Of the three that represent North Down only one had bothered to write to me on the two occasions I have written to all my six MLAs on the subject of equal marriage. At 9:44 as I was getting off the train at Central Alex Easton sent me this:
There is no point in me dodging the issue I just don't agree with MLA Steven Agnew's motion on Equal Marriage and will never support it, this does not mean that I would be rude or mistreat anyone and will always try to help everyone that comes to me but on this issue I am unable to help, sorry

That is the full email bar the greeting and salutation at the end. I had linked the issue to the civil and religious freedoms fought far in the Ulster Covenant, both of which were present in this motion. I brought up the cherished rights of equal citizenship and how failing to address LGBT issues left me feeling second class not equal in my own land, yet nothing. No acknowledgement of these concerns.

Another Peter Weir and me have had a long 'dispute' over this since the vote, via Facebook.

He said things such as:
Got just 2 e mails from constituents in favour of gay marriage ahead of the vote. Ironically from 1 man and 1 woman 

Yeah that would be me again. As I said I got response from any MLA of his party. He went on to say later in the same thread:
my views wouldn't have changed, and I think that it was a little naive/going through the motions to e mail members of the DUP on the issue when our views are particularly clear, and also after we had put down a petition of concern to block it

Bingo! They you go an admission that they were out to block but also an admission that there is no point writing to the DUP to get them to change their minds about anything. Strange that I wrote to The Rev. Dr. I. K. Paisley many years ago telling him that he was fundamentally wrong to want to work with members of the nationalist or republican communities for the future of a peaceful Northern Ireland. I may have been a naive young student then, especially as I got a letter back saying "I will never enter in talks with IRA/Sinn Fein. You will never see the DUP under my leadership supping at the same table as those terrorists." But that is another story.

There was also another story about after the debate and before the vote while I was getting something to drink in the cafeteria at Stormont. I ran into a DUP MLA who I know would go to the same wedding as me, if not necessarily mine. The reason being that he did invite me to his daughter's wedding when she married a close relative of mine. I was in the queue behind him and said "Hello." He turned around and there was recognition there for a minute his voice started to speak before his eyes took me in more fully and said "Hel......oh, you're one of them!" and turned his back on me walking off. He had looked away from my face and spotted my LGBT+ Lib Dems I'm Liberal badge on its rainbow flag.

Now I am all for the DUP having an opposing view to mine but I'd at least like them to be civil about it, even those that aren't somehow related to me, or have been taught by my mother or taught me. Yeah my DUP connections are too often at first and second degrees of separation.

However, the way they went about things yesterday was far from civil. Sammy Wilson, for it was he who once taught me, said "I do not agree with the Civil Partnership Act 2004....Whether you accept it or believe that it was a correct piece of legislation or not, it encapsulates a range of protections for people who believe that they want to have same-sex relationships." Wow, talk about taking a step into the past. It is almost but not quite as bad as Mrs Robinson's comments. We only believe we want to be in same-sex relationships! 

But that is fine according to Miss McIlveen I am free to marry "everyone is free to choose to marry.  There is no bar or prohibition on marriage. People are free to marry provided they marry someone who is of the opposite sex." That would really be a bit of an upset for my wife-to-be, as it has been for many who have conformed to societal norms down the years especially before 1982 when it was illegal here to engage in active gay sex between men, to cover their tracks. 

But then when you quote 1866 legal precedence against polygamy, not homosexuality, because the 'divorce', as a result of his excommunication from the Church of Later Day Saints,as her first husband was not recognised by law. Well there couldn't be a dodgier piece of marriage legislation to bring up and pin your objections on. When only men could divorce on grounds of unfaithfulness, the whole issue of the Mormon Church back then, and the fact that it was her 'non-Christian' marriage that had fallen apart and didn't allow her to benefit from 'remedies'.

Update Below was the only unionist voice speaking in favour of the motion on Monday from Basil McCrea

* I know the title mentions only the DUP and I start with the UUP but I'd like Mike Nesbitt to be able to tell me and John McCallister just what is the difference these days.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Alliance Party censors criticism

One of the stories of yesterday's debate on Equal Marriage (I know there are more but I've yet to work out how to write this up) in the Assembly at Stormont was the non-appearance of three of the eight Alliance MLAs and the vote of one against the motion.

The Alliance are often called the Liberal Democrats sister party here in Northern Ireland and it often comes as a shock to many both in Alliance and the Lib Dems in the rest of the UK that I am not and have not ever been a member. Earlier this year when the Alliance abstained on the issue in Belfast City Council I openly attacked the Alliance Party, the so-called liberal and self-tagged leading change party, for not living up to either of these monikers. I got slapped down in the public forum of Facebook by their MP Naomi Long for not allowing them time to come up with a party policy position.

Since 1 September there has been a party policy position, it actually reads incredibly close to the motion that was up for debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday, even with the measures to ensure legal protection for faith groups to make their own position on what they should do. While my own MLA voted in favour and I meet my own Alliance Councillor at the demonstration in support for the motion, the party was seen by many to have failed them.

The biggest failing being in the seat that Naomi represents and Stormont actually sits in East Belfast. It returned two Alliance MLAs in 2011 neither of whom, Chris Lyttle and Judith Cochrane, were present to vote on this issue leading change for LGBT equality. Kieran McCarthy from the neighbouring Strangford constituency was also missing. Trevor Lunn the Lagan Valley MLA voted against meaning.

According to Hansard Mrs Cochrane and Mr McCarthy were both in the chamber both before and after this vote, though Mr Lyttle may have been absent from the house on other business. Update Chris Lyttle on Saturday did release a statement saying that ill health and personal reasons kept him from the chamber for a number of key issues including this. While is personal opinion in the tradional one man one woman his elected role gives him pleasure to support the decision of party council.

There was overnight a lot of criticism on the Alliance Party's Facebook page. Today there is none!

It has all been removed, but it hasn't been answered. Those four votes could have brought the vote up to one vote, indeed knowing what was going on behind the scenes those in support of the motion thought it was that close with about half an hour to go and were looking for one or two more votes.

I'm a liberal but I don't think the actions of Alliance this morning are very liberal. It may be that someone at party HQ thought it would in some way help the party to hide all the criticism, it just makes people angry and more sceptical of their party's liberal credentials.

Last night I asked Naomi Long on Facebook:

A few months ago you told me off for saying the Alliance Party had failed on Equal Marriage in Belfast City Council vote. You said you needed time to form policy.

Well today one of your colleagues and three of your MLAs were missing in action (including both from your constituency). Can I now say that some of the Alliance Party have failed on this without having my head chopped off?

I too have yet to get a response, but I know some within her party agree with me about this. Update she has since responded saying that her position is that as overwhelmingly endorsed by party council.

Update here is Stephen Farry speaking about this on The Nolan Show this morning.

Update 2  It may well be that the Alliance Party had read this blog post as the wording seems to address this post directly. This afternoon on Facebook they wrote the following.

Earlier today the Alliance Party removed a number of posts containing grossly offensive and obscene language. However due to a miscommunication in the attempt to remove these posts, a number of others were mistakenly taken down and the Party would like to apologise for that oversight. The Alliance Party does not believe in censorship and welcomes constructive debate on our Facebook site.

However, the first comment sums it up, the first is from former Chief Executive of the party Gerry Lynch
I didn't see any offensive language. If there was, it was buried deep in one of two very lengthy comments threads. Is there a problem with admitting you screwed this one up, and can we have an explanation for yesterday's debacle? 

Monday 1 October 2012

Just what is worthless

" is a motion that is as pointless as it is a worthless course on which to embark....

"A serious Assembly should concentrate its efforts on finding Northern Ireland solutions to Northern Ireland problems with health, education and, most importantly, with the economy."

So said Danny Kennedy today about the motion in equal marriage. He later lodged a motion to fly a flag on Ulster Day.

I kid you not.

More on the Equal Marriage debate  later.