Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tenancy Deposit Schemes

What is a tenancy deposit?
A tenancy deposit is a sum of money which a landlord may ask a tenant to pay at the start of a tenancy.  The landlord holds the money or security ahainst the tenant not meeting their obligations in connnection with the tenancy agreement.  The tenancy agreement should set out the circumstances in which the deposit may be withheld by the landlord at the end of the tenancy.
What is a tenancy deposit scheme?
A tenancy deposit scheme is an independent third party scheme which has been approved by the Department for Social Development (DSD) to hold and protect tenants' deposits until they need to be repaid at the end of the tenancy.
Why is the Tenancy Deposit Schemes  legislation being introduced?
There are many benefits to both the landlord and the tenant with the introduction of the tenancy deposit schemes legislation such as:
(1) Tenancy deposits will be protected by an independent third party.  This will prevent deposits being unfairly withheld by landlords or letting agents at the end of the tenancy.
(2) Quick repayment of deposits.  Where a landlord and tenant agree about the return of the deposit it must be returned within 5 working days.
(3) Free access to an independent dispute resolution service.  Every approved scheme will provide a free service to resolve disagreements over the return of deposits as an alternative to taking legal action through the courts.
(4) Provision of information.  Landlords must give the tenant key information about the tenancy, the deposit and the scheme that safeguards the deposit.  Schemes will also provide information about the protection of deposits and their services to tenants and landlords.
(5) Sanctions for non-compliance.  A tenant can report a landlord to the local council if he fails to submit the deposit to an approved scheme and/or provide information to the tenant within the specified time linit.  Councils will have the power to issue fixed penalties in these cases.
(6) Improved professionalism of the private rented sector.  The introduction of tenancy deposit schemes will raise standards in relation to management of deposits.
What are the different types of schemes?
There will be two types of schemes allowed to operate in Northern Ireland, the custodial scheme and the insurance scheme.
The custodial scheme, which is free for both the landlord and tenant to use, is where all the deposit is handed over by the landlord to the scheme administrator for safe keeping in a designated account and either the tenant or the landlord can apply at the end of the tenancy for repayment of the deposit.  In the event of a dispute the scheme administrator will hold on to the disputed amount until the dispute is resolved.
The insurance scheme is where the landlord holds on to the deposit and pays a fee and any contribution towards insurance to the scheme administrator.  The landlord refunds the deposit to the tenant when it is due to be refunded.  In the case where there is a dispute, the landlord hands over to the scheme administrator the disputed amount to safeguard until the dispute is resolved.
When will the teancy deposit schemes be available?
Once a scheme administrator(s) has been approved by DSD and the necessary publicity of their approved scheme has taken place, it is anticipated that the tenancy deposit schemes will become operational and that the first deposits should start to be protected in early 2013.
The introduction of tenancy deposit schemes in Northern Ireland is part of a wider series of measures, including landlord registration, which are intended to make the private rented sector a better option for someone seeking a house.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Ulster identity and the Red Hand

Today the Belfast Telegraph started a count down on 'what makes us feel most proud of ourselves'.  We had ten different things in today's list and the series will continue throughout the week.
I was glad to see that one of the ten was the Red Hand of Ulster.  Here is what the article said about it:
Whatever way you look at it, the Red Hand is the symbol for virtually everyone in Northern Ireland, but the flags aren't standard issue.  Protestants show their hand on a white background while Catholics wave their hand on the yellow nine-county Ulster flag.  It's hit and myth why the Red Hand was espoused so eagerly.  You can take your pick from a number of legendary folk who apparently cut off their hand to throw it during a race to claim the crown of Ulster - a forerunner of Game of Thrones, perhaps.
The Red Hand has been adopted by Guinness, a loyalist terror group and a nutter called Luke in Give My Head Peace.
Contrary to popular belief the saying 'caught red-handed' has no connection.
The origin of the Red Hand dates back long before the importation of the myth of cutting off a hand and throwing it ashore.  That story was brought back here several centuries ago by wealthy Ulstermen who had gone on a European tour and prior to that the story was unknown in Ulster.  However the real history of the Red Hand of Ulster is for another day.
Meanwhile in its editorial the newspaper said:
Old and brand new
Brand names are important in today's world, and our list of some of Northern Ireland's favourites contained in this week's papers are among the best anywhere.
The top 50 includes iconic local brands ranging from Queen's University to the George Best Belfast City Airport and the Odyssey complex.
There are also the essentially Ulster brands such as Lough Neagh eels, linen and the symbolic Red Hand itself.
However there are some surprises, such as the Belfast sink and Genesis bread, all of which provide rich and rare food for thought as we strive to maintain our distinctive Ulster identity and taste in the world of the 21st century.
Some of the things included by the panel would be on any Ulster list, such as linen, while others would probably not be on my own list.  However this is an interesting idea and the inclusion of the Red Hand is to be welcomed.

Why Has Gerry Adams called for a border poll?

Last week Gerry Adams called for a border poll and this morning (29 October) the Belfast Telegraph has recalled the results of an opinion poll, which was carried out earlier this year by polling partners LucidTalk.
The poll found that only 7% of Northern Ireland voters would vote to remove the border this year.
When asked if they would vote to remove it in 20 years time, the figure increased to 32%, with the proportion of the Roman Catholic population who favour unity now or in 20 years still a minority, standing at 48%.
Irish nationalists and republicans are losing the argument and this bullish call by Gerry Adams was probably motivated by two things:
1. a desire by Adams, who is a very marginal figure in the Republic, to appear relevant.
2. a desire that his party appear confident about the future direction of travel.
Support for Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Irish Republic is at an all-time low.  That may be an unpalatable fact for Sinn Fein but it is a fact and Gerry Adams' call is simply an attempt to pretend otherwise and to reassure republicans.
He knows there won't be a border poll and he would be horrified if one was called, because it would expose how little support there is for taking Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.

'National reconciliation'

Last Friday Ruarai, a blogger on Slugger O'Toole, commented:
I've never subscribed to the 'two Irelands' or 'two nations' theory in Irish politics but Scottish Nationalists be forewarned, it could be coming your way soon.

Therein lies one of the contradictions of nationalism in the British Isles and it is a contradiction between Irish nationalism, Scottish nationalism and Welsh nationalism. Irish nationalists have generally taken the view that because there is an island called Ireland there is also a nation called Ireland. For them, one island means one nation.
However Scottish and Welsh nationalists disagree with that position. There is an island called Great Britain but on that one island, they argue, there are several nations, England, Scotland and Wales. Some even argue for a separate Cornish nation but they all agree that one island does not automatically mean one nation.

Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalists often describe themselves as the 'Celtic nations' so this is very much a family disagreement, although there is generally a polite silence about it.

Recently Declan Kearney of Sinn Fein has been talking about 'national reconciliation', which seems to be a euphemism for 'national unification,' and of course for Sinn Fein the 'nation' is a 32-county nation. Sinn Fein and other Irish nationalists are still founded and fixated on the principle of 'one island means one nation'.

Moreover they believe that the nation should find expression in an independent state.

Kearney may attempt to dress it up in new language but there is nothing new in what he says. For him it is still, one island, one nation, one state.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dan Walker - sports presenter

Dan Walker is well known as a BBC sports broadcaster, presenting sport on News 24 and covering football for Final Score, Match of the Day and Football Focus.
He is also a born-again Christian and was converted after a Sunday evening service in 1989, when he was about twelve years of age.
Not only does he love the Lord, he loves the Lord's day and has never played sport on Sunday or worked on Sundays. We live in an age when Sunday has become a major day for sport and especially for sport on television but Dan holds true to his faith.
Here is what he says about the importance of the Lord's Day.
Many people - even Christians - have asked me why I feel so strongly about the Lord's day. for me it seems quite obvious. God, our Creator, has given it to us for our own good. Some will argue that Jesus Christ's coming means we are no longer obligated to keep it special but that is a viewpoint I fundamentally disagree with. There are still ten commandments and it is more important than ever before to guard the fourth one jealously.
I think it is also essential to stress the importance of being part of a 'local' church. The church, the corporate worship of God, and the preaching of the Word are three of the mai nthings Satan aims to undermine in the lives of Christians. I know that I would suffer both spiritually and practicaly if I started working on Sunday. I don't think our attitude to the Lord's day is a 'salvation' issue but I do firmly believe that it is a sign of our siritual temperature. What does it say about us if we would rather be on a football pitch than in the presence of God's people hearing His Word?
When people at work ask me why I wasn't covering something like the Wimbledon final, it gives me the perfect opportunity to tell them why I wasn't there and what I was doing instead. The fact that I turned down a lifetime ambition to work on The Open showed the editor of the programme that my faith in Jesus Christ really mattered. It seems weird but God has given me the chance to talk to people like David Beckham and Noel Gallagher about why I would rather go to church on a Sunday.

God made us and He knows how we are made.  He knows that we need a day of rest because that is way He made us that way.  That is why He set aside one day in the week as that day of rest.  But Sunday is more than a day of rest.  It is also a day for worship and for the family.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


At the start of September I spoke at the presentation of the Newtownabbey Volunteer Accolades.  Newtownabbey Borough Council is one of a number of councils that organise events to recognise and celebate the contribution of volunteers in their council area.  The following is an extract from my speech, in which I commended the outstanding work of local volunteers.
I'm particularly pleased to be here tonight as my Department is the lead department in the Northern Ireland Executive for volunteering.
In March 2012 the department published Northern Ireland's first ever Volunteering Strategy and Action Plan.  The strategy is called Join in, get involved: Build a better future and it has been endorsed by the Executive.
The strategy seeks to create the conditions that will enable volunteering to flourish.  It recognises that government, the private sector and the voluntary and community sector all have a role to play to support the growth of volunteering.
Our strategy, and by this I mean it belongs to everyone in Northern Ireland, is about helping people in their volunteering efforts.  It's about getting more people to volunteer and it's about everyone recognising the tremendous and invaluable work volunteers do in our society.
It will help make it easier for people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved and become volunteers and will help volunteers to have an enjoyable and rewarding experience as they continue to make a real difference in the lives of people in their communities.
Since I became a minister and in fact for many years before that I have always been greatly impressed by the time and energy volunteers contribute to our community.  Volunteers give thousands of hours of their free time each year.  It is essential that we continue to nurture the capacity and capability that exists, making it easier for people to donate their time and help create the kind of society in which we all want to play a part.
While we recognise the contribution that volunteering makes to civil society we must also not forget the contribution it makes to those individuals who volunteer.  Volunteering plays an important role in giving people a sense of purpose and fulfilment, the opportunity to build new friendships while playing an active role in their community. and the chance to do something worthwhile that they enjoy.  Two thirds of volunteers say that volunteering gives them more confidence and a position in the community.  Over three quarters say that it gives them a chance to do things they are good at and to meet people and make new friends.  Most importantly 95% of volunteers say that they really enjoy volunteering and get a sense of satisfaction from it.
Whatever the motivation, thousands of people volunteer across Northern Ireland every day.  Our entire society benefits from the work carried out by volunteers so it is in everyone's interest to support and develop volunteering.
Volunteering makes Northern Ireland a better place for all of us to live in.  It helps people connect meaningfully with each other across our communities.  It enables and empowers individuals and communities to help themselves tp tackle the issues that are important to them.  It can help local communities regenerate and renew their neighbourhoods.  Volunteers are a precious resource for both their organisation and our society.
Northern Ireland will host the prestigious World Police and Fire Games from 1-10 August next year and just like the Olympics, there will be many opportunities for people to be part of the occasion with the wide range of volunteering opportunities that will be on offer.  It is anticipated that between 3,000 and 3,500 volunteers will be required to support the 2013 World Police and Fire Games.  I would encourage you to join in and get involved.

Thank you to all volunteers for giving that most precious of gifts - your time! 

Partisan newspapers

Paul Connolly, the Readers' Editor at the Belfast Telegraph commented recently (19 October) on the arrival of the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast.  He acknowledged the overwhelming public support for the current legal position in Northern Ireland but my attention was taken by a few short paragraphs near the end of the article:

I think the answer to the question about how newspapers should report highly-charged issues is quite simply to be professional.  Avoid defamation, cut through the spin and, above all, follow the industry Code of Practice.
Clauses 1 (Accuracy and 2 (Opprotunity to Reply) of the Editor's  Code are key.  Taking care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information is critical  Correcting inaccuracies and distortions is also essential.  An opportunity to reply must be offered to wronged individuals.
Newspapers must dintinguish clearly between 'comment, conjecture and fact'.  however, unlike TV and radio, the Press is free to be partisan.
So editors do not have to junp through hoops to be absolutely even-handed to both sides.
They are free, provided they follow the rules, to campaign, interrogate, criticise and question; even on this most emotional of subjects.
Unlike television and radio, which are supposed to be impartial,'the press is free to be partisan'.  It is important that we keep that fact in mind.  We should always read newspapers keeping in mind the fact that they are partisan and are not impartial.  The NewsLetter is a unionist newspaper, the Irish News is a nationalist newspaper, 'pro fide et patria', and becoming increasingly 'green', while the Belfast Telegraph has become more and more liberal and cosmopolitan.
However newspapers 'must distinguish chearly between comment, conjecture and fact' and that is an area where newspapers often fall short.

Benefit uptake success

On Thursday I visited Lisburn City Council to announce a new pilot programme of benefit uptake for the Downshire area of Lisburn. This pilot will enable us to explore a new method of working with churches and community groups to increase benefit uptake and ensure that those who are entitled to receive benefits get what is rightfully theirs.
I was also able to announce the results of the 2011/12 benefit uptake programmes and as a result of these programmes over 4,000 people in Northern Ireland have more money in their pockets today than they did this time last year. My department's benefit uptake campaign for 2011/12 saw over 4,000 people receive an extra £13.1 million in new and additional benefits and arrears, trebling the coutcome from the previous year, which was £3.95 million.

My department has stepped up its work and is investing more than ever before in new initiatives to promote benefit uptake and I am delighted with our success this year.

It is vital that we ensure that all those who are entitled to benefits do indeed receive them. The fact that we have managed to secure an additional £13.1 million this year for people in need in Northern Ireland - which is more than three times the amount for the previous year - is very encouraging. I am committed to making sure that our efforts in this area continue and grow.

Local people, including pensioners, who benefited from the uptake campaign were better off by an average of £60 a week.

The current economic climate is putting real pressure on everyone, especially many of our most vulnerable citizens. £13.1 million is a substantial amount of money that will not only make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable individuals and families but will also make an impact on the lcoal economy as this extra money will be spent in local businesses in Northern Ireland.

Benefit uptake is a priority for the Department for Social Development. Since 2005 the Social Security Agency has delivered a range of targeted exercises and outreach activities along with benefit specific mailshots and advertising. To date this has generated over £50 million in additional benefits and arrears for people.

The 2011/12 programme included:
  • An exercise providing 25,000 customers (older people, those with a disability and carers) with an opportunity to receive a full benefit assessment.
  • Raising awareness of potential entitlement among older people through a community outreach promotional campaign targeting local council areas
  • The Make the Call advertising campaign targeting older people.
  • An Innovation Fund pilot programme where the community and voluntary sector is helpign to test new and innovative ways of reaching and informing people in order to improve the uptake of benefits.
The Innovation Fund was a new initiative last year and the Lisburn pilot is another new initiative this year. I hope that it is successful and if so it can be extended to other areas.

Meanwhile one area of special concern is that many older people do not avail of all the benefits to which they are entitled and I have also initiated a piece of work to discover the reasons for this. I can certainly guess at some of them but we need a better understanding of the reasons so that we can increase uptake among the senior citizens.

Overall my assessment is - well done, getting much better, but still room for improvment.

The THEORIES of evolution

In 2011 Professor Martin A Nowack published a book entitled Evolution, Altruism and Human Behaviour or Why We Need Each Other to Succeed.   
Nowack is professor of biology and mathematics at Harvard University and he was assisted in writing the book by Dr Roger Highfield, a former editor of New Scientist.
The book is reviewed in the current issue of Oxford Today and the following is taken from that review:
Nowack .... challenges Darwin's notion that evolution is based solely on principles of mutation and selection and points out that cooperation and collaboration, 'the snuggle for existence', have had a much more far-reaching influence on the development of life on Earth than individual self-interest.
In a wide-ranging and accessible introduction to his theories, he declares that 'cooperation is the architect of creativity throughout evolution' and demonstrates how it is essential to everyday life at every level.
Whether or not you accept Nowack's theories, superconductors is a thought-provoking, readable and thoroughly entertaining demonstration of intellectual virtuosity.
We often hear references to 'the theory of evolution' but in fact that there are various theories of evolution.  There is disagreement among evolutionists and Professor Nowack's theories are simply another contribution to that debate.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Bobby Sands and the bunscoil

Jim Gibney is a prominent member of Sinn Fein and a columnist in the Irish News.  At one time he was Sinn Fein's national organiser and he spent six years in prison for possession with intent, wounding, and IRA membership.

Yesterday (25 October) he turned his attention to Scoil na Fuiseoige, an Irish-medium primary school in West Belfast.  He wrote about a visit to the Irish-medium school and reminded us of the significance of the name of the school:

A stone's throw from where I stood last Friday, some 35 years ago, a small group of Irish-language pioneers met in a portable building.  They had a vision.
This was the gathering - the oak tree's acorn - and in this group was Bobby Sands in organisation mode, enjoying a short spell of freedom from prison, but not for long.
On their minds was the Irish language.  It never left Bobby Sands's mind, tongue and pen.
In the darkness of his prison cell he wrote a short story The Lark and the Freedom fighter - the word for lark in Irish is 'fuiseog'.

The Irish-medium school was named with Bobby Sands's pen name and as I pointed out several years ago it was named to honour Bobby Sands.  Indeed I also pointed out that the founders of the school viewed Sands as a role model and an inspiration for the children
Irish language activists attempt to portray the Irish language as part of a shared heritage and as a cross-community pursuit but examples such as this remind us of the way that the Irish language has been used as part of Sinn Fein's 'cultural war'.

Some advice for Finola Meredith

A few days ago I published a post entitled 'Compassion for the unborn child.'  It was in response to an article by Finola Meredith in the Belfast Telegraph (18 October) about the opening of the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast.  Finola's article was entitled 'Why pro-life zealots need to show more compassion'.

My response was a short and simple post entitled 'Compassion for the unborn child' and I suggested that another viewpoint might be, 'Why pro-abortion zealots should show more compassion ... for the unborn child.'  It was a calm and measured response and since it was in reply to Finola Meredith, I added a photograph of Finola, copied from the Belfast Telegraph, at the top.

Finola had another column in yesterday's Belfast Telegraph (24 October) and it was entitled 'People in positions of power need to behave with maturity'.  Most of it was directed at the Attorney General John Larkin, whom she accused of making 'intemperate interventions'.  She then devoted a short paragraph to Health Minister Edwin Poots and a further two short paragraphs to my blog.  Here is what she said
In a much smaller way, it's the same when Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland singles out female journalists who have incurred his wrath - Hi Nelse! - and puts pictures of them on his personal blog.
For instance I can't imagine British education minister Michael Gove sticking a big mug shot of Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee on his website.  You'd like to think that Government ministers would be above such petty sniping.
So what should I make of that?

1. She claimed that I 'single out female journalists who have incurred my wrath.'  Certainly not Finola, the rich diversity of the blog covers many subjects and many people.  Indeed the most recent post was certainly not about a female journalist ... it was about a bearded politician from county Louth, with a bad memory, a Belfast accent and declining support base.

2. 'Sticking a big mug shot', an unfortunate choice of phrase, on the blog.  I don't know what significance she attaches to the addition of photographs to the blog because she hasn't told us but it seems to upset her.  However I cannot understand how that constitutes 'petty sniping'.  The fact is that I generally add pictures on my blog, whether the post is sympathetic or critical or a bit of both.  There was a picture of the bearded politician from county Louth on the last post.  As regards Michael Gove, I don't read his blog - in fact I don't know if he has a blog - but what is the relevance of that.  Blogs are written and published in many different styles.

3. The word 'wrath' is totally inappropriate as is the phrase 'petty sniping'.  My posts are always calm and measured and I think that her choice of terminology may well reflect the fact that she was irked by my response advocating 'compassion for the unborn child'.
4. But back to the title of Finola's current article, 'People in positions of power need to behave with maturity.'  I can certainly agree with that and since we are all too aware of the power of the press, I assume that this also applies to journalists, including herself.  So perhaps in future Finola will take her own advice and avoid the sort of immaturity she displays in the little extract above.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sinn Fein on the slide

The latest opinion poll in the Irish Republic, conducted by IPSOS/MORI, shows a significant drop in the satisfaction rating for Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.  His rating fell from 37% in May to 29& in the latest poll, a drop of 8%.  Back in May he was the most popular party leader but that is not longer the case.
One factor may be that in recent weeks Adams has been hit by fresh accusations that he was involved in the Provisional IRA.  Ex-IRA prisoner Dolours Price said that the Louth TD had been a senior IRA figure who had snactioned a bombing campaign in Great Britin and had ordered the deaths of people who were accused of being informers - the so-called 'disappeared'.
Adams has also been hit by comments on his poor performance in the Dail.  In August it was reported that he had one of the worst attendance records in the Dail, having missed 17 of 68 sitting days  for the first six months of the year.  Of course 25% absenteeism is better than Sinn Fein's performance at Westminser where it is 100% absenteeism!
The party itself has also seen a drop in support, down 4%, while Fianna Fail is up by 4%.  As a result Sinn Fein has lost its place as the second most popular party in the Irish Republic.
Some people say that all publicity is good publicity but that is not always the case.  The more exposure Sinn Fein gets in the Republic the more people will see what it is really like and the more its past misdemeanours and its present incompetence will be exposed.

More about Marie Stopes

In my previous post I pointed out that Marie Stopes opposed abortion and described it as murder.  However there are other facts about her that the promoters of the Marie Stopes clinic would probably prefer you not to know.
Marie Carmichael Stopes was born in Edinburgh on 15 October 1880 and educated there and in London.  She received her PhD from Munich University and then became the first female academic at Manchester University, where she lectured in palaeobotany.  However she is remembered primarily for her pioneering work in promoting contraception.

But there are other aspects to Marie Stopes that tend to be downplayed.
Stopes was a keen advocate of eugenics and in 1912 she attended the inaugural meeting of the Eugenics Society.  When she came to write her books about marriage and birth control they were infused with the theory of eugenics and even by the standards of the time she was an extreme eugenicist.  In The Control of Parenthood, published in 1920, she wrote that were she in charge she would 'legislate compulsory sterilization of the insane, feebleminded ... revolutionaries ... half castes.'  Marie Stopes believed in racial purity and that was reflected in her call for the compulsory sterilisation of 'half castes'.
Indeed journalist Zoe Williams, writing in The Guardian on 2 September 2011, admitted that:
Her eugenics programme was actually slightly to the right of Hitler's, just because her definition of defective is so broad.  There are certainly issues of Birth Control News that seem to suggest, just with their news agenda, that some people should be sterilised for nebulous reasons of defectiveness, like not being rich enough.  As you might expect, there are strong strains of racism: she described the southern Italians as a 'low-grade race'; she was accused of anti-semitism by her birth-control allies; and in a stinging attack on the French who, in the early 1920s tightened their laws against contraception, she said tha if they really wanted to repopulate their nation, they should 'eliminate the taint of their large numbers of perverted or homosexual people.
 Marie Stopes also supported child labour and wrote, 'Not many years ago the labourer's child could be set to work early and could very shortly earn his keep. ... The trend of legislation has continuously extended the age of irresponsible youth in the lower and lower middle classes.'
In 1935 she attended the International Congress for Population Science in Berlin, held under the auspices of the Third Reich during the second year of Hitler's government.  Then in August 1939, just weeks before the start of the Second World War, she sent a letter to Adolf Hitler, enclosing a copy of her Love Songs for Young Lovers.  Her aim was to have her poems distributed through birth clinics in Germany and she wrote, 'Dear Herr Hitler, Love is the greatest thing in the world: so will you accept from me these (poems) that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them.'
More than once she was accused by other pioneers of birth control, such as Havelock Ellis, another eugenicist, of being anti-Semitic and in 1942 she wrote:
Catholics, Prussians,
The Jews and the Russians,
All are a curse,
Or something worse ...
Marie Stopes took a strong dislike for her son's fiance, Mary, who was short-sighted and wore glasses.  Nevertheless they were engaged in October 1947 and after they were married she cut her son out of her will, citing the eugenics argument that their children might inherit the condition!
She regarded homosexuality as a perversion but had a strange view on marriage.  Free love within marriage was acceptable, so long as the extre-marital partner was of the opposite sex.  In this she had the consent of her husband, as evidenced by a contract drawn up between them in later years.
This is a short summary of the views that Marie Stopes held but it serves to explain why Marie Stopes International when asked about its founder, said, 'We tend to keep our distance.'  Yes, maybe, but they do keep her name over the door.

John Larkin and Marie Stopes


Over the last few days there has been a lot of coverage in the local media, newspapers, radio and television, about a comment on abortion that was made by the Attorney General, John Larkin QC, prior to his appointment to the office.  It was his own personal opinion about a serious ethical issue and one that he was perfectly entitled to make.
Indeed it is worth recalling what he actually said.  Larkin was on a panel on the Sunday Sequence programme on Radio Ulster, along with Dawn Purvis, who now heads up the Marie Stopes operation in Belfast.  When he was asked about whether abortion would ever be justified in the case of foetal abnormality, Mr Larkin said: 'If one is prepared to contemplate the destruction of a highly disabled, unborn child in the womb, one should also be prepared to contemplate, I think, putting a bullet in the back of the head of the child two days after it's born.'

Ms Purvis described his comments as a disgrace, saying it was such language that 'criminalises women' and made Northern Ireland 'the backwater that it is'.  Mr Larkin then replied: 'Help me out Dawn, tell me the logical distinction between destroying the unborn child in the womb, seconds before birth and putting a bullet in the head of the child two days after it's born.'

Since Friday newspaper and other media reports have used words such as 'outcry', 'astonishment' and 'fury' and on Saturday the Belfast Telegraph had the story on page 1 and page 2 under a headline - 'Attorney General facing a storm of criticism over radio comments on abortion'.

However this is very much a media-generated controversy.  I haven't heard anyone outside the media commenting on it and it is certainly not a subject that comes up in general conversation.
Moreover there is a certain irony about these attacks on John Larkin.  They arose in the context of the opening of a Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, so perhaps the supporters of the clinic will consider renaming their clinic since Marie Stopes herself took a position on abortion that was virtually identical with that taken by John Larkin, in what was a personal comment on an ethical issue!
Marie Stopes, who died in 1958, always opposed abortion, unlike the organisation and the clinic that bear her name.

in 1938 she wrote to the Courier-Mail newspaper in Brisbane saying, 'I was glad you gave space to the fact that the Queensland Medical Association is planning "an extensive educational campaign against the evil of abortion".  The majority of married women do not realise the frightful injury they do to themselves and to their possible future children by an abortion.'

Moreover, she was a friend of the American writer Avro Manhattan and when a female friend of Manhattan had an abortion, Marie Stopes accused him of murdering the child! 

However I haven't heard any pro-abortionists demanding the removal of Marie Stopes name from the clinic.  Neither have I heard representatives of the Marie Stopes clinic being questioned in the media about the fact that the person whose name the clinic bears described abortion as murder. 

But maybe that's too difficult a question for some of our local media.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Another Irish News report on parades

Allison Morris
Yesterday (18 October) the Irish News reported on the forthcoming Reformation Sunday church parade organised by the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.
It was on the front page as the lead story, under the headline 'Orange Order plans march past Catholic church - again.'  Moreover, if that was not enough, the newspaper continued with Allisa half page on page 12 and also devoted page 13 and Newton Emerson's column on page 20 to parades.
With its Latin motto 'Pro fide et patria', the Irish News certainly devotes plenty of space to Loyal Order parades.  Moreover the newspaper is well placed to cover such events as its offices are in Donegall Street and therefore on the main parade route into the city centre.
I was therefore rather amused by the headline mentioned and by the start of Allison Morris's article:
Hopes that the end of the marching season would allow sectarian tensions to ease have been dashed with permission for yet another Orange Order parade pass(sic) St Patrick's Church in Belfast.
Organised to mark the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, it will include four bands and around 400 participants along the city's Donegall Street.

The Irish News headline, with its use of the word 'again', and the first paragraph, with its talk of 'the end of the marching season' and 'hopes have been dashed', imply that the forthcoming church parade was unexpected.  However this is an annual church parade, which has taken place for many years. 
Indeed year after year the Orange brethren have walked past the Irish News offices on their way to and from the city centre church service.  To imply that this church parade was not expected is disingenuous.   Or are we to believe that Allison Morris did not know it was coming?  Surely a journalist who takes a special interest in parades would know and if she does not know, surely her editor would know?  Or is it just to spice up the story?
Surely not!  Would anyone suggest that the Irish News would 'spice up' a story about Loyal Order parades .........

The church parade will be on Sunday 28 October.

Compassion for the unborn child

Yesterday in her column in the Belfast Telegraph Finola Meredith wrote about the opening of a Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast.  Abortion is an issue on which she holds strong views and I note that she is writing about the same subject in the Irish Times today.
The title in the Belfast Telegraph was 'Why pro-life zealots need to show more compassion.'

I believe that we all need to approach the subject of abortion with love and compassion.
However it seems to me that the stance adopted by pro-abortionists is one that itself lacks compassion.

I would therefore like to suggest another viewpoint on the subject: 'Why pro-abortion zealots should show more compassion ... for the unborn child.'

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The 'faith' of the atheist

Rev William Taylor

The following 'letter to the editor' was written by Rev William Taylor and appeared in The Times yesterday (16 October).  It was one of a number of letters that appeared in response to an opinion piece by Matthew Parris on 13 October.  In that article Parris argued that 'when advocacy is driven by the advocate's belief that he is obeying God's command, we ought to be told, and are often not.  Religious convictions should be declared as financial interests are.'

The atheist (or secularist) position, with its accompanying ethical codes, is just as much as 'faith position' as that of the Christian.  To 'believe' that there is no God is equally as much a position of 'faith' as to 'believe' that there is no God.
If the 'religious' are to declare their hand in public debates then so ought atheists.
Rev William Taylor
Rector, St Helen's Church
Bishopsgate, London EC3

William Taylor served in the British Army as an officer in the Royal Green Jackets for five years before being ordained.  In 1995 he joined St Helen's, in the heart of the City of London, and he became rector in 1998.
His point is well made and absolutely right.  Moreover it stretches beyond this area of interest.  Some time ago I pointed out that a local commentator on welfare reform, Goretti Horgan, was being described as an academic.  However she is also a political activist, associated with the far-left Socialist Workers Party.  She has been interviewed in the media on a number of occasions as an 'academic expert' but her political activism is rarely mentioned.  Indeed I can only recall hearing it mentioned once on the radio and that was after I had raised the issue. 
The same is true of journalists, who may well hold strong political views or may be assertively secularist.  I can think of two mainstream media figures whom I first encountered many years when one of them was an election candidate for Sinn Fein - The Workers Party and the other was her election agent.  There are others in the media who at one time had a strong religious faith but have now abandoned it and have now become very anti-evangelical.  Yet these things are not 'declared' in the way that Matthew Parris wants.
There seems to be a 'liberal consensus', which is actually very illiberal, that Christians should be subjected to high levels of scrutiny and transparency, even when others are not.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Christian and scientist

Professor C. Shaw

This is a video of a personal testimony by Professor Chris Shaw in Ballymena Elim Pentecostal Church.
Dr Shaw is Professor in Drug Discovery within the School of Pharmacy. Prof. Shaw's exciting work involves the discovery and characterisation of biologically active agents within nature, most notably from amphibian venoms that are harvested worldwide. High-throughput molecular technologies involving de novo peptide sequencing, "shotgun" cDNA cloning and pharmacological screening is directed towards the functional genomic understanding of peptidomes, thus allowing rapid acquisition of structural data and the generation of peptide molecular libraries for novel drug leads.
He was speaking in Ballymena last Sunday night and his testimony is well worth watching, especially in an age when we are faced with an increasingly aggressive and abrasive atheism.  Militant atheists are keen to portray evangelical Christians as unlearned and uneducated folk but this testimony is a clear rebuttal of such atheistic propaganda. 
In this context his references to the infamous Richard Dawkins are especially interesting.