Monday, 31 March 2014

Sinn Fein's Irish language campaign

Sinn Fein DCAL minister Caral Ni Chuilin has been promoting an Irish language campaign known as Liofa.  One aspect of this has been a series of advertisements on radio and television and also in newspapers and in billboards.  It is the content of these advertisements that causes me concern.

The newspaper advertisement is headed 'EVERYBODY SPEAKS IRISH EVERYDAY'.

To support that claim the advertisements give examples of words that have been borrowed from Irish into English, such as brogue (from the Irish brog, for shoe) and smithereens (from the Irish smidirini for fragments).
Of course some Irish words have been borrowed into English but that doesn't mean we speak Irish! 

English has borrowed words from many other languages as well - the words cul-de-sac and  parachute were borrowed from French, the word banana was borrowed from Portuguese, the word bungalow was borrowed from Urdu, the word karaoke was borrowed from Japanese, and the word assassin was borrowed from Persian,
I use all of these words but does that mean I speak Portuguese or Urdu or Japanese or Persian or whatever?  Of course it doesn't. 

I used to live in a cul-de-sac but that doesn't mean I speak French. 

Many people live in a bungalow but that doesn't mean they speak Urdu. 

I often enjoy eating a banana but that doesn't mean I speak Portuguese.

The core claim made in the Liofa advertisement is spurious and is simply nonsense.

Advertising should be legal, decent and honest.  I would suggest that the Liofa advertisements are in fact disingenuous and misleading and therefore breach the requirement for honesty.

If we were to follow the logic of Liofa we would have to say ,'EVERYBODY SPEAKS LATIN, ULSTER-SCOTS, FRENCH, SPANISH, PORTUGUESE, URDU and ........ EVERYDAY' but then that wouldn't suit the Sinn Fein cultural agenda.

Finally, if the advertisements are intended to encourage a greater acceptance of the Irish language, they are certainly failing.  I think they are actually many antagonising people who find it intrusive to have Irish language propaganda broadcast into their homes.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The republican roots of the Andersonstown News

Paddy McGuigan
There was a report in the North Belfast News (29 March 2014) of the death on 17 March of Patrick Joseph (Paddy Joe) McGuigan (1939-2014).  A native of West Belfast, he was a musician and played for some years with the Irish band Barleycorn. 
McGuigan wrote a number of Irish rebel songs including The Men Behind the Wire and The Boys of the Old Brigade
The Boys of the Old Brigade was about a veteran of the 1916 Easter Rising telling a young man about his comrades in the Old IRA.  It became a favourite of some supporters of Glasgow Celtic Football Club.
The Men Behind the Wire was written after the introduction of internment and McGuigan himself was picked up in a later round of internment.
According to the following report in the North Belfast News the song played a role in the founding of the Andersonstown News.
The man who wrote the famous anti-internment song The Men Behind the Wire has passed away in Dublin.
Musician Paddy McGuigan, from the west of the city, penned the No 1 smash hit in 1971 when he was a member of the folk group Barleycorn.  He was also the one who made the decision to donate all proceeds and royalties from the best-selling record to the families of Long Kesh internees and the anti-internment campaign.
The record was banned by RTE and the BBC but it shot to number one nevertheless.  Some of the money made from the record was used by the Civil Resistance Committee to establish our sister paper the Andersonstown News and a plaque with an original pressing of the historic record hangs proudly in the paper's head offices.
Irish rebel music and Irish rebel bands continue to play an important role in republican communities and help to legitimise and justify Irish republican violence, both past and present. 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Christians have rights too

Baroness Hale of Richmond
I am familiar with Brenda Hale, my DUP colleague who is an MLA in Lagan Valley, but did not realise that another Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, is the deputy president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and one of our most senior judges.
In a recent lecture at Yale Law Society in America she said that Christians have lost out in the courts, while other faiths like Islam, with their codes of behaviour, dress and diet, have won.
The judge called on the law to take a new, less hardline attitude to the rights of Christians to live by their beliefs.
Judge Hale said that the current discrimination laws that have ruled against the rights of Christians are 'not sustainable in the long run'.  She suggested that a new religious settlement might be based on the idea that the law should show 'reasonable accommodation' for religious belief.
I look forward to seeing a copy of her speech, which raises some very important issues.  Evangelical Christians hold to the authority of the Bible and seek to live by the Word of God.  As such do they not have rights or are their rights to be subordinated to the rights of others? 
Lady Hale is right in saying that the present situation is 'not sustainable in the long run'.

Friday, 28 March 2014

More nonsense from the North Belfast News

Cuchulainn House, North Belfast
The North Belfast News is a newspaper from the same stable as the Andersonstown News and so follows an editorial line that is strongly republican. 

Stories about housing feature regularly in the North Belfast News and last week (22 March 2014) was no exception.  The paper reported that work is about to start on retrofitting Cuchulainn House in the New Lodge area of North Belfast and the report, written by journalist Evan Short, contained two very specific claims. 

(1) The headline stated 'Local delight as Seven Towers get £7 million for flats upgrade' and this was repeated in the first paragraph - 'THE SEVEN TOWERS in the New Lodge area are each to be get a million pound makeover.'

(2) Liam Wiggins from the New Lodge Housing Forum said, 'New triple glazing windows will be put in.'  Indeed this claim was seen as so important that it was also pulled out of the text of the article and reprinted in larger text near the tope of the page.

Now both claims struck me as somewhat strange and so I checked with the Housing Executive.  Yes work is about to start on Cuchulainn House, one of the seven tower blocks, but the contract is for one block only, not seven.  It seemed from the North Belfast News article that work was starting on all seven New Lodge tower blocks and that that all seven were being given preference over tower blocks elsewhere in North Belfast, such as those in Mount Vernon and Rathcoole, as well as tower blocks in other parts of Northern Ireland.

I have been assured that is not the case and that while the first tower block to be retrofitted is Cuchulainn House, the Housing Executive is considering all the tower blocks in its stock and will develop a programme to address the deficiencies.  It is not a case of £7 million allocated for the New Lodge and other tower blocks having to wait until that work is completed.  £1 million has been allocated for one tower block and in the meantime the Housing Executive will develop an on-going programme of work for ALL of the tower blocks in Belfast and beyond. 

The second claim related to 'triple glazing' but in fact I was told that the flats will receive 'double glazing', which is the standard for other properties.

So it is a case of £1 million, not £7 million, and double glazing not triple glazing.

But the North Belfast News and Liam Wiggins can turn £1 million into £7 million and double glazing into triple glazing.
Just to be sure that I had got it right I checked the actual news release issued by the Housing Executive and which is available on their website (20 March).  This conformed a £1 million investment in Cuchulainn House and double glazing, not triple glazing. It also confirmed that this is a pilot and that: 'Following the completion of the pilot scheme at Cuchulainn House a full evaluation will be carried out.  If successful it is the housing Executive's intention to roll out similar improvements, where practical, to the other 13 multi-storey blocks it owns in Belfast over the coming years.'  Yes the Housing Executive programme will cover all 13 tower blocks across Belfast, including two blocks in Mount Vernon, and the order in which they are to be done has yet to be determined. 

The Housing Executive news release also refers to double glazing, not triple glazing. 

The newspaper calls itself the North Belfast News but as a nationalist newspaper it seems to be only interested in nationalist North Belfast.  It also seems to specialise in fiction rather than fact.  The North Belfast News has been consistently wrong in relation to relative housing need in the North Belfast constituency and it can't even get it right when it comes to a simple story about a particular scheme.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

An Alliance activist with his Irish tricolour

Gary Spedding from his FB page
Here is a picture of an Alliance Party activist on St Patrick's Day - mouth open, eyes agog and clutching his little tricolour.  His name is Gary Spedding.
Gary hit the headlines back in January when he was deported from Israel and the Belfast Telegraph report described him as 'a  member of the Alliance Party youth wing'.
He is currently an undergraduate student in Applied Biology with the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at Northumbria University but was previously an undergraduate at Queen's University, Belfast.  Spedding is also a pro-Palestinian activist and a gay rights activist.  It is indeed a wonder that he can find time to study!
Anna Lo put it into words but Gary Spedding prefers to fly the flag of Irish nationalism.

When it comes to asking Alliance Party members whether they agree with Anna Lo, I don't think we need to ask Gary Spedding where he stands.

Alliance Party at an all-time low!

David Ford MLA, Anna Lo MLA  and Naomi Long MP - standing together, side by side
Today there has been a real media focus on the explosive views expressed by Alliance MLA for South Belfast, Anna Lo.
The founders of the Alliance Party were pro-union, the party campaigned for the Union in the 1973 border poll and Alliance gets its votes and seats in the predominantly unionist areas in the east of Northern Ireland.  Yet Anna Lo has come out very clearly and strongly in favour of Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and joining a United Ireland.
Yes the Alliance Party holds to the principle of consent but Anna Lo has nailed her colours firmly to the mast of constitutional nationalism

She branded Northern Ireland an 'artificial' state and said that if Northern Ireland left the United Kingdom and joined a United Ireland it would be 'better placed economically, socially and politically.'   She even described unionists as colonists!
Moreover these were no accidental words and this was no slip of the tongue.  In her interview with the Irish News, she set out clearly and coherently her position as a constitutional nationalist and explained why that was her position.  This was Anna Lo speaking from the heart and saying what she really thinks.
Of course, if she believes Northern Ireland should join the Irish Republic, if she believes that we would be better off under Dublin rule, then she should be advocating for a United Ireland and arguing for a United Ireland!  Moreover if ever a referendum or border poll were to be held she would obviously be campaigning against the Union!
If this is how Anna Lo starts her European election campaign it is going to be downhill all the way.  As regards Alliance, this may well be a total train-wreck of a campaign.  This was only an interview with a newspaper - how will she perform in the cut and thrust of pre-election debates on television?
I watched David Ford on The View tonight and he tried valiantly to play down the issue but it was an impossible task.  Meanwhile Anna Lo had gone into hiding.  The party were obviously afraid to let her out on her own.
Naomi Long must be howling into her Horlicks tonight in East Belfast and she will be crying into her Corn Flakes in the morning.  Her vote comes from soft unionists not from nationalists, constitutional or otherwise.
Yesterday in the Assembly Anna Lo's East Belfast colleague Chris Lyttle ducked the border issue when my party colleague William Humphrey put it to him but Anna was certainly more forthright!
This presents a real quandary for other members of the Alliance Party.  Alliance councillors, Alliance MLAs and of course the sole Alliance MP will certainly be challenged as to where they stand.  Alliance candidates in the council elections will no doubt be challenged as well.  This is an issue that is not going to go away.
Anna Lo is not just any ordinary party member.  She is an MLA and is the Alliance candidate for Europe.  So will her party colleagues stand by her and with her on the ground of constitutional nationalism or will any of them peel off to save their own skins?  Time will tell.

Monday, 10 March 2014

North Belfast housing need (4)

For some years the Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) project has been very active in relation to housing need in North Belfast.  Their figures have ben used by nationalist and republican propagandists to support their claim that there is discrimination against Roman Catholics in relation to housing.  Their figures and their claims have also been accepted by others such as the UN Special Rapporteur Ms Raquel Rolnik.
I have already pointed out that they have distorted the housing situation by considering only part of the North Belfast constituency.  The constituency covers all or part of four Housing Executive districts, Shankill, North Belfast, Newtownabbey 1 and Newtownabbey 2 but PPR focus on the office which has a Roman Catholic majority and ignore the three offices which have a Protestant majority.
Such a discriminatory approach was repeated when Ms Rolnik came to Belfast and PPR took her to visit only Roman Catholic communities in North Belfast.  Once again the Protestant communities were ignored.
But now the fraudulent nature of PPR propaganda has been exposed in an even more alarming way.
For many years applicants to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive were designated as Protestant or Catholic but in 2009 the NIHE changed its practice and afforded applicants the opportunity to register themselves as Protestant, Catholic or other.
In their recent document Equality Can't Wait, PPR claim that this change has produced 'an 11% drop in Catholic representation and 7% drop for Protestants' (page 19), a greater drop for Roman Catholics.  In fact they have got their figures wrong and it should read '13.6% drop in Catholic representation and 14.3% drop for Protestants'.  This correction effectively reverses PPR's argument in the following pages of the report and means that a slightly higher percentage of 'perceived Protestants' than 'perceived Catholics' chose not to self-report a religion to the NIHE.
This is just one example of the fundamental flaws in the PPR report but it shows how unreliable PPR propaganda really is.  They have made much of the 2009 change and have claimed that it has resulted in a greater impact on the figures for Roman Catholics, whereas, if anything, it has had a greater impact on the figures for Protestants.

This is the fourth post in this series and there are more to come.  The truth is emerging and the myths that are peddled by republican propagandists are being exposed,   Unfortunately the propagandists prefer to wallow in their imagined discrimination.  Their narrative has become so embedded in the nationalist and republican psyche that they find it almost impossible to acknowledge the truth that the housing waiting list for Protestants in North Belfast is roughly the same as the waiting list for Roman Catholics.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Roger Casement and the Ulster-Scots

I have been reading a biography of the Irish rebel Sir  Roger Casement (1864-1916) by Angus Mitchell and was surprised to come across this little nugget on page 176.
'He wrote a letter to the editor of The Ulster Guardian on 14 May [1913] attacking the concept of the Ulster Scot'.
Casement was a keen supporter of the Gaelic revival and Irish nationalism.  He played a central role in the arming of the Irish Volunteers and at the start of the First World War he spent some time in Germany seeking German support for a rebellion in Ireland.  Casement was born into a family of Ulster Protestant descent but converted to Roman Catholicism shortly before his execution for treason in 1916.
I look forward to reading this letter, something which will require a visit to the Newspaper Library in Belfast Central Library.  He was obviously wrong in his reasoning but it will be interesting to see what arguments he used
The Ulster Guardian started in 1903 as the Lisburn Weekly Mail and then in 1906 changed its name.  It was the organ of the Ulster Liberal Association and ceased publication in 1920..