Posts Tagged ‘Northern Ireland’

The marching season, riots and portaloos

July 14, 2010

Efforts to bring Northern Ireland into the “mainstream of politics”, as David Cameron envisaged, clearly have a long way to go.

But we should all be grateful for blogs. Blogs allow us greater access to insight like this, SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt’s very reasonable complaint at how the Orange Orders mismanage their proud celebrations of tradition/blatant sectarian provocations.

A lack of portaloo provision is part of the problem. This is the sort of thing that could surely get sorted out in a reasonable way without raising tired old arguments about the Battle of the Boyne etc.

Saville should not diminish the security forces’ record

June 16, 2010

…according to Harriet Harman, at least!

“May I restate our sincere admiration for our security forces’ response to terrorism in Northern Ireland? Many lost their lives. Nothing in today’s report can or should diminish their record of service. They have been outstanding.”

One of the few advantages of being in opposition is that your party’s stand-in leader does not receive so much attention when she utters such words. Thankfully this means no-one notices Harman’s response in the Commons to Cameron’s unequivocal condemnation of the killing of unarmed civilians by British troops. Suggesting that the Army’s record should not be diminished is an odd thing to say. I think it’s pretty obvious that Saville does diminish that record. Perhaps the Army’s record in Northern Ireland should be looked at further so that more grievances can be settled and lessons learned.

Hopefully Harman’s replacement as Labour leader in September will have more impressive critical faculties. The pressure on politicians to appear unquestionably ‘pro-troops’ must be resisted. Reluctance to acknowledge that soldiers in dangerous situations can act in a disgraceful manner – especially if they are not properly trained, equipped or deployed with clear orders –  will only make such self-defeating occurrences more likely.

Someone’s sung a funny.

January 11, 2010

Found via Dave Osler:

All very weird: the Kirk McCambley Facebook phenomenon.

January 9, 2010

Kirk McCambley has become famous for illicitly making whoopee with Iris Robinson MP and getting some money out of her to start a café. 

He has gained a strange sort of celebrity status for his pivotal role in this scandal. McCambley’s achievements are as follows: revelations about his affair with hardline Christian Robinson expose her as a hypocrite; he has managed to freak everyone out a bit by enjoying intimate relations with someone 40 years his senior who has described him as being like her ideal son; and the dodgy financial side of things may additionally ruin the first minister’s career. 

McCambley is now undoubtedly the most well-known toyboy in Northern Ireland, perhaps even the whole United Kingdom (with some competition). Such is the state of our modern society, that means he’s going to have a lot of Facebook groups set up in his honour. Here is a list of them:

Kirk McCambley Appreciation Society: “Dedicated to the 19 year old victim of Iris ‘Cougar’ Robinson. He may have stirred Peter’s porridge but he makes a mean cheese and tuna toastie!” –  4,352 members.

I want to have an affair with Kirk McCambley: “Fair enough I don’t have a spare £50,000 or some dodgy developer friends, but IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME. Dammit.” – 212 members.

I also had an affair with Kirk McCambley but don’t tell my husband: “A self-help forum” – 43 members.

Mass trip to the Lock Keeper’s Inn to see Big Kirk McCambley: “May we all take a moment to offer our thanks to Kirk and his missus. THIS IS PURE GOLD.” – 1,496 members.

Let’s get Kirk McCambley into Celebrity Big Brother 7: “So I think we should get this campaign underway and get him into CBB7! Plus he’s HOT and I just don’t think there’s enough hot Irish totty on the telly (especially not in CBB!)” – 55 members.

Very amusing. I expect poor Kirk McCambley had no idea what he was getting himself into…

Northern Ireland in the news.

January 8, 2010

It is precisely because events like this one are still happening today that I wince whenever I hear someone claim anything along the lines of ‘peace has been brought to Northern Ireland’.

Just because terrorists are no longer able to carry out major campaigns of violence in mainland Britain, it does not mean that politics in Ulster have been pacified. Sometimes I feel as if our London-centric mainstream media forgets this. 

There are still significant numbers of people there who believe they are justified in engaging in political violence when the democratic process does not go their way. It sadly looks like incidents such as the one that occurred earlier today will remain fairly routine for the forseeable future.

The revelations about Iris Robinson, however, have been far from routine.

Last week the gay-bashing, evangelical Christian MP and wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister revealed that she had been battling depression and would be retiring from politics. It then emerged that she had attempted suicide and had had an affair. Soon enough, we were all reading in amazement that Iris Robinson (60) had been playing away from home with a 19 year old. And now it seems like dodgy finances were involved and Mr. Robinson has some uncomfortable questions to answer.

I agree completely with Peter Tatchell on the Robinson revelations:

“I’m sorry for the pain that Iris Robinson has suffered but she’s a hypocrite. Even now, despite her own adultery, she expresses no regret for her harsh, judgemental moralising against gay people. She is sad and two-faced.

It is terrible that Iris Robinson has been driven to attempted suicide and a mental breakdown. I feel very sorry for her. But it is a great pity that this painful experience has not softened her heart towards the suffering of lesbians and gay men.

Even now, she expresses no regret for her harsh, judgemental moralising against gay people. Iris seems as unforgiving as ever. She’s still unrepentant about her homophobia.”

More than most parts of the UK, Northern Ireland is a place where religious fanatics have a strong presence in politics. It’s inevitable that incredible examples of hypocrisy amongst the most powerful and high-profile God-botherers will come to light now and again.

This all reminds me of similar stories from the US, such as when it came out that staunch racial segregationist Strom Thurmond in fact had a black daughter. Or when it was discovered that fundamentalist conservative preacher Ted Haggard had been playing around with male prostitutes and crystal meth.  

Ok, maybe not quite as extreme an example of hypocrisy (Robinson’s lover was a bloke rather than a lady, after all), but still getting there.

Is Northern Ireland ready for a Great Leap Forward?

March 12, 2009
United against violence

United against violence

It was very heartening to see that thousands turned out in the streets of Belfast yesterday to demonstrate against the recent reappearance of sectarian murder – particularly because it was organized by the Trade Union Movement.

It’s natural that, after a period in which religious/national affinity has mattered most in the politics of Northern Ireland, the parties which remain in the peace are those which existed previously. However, this is a major barrier to progress.

If Northern Ireland is really to become a post-conflict political entity, we should aim for its politics to divide on socio-economic divides – not sectarian ones. The fact that both religious communities are coming together under a banner of class- and work-based solidarity could well show the beginnings of such a transition.

Of course, as a good democrat, I wouldn’t argue that a similar cross-section conservative movement’s emergence would be anything other than a positive step (at least, in terms of healing the divisions caused by years of community division).

Notwithstanding the recent violence, I think that the universal response across Northern Ireland shows hope for the future. The problems facing Northern Ireland should now be cast in terms of traditional policy – what to do about selective education, or local taxation, or water rates, to name but three active political issues there.

It may well not suit Northern Ireland’s political elites to make such a transition – however, under the electoral system used to elect the Assembly, it’s far easier for new parties to emerge and gain representation. I sincerely hope that they do. Fewer people seem to get killed when political cleavages are actually political.