web analytics

CAN I PLEASE HAVE MORE?

By ATWadmin On March 20th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

pigs_trough.jpg

I took part in quite a lengthy discussion on BBC Radio Ulster "Talkback" programme regarding the alleged "Peace Dividend" our politicians are seeking to…ahem… "negotiate" with Gordon Brown. I made the point that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that putting politicians in charge of £billions who couldn’t run a whelk stall is just not a terribly good idea. They will dole out OUR money (Not Gordon Browns, he has no money of his own to give away) to their preferred courtier groups in order to buy future votes. I thought the attached image summed up my views most eloquently.

uk veil ban in schools

By ATWadmin On March 20th, 2007 at 9:31 am

Under health and safety guidelines the government will announce plans today to allow schools to ban the veil. The Sun is reporting. The measure follows a court decision ruling against a 12 year old girl who wanted to wear the full-face niqab in class in her Buckinghamshire school last month. It is possibly intended by the government to curb any future cases.  Education Secretary Alan Johnson has drawn up the updated guidance and will allow schools the choice. Where possible, schools should try to tolerate a wide range of religious and cultural items of clothing. But they may ban certain garments, such as the full-face veil, if it is felt that they impede safety, security or the ability to learn.  ‘Mr Johnson is convinced there will be no serious opposition to the move’.  However the governments plans have already been criticised as ‘simply shocking’ by shrill muslim leaders. Why? Some within Islam have argued that it is not a religious requirement to wear the niqab.  And whilst I welcome him saying it impedes learning, he could have gobe further and offered clear support for valuing equality in schools by adding that the veil teaches girls early on that they are not equal. There is no place for the veil in schools. This a good move, I hope the government does not backtrack on this.

the price of speaking out

By ATWadmin On March 19th, 2007 at 6:35 pm

795151-732284-thumbnail.jpgOn IWD there was a fairly unpublicised speakers event organised by the National Secular Society here in London, discussing the veil.  Harrys Place is reporting that one of the speakers Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi feminist writer has had a Rs500,000 (£6,000) bounty put on her head by an Indian Muslim group, the All India Ibtehad Council.  It doesnt specify the event as the catalyst but considering what little publicity or MSM follow up there was around their important discussions, this puts into perspective the risks women like Taslima take in speaking out at any time.  Taslima Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 after Muslim fundamentalists declared her writings blasphemous and demanded her execution.

You can hear what she said at the London event about women’s role in Islam,  her constant struggle to be heard, her desire to give inspiration to other women, her challenge for a secular humanism and equality for all here.

According to the Daily Times in India, Taqi Raza Khan, the president of the council offered the reward to anyone carrying out the "extermination of this notorious woman", saying "Taslima has put Muslims to shame in her writing. She should be killed and beheaded and anyone who does this will get a reward from the council."

 

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO NORTHERN IRELAND POLITICS: PART TWO :THE DUP!

By ATWadmin On March 19th, 2007 at 2:12 pm

The Democratic Unionist Party: “You gotta have Faith!”

 

I suppose on first reflection it does seem a little odd that I should find myself located to the political right of Dr Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

After all, Ian Paisley has long been caricatured as being a latter day Attila the Hun but without the easy manners. His Party has been portrayed variously over the years as political wreckers, the abominable “No-Men” of Ulster politics, red-necked sash-wearing backwoodsmen intent on retaining the Protestant hegemony.

But then again, it’s not just me that has been on a journey over the past decade, the DUP has also been a-changing.

My first encounter with the DUP was in late 1996 and it took the form of a private meeting with its leader, Dr Ian Paisley. At the time, I was a member of a group of local businessmen who sought to ascertain the views of the main unionist political leaders on the State of the Union as the tectonic-plates of local political topography began shifting with the alleged “peace process” developing.

This led me to DUP headquarters, located at Dundela Avenue in East Belfast. A group of around ten of us were ushered into the main conference room and we awaited the arrival of the man that they called “The Doc.” He arrived late, but made an instant impression. Larger than life, he strode onto the podium, sat down, crossed his arms, stared at us and barked; “Well gentlemen, how can I help you?”

I immediately liked him, though found him a tad intimidating!

Like many others, I had watched Paisley’s political progress over the years on my TV and he came across as a firebrand fundamentalist Protestant Preacher/Politician who was wont to grab publicity-generating opportunities, most famous of which took place outside Belfast City Hall in late 1985, at a rally to protest at the treachery of the Thatcher Government signing up to the Anglo-Irish Agreement behind Unionist backs. “Never, Never, Never” he thundered to a huge crowd of outraged unionists. The “Never” he referred to was the idea that republicans and the Irish government would have a say in Northern Ireland’s internal affairs. (How things would change in later years!) The man behind this demagogic front was now sitting in front of me!

We conducted a series of questions and answers and I found him to be forthright, honest, though perhaps overly aggressive when there was a suggestion that his opinions might be contradicted. I remember wondering at the time who in his Party would argue against him and what price would such people pay in terms of political career progression? Dr. Paisley’s view at that time was that the British Conservative Government led by John Major was not to be trusted, that the Ulster Unionist Party (or “Official Unionist Party” as he insisted on calling them) led by the relatively recently elected David Trimble was not be to trusted, and that that he, Ian Paisley, was not going to be participate in any process that would undermine the Union. I awarded him top marks for re-assuring us all that the Union was going to be safe in his political grip – but in retrospect his reassurance centred on what “he” felt was the right thing to do. The DUP may not be a one-man band but it was pretty clear back then as to who was banging the big drum!

Only a few months after this meeting, the Government behaved as delinquently as Dr. Paisley had predicted, Tony Blair was now Prime Minister, and NuLabour had replaced the hapless Conservatives as the party in power in May of 1997. In July, the IRA graciously agreed to a tactical cessation of mass murder and Sinn Fein was admitted to the political talks process.

A series of political wranglings between the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP, IRA/Sinn Fein and the Governments of the UK and the Republic of Ireland culminated on the 10th April of the following year in the shape of the Belfast Agreement. The DUP, along with my own Party the UKUP, refused to to take part in what we decided was a talks process with a predetermined outcome. There were strenuous efforts made to achieve a united unionist front in this regard but for reasons I will outline in my analysis of the Ulster Unionist Party, this was not to be.

The political Agreement reached was in reality a sordid deal between the IRA and the British Government with token unionist involvement required for public-dressing, and it was now going to be offered to the people of Northern Ireland in the form of a Yes/No Referendum.

The DUP, along with my own Party the UK Unionists, found itself in the vanguard of opposition to the provisions of this corrupt deal. We were appalled at the prospect of convicted terrorists being released from captivity, at the plan to destroy the RUC and to put terrorists into Government. We were horrified at the plans to create all-Ireland bodies and to institutionalise the role of the Irish Government in Northern Ireland’s affairs.

This meant in practical terms that a campaign had to be organised to try and persuade the pro-Union electorate that they should not endorse such a political deal as we believed it contained the essence of rolling Irish unification. For some reason, nationalists and republicans and the media establishment celebrated the deal. Go figure.

And so it was that the “IT’S RIGHT TO SAY NO” campaign was hatched shortly after Easter 1998 and I found myself back at DUP headquarters at Dundela House. There were a number of steering group meetings held here for the anti-Agreement lobby and I was present at several of these. It must be said that the DUP was generous in providing this facility and they were committed to the opposition of the Belfast Agreement at this time.

The DUP’s Deputy Leader, Peter Robinson, was the main DUP personality present at these meetings and I found it interesting to observe him close up and personal. Where Paisley exuded a larger than life warmth, Robinson radiated a deep chill. His clipped and precise manner of speaking, his carefully coiffeured appearance, all pointed to a man who was highly organised and not to be treated lightly. I have no doubt that Peter Robinson’s strategic and organisational skills have been absolutely central to the success of the DUP; he is a most impressive but dangerous political animal.

I was amused during these meetings by the obvious tension between Robert McCartney and Peter Robinson, with the former muttering away as Robinson pontificated on possible forms of strategy. Holding together the alliance of those who were to oppose the Belfast Agreement was not the easy prospect one might have imagined and it taught me that Unionism’s capacity to fracture itself is always present.

On the 22nd May 1998 the Referendum on what was touted by the global media as “The Good Friday Agreement” was held and as an exercise in media manipulation it would have made Goebbels proud! Even the very name of it was designed to conjure up a certain sacredness that should not be denied. Those of us in the ant-Agreement camp found our air-time severely limited – the Government threw the proverbial kitchen sink at it and the final result was depressing but perhaps not that surprising. Just over 70% of those who voted supported the Belfast Agreement and the media were exultant. On reflection, I view this date as the day the Union was struck a fatal blow and a sufficient bloc of unionism was moved beyond the tipping point.

There was little time to feel despondent though becau
se Assembly Elections were called almost immediately and I found myself as the UK Unionist candidate in Upper Bann. In this unionist cockpit of a constituency, a decision was taken for a United Unionist platform to be created by those of us in the “Anti” camp, and that basically meant me, the local DUP, and a leading light in the Orange Order camp, County Armagh Grand Master Denis Watson, campaigning together. This gave me an insight into how the DUP electioneered and proved an eye-opener to this innocent abroad.

The DUP’s main figure in Upper Bann was a Portadown based accountant called Mervyn Carrick. There was also a husband and wife team, William and Ruth Allen. All three were members of the Free Presbyterian Church – as was I. I have to be candid and say that I found the Allens a dismal pair whilst Mr Carrick carried the warmth of personality one would expect from an accountant. That said, he was also a very energetic campaigner and I lost a few pounds in weight before losing a few more pounds on my deposit! I got the impression that the DUP would have preferred had I not been standing, and as DUP ambitions were to grow, the very prospect of anyone opposing them was viewed as near blasphemy! Back then I was running my own embryonic business, with two young kids, canvassing in the evening, and was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the campaign!

The United Unionists got two candidates elected to the Assembly – 1 DUP in the form of the charismatically challenged Carrick (Accountants of the world unite) and 1 Orange Order – elementary for Denis Watson.

My first preference vote was just over 1400, and whilst this was derided by some perhaps others viewed it as a marker for the future considering that I had been thrown in the deep end, with no experience whatsoever of local politics. Over the next few years, I became a prolific personality in the local media, and had a few public arguments with the local DUP.

In the late autumn of 1998, Peter Robinson observed “ The sky is not less grey because the blind man does not see it. Equally the danger of this Agreement is not less real because 71% of the people do not see it.”

The year after the Assembly election, 1999, saw some of us unionists try to bring out public opinion to save the Royal Ulster Constabulary from what we saw was its looming demise at the hands of Chris Patten. Patten had been tasked to produce a report on the future of policing in Northern Ireland and since the IRA required the emasculation of the RUC as a key requirement of its participation in the political process, it was obvious that Patten would axe the RUC.

I organised a local public meeting and spoke at others around the Province. Looking back, it was obvious from the attendance that whilst there was some disquiet at what was looming there was not enough to stop the axe from falling. The people I felt sorriest for were those brave RUC men and women who carried the mental and physical wounds of IRA barbarity and who were offended by the notion that it was they that needed to be “reformed” – not the terrorists! The shape of peace process Ulster was emerging.

These “Save the RUC” meetings culminated at a monster rally held in the Ulster Hall the September of that year. I did not speak at that event but it was very well attended and I remember meeting up with a DUP Assemblyman after the meeting. I can still recall being shocked by the sheer cynicism he displayed towards the public. He felt there was NO chance of the RUC being retained but as he put it “David, we have to be seen to be doing something” with a smile on his face

There were also changes within the local DUP, and I became friendly with David Simpson – the future DUP Member of Parliament for the constituency – and I had known the amiable Stephen Moutray, a future DUP MLA, for several years previously. Both gentlemen were also Free Presbyterians. I liked them both and there was some discussion amongst us ahead of the 2001 General Election. I was asked to write an endorsement for the DUP’s David Simpson election literature and I gladly did so. In the event, he did not win, but his profile was substantially raised and the DUP in Upper Bann morphed into a viable alternative to the ageing local Ulster Unionists. David Trimble’s deep unpopularity helped the DUP gain local ascendancy although the media pretended otherwise and pretended Trimble was still the major vote puller in this constituency.

My relationship with the DUP faded after the 2001 General Election. I ceased having much contact with them and when the Assembly Election of 2003 was called and two DUP MLA’s were now returned to Stormont from Upper Bann that really was the end of days. You see the thing about the DUP is if you’re not in the tribe and worshipping at the shrine of “The Doc” then you are nowhere. It’s almost a religious cult – though whether the structure and discipline will hold when Papa Doc is no longer around is another question.

Dr Paisley’s son, Ian Jnr, lacks the personality of his father and I have found him a cold fish in those rare media occasions when we have encountered each other, He and I had a very public sharp exchange of views in the letters page of The Newsletter and I wonder if he has the charisma to follow his father. That said, I also think it is a very hard act he has to follow and one should not be uncharitable towards him.

However, the DUP manifesto position outlined in the 2003 Assembly election, and then again in 2005 at the General Election, was carefully calibrated to persuade voters that the DUP had been re-born, so to speak, and whilst they opposed the position of the Ulster Unionists they were offering positive policies. That said, there was still bellicose language in their election communiqués such as “Republicans are under the cosh and a new confident and dynamic unionism possesses the high moral ground. The Unionist community does not want to go back to the bad old days when the UUP was in charge and conceded daily to Sinn Fein/IRA”

Oddly enough the DUP policies could only really be enacted if the DUP were to enter power-sharing with Sinn Fein/IRA, and so there was a seeming contradiction at the heart of DUP thinking. The manicured language was all about offering “Leadership to put things right” – and the DUP provided a coherent energetic and above all united alternative to the divided fractious and tired Ulster Unionist Party.

The DUP has longed to become the largest Unionist Party and following its massive electoral success in 2005, reinforced in 2007, this is now demonstrably the case. It has effectively replaced the clapped out directionless Ulster Unionist Party, and may almost completely annihilate that Party over the next five to ten years.

2007 sees Dr Ian Paisley sitting on top of the Unionist pile, and his DUP is now being treated with the respect denied it for decades. A media that once damned Paisley now praises him in the same way it lauded Lord Trimble, though his media interviews still retain a modicum of discomfiture for DUP pragmatists as he still has a mercurial edge.

The DUP has 9 out of the 10 Unionist MP’s at Westminster, it has 3 members in the House of Lords – including Dr Paisley’s wife Eileen, it has 36 MLA’s at Stormont, it has 183 local Councillors – the DUP has undeniably become the torch-bearer for Unionism. And that’s the problem.

You see, I do not believe that the DUP puts the long term survival of the Union top of its list of priorities. The DUP puts the survival of the DUP top of its list
of priorities and the realisation of political power is the driving force within that Party. Some see IRA/Sinn Fein and its United Ireland intentions as the greatest threat to the survival of the Union but I consider the DUP as constituting a bigger and potentially more lethal danger to the Union.

Why? Because it is little more than a unionist version of Sinn Fein, it is Ulster Nationalism incarnate and nowadays it lacks any opposition to temper its worst excesses. With devolution as its holy grail, the DUP is susceptible to pursuing a path which leads away from the Union. The DUP will decide what it will do, it believes it is now clever enough to sell this to the unionist electorate, and since it puts power first, it could potentially accept an amelioration of the Union as a price worth paying so long as its grip on power is enhanced. I think that there is every likelihood that the DUP will try and share power with Sinn Fein. Indeed in anticipation of this, it has even decided to stop referring to Republicans as Sinn Fein/IRA.

The DUP does not enjoy criticism. It has managed to triangulate itself to the point where all those to the left of it are branded “Lundy’s”, the terms for traitors to the Unionist cause. Those on the right of it, such as myself, are dismissed as mavericks, and without any electoral mandate. But to paraphrase Peter Robinson, “ The sky is not less grey because the blind man does not see it. Equally the danger of the DUP is not less real because 30.1% of the people vote for it.”

“……..and now the poorest of all!”

By ATWadmin On March 19th, 2007 at 9:37 am

Most of us cannot even begin to either encompass or understand the grief of a parent when a child dies through either violence or accident. That trauma is exclusive, fortunately, to a randomly selected group of people whose son or daughter has been taken from the heart of their family by a bullet or knife, by a speeding car, or by any number of ways that this careless society provides for the early termination of a promising young life. Equally fortunate is the process provided by nature which allows the families to assimilate their grief, and move on through life; saddened but not crushed, bent but not broken!

We should, therefore, I believe, spare a special thought today for one of life’s losers in the long list of bereaved; singled out not only because of his determination to prove the unprovable, but rather because of the high profile of his son’s death. I refer of course to Mr. Mohammed Fayed, the owner of, amongst many other toys, Harrod’s department store, and the grieving father of one Dodi Fayed, who died alongside diana.jpgPrincess Diana in a high speed car crash in Paris. Without his presence alongside Diana in those photographs so greedily snapped and sold to the ‘pubic press’ he would have been unknown outside the circle purchased for him by his father’s great wealth. He was a playboy of the worst kind, with virtually unlimited wealth and few instincts about money’s worth; an inflated sense of his own talents and an equally inflated sense of his own importance, again purchased for him by Fayed’s cash. But for all of those failings, he was still a beloved son, and his death was a blow which would have flattened any ordinary mortal.

Unfortunately, Mohammed Fayed believed then, and still holds fast, to any number of ‘conspiracy’ theories regarding the death of his son alongside the woman with possibly the highest profile in the world, and has relentlessly pursued these rumours. Aided and abetted, it must be accepted, by those who would profit by such dreams because their own livelihood depends on their continued stoking of the ‘rumour mills’, and drawing ever more ridiculous lines upon which a grief-stricken father could pursue his phantom enemies! We read of the latest farce when Fayed took legal action in France against two former senior Metropolitan Police officers in his ever-lasting struggle to prove that someone, anyone, other than a drunken driver killed his beloved son!

Some kindly and disinterested soul, one who knows and understands this driven man, should take Mohammed Fayed to one side, hold his shoulder and tell him that it really is time to move on; to possibly establish an Charity bearing his son’s name by which he would be remembered, and to leave the gory headlines and silly conspiracies behind, as we all have to do!

 

For Sale: Boy, Slave, £25

By ATWadmin On March 18th, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Rageh Omaar makes a mockery of the notion that slavery has been abolished, in a powerful feature in today’s Mail on Sunday Magazine (no link.) It comes ahead of his filmed investigation, Slave Children, to be broadcast on BBC 2 on March 26.

Omaar provides an indication of the sheer scale of this ongoing abomination:

Although some research suggests that as many as 27 million people worldwide are in forced labour, conservative estimates put the number at about 12 million. The worst areas are Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa.

In one case study, Omaar writes of a boy he came across in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who had been smuggle in from Yemen and forced to beg. At the end of each day his proceeds are taken from him. To make him a more effective beggar, he was mutilated during his journey into Saudi, leaving him with a grisly stump instead of a hand.

That poor boy is just one of that ‘conservative’ estimate of 12 million. Liberals have long romanticised the Third World whilst attempting to spread their guilt to the rest of us for Britain’s role in slavery. Prime Minister Blair, Baroness Scotland, Peter Hain and the rest can polish their left wing credentials all they like. They don’t talk for me or my country. Britain’s role in slavery also encompasses its abolition and the Royal Navy’s genuinely proud tradition of sweeping it from the seas.

It’s easy to denigrate that which happened more than 200 years ago in our name and the Left has it down to a fine art. To today’s genuinely horrific scale of slavery, these political poseurs have nothing to say.

Cowards.

more by luck?

By ATWadmin On March 18th, 2007 at 5:27 pm

OK so forget the rugby since all the teams from these isles fell flat..ahem..Ireland beat Pakistan in the cricket (i didnt know they even had a proper team), rookie Lewis Hamilton got a sensational podium in the Australian grand prix and in the beautiful game Paul Robinson, Englands keeper, scored a goal from 88 metres for Tottenham.

 

 

these colours dont run

By ATWadmin On March 18th, 2007 at 3:57 pm

DSC00080.jpgDSC00083.jpg

Monica Troll and Skye braved the cold to report from the Gathering of Eagles. The MSM might not be covering it but we sure as hell will!

For Sally on Mothers Day

By ATWadmin On March 18th, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Ellee has written a moving tribute to Sally Clark who was found dead at home on Friday. 

Sally, aged 42, _39566759_clarke203.jpgwas released in 2003 having been wrongfully imprisoned for more than three years, falsely accused of the murder of her two sons.  I feel desperately sorry for her family, in particular her husband and her father who stood steadfastly by her. Her father expressed pride at her strength when she was finally freed in 2003. And her husband always believed in her innocence – he was instrumental in securing vital evidence for her release. They must be utterly devastated.

Her husband Steve believed in these cases mothers were presumed guilty.  "That’s a reversal of the burden of proof. In these cases the parents – normally the mother – has to prove how the baby died and of course if the doctors don’t know, how can the parents know? All they can say is we don’t know."  One of the comments in Ellee’s post reflects on the friend she knew, ‘an amazing lady- and friend- a wonderful mum – her and Steve were a beautiful couple who faced adversity with strength’.  I agree with Ellee that this is one of the saddest miscarriage of justice cases I have read about in recent years. In Ellee’s words:

"I could not survive such a tragedy. You then had to suffer the nudges and pointed fingers and, even worse, a criminal court case where you were convicted of their murder following misleading evidence given by paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow. Despite all your your legal experience and your faith and respect for British justice, you were convicted and torn apart from your home, your husband and your remaining son. Can any nightmare be worse?"

A devastating end to a life whose case brought new evidence to light that changed the way we treat other grieving cot-death mothers to try to minimise the risk of future miscarriages of British ‘justice’

Soldiering On

By ATWadmin On March 18th, 2007 at 1:37 pm

Oh my goodness.  Mr & Mrs Eternally Oppressed of Taig Terrace, Londonderry, have been wittering to the world about the remarks of a Scottish Territorial Army soldier who came out with an admittedly crass remark.  Private Steven Davidson posted the words ‘Paras 13, Bogside nil, easy, easy’ on a website.  He claims he was provoked into making the remark and, judging by the innate foulness of Irish republicans, I can well believe him.

Davidson should be reprimanded, but only for unprofessional behaviour.  In a job you work with people you often utterly detest.  However, your commitment to ostensible impartiality should preclude you from saying or doing an action likely to land you in the proverbial.  Davidson should definitely NOT be reprimanded for the content of his riposte.  I have worked in the care profession with a few ex-Army guys and I can assure you their experiences have left them with a loathing of Irish republicans far more pronounced than even my own.

So why should he not be reprimanded for the content of his response?  I’ll tell you!  It is because figures who have said far worse are prospering in the new Ulster dispensation.  Gerry Adams, who claims to be a professional ‘politician’ (titter, titter) told a baying crowd the IRA had not ‘gone away, you know’.  He also told a worldwide media his terrorist cohorts were prepared for ‘another 25 years of war’.  Francie Molloy claimed that, in the absence of ‘success’ for republican politics, the IRA would go back to ‘what they know best’.  Thanks to the moral and intellectual witlessness of the separatist community, these two munchkins will earn an assembly salary of around £50,000 this year – far more than Davidson earns or is ever likely to earn.

What infuriates me is that those who whinge on incessantly about the 14 individuals who got shot in Londonderry back in ’72 is the refusal to see the massive part those individuals played in their own demise – considering the context of events.  These are also the same people who have given electoral support to IRA murderers and their apologists for the best part of 30 years.  So spare us the crocodile tears.

Will John Kelly and the rest of the Bogside Bleaters be calling for the sacking of Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness the next time they praise Provo killers at the next republican sin-bin?  Of course not.  When we see those sort of requests followed by actions, we can maybe then think about dismissing someone who made a childish comment in the heat of the moment.