Saturday, 14 February 2015

Those who shout the loudest are only shouting.



The past few weeks in this grubby little statelet we call home have been quite eventful and needless to say not in a very positive way. We have had Stormont Ministers paying political football over the long & disputed savage welfare reform legislation, alleged nefarious plots and plans of rocket attacks against the Deputy First Minister and the SDLP, one of the most inoffensive middle class parties on the face of God's green earth gaining the dissident tag from a former dissident himself the Deputy First Minister. In all seriousness there are things listed here that even the most imaginative of people just could not make up.

On February 10th amidst discussions over the Welfare Reform Bill the DUP were accused by the Ulster Unionist's Roy Beggs of "killing off discussion” when they tabled a series of petitions of concern against amendments to the bill. Beggs went even further describing their undemocratic actions as “shameful”, which in the grand scheme of things is a pretty mild term to use.

A member of the SDLP's "dissident" faction Alex Attwood accused the DUP of trying to run a "coach and horses" through proposed amendments with their continual use of petitions of concern. The DUP are famous for their use of petitions of concern as was witnessed and criticised during the Nelson McCausland and Red Sky fiasco at the end of which every Stormont party with the exception of the DUP agreed with a Stormont monitoring committee that Nelson had indeed deliberately misled MLA's.

Later on Feb 10th and true to form Sinn Fein rose in support of their BFFs the DUP when the Deputy First Minister accused SDLP members of defying their leadership and political grandstanding. This came after the SDLP  submitted amendments to elements of the Welfare Reform Bill. It was in the middle of his little outburst that Mr McGuinness referred to “dissident” elements within the SDLP adding that their submission of amendments could potentially risk the collapse of both the Stormont House agreement and the institutions themselves.

It seems very convenient that the SDLP have been given the dissident label at this point. Could it be
Where's my sprinkles ya dissident?
an attempt to erode support for Mark Durkan in Derry who receives widespread cross community support or is it just the age old tactic of ignoring the message and demonising the messenger? Considering Sinn Fein has in the past accused journalists of being dissidents, this does not surprise me. I'm just waiting until Martin doesn't get strawberry sauce or the right type of sprinkles on his ice cream, at which point we could have dissident ice cream men. No matter what way you look at it, it's very pitiful!

It might be an idea for Sinn Fein to look at their own political grandstanding as they continue to falsely promise people support in resisting and opposing Tory Cuts yet at the same time implement savage cuts to services and welfare reform.. Maybe they could explain how the millions of pounds set aside to cushion those most affected by Welfare Reform is actually money which will have to be repaid to the British Treasury on top of the already crippling debts Stormont has accrued in our names. 

100 School closures -Thank SF
  Furthermore as former Education minister and senior member of the party which has held that office since the Assembly was formed Martin could explain his party's audacity in standing in support of St Mary's and Stranmillis teacher training colleges when Sinn Fein through their successive Education Ministers have closed over 100 schools in the north leaving existing schools oversubscribed.

Finally Sinn Fein might want to  take time to explain the story of Patsy Gillespie to their Foyle Westminster Candidate Gerry O'Hara who recently claimed at an event attended by children to be unaware of what was one of the most heinous acts of the troubles. Patsy Gillespie was tied to a vehicle and forced to drive a bomb to a British Army checkpoint as his family were held hostage at gunpoint. Maybe when attending  policing board meetings Gerry would be better using a search engine to keep to date with what's happening in the city he wants to represent by not taking his seat instead of of playing cards on his i-pad. Listen to Gerry below.



Now on a separate issue Sinn Fein this week have voiced their outrage and concern over yet another alleged threat against the Deputy First Minster. No one should feel under threat or have violence visited upon them, however from a personal perspective it seems that these threats are often timely in that they occur mostly around election time. Whilst I do not condone a threat against anyone's life I find it ludicrous that people are expected to believe that Mr McGuinness is today more under threat from members of his own community than he ever was from State Forces and their Loyalist associates. The more cynical side of me wonders if these threats are also concocted to deflect public attention from real issues.

Issues such as the ill treatment of political prisoners in Maghaberry which seems to have escaped the notice of many of our elected representatives including those who built their electoral success on the prison issue. The recent events in Maghberry saw, as Raymond McCartney calls them 'political prisoners' being severely beaten, denied medical treatment and denied legal visits. Yet at two recent events in Derry to raise awareness of the prison issue the closest Sinn Fein and indeed SDLP members got to the protest was when the drove past for a nosey. They seem to forget that 10 men died and many were brutalised on the blanket protest to fight against criminalisation and ill treatment, and they also forget that as the violence against prisoners increased inside the jails, the violence on the outside increased, clearly the lessons of history have not been learned or if learned have been forgotten...

Maybe this memory loss is contagious, Gerry O'Hara can't remember Patsy Gillespie, Gerry Adams forgets he was in the provos, and Martin McGuinness just forgets himself, and at the same time hopes people forget promises such as the 2013 petition of concern he said he would raise against the bedroom tax. Sinn Fein also guaranteed the expansion of the Magee University last Westminster election, still waiting on that! Cuts to the University would explain why there was cross party support for the upgrade of the Derry to Coleraine railway line, as outside of this service it's quicker to cycle to Belfast than go by train.

 If you consider the promised benefits that were to come to the city on the back of project kelvin, which later went to Coleraine it stands to reason that they would upgrade the railway line out of the city as they're certainly not bringing jobs in. This unfortunate situation is compounded by the lack of parking at the Waterside railway station. I would say that people could use the multi million pound car park funded by OFMDFM but unfortunately it's closed to the public...


In the run up to the 2010 Wesminster  election both the SDLP and Sinn Fein signed the following manifestos on the Guildhall Sq in Derry. Over to you the voting public?


















Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Maghaberry Crisis.

Over the past few days Maghaberry Prison has featured prominently in local news broadcasts. This follows on from an arbitrary lock down within the Roe House area of the prison which houses around fifty Republican Political Prisoners. Reports emerging from the prison tell us of the violence being meted out to political prisoners after general prison staff were temporarily replaced by a riot squad referred to as a 'standby search team.'

In a joint 2009 report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice it was suggested that the search team be removed from the prison due to their forceful presence, the lack of independent oversight and the failure of prison authorities to address complaints over their conduct. Recent events in Maghaberry would reinforce the need for the Justice Department and Prison Authorities to follow these recommendations and to ensure that the treatment of prisoners is compliant with international human rights standards.


With justice powers and the daily running of prisons a devolved responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly we must question the silence of public representatives on this issue. Maybe these representatives including Justice Minister Mr Ford  should take time to read the statement published on the Madden and Finucane Solicitors website which tells of how prison authorities refused to allow injured prisoners medical and legal visits.

Seventeen years on from the Good Friday Agreement political prisoners continue to endure arbitrary lock down, 23 hour lock up, controlled movement and regular brutal forced strip searching despite an agreement brokered in August 2010 to address these issues. If this was happening in any other country in the world our so called civic leaders and moral guardians would be queuing up to condemn it yet here their silence speaks volumes as does their hypocrisy and double standards.

Another worrying issue that should be of concern to every right thinking individual is the blatant erosion of civil liberties. There are now a growing number of people being imprisoned for long periods of time without trial under the guise of remand which is something the DUP have overlooked in their attempts to justify the situation in Maghaberry.

 The responsibility for the ongoing human rights abuses in Maghaberry unlike the past cannot be laid at the door of Downing Street, these human rights abuses are being carried out by a prison staff employed by the Northern Ireland Assembly and as much as they try and shirk their collective responsibilities they like Pontious Pilate will never be able to wash the blood off their hands.

I would call on anyone who opposes human rights abuse to exercise whatever influence they can, and especially those in the clergy who again remain silent.