Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Poppy Fascism

Let me make it very clear. I have nothing at all against you if it is your choice to wear a poppy, but allow me the same courtesy as I choose not to wear one.

This poppy fascism is getting out of hand. For years now Jon Snow has withstood the demands from poppy fascists that he must wear a poppy on-screen. Fair play to him for his resolve. Even the Royal British Legion has responded to this with what amounted to 'ah come now lads its his own choice' (not actual comment, I like to give these things a local touch).

Not that Mr. Snow is in the same boat as myself. He wears a poppy on Remembrance Sunday, but on his own time. His protest is against the poppy fascism that is beginning to make it obligatory to wear a poppy. Surely if you are truly proponents of freedom (which it has been argued the poppy symbolises), you would encourage the practice that individuals should have the choice of whether or not to wear a poppy. This brings me to the Celtic fiasco.

During last weeks' nine-nil thumping of Aberdeen, Celtic fans unveiled a banner declaring:


This was in response to the decision for Celtic to display poppies on their shirts. Celtic have insisted this was the action of a small minority. This made me think it was just a few guys with a bit of a poster. I was genuinely shocked when I saw the following image of the small minority.

Let me again be very clear, I wish that none of this happened. However, when you bring politics into sport how on earth can you expect zero repercussions. Sport is not the place for politics, and yes, that includes the poppy. There is now talk of these fans being banned from attending Celtic matches. How on earth is that justified?

My own opinion is different to these fans. There should be absolutely no ruling on either this or any political issue within sport. The individual players ought to have the choice as to whether or not they wish to wear a poppy. If they do not wish to wear one, that should be respected, if they choose to wear one, that should similarly be respected. There have been incidents celebrated where people have won the right to wear a poppy when it has been denied, so why should these players be denied that choice?

As it stands, punishing these fans for voicing their own opinions while promoting the poppy as a commemoration of 'soldiers who fought for freedom' is nothing short of hypocrisy.

What annoyed me immensely is this article of DUP MP Gregory Campbell's reaction to this situation. He insisted that Celtic and all other clubs must "actively promote the act of remembrance". Who is he to demand what Celtic Football Club ought to do? He has no links to the club whatsoever besides being a fan of their rivals. He is not a Celtic fan, he is not a footballer, he is not Scottish... how can he demand what this club ought to do?

On the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters Clubs website you'll find their response to how the Celtic have handled the matter. Its an interesting read and I encourage you to do so.

I'm going to finish this rant with what I think sums up the hypocrisy of Gregory Campbell and others in the following exchange between Jon Snow and 'Stan', a commenter on his blog.

Stan (his words, I accept no liability for his grammar etc., any reader of this blog knows I have enough problems of my own in that department):

"jon,when you ride your bike,do you ever think of the hundreds of thousands of british troops who gave there lives in world war 2 tokeep our great country free you alone dishonour them by not wearing a poppy.YOU LOOK WHAT YOU ARE ON YOUR BIKE."

Jon Snow's reply:

"Stan they died that we might be free to wear a Poppy whenever we wish. i wish to wear mine on Remembrance Sunday. When you wish to wear yours is your business. Compelling people to wear poppies because YOU think they OUGHT to is precisely the Poppy fascism, or intolerance, that I have complained of in the past. On yer bike Stan, with or without a poppy, it’s all your own free choice..Hitler lost the war!"

OK, I lied, I'll end on this: if you have a few minutes free why not google "British War Crimes in Iraq" or "British Collusion" or any of the multitude of other possibilities. There's not exactly a shortage of material on what those protesters were pointing out, is there? (END - I promise it is this time).

Monday, 13 September 2010

Selling Out Must Be Contagious

Comic Strip: Original Source here, no copyright infringement intended - I don't own the image nor am I clever enough to come up with such a thing :)
For more Chaospet comic strips their website is great, I highly recommend it!

Barnsley’s Council has always had Liberal Democrat representatives since its formation in 1972. That is until this morning (Ed: yesterday morning at time of posting!) when the final remaining Lib Dem councillor, Sharron Brook, defected for the Labour Party as only the latest to become disillusioned by the national leadership selling their souls in coalition with the Tories.

A couple of months ago, Councillor Brook wrote a letter to the residents in her ward to assure them of her shame over the actions of the national Lib Dems. This letter was written jointly with fellow Lib Dem, Sarah Brook, who had been defeated in the 2010 local elections. They asked their readership for their input in a way forward, namely whether they ought to:

  1. Remain in the Liberal Democrat Party
  2. Join the Labour Party
  3. Beome Independent

It would appear Councillor Brook (and, I assume, Sarah Brook also) has opted to join the Labour Party in opposition to the coalition government. One aspect of this I felt particularly interesting was when the letter referred to the indifference toward the deprived people of north England clearly demonstrated by the Lib Dem national party in their coalition with the Conservatives. It seems that particularly in the North and the Midlands, Lib Dems are deserting their party. Councillor Brook’s defection is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ultimately, selling out one’s own principles, particularly in politics, will not go unpunished. The Liberal Democrats may have acquired themselves some power now, but come the next general election I predict there will be a huge backlash sending them into obscurity. Whether this happens or not is of no great concern for me other than the selfish pleasure that usually comes from being right. However, what I am more concerned with is the politics on the island of Ireland. When one considers ‘selling out’ while looking at the political parties in the 26 Counties there isn’t exactly a shortage of examples, but for me what stands out most is the so-called Green Party.

I am an environmentalist. I support the pursuit of renewable and sustainable energy sources; I recycle and encourage those around me to do so also; and in the political realm I believe it necessary to check all legislation (and policy in general) against its environmental implications. In Ireland, we need to develop a much better strategy for dealing with excess waste, incinerators must be avoided. I am against nuclear power in any form and in particular I believe we ought to join the campaign against Sellafield. Other policies I support include plastic bag levies, the promotion and campaign for sustainable development, and the setting up of an agency with actual workable enforcement powers for environmental protection. It makes sense for these policies to be implemented on an all-Ireland basis, which in turn (as with almost every aspect of Irish politics) would make much more sense with the devolution of fiscal powers to Ireland. I say all this to make it clear that I am not against the Greens in principle – far from it – rather, I am disgusted by their selling out of their own principles whilst in power with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

The betrayals of the Green Party are so numerous and have been dealt with in depth before so I’m just going to address them in point form below:

  1. Destruction of heritage area – One would have thought that with the Green Party in government, and more specifically with party leader John Gormley as ‘Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government’, that our national heritage sites would be in safe hands. On the contrary, Minister Gormley oversaw the construction of a motorway through the Tara-Skryne and Gabhra valley close to the Hill of Tara, an area known for its archaeological significance. The Greens previously opposed this proposal. The excuse provided was that it was a project signed off by the former Minister and could not be reversed – a blatant lie. It is feasible that this was one of the first sell outs when the Green Party were in pre-government negotiations with Fianna Fáil.
  2. The Corrib Gas Controversy – Another campaign the Green Party once supported was ‘Shell to Sea’, but since joining government their silence has been deafening.
  3. Dublin Bus Service Cuts - The environmentalists are now against public transport? Similar cuts occurred in Cork where it appears the brunt of the cuts happened in the poorer areas – surely these are the areas most in need of these services?
  4. Incinerators – When Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are criticising your [John Gormley] inaction in preventing incinerators you surely must begin to question yourself as Green Party leader. Its like Wayne Rooney complaining that you're always diving. Incinerators must be opposed, we must approach a much better strategy to waste management.
  5. National Assets Management Agency – Another policy I never thought I would associate with the Green Party is bail outs for the fat-cats who are the biggest threat to the environment and the Irish working class.
  6. Shannon Airport – Whatever happened to neutral Ireland? The US continues to use Shannon Airport for their war-planes. No US vehicle is being searched – I doubt they even can be searched – despite the Greens saying this would be a must in the pre-government negotiations. Surely this is a flagrant disregard for basic green principles of world peace and justice?
  7. Lisbon Treaty – Come on now lads, it’s time for Gormley and his cohorts to admit it, if the Greens weren’t trying to hold onto their power they would’ve been in the ‘NO’ camp too.7
  8. Civil Partnerships – In their capacity as members of the coalition government the Greens are pushing a civil partnership alternative rather than the equal right of same-sex marriage that the LGBT community deserve and that the Greens previously claimed to have supported. Another sell-out?
  9. Education and other public service Budget Cuts – Remember the 12,000 strong protests against education cuts in 2008? As much as they [Greens] remember their pre-government promises it seems. TD Hayes (Fine Gael) described the Greens’ involvement in that 2008 Budget as “stomach churning”. That’s a pretty accurate description for most of us. Even more so each year since.
  10. Ultimately, the biggest criticism of the Greens is their Hypocrisy – Entire u-turns between what they promised pre-election, and what they are willing to do to stay in power. For me, TD Ciarán Cuffe is the perfect example. What is almost laughable (if it weren’t for the aforementioned tragic results of this betrayal of principle) is that TD Cuffe even stated before the Greens went into government with Fianna Fáil that it would be a “deal with the devil” and would leave the Greens “spat out after five years... decimated as a party”. His prophesy will soon be shown to be true! Now, he recently finds himself in the rather nice position as a Minister of State with responsibility for Horticulture, Sustainable Travel, and Planning & Heritage, working alongside the devil.

Just as with the Liberal Democrats in England, the Greens are finding their sell out affecting their membership, with the most prominent of those that left and/or defected including Chris O’Leary, Patricia McKenna, Betty Doran, Pat Kavanagh, Déirdre de Búrca and Dr. Edward Horgan. Moreover, in November last year the Donegal branch of the party began their disaffiliation from the national party. While Minister Gormley dismisses the criticisms each of these provide when leaving the party, he doesn’t seem to understand that their criticisms are the same as many of their voters, insisting that ‘on the doorsteps’ they’re getting a great response for their achievements in government. He must, therefore, have been astounded to see both their rejection at the 2009 European Election and their number of county council seats plummet from 18 to just 3 in the 2009 local elections.

Again, the demise of the Green Party in Ireland provides me with no pleasure. I would much rather they were able to keep the corrupt Fianna Fáil in check, or at least implement some meaningful green policies as opposed to greenwash about bulbs and the like. I wonder how their counterparts in the 6 counties (as members of the same branch of the Green Party) feel about these accusations.

In his explanation for leaving the party Dr. Edward Horgan makes quite a poignant suggestion to his former party’s leader, and I feel this is the best point to end this rant on:

“Perhaps the new incinerator in John Gormley’s constituency can be used to dispose of their unwanted principles.”

Note: If I had the time, I'd have made a new logo for the Green Party to end with, using banknotes as the background (the colour of money); it would've been all very funny, you'd have thought "gosh, he really is a witty chap", and we'd all be better for it. As it is, writing this took a half hour longer than I'd planned (it took 32 mins to write) and so I couldn't be bothered :)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Short Memories?

Just a quick rant on the latest development on equal rights in Latin America :) Sorry I haven't had time to make more detailed / researched blogs.

No matter what level you took on your History studies to, you will (in Ireland I mean) at some point have come across the penal laws, restricting the rights of Catholics (and Presbyterians) on the island. The restrictions encompassed almost every aspect of life - socially, politically, economically etc. The struggle for equal rights has been long, and hard, and is still ongoing, although thankfully our equal platform politically now affords us the ability to campaign for these rights. This campaign has expanded as we recognise the need for equal rights regardless not only of religious affiliation, but also gender, age, and most specifically for this blog post, sexual orientation.

It saddens me, and angers me, to consider that despite the persecution and rights restrictions suffered by our ancestors essentially for something that was in their heart, it is the same Catholic community (ed - that's unfair, it is some members of that same community) that is one of the main opponents of equal rights for those of a homosexual orientation due to something essentially held in their heart.

But today I am struck with hope. The Vatican holds the same level of influence over Argentina as it does on this island. Yet nationwide they have recognised and legalised the equal right of same-sex couples to be married. Along with this comes equal rights to adopt children desperately needing a loving home, equal social security rights, equal rights with regards to time off work due to family issues, and so on.

This is a Great day for Freedom. A Great day for Equality. A Great day for hope.

How long now until we join the enlightened societies around the world? How long until we recognise the hypocrisy of 'Freedom OF Religion' in the absence of 'Freedom FROM Religion'?

How long until we entirely reject the notion of a theocratic state in favour of secularism and democracy? (ed, political jibe - even republicism?)

How long until we grant these rights that the majority of Irish people believe in? All the latest polls, particularly in the 26 counties, are in support of equality in this instance.

Moreover, beyond marriage, consider some of the other ridiculous infringements on LGBT rights. The most blatant case, in my opinion, is a ban on blood donation from men who have sex with other men! This is downright discriminatory, not only against sexual orientation, but it is also sexism in the extreme. I wonder would these hypocrites who enforced that ban reject 'gay blood' themselves if they were in dire need.

The hypocrisy does not end there. In the 26 counties, it is illegal for a gay couple to adopt. However it is perfectly fine for a single gay person to apply or for only one of the partners to do so. These children need loving homes, not this bureaucratic hypocrisy.

Slowly but surely, equality for the gay community is being achieved. I hope it is not long until full equality is reached. I believe that appreciation for the rights which I enjoy should be coupled with a demand that others different from me achieve these rights also; this is my basis for supporting equality and freedom.

Well done to Argentina. Much of the world looks on in pride & awe.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Rivalry v. Bitterness.

I'm currently writing a new blog post but I've not had much time lately so it'll be a day or so before I get it uploaded. For now, here's a quick wee rant... :)

At the time of writing, it is now half time in the Cameroon v Denmark Group E World Cup encounter. Its a decent match so far; in the past couple of days the matches have been much better viewing than at the beginning of the tournament. That is, with the exception of last night's England/Algeria goalless stalemate.

With 2 points from as many games, I must admit I enjoy seeing England flounder. I made it very vocal before the tournament that I thought England only had as much chance in this World Cup as the likes of Mexico, Uruguay, Chile, or the stronger African teams - Ghana or Ivory Coast. I admit it is possible, just as it was possible for Greece to win the Euro's in 2004, but I think they're a huge outside chance (as opposed to a ridiculous outside chance such as North Korea or Algeria). For a start, their qualification was over-hyped. They by no means had any challenging opposition; the aforementioned teams such as Greece, Mexico, Uruguay etc., would easily have topped that group in place of England. Also, notice the manager was one of the greatest in the world pre-tournament but now the recent results were his fault and not that of the over-hyped team. So yes, ultimately I am enjoying England's demise.

However, what this rant is really about is a particular tweet I read from a fellow Ulsterman. He indicated that he will not be joining in on the "bitterness" against England and so he will be supporting them in this World Cup. By all means, he has every right to support whomever he wants to. However, that I do not wish to see England succeed is absolutely nothing to do with bitterness - it is RIVALRY. Just as the Scottish share a rivalry with England, so do the Irish. The same as Man Utd share a rivalry with Liverpool. It is not political, it has nothing to do with hatred or anything of the like. It is plain and simple rivalry. Can you imagine explaining to Liverpool fans that they should stop being so bitter and support Man Utd in the Champions League final (or vice versa)?

Not that I'm above "bitterness". I freely admit I feel very bitter over the French and Thierry Henry's hand of God moment. I am enjoying watching them flounder every bit as much, if not more than, with England. However, this was only born recently, and I remember cheering them on in the last World Cup final.

The situation with England is entirely different. It comes down to a long standing rivalry. If there really was such a "bitterness", neither the club I support (Liverpool) nor my favourite player (Gerrard, England's 2010 World Cup captain) would be English. Moreover, the lack of "bitterness" allows us to, while not supporting the England team, support the English bid for the World Cup 2018.

Rivalry adds to the spirit of the game, and to the experience watching a match.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Another Unionist strategy to defeat Sinn Féin? - Nigel Dodds' Hypocrisy

Before I get started, here is his statement:

“The Government has talked about rebuilding trust in politics and the DUP has strongly supported the reform of the expenses system, and would have liked to see further change than was implemented to ensure that trust in politics can be regained. There is a huge inconsistency however which remains whereby Members of Parliament who do not take their seat benefit from the payment of expenses.

If someone wishes to stand on an abstentionist platform then they are obviously entitled to do so, but if elected they should not be able to benefit from some aspects of being an MP whilst not representing their constituents in Parliament or carrying out the duties of an MP. The current Government has the opportunity to review this situation and I am glad that the Leader of the House did give a commitment to look at this.

The vast majority of people right across the United Kingdom want to see politicians carrying out the work they were elected to do and they do not want to see expenses paid to MPs who want to claim to be outside the British Parliamentary system yet still receive financial benefits from the House of Commons.”

This the same man of whom the Telegraph reported during the expenses scandal:

"Nigel Dodds claimed £750 over two years for four tables and a table top for his second home. In 2007-08, Mr Dodds had the largest expenses bill of any Northern Ireland MP and the 13th highest of all. The DUP deputy leader’s expenses towards travel, staffing and running an office totalled £171,609."

The same paper later, in May 2009, further reported in Dodds' furnishing claims which included "£296 for picture framing and £974.95 over two years on seven tables".

This all while also occupying posts in the Assembly, the Executive, and Belfast City Council, and claiming salaries/expenses for all three. So Mr. Dodds is by no means the moral authority.

So lets break down the nonsense he has said. In the first paragraph he equates the need for the public to regain trust in politicians with the removal of absentionists' parliamentary expenses. This is easily refuted. There is no Sinn Féin voter who was shocked and appalled to see that Sinn Féin claim expenses without sitting in Westminster, as DUP voters were appalled at Dodds' abuse of the system. Sinn Féin ran on a policy of absentionism as they have done for a long time and were duly elected to fulfill that electoral promise. Sinn Féin voters pay their taxes to the British treasury and as such the Sinn Féin MPs are entitled to receive reimbursement for any expense attributed to the carrying out of their duties. Dodds also equates not sitting in parliament to not carrying out MPs duties. The vast majority of MP's work is carried out in their constituency and elsewhere outside the House of Commons.

Sinn Fein MPs use some of that expenses money to hire constituency workers, as many other parties do. This is not pocketed money. Dodds should consider those constituents, many unionists as well as nationalists. Or perhaps Dodds is hoping to politically starve those constituents into voting DUP since unionism has so miserably failed to defeat Sinn Féin on the issues.

If Nigel Dodds' only constituency work happens whilst on his backside in Westminster then it is the people of North Belfast who I feel sorry for.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Speedily Declining and Lazy Party

There have been many jokes surrounding the SDLP acronym; the Stoop Down Low Party is probably the most well-known. I remember one expanded the SDLP acronym to read ‘Slowly Declining Lazy Party’. I now think it would be more accurate to expand the acronym to read ‘Speedily Declining Lazy Party’. Hume must be spinning in his retirement package. This Declan O’Loan debacle is only the most recent episode of this decline. On the topic, I have a few rants to submit for your consideration.

  • The values of the SDLP and its ability to command respect and at least second preference votes across the whole community are not something that should be lost. In the interests of achieving Irish unity, that respect is vital.
  • The election was marked by a high level of tactical voting within the nationalist electorate, and indeed between nationalism and unionism. Many nationalist voters are willing to exercise their votes interchangeably between the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Equally it is clear that there remains solid support for what the SDLP stands for and that support is not going to change.
  • Sinn Fein and the SDLP come from very different backgrounds. The SDLP has always been absolutely opposed to violence and believes that the IRA campaign held back the cause of Irish unity.
  • The question now is what will best advance the interests of nationalist politics? I believe that a major realignment of northern nationalism is now called for, and I think that this means the formation of a new single nationalist party.
  • I have discussed the proposition of a new single nationalist party with the grassroots SDLP membership in North Antrim, including the councillors, and it was very strongly supported.
- Original Statements made by Mr. O'Loan

  • The statement which I issued earlier today entitled ‘O’Loan calls for formation of single nationalist party’ does not represent established party policy and I now wish to withdraw it. I do not wish to make any further comment on the matter.
- Retraction by Mr. O'Loan hours later

First and absolutely foremost, this man’s record indicates that he is by no means whatsoever an advocate of Irish Unity. You may recall Sinn Féin’s recent criticism over SDLP MLA Thomas Burns being paid by the British Ministry of Defence – the same MoD that committed, endorsed and colluded in many atrocities on this island for countless years. Well, SDLP’s endorsement of the British Army did not just start there. Another example can be seen in November 2008 when Declan O’Loan came out to support a RIR parade in Ballymena. And again, this was not the first example of Mr. O’Loan’s support of British collusion. In August 2007, Mr. O’Loan openly criticised a campaign for truth over British collusion in atrocities in Ireland – the ‘March for Truth’ – when it had launched its black ribbon campaign. This included demand for truth over British collusion in such atrocities as the UDA murder of solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989. Do these actions really portray an Irishman advocating Irish unity principles and defending fellow Irishmen? Mr. O’Loan could not even bring himself to come out and condemn the death threats against his fellow Ballymena Councillor Monica Digney in 2006 when even the DUP councillors found themselves able to do so. It is well-known the abuse and sectarianism that Miss Digney receives on that Council, with unionists drumming on the table to drown out her voice for example, but Mr. O’Loan never shows any sort of support or ‘unity’ there. Moreover, when Miss. Digney tabled a motion, which many in the area felt was vital, to tackle Larne’s drug problem, O’Loan sided with the unionists in rejecting the motion. Now, let’s examine his recent statement itself. Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd evaluates this much better than I can. Mr. O’Dowd recognises further proof that Mr. O’Loan’s ‘concern’ for Irish Unity is hypocritical in the following statement:

"The telling part of Mr O'Loan's statement is the final paragraph. He is seeking a nationalist party for what he calls 'Northern Ireland' one which would maintain working relationships with parties in what he calls 'the south'. This exposes very starkly the partitionist mindset which Mr O'Loan and people like him are trapped in. The Irish nation does not stop at Dundalk or Aughnacloy. And neither should any nationalist party. Sinn Féin are an Irish Republican party, our vision of a united Ireland goes far beyond that partitionist vision as set out by Mr. O'Loan.”

Mr. O Dowd continues to identify the difference in the 6-county vision of the SDLP and the 32-county vision of Sinn Féin. I suggest that Mr. O’Loan ought to consider switching his vision from a 6-county perspective to that of a 32-county if he is to truly consider himself an advocate of Irish Unity.

Secondly, I would like you to consider this. In the recent elections in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone (F/ST) constituency, the SDLP refused to stand aside in order to combat the sectarian pact against Sinn Féin’s incumbent MP Michelle Gildernew. Sinn Féin were willing in turn to stand aside in South Belfast in order to maximise nationalist representation. The SDLP bluntly rejected this proposal, refusing even to meet for discussion over the situation. Nonetheless, Sinn Féin and their candidate Alex Maskey made the unilateral decision to stand aside in South Belfast anyway, reaffirming in my (and many others’) eyes their commitment to the nationalist people. Now, despite the SDLP’s, quite frankly, rude rebuke, Sinn Féin still managed to defeat the sectarian pact in F/ST, with the SDLP’s candidate Fergal McKinney performing awfully. This victory over sectarianism was partly thanks to F/ST voters who have previously voted SDLP recognising the need to combine the nationalist vote by voting for Michelle Gildernew. Consider all that alongside the fact that O’Loan’s recent comments (which defied his party’s policy) had actual support within the SDLP (including councillors
Catherine McCambridge and Orla Black), and surely it can be suggested that, in fact, it is likely that there are those within the SDLP who, just as some of their traditional voters did, probably supported Sinn Féin’s position over the F/ST situation, despite whatever rhetoric was coming from the party press office.

My final consideration for you over this whole debacle, relates again to those, previously SDLP, voters in F/ST and to the support that Mr. O’Loan’s notion had within the SDLP. Now that SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie (‘the headmistress’ as she’s been dubbed to in the Blog Ulster’s Doomed) has stripped (‘spanked’ if you will...) Mr. O’Loan of the party whip one must consider first, what will be her reaction towards the defecting voters and O’Loan supporters, and second, what will be their reaction towards her? This is rhetorical, of course, as the headmistress will merely use O’Loan as a deterrent and ignore the voters entirely. I say this because while she ignored the F/ST failure, she similarly ignored the Republican voters in South Belfast who voted for her candidate. Indeed, her reaction towards South Belfast only enraged and insulted Republican voters there.

I hope before next year’s Assembly elections SDLP voters in all constituencies really look at the party and consider if it actually represents what they stand for. Or even consider what does the SDLP really stand for, with all the contrasting views.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Draw Islamophobia Day

A huge backlash, in the wake of Viacom’s decision to cover up the image of Islam’s prophet Muhammad on South Park, ‘went viral’ as the kids say these days. In the aftermath a group called Revolution Muslim issued a statement which most deemed as a threat, whereas it was more of a warning, to the creators of South Park. You can make up your own mind; you can find the post on revolutionmuslim.com.

Now, the fact that Revolution Muslim has a web address, don’t be too impressed – it’s a blog. Like this one. Admittedly with a higher readership (not hard), but a blog nonetheless. In fact it has a ‘staff’ of around ten people (brought to my attention by youtube.com/coughlan666). TEN! The media and those proponents of this ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ idea on YouTube would almost have you believe the organisation could rival the Taliban, or that it was the US domestic division of Al-Qaeda. That is the state of Western islamophobia, where it is easy to make insinuations and exaggerations when expressing this acceptable form of discrimination. For example, another common instrument used on YouTube is to use the word ‘Extremists’ in the first instance and follow it by ‘Muslims’ every other time, equating all Muslims to terrorists.

Now, let’s look at the actual reasoning behind this infringement on our freedom of speech, i.e. our freedom to ridicule, discriminate, and generally offend an entire religious group. First, let’s remember that it was not Muslims, or Revolution Muslim, or terrorists, or extremists, who covered up the image of Muhammad in South Park. It was Viacom, or Comedy Central who are owned by Viacom. So I hope that’s dispelled. The reasons behind the Muslim objections to images of their prophet being created seem quite simple to me. It is an effort to ensure that images, or shines/statues etc. for that matter, are not worshipped as Allah ought to be. I’m not sure if I’ve explained it well enough there, but it’s my best effort. This would prevent the worship of relics as was/is the norm in Christianity – the Shroud of Turin for example.

I would like to pose the question – is this really that unreasonable? And is it that unheard of in Western society?

What I’m getting at here is that we should consider that the images on South Park and in the newspapers in Europe in previous controversies were on national TV shows and widely distributed newspapers. These images offend the very ‘morals’ (for want of a better word) of Muslims. There are such morals (still searching for another word!) in our own society. For example, South Park and those newspapers could not have displayed hardcore pornography. While actors’ reactions can be shown, the actual vaginal or anal penetration cannot. At least not with the current level of restrictions on them (South Park and the newspapers), they can of course show this when on higher levels of restrictions. Another example can be actual death. So while we can show an actor being killed in a movie, we certainly wouldn’t expect to hear of a fatal car crash on the news and then be provided with images of the crash actually happening, including for instance, a pedestrian’s head fatally hitting the kerb of a pathway and splitting open. So when images of Muhammad offend Muslims in such a way, why is it such an offense to Western society to add these to the exceptions in our freedom of speech? Many of the YouTubers supporting 'Draw Muhammad Day' seem to forget that there are exeptions to the rule. Also, the freedom of expression excuse is flawed since they do not do this merely in defiance of the South Park episode - they plan to make this an annual day. An annual holiday to promote discrimination and islamophobia.

So I would like you to consider, in reference to this ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ idea, is it right to use our freedom of speech to offend and insult an entire people? Perhaps in the same fashion we should bring back the black minstrels to ridicule the entire black race. It’s just freedom of expression after all.

Note: I have made my own ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ video for YouTube. I put the link here when uploaded.
Ed: Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7OfDDly778

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tories Rejected, but still They come!

For me, the silver lining of this Tory cloud has been the complete rejection of the Conservative Party in the six counties, manifested in the dismal performance of the Ulster Unionists. However, this rejection has been entirely ignored by the new coalition government in Westminster since they have sent us Owen Paterson MP as Secretary of State. Not just a member of the Conservative Party, but a real traditional Tory, ultra right-wing. The hope of a Lib Dem Secretary of State was by no means unfeasible – Scotland’s new Secretary of State is Lib Dem MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Danny Alexander. The problem I have with a Conservative Sec. Of State is that from the outset their involvement in UCUNF discards any possibility for impartiality. Perhaps you may consider it unnecessary for the incumbent to be impartial, which may be true for other regions, but our situation is relatively unique. How successful would Mo Mowlam really have been had she been involved with a political party in which one of their main policies was Unionism? Her impartiality allowed her to bring together all aspects of our political scene to create the peace deal. However, now that this ultra-Tory has been dispatched to the North, along with his fellow Tory Minister of State Hugo Swire, let us find out just who this man is and what his political beliefs are.

For anyone not aware: Owen Paterson was Shadow Sec. Of State since July 2007 while the Conservatives were in opposition, so he is no stranger to Ireland or Irish politics. During this time, his support for unionism was quite clear. In fact, he was one of the main proponents of the Conservative/UUP link and divided time during the recent election between campaigning here for Ulster Unionist candidates and campaigning for himself in his own constituency in Britain. He was involved in the secret meeting over the, ultimately unsuccessful, sectarian pact to oust Michelle Gildernew in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The bias in favour of UUP which we can expect to be exercised by Paterson can be best demonstrated by the example of his attitude towards Lady Sylvia Hermon during the devolution of Policing and Justice powers debates – she had asked him what efforts David Cameron was making to encourage the UUP to support the deal but Paterson’s response was that she ought ask her own party leader with who the Conservatives are linked. Her opposition to the link-up was already made clear and his attitude only reiterated the rebuke that she received from party leader Reg Empy and Ulster Unionist candidate Jim Nicholson during the 2009 European Parliament election campaign. Clearly, unionism will form a core aspect of this man’s politics.

One huge difference between Paterson and his Scottish counter-part is that while Alexander is a great proponent of the EU having previously been media chief for the now defunct pro-European pressure group Britain in Europe, Paterson is his polar opposite. A staunch Eurosceptic, he has always voted strongly against pro-European legislation except in those few cases where he was absent. I won’t list them here but the following link gives a breakdown of those votes.




Yep, our boy is a massive Thatcher advocate. He joined Thatcherite groups within the Conservative party including No Turning Back, and Conservative Way Forward. Conservative Way Forward’s tagline reads ‘keep the spirit of 1979 alive’. I wonder how well that would go down with some people here! Paterson supports right wing policies of low tax, low regulation – Enron would have loved him I think.

He is also involved with the Cornerstone Group, another group within the Conservative Party representing the most right wing aspect of the party. The most worrying aspect of this organisation is their support for a unitary state meaning that not only do they oppose the authority of the EU, but are also opposed to devolution. I advise everyone to go and look at their website because it is very worrying – their emphasis on Christian values within politics, the unitary British state and ‘family values’, they remind me a lot of the tea parties in the United States. In fact, with the motto Faith, Flag, and Family they might as well have been the brainchild of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin! They state that they stand for the Monarchy, and one can assume they therefore stand for the unelected House of Lords (Lords of course, because they’re better than you). Indeed, Paterson himself has voted very strongly against the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

However, I wonder how this group feels now that Paterson has recently stated "I'm very keen that we publish a paper on how to devolve corporation tax to the devolved institutions". Moreover, if the statement in the following link is to be accepted then his “consistent support” for the devolution of Policing and Justice also contradicts the position of Cornerstone Group. I certainly hope this doesn’t provide for a politician putting career before principle.


Again, in another statement on the 13th of February 2010 Paterson again declared that “we [Conservatives] fully support the institutions established in Northern Ireland over the past decade”. I wonder how much “we” really refers to Conservatives and how much it refers to the Conservative leadership or to what the Conservatives needed to say to maintain their link with the UUP. He continues to explain that while he supports the current form of mandatory power-sharing, he envisages a time when the Assembly would have the “normal” form of government and opposition. So therefore, his vision encompasses devolution to last long-term, even permanently. Again, does this not contradict the policies of the Cornerstone Group?

However, Paterson does adhere to Cornerstone’s attitude towards Christian or ‘family’ values. Paterson voted against Civil Partnership in 2004 and has never voted for any legislation which promotes gay rights. He has voted in opposition to homosexual couples adopting, which in my opinion goes against family values since there are many children out there yearning for the family that a homosexual couple could provide. He also slots in well to the stereotypical Tory model voting against the hunting ban and smoking ban.

However, his voting record has not been entirely as predictable as one would expect of a member of the most right wing contingent of the Conservative Party as he has generally voted in favour of tackling climate change, in stark contrast to their American counter-parts like the global warming denier Glenn Beck. If you want to check Paterson’s voting record, or the voting record of any of your MPs, use this link:


Ultimately I’m not happy with the Tories once again wielding power in Ireland, and for Paterson to be such a Thatcherite/ultra-Tory, it’s rather unnerving. Then again, with the devolution of Policing and Justice, his responsibilities will be limited. If he gets the Saville Report published as soon as possible, and holds the unionists to the three agreements, then he’ll have little opportunity to justify my anxiety. Touch wood. Meh, rant over.