Saturday, October 03, 2009

Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free

The words of a touching Irish folk song come to mind this evening as the Republic of Ireland has voted, by a majority of 2:1, to cede sovereignty issues to people they can't elect.

Only 59% of the Irish electorate even bothered to turn out to the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Having, as oft portrayed, shaken off the 'English jackboot' with arms, at great cost not least to my people, they've now embraced the German jackboot with arms wider than Dublin Bay.

In many years' time, when I'm dead and gone and this blog has been wiped from disks that don't yet exist, history books will have exposed the true extent of the treachery of Ireland's political élite in dressing up a referendum about the mechanics of power as a referendum on whether or not Ireland wants to be friends.

Truly to blame, however, are the people of Ireland who failed to peek under the pretty clothes, who simply swallowed the smokescreen and who, ultimately, put these dubious patriots in power in the first place.

Now the EU, and political manipulators everywhere, know beyond doubt: in a post-democratic world, surface can win over substance.

The mortal remains of many lovers of Irish freedom - of all backgrounds - will be spinning tonight.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Say NO to Lisbon

I'm coming out of semi-retirement today because democracy is at risk in the other part of the Irish nation, the Republic of Ireland, a country that has long prided itself on independence.

The Lisbon Treaty is the subject of my fellow Irishmen's referendum tomorrow. Not "do we like Europe?", not "do we want to be nice to the Germans?", not "should we be grateful for the past funding?"

The Lisbon Treaty is a 95%-unchanged version of the draft EU constitution resoundingly kicked out by the French and the Dutch because it cedes key sovereignty issues to the unelected grey suits of Brussels. So the euro-élite repackaged it as something they could pass themselves, unhindered: the Lisbon Treaty, now sycophantically ratified by most parliaments of the big nations who don't have to ask their people. Why, out of good manners, have France and the Netherlands not been asked to vote on the Lisbon Treaty? Because it's being railroaded.

The plush corridors of Brussels are a guaranteed final resting place for failed national politicians. They want them. They need them. Their countries, however DO NOT. It's been said elsewhere that Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who drafted the constitution, warned that no citizens should be asked to vote on it. I bet he did.

Three countries have voted on the constitution/Lisbon Treaty, and all three have rejected it.

The Republic of Ireland is the only EU country whose constitution demands that national soverign power may not be ceded without a referendum. Thank God for Bunreacht na hÉireann. It's the only document in the entire EU able to stop the grey men in their treacherous tracks.

But now, with Ireland in dire economic straits, the euro-élite have piled the pressure on the Irish political classes. "Aw, go on, ask them again. And make sure you get a 'yes'."

I'm a committed supporter of free trade and political cooperation by independent governments in Europe. If you're voting in the Republic's referendum tomorrow, please vote NO to the Lisbon Treaty. That way, you'll be voting 'yes' to Europe by retaining democratic control and saving it from the euro-élite. You're the only ones that can.

Many died for your independence. Don't piss it away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ali G in da (cold) house (for Catholics)?

I was reminded of this great piece of broadcasting in a call with a friend today.
You gotta love it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Policing, Justice & the "Army Council"

While I've been away over the summer the NI Executive has ground to a halt over the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.
I'm sure the two facts aren't linked.
This is ridiculous. Full responsibility for policing and justice should've been transferred ages ago. The result of not doing it is obvious: political stalemate and hundreds of highly-paid people sitting round doing diddly-squat.
Ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern has spoken up today, expressing understanding for the unionist need for "certainty" that the IRA "Army Council" would remain inactive.
The truth is that the IRA is, and always was, an illegal organisation under every sovereign jurisdiction in Ireland. It's an outlawed bunch of terrorist killers running a private army in competition to the Irish Defence Forces, the real Óglaich na hÉireann, who are accountable to the national parliament under the Irish constitution.
How about Bertie calling for swift, full and final disbandment of the entire IRA organisation - "army council" and all?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Paisley bows out

It's surely no coincidence that Ian Paisley's final act as First Minister is to open the new Belfast ferry terminal - enhancing the physical link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
I wish him well. He read the political runes right two years back and performed a quiet, dignified adaptation of his Unionist stance which made the tail-end of his long career the most productive for everyone in Ulster.
Ironically, his guest of honour today is his separatist Scots counterpart, Alex Salmond, who, as he looks across the 20-mile stretch to the Galloway coast, probably wishes the Romans had had the presence of mind to build a supersized Hadrian's Trench.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cobblers to squabblers

I've long held the view, reluctantly, that Northern Irish politicians crave outside attention. Not one key political moment in the last 5 years has been handled without intervention of the British and Éire governments.
Small-time local boys-made-good can really only feel somebody if they can control the agendas of bigger players, and as children use tantrums to gain concessions from parental government, so at every political turn our elected reps seem pethologically unable to solve their own probelms - often of their own making - without going crying to whichever political mama they aspire to.
Right now, it's about whether Peter Robinson will be nominated as First Minister. Sinn Féin - ever on the grab, this time for immediate devolution of justice powers - is posturing to de-rail the FM/DFM appointments by a process of hari-kiri involving a refusal to nominate their own man, Martin McGuinness, as DFM.
Now Gordon Brown finds himself, for the first time, in the role of master liaison officer, trying to persuade Gerry Adams not to poop on Peter's party. If he fails, there'll be tears all round.
Like Miss Jean Brodie, let's hope he's in his prime (minister).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

As welcome as the flowers in May

Great BBC headline today: Queen visit 'may depend on IRA'.  Ian Paisley has mooted that she mightn't visit the Republic of Ireland until the IRA 'Army Council' disbands.
Let's be clear: there is no morally defensible reason for the IRA or its 'Army Council' to exist in 2008. It is an illegal organisation in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland and, along with all loyalist and republican terrorists, should hang its head in shame for what it's inflicted on the people of Ireland.
Just as no government should ever bow to terrorists, neither should the Northern Irish head of state make her widely expected first state visit to the Republic of Ireland dependent on what the minds of gangsters deem appropriate. This is democracy; let the people express their views through their legitimately elected representatives, and let the governments - and the ladies themselves - decide how and when.
There is, between the UK and Ireland, the greatest potential for friendship in Europe - one which should be sealed soon at the highest level. For a British head of state to be received by her equal in peace, in style, in friendship and in the great city of Dublin will be a joy to behold.
The days of the IRA are over; the future belongs to the open-minded.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Republican double standards

So the IMC is expected to say the IRA wasn't behind Paul Quinn's murder last year. Quelle surprise. Although the murder wasn't ordered down the IRA chain of command, apparently the IMC believes (former) IRA members carried out the murder - which, let's not forget, was meticulously planned and surgically executed by up to 20 men in forensic suits.
Within hours, while the rest of us were reeling in horror, Sinn Féin was able to state confidently that the IRA was innocent. The speed of that announcement always smelt funny.
The Republican double standards are this: murders committed by IRA men not acting under IRA instruction inflict no disrepute on the IRA, whereas they brand the British army auxiliary force UDR a terrorist group because a handful of rogue squaddies were implicated and charged with terrorist offences as heinous as the Quinn butchering.
Such double standards are see-through political posturing, nothing more.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I spill all

Following John Prescott's shock admission last week that he use to suffer from bulimia (I still can't believe it), it seems like every celeb in Christendom is trying to follow suit. Only today we have TV presenter John Stapleton saying he was also once a serial hurler.
Not one to be left out, I freely admit that I chucked my guts up spectacularly once after 5 pints too many in 1984. Can I be famous? Please?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Expect the unexpected

I've been stunned into silence by two news items that have frankly been making me question the way we're programmed.
It's weird: when forming a view on what's possible/likely/probable/improbable in the future we all fall back on years of what's happened in the past. And yet life has a growing habit of throwing up surprises.
An intentional pun which brings me to Item 1. If you'd asked me last month what was more likely ...
A: a flying saucer hovering over Ballinamallard while Sinn Féin paraded down Main Street to commemorate the 1981 hunger strikes, or
B: Ian Paisley caught french-kissing Mary Lou MacDonald in a layby near Drogheda, or
C: John Prescott suffering from bulimia
... I'd have blown a fuse deciding between the first two.
I mean, that's so way off the scale of unexpected it's unreal. But it pales into insignificance compared to Item 2 which is Bertie Ahern announcing that the members of his cabinet all burst into tears when he told them he was resigning.
Sorry. I can picture Ian and Mary Lou shielding their eyes from a garda's flashlight, but Biffo Brian blubbering bye-bye Bertie is just too awful to imagine.
Seriously, what does he take us for? A tear or two quietly shed by his more shockable colleagues may be expected, but Éire's entire collection of government ministers inconsolable with grief because the teflon taoiseach has finally realised he can't explain away all that dodgy donation income is stretching imagination too far.
But then we said the IRA wouldn't disarm and that Paisley would never stop saying never. Be surprised. Be very surprised.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Faith alone is useless

Tony Blair's in the headlines again, this time urging people to put faith in a central position in solving the world's problems. He's half right. Good to see him urging people to look to matters spiritual, because our rudderless world is crying out for a moral datum, but the truth is: faith cannot feed Somalis, faith cannot disempower Belfast drug barons, faith cannot stop social decay.
Only God can.
Tony Blair speaks of the role his faith played in his premiership and says he didn't like to talk about it because, "frankly, people do think you're a nutter". Lots of room for cheap asides there, but he's right of course: talk about God and people look for a straightjacket or, at best, a hidden agenda.
And in this statement too, Blair doesn't mention God once. He talks about the virtues of faith. But faith, without highlighting the object of faith, is dull theory. When thrilling audiences of potential travellers, which airline explains the laws of aerodynamics? No one buys theory, but people everywhere hunger for God's loving care.
Wouldn't it be great for a Christian leader of 'world' proportions to stand up and tell us how brilliant, how utterly fantastic, God is; how, even though we're endemically nowhere near up to the job of pleasing him for anything more than fleeting instants, he reached into our world with the answer to the human dilemma which millennia's worth of our best philosophers have failed to find an answer to: himself in human form.
Imagine a world, or even a bit of it, transformed by the liberating realisation that, even though we're the scum of the earth, God has chosen to love us.
Makes lectures on faith sound a bit limp, eh?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bertie goes, but who comes?

So an taoiseach has jumped on his sword as the Mahongate noose tightened.
The bit I loved was not the way he glorified all his political achievements, nor was it the way all the Fianna Fáil leaders-in-waiting crowded in round him to ward off any last-minute change of heart - the bit I loved was the way Brian Cowen shouldered Dermot Ahern out of the way for a front row position as the party lined up for the cameras. Tongue out, shimmy to the right and then whoomph, dead meat. Ah well, he is the tánaiste after all.
Democracy at its finest?

Friday, March 28, 2008

The GFA's been signed ...

... get out of jail free.

Oh joy. There's to be a new Belfast edition of the famous board game Monopoly.

Like other special editions in recent years, it'll have local place names, but this time interestingly they're going to include special Northern Irish banknotes (funny, I wondered where they all went, obviously they were stolen by the Irish Recycling Authority).

Suits from Monopoly HQ will be canvassing public opinion in the city on what placenames to include. Obvious candidates there, but what about the Chance cards? I have a few ideas.

Community Chest: You get stuck in a revolving door at Stormont. Go back to Castlereagh.

Chance: You get a job with the Shoukri brothers. Collect 200 pounds from each player.

Any offers?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poacher turned gamekeeper

In 40+ years I've never discovered how "brouhaha" is pronounced, but whatever way there's spade-loads of it in Fermanagh this week with the news that Seán Lynch is to join the District Policing Partnership.

Sinn Féin support policing and are joining the DPPs, which is good, and Lynch is the Chairman of Sinn Féin in Fermanagh, so no surprise that he's joining. Trouble is: he served 12 years in jail for terrorist offences and was the IRA's so-called Officer Commanding while he was there. And now he'll be policing the police.

Tom Elliott, our MLA and local councillor, is asking pointedly whether Lynch is still in the IRA. Good question. Aren't they still an illegal organisation? Amazingly, Bert Johnston of the DUP is taking an easier view of it, welcoming SF's involvement. I never thought I'd see the day those roles were reversed, but we've come a long way.

There's a harsh irony in this, difficult to swallow and obvious to any observer, but my take is simple. It's right to grit our teeth and accept it, encourage it even. I'd rather have Lynch ensuring our policemen did their jobs than ensuring they met early deaths.

This is democracy, folks. Lynch is elected to office, and whatever you think of his past you have to respect the votes of those who put him there. He's accountable to them, so "game on", I say.

I would really welcome it if Seán Lynch were to come out and say he'd left the IRA for good. Or if the IRA disbanded, as I think they should. And they should. But we have to believe people can change and encourage them to do so, not beat them with nasty words when they try to do something honorable.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ten years on

It's 10 years since the Belfast Agreement was signed. Remember those stiff speeches as each leader tried to apply his own spin? That day, apparently, the union was never safer, while the Brits were a step further towards going. Funny thing, compromise, but welcome all the same.
Reflecting on those days, Seamus Mallon offers an interesting perspective on the future too, in a piece by the BBC's Martina Purdy, daring to utter some thoughts I touched on a few posts ago. Martina writes, he suggested there may be federal or confederal arrangements in future. (Mallon verbatim: "I believe Britain will go, they will leave. I don't think that will result in a 32 county political arrangement."
Indeed, looking back twenty years from now, it may well be black-and-white politics which are confounded. Under 20th century Ulster logic, a British Northern Ireland or usurption into a 32-county republic were the only options. Still are for most people. And in a world of antithesis, such as prevailed until - arguably - the 1998 Belfast Agreement, such black-and-white views were logical and defensible. But all of Ireland has changed since then, and so have the UK and Europe too.
A third way? Gotta be. An independent Norn Iron or joint protectorate would be unworkable, but maybe a semi-detached Northern Ireland leading to a federal borderless Ireland would be a model worth exploring, but only only political hemp-smokers would suggest we're ready for that now.
Happy Easter to all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

True Grit

Strong-muscled, healthy and with a lifetime of service before them, young men make the best slaves.

Snatched by Irish raiders to his home town on the Cumbrian coast, the preacher's boy learnt the strange Ulster dialect of his Celtic mother-tongue whilst looking after animals in the hills of what we call County Antrim. After a few years he escaped and did what we'd all do. He went home.

Later, with renewed Christian faith and a vision that the Irish needed to hear the great news about God, Jesus, forgiveness and new life, Patrick again set his eyes westward and cast off into the unsure.

To us, the details of Patrick's life are a mix of debated record and myth. But the result of his life is indisputed: the birth of faith in Jesus in the hearts of our forebears, a legacy for countless generations whose importance transcends ethnicity, politics and our ideas on theology.

As we raise our glasses of Guinness today to a chorus of "cheers" or "sláinte", let us pause and reflect - as the cool pride of Ireland guilds our throats - how much courage must it have taken to leave, this time willingly, and return across the Irish Sea.

Given the dangers, Patrick must have been a man transformed, on fire with conviction! May that passion for Christ grip us all.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

On Paisley and the Union

It'll be the end of an era when Ian Paisley retires in May as First Minister, but more importantly as leader of the DUP - the party he founded when traditional Unionists were getting too cosy with Catholics.

Although Protestant, most of my family and friends viewed Paisley as a bigot and an embarrassment, but he was a useful embarrassment when the IRA was shooting Fermanagh farmers like dogs in their tractor cabs. Like him or loathe him, though, you have to admire a man who held so much public goodwill for so long.

In Ireland, where church leaders are often political as well as pastoral, Paisley pointed the way to Heaven and provided an almost physical guarantee of constitutional rule. He was, in short, the Planters' Pope.

Yet he was not unassailable. His church's right wing rejected him as leader when he shared power with Sinn Féin, and many press reports claim his party rejected him for nepotistic employment practices and for failing to criticise his son's dubious property dealings. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The fact that Paisley lasted so long at the top of British-Irish politics may, however, be less down to his undoubted political ability and more a function of the utter hopelessness of the Unionist prospect. He was a strong, loud, uncompromising voice during an era when the tide finally turned and Irish Unionism found itself, ultimately, isolated by Downing Street. He did what he prevented Trimble doing ten years before because he had one big advantage over all previous Unionist leaders - he didn't have Ian Paisley standing in the wings shouting "sell-out!".

To that extent Paisley was personally responsible for slowing down the normalisation of Ulster society. Seamus Mallon was right when he labelled the GFA "Sunningdale for slow learners". I go further. If Terence O'Neill had shared power with Gerry Fitt in the 60's we'd have been spared 30 years of terrorist genocide, the DUP would be the TUV, England wouldn't have tired of us and the Union would be no less (or more) secure than it is with Scotland. The phrase "armalite and ballot box" would never have been coined, people would wonder who Bobby Sands was, the Miami Showband would still be playing, Sinn Féin would be a benevolent association for ageing anti-partitionists and, much more importantly, social division in Northern Ireland would by now have experienced the first forty years of healing instead of merely the birth pangs of an uncertain future.

However, we are where we are and must deal with present realities. Paisley's late-career realpolitik was unavoidable and, in the end, the right thing to do. It was right to recognise Sinn Féin's electoral mandate, and it was right, for Unionists, to get the best possible deal while still able to negotiate.

You see, the writing's been on the wall for Unionism for forty years, indeed arguably for 100 years. The following statement may surprise those aggravated by my rejection of Irish terrorism, but partition is neither natural nor sustainable in the long term. Even die-hard Unionists know this to be true and waste no effort on optimistic thoughts of the future. They know there's nothing to gain, only things to give up. Indeed "siege unionism" is now the norm, especially in the West, where every dagger-blow hurts and the golden age is a feature of fading memories, not future dreams. Young Unionists, especially, find this atmosphere so depressing whereas, in the mind of Shinners, the golden age is still to come, bringing a dynamism Unionists find so perplexing and so threatening.

In 50 years' time, Paisley's retirement will be seen as the end of popular Unionism - not because of weak successors but because the job of Unionism was largely completed. Unionism may have served the Irish Protestant during the dark days of the birth and establishment of the Irish Republic, but now that it has matured as a democratic state largely free of the influence of Roman Catholicism and the Gaelic ascendancy we may well see that Ulster Protestants find themselves increasingly attracted to the idea of a borderless Ireland, albeit - I stress - under the right political and social circumstances and in an atmosphere of growing friendship between Ireland and the UK.

That's a transition I've made in my own political outlook, and it's one worth exploring. Our grandchildren may thank us for it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bye, young Ian

As Ian Paisley Junior takes his hat and bows out of ministerial office my advice to him is: go and do something else.
He should live his own life and go off and do something completely different. As long as he remains in politics he'll never be his own man, he'll always be in his dad's shadow. That may have been helpful in securing an electoral mandate - and indeed ministerial office - but he'll never be able to be his own man politically. Even after the old man passes into the hereafter, I predict his political shadow will loom large over Irish politics for a century.
No, Ian Jr should plough his own furrow. Maybe a spot of property speculation might be in order (ooh, did I really say that?).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tit for tat

At first sight, the DUP's booking of a Stormont function room to celebrate the role of the SAS in defending the peace in NI seems reasonably OK. They went undercover to counter the threat from various undercover terrorist groups and were undoubtedly very effective in thwarting terrorist acts and unearthing the machinations of dark figures.

At first sight only, though. The news comes a few days after Sinn Féin was planning a similar event at the same venue to celebrate the life of the IRA bomber Mairéad Farrell.

I agree with Jeffrey Donaldson when he says the SF event should not go ahead. I mean, using government premises to laud terrorist acts is perverse in the extreme. Sinn Féin's Jennifer McCann says "Stormont is a shared space". Exactly! In shared spaces people are expected to behave non-offensively. This Republican urge to rub their terrorists in the faces of those who have also come a long way down the political road is distasteful and not worthy of Ireland.

Sinn Féin and the IRA say they are totally committed to the democratic path and have turned their backs on terrorism. That indicates more than just saying they're not going to do it any more. It implies a rejection of past activities now deemed inappropriate, indeed wrongful. And let's not hear any weasely words trying to wriggle through semantics here. There's a clear logical tie-in, and any attempt to re-cast it will eat away at SF's credibility among the electorate.

To say both "we're committed to constitutional peace" and "weren't them the days" would be hypocrisy.

The DUP, though, are also behaving wrongly. To flaunt a celebration of the SAS in the faces of Sinn Féin at Stormont is equally unbefitting of the peace process because it opens up wounds, re-creating division where a healing process appeared to be setting in. There's no point retaliating, using the SAS to counter the SF initiative. That initiative should be countered with words carefully chosen to inflict political damage instead of using the SAS, who killed Mairéad Farrell, in an effort to humiliate.

Monday, February 18, 2008

No war

Thankfully the Assembly has voted clearly for what all democrats know to be true: that the racist terrorism which plagued our country for 30 years was not war. The motion to reject reclassification was passed by a decisive 46 votes to 20. I rarely agree with the DUP, but Mervyn Storey put it so well when he said the IRA "fought a seedy, grubby, sectarian terrorist campaign - nothing more and nothing less".
Many of the 20 votes against the motion (and perhaps some of the "yes" votes too) were cast by former terrorists. Fair enough, I'm just glad they're engaged in playing out democracy for real in northern Ireland. The people who perpetrated the terror are not beyond forgiveness, and forgiving them will demand from the Protestant community equal courage and purpose as demonstrated by Republicans in recent years.
We must find it in our hearts to do so, and I hope patience will prevail as we work through what is probably our Biggest challenge.

Friday, February 08, 2008

One rule for Ahmed, another for the Archdruid

What a sad day for Rowan Williams. The Welsh head of the Church of England and fully sworn-up member of the pagan Gorsedd of Bards has contended that Islamic "Sharia" law should supersede national law in the UK.
And - incredibly - he is in a state of shock at the outrage in his church and right across the UK!
How can the leader of a Christian church be the one to suggest the British throw away centuries of laws born of its Christian heritage and quite fitting and correct for Western Europeans? Him of all people!
Well, whether you agree with him or not, you have to agree he is a fool. He was a fool to think it, he was a fool to say it and he was a fool to expect anything other than the national uproar he has rightly reaped.
As my Welsh teacher used to say, "Mae eisiau berwi dy ben, Rhywyn!" (You need your head boiled). And the CofE needs a Christian leader. You wouldn't catch Éire's RC hierarchy calling for Sharia! They have more sense.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bugging me

Is it just me, or does Clostridium difficile sound more like a particularly heated Vatican Council?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Don't miss it

Every now and then Hollywood reaches into its dodgy bag of feelgood froth and pulls out a film you know you'll still love in 2020. I'm talking about The Bucket List.

I went because it double-bills two of the best actors of our age, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. There are no car chases, no aliens, no licentious sex. It's all about how they find enjoyment and, eventually, fulfilment facing life's final curtain. And yes, there are laughs too. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, they set off on the trip of a lifetime to work their way through a list of things they want to do before they - you've guessed it - kick the bucket.

The characters are tailor-made. Nicholson is an endearing billionaire loner with four divorces and an attitude problem. Freeman plays a decent, thoughtful working man with a lovely wife who fought hard to bring up a fine family but feels life could have offered more.

Like all good films it'll make you laugh and it'll make you cry. Despite the death sentence, which neither escapes, humour strikes unannounced. Expect to spit at least one mouthful of popcorn into the next row (don't worry, you'll get some back from the guy behind). And only the hardest soul won't gulp on a tear when Nicholson crosses off what he wanted to do to the most beautiful girl in the world.

This film will leave you with a philosophical sense of wonder at God's world and our place in it. You'll see sadness and beauty go hand in hand, and you'll be uplifted by how adaptable - and how kindly - ordinary people can be in death's dark vale.

It's just a story, but if you need your faith in humanity restoring, or if you just want to soar the skies for a few hours, The Bucket List will deliver.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Wee patriots?

The British government wants patriotism taught as a subject at school! Can you believe it?

Yet it's understandable since Britsh patriotism isn't something that comes naturally to anyone across the water. Most Scots, English and Welsh would never introduce themselves to holiday acquaintances as "British", and yet they're passionate patriots of their respective nations.

The only people whose chests swell at the thought of Britishness are Irish Unionists, the last bastion of the British empire, for whom the concept of Irishness has - sadly but wrongly - been usurped by Republicanism. To them, Irishness is a dirty word associated with terrorists, Catholic supremacy and state-tolerated lawlessness. So, unlike John Bull, Jock and Taff, Britishness is all they've left to cling to.

That's sad and needs to be changed. Dublin-born Edward Carson - to many the father of Irish Unionism - would have been proud to call himself Irish. As were Oscar Wilde, W B Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Henry Francis Lyte and Douglas Hyde, to name just some. We need to rediscover our Irishness because it's a heritage to treasure, not ignore. More of that later some time.

Right now, though, the idea that children should be given Patriotism lessons in schools is, at best, ridiculous and, at worst, a totalitarian hark-back to 1930's Germany. If a country has to resort to brainwashing children in order to command love and respect, it has no place in the third millennium.

This initiative proves Britain is an artificial political entity with a place in some people's heads, but not their hearts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dog gone

You gotta love it! A bloke called Dani Graves leads his girlfriend around on a doggy lead, but that's not the funny bit. The joke is: bus operator Arriva says they can't use the bus 'cos it'd be dangerous. Dangerous!

Apparently, if she wants to ride on their buses, Tasha Maltby (oh, come on, let's call her Bonzo) will have to take the lead off. A corporate spokesperson said (through his nether regions, I think) ...

"Our primary concern is passenger safety and while the couple are very welcome to travel on our buses, we are asking that Miss Maltby remove her dog lead before boarding the bus"

Surely anything that stops her plunging through windows in the event of a crash is a safety enhancement! Anyway, I guess this is great news for Pit Bulls everywhere. But no: Arriva's divine edict only applies to humans on leashes.

So Arriva is discriminating in favour of dogs and against humans. In the event of a sudden application of Arriva brakes, dogs get to stay in the bus whereas women get a free journey through reinforced glass and into rush-hour traffic.

Talk about political correctness and corporate PR gone crazy.

In truth, of course, Arriva is using weasel words to discriminate against this couple because it judges their chosen sub-culture to be undesirable. Cowering behind the mantle of political correctness, it is setting itself up as judge and jury over them.

I agree they look out-of-the-ordinary. I agree the leash may be construed by some as demeaning. But it's no more dangerous than holding hands. So thank you, Dani and Tasha, for giving us a laugh and showing these corporate dipsticks up for a bunch of bigoted busdrivers.