Wednesday, September 20, 2006


The BBC asks whether, in the light of the Pope's apology for utterances regarding Islam, he really is infalllible, as Roman Catholic teaching says.
To be fair, Rome says its popes are infallible only when speaking ex cathedra, i.e. when pronouncing on matters of church doctrine. Confusing, eh?
Well, not really. You see, the Roman Catholic church (and the Anglican communion, i.e. the Church of Ireland, etc.) believe in apostolic heritage, the teaching passed down through generations of the priesthood and traceable right back to the 12 apostles (or 13 if you agree with St Paul). Doctrinal truth, therefore, has to be compatible with original teaching, otherwise it's just made up. So when Benedict XVI is applying scriptural truths in a Biblical way to modern-day situations (say on nuclear power, AIDS, etc.) the Roman Catholic church believes he is being infallible, but when he says, "Hey guys it's raining" when it's not, then he's just being, er, human.
Indeed, to err is human. And Pope Benedict XVI is human. He's not a god, he's simply the leader of his denomination of the church of Jesus Christ. And may God bless him as he leads those entrusted to him.
In the same way, if I say, "No one comes to God except through Jesus", guess what? I'm expressing an infallible truth because it's of Biblical origin with nothing added or taken away. But when I express opinions on politics, football or sex I'm definitely less infallible.
No surprise there. St. Paul tells us all believers are "a kingdom of priests". Now where did I put that funny hat?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hain is right (for once)

I'm not Peter Hain's biggest fan by a long way, but I applaud him for two things he said yesterday.
Firstly he told Martin McGuinness, Sinn Féin's 'chief negotiator', that he did not accept the experience of policing by the nationalist community now is repressive and "it would be an enormous boost to the prospects of doing a deal by November 24 if the Sinn Fein leadership made an unequivocal commitment to support policing". Quite right. Failure to do so is inexcusable.
Secondly he said, "At some point unionism needs to recognise that Northern Ireland has been transformed - absolutely, completely transformed - in a process that is deepening all the time" and told Ian Paisley Jnr. that if he was going to wait until the "picture is perfect" he would be a very old man. Also quite right. Unionism needs to grasp that Ulster Protestants are going to be far better off in an environment of inclusiveness and full democracy than under a continuation of the stubborn Unionist hegemony that failed all Irish people for 70 years.

Is SF a law-and-order party?

I see Sinn Féin is refusing to attend a debate on a policing proposal it helped produce. I'm pleased they helped shape it, but they need to follow through and debate it as well.
Republicans need to stop acting like second-class citizens, they have a right to be there and make their voice heard. I can understand why some diehards in the Republican movement might still see the old RUC as their opponents, but they need to wake up - at last - to fact that Sinn Féin has a democratic right - and a moral obligation - to represent its voters in any debate on policing and law enforcement in Northern Ireland. And Unionists have an obligation to welcome them into that process.
So do the Big Thing, Gerry: Get in there and debate.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Unfair reporting

Get a load of this. The BBC news website headlines DUP MLA Mark Robinson as having claimed annual expenses of £18,000. But ... the subtext says this was "surpassed only by Pat Doherty, a Sinn Fein member for West Tyrone who lives in Donegal".

Regulars here will know I'm not the DUP's greatest fan, but I have to ask the question: why didn't the headline feature Pat Doherty? I mean, if you were penning an article on the biggest artichoke in Cultra, would you make the main feature praising the girth of the runner-up in Helen's Bay? Of course not.

No, as much as it grates to say it, the DUP is being unfairly maligned here. Personally I couldn't care less which MLA wins the honours for eating the biggest collection of Beef Wellingtons or burning oilfields, but I think we want to see fair reporting.

And no, the article doesn't even tell us Pat Doherty's final score. So come on, Pat, be an honest chappie and tell us in the Comments section ...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Evidence please, Ian

The current 'headlines' just go to show that nothing, but nothing, is happening on the political scene here. I mean, just look at what the DUP is dreaming up just to keep the headline writers from atrophying ...
Apparently young Ian Paisley reckons the sectarian slogans daubed on Harryville's Catholic church in Unionist Ballymena were put on by Republicans looking to stir the pot. Doing ill to their own kind, as it were. It's an interesting theory, and I've no doubt some people wouldn't be above it, but you can't make allegations of this nature without tabling some pretty convincing evidence, otherwise it looks like you're just diverting attention from the real issue which is: time for the DUP to share power on a democratic basis.
Now stop throwing googles, Ian, and address the real issue. Start by talking to your rank and file.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Exit strategy

The Daily Mirror has published what it claims to be a leaked internal Downing Street memo (here) covering media strategy for the great Tony Blair bow-out due to happen, somewhat mercifully, during the next 12 months or so.
Makes entertaining reading. "He needs to embrace open spaces, the arts and businesses, he needs to be seen to be travelling on different forms of transport. He needs to be seen with people who will raise eyebrows .. He needs to travel around the UK to be carefully positioned as someone who while not above politics, is certainly distancing himself from the political village".
Makes you realise how much newsflow is orchestrated down to the tiniest detail, even in the post-Alistair-Campbell world. How much of the News at Ten is effectively the News as manipulated by No. 10?
The wonders of the modern age, eh? We used to have to wait 25 years for this sort of intrigue, sometimes 50.
My favourite bit: "... we know what works well: ... words from TB and real people". Brilliant.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Baby millionaires

For some time it's been clear to everyone except amoebae that the Belfast Telegraph, that erstwhile fine evening daily newspaper, has been going down the tabloid route to destruction (I confidently predict its demise around the year 2012, tell me if I'm wrong).
A major milestone in its pathetic little journey can be viewed here - a report on a 'survey' on the lifestyles and preferences of "baby millionaires", i.e. people aged 17 to 35 who, presumably, have a net worth measured in 7 digits (assuming the Tele staff can still count that high).
Amazing but apparently true: 35 baby millionaires live in 'Saffwest' London (no surprise there) and 33 in Belfast (pardon?).
Now as Ireland's second-largest city, the fact that 33 of Belfast's population are under 35's worth more than a million pounds is nothing more than a fairly predictable function of demographic percentages. You know the stuff. Look at the national average and apply it to Belfast's 276,459 population. Except that the Tele tries to make us believe these guys are flocking into Belfast - a veritable tidal inflow of Bavaria Garages customers, magnetised by the champagne lifestyle on offer between the West Link and the Albert Bridge.
Tell me, where are these people? I rarely venture into Belfast, so if you live there, go to a likely spot - say the Sydenham Bypass at 7:30 Monday morning - and tell us how many likely candidates you see.