Saturday, June 23, 2007

The great EU deception

Put 27 prime ministers in a room, add expensive mineral water and a lot of hot air, and what do you get? A treaty featuring much of what the French and Dutch told them to swivel on two years ago.
I'm no hater of mainland Europe, in fact I've spent a large part of my life there. Free trade, the single currency and freedom of movement of people and capital between EU member states is brilliant. But the people don't want political power going to Brussels. Read the papers, listen to the media. The Germans don't. The Spanish don't. The French don't. The Dutch don't. The British don't, and the people of Éire don't. Harmonisation, yes. Federalisation, no.
The British and Irish people voted to join the European Economic Community, not the EU superstate our political élite have been turning it into by stages over the last 20 years. And we, the people, have let them do it. We've turned a blind eye, treating it all as "something over there" that doesn't affect us. Well, wake up: it does.
If the latest treaty is ratified by national parliaments it'll be the last one that is. Under its terms, all future EU constitutional changes - and this is a constitution by the back door - will need but a "double majority": 55% of states representing 65% of the total population. National vetoes will all but disappear, and the EU will have a long-term president à la USA and a bod called the High Representative for Foreign Affairs (an EU foreign minister in all but name).
Have you been consulted on this? No. The French and Dutch were consulted, and they slammed the constitution out of court more decisively than anything else since the war.
Despite this, these heads of government have decided to go ahead with a Constitution Lite without consulting anyone this time, proving that they've become a law unto themselves, beyond accountability. Yes, they are elected by the people, but the people vote on domestic issues, and frankly whatever major party is elected they all go off to Brussels and get bitten by the EU bug. We elect these guys to represent our national interests, yet they're intent on ceding matters of national sovereignty to the grey men of Europe's greyest national capital. Did you know that no one in Brussels is elected by the people?
It's time the people spoke. We must demand national referenda and hold these runaway politicians to account.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Some like it hot

I see on BBC man Mark Devenport's excellent blog today that the Assembly has declared what we at school used to call "shirt-sleeve order". Once declared, the freedom gene kicked into overdrive as we threw off jackets, blazers and ties and rolled our sleeves up.

But that was school. Why on earth do people supposed to be responsible enough to lead the state need someone to tell them when they may, or may not, throw off their jackets? Am I just stupid or something, or is it not a simple enough thing to think, "Hey it's hot", and take your jacket off? Or worse: is there someone deep in Stormont who dictates what these MLAs wear? Do they, on pain of death, have to wear suits and ties? And skirts (women and Ulster-Scots only)? I mean, come on! Why be straightjacketed? I'd regard it as a sign of maturity if one of the under-50s attended a debate in polo shirt and chinos. And why not?

The truth is, though, NI is - in so many ways - still in the 1950s. Why can't the fresh thinking I try to put out through this blog translate itself into MLAs dressing like real people - especially on a hot summer's day?

UPDATE: It really is a rule, God help us. Listen to this from Ulster Unionist Ken Robinson, "I spotted this guy ... in the Assembly in the morning with his jacket over his arm, very improperly dressed I thought. By question time his conscience must have pricked him because he had the suit on at that stage and he was the perfect picture of sartorial elegance".

Well, dear readers, when nominations go in for Stormont Dickbrain of 2007 I think we all know who to vote for.

Mind your language

Language popped its head up in a couple of interesting news items recently. On the one hand we had an "Irish Language" march in Belfast calling for legislation to protect it and give it status. On the other, we have Unionist bloke Willie Hay insisting on speaking "Ulster-Scots" in the Assembly.

I have a couple of issues with all this.

First off, it's "Irish Gaelic", "Gaelic" or "Gaelige", not the "Irish Language". I thank you. Thousands of Irish people were speaking Pictish (sometimes called Cruthin), a "P-Gaelic" language akin to Welsh, Breton and Cornish) long before the Gaels invaded Ireland. It was the Gaels' political, military and economic superiority which ensured Irish Gaelic became the dominant grassroots lingua franca before the English got here. But the "Irish language" it's not.

As a Protestant I didn't get the opportunity to learn Irish Gaelic at school, and I regret that because it cuts me off from a large part of the common Irish heritage. I'm working on it.

Secondly, Ulster-Scots is not a language. God bless us. At best it's a dialect of English, at worst it's bad pronunciation. I nearly fell over when the new Waterways Ireland boards went up along the lough shore in Enniskillen sporting their text in English, Irish Gaelic and "Ulster-Scots", to wit:

Waterways Ireland
Uiscebhealaí Éireann
(wait for it ...)
Watterweys Airlann.

That's just some bloke from Ahoghill taking the piss.

In truth Ulster-Scots is, like Flemish or Swiss-German, simply a regional dialect of the language used by a large neighbour. It doesn't compare with Irish Gaelic for uniqueness or cultural richness. It may seem like "language lite" for people who see Irish Gaelic exclusively as a medium for anti-British hatred, but that's changing. It's time we took the politics out of language. It'd sure save space on valuable notice boards.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Drive me crazy

I'd no idea this was going on, but Sinn Féin ministers haven't been using the Stormont chauffeur pool - they've been getting the government to pay for their own outside drivers while pool drivers are being paid to twiddle their car keys and drink tea.
Thanks goodness Finance Minister Peter Robinson has latched onto this and stopped the funding. Quite right too.