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.