Ann Allan: NI 21

imageI first became aware of Basil McCrea when in February 2013 he left the UUP after a disagreement over the fielding of a unionist unity candidate in mid ulster. I had listened to Basil and his then friend John McCallister on television debates and I liked what I heard. They both appeared to be in favour of a Northern Ireland where it was possible to aspire to having an Irish or British identity. That appealed to me as I feel proud of both my identities, the one that is native Irish and the one from Somerset that can be traced back to Sir Walter Raleigh. I hoped that they would set up a new party so when they launched NI21 on the 6 June 2013 I thought, even at this late stage in my life this is a party with which I can identify. I did not see myself getting actively involved but was persuaded to go to a meet and greet in the Europa hotel.
I had no preconceptions but had a few points I thought worth bringing up. There were others there, some of whom were already committed to the party. Basil went round each one asking for their views. I remember saying that they were losing momentum from the date of the launch, that it seemed a bit like the Basil party and I wanted to know how they were different from the Alliance. I think Basil thought I was cheeky but he was charming and if that annoyed him he said nothing. I think that might be when he daubed me as feisty.
I came away convinced that this was a party that was going somewhere. I read all the adverse comments by commentators and wondered why they would want to slate a party who genuinely wanted to make a difference. Basil was passionate about the new party. I had no way of assessing Mr McCallister’s commitment as I never really met him. He was at a meeting I attended but had to rush away after a few minutes. The conference came and went. It was very successful. Both Basil and John made rousing speeches which were well received and got standing ovations.
We were promised that day in November that things would swing into action and this would be up to David Rose. I heard later that due to other commitments he wasn’t able to fulfil that role.
I think it was around that time that our local commentators started trying to demean the party. We had the beauty pageant incident, possibly an error of judgement on Basil’s part, but the detractors licked their lips and scented blood.
John McCallister started to be as illusive a sight as a Duper in the Vatican and it appeared that the administration was under pressure. Egos got a battering. One trying to outdo the other as to their importance in the party. Personnel came and went. Things were beginning to fall apart. Candidates should have been announced much more in advance but for various reasons we were still in the dark until just six weeks before the election.  I got a phone call two days before the election from a candidate telling me that we were redesignating. I have to be honest and say that we both thought this was a risky strategy.  I was present three weeks before the election when Basil Mc Crea was told that John McCallister was intending to leave the party. He was not happy with Basil being leader. He wasn’t happy with the executive although they were voted in by the membership on the day of the conference. He was no longer supportive of the party and that was obvious from the fact that he didn’t actually know all the candidates. Perhaps he was annoyed that he not been chosen as the MEP candidate?
Basil was distraught . He had worked incredibly hard and found it difficult to manage all that he was expected to do. The fact that he no longer had John’s support was a major problem. He knew what would happen if the press got wind of the dissention in the party. This could jeopardise the election and all the hard work put in by the candidates. I advised him to speak to John and ask that for the sake of the 47 candidates he put this challenge off until after the election. I understand a meeting, which was quite heated, took place but I understood a truce was arranged until after the election.
They were barely speaking and had I also been told that there had been a rumour of inappropriate behaviour. These allegations had still not been made known to Basil Mc Crea (apart from the Ashleigh Murray allegation ) two weeks after John McCallister had passed the names on to Carecall.  I understand someone was threatening to go the press with these allegations. What has also been overlooked is the fact that at least one of those who saw Carecall had not progressed any allegations. This was due to the fact that they had been mislead over the purpose of the Carecall enquiry. Carecall is not an investigative organisation, more a counselling organisation designed to solve problems between employers and employees. I don’t know why John  chose the time to release details of the enquiry to the News Letter two days before the election. Was it in a fit of pique over the designation? No one was in any danger if he had waited a few days.
I have met Basil McCrea on many occasions since the election. His physical and mental health have been a cause for concern and I feel for his family. To date no one has made any allegations to the PSNI. He was under pressure to get things done and didn’t always cope well and I know he would admit that there was a lot of pressure on him. He had no experience of setting up a party and made many mistakes. However I feel he has suffered enough. His future is uncertain, his reputation has been tarnished and so called friends have deserted him. He is a man who has been let down by his friend.  Those who continue to make snide remarks, hint at goings on that they didnt’t know the truth about, read the report and  see what was going on to bring NI21 down
Hopefully the release of the report clearing Basil of any wrongdoing will allow him to move on and also reinvigorate NI21.

 

Ann Allan: Ann in Wonderland (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

imageIt was a pleasant Sunday morning and I was reading Newton Emerson’s piece in the Sunday Times. My eyes felt heavy and just as I nodded off I noticed a white rabbit beckoning me to follow him. Within a few minutes we were on the steps of Stormont. “You are looking for a job, I believe” he said.  “Well yes” I said, but I don’t think I’d get one here”.  “Have you stood for election? ” he asked. ” No” I replied. “Well you shouldn’t have a problem then, great jobs going here to non-elected personage ” I’ll bring you up to the members dining room. There’s a tea party today. You can see what you’d be letting yourself in for ” The White rabbit disappeared and I found myself in the dining room at the Mad Hatters tea party.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. ” I’m the ‘heed bummer’ here” , he said “Mitchel’s my name.” Having studied Ulster Scots at the University of Life I knew this meant he was a man not to be reckoned with. “Let me show you around ”  he said “but be careful,  Arlene, the Red Queen is looking to behead someone today. She found a tricolour flying on the roof this morning.” ” I will”  I said,” I will”. This is such a weird place, I thought.

The white rabbit suddenly appeared carrying a large clock.  ” What’s that for” I asked. “Well I need to know when the next deadline is for ending the tea party and there are so many I need to carry a clock to keep up ” ” Good thinking” I said. This was one intelligent rabbit!
“Ok” the head case, sorry the heed bummer said. ” This is the Mad Hatters Tea Party. Happens most days around three. ” Why are they not working? ” I asked.”  Er, yes, well, you see this is how we differ from the real world. We don’t actually work if we don’t feel like it. imageYou see the DUP over there. Some strange characters in that group.”
“Why are they wearing clothes pegs on their noses ” I asked. “Well they couldn’t stand the smell of some of the other parties and they couldn’t keep holding their noses and feed at the corporate trough at the same time, so Gryphon Poots came up with the idea of the clothes pegs.” I noticed one of their number had fallen asleep at the table and he was talking in his sleep. I think he was talking about how he was cleared of something and was going to vote for same-sex marriage to prove he wasn’t homophobic. Ok! Well it is a dream!
“That’s a very attractive lady pouring tea for the King ” I said. ” Yes, that’s little pengelly, the Kings favourite.” ” Why would that be? ” I asked. ” Rearrange this ” he said. ” skeletons, knows, are, buried, where.” Thinking back it dawned on me now  why security had a woman called Red Ruth in a strangle hold as she tried to march her way down the rabbit hole.
At that moment the dupers broke into singing

. 🎶 A very unhappy birthday to you, to you.🎶

” Surely that should be

🎶 A very happy unbirthday to you, to you 🎶 I ventured.

” Not when you are a member of the DUP ” he replied. They live by the word of the bible. ” But twiddledum Campbell and twiddledee Wilson are tucking into an open prawn sandwich” I said. “I don’t see any slaves, imagewell with the exception of Jeffrey the dormouse, and the only one with a beard is Simple Simon. ” Cherry pick quite a bit,  they do” he smiled and for a minute or two Mitchell disappeared leaving only the grin behind.image

Turning to the next table I saw a man dressed like a caveman. “Who is that?” I asked mien host who had materialised again.” That’s the Knave of Hearts, used to work in TV. Says he’s on the wrong side of history but he’s not exactly sure which era. Since he didn’t go to Specsavers he seems to have lost his way. Had a falling out with the King of Hearts. Used to be best buddies, even made a voting pact but then the Knave got ambitious and orchestrated a walk out.”

I was beginning to feel quite giddy and realised I hadn’t eaten for a while. There was a cake sitting on one of the tables with the words ‘EAT ME’ written on it. “Don’t” shouted Mitchel. “Stephen the Jabberwocky Nolan eats that before interviewing politicians on his radio show.  Makes him rant and rage and when he gives them a bite the whataboutery that spews from their mouths is unbelievable”  Yuck, I thought, I’ll give that a miss.image

“Would you like to say something on periscope?” came a voice from behind me. I’m on a submarine now I thought. But no it was one of the frog footmen. Basil was his name. He periscopes quite a lot and wonderland is an ideal place from which to broadcast. No idea why he had a pair of curtains behind him.

“Come with me,” said my host. He led me over to a table with a green, white and gold tablecloth. I was introduced to Marti the White King and Catriona the softly spoken White Queen. They were speaking in Irish and I was sorry I hadn’t studied it harder when I was at school. Sitting on the table was a little bottle with ‘DRINK ME ‘ written on it. ” What happens if you drink that “I asked Mitchel. “Well, we shinners take a sip of that every morning,” he said  ” It has amazing powers. It allows us to believe that every word we utter is true. Gerry the caterpillar drinks it by the imagegallon. I asked him if they understood English as I needed to say something to the lady shinners. ” Go ahead ” he said. “They’ll know what you’re saying. “Peter Mark is offering 20 per cent off cut and blow- drys at the moment.” I declared. “Off with her head” came the chant so I quickly moved off to visit the SDLP and the Alliance. They were sitting on fences rather than chairs. It seemed that they had been sitting there quite a while from the pained expression on some of their faces. There wasn’t much happening so I headed back to look for the White Rabbit.

I noticed then that there was a table far removed from everyone. ” That’s Jim the Red King. “Mitchell explained ” he likes nobody and nobody likes him. Always scowling, never lets his hair down, speaking figuratively of course.”

I heard a series of grunts and groans emanating from his direction. I got the impression this is one unhappy man.

I was beginning to feel uncomfortable in this place.  I knew I was dreaming but couldn’t wake up.  As I wondered around looking for a way out of the many doors in the room I passed a large caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. “Gerry’s my name “he said. “I’m waiting here to turn into a butterfly.”  He was knocking back the truth drink  in copious quantities and smoking on a hookah. “I wouldn’t hold my breath ” I said. He started throwing mushrooms at me and thankfully woke me up. Thank goodness I thought it  was only a dream. Happy that none of this could happen in the waking world I went back to reading  Newton’s article.

Only 10 days to save the Assembly read the headline. “Sugar” I thought “maybe I wasn’t dreaming after all”

With apologies to Lewis Carroll.

Jayne Olorunda: The Victim Maker

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I doubt that the content of my blog will go down well, but I don’t care. No longer can I watch as NI carries on regardless. Serious issues are ignored as it doesn’t suit the peacetime image that the country wants to project. Yet by not addressing and acting on issues, we risk the mental and physical health of others and we risk creating more victims. This time not of sectarian hate but of race hate. The last few months have seen hundreds of good people marching in support of accepting refugees, brandishing banners and proclaiming refugees are welcome here. Yet did anyone ever stop to think if refugees would really be welcome here? Did anyone stop to wonder how their lives will be, what they will experience in a year, two years or more when they are ‘settled’?

Last week we all watched the aftermath of yet another race hate attack, this time in East Belfast. The victim was asked how he felt. I didn’t need to hear his answer because I already knew. I felt the same, all the freshly prescribed diazepam in the world couldn’t stem the shaking or feelings of inadequacy that one is assailed with after being belittled and abused for something they cannot change. So many new arrivals here are left shaken, vulnerable and isolated due to attacks based on little more than the colour of their skin. In today’s world many cannot go back home as they are often told. And yet NI is taking more. May I suggest that a country once deemed the race hate capital of Europe would not be the ideal to choice to settle already traumatised people. Alongside my own experience, recent months imagealso saw a well known Belfast writer attacked in his own home and friends of mine called names on the street. The common denominator? Nothing more than the colour of their skin.

Incidents like this only confirm that we cannot even accept those of colour who were born and bred here. If we cannot accept ‘our own’ then how on earth can anyone argue that we are advanced enough to accept newcomers? Part of me wants to leave and certainly as the sensible option I have considered this, but it in my current predicament it is hard. It isn’t easy to accept that the country of my  birth doesn’t want me, the same country that stripped me of a father and made me a carer. As a carer I cannot easily get up and leave but until now that was okay as race hate is taken very seriously, or so I thought.
In the last two years I urged anyone who suffered from a hate crime to report it, after all if these incidents aren’t reported they go unchallenged and stand a high likelihood of happening again. As the PSNI website proudly boasts “Hate Crime is wrong. To Stop it report it”. Race hate crime in particular is taken very seriously in NI, one only has to look to our politicians for affirmation of this. On an all too regular basis they are seen pledging to do more against race hate attacks, present at racial equality forum / talks and I imagine the opening of every anti racism envelope that exists. Yet is there any substance in their convictions? Well, the racial equality strategy would normally suggest so (if we ignore the delay in producing it). But it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if our support agencies continue to let victims down or our government doesn’t fulfill the funding it promised. The very fact that OFMDFM funding for supporting ethnic minority groups has become so uncertain make it seem that their commitment is pretty fragile. Race hate crime can’t be prevented when the very funds allocated for support agencies are so unstable. All of the public appearances and photo opportunities in the world are not going to stop or prevent more racism here, however supporting funding just might.
Last year it was revealed that only 12 out of 14,000* reports of race related incidents in NI resulted in prosecution. For me this was a curious paradox as it is publicly known that victims are encouraged to report such cases. Then why on earth was the prosecution rate so low? If 14,000 people had the courage to report race hate crime then surely even allowing for unproven cases we would see more prosecutions.image

Could something in the processing of these cases be going wrong? A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to find out. In essence my experience enabled me to test the system. I became a statistic.

So what really happens when you report a race hate crime in Northern Ireland? As we all are painfully aware the PSNI are stretched resource wise. Yet I could never fault the officers that received and initially dealt with my case. They were professional, sympathetic and courteous. For me it was after the first stages of reporting the incident that things begin to unravel. It began with the promise of a follow-up call the next day. After waiting 2 days I took the plunge and called myself. It emerged that my case had been given to the PSNI Central processing Unit (CPU) for allocation.  It seems it languished there. At the same time one of the suspects had committed to report into the station on a specified day. Did this happen? Who knows? Certainly not the CPU. As the case was yet to be allocated no one knew anything about it or if the person had even come to the station as arranged. I received my follow -up call a few days later. I am still waiting for the outcome. My next call from the PSNI was from a community officer who began the call sympathising with me about what had happened then later admitted knowing nothing of the incident. I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence.
My basic powers of deduction make me wonder if my experience in reporting a race hate incident is an isolated occurrence? Had my case had not languished for so long would things be different? I will never know, but one thing I am sure of is, that as the days since the incident occurred grew longer so too did the chances of the suspects creating a new order of events. My case is only one ( of which I am not at liberty to go into the details ), but am I wrong to believe that delays such as this must prevent prosecution?
On the night of the incident I was encouraged to seek prosecution, but as the time passed prosecution has now morphed into a glorified apology. Right now it seems I will be lucky to get even that. I can’t help think that if the CPU had been taken out of the equation and the very capable receiving officers had dealt with the case my outcome would have been different. How many more cases slip through the net because of being passed from pillar to post? I shudder to think. No wonder we have so few prosecutions for race hate crime.Suffice to say after reporting the incidence  I was afraid, so much so, that I regretted reporting it at all.

My conclusion really is rather bleak.

Could I say hand on heart to a refugee, asylum seeker or migrant that they would be safe here?  No.

Would I advise them to come here? No.

Would I encourage someone to report race hate? Perhaps.

However, I would ensure that their expectations are not high, I would tell them that their response may not be as coordinated as what Joe Public is lead to believe. I would tell them that NI remains entrenched in bitterness and cannot cope with it’s own hatred. Everyone knows that entrenched hatred cannot be easily erased.  If that were possible NI wouldn’t have the bomb scares, the murders and the sectarian riots that we see today. If it were indeed possible I might have known the person who gave me the skin tone that some here try so hard to make me ashamed of.  NI has a long way to go before any newcomer could truly settle here, it needs to clean up the aftermath of it’s indigenous hatred first. It needs to stop talking about looking after the victims (now not only of sectarianism but also of race hate) and until then anyone coming here will be fast on the path of becoming one of NI’s newest victims. Most important of all I would tell them that until NI properly commits to and tightens up its responses and actions to prevent race hate crime, then no, refugees are not welcome here. Quite simply they are not safe. To bring any innocent people here especially those fleeing violence would only create more victims. The last thing NI needs is more victims.

Stats: The Guardian 2014

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Ann Allan : Spotlight Special.

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Rewind that, I shouted to the hubby. I had, as usual, got my head in my iPad commenting on Twitter on something that was brought up in the Sunday politics show. I had just caught the end of the announcement. A special edition of Spotlight was going to be recorded on Tuesday 5th and viewers were invited to go apply for tickets. Hmm I though I fancy going to that. One of my usual companions for such an event was in Brighton running the gauntlet at the Conservative conference so I told the hubby,  sorry,  invited the hubby  to come along with me. A quick email was dispatched,  as requested,  and on Monday a reply was received asking me to ring the Beeb and give some personal details.  Well you would have thought I was trying to get into the White House! But having recruited audiences for similar shows in the past  I realised that a good cross-section is needed to balance the audience and the lady on the phone was extremely nice.  Hubby then got the same grilling and we were told we could collect our tickets at the door.

That was when I started worrying. What will I wear? Should I get my hair done?  Will we be seen in the audience?  Will the hubby look as if he’s enjoying himself?  Should I tell anyone to look out for us? Oh God, maybe we will be asked to ask a question!  Decided that the hair needed done and maybe a new top was called for.  However, on reflection, I went for the hair-do but opted for a black tee-shirt hoping I would blend in with the background.

Hubby was excited, ( grumpy about having to get up when he’d rather doze in his chair). Headed into town. Car parking was convenient but we didn’t have enough money for the machine. Tried phoning the number to pay with my credit card. The facility only had details for my old car. Tried three times to give my new registration number and every time the voice repeated an incorrect number.  Could tell the hubby was getting annoyed as he headed off to the cinema on the Dublin Road looking for change.image
Arrived at Blackstaff studios. Sorry  luv,  doors not open yet, come back at 6.30. With 15 mins to pass we headed down Gt.Victoria St.  Reminisced about how it looked in our day.  Where did all those restaurants come from?  As the rain started to fall I began to think this wasn’t such a good idea.
At 6.30 we we headed back to the studio and joined the queue. We showed our ID and were ushered into the waiting area. Unfortunately we were there for over an hour and were subjected to re-runs of old Spotlights so we were reminded of Asher-gate and some homophobic nonsense from Jeffrey Donaldson.

We were asked to write a question to put to the panel. I wanted to know that if Simon Hamilton maintains that the Health Service is working in his absence,  maybe we should be considering part-time Ministers. Save a fortune.  We also got a peep at who was on the panel. Gregory Campbell, Claire Hanna, Mike Nesbitt, Michelle O’Neill and I was delighted to see my friend Mairia Cahill was also on the panel. If it hadn’t been for Mairia I would never have started writing.  Look what you’d have missed.

The staff were lovely.  The floor managers went around talking to everyone ( about 100 in the audience ) thanking us for coming and making us feel comfortable.  A guy sitting next to us had his leg in a cast. He had been waiting for 18 months for an operation. Noel Thompson referred to him during the programme.
At about 7.30 we entered the recording studio and took our seats.  A well-known face from the past, Paddy O’Flaherty, came out to warm up the audience. After a light-hearted bit of banter we were instructed to raise our hands if we had something to say, clap if we liked a point and generally get involved.  As I’m still getting used to my new teeth I decided not to saying anything as I had visions of getting nervous, and my teeth flying across the studio in full view of the tv cameras.
Mr. Suave himself, Noel Thompson, appeared and took his seat together with the other panelists. In the glare of powerful overhead lights the show was about to start. But wait, we heard Noel speak to the producer. He hadn’t got a script. A floor runner was hastily dispatched to get the script which imageapparently  was still being typed. A few minutes later and we were off. No hitches and straight through the recording. All ready for transmission later on Tuesday evening.  All very professional. It was also noticeable that having three female members on the panel resulted in a more reasoned and tempered debate.
Came out to a wet but warm evening and headed for home to watch the recording. Ok watch the recording to see if we could spot ourselves ( we did ). What is the fascination with seeing yourself on the tv?
All in all it was an enjoyable experience and one which I ( and him) would like to repeat.

You can watch a recording of the programme at

http://bbc.in/1RtWeIF

Ann Allan: Disillusioned

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

Robert Kennedy

I’m slowly becoming one of the disinterested and disassociated voting public. I can see now why people don’t vote but what I can’t see is why the people who vote, vote for the people they vote for. ( Take your time you’ll get there).

We hear the old adage you get what you vote for and unfortunately we do. But is there any choice? The same old faces reappear at election time. They trot out the same old cliches and those who get out and vote, vote for yesterdays men and women. We listen day in and day out to their arguments, their whataboutery and their archaic and outmoded beliefs. They quote in some cases from the bible, using the ‘good book’ to justify their beliefs. Hard luck if you’re not a believer. How many times have you also heard ‘ the vast majority believe such and such’ No we bloody don’t. We are a mixed society and becoming more secular in our make up. If you are going to quote the vast majority I need figures, statistics to back up what you say.

We are verging on a stagnant society. Some want to move on, some want to stay in the past. We seem to take one step forward and ten steps back. I have young grandchildren. They know nothing about the troubles apart from what they study at school or have heard from listening to the family reminiscing as to what it was like growing up in the 70s and 80s. It could be the Boer war being talked about because it was not their ‘war.’  It was our ‘war.’ It is in the past and our grandchildren want to live in the present and look forward to the future.  I do too.

To those who lost family and are waiting for the perpetrators to be caught it’s probably not going to happen, albeit in a small number of cases.  I’ve heard some discuss the question as to whether victims perpetuate their victimhood?  I think that depends on the person. Many of us go through life without any major tragedies in our lives but there are those who will suffer. Those who do suffer a tragedy can deal with it in one of two ways. They can let the perpetrator/s ruin their lives permanently and be a victim or they can decide not to let the perpetrator win and take away anymore of their quality of life. They can accept what has happened and move on. The reality is that while victims  are waiting for justice life is passing them by. The joy of living is removed from their lives and they relive over and over again events that are in the past.

We have been told that there is little hope of bringing perpetrators to book.  Can victims  accept that in their case it may not happen? Can they put the past behind them and learn to enjoy life again with the acceptance that they may never get the justice they are seeking? I would like to see a line drawn under the past. I would like to see compensation paid to all victims to help us move forward. This would not include victim makers but those who were maimed or those families who lost a family member. I would like this to happen so that my children and grandchildren can break free from the past. I dont want them paying the price for a war that was nothing to do with them and one that they don’t even remember.

I would also like to see the number of terms a politician can serve restricted to two terms. It works for the American presidency so why not here?  That way maybe we could freshen up the faces that we can vote for and that might help weed out those who are in politics for the wrong reasons. We wouldn’t then be stuck with them untill they fall of their perch.

I know there will be many who will disagree with me but that’s all right. We are all entitled to our opinions and that’s mine. We are struck in the past celebrating events that are long gone. Continually looking back and it’s not as if we learn from continually looking back, it just breeds another generation who can’t get past the past.

C’mon people, it’s time to think of our children and future generations. Don’t leave them with our legacy of the past.image

Ann Allan : What is Culture?

1.The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

image2.The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

The above are the popular definitions of culture. The word culture has become a dirty word in Northern Ireland, misused, misunderstood and sensitive. I’m not out to offend anyone by my observations as I come from a mixed community background since 1970. I also grew up in a village, before I crossed the great community divide, where there was a toleration on both sides of parades, both on the 12 th July and the 15 th August. A bonfire was a small family occasion where a few logs burned in the middle of a safe non contentious area. No pallets, no tyres, no flags or emblems, no election posters and no ‘holy’ statues.
Move forward 45 years when one would expect that as a society we would have moved forward. But no! Ask one of the bonfire builders why they are building a bonfire and you’ll get the cliché, It’s our culture. Should they be pursued and questioned what they meant by culture I doubt you would get a lucid or reasoned answer.
We hear the cry respect our culture. I’m sorry culture to me doesn’t entail:

The paving stones on the street painted red, white and blue,
Flags flying from every lamp-post for weeks, some in tatters.
Flags of other nations flying. What is the flying of the Palestinian and Israeli flag all about?
To improve the situation and to move towards some semblance of toleration. Let’s start with both sides removing any flags that:
1.Are from other countries
2. Are from paramilitary groups which are threatening to any sections of the community.
This year we have even seen the swastika and the confederate flag. These can only have been put up to offend some sections of our community. The flags are also flown in areas where the community doesn’t want them but that doesn’t seem to be taken into consideration.
In some areas where bonfires are built way in advance of the twelfth, the streets are littered with rubbish both before and after the 11th night. How can anyone take a pride in their area with this being allowed to happen? I feel for those house proud residents who have skimped and saved to buy their houses.  We have seen this year how residents had to move from their homes in Chobam street to accommodate a bonfire. Result people  inconvenienced. Rate payers foot the bill. Fire service on duty to make sure houses not burned down. This is not culture.
Speak out against this situation and you are likely to fall foul of the organisers and some members of the loyalist community. I have friends in the loyalist community so please don’t say I am biased.
So if you want me to endorse your culture, take the sectarianism out of the picture on both sides, promote the good aspects like the bands and the encouragement of young musicians. Don’t turn our streets into what looks like public dumping areas. Enjoy the bonfires. Remove the sectarian aspect and it could turn out to be an occasion without ridicule and rancour.

Punctured Plum: I live in a society, not an economy.


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I believe all have the potential for great things and love it when people realise this. I want to live in a society, not an economy.

‘I live in a society, not an economy…’

’This was the start of a Facebook status update from a childhood friend last week and it has resonated with me ever since. In the political arena in 2015 everything is based around the economy, talk of corporation tax reduction, cuts to public services, austerity and political parties fawning over big business. Of course, society needs an economy to prosper but an economy relies on a sound society to function. In a recent article,  Armando Iannucci stated :

‘Politics was about passion, and imagination, and foresight. Now it’s just accountancy.’

I can’t help feel that he is on to something here, although his creation Malcolm Tucker may well disagree. Now I am not against wealth and legitimate wealth creation in any way, it is a vital cog in society’s machinery. What I do struggle with is how big business seems to dictate the direction of party policy more than societal need. I also get frustrated when political arguments get boiled down one basic thing,

Vote for us and you will be better off.’

Will I?

Okay I may have a few extra pound in my pocket! But what about my neighbour? What about those who need more and haven’t necessarily had the opportunities that I have been blessed with, through no fault of their own? Is it ok that I get more and they are left behind?

I don’t want to live in a society where ‘I’m alright jack,’ is the mantra, but sadly it seems I already do.

Individualism has trumped community, and that’s something that looks like continuing.

You may say, ‘but we are individuals,’ and of course that’s right, we are all unique, but we are all also created equal, a strange oxymoron. I think we have lost the balance somewhere along the road. Being an individual is a good thing in many ways and individualism is necessary for boundaries to be pushed and progress to be made, but for the greater good, for the development of society, not just personal gain.

We somehow have to find that balance between our individuality and our sense of family and community that gives us a sense of belonging, those things that remain when everything else gets stripped away.

I want to live in a society of fairness, a community of those who look out for each other, not a rat race where trimming the weakest from the herd is deemed ok. I want to live in a society where a person’s value is not calculated by accountants. For that to happen more people need to #show up in the public space, we have to meet the need in front of us and not just hope that someone else will come along and do it… What if they don’t?

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stuffannonsense : Ramblings from a seeking,loved, sport loving hubby and dad. I believe all have the potential for great things and love it when people realise this. You can follow Punctured Plum at :

stuffannonsense.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter @Puncturedplum

Ann Allan: A Case Of Flute in the Mouth

imageThere has been a very quick and robust reaction to the recent interview with Sir James Galway. Not hard to guess who regarded it as a welcome analysis of the status of Northern Ireland and who saw it as a betrayal of the Protestant /Presbyterian tradition. It was a godsend for those with an aspiration for a United Ireland and for those who see the British as an occupying force. It was a slap in the face for those who have worked hard over the years and who have stayed in Northern Ireland and have not got the recognition that James Galway has. Those of us who have stayed in the country and who have paid their taxes, lived through the troubles and brought up our families here do not appreciate being lectured by an ex pat who lives in luxury in Switzerland.image
However, he is entitled to his opinion, and I dare say if he had been giving the opportunity to think about the questions  he would have been more tempered in his response. Sir James is very adamant that he is Irish but by his own choice he has chosen to live as a tax exile.
His comments on Rev. Ian Paisley were ill thought out and may even be slanderous. I agree with him that Paisley contributed to and inflamed the situation in Northern Ireland but it would be foolish to say publicly that he was responsible for deaths in Northern Ireland.
I think there are lessons to be learnt. Firstly don’t get interviewed by Stephen Nolan unless you have an agreed agenda. Secondly it is not a good idea to return to your homeland and insult a large percentage of the population.

Ann Allan: Paul Givan and Human Rights.

imageLast night I went to bed with the face of a patronising, holier than thou, grimacing idiot on my mind. No, I wasn’t watching Big Brother ( well I was actually) but no this was the face of a Northern Ireland MLA namely Paul Given. He was delivering his interpretation of democracy, the judiciary, and human rights. The inability of this MLA to grasp the importance of separation of the state and judiciary, not to mention the separation of church and state can  only be explained by his lack of knowledge of current and past events throughout the world. For instance perhaps he should examine the fate of the Jewish population in Europe following the democratic election of the National Socialist party in Germany in 1933 or the current implementation of Sharia law by ISIS throughout the Middle East. Two clear examples of how non separation of state and judiciary (Germany) and/or state and church (ISIS) led to genocide. Politics/democracy judiciary, and the church should never be combined and Paul Givan should learn from past and present global events and get out of his little Northern Ireland box. Please put the Beano and Dandy down and start reading something of substance that will educate your mind and hopefully lead to a more tolerant and sympathetic approach to society in Northern Ireland.

Ann Allan : We Need Help

Many of you will have watched the Stephen Nolan show last night and many of you will I am sure have felt embarrassed. Not for yourself but from the ineptitude displayed by last nights panel. There was Gregory for the DUP,  Roy Beggs Jnr. for the UUP, Delores from SDLP,  Stephen Farry from Alliance and Alex Maskey from Sinn Fein.  Debating on ‘the Meeting’  it was difficult to understand how there was no agreement on what was actually agreed. Delores wasn’t actually there so she was obviously going on hearsay, the other three were in agreement but Alex was at odds with everyone else.

Now I have chaired meetings and I’ve been a secretary for various committees and one thing of which I’m sure, minutes were taken,  reflecting all decisions taken at those meetings.  Does this not happen anymore? If not why not?  What confidence can ‘ordinary’ people have if the politicians themselves don’t even know what they have agreed on.

I’m also wondering if it would be possible to get together a think tank of business people and CEO’s of multi nationals to sit down and work out a budget and a financial plan for NI, because it sure looks as if our politicians are not up to the job.