As I watcheda news report on the ABC network here in Australia, which showed jubilant supporters of Sinn Fein celebrating their electoral successes by singinga pro IRA ballad from the republican repertoire of anti-Britishness,I had that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach whenI once lost control of my car descending an icy Glenshane Pass.
They were not singing about Dublin rents, medical care or homelessness.
The were exulting in their narrative of ‘armed struggle’ and their ‘fight for freedom’.
There are many people in Northern Ireland who do not wish to deny any group a historical perspective but the time is overdue when a body of independent historians could produce a single narrative, which would become part of the curriculum of all schools in both of the jurisdictions in Ireland.
George McNally, Port Melbourne, Australia
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and George McNally for the original posting of his letter
Spads are hand-picked individuals who advise ministers on how to stay in power, by making popular decisions
JIM Allister was half right. He correctly identified the need for legislation, to regulate the behaviour of Stormont’s special advisers (spads).
But he was wrong about his proposed new law. It needed just one sentence: “If ministers require advice on the political consequences of their policies and decisions, their party, and not the public, should pay for it.” (He might have called it the Abolition of Spade Act.) But our beloved Stormont agreed a new Code of Conduct for Spads, those lubricants of the wheels of government who apparently keep this wonderful semi-colony at its efficient best. So why do we need spads? (Answer: we don’t) What difference will the new Code of Conduct make? (Answer: none). How could Stormont work without them? (Answer: just as badly as now.)
, Mary Lou McDonald suggests that what is recorded in Burned about the SF Finance Minister’s behaviour was equivalent to the Irish Finance Minister taking advice from his special adviser.I think that’s misleading. (1/3)
The central issue is that Máirtín Ó Muilleoir hada special adviser. But here he was asking unseen republicans who were neither his spad nor experts on the complexities of energy policy if they were “content” for him to take an urgent decision. Here are3 pages from Burned: (2/3)
This episode was possible because of the ultra secrecy employed by the DUP & SF in Stormont – keeping things off-grid, using private email accounts & phones, & leaving these unseen figures wholly unaccountable because there was no official record of their role. What else went on?
Spads are hand-picked individuals who advice ministers on how to stay in power, by making popular decisions, or by disguising unpopular decisions as either not having happened or being someone’s else’s fault. They require no qualifications, which tends to render the debate on academic selection somewhat redundant. Politicians say spads have three functions. They act as a link between the minister and the party. In that case the party should pay. Secondly, spads are a link between ministers and civil servants. I have worked with enough ministers and senior civil servants to know that they can communicate perfectly well, without help from an intermediary. Thirdly, spads are ment to liaise with other spads. I have no idea why. (Maybe they have an addiction group called Spads Anonymous: “My name is Joe Bloggs and I am a spad. It all began when I started reading what I thought was harmless election literature, but before I knew it, I was hooked on party policy and look at me now – effectively in charge of a government department.)
Ah but, say the five main parties, this new code of conduct is different. It is indeed and it would be hard to find a more cynical public relations ploy, even by Stormont’s standards. Spads’ top salaries are to be reduced to a mere £85,000 (hurrah for equality) and they will be expected to keep minutes of meetings (how very considerate). More puzzling is that they “should avoid anything” which might suggest that “people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes” – even though it also says they are expected to provide “politically committed”. (That’s the great thing about this code: it raises Stormont to new levels of inconsistency.)
And try understanding this: Spads can take part in “all forms of local political activity, but not local activities in support of national politics.” No, I am not making it up and since all five parties claim there are two nations here, which nation’s national politics do they mean? Oh, and what about regional or international politics? And how local is local: townland, parish, electoral ward, electoral district, travel to work area, county, local government area, Six Counties? (Maybe this code should have been looked at by a spad before being published?) As an alternative to spads, who cost £2 million annually, if any party requires advice on the likely electoral consequences of any executive decision, this column will gladly provide it free of charge. And if they do not wish to avail of that offer, all they to do is ask anyone in the street, because we can all easily predict the likely electoral impact of ministerial decisions in our sectarian society. So it is time for a Spadless Stormont. When it was announced on Tuesday that MLAs would get an extra £1,000 annually, no one from the five main parties would come out of Stormont for a BBC interview. The next day, they depicted themselves as victims of someone forcing them to take money (even though they took money for three years for not working). If they can manage those decisions without spads, they can manage every other decision in the same way.
A UUP councillor has described the erection of bi-lingual street signs near Downpatrick have annoyed residents and is “an attempt to divide communities who otherwise live in harmony”.
Slieve Croob Councillor Alan Lewis branded two dual language signs on the Nutgrove Road at Annadorn, east of Downpatrick, as “utterly ridiculous”.
He added: “I understand why people wish to speak Irish, I’ve nothing against any person or group who wish to further their understanding of Irish Language through cultural activities but there is absolutely no need for road signs randomly doted across the countryside effectively marking out territory”.
“It’s unnecessary territory marking tribalism. Most right-thinking residents are rightly annoyed. This is an attempt to divide communities who otherwise live in harmony, I do not understand why one side is determined to force Irish down the throat of their unionist neighbours”.
He also queried why Irish had been placed at the top of the sign with the English “downgraded” below.
This would lead one to ask the point of the design, he said.
“A car going at normal speed would read the Irish before they read the actual road name.”
He added: “The impression given by some supporters of the Irish Language lobby is of a language that has been forced underground, denied rights, oppressed and starved of funding. Figures contained within the Flags, Identity, Culture & Tradition (FICT) commission demonstrate that the facts simply do not bear out the repeated claims of discrimination, many people will be amazed to learn that £190m has been spent on the Irish Language in Northern Ireland in just over 7 years, Nobody is prevented from learning and speaking Irish, it is well provided for in terms of public funding. I do not believe there is the need for an Irish language act but that does not mean we do not support the language community.”
“Given the regular painting out of Irish language signs in mainly unionist areas where the language is not spoken or understood, and where it is seen as political, it is very clear that adverse equality and good relations implications should have been anticipated.”
“I reiterate that I’ve Nothing against Irish or those who wish to speak it however it his continued obsession with dual language signs is furthering and reinforcing a negative image of the Language across our district.”
Mr Lewis said that most people living on the road would be nationalist but that the wider area would be mainly unionist.
“This is just marking out territory,” he added.
He also queried the level of ratepayer expenditure by the council on such signs.
But Sinn Fein MLA Sinéad Ennis described his concerns as “utter nonsense”.
She added: “The Irish language is for everyone in society and it doesn’t belong to any one section of the community.
“Sinn Féin would like to point out to Councillor Lewis that a car cannot read road signs at normal or any other speed.”
Conchúr Ó Muadaigh, Advocacy Manager, Conradh na Gaeilge said it was important to “unlock” the Irish language across the country.
“The Irish language is all around us, it is to be found in our places names and indeed in our surnames,” he said. “95% of placenames here come directly from Irish. That shared history needs to be unlocked and promoted.
“Visibility of that common heritage is hugely important for minoritised indigenous languages. That is a concept supported worldwide, and indeed by the council of Europe who oversee the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.
“The British Government ratified that Charter in 2001 and local councils have duties according to that treaty. If we are sincere about a truly shared society then the Irish language has to be recognised as a central part of our past, present and future. The days of Irish being unheard and unseen must end. That exclusion has gone on for far too long. From Sliabh Crúibe (Slieve Croob), to Áth na nDorn (Annadorn), the language is all around us, and belongs to us all.”
Daniel Holder, Deputy Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, contacted the News Letter to say that Conradh na Gaeilge had suggested it also forward comment on the matter.
Mr Holder said that no human rights are breached by having to look at Irish language signs.
“The suggestion that community ‘harmony’ can only be maintained by an ‘English-only’ policy of blanket exclusion of the Irish language from public space is alarming,” he told the News Letter. “Nobody’s human rights are being breached by having to look at Irish (or English) on a street sign. Both the Belfast Agreement and the human rights treaties the UK signed at the same time commit to ‘respect, understanding and tolerance’ for the Irish language, we are still clearly some distance from that.”
SDLP Slieve Croob councillor Hugh Gallagher described Mr Lewis’ comments as “disappointing rhetoric” and called for legal protection for the Irish language.
He added: “Nobody has anything to fear from the Irish language. It belongs to everyone. This outdated narrative, and indeed the increase in vandalism of Irish language signs, are another reason why we must ensure legal protection for the Irish language in legislation. Residents were contacted and asked to voice any objections before the signs were put up and there was broad support from the local community for the Irish signs.”
Newry Mourne and Down District Council and the SDLP have been approached for comment.
With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Philip Bradfield for the original story
Martin Guerin was found with 901 images and 146 videos with children as young as 2 years old sexually assaulted/abused Nolan said Martin Guerin being publicly shamed is enough of a punishment for this crime.
This ‘Judge’ is not fit for his job with sentences like this. He also previously handed a full suspended sentence to a civil servant found with 60000 images and videos of child pornography. He said civil servant Brendan Phelan had been punished enough with the shame he brought on his family.
Again ‘judge’ Martin Nolan gave music teacher Peter Jennings a fully suspended sentence after he was charged with having 1300 ‘unique’ poronographic image files and 11 ‘unique’ video files of children being sexually abused/assaulted/ but ‘Judge’ Martin Nolan said that while it was a serious offence there was no evidence that Brendan Phelan was going to distribute the material. Is owning it not enough?
Time and time again ‘Judge’ Martin Nolan allows pedophiles and rapists and murders free to walk our streets while handed down a 6yr sentence over importing garlic!
With many thanks to: Cork Matters E Magazine and Eugene.M.Quinn