Attack on Alliance office is attack on society. #notinmyname

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Reacting to the news that the constituency office of Trevor Lunn MLA, of the Alliance Party was attacked this morning in Lisburn, John O’Neill, Chair of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats said:

“As Northern Ireland looks forward to one of its most busy festive periods, the attack on Trevor Lunn’s office reminds us that there are still people who want to inflict their evil on the rest of society who are preparing for the warmth of the season.

“We, as Liberal Democrats, stand for the rights of all to be heard, but violence is not the way forward. The ordinary people of Northern Ireland will not tolerate any attempt to take us back to the dark days of the troubles. The attacks are not in my name.

Shooting in Newry —those responsible must face full force of law

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This morning a shooting in Newry is brought to our attention by the BBC.

As with many other people, we in the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats abhor the violence that is still being visited on the people of Northern Ireland.

I hope that the man who was attacked in the Parkhead Crescent area of the city and suffered injury to his stomach and knee will make a full recovery.

The staff of Northern Ireland’s health service so often have to look after those affected by such mindless violence. I know we all will thank them.

I call on anyone with any information about this and all other attacks to contact the PSNI as soon as possible and help them to rid the streets of the criminal or criminals behind this cruel attack. Those who persist in such violence must feel the full force of the law on them.

A peaceful and shared society: is it too much to hope for?

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I remember exactly where I was the morning after loyalist paramilitaries declared a ceasefire in October 1994. I was at a conference for sixth-formers from across the island of Ireland held at Campbell College in East Belfast. The conference was entitled, “Ireland: the next hundred years”. When it was being planned no-one could have known that it would be held the morning after the loyalist ceasefire. It changed everything.

Today, nineteen years and one month on, we are meant to be in a peaceful Northern Ireland. But are we?

The chairman of the Police Federation has said that he believes that one of the loyalist paramilitary groupings is no longer keeping its ceasefire. Terry Spence said: 

“The UVF have been engaged in murder, attempted murder of civilians, attempted murder of police officers, they’ve been engaged in orchestrating violence on our streets, and it’s very clear to me that there engaged in an array of mafia-style activities.”

This morning we heard on the news about an attack on a fifteen-year-old in Coleraine, County Londonderry. The boy was shot in both legs by a gang of masked men, one of whom was armed with a baseball bat as well.

Over the weekend, the Mayor of North Down, Cllr Andrew Muir of the Alliance Party expressed concern about a poster from paramilitary organisations stating that they will severely deal with perpetrators of crimes.

Is this the best we can hope for?

I know that this is not the best that we can have in Northern Ireland. Those who are attempting to “police” their own areas by shooting fifteen-year-olds, by threatening posters, are not the guardians of the peace that they seem to think they are. The real guardians of the peace are the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

It is they who have been arresting those behind the riots and disorder that Northern Ireland has seen in the last 12 months. Today, they released images of individuals that they want to speak to, Detective Superintendant Sean Wright, the Senior Investigating Officer explained,

“In the past 12 months, police officers have dealt with a number of episodes of serious disorder on the streets of Northern Ireland. We have been clear from the outset that there would be consequences for individuals who seek to engage in illegal activity and we have been carrying out a thorough investigation to identify those involved and make them amenable for their actions.

I call on anyone with any information about these images and all other crimes including the shooting in Coleraine to get in touch with the PSNI. It is only by doing that those who act in a criminal way will feel the  force of the law. And what is important is that it is done in a fair, normal and legal manner. That is by the police, the prosecution service and the courts. It is not up to some paramilitary thug to decide what is and is not acceptable.

Perhaps, each of us in our own communities needs to stand up and tell the bully boys that want to drag Northern Ireland backwards that we do not want it. There may be a lot more work to be done to bring our wee country to the real peaceful and shared society that we all want, but if we don’t try this, will those up at Stormont really help?

 

Northern Ireland Lib Dem Chair pays tribute to Sean Morrin

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Sean Morrin at Foyle Pride. (Photo: Anne Ramsey)

Sean Morrin at Foyle Pride. (Photo: Anne Ramsey)

Responding to the sad news that Sean Morrin, a lifelong human rights activist and trade unionist, who died in Derry at the weekend, Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats Chair, John O’Neill said,

Sean Morrin’s untimely death brings to an end too soon a life lived in unstinting commitment to equality and freedom for all the people of Northern Ireland, especially those of his beloved home city.

Sean was a great man who campaigned for human rights for everyone especially for rights for those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in our society. On behalf of the local Liberal Democrats, I express our sadness at his passing, but we hope that everyone who knew him will continue to work for the equality that was so much a part of his life.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and work colleagues at this time.

A response to the events of the evening of 8th March

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I utterly and without hesitation condemn the orchestrated mob violence in Glengormley on the evening of Fri 8th March, which culminated in injury to several PSNI officers and an attack on the premises of the office of David Ford MLA, which resulted in damage to a neighbouring, unassociated business.

This is the latest in a four-month series of attacks on, and threats to, elected Alliance representatives. It is worthy to note that this attack comes a day after Alliance raised its vote in Mid-Ulster by 23%. Further demonstration, if any were needed, of the dichotomy between the democratic process and the politics of the street, and between those who respectively practice them.

We in the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats are, as always, proud to stand alongside our sister party.

 

Is St Patrick to be expunged from the Union Flag?

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Seems that St Patrick is to be expunged from the Union Flag…

Seems that St Patrick is to be expunged from the Union Flag…

Now any observer of flags in Northern Ireland will tell you that there are many variations in the flags that are seen around the Province. But this one, first seen by me on a Facebook page, is a new one even for me.

It is placed on a page somewhat dedicated to so-called Loyalism that appears to have sprung up following the decision by Belfast City Council to fly the Union Flag from City Hall on the designated Flag-flying Days. Most of these pages want to see the Union Flag replaced, that is hoisted once more on City Hall, not replaced by a new design such as the one above.

It now appears that anything Irish is not wanted in the Union Flag – so St Patrick’s Cross has been removed, and the Six-Pointed Star and Red Right Hand of Northern Ireland, ensigned by a Royal Crown placed in the centre. Whilst I agree that it does seem an anomaly that when most of the Kingdom of Ireland left the United Kingdom, St Patrick’s cross remained wholly in the Union Flag, I am not convinced that this Flag will bring any more loyalty to the UK as left.

What does anyone think?

Originally published on Gyronny Herald.

Violence and fire-lighting is not the way forward #standingwithstewart

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Coat of Arms of Belfast City Council

Coat of Arms of Belfast City Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My thoughts and prayers are with all Alliance Party representative and their staff at this difficult time following the decision by Belfast City Council to fly the Union Flag on designated days.

Reports are coming in this evening that a constituency office for Stewart Dickson MLA, the Alliance representative for East Antrim has been set on fire. According to the BBC the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service are at the scene.

As with the protest yesterday that forced Naomi Long MP‘s office to close early, all that these actions will do will be to stop local people from getting the assistance that they so often need with benefit queries, housing, social care needs, passport applications, and other local issues that they so often need help with. The thugs and criminals that have done this must be caught by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and brought to justice.

If any public representative has urged people to come out on to the street and protest, I suggest that he thinks again about the wisdom of this. The matter of the Union Flag has been dealt with by the body responsible in one local government district – Belfast City Council. It is outrageous for so many so-called Loyalists to be protesting in areas of Northern Ireland which are specifically affected by the decision.

I call on anyone with any information to pass it to the PSNI as soon as possible, that the real scum who have done this are brought before the courts.

 

TV Switchover – beware of new bogus caller scam

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I have become aware of a new bogus caller scam that has been taking place in Northern Ireland. As we are about to be changing over from analogue to digital television later in the autumn here, some criminals have been taking advantage of this in trying to gain access to premises.

According to the PSNI,

There have been a number of reports of bogus callers trying to trick their way into houses by saying that they are making preparations for the householder to receive digital satellite channels on their television sets. The ‘digital switchover’ means soon you will no longer be able to receive an analogue signal and will only be able to watch a television with a built-in digital receiver, a digital set-top box or subscribe to a satellite or cable service. Anyone calling at a home to do any work in connection to this would not be doing so without prior arrangement with the householder.

I therefore urge all householders to exercise caution if they have any unplanned or suspicious caller at your house. The police advise you to call them on 0845 600 8000 to report the incident. If you require assistance from the police in an emergency, please call 999.

I ask all readers to alert older family members and friends who do not use the internet to this scam. Thank you.

 

Alderdice speaks to UN on role of mediation

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It is not often that a member of the Northern Ireland local party speaks to the United Nations, but that is what has happened this week. On 13 September, John, Lord Alderdice spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on the Role of Mediation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution, highlighting some key issues in mediation work with groups in violent conflict.

  1. The power of the past – with repetitions and reactions to hurts over centuries, not just years.
  2. The impact of the emotions – I react not out of rational self-interest but emotionally, and often to my cost.
  3. The toxic effects of injustice and humiliation – resulting in devoted actors, who, if they find no other way may react with self-destructive violence in what they perceive to be a higher cause. If you humiliate me, I will remember it forever and find it hard ever to forgive you.
  4. And finally the need to construct a robust process through which I begin to relate directly to ‘the Other side’ as human beings with good in them as well as bad, and recognizing the faults on my own side in the past and the present

Another policy, another delay: Poots does it again

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Edwin Poots with Scottish Health Minister

Edwin Poots MLA together with the Scottish Health Minister. Maybe she can make him see some sense. Image by DUP Photos via Flickr

Once again it seems that Northern Ireland is going to be left behind by a Minister who has delayed policies in the past in another department.

Today Edwin Poots MLA, our Health Minister informed the Health Committee in the Assembly that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood was not going to be lifted, unlike what is happening in the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is clear that the Minister is not really taking the same advice as his counterparts across the water. A number of organisations and political parties have been making comments.

Are we expected to be self-sufficient with our own blood supply?

This is a fair point made by John O’Doherty of The Rainbow Project, if Northern Ireland is excluding donations, are we able to accept blood from the rest of the UK? I am not sure that we currently do accept blood from there – but surely it would possibly extend to donations of other organs.

The HIV Support Centre‘s new Director, Danny McQuillan response highlighted the need for focusing on the sexual behaviour of all blood donors. He also suggested that the continuance of this policy would discriminate and stigmatise people based on their sexual orientation:

We urge the Minister to re-think this decision and adopt a policy that will protect pubilc safety, a policy focusing on excluding those who engage in high-risk and unsafe sexual behaviour, not a policy that discriminates and stigmatises people based on their sexual orientation.

said Danny McQuillan, Director of The HIV Support Centre.

I really believe that it is time for Northern Ireland to ‘grow up’. Gay men are not the only ones that take part in high-risk sexual behaviour. How many other people are having unsafe sex regularly? It is likely that there are many, yet they are not banned for life. We need to look at this and get it sorted out.