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.

Explosion in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter

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Police Service of Northern IrelandThis evening there was a small explosion in Belfast’s busy Cathedral Quarter where there are many restaurants and bars where there will have been many out on work parties for Christmas.

The Police Service has confirmed that it was caused by a bomb, but no further detail is available as yet.

The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats fully support the police and army in their roles in investigating the security alert this evening. We can be thankful that there are no reports of anyone hurt on this occasion.

Tonight’s incident reminds us all that we should be looking out for suspicious objects and that we must report any to the police as soon as possible.

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?

 

Hello LibDem HQ, Northern Ireland is over here!

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Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Okay, if you have been with this blog for a while you will have read me moan that the Federal Party of the Liberal Democrats keeps appearing to ignore or possibly forget those of us who are in the Northern Ireland local party.

Well, I thought after meeting with a senior Parliamentarian (Lord Alderdice) earlier in the year, our problems may soon be over. Sadly, this evening, I have discovered that those in the graphics department in HQ have forgotten a few simple things.

The European Union is made up of nation states. One of these is the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is sometimes abbreviated to ‘Britain’ but it could properly be abbreviated to ‘UK’ (much shorter). But those who are behind the Lib Dems are the Party of In Europe have managed to muck up the image used. The accompanying text to the picture on Facebook says,

Liberal Democrats are the only major party campaigning for Britain to remain IN Europe.

New figures show how many jobs would be lost if Britain left the EU.

The Lib Dems are the party of “in Europe” but could they remember about Northern Ireland being in the United Kingdom please?

The Lib Dems are the party of “in Europe” but could they remember about Northern Ireland being in the United Kingdom please?

But the picture doesn’t show Britain, it shows Great Britain and the Isle of Man (which is not in the EU!) but it leaves off one part of that nation state which is in the EU – Northern Ireland.

How hard can it be to realise that the UK is in Europe? To understand that Northern Ireland is in the UK? I mean, is it that hard? 

Could our party please start saying ‘the UK’ whenever tempted to say ‘Britain’?

Twenty years.

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Some beautiful, and beautifully-written, contemplations on the Shankill bomb anniversary from Belfast commentator, blogger, community activist and peace educator, the soon-to-be-Dr David Magee.

http://dgmagee.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/your-pain-is-our-pain-god-bless-you/

Statement in response to the events of 8 October, 2013

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The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats wish to express their condemnation of, and disgust at, the actions of those who today saw fit to bring fear and disruption to bear against our sister party and its neighbours in East Belfast.

Conflict resolution is an evolutionary process. The environment changes, and attributes which once gave advantage no longer do. Many actors in our society who once spoke only in the language of violence have chosen to adapt to this change, and now pursue the needs and concerns of their constituencies with the new advantages given to them by participation in political, social and economic processes. As this year of attacks on, and threats to, Alliance has shown, a small number of the ruthless still seek to try in vain to resurrect the advantages once gained for them by thuggery. 

We are always proud to stand as one with our friends and colleagues in Alliance, never more than when they are threatened by those who would, without thought of consequence, destroy the political and social progress for which Alliance has so tirelessly fought since its foundation.

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.

The death of a great liberal Democrat (small “l”, capital “D”)

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bobedgar

http://www.philly.com/philly/obituaries/204366021.html

 

Robert Edgar was a great, great man, one of the first politicians for whom the teenage me worked. The fields to which he gave his huge talent and boundless concern are almost excessive to list: Open Government, Civil Rights, Citizens' Rights, the politico-religious dialogue (he was a Unitarian cleric as well as a politician), non-violence. He was a very committed friend of Northern Ireland, and brought many, many issues of relevance to the Troubles of the 1970s and 80s to the awareness of his constituents in Pennsylvania, and to the floor of the US House of Representatives – this before the Hunger Strike captured the imagination of the US media, and before a lot of much better-funded groups and better-subsidised Representatives and Senators weighed in on the matter a few years later.

A great man, a great public servant, a great Liberal. Bob was the kind of American politician that we here in Europe very seldom get to see – the antithesis of the Palins, Gingriches, Robertsons and Santorums. I'm proud to have done a small part in keeping him in Congress in the face of the Neo-Con surge of the early 1980s. May he rest in peace, and in the immortality of his witness and achievements.

Concern about the future of Causeway Hospital

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Causeway Hospital - geograph.org.uk - 1154840
The Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats have received expressions of concern from a number of stakeholder parties at uncertainties over the future of Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, currently under review by the Department of Health at Stormont as an aspect of the Transforming Your Care programme.

The difficulties at Causeway are acknowledged by all, and constitute a major impediment to the delivery of healthcare to North Antrim and the North Coast. These stem principally from an inability to recruit and retain senior Medical and Surgical professionals at Causeway, especially in the areas of Emergency Medicine and Maternity.

Causeway Hospital currently operates within the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, and as such, it shares many services, including the services of many Consultants and an entire spectrum of less-visible activities such as nursing, supply, Biomedical Science services, etc with other institutions of the Northern HSC Trust including Antrim Hospital. One possible “solution” mooted for the senior staffing difficulties is the transfer of Causeway from the Northern HSC Trust to the Western HSC Trust. The principal motivation being suggested for such change is the potential for new multi-centre working arrangements between Causeway and Altnagelvin Hospitals.

We are seriously concerned that such a proposal does not adequately acknowledge the existing multicentre arrangements from which Causeway benefits in the Northern Trust. Many of these arrangements have been put in place at considerable cost in recent years following the merger of the former United Hospitals, Homefirst and Causeway Trusts.

It should be pointed out also that within the current fourfive-Trust [thanks @Alanlaw] structure in Northern Ireland, community and acute services reside within the same Trusts. Thus, any transfer of Causeway would have to be accompanied by a transfer of community medical, mental health and social care provision in North Antrim and on the North Coast. We suggest that this depth of change to healthcare in the Causeway area is an unnecessarily disruptive answer to the difficulties at hand.

Again, we do not seek to deny the seriousness of the shortfalls at Causeway, or the difficulties faced by the Department of Health in trying to put them right. We acknowledge that provision here has been overly territorial and insufficiently collaborative as many within healthcare in Northern Ireland will admit. However, that surely points to a possible alternative pathway — The further development of Causeway Hospital need not be a zero-sum process. — Even at a time of comparative scarcity in the NHS, we feel that there is potential within both Trusts for the Department to find, even perhaps to pioneer, better networking arrangements which enable Causeway’s existing strengths and relationships to continue as new capabilities are created for the benefit of all in North Antrim and on the North Coast.