Nick Clegg’s letter from the Leader: ‘Keep winning’

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The latest in Nick’s Letter from the Leader pinged into our emails yesterday just as his speech finished in Brighton. [Well done LibDem HQ!]libdem-ltr-from-nick-clegg

I’ve just had a wonderful three days with Liberal Democrat members at Conference in Brighton.

Until today, I have spent nearly three years asking you to hold firm. Three years urging you to remain steady under fire. And you have.

But in my speech today, I gave you a different message: Win.

Get back out there. Tell our side of the story. And we will win again – on the doorstep, in town halls, in Government. Keep fighting for what we believe in. Keep winning. Building a stronger economy, a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg

Do you know someone who would like to get Nick’s weekly email? Forward this message and they can sign up here:
http://www.libdememails.co.uk/nick

Of course, here in Northern Ireland, we Liberal Democrats don’t stand [currently] despite Nick’s telling us that we (LibDems) would be standing everywhere in the UK at the next general election at conference a couple of years ago. But we get his message from yesterday about what is being achieved by the Parliamentary Party in Westminster. [Not of all it is really liberal of course, but that’s another story.]

 

There’s a knock at the door, it’s the Police… what next?

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In the last days and weeks Northern Ireland has been hit by many bomb alerts and security alerts, many of which have turned out to be hoaxes. I doubt that many people living in the rest of the United Kingdom have any idea what this is like.

Imagine a family with young children, who are asleep at the time of the alert, being roused by a knock on the door from the Police. No, we don’t want to speak to anyone here – but there is a bomb alert at the bottom of your street. We need to evacuate you.

Where do you go?

Well fortunately, in many cases local Councils open up leisure centres, or community centres to assist you. But until that alert is over, you cannot go home.

This is happening across Northern Ireland more and more, and we don’t really hear about it from our friends across in England, Wales, or Scotland. Be glad that you have not had this curse on your communities. Hopefully, the criminals, for I will not dignify them with the word ‘terrorist’ will learn that we do not want to go back to the days of violence, of mob rule, and where everyone here cannot go about their daily lives without the risk of that being disrupted.

Recent incidents include:

 

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.

 

Northern Ireland gay couple adoption ban unlawful

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Originally posted on LGBT+ Lib Dems Northern Ireland

Earlier this year we raised the issue of the discriminatory Northern Ireland policy preventing Lesbian and Gay couples from adopting.

Today in the High Court in Belfast Mr Justice Treacy has deemed that the ban was unlawful. He said:

“Excluding persons from the whole adoption process on the sole basis of their relationship status can only serve to narrow the pool of potential adopters which cannot be in the best interests of children.”

Unlike in the rest of the UK legislation in Northern Ireland deliberately went out of its way to exclude those in civil partnerships from adoption, while maintaining that individuals could still legally adopt. As we said earlier it meant that a lesbian or gay man were not prevented from adopting as long as they had no partner, or at least not one recognised by the state. But if they were committed to a relationship then they would not be allowed to adopt. Speaking on this issue Mr Justice Treacy said:

“In choosing to make a public commitment to one another, they become totally excluded both as individuals and as a couple from eligibility to adopt, ie not eligible at all.

“This is quite irrational and plainly unlawful.

“The present legislation essentially entails that a gay or lesbian person must choose between being eligible to adopt, or affirming their relationship in public via a civil partnership ceremony.”

The Northern Ireland Attorney General, John Larkin QC, had argued on behalf of the Department of Health that the change wouldn’t be in the best interests of the children, contending that Northern Ireland’s adoption laws were to ensure child welfare rather than satisfy the wishes of would-be parents. But Mr Justice Treacy stated:

“The rigorous scrutiny and assessment of suitability will ensure that only persons capable of providing a loving, safe and secure adoptive home will ultimately be considered.”

He acknowledged that that issues such as sexual orientation, lifestyle, race and religion must be taken into account, but added:

“But they cannot be allowed to prevail over what is in the best interests of the child.”

With the high number of children in Northern Ireland waiting for adoption the Equality Commission’s Chief Commissioner, Professor Michael O’Flaherty said of the ruling:

“Given the high numbers of children in care, who need a family in Northern Ireland, the importance of this case in widening the pool of prospective parents cannot be overstated. We are therefore delighted with this outcome.

“It brings Northern Ireland law in line with the rest of the UK and means that couples who are not married, those in civil partnerships and same sex couples will be now be allowed to apply to adopt.”

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

Come on Tim… come on HQ… remember we’re here too

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Stephen Glenn speaking at Lib Dem Federal Conference

Stephen Glenn, local membership development officer for the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats,has just sent an email to Lib Dem HQ and the Party President Tim Farron MP, following the members’ survey highlighted yesterday:

Hi all,

Much as many of the Northern Ireland local party members (Branch 900 for your info) would love to take part in your recent survey on survey monkey you have neglected to include us as an option for location.

We do not fit into any of the English regions, nor are we Scottish or Welsh. We must certainly are part of the UK and not outside the UK, despite some of your team sending us information as if we were in recent months on how we can keep our Westminster votes (something we do in fact have with 18 MPs).

Can you please remember us in future. It is hard enough trying to keep our members here without Great George Street sending out all member mailings that neglect this fact.

Thank you.

Stephen Glenn

As you can see from the above picture, Stephen has spoken [many times!—Ed.] at Federal Party conference, and most recently he has spoken as a Northern Ireland party member. Has the Party forgotten this?

NI is abroad now… @libdems ?

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Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats

Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The latest issue in a long-running saga with the Federal Party of the Liberal Democrats has raised its head today.

At least one of our Northern Ireland members received an email today regarding the selection of candidates for election to the European Parliament.

Jonathan Davies, Senior Returning Officer writes, (with my comments in RED appended)

This autumn we will be selecting our candidates for the next European elections, which take place in 2014. (Oh good, that’ll help us all be able to campaign effectively.) I know these are elections in which many members living outside the UK have a special interest, (I’m sure that members who live outside the UK do have such an interest) so I am pleased to be able to tell you how you can take part in the selection. But to participate, you need to take action now.

All Liberal Democrat members living outside the UK who are registered to vote in UK elections can vote in the selection. (Northern Ireland is not outside the UK.) If you are not already registered, click here to find out more.

To take part in this autumn’s selection of European Parliamentary candidates, you must register with Party HQ not later than 31st August. Please click here and complete your details to register. You will then be able to vote for the selection of the Euro candidates for the Region where you are registered to vote. (Except that in our region (in the UK) does not field candidates.) Ballot papers will be sent out at the beginning of November.

It seems that the Federal Party has failed to recognise a few key things:

  1. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
  2. The Northern Ireland local party of the Liberal Democrats is not in any region.
  3. At present the Liberal Democrats do not select candidates for the European Election in Northern Ireland.

So, as at least one member is asking,

What about those of us who live in the UK and aren’t allowed to vote for a Lib Dem candidate !

When is the Federal Party going to wake up to our existence – and truly integrate us into the Party. Understanding us is not difficult. And there are many local Lib Dems who have told me that they want to be able to field candidates in Elections, and furthermore, there are voters who have told me that they would like to be able to vote for the Liberal Democrats. So please, could someone from Lib Dem HQ please get back to us. Simon Hughes told us that he would sort out getting a meeting with the Chief Executive well over a year ago. Still nothing.

I’m getting really fed up now.