Save the date

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We are running a bit behind with date for our AGM, but it will be held on Monday 13th January 2014. Venue to be arranged. Members of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats should watch out for further details via email.

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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.

Is the Westminster Coalition helping or hindering recovery in N. Ireland?

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20131205-002519.jpgLater today, there is a political debate hosted by the Northern Ireland Government Affairs Group entitled

Is the Westminster Coalition helping or hindering Northern Ireland’s recovery?

Prominent Lib Dem blogger, Nick Thornsby is set to take part, and I—as a Northern Ireland Lib Dem party officer will be there to welcome him to the Province.

The debate is being held between 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ building in Corporation Square, Belfast. I hope to post more later today. Perhaps Nick would write a piece for us himself.

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.

Police urge public not to turn back on hate crime

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Yesterday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland in conjunction with Belfast City Council launched a campaign urging members of the public not to turn their backs on the hate crimes that are being committed across the city.

Evidence suggests that only a fifth of hate crime is being reported to the police. The new billboard and video campaign is funded by the city council and aims to encourage both victims and witnesses of hate crime to report it.

Recent operational policing figures suggest that confidence in reporting incidents is growing, with recorded incidents for the period 1 April – 9 November 2013 compared to the same period the previous year showing:

  • 86.9% increase in the number of recorded racist incidents in Belfast; (215 incidents FYTD compared with 115 incidents PFYTD)
  • 47% increase in the number of recorded homophobic incidents in Belfast; (50 incidents FYTD compared with 34 incidents PFYTD)
  • 36.3% increase in the number of recorded sectarian incidents in Belfast; (259 incidents FYTD compared with 190 incidents PFYTD).

Only this evening, I was discussing with a number of friends the fact that hate crimes are going unreported. A number of reasons were suggested including a lack of confidence in the Police Service. However, I hope that this campaign will help ensure that all who are affected do report the crime to the police, and will be confident that the crime will be investigated. I know from past experience that the Police have been helpful both to me and my husband, Andrew.

It is not just up to the victim of a crime to report it, for as Chief Inspector Gabriel Moran said,

“It is important that reporting takes place when an incident occurs so that evidential opportunities can be maximised. For anyone who may be a witness to a hate crime incident they are also being encouraged to play an active part by providing statements etc so that perpetrators of such crimes can be brought before the courts and successful prosecutions secured.”

The campaign is being funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund via the Peace III Plan. Further information can be found on the Belfast City Council website.

 

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?