A Truly Wonderful Life

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A Truly Wonderful Life

It is with the deepest sadness that the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats receive the news of the death of Mrs Helena Alderdice. Many, in many realms of life, especially in her beloved Ballymena and Glens, mourn her loss, while giving thanks for the great, great deal that she gave, and for the wealth of memories and inspiration which we hope will offer what comfort and condolence are possible to her family, especially as they approach what will be for them a most difficult time of year.

We give thanks for all that she and Rev. Alderdice gave to their family, a family which has in turn, strengthened by their love and impassioned by their example, given so much to so many aspects of life in this Province; especially to Liberal politics, and to the politics – a pale, inadequate word to represent so much impetus and substance – of reconciliation and peace. We, the citizens of 21st Century Northern Ireland, are all her inheritors.

Her inspiration and love meant so much to the bringing of peace and light in this life. She rests forever in that light and peace.

NI LibDems Abhor Attack Upon Alliance

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Yet again, the NI Liberal Democrats, as must all those engaged in civilised political manifestation and activity in this Province, raise their voices in utter abhorrence at the attack last night on the offices of our sister party in East Belfast. We also thank, and applaud, the officers of the PSNI for their speedy work to limit the damage done.

The hypocrisy of those who seek to “defend” “their” Britishness by engaging in the kind of anti-democratic Politics of the Street that are anathema to Britons of all political shades has been demonstrated so frequently that it scarce merits mention. But, to those who committed this act, or endorse it, a question – how many of you wore poppies last Sunday to commemorate those who died ending tyranny in Europe, only six days later to bring the politics of Kristallnacht to the streets of a capital city of the United Kingdom?

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/

Did you pack these chocolate vampire lollies yourself?

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Today, I posted a parcel to my goddaughter. I’m happy to state to those who read this blog that it contained a few sweets and toy items for Halloween.

Now, the last time I posted a domestic parcel, I was handed a laminate by the member of Post Office Counters staff, and asked to confirm that my parcel did not contain any prohibited item listed on it. At the time I grumbled internally, replied “No, it does not” and the member of staff was happily and politely content with this answer, and posting continued.

Today, at a different Post Office, a staff member directly asked me what was in the parcel. I declined to answer, and was told that she “had to ask under the Dangerous Goods Act”. I replied that I had, in the past, answered questions as to whether forbidden items were present, and was willing to do that, but that I questioned her right to ask as to the specific contents of the parcel. She then, after a period of colleague-directed eye-rolling, handed me a leaflet specifying the items forbidden under the Act. I read this, then stated to her that I was aware of all classes of forbidden item, and stated that none were present in the parcel.  She was content at this, and I my parcel was processed for posting. 

On getting home, I called the Royal Mail Helpline, identified myself as Chair of the NI LibDems, and asked if Staff were entitled to ask as to the specific contents of parcels, and was told in a rude, peremptory fashion that they are. “For various purposes, including whether they are using the right service or not.”

I’m not going to say anything about the ever-increasing regulation of our lives. I’m not anti-Government. This is the Liberal Democrats, not the Tea Party. You’ve heard all that so many times from so many people I’ll not repeat it. But it’s SO disheartening to think that YET another frontline service provider now has the ability to demand information of a private nature from me, in a public place, and that I face denial of service if I do not comply.  If this has to happen, perhaps a tick-box sticker, “By ticking this box the Sender declares that no item in this parcel is classified as Dangerous under the Dangerous Goods Act” might be a more dignified way of making this check?

Another attack at Whitehouse

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Councillor Webb speaks with the voice of all members of both sister parties, certainly that of the NI Lib Dems’ Chair, whose family memories of St. Mary’s, Star of the Sea extend back through the whole of its existence. There have been well over one hundred attacks on this church since the advent of the 1968 Troubles, and on more than one occasion priests resident in the adjoining Parochial House have had to be evacuated by Police. We call on anyone who may have information pertaining to this act of base thuggery to bring it into the possession of the PSNI.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/alliance-party-of-northern-ireland/webb-condemns-attack-on-catholic-church/10151781825893964

A personal opinion.

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Debates over issues of reproductive or sexual freedom in Northern Ireland usually turn into one of a few things:

  • a manifestation of the confessional stranglehold on our public life.
  • proof of the horror Some feel that Others might actually want, as competent adults, to set the parameters of their own bodily and sexual integrity.
  • evidence that nothing terrifies the male establishment (especially the religious robe-wearing section thereof) more than the female reproductive tract. Except possibly female control over it.
  • a great rush of glee by Both Sides as they discover an aspect of That Old Time Religion that Unites Us All.     

However, to me, these questions are mostly about citizenship. And that has never been illustrated more perfectly, or sadly, than by the case currently under a great deal of discussion in the press. I know the woman in question has allowed her name to enter the public domain, but I feel uncomfortable using it.

If that woman had been a citizen, even just a resident of any of the three other nations of the United Kingdom, at that terrible, terrible time when she had to act to end her carriage of a conception that would, could never be a child, she would have been able to have had the necessary procedure in her own home city, surrounded by her own family. 

But, as she is a citizen of Northern Ireland, she had instead to travel, like a refugee or a fugitive, to Great Britain, away from all things and people her own. Imagine how she and her partner felt packing and preparing for that trip. Imagine sitting in the airport. Airports are usually places of energy, expectation. How on earth did it feel for her? And, imagine if she and her partner had been stopped at the Police desk in her destination airport and asked What is the purpose of your journey? 

“Pro-life”? God spare your life from a moment like that.

We have many debates over political identity here. The Good Friday Agreement is in many ways our Constitution, and (oddly, sort of) gives us the only written Constitution in the UK.

But we have damn little in the way of citizenship. As that poor woman and her partner found out. We live in a nation called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We are not a colony, a backyard, an annex, a “possession”, a “territory” or God’s Little Acre. 

I’ve always had a regard for Tom King, now Lord King of Bridgwater, because he was the first NI Secretary who seemed to regard us as full citizens of the UK, and spoke to and about us as such. Many Secretaries of State before and after him talked down to us like colonial governors. He did not. It was during his tenure that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, setting in motion the processes of development which produced the Northern Ireland of today. It is a work very much in progress, but it has achieved much. Institutionally. I think we need to see the same degree of achievement in the development of the other half of the political dyad. If we want a Northern Ireland that competes and wins economically and socially, it needs to be populated by empowered, equal citizens. Clearly, we see this week, it is not.