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.

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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.

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.

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.

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?

Northern Ireland asks FCC

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Greater Manchester Police

Are GMP to be trusted with all our details? Image via Wikipedia

In response to the security arrangements announced recently by the Federal Conference Committee of the Liberal Democrats, and following consultation with the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats Executive, I drafted an email which has been sent to FCC on this issue. It is reproduced below for information.

Dear Andrew,

I write on behalf of the Executive of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats and those who are voting representatives to Federal Conference.

The security arrangements which have been put upon the Federal Party members by the Federal Conference Committee apparently at the behest of the local constabulary are completely illiberal and against our Party’s constitution. No outside body has the right to prevent our members from attending our meetings.

The Northern Ireland local party has its own particular concerns about these arrangements as there are a number of problems that we have identified, which I believe will not be exhaustive:

  • Details of dual passports (British and Irish) the details of which for the first time ever will be linked. This has particular problems in that many people will have their name in the British one in English and in the Irish one as Gaeilge (in the Irish language), a fact that will be recorded by Greater Manchester Police and held by West Midlands Police and forwarded to ‘any other police forces’. Does this include the FBI?
  • Further to this, whilst we understand that FCC will have final say for conference, should a Northern Ireland member with dual passports be flagged up by an English, Scottish or Welsh constabulary this may go on their permanent record and permanently affect their  travel between constituent parts of the United Kingdom (to and from Great Britain from Northern Ireland). Our Membership Development Officer, Stephen Glenn, before he was 21 had visited five Iron Curtain countries on a British passport and on his first trip to the United States of America spent four hours in immigration explaining the reasons for these visits. Following this he acquired an Irish passport, to which as an Irish citizen he was entitled, to expedite easy immigration to the United States of America on subsequent visits.
  • Does this therefore mean that Northern Ireland representatives may be adversely affected by a security threat to Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom by a dissident republican terrorist grouping?
  • A senior police officer of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has advised one of our local party executive committee that to ask for the details of both Irish and British passports of those who hold both is both racist and discriminatory under the terms of the Belfast Agreement 1998 (an international treaty), to which Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom is a signatory.
  • Should we recruit new members who may, in the past have convictions or even security records held by police, who are now back in the community following the Belfast Agreement 1998, require accreditation at future conferences, these people will more than likely be flagged as a risk by the police. This would therefore mean that their rights as members of our Party would be denied. This is unacceptable.
  • Another problem is that were a constable to try to check our local party representatives’ local party details using the Federal Party website, he would be hard-pressed to find references to our local party on it. As I have outlined previously to Chris Fox, the link at the bottom of the Federal Party website marked ‘N. Ireland’ goes to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland’s website. In addition were anyone to check our local party by using our postcode, it will bring up that it is not there. Also by clicking on Northern Ireland on the map on the ‘In your area’ page, nothing is brought up. As I have said to Chris Fox this is not acceptable when we do have a local party operating in Northern Ireland.

I believe that all of these issues are extremely important not only to our Party itself but to the wider representation of society within politics in general. Is our Party, which is founded to ‘build and safeguard a fair, free and open society’ (Preamble to the Federal Constitution (which I believe is still in force or is that another change that will be forced upon us?)), going to be dictated to by an unelected, unrepresentative police force? I was not aware that the United Kingdom had become a police state.

I look forward to receiving your prompt reply on these crucially important issues.

Yours sincerely,

Michael

Michael Carchrie Campbell
Chair
Liberal Democrats NI