Joint Authority/Joint Stewardship

I see that Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair have published their timetable for devolution. What I found most interersting about the timetable was the last part

"December: British Irish inter-Governmental Committee at Prime Ministerial Summit level to launch new British Irish partnership arrangements"

I would really love to know where Joint Stewardship ends and Joint Authority begins?

What remains clear is that the DUP are the only party stopping progress, all the other parties are ready to serve their communities and get down to the buisness of sorting out Health, Education, Water Rates etc

Sinn Féin remains fully committed to the GFA and as the largest Pro-Agreement party we are trying to ensure that the Assembly is up andrunning by November. That said if the DUP are still incapable of dealing with the elected representatives of the Nationalist and Republican community then the Assembly should be scraped.

The Assembly only forms one strand of a three strand agreement and the DUP has no power or influence over the other two. The All-Ireland agenda needs to be restored and expanded for the benefit of the people of Ireland.

I hope that the DUP are up to the challenge of power sharing but if they are not then roll on Joint Stewardship, the DUP's intransigence should not be tolerated any longer.

All is not well in PD house of horrors

I don't think anyone was surprised to learn last week that Michael McDowell, perhaps the worst Justice Minister in the history of the 26 county state, wanted Mary Harney to stand down as leader of the PD's in favour of him.

It seems however that poor Michael may not get everything his own way with the news that Liz McDonnell looks set to challenge him in any future leadership election.

The leadership issue first arose last week when it emerged that McDowell challenged Mary Harney to live up to a promise she apparently made to step down before the next election.

This morning however the bookies have installed Liz McDonnell as even-money favourite to replace Harney.

After the next election the PD's are only going to have a maximum of 4 TD's and poor Michael may not even be one of them as he has never been relected to the Dáil since he entered it.

It does bring a smile to my face to see this rabble of West-Brits and nobodys fight over the scaps from Mary Harneys table.


Perhaps the time has come to invade Israel

I can't help but think with all this talk of global terrorism and the instability of the Middle-East that perhaps the time has come for the West to put Israel in its place, so to speak. Now before the same right-wing loons shout cries of Anti-Semitism I suggest they listen to my reasons.

Israel has begun an offensive against the Palestinian people of Gaza and has entered Syrian airspace and had to be repelled back by the Syrian air defence units.

What would have happened do you think if Iran or Iraq had launched an offensive against Tel Aviv or had entered Saudi Arabian airspace?

The West would be quick to act then!

Israel is responsible for the instability in the Middle-East and the US are the ones who finance their warmongering. I am not calling for the destruction of Israel but I am calling for balance in these proceedings. Israel has flouted more UN Security Council resolutions than any other country.

The West should not just sit back and allow Israel to brutalise a region with American aid or to pollute the area with their racist ideology.It's time to stand up to Israel and say enough is enough! Your aggression will not be tolerated any longer.

I won't hold my breathe for the West to respond though.

UPDATE: Israel is holding 8 members of the Palestinian Government and up to 20 MP's are also being kept hostage.

This is an act of war!


Give rights to those who deserve them

Firstly I want to apologise for my lack of posting on Balrog HQ, I am just too busy at the moment what with the World Cup, Sorting out my LPC, Party work and I have also just discovered the joys of fishing.

I am pleased to see that Fine Gael is planning to introduce a bill in the Dáil this week giving homeowners more rights to confront intruders. I think it is an accepted fact that the law and legal rights are stacked against homeowners and in favour of burglars.

This inbalance needs to be corrected!

Under the bill being proposed this week; burglars would be prevented from suing a homeowner who acts "reasonably" to protect their property. If the intruder decides to sue as a result of an injury sustained, the onus would be on the prosecution to prove that the actions of the homeowner were not reasonable.

I would go one step further and deny the intruder from being able to sue under any circumstances.

At the end of the day when you make the choice to enter someone’s home to either rob them, intimidate them or to cause them harm then you have forfeited your rights.Homeowners must be given the right to protect their property and their family in their own home.

DUP whinging again

I see Peter Hain is being blamed for the failures of the Stormont Assembly so far by the DUP who seem to be reacting to not getting everything their own way like a spoilt child throwing his toys out of the pram. While Hain hasn't exactly covered himself in glory throughout the entire episode, the reality is that there is only one party to blame for the impasse and that is the DUP.

The DUP wanted a talking shop at Stormont where they could display their own self-importance during meaningless debates while continuing to refuse to fulfill their responsibilities in attempting to establish a meaningful power-sharing executive. Now that they are not being allowed to do this, they want to blame somebody else for their own pathetic failures.

The entire situation at Stormont since the recalling of the assembly has been farcial and the only pity is that after the summer recess, we will be subjected to another 12 weeks of it. There is only piece of business that this assembly should be dealing with and that is the restoration of the executive and this does not need 12 weeks. This issue can be dealt with quickly if the DUP are willing to engage constructively for the benefit of everybody in the north, If they are willing to do this, excellent. If not, their obstruction must not be rewarded.


Spot on!

Amusing letter in today's Irish Times-

If necessary, in the public interest, Michael McDowell will leave the Progressive Democrats and form his own party which will be know as Mé Féin.

McDowell - the South's answer to Bob McCartney?


Ego maniac strikes again!

I see rumours have surfaced that all is not well at PD HQ as there are suggestions that Michael McDowell wants to challenge Mary Harney for leadership of the party. Now I doubt too many will be surprised with McDowell wanting to stab Harney in the back considering the man's inflated ego but personally, despite the criticism he has received on this blog, I think this would be an excellent move for the Progressive Democrats.

With Harney at the helm, electoral meltdown next year is likely, if McDowell took over, it'd be a near-certainty!


Brits involved in cover up, tell us something we don't know!

It seems that Bertie Ahern has said what we always knew, namely that the reason why the Brits won't have a full and independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane is because they are protecting British security forces.

They are trying to cover up their widespread and systematic policy of collusion with Unionist death squads.

Bertie Ahern told the Dáil that he regretted that the British government hadn't honoured a deal reached at the Weston Park talks in 2001.

He told TD's "They have offered a different type of inquiry. Not to put a tooth in it, because I have spent so many hours talking to different people, but the reason is they will not subject the military authorities to an open forum on this. That is the issue"

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said "The truth in this case must come out. This man was murdered and there was collusion between the British security forces and the loyalist death squad that carried out the assassination"

The US House of Representatives recently passed a resolution calling on the British Government to immediately establish an independent public judicial inquiry into the murder of Mr Finucane.

The Finucane family is currently pressing for a Senate resolution mirroring the recent congressional motion and has written to every Senator to lobby for support.

Bertie Ahern said that the Irish government supported the family on that initiative.

It's time for the British to come clean on their policy of collusion and give some closure to the family.

Their portrayal as the 'independent referee" as opposed to an active protagonist during the conflict doesn't hold any water.


In the past three years many people have opposed the war in Iraq.

Few have done so with the eloquence of this man.

Perfectly Comfortable
Alan Fletcher

Child questions the world with an innocent eye
Her future depends on your reply
Does she see a tear in your eye
Or are you perfectly comfortable

All that she sees, all that she hears
Determines how she feels in fifty years
Will she be still be living with grand daddy's fears
Or be perfectly comfortable?

Are you perfectly comfortable with all that's been said
All your child is offered in your defence
And if you're perfectly comfortable
commit to offence

Are you perfectly comfortable going to war
Without moral sanction, against the law
Are you perfectly comfortable,
Fighting the world

If you're perfectly comfortable that all has been done
Then gaze at your daughters and gaze at your sons
And ask yourself this question over again
would you be perfectly happy if it happened to them
And if you are perfectly comfortable
commit to offence

History books tell the tales
Of men in armour on their crusades
Must we repeat what they have failed
To do
Its so familiar , lets solve this with the sword
Its so familiar, we know no other way to go forward
Old men will decide
Who lives and who dies
They take the blame
But we wear the shame
The future to peace lies with you and with me...
for the child
Stop for a while, gaze at the smile
Slacken your haste, reflect on the face
Of a child

Copyright : Eastview Way Pty Ltd/ Ritzland Music 2003

Disclaimer from Site Owner "Balrog in no way endorses NR's pathetic following of this idiot or Neighbours in general"

The 'Socialist' attacks Socialist for being.... well...Socialist

I see that 'Red' Bertie, who once claimed that he was the last Socialist in the Dáil, has attacked Socialist TD Joe Higgins for being Socialist. In an astonishing show of idiocy Bertie Ahern claimed that Joe had a 'failed ideology', now if Bertie Ahern is the last true Socialist in the Dáil then surely his ideology is also failed?

Joe was quite rightly attacking the Government for the current state of housing market when this tirade against him occurred. He told the Dáil that the cost of buying a house was now beyond most working people and that Fianna Fáil, which receives vast sums of money from developers, was not doing anything to tackle the problem.

Bertie Ahern claimed that Joe was "a failed person"; I fail to see how Joe is a failed person. He also said to Joe "you were rejected and your political philosophy has been rejected".

That is utter nonsense!

Joe Higgins has been elected by his constituents in the exact same way as Bertie and if Joe has been rejected then so has Bertie.

Good work Joe, keep it up!

It seems that Comrade Bertie has left the fold of Socialism, not that he was ever in it in the first place.


FIFA change mind in passport row

Good to see that FIFA have backed down on their unfortunate decision not to allow people with only Irish passports to represent the Northern Ireland soccer team. This was a needlessly controversial issue and its good to see that it has finally been resolved. While there may not have been many people who wished to represent N.I. but refused to carry a british passport, the reality is that those who fit into this category should not have been discriminated agaionst on the grounds of their political belief.

However, one part of the story did irk me a little. Yesterday I heard Howard Wells on the radio giving off about Dermot Ahern's contribution claiming that the Irish foreign minister should have consulting with the IFA first. This is complete rubbish. Dermot Ahern has a right, and indeed, a responsibility to intercede on behalf of northern Nationalists in whatever way he feels appropriate and fair play to him for doing so. Given how many years it took the the IFA to deal with the disgusting levels of sectarian hatred regularly displayed at Windsor Park in the eighties and nineties (although there has certainly been real progress made recently), it is hardly surprising that some may feel that the IFA do not exactly have the best track record in rushing to the defence of Nationalists. To ensure an immediate response, Mr. Ahern was entirely correct to deal with the issue of his accord and it is to his credit that he did so.

DUP verbally abuse fellow councillors

I see the DUP (who laughably claim to be democrats) have resorted to threats and intimidation having lost a democratic vote on Craigavon council last night. A motion in favour of power sharing won cross party support including support from the UUP. Of course, this exteremly reasonable attempt to ensure a fair distribution of power within the council was opposed by the DUP who, accordingly to Dolores Kelly of the SDLP, reacted by attempting to threaten and intimidate UUP councilors. The verbal abuse was so bad that apparently so bad that one councillor was reduced to tears.

This gives a valuable insight into the DUP attitude towards power-sharing. As we head towards the November deadline it seems that there are many in the DUP who refuse to countanence an equitable resolution for power-sharing and we can only assume that this is an attitude which prevails throughout the party. Certainly we have seen nothing to suggest otherwise. The thuggish behaviour of these DUP councillors should not go unnoted.


RUC/PSNI to recruit 150 part-timers

I see that the RUC/PSNI is trying to recuit 150 part-time officers in the Foyle, Ballymoney, Moyle, Newry and Mourne and South Belfast areas.

I heard about this last week and according to the person who told me they are trying to recuit 47 people in the Newry and Mourne area which I live in.

According to Policing Board member Pauline McCabe the new 'officers' should have a close connection with and reflect the communities they serve in.

How is this meant to happen in South Armagh?

85% of the electorate vote for Sinn Féin and on a recent occassion when the local DPP tried to hold a public meeting in Forkhill, anyone from South Armagh will know that this is not a Republican stronghold, the community went against it, carried out a petition and got 99% of the inhabitants to sign it. This forced the DPP to cancel their PR stunt.

In this light how can any RUC/PSNI officer have a close connection with and reflect the local community when the local community don't support the RUC/PSNI?

All I can say to Pauline McCabe is good luck trying to recuit your numbers in South Armagh, I predict that they will be as scarse as hens teeth.


Agreement on Tour of the North

I'm glad to see that an agreement has been reached with regards to the contentious "Tour of the North" Parade scheduled to pass Ardoyne this Friday. In the past, this dispute has unfortunately lead to violence but hopefully the accomodation which has been reached will mean that the parade will pass peacefully.

I see this as a triumph for negotiation and dialogue and I commend the North and West Belfast Parades Forum and the Ardoyne Parades Dialogue Group for the hard work they have put in to make this accomodation possible. The parades issue is one which flares up every Summer. This successful negotiation prooves once more that negotiation, compromise and dialogue are the only methods by which a successful resolution can be found. The Orange Order as an organisation should take heed of this and begin direct negotiation with residents groups as soon as possible to ensure a safe and peaceful Summer for all of us.


Committee Chairs appointed.

I see that Peter Hain has finally stepped in to end the farce that had developed over the chair of the Preparation for Government committee at Stormont and has appointed the two deputy speakers- Francie Molloy of SF and Jim Wells of the DUP to chair the committee. This has to be seen as a real failure. My initial reaction is that it seems that Mr. Hain doesn't know exactly what he's doing. If he was indeed willing to appoint people to chair the committee why didn't he do this at the time and save the terrible spectacle of last week's fiasco?

It seems Hain has been forced into appointing joint chairs because the committee was unable to do itself due to the intransigence of the DUP. This augurs very badly for the future and sends out a very clear signal that the DUP will do all that they can to block progress and hold up the possibility of a power sharing executive. They must not be allowed to deliberately hold up progress while continuing to claim that they are willing to share power. If the DUP want a power sharing administration then they must work positively to achieve one. If they don't then they should be honest about that. Paisley can't have it both ways.

Charlie Haughey RIP

Former Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, Charles J. Haughey has died.

A controversial figure, he was revered by many yet the corruption which was exposed in later may colour the opinions of many. He was without doubt a shrewd and clever man. Personally I know a lot of my family would have thought a lot of him and personally I definately have respect for his ability.

He is regarded by many as one of those who helped create the conditions for the Celtic Tiger from which so many in Ireland have benefited. He was also a man who had time for Nationalists North of the border and was a more genuine Republican than the likes of Lynch or Fitzgerald. Current Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a former ministeral colleague of Mr. Haughey's and the man who Charlie described as "the most cunning and devious of them all" has paid tribute to his former leader.

Funnilly enough, I was reading the Irish Times yesterday and Conor Cruise O'Brien was spouting nonsense as usual saying that when Charlie passed on that he should not be afforded a state funeral.

Mr. Haughey achieved far more for this country than O'Brien ever did or will and a state funeral is only appropriate for a man who had such a profound effect on Irish life. Unlike so many others, he had a charisma that is lacking in politics. I am reminded of the programme on Haughey shown on RTE last Summer. When he had finally been ousted by his own party, he rang a colleague to ask how they were getting on without him. The colleague replied. "They are running around like headless chickens without you. The bland leading the bland." Bland was one thing Haughey certainly never was.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

‘I have done the State some service, and they know it, no more of that.’– Charlie Haughey quoting from 'Othello' in his resignation speech to the Dáil in 1992


Turkeys to decide on Christmas menu?

I'm disappointed to learn that the Court of Appeal have decreed that the decision to appoint Orangemen to the Parades Commission was lawful. This overturns the judicial review decision in May which held that appointing Orangemen to the Commission without similar representation from Residents' Groups was illegal as it failed to represent both sides of the community.

In my opinion, the Court of Appeal have erred greatly in this 2-1 majority decision and it would not surprise me if a further appeal to the House of Lords reversed their decision. It is entirely ridiculous to suppose that a member of the Orange Order could possibly act in a fair and balanced manner when deciding upon contentious Orange parades.

Having an Orangeman on the Commission defies all logic. The Parades Commission should be an independent and impartial body which makes decisions with an open mind free of prior prejudice. The Commission should not have members from the Orange Order, nor indeed from any Residents' group. The public cannot reasonably have confidence that members of these organisations will approach their task without bias. The sooner Peter Hain realises this, the better.


Hamas ends ceasefire

I see that the armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, has said it will end its 16-month ceasefire following an Israeli artillery attack on a beach in Gaza. The Israeli's murdered seven Palestinian civilians, including three children, when artillery shells were fired from Israeli naval ships towards the Sudania area of the narrow coastal territory.

The Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades said that it would choose 'the right moment and place to strike back with force against the criminal attacks'. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killings and said the actions of the Israeli military constituted 'a war of extermination and bloody massacres against our people'.

This was echoed by Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyah, who denounced the strike as a 'war crime'. Russia said it was 'deeply shocked' at what it said was an 'unacceptable and disproportionate use of force'.

The seven deaths on the beach brought the overall Palestinian death toll in Gaza to 14 in less than 24 hours.

Yet again we see the blatant disregard that Israel has for Palestinians and any peace strategy that may come about. I have no doubt that this will cause deep anger amongst Palestinians who are going to vote next month whether to accept the 'blue print for peace'.

The referendum document calls for a national unity government, an end to attacks in Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel on land conquered by the Zionist state in the 1967 war.

Perhaps this aggression by Israel is designed to stop any sort of progress as they have proved themselves incapable of change and compromise at every opportunity.

USI attacks Presbyterian church

I see that USI (Union of Students in Ireland) has attacked the Presbyterian Church over what it claims is the Church's opposition to equality for gays and lesbians.

USI claims that the Presbyterian Church is one of several Irish churches lobbying the Government to retain laws which it says discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

I do feel that USI has lost sight of the ball in all of this. The Presbyterian Church has banned its ministers from giving church blessings to gays and lesbians who have gone through civil partnerships.

They are perfectly within their rights to decide what is acceptable for them, if Gay couples have a problem with that then perhaps they should seek to join a church that does not discriminate against their sexuality.

USI should not be getting itself involved in a religious debate no matter what the issue is. As the 32 county student movement a lot of the students that they claim to represent are Presbyterian. Religon and Politics should be kept totally seperate and perhaps USI needs to remember this.

USI should be lobbying the Government on this issue and not attacking the Presbyterian church for expressing their religious views in a very reasonable way.

Directly Undermining Progress

Almost a week has gone by and still our beloved MLAs can't decide on even a chair for the Preparation for Government committee. Peter Hain seems somewhat frustrated and has warned MLAs that this issue needs to be sorted by Monday.

It seems that most of the parties are agreed that, unsurprisingly, it is the DUP who are causing the problem. Given the quality of representation the DUP put on the committe (Baby Doc and the singing president of the Billy Wright Fan Club), it was clear from the start that the DUP were not taking this seriously and so it has been prooved. Paisley Junior was coming out with more nonsense yesterday saying that Sinn Féin "wanted a power grab to hold the chair." Of course, this is completly ridiculous. Sinn Féin have tried to progress in a positive manner and have supported two suggestions - that the committee be chaired on a rotating basis starting with Alliance's David Forde or that alternatively the committee be chaired jointly by the deputy speakers, Francie Molloy of SF and the DUP's Jim Wells. Neither of these suggestion constitute a power grab.

It is becoming abundantly clear that the DUP are determined to put up every obstacle possible to stall progress towards a power sharing executive. All they want to do is to take part in meaningless debates in a powerless assembly. This is unacceptable and no party who is serious about restoring meaningful devolution should pander to this DUP agenda. Given the destructive manner in which the DUP have approached affairs at Stormont so far, I would support Conor Murphy's call for Peter Hain to publish the proposals for Plan B which will be put into effect if the DUP continue their intransigence past the November 24th deadline. Perhpas this will focus DUP minds a little better over the summer months.

Christian Brothers to pull out of formal education

I see that the Christian Brothers have decided to end two centuries of direct involvement in the Irish education system. The Christian Brothers are reportedly setting up a new lay establishment to take over the running of 138 schools currently under the order's control.

Reports this morning said the Brothers were planning to hand over 29 primary schools and 109 secondary schools to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, which will be run by entirely by lay people.

Junior Minister Brian Lenihan has paid tribute to the contribution the Christian Brothers have made to Irish education. He said the Irish people should not forget the good work they put into education, while also confronting the reality of the abuse that took place in some schools.

"The Brothers did fantastic work in education," Mr Lenihan said. "Many, many people who would never had had educational opportunities got those opportunities because of the Christian Brothers. On the other hand, of course, there were abuses and we have to confront that reality in our past as well."

I would agree with Mr Lenihan when he says that we should remember the good as well as the bad. The problem for the Brothers is that the abuse was so bad that it may overshadow the good work that they have done for Irish boys for almost two centuries.

I am a former Christian Brothers boy and I received an excellent education and for that I will always be grateful. I was only ever taught by one Brother and he was fantastic, really down to earth and made religion appealing in modern times.

My Grandfather refused to let my father attend a Brothers school because of the physical abuse that he received at their hands. The Christian Brothers have a lot of forgiveness to seek and I hope that they do.

I was taught the typical Brothers philosophy that where you find injustice you fight it, you don't cower down and let it pass. You speak up for what is right while condeming what is wrong or as Brother McFarland would say

'Get up on your hind legs and speak!'


Its World Cup Eve!

Only one day left untill the festival of soccer that is the FIFA World Cup. Although listening to some British media outlets, you'd swear that Gallelio got it all wrong and that the world actually revolved around Wayne Rooney's foot, there are in fact 31 other countries taking part in Germany.

It hardly seems like 4 years since the "Saipan Incident" when the country seemed on the brink of civil war but unfortunately there's no Irish involvement this time round. However I'm still lookinf forward to the competition and personally it couldn't have fallen at a better time - exams are finished and my likely future employment won't begin untill at least after my graduation so June is going to involve a sofa, a tv, soccer and a six pack and I'm looking forward to it!

Personally I think its a very open competition. Brazil are the deserved favourite but they may have too many mavericks for one side. Playing forward geniuses such as Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano in the one side may make for attractive football but they are vunerable defensively. Added to the fact that they haven't won it in Europe since 1958, I don't think they'll do it this time but it'll be fun watching them try.

England go with their best team in years. With Rooney they had a real chance but without him fully fit I think they might pull up just a little short. Every 4 years, there also seems to be a great surpise African challenge. Ivory Coast look like the strongest African side but they are stuck in the group of death with Argentina, Holland and Serbia and Montenegro so perhaps Ghana might the African team to look out for.

I always like a bit of a wager to keep things interesting so personally I'll be putting a tenner on Argentina and Italy at 9/1 each. If either win, my £20 will return £100 and I have a feeling these two are best placed to take the trophy from the Brazilians. But whether you're a gambler or not, sit back and enjoy the festival of football!

And if soccer isn't your thing, then can I suggest avoiding all television, newspapers and any media outlet for the next 5 weeks!

Ferris won't betray trust

Kerry North Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris yesterday insisted he would not inform on any IRA members at large and wanted for the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare 10 years ago.

Martin was contacted by his widow and asked for information of her husbands killing. He said he had no knowledge of the events surrounding the botched post office robbery.

Martin said he was once victim to an informer and could not be disloyal to the IRA.

“I have been an IRA volunteer in my lifetime ... I would never betray that loyalty to an organisation I once belonged to.”

Martin did say that the pain of the McCabe family came across in a documentary on RTÉ last Tuesday. He said it was an awful wrong inflicted on the McCabe family but, while he disapproved of the killing, he would not condemn an IRA operation.

I watched the documentary the other night and there is no doubt of the pain that the McCabe family went through and are still going through.

I do however object to this notion that they are the only family who went through pain and who are still going through pain.

The reality is that this mans killing and the events surronding it suits the aims and objectives of the usual suspects like Paul Williams of the Sunday Lie.

They are only interested in certain victims who suit their agenda.

Mrs McCabe's grief and suffering is no different to the thousands of others across this country on all sides and it should not be treated as such.

Pre-nuptial agreements

I see that blue-shirt Senator Fergal Browne has announced plans to introduce a bill that would pave the way for the recognition of pre-nuptial agreements in Ireland. At the moment pre-nups have no legal standing in this country.

Couples may draw up these "contracts" but courts will not take them into consideration when it comes to divorce settlements.

I am not in favour of these 'pre-nuptial agreements' as they cast doubt upon the loyalty and trust of the couple entering a marriage. Marriage is about trust and if you are asking your would be spouse to sign a form that basically says that you don't trust them then why are you getting married in the first place?

Marriage is a sacred institution and a union between a man and a woman under God. Such an agreement should not be entered into lightly.

If you think that you need a pre-nup then you shouldn't be getting married in the first place.

FF minister in words of wisdom shocker!

I see Education minister Mary Hannafin has advised all Leaving Cert students to try to keep stress levels down immediately after exams and to avoid post-mortems by trying to work out how well or badly they have done. Having been through more exams than most in the past 6 years, I couldn't agree more with this advice. On leaving an exam hall, its best to take the "Phil Coulter Approach" - What's done is done, and what's won is won and what's lost is lost and gone forever.

My advice to anybody in the midst of exams is that once you leave an exam hall, you have done all you can for that particular exam and any time spent worrying about it is wasted energy. There's nothing worse than sitting discussing the exam in depth after its over (and my co-editor of balrog is an awful f***er for it!). You achieve nothing and finding out that others answered a question differently might only upset your confidence.

Put the head down and focus on the next one! Best of luck to any Balrog readers who may be doing exams at the minute. Don't worry - there is an end in sight!

DUP councillor attacks grieving family

I was disgusted to read in today's Irish News (subs required online) that DUP arch-bigot Davy Tweed "questioned the upbringing" of the murdered Catholic teenager Michael McIlveen who was killed a month ago. Tweed also accused people associated with the family of stirring secterian tension and said that certain families had reacted with "disbelief" to the sympathy shown to the family.

Perhaps Mr. Tweed should inform us as to who these families actually are? Are there those in Ballymena would show no sympathy to the McIlveens for the tragedy they have been through.?Or are these people just a figment of Mr. Tweed's bitter and twisted imagination?

The McIlveen family have reacted to the disgraceful comments with dignity and called upon people on both sides to work against secterianism in Ballymena. Given the honourable way in which the family have conducted themselves following this terrible tragedy, what right does Mr. Tweed have to question their integrity and the way they raised their son? But then again, given Tweed's track record in raising tensions in the area with the disgraceful picket of the Catholic Church at Harryville, perhaps we should expect no better.


DUP’s Dick flops in attempt to win Council chair

Congratulations to Sinn Féin councillor William Clarke who has become the party’s first ever chairperson of Down district council. In the staunchly Nationalist council, it may seem strange that this is the first Sinn Féin chair, however fair play to those who have worked hard on the ground to ensure this has become possible.

Jim Wells DUP MLA has reacted with typical nonsense, threatening that Mr. Clarke would not be welcome in certain parts of the district. It is of course unfortunate that Mr. Wells has reacted in such a petty manner. Other councils have for years practiced power sharing and many Sinn Féin dominated councils have had DUP chairs and vice-chairs. This is only right as principles of power sharing are the only method by which this society can move forward towards stable power sharing. The election of people like Willie McCrea to positions of responsibility in Nationalist communities would have caused hurt among those Nationalists and Republicans affected by the UVF and LVF gangs whose leader Willie was so happy to show support for. But principles of power sharing mean you have to take the rough with the smooth. We must move forward by embracing compromise rather than trying to assert superiority. Jim Wells needs to learn this.

Also, I see Mr Wells claims that “Down district is, as far as I know, the only council in Northern Ireland never to have a Sinn Fein chairman or vice chairman” Is Monica Digney is line for a shock promotion in Ballymena or is Wells simply showing his ignorance?!

Lecturers dispute at an end.

Like many other final year students awaiting exam results, I'm relieved to see that a resolution has been reached in the stand off between lecturers and the Universities which will mean that exam papers will be marked. Universities are to give lecturers a pay increase of 13.1% over the next 3 years as well as an assurance of an independent review further down the track. Its good to know that the exams that students have been stressing about will be marked. However it is of course too late for those students who have already had their exams cancelled.

The industrial action has lasted for months and it has been clear throughout that the lecturers had a point and that they were certainly entitled to a pay increase. If only the universities could have made this offer two months ago, a lot of unnecessary stress and bother could have been avoided.


Smart Langers?

In addition to currently holding the All Ireland Hurling title and the Eircom league, it seems Cork has another reason to celebrate as results suggest that the brightest students in the country hail from the banks of the Lee. In a boost for Cityslickers, the Dubs came in second in terms of producing the best Leaving Cert results leaving us poor culchies trailing. Indeed, in a fairly shocking survey, poor wee Louth is presented with the dunces hat while seven out of the ten counties with lowest results are more the border area!

Of course, it is yet more undeniable evidence of the terrible stunting effect which parition is having on our nation. It seems the further you get from the border, the smarter you become. Lets fix this problem once and for all and cast the border out to sea!

Architects to take on the government

I'm glad to see that a legal challenge has been launched against the decision to refuse all single dwelling houses in the countryside. I firmly believe this restriction is an appalling over reaction and is a completly unjustified intrusion into personal freedom. While I realise there are issues in terms of rural development, a blanket ban is entirely arbitary and it is not fair on farming families to have any chance of living on their own land taken away from them.

I salute those taking this action against the government and wish them every success.


DUP continue to oppose progress

I see the DUP seem intent on using tactics of bluster and stalling to halt any attempt at progress for the Preparation for Government committee. Attempts to get the committee up and running failed due the refusal of the DUP to accept the entirely reasonable suggestion that the committee either be chaired jointly by Sinn Féin and the DUP or that the chair be rotating starting with the leader of the Alliance party, David Forde.

In my opinion, this committee is the only piece of business at Stormont worth any attention whatsoever. The ‘Peter Hain Assembly’ is a powerless farce, its only possible use can be to lay the foundations for a meaningful power sharing government involving the four main parties. If this is not achieved by the deadline, the entire thing should be scrapped. Unsurprisingly, the DUP are already looking to extend the November 24 deadline by two weeks. What a pointless suggestion this is.

The deadline is five and a half months away. This is ample time for the DUP to decide if they are willing to share power with the democratically elected representatives of the Nationalist community. Republicans have done all in their power to aid this process. But the longer this process drags out, the more it becomes likely that the “Never, never, never” brigade don’t have the slightest intention of ever sharing power.

Brit Army base reclaimed by local community

Following the removal of the massive British Military Surveillance base on Faughill Mountain (Romeo 21) in South Armagh, local Republicans and members of the community, led by Sinn Féin Councillor Packie McDonald reclaimed the base by erecting a number of National Flags.

Cllr McDonald stated "This base was in place for over 20 years, at its height saw up to 40 flights per day. This was alongside a massive amount of High Tec surveillance and monitoring equipment, which exposed the local population to high levels of microwave radiation and has been the cause of major health concerns for all. This base also had 14 spy cameras, that were used to spy on local members of the GAA club, the club premises, and other members of the community”.

The Slieve Gullion area Councillor told those present that the Sinn Féin peace strategy had delivered for the people of South Armagh who were now beginning to see some kind of normality.

“Hopefully in the future we will see a peace dividend that will remove the barriers to economic growth and inward investment,” said Councillor McDonald.

The Sinn Féin elected representative also said “Republicans have carried out for very many years protests, pickets and demonstrations against these bases within our communities, I want to thank all of those who supported us in our actions throughout those years to get the message across to the Brits to demilitarise South Armagh and rid the area of the British War Machine”

He concluded by stating “It is high time that all Political representatives for this area supported the full and total demilitarisation of South Armagh. Helicopter flights operating morning, noon and night and carrying heavily armed British military personnel and RUC/PSNI are still all too frequent in our communities”

I agree with Packie and I am very glad that this Brit army base has been removed from my community.


Twin Towers and Haditha? What's the difference?

Three weeks on from my last post and I'm happy to say that I'm finally ready to get back to the blogging after a rough three weeks of study as well as a couple of days of celebrating :) Its a very wierd feeling to be finished Univeristy after spending the best 3 years of my life so far at QUB but I suppose all good things come to an end and I'm simply going to have to get on with things. At least I'll have the World Cup to keep me occupied!

Getting back into the swing of blogging, I must say that I was very struck by an article in today's Sunday Tribune by Robert Fisk. In it, he described what he saw as the American attitude to the crisis in Iraq in the wake of the revelations regarding the slaughter of innocent Iraqis by American soldiers in Haditha. In a couple of paragraphs, Fisk does an excellent job of summing up the sheer lack of regard which the Americans, led by Bush, have shown for human life;

I suspect that part of the problem is that we never really cared about Iraqis - which is why we refused to count their dead, enumerating only our own losses. And once the Iraqis turned upon the army of occupation with their roadside and suicide bombs, they became Arab 'gooks', the cowardly and murderous, evil sub-humans whom the Americans once identified in Vietnam.

Get a president to tell us we are fighting evil and one day we will wake to find that a child has horns, a baby has cloved feet. Remind yourself that these people are Muslims and they can all become little Mohammed Attas. Killing a room full of civilians is only a step further along the road from all those promicious air strikes which we are told kill 'terrorists' but which all too often turn out to be a wedding party or - as in Afghanistan - a mixture of 'terorists' and children or, as we are soon to hear, no doubt, 'terrorist children.'

There is much truth in what Fisk writes. On Septeber 11th 2001, America was struck by an evil. But Bush and the warmongers within his establishment reacted to savagery by spreading savagery throughout the world. The lives of young Iraqis are just as important as the lives of any American. But it seems there are many American soldiers who put a very low value indeed on the lives of innoncent civilians.


McDowell should walk over Rape crisis

The rape crisis that has enveloped the state since the Supreme Court ruling should have lead to the sacking of Michael McDowell as Justice Minister. He was or should have been aware that this case was on the table since last October.

As Minister for Justice the buck stops with him. Had he be doing his job instead of trying to discredit journalists and constantly engaging in anti-Sinn Féin nonsense then perhaps a paedophile would not have been released back into Irish society.

The government is making a big mistake in rushing through a new Sexual Offences bill as this area of law needs to be carefully thought out and it needs input from all parties. It especially needs input from rape victims. They need to be part of the process and I do feel that an opportunity has been lost.

I understand that this loophole needs to be addressed but it didn't have to be handled like this. All the government had to do was to amend the 1935 act in order to admit a defence of honest and reasonable mistake. It then should have announced a wide ranging consultation on the issue and presented a coherent and thought out proposal to the Oireachtas when it was ready to do so.

There is nothing as dangerous as bad law.

The new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 will restore the crime of statutory rape and also applies an age of consent of 17 applicable to both males and females.

Defilement of child under 15 years of age...

Section 2.

(1) Any person who engages in a sexual act with a child who is under the age of 15 years shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or a lesser term of imprisonment.

(2) Any person who attempts to engage in a sexual act with a child who is under the age of 15 years shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or a lesser term of imprisonment.

(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that he or she honestly believed that, at the time of the alleged commission of the offence, the child against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed had attained the age of 15 years.

(4) Where, in proceedings for an offence under this section, it falls to the court to consider whether the defendant honestly believed that, at the time of the alleged commission had attained the age of 15 years, the court shall have regard to the presence or absence of reasonably grounds for the defendant’s so believing and all other relevant circumstances.

(5) It shall not be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that the child against whom the offence is alleged to have been committed consented to the sexual act of which the offence consisted.

There has however been a raft of criticism from opposition parties over section 5 of the bill on the grounds that it is discriminatory against boys.

Section 5. A female child under the age of 17 years shall not be guilty of an offence under this Act by reason only of her engaging in an act of sexual intercourse.

The Justice Minister agreed that it was discriminatory. But he said there was a social motive behind it, to discourage young people, especially males, from teenage sex while not victimising motherhood of young girls.

While I welcome the fact that Ireland has departed from the old law of just making a man prove that he made an honest mistake to also including a test of reasonableness this law is none the less sloppy and rushed.

McDowell should be sacked from office but given the lack of credibility that this government has I will not be holding my breathe waiting for his resignation speech.