Endgame for Policing

I am sure by now that most of you will know what many of us knew a few days ago, that Gerry Adams has called an Ard Chomhairle meeting tomorrow to seek a special Ard Fheis on policing.

I was told that this was coming a few days ago when we were told that MI5 had been removed from the policing equation so it doesn't come as any great shock.

At that stage only a time frame for the transfer of Policing and Justice powers was outstanding.

In order for an Ard Fheis to be called Gerry will need 2/3 of the ruling 46 member Ard Chomhairle to agree. That however is academic as Gerry would never have made the announcement unless he was sure of the numbers he needed.

Gerry said

"I will put a motion to the Ard Chomhairle asking it to convene a special Ard Fheis on the policing issue. If the Ard Chomhairle agrees to that motion and others including the two governments and the DUP leadership respond positively, the Ard Fheis will go ahead in January."

"In the run up to this Ard Fheis there will be an intensive period of discussion within the party which will be led by party Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald. In addition Sinn Féin will engage in a series of meetings with the wider republican and nationalist community across the island, including the families of our patriot dead and victims of state murder and collusion."

"Given the history of repressive and sectarian policing in the Six Counties, I don't want to underestimate the difficulties that this issue presents for many nationalists and republicans."

"However, the achievement of a new beginning to policing, as promised in the Good Friday Agreement would be an enormous accomplishment. And I believe that we have now reached the point of taking the next necessary step."

"I am certain that an initiative of this kind is in the interests of all our people. It is the right thing to do. If it succeeds it will advance the struggle for equality and the search for a just and lasting peace on the island of Ireland."

When the Ard Fheis is called the leadership will need at least 2/3 in order to avoid a split, it will also need to be backed by the Northern membership. That is not being partitionist it's just being honest.

I have yet to see the "meat on the bones" of this deal and so I will not be making any rash judgements. That said I still have many difficulties with the current proposals and I know many other Republicans do as well.

I hope that every Republican will use this upcoming consultation period to voice their opinions, now is the time to stand up and have your say.

UPDATE: Ard Chomhairle agree to call a Special Ard Fheis on policing, it is scheduled for January.


Beannachtaí na Nollag

It's that time of the year again, it's Christmas and it's Balrog's second one. I have been quiet this last couple of days, there are quite a few reasons for this but for the sake of simplicity let's just say it was because I was drinking.

I am almost back to where I started with Balrog in the fact that I am now, bar Adelante's occassional blogs, the sole blogger. My comrades have different reasons for being unable to blog but most of them boil down to work pressures.

I intend to take the bull by the horns in January, I intend to bring in some fresh blood and a female voice of reason if I can. I don't want this blog to go stale.

Christmas is a difficult time for many people, they have lost loved ones and many people find the money worries hard to take.

I view it as a time for family and friends. A time to remember those who are no longer with us, a time to relax and reflect on the year that has past.

I graduated this year and I am now almost half way through my LPC year, it now reads "Chris Gaskin LLB" .

What this means is that in about 6 months I will finally get a chance to practise in the profession that I have been longing to join since I was 12.

To all Balrog readers I wish a Merry Christmas, I wish you and your families a peacefull and safe holiday period.

Nollaig Beannaithe agus Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh


High Court stands by Institution of marriage

I was happy to learn that the Irish High Court has decided to stand by the institution of marriage and rejected an application for recognition of gay "marriage".

I am referring to the case of an Irish couple who took a case in the High Court in order to get their foreign same sex "marriage" recognised, I blogged this story before.

Katharine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan said that failure to recognise their marriage breached their rights. The two were "married" in 2003 in British Columbia, Canada, after that province legalised same-sex marriage.

The couple had argued that failure to recognise their "marriage" breached their rights under Bunreacht Na hÉireann and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The High Court ruled that the court was being asked to redefine marriage to mean something which it had never done.

"I do not think that it is a right which exists for same sex couples either under the Irish constitution or under the European Convention," said Justice Elizabeth Dunne

According to Ms Zappone "We took the case because we believed and we requested that the human right to marry is simply extended to us."

That is not the case at all, they are free to marry just not each other.

If they feel that they should be recognised as a married couple then they better return to Canada.

I have no problem with civil partnership, which I feel should be extended to all couples who want it on this island, regardless of sexuality.

My objection to gay "marriage" is, as most of you will be aware of, because of my religious beliefs. I believe marriage to be a religious institution and one which must be protected.

Gay couples are entitled to equal treatment under the law but marriage is a case for the various religions, government has no place interfering in religious affairs.

NB: It seems I am going against the party line on this one, oh well!

I agree with Aengus that we need civil partnership but that is not the same as gay marriage, a very different beast indeed.

Corporate Manslaughter

Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan has committed Sinn Féin to publishing corporate manslaughter legislation before the next election. This was in reaction to Bertie Ahern announcing that the Government had no plans to bring it in.

Arthur said

“Scores of people are dieing in their workplaces every year while their employers escape any serious punishment. In 2005 only 40 employers were prosecuted for breaches of Health and Safety law and the average fine was an insulting and truly pathetic €7,000. Hardly a deterrent, it serves more as a nod and a wink from this Government to workplace safety violations. No Irish employer has served a day in prison for criminal negligence resulting in the death of an employee.

“In the coming months, Sinn Féin will propose in the Dáil our own draft legislation on corporate manslaughter. We would welcome not just support from other parties and the broad trade union movement, but also constructive criticism of our proposals to ensure our proposals are strong enough, and the deterrents tough enough, to make a real difference in tackling the numbers of workplace fatalities.”

I agree with Arthur, this is a problem that needs to be tackled.

Too many employers play fast and loose with the lives of Irish workers. Perhaps if they were faced with a criminal charge and a hefty fine that might help focus their minds.

Even if any future law saved only one life, it would have been worth the effort.


Sinn Féin meet Orde

Sinn Féin officially met with Hugh Orde today for the first time to discuss the ongoing problems with policing.

Gerry Adams said

“This mornings meeting is about Sinn Féin intensifying our efforts to get policing right. That is about making sure the PSNI is held fully to account. It is our responsibility as public representatives to ensure that there are effective measures in place to catch and convict sex offenders, those who prey on the elderly, drug dealers and other gangs involved in criminality"

“It is also our responsibility to ensure an end to political policing, an end to collusion, to get MI5 out of civic policing and to see an end to plastic bullets and any other form of oppressive policing which has been the experience of citizens here."

“So what we need is a police service, not a police force. We need all-Ireland arrangements,, we need common sense, practical, transparent mechanisms of policing which ensure that the type of abuses people experienced here never happen again."

“And for those families who are victims of bad policing we need truth and we need closure. At the meeting today, which was a frank meeting, we raised all of these issues."

“It is our firm view that citizens need and have the right to transparent, accountable civic policing. The Good Friday Agreement promised a new beginning to policing and today’s meeting is part of our effort to achieve that.”

There is nothing in Gerry's statement that I would disagree with. We need proper policing and despite what the SDLP would have you believe we have not got it. The SDLP jumped too soon on policing, they sold themselves too cheaply (quelle surprise)

I did find it interesting that Hugh Orde said "I need to push my organisation"


Are their people in the RUC/PSNI who are rejecting and working against change?

Since the SDLP have joined the policing board how have they managed to keep the RUC/PSNI in line?

-Have they had plastic bullets banned? like they said they would!
-Have they investigated the cases of collusion? How many times did they raise it?
-Apart from licking the arse of the RUC/PSNI what have they done?

Even if we get the required changes I will never be supporting this police service, or any police service for that matter. I will be making sure they are held to account and that they do their job.

I may accept a police service in the future but I will never give it my support.

Trust needs to be earned!!


Cap in hand

I was shocked to find out via Slugger that the Policing board is to ask Dublin to pay £40 million towards the cost of a new policing college in the North.

The Policing Board has decided to send a delegation to meet the Irish government to ask if it will contribute to the cost of the college as part of its promised 1bn euro investment here to support the St Andrew's Agreement.

I am not shocked by the "sponger" mentality but I am surprised that they choose Dublin, even as a last resort. It's just another example of how economics are erasing partition, one inch at a time.

When London says no, which will happen a lot more when Brown become Brit PM, it seems that Dublin has become the only other and acceptable alternative.

I think that under the correct circumstances the Irish government should pay towards it, however it should have a say in its running and have the option of training Gardaí there as well.

A surprising and welcome development that can't help but remind me of my favourite Proclaimers song.

DUP strife heats up a notch

It seems that the DUP, yes the DUP, has been accused of quashing internal debate and stiffling opinion over the St Andrews proposals.

A group calling itself the Voice for Democracy Umbrella Group said Unionists were disappointed by Ian Paisley`s warning at the weekend that internal dissent would only encourage the DUP`s enemies.

"These claims are just not true, cannot be sustained and any attempts by the DUP to confuse or bully the unionist electorate into unquestioning submission in order to vote terrorists into government at the ballot box on the proposed March 7 election must, in the interest of true democracy and for the welfare of all the people of Northern Ireland, be resisted at all costs," the group said.

"We have over the past few weeks made every attempt possible to engage quietly with DUP representatives at MP, MLA and councillor levels to highlight the deep concerns and confusion, created deliberately or by accident, by the party since the St Andrews negotiations but to no avail."

"Instead the responses have been, and no doubt will continue to be (as with their predecessors in the UUP), to threaten `do you want Sinn Fein/IRA to be the largest party? Do you want Plan B?` etc."

"Such responses to Christian people, people with integrity, intelligence and intellect, people from all walks of life, all of whom who put their trust and confidence in the DUP at the 2005 election will not be accepted nor will they to be used as `fodder` for the advancement of the position, power or financial gains of the few."

"Until that objective is reached the Voice for Democracy will not be silenced by threats or persuasion in whatever forms they may take,"

It seems the DUP have really pissed off the hardcore bigots with their public stance on powersharing.

It also appears that these dissenters are "not going to go gentle into that good night, they are going to fight against the dying of the light"

The only question is whether the DUP will be able to bring their people along with them, at the momemt that answer would seem to be



Death of a Dictator

I see that former dictator General Augusto Pinochet is dead. He led the military junta to power in 1973 through a coup d'état, deposing the democratically elected President Salvador Allende.

He was the declared president of the Republic of Chile from 1974 to 1990 and was a close firend and ally of Tory despot Margaret Thatcher.

Hugo Gutierrez, a human rights lawyer involved in several lawsuits against Pinochet, lamented that “this criminal has departed without ever being sentenced for all the acts he was responsible for during his dictatorship”.

Chile’s government says at least 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during his rule.

Pinochet’s son, Marco Antonio, has said that his father asked to be cremated to avoid desecration of his tomb by “people who always hated him”.

It is hard to believe that this man is to get a military funeral, that said the flames at his cremation will quite possibly be a precursor for his afterlife.

Equality--It is new strung and shall be heard!

As a follow on to my earlier post on the DUP's latest homophobic nonsense I am glad to inform Balrog readers that the bigots have been defeated today on a tied votes, equality rings through!

In what was a split vote of 39:39 DUP sources claimed the vote was tied because Sinn Féin was "able to use the vote of a deceased asssembly member".

West Belfast assembly member Michael Ferguson died in September. The St Andrews Agreement Act enables parties to use the vote of an assembly member who has died but has not yet been replaced.

I am sure Michael would greatfull that his "vote" was able to further equality, he was a furverant believer in equal rights.

According to DUP homophobe Jeffrey Donaldson this equality legislation would discriminate againt Christians.

"All six of the world`s major religions are opposed to homosexual practice. Judaism, Islam and Christianity all teach that homosexual practice is sinful."

"Not all Honourable Members may agree with that, but it is a sincerely held view by Christians and people of other faiths. The regulations will interfere with the freedom to manifest to one`s religion because these are new restrictions."

All these regulations will do is to stop bigots and homophobes discriminating against law abiding members of the community whose only "crime" is to be gay.

The days of discrimination are over, it's about time that the DUP and Unionism realised that. Hardly surprising that it was the Nationalist MLA's who supported the equality measures and Unionism which opposed it.

Some of these "Christians" should read the bible more and start with parts like "Love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 5: 43)

"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke [reason with] thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19: 17-18"

My own personal favourite is Matthew 25:31-45, which basically goes “In as much as you have done it for the least of my brothers, you have done it unto me.”

This is a simple case of bigots trying to hide behind religion, everyone is entitled to equality no matter who they are.

Childhood, the lost age of innocence

I was horrified to learn that two 13 year old boys have been charged with a brutal rape of a woman in Belfast.

One of the boys is charged with rape, attempted rape and grievous bodily harm in a city park on Monday 4 December.

The other is charged with attempted rape, aiding and abetting rape, grievous bodily harm and making threats to kill.

Both accused, who cannot be identified, are charged with robbing their alleged victim of £40 with a kitchen knife. Belfast youth court was told on Monday that when charged with rape, the accused boy made no reply.

The boy charged with attempted rape said: "I didn't rape nobody."

What is running through the minds of two 13 year old boys when they decide to brutally rape a woman?

When I was 13 I was out playing with my friends, building huts in the fields, playing swords with sticks and riding on our bikes.

Society is going to hell in a shit sandwich!

Music Review

Just thought I'd write a music review for any Tiocfaidhs out there who don't know what to get their other half, parents, siblings, dog or cat for Christmas. Shebeens newest compliation 'Jackets Green' is a truly amazing CD and features tracks performed by many other renownwed rebel bands and balladers. The title track is smartlt performed by 8 different artists performing a verse of this old rebel number and all singing the last verse. Shebeen do an amazing rendition of Blood Stained Bandage, whilst them belting out the rousing Belfast Brigade is a pure joy. Other great tracks include possibly the best rendition of Viva La Quinte Brigada that you are ever likely to hear, as magnificently performed by ex POW Terry 'Cruncher' O' Neill. Another track worth a mention is 'Streets of Gibraltar' performed live by the Irish Brigade, whilst Shebeen have performed two of the finest ballads ever penned about Ireland's patriot dead namely Tow Williams and Kevin Barry. Check it out yourself here for a full track list and more details. Other rebel links that may be of interest are as follows:
Padraig Mor, Gary Og , Adelante and Spirit of 67


Word games won't work!

Paisley is, yet again, trying to play word games with the process. He has said that Sinn Féin must humble itself by endorsing the RUC/PSNI.

This sounds a lot like his "sackcloth and ashes" speech of the recent past. That speech didn't work and neither will this.

He is trying to create division with Republicanism as his own party is split in more places than a Terry's choclate orange. The prospect of Republicans in government with the DUP is enough to give your average DUP voter a coronary embolism.

The DUP is scared that Sinn Féin will call their bluff and show them up for what they are, sectarian bigots!

This is a time for Republicans to stand as one and take those tough decisions together. The policing issue is quite simple, it hasn't went far enough yet.

The party has already said that unless there is significant movement from the Brits there will be no special Ard Fheis called. Even when one is called it is up to the Sinn Féin membership to decide what is acceptable.

Given all that Sinn Féin members and Republicans in general should have nothing to worry about.

It is the DUP who are on the ropes, let's keep them there!


Catholic bishops are not amused

The Church has attacked the new proposed education reforms and described them as a "serious threat to the right of parents to choose a Catholic education"

The nine Northern bishops said the changes would "radically undermine" the Catholic education system.

Some of the proposals include an attempt to limit the power of the CCMS, which I don't believe is a bad thing.

The bishops said "The proposals will radically undermine a long-cherished Catholic education system which has been recognised for the strength of its distinctiveness and the richness of its tradition and diversity as contributing to the raising of school standards and the promotion of a culture of tolerance and understanding"

Now I am strong advocate of Catholic education, there is none than can rival it. A lot of my English friends attended Catholic schools because of their high standards even though they were not Catholic.

It is no coincidence that the best Grammar schools in the North are Catholic, it provides a rich diverse education that places the pupil at the centre.

All that being said the bishops need to accept some change. Education needs to be accountable to parents and pupils not to the local bishop. I do believe that the main fear of the Church is that they may lose some of their power.

We have all seen the danger that is posed when the Church has too much power, abuses of that power.

If these proposals really do undermine Catholic education they I will oppose them, if they merely stop the local bishop from carrying out his many whims then I will not.


St Paul's tomb found

I see that Vatican archaeologists have unearthed a sarcophagus they believe contains the remains of the St Paul.

The sarcophagus, which dates back to at least 390AD, had been buried beneath Rome`s second largest basilica, St Paul Outside the Walls basilica.

Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who headed the project at St Paul Outside the Walls basilica had this to say.

"Our objective was to bring the remains of the tomb back to light for devotional reasons, so that it could be venerated and be visible,"

I think this is excellent news for all Catholics and indeed all Christians.

When I was in Rome perhaps my favourite memory, apart from the Sunday blessing from the Holy Father, was standing above the remains of St Peter at his altar in the basilica.

It's a weird but beautiful felling when you find yourself standing above the remains of the founder of the Church.

I am sure it would be a similar experience with St Paul.

Bigots raise ugly head again

I see that the DUP are trying to stop equality legislation from being passed that would stop landlords and hotels refusing people on the grounds of sexual orientation.

A motion tabled by DUP Assembly members Jeffrey Donaldson and George Dawson is urging the British government to withdraw its Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations until a fully restored Assembly can take a decision.

Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane hit out at the DUP stance and pledged to lead opposition in a debate at Stormont next week.

"The DUP know that this motion not only undermines the equality and human rights agenda but will also stir up the type of homophobic sentiment that leads to discrimination and violence. "

"That they appear determined to do so for political gain is outrageous.

"That any political party, particularly one that would share the leadership of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister which is responsible for such issues, would seek to make political gain out of bigotry is a disgrace."

"People in the gay and lesbian community should not have to take this bullying alone, it is essential that across political and civic society and human rights groups that we stand together to protect and promote the rights of all."

"This motion from the DUP is clearly homophobic in intention and retrograde in nature because the outlawing of discrimination in goods and services against people because of their sexual orientation should be a shared objective."

I agree with Catriona

It reminds me about the times when the signs read "No Dog's, No Black's, No Irish"

In this day and age people are entitled to equal treatment under the law. I know that the DUP constantly hark on about Sinn Féin being unfit for government however I would beg to differ

It is the bigoted DUP who are unfit for goverment!

There is no London in Derry

I see that Derry city council have taken a judical review to have the cities offical name recognised as Derry rather than the bastarised colonial name of "Londonderry"

There has been some suggestion that the council would need to petition the English Queen in order to change the name.

In court today, Michael Lavery, QC, for the Council said the Royal Charter is now subject to local government legislation and no such petition is needed.

"when the name of the council changed to Derry in 1984 the name of the city established by charter changed and therefore it is unnecessary to petition the Sovereign in order to do so."

There is some precedent for this in case law

It is and always has been Derry, that English King never had the authority to change the name.

I wish the people of Derry all the best in their attempt to remove this slur from their proud city.