2008 Irish Blog Awards

I see that it's that time of the year again, the Irish blog awards. Balrog has been nominated, once again, for Best Group Blog and Best Political Blog.

There are still other nominations yet to be unveiled like Best Blog and Best Blog Post so we shall have to wait and see what, if any, other categories we are nominated in.

We face stiff competition in both categories

1.Best Group Blog

I don't know many of the blogs in this section but with blogs like Limerick Blogger, Dublin Opinion and Cedar Lounge Revolution you see just how tough this category will be.

2.Best Political Blog

This is like a David and Goliath contest. We have a lot of very good political blogs like Cedar Lounge Revolution, Irish Election and Mick Hall's "Organized Rage". We are all faced against the Daddy of Bloglaigh Na hÉireann, Slugger O'Toole.

Mick deserves great credit for Slugger; it's in a different league when it comes to readership.

The winners will be decided differently this year with 70 judges deciding the short list and then the eventual winners.

I am very pleased with being considered and wish to thank anyone who nominated Balrog. That said I don't place much faith in anonymous judges and being an Irish Republican has taught me to be suspicious.

Either way I'm just happy to be considered amongst those other great blogs.

UPDATE: Balrog has also been nominated in two further categories; bringing our total nominations to four. Thanks again.

1. Best Blog

2. Best Blog Post: "Sinn Féin: what went wrong?"


Micro groups to unite?

I see that a leading Derry dissident has called on the Real and Continuity to join forces, for what purpose still remains to be seen.

Gary Donnelly is a leading member of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee and has said that “It would be more logical to have one group which would be more effective than two.”

Not one of these micro groups could organise a piss up in a brewery, together all they will achieve is to have even more Irishmen serving jail sentences.

Adelante has already laid out his opinion of these groups, namely that they are riddled from head to toe with Brit spies and informers. I mean come on, imagine allowing a stranger (FBI spy) to attend their army council meetings.

These groups are quick to attack Sinn Féin and the Republican movement yet when challenged to come up with an alternative they fall silent. If their call is for continued armed struggle then they are totally incompetent as they have yet to kill a single member of the British crown forces.

If their alternative is a political one then let us hear it, I mean they stood during the last assembly election and they were quite publicly told to "fuck off" by the electorate.

What role do they foresee themselves having in ending partition? Drinking pints of porter and calling every shinner a sell out isn't going to end partition.

They would be better off disbanding and saving their members from prison sentences, they have yet to offer anything positive to the Republican cause.

They should leave the cause of uniting this country to the one and only Republican movement.


Murder Machine in the 21st Century

I don't know if any of you have read Padraig Pearse's wonderful polemic "Murder Machine"?

For those of you who haven't, you should!

To say that this piece of historical writing has great resonance today would be an understatement.

I bring up Padraig Pearse's critique of the Irish education system because of an article that appeared in the Irish News.

Former Attorney General Peter Sutherland was complaining about the fact that incompetent teachers are rarely sacked, a problem which he blamed on the trade union movement (an accusation with some merit)

I have a great deal of sympathy with Mr Sutherland because I happen to agree with him.

I have first hand experience of bad teaching. While in primary school I had the misfortune of having one of the vilest bastards to ever grace the teaching profession.

I can remember the way she would enjoy humiliating me in public, how she sent me to P1 for a week and instructed me to look at the blackboard. There are other examples that I could give but I'll not get in to that here.

In a way she made me a stronger person because from then on I vowed that no bastard would ever belittle me again, I wasn't going to be put down by anyone again.

My class was the first to have her, at the end of the year parents were calling for her blood but she wasn't sacked. Every year since parents have demanded that she be sacked. To no avail though, she still remains.

It eventually developed into a situation were very angry parents went to the school and went absolutely ballistic. I know of one mother who entered her classroom and told her in front of the class that if she ever sent another one of her daughters home crying again and begging not to be sent to school that she would come back and drag her out of the class by the hair kicking and screaming.

On one level I blame her personally for her sick abuse but one the whole I blame the system which allowed her and people like her to teach children. The system which exists today is the same system which Padraig Pearse attacked in "Murder Machine".

The system which we have today was once described by one of my teachers as a factory, a place where we are grown under strict conditions and boundaries. We are a result of what they want; we are never really educated merely informed on subjects and social concepts which they deem important.

"Tantum eruditi sunt liberi"

That is a line from Epictetus which means "Only the educated are free" and that is what Pearse was getting at in Murder Machine.

What freedom do we have in our education system? What freedom do students have to develop as human beings and individuals as opposed to factory farmed "grade A" students?

In "Murder Machine" Pearse wrote

"I dwell on the importance of the personal element in education. I would have every child not merely a unit in a school attendance, but in some intimate personal way the pupil of a teacher, or, to use more expressive words, the disciple of a master. And here I nowise contradict another position of mine, that the main object in education is to help the child to be his own true and best self.

What the teacher should bring to his pupil is not a set of ready made opinions, or a stock of cut-and-dry information, but an inspiration and an example; and his main qualification should be, not such an overmastering will as shall impose itself at all hazards upon all weaker wills that come under its influence, but rather so infectious an enthusiasm as shall kindle new enthusiasm."

I received what was supposed to be a Christian Brother Grammar school education. The ethos of the Christian Brothers was for you to stand up for what you believe in, never cower down to evil.

That, I felt, was in constant contradiction with the reality of the school. We had teachers who imposed their own political and moral values on others and teachers who abused their positions of responsibility.

As of result of this I began to take small actions against such frivolity. When a rule was brought in which proclaimed that students couldn't have hair any shorter than a number four blade I got a number one.

I got off being disciplined by having a hairdresser friend of mine on standby to tell them that she gave me a number four. One of my favourite teachers described me as a ghost, as I couldn't be caught.

Any rule which I believed was there to stifle personal expression was challenged. I have to say before any of you ask that I was never under detention in my entire time at secondary school. I was suspended for 55 days at the end of 7th year for attending anti-war protests but legal action cured that little ill quite quickly.

I respected most of the teachers in the school, I liked most of them as well. They tended to be the older teachers though. The sort of teachers that didn't care about promotion. Teachers that developed very respectful and educational bonds with the students or the "old school" as we called them.

I had no time for some of the younger teachers who were nothing more than arse lickers and "yes men", the sort of teachers who were only concerned with furthering their "career" as opposed to furthering the educational development of their students.

With some of these teachers the old adage of "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." was a sad reality. The sort of teacher who viewed teaching as a fall back from a jaunt in an unsuccessful career as opposed to a vocation.

Pearse recognised this failing when he wrote

"The fact is that, with rare exceptions, the men and women who are willing to work under the conditions as to personal dignity, freedom, tenure, and emolument which obtain in Irish schools are not the sort of men and women likely to make good educators"

Pupils were so spoon fed that when it came to University my school had the highest percentage of drop outs at QUB in the entire 6 counties. This was in despite of the fact that we had the best grades at GCSE and A Level in the 6 counties and were described as "The best boys grammar" in the North.

Individuality was frowned upon, you were not allowed to ask questions or debate if it risked time spent towards achieving grades. Things were done in a certain way and you were not in a position to question that.

In fact I remember an example of this mentality during a class election for Prefect. We had two candidates standing and I didn't think much of either of them so when the teacher came around and asked me who I was voting for I said I was abstaining.

She went bananas and said that I wasn't allowed to abstain; I mean this woman went off her trolley! She started snarling and snorting at the mere insinuation that I was not going to go along with the status quo.

"Thou shalt not' is half the law of Ireland, and the other half is `Thou must.'
Now, nowhere has the law of `Thou shalt not' and `Thou must' been so rigorous as in the schoolroom. Surely the first essential of healthy life there was freedom. But there has been and there is no freedom in Irish education; no freedom for the child, no freedom for the teacher, no freedom for the school. Where young souls, young minds, young bodies, demanded the largest measure of individual freedom consistent with the common good, freedom to move and grow on their natural lines, freedom to live their own lives---for what is natural life but natural growth?"

I really enjoyed my education; I had a great time and learnt a lot from some great teachers. That said, many more students were not so lucky and they are the people that are being left behind.

They are the people being destroyed by the Murder Machine!

If I had my way both Caitríona Ruane and Mary Hanifin would be forced to read "Murder Machine", it's as relevant now as it was then.


Obama's back!

I was delighted to see that Democrat Presidential candidate Barack Obama is back to winning ways after taking Clintons scalp, this time in the southern state of South Carolina.

Not only did he beat Hillary but he won with 55% of the vote to her 27%. This was a key victory for Obama ahead of Feb 5th or "Super Tuesday" when over 20 states will be voting.

This victory though is not as impressive as it may seem, his victory in Iowa was even more impressive for one reason; he won more than just the black vote in Iowa. Over 50% of South Carolina's Democrats are black and Obama got that vote. Clinton won the female white vote and Edwards won the white male vote.

What can Obama take from this vote?


He has ended, or seems to have ended, the Clinton grip on the black vote in the southern states. He faced his most difficult week in the entire campaign with the Clinton machine throwing everything they had at him and he was still victorious.

While he didn't win the female vote he was almost neck and neck with the others when it came to white males. He has gained much needed momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

2.Not so positive

Unlike Iowa his vote came mainly from the black population with over 70% of his vote being a "black vote". He did not get enough white and female votes. This will be a problem when Super Tuesday rolls around as the black vote will not carry the same weight in those contests.

All in all this was a great win for Obama; he has much needed energy and approval heading into a very crucial week and a half. He has shown that the talents of Bill Clinton can not win the nomination for Hillary; she will have to rise or fall on her own steam.

He needs to ensure that the negative politics of this week are at an end, nothing puts off voters like negative smear campaigns. Obama needs to avoid being viewed as the black candidate and instead become the best candidate who just happens to be black.

Obama needs to keep on message and he needs to keep focused on the issues that matter. If he does that he can win this nomination.


War is war is war!!!!

It seems that Unionists are trying to deny that a war was ever waged by the Brit military against the freedom fighters of the Irish Republican Army.

If it was not so serious this would be laughable!

Unionists are vexed at the prospect of the British Government being asked to officially declare the conflict with the IRA a war. Certainly republicans have no doubt that it was a war!!

When in the course of history did Whitehall ever put tens of thousands of troops into the field with the back up of the SAS and MI5, conferring special powers and emergency legislation when it wasn't a war?

Attempts by the Brits to deny a war, via the introduction of their criminalisation policy in 1976, were bravely defeated by republicans who were rightfully granted Prisoner of War status. Why would you grant POW status if there wasn't a war?

Furthermore during the Army's war effort against Crown forces weren't there truces and ceasefires called? Is this not indicative that both sides fought a war?

Is the use of proxy agents in a dirty war not indicative of a counter insurgency tactic of divide and conquer symptomatic of war?

Have internal Brit memos not already conceded that the Army were incapable of being defeated by the Brits? Surely this all points to a war and not some minor tribal bother?

Furthermore, the very same people expressing outrage at the very notion of a declaration of war are the same people who have persistently called for the IRA to declare that the war is over? Such a position is surely untenable? You can not argue on one hand for a party to a war to declare their war has ceased, yet argue on the other hand that a war never even existed.

Surely if reconciliation is to be achieved and victims are to obtain closure then the Brits must acknowledge the role they played in the conflict. Acceptance of war would be a logical step.

The untold truth

I see that the BBC are suggesting that there has been a 50% increase in the number of rapes in the 6 counties over the past six years.

I wonder if that is the number of rapes or the number of rapes reported.

The vast majority of people who are raped do not report it and of those that do there is a conviction rate of only about 5%.

That's hardly going to persuade a rape victim to come forward and receive a secondary rape experience in the courtroom.

I normally have no time for the feminist movement in general, even though I have common cause with a lot of their aims, as I find them a very divisive force.

When it comes to the issue of rape I agree with them completely.

While I was at University I spent a lot of time researching this area of the law as Criminal law is an area that I intend to specialise in.

It wasn't until I took a Gender law class in third year that I really began to understand the deeper issues and forces at work in this area of criminal law.

Rape has to be once of the most destructive and soul destroying things that can be done to another person. I say person instead of woman because there are a large number of men who are raped even if in the vast majority of cases it is women who are raped.

When I was doing my LPC in London last year I did a fair bit of pro-bono work for a rape crisis centre. It was in many ways the hardest and yet most rewarding experience of my life thus far.

I remember these women relaying some of the most harrowing stories and that pain which they felt was a constant.

Most of those who were raped and who were either married or had a partner ended up finishing their relationship because they couldn't stand the touch of another man on their skin as it brought the whole experience flooding back.

That is one of the major drawbacks of the new Sexual Offences Act 2003, a supposedly improved piece of legislation.

The rape act itself is defined as the intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with a penis. This fails to take into account what women feel is sexually violating, it centres on the penis and it is what men think woman should find violating.

This new Act does go some way further than the old law which only had vaginal penetration as rape but it is still a denial of agency. It fails to recognise that what men find sexually pleasing is not the same for women and so what men find violating is not necessarily what women find violating.

Until rape victims take ownership of the law and take ownership of the process then their right to bodily autonomy will never be realised and the phallocentric society will continue to dominate the horizon as it has always done.


Would anyone be surprised?

It appears that everyone is perplexed at the fact that the trial of four Coca-Colas collapsed to-day, with the reason rumoured to be that there was a tout involved at some point in the trial.

I mean, my God what is so surprising about this?

The fuckers are riddled with touts!!!

They are under the de facto control of MI5.

This is blatantly obvious from their military ineptitude and the fact that most of their leadership is now behind bars! What have they done since their inception to further the cause of Irish republicanism?

They have done nothing but whip up sectarian tension and ferment dissent. This is more akin to the agenda of Brit securocrats than to an agenda of Irish republicanism!

These deluded and sad individuals have absolutely nothing to offer to the republican cause and would probably be doing everyone a favour if they ended their 'war' (not that I think they actually commenced one in the first place)

They would then be free to go back to their bar stools and snipe at real republicans who fought the war and continue to carry the struggle forward in this new era.

Where do you stand?

I came across this test for the US Presidential election. Essentially it links your own views with the different candidates in the race. It came as no surprise to me that Barack Obama came second as he is the person I would like to see elected as President.

88% Joe Biden
84% Barack Obama
82% John Edwards
81% Hillary Clinton
80% Chris Dodd
74% Dennis Kucinich
71% Mike Gravel
69% Bill Richardson
46% Rudy Giuliani
43% John McCain
32% Mike Huckabee
29% Mitt Romney
28% Tom Tancredo
23% Ron Paul
23% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

My first preference did surprise me as I had never heard of Joe Biden before, after a little research I understand why he was the closest.

He's a Lawyer from an Irish Catholic background. He's anti-drugs, anti-gay marriage, against abortion but supports individual choice; he is pro-gun control, pro-civil liberties, pro-public healthcare, pro-public education, against tax cuts for the rich and pro-peace in international relations.

How does your choices stack up, any surprises?


Lisbon treaty? Níl! No! Non!

Soon the Irish people in the 26 counties will get the chance, the only people in Europe to get such a chance, to vote on the Lisbon treaty.

I personally hope that they reject this move towards a federal EU Super State in the strongest way possible.

Sinn Féin will be the only party of the Oireachtas to oppose this treaty.

Eoin Ó Broin has an excellent article in this weeks An Phoblacht which lays out 20 clear reasons why Irish voters should reject this treaty. That article can be found here.

The Green Party leadership were unable to persuade 2/3 of their party to support this attack upon Irish Sovereignty, so as a result that party will now have no official position on the Lisbon treaty/EU Constitution.

That won't stop the Green party leader John Gormley and his other colleagues in the cabinet, a cabinet made up of the incompetent and the ignorant, from campaigning for a "Yes Vote".

I suspect that former Green MEP Patricia McKenna will be out campaigning for a No vote. At least we know that there are still members of the Green party prepared to stand up to Fianna Fail and to stand up for Irish principles.

The only thing stopping Fianna Fail from depriving the Irish people of a vote, like the rest of the disgraceful EU countries are doing, is Bunreacht Na hÉireann.

Ireland has taken many traditions of government from America (The name of the houses of the Oireachtas and the Supreme Court for example) however the best must be our strong codified constitution.

How often has that document spared us from the excesses of the failed civil war parties? Now those same parties seek to strike a hammer blow against that great document.

I only hope that the Irish electorate tell Europe in no uncertain terms that our hard fought for, yet limited and incomplete, independence is not for sale.


Cumann Lúthchleas Gael

I see that DUP Minister Edwin Poots has called for an end to the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann ahead of GAA games in the North.

He has also called for an end to the naming of sports grounds after Irish patriots.

Before I look at his "requests" I would just like to say that I was glad to see Edwin become the first DUP elected official to attend a GAA game.

That aside I think Edwin can stick his requests where the sun don't shine!

It's important to remember that the GAA is much more than a sporting organisation; it is the glue that holds together a great many Irish communities and villages. It now occupies a role which the Church once held.

The GAA has several aims however according to its constitution it aims to be

"A national organisation which has as its basic aim the strengthening of the National Identity of a 32 County Ireland through the preservation and promotion of Gaelic games and pastimes"

The GAA has never recognised partition, we are still organised under the old province system and Ulster is 9 counties and not the bastardised Unionist version of 6.

For an Cumann Lúthchleas Gael to stop playing Amhrán na bhFiann before matches in the 6 counties would be contrary to the primary aim of the organisation.

The GAA is open for anyone to join however people have to accept that it is not a neutral organisation, it's an Irish sporting organisation.

An organisation which operates on a 32 county basis, they cherish all of the children of the nation equally and are oblivious to the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

They promote the Irish language, music and dance.

People have to accept that, if they can't accept that then the GAA is not for them.

In relation to the naming of grounds after Irish patriots that is also a part of GAA tradition. Now before the revisionists try to label this as a Northern phenomenon I suggest they look a little closer to home.

We have grounds all over the country named after Patriots who fought the British during the Easter Rising of 1916 such as Padraig Pearse, where was their mandate? Does that make them terrorists?

Of course not!

My own club ground is named after two local Volunteers, Jim Lochrie and Sean Campbell. It was a democratic decision taken by club members and if that annoys certain individuals then that really is tough.

The top trophy in Gaelic Football is named after a Protestant Irishman from Cork who was a Lieutenant -General in the IRB and director of intelligence in Britain.

Many of those who attack the GAA as parochial, anti-British and Nationalistic are firstly normally not members. They also fail to grasp the huge role that the GAA has in Irish life.

In my own area the club has a very positive role in the parish. They are the centre of the community and a vital part of that community. I can't imagine Dromintee without the local GAA club.

I also know that they have not been found wanting when it comes to sorting problems in the community.

When we were having a problem with some of the local youths and anti-social behaviour the club added their voice to the community response and said that any youth engaged in such activity would not be playing on any of their teams.

That stopped the nonsense.

Why change a winning formula? After all, Gaelic Football is the most popular sport in Ulster and indeed Ireland as a whole.

While the GAA should make others feel comfortable it should not change the heart of the organisation to satisfy those who will never be satisfied at anything which is openly Irish and proud.

I'm not a Brit!

That was the very clear message coming from Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle.

In an interview for Hot Press the Derry lass revealed that she hates being called a "Brit" and insisted on the tricolour being included on an album cover.

"When people say Girls Aloud are a British band and I'm there, I will explain that we are four British and one Irish. On our Greatest Hits album cover they had a Union Jack flag on the first draft.

I was like: 'What is this? Where's the Irish flag?
'If you're going to put the Union Jack on, you have to put an Ireland flag on too'. So they did."

Nadine also revealed that she dated Martin McGuinness's son at one stage, albeit when they were much younger.

The poor fucker must be kicking himself now.

I'm glad that Nadine was prepared to stand up to that kind of bullshit. I'm not a Girls Aloud fan myself (well, not of their music anyway) but it takes a bit of gall to take the road less travelled.

All too often Irish "celebrities" from the 6 counties take the path of least resistance and have no problem with being called British.

I'm thinking of Liam Neeson and the likes; I lost a lot of respect for him when he took his award from the English Queen.

I really shouldn't have been surprised though, any contact that I had with Derry girls at University left me with the lasting impression that they aren't afraid to speak their mind.

Election Bother!!!

The good old voices of moral reckoning in the British media have been quick to seize on the discrepancies in the recent Kenyan elections.

How dare the natives rig an election! How uncouth and immoral!!! How dare one side use electoral tools to nourish tribal divisions and totalitarianism!!!!!!

It would be a bit like an 800 year occupation of another country, dividing the country in two, establishing an artificial majority in a bastard state, wouldn't it??? It would be like using gerrymandering to deny the majority community of their rightful places on councils, places in education and health, wouldn't it???

Hold on a minute... I don't recall such concern from the British paper man during the Civil Rights campaign, when gerrymandering and sectarian discrimination were rife. I don't recall any such worry when the Brits were installing war lords in Iraq and Afghanistan only to remove them again later when they got a little too big for their boots.

Furthermore they were only too quick to garnish us with details about the Venezuelan elections. However there was less of a song and dance made about the dubious result in the New Hampshire presidential elections when Bush 'won'.

Where was the song and dance when the 26 county government decided it didn't like the result of the vote on the Nice Treaty, so decided to hold another vote??????

Funny isn't it?


An unexpected Braveheart

Braveheart is one of my favourite films and I also love the American TV series Family guy.

It's interesting to see what happens when they are mixed.

American election

This is my first post on the American election, an election that I have been following very carefully. I am a political anorak, I love elections and this one is proving to be a very interesting one.

As an Irish person I will respect what ever decision that the American people reach in November, such is their sovereign right.

That said, here's this foreigners "insight" into the election and who I would like to see win and why.

I would not easily fall into either of the two American political parties because I am a Socialist Republican, albeit one that is quite conservative/traditional on a number of social issues.

As an Irish Republican party Sinn Féin has received support from members of both the American parties, yet Democratic Presidents tend to be much more amenable to the Irish question than Republican ones.

Congressman Peter King, New York Republican, has been one of our staunchest allies. He was a friend during the height of the IRA campaign and for that he deserves great credit but I have to say that apart from his views on Ireland I would have a great many differences with him.

That leads on to the fact that although I would have respect for a few Republican politicians in the states the party I would feel most close to, the best of a bad bunch if you will, is the Democrat party.


On the Democrat side the main frontrunners are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I personally can't see Edwards being in a position to challenge at the convention in August even if he does win South Carolina.

Hillary Clinton

Although I have huge respect for Bill Clinton, his work on the peace process can't be praised enough, I can't abide Hillary. There is just something about the woman, I don't think she's honest, I think she would sell her soul to get into power and I think she's a hypocrite in relation to the War in Iraq.

For my part I think she is a very divisive figure in American politics, I think her nomination would mobilise millions of conservative voters all across America. There would also be the worry for American voters, weather realistic or not, that should she be elected that Bill will have too much influence.

Her gender doesn't come into it with me but I suspect it will for a lot of Americans, her fake tears may have done her some good in New Hampshire but it may count against her in the long run.

I also dislike the way that she is trying to claim some kind of credit, however small, for the Peace Process. Her husband did a lot of good work, she didn't and it's that simple.

If the Democrats want the White House, I pray to god that they get it, then I don't believe that she is the candidate that will win it for them.

Barack Obama

Will Barack be the first black President of the USA? I don't know but I hope he is. I have been very impressed with not only a lot of his policies, especially his Foreign policy, but by his overall message and charisma.

I believe that America is a mature enough society to elect a black president, after all they have only ever had once Catholic president, JFK, and he had to announce that he was separate from the Vatican in Houston in 1960 in order to get the nomination.

I believe that while Barack may not appeal to the older Democrat supports in the way that Clinton does he does have huge appeal amongst the young people. I also believe that he would be able to pick up enough RINO votes in order to win the election.

The fact that his ancestors date back to Co. Offaly is just an added bonus. Plus, he has Oprah as his biggest fan.


Mitt Romney

A Mormon Republican that governed a democrat state. He was second in both Iowa and New Hampshire but his win in Michigan has placed him right back in the race. He would be classified as a pragmatic social conservative but his religion may cost him some votes in the Southern States.

His opportunistic journey towards being a social conservative has left many wondering if his conversion is for real considering some of his past stances on abortion and gay rights.

Mike Huckabee

After winning Iowa and with so little money he was being talked up. That hype ended when he left behind the Christian Conservatives of Iowa and moved on to New Hampshire and Michigan.

This Baptist minister can't even rely on the Christian vote as polls in Michigan showed that Evangelicals were just as likely to vote for Romney as they were for him. He will be hoping for a higher turnout in the Southern states.

However with a strong McCain vote and a strong Romney vote he may well be the third cog at the end. This is despite the fact that he has bucket loads of charm and humour.

John McCain

This Vietnam veteran, straight talker and maverick of sorts is, I believe, the biggest threat to the democrats chance of a win. The only other person like him on the Republican side is Rudy Giuliani and his campaign may be over before it even starts.

He is not afraid to go against party line on issues like gay rights and campaign finance and that will have an appeal for many Americans.

He is however quite old and his age may go against him.

Rudy Giuliani

The only Catholic still left in the race and the former Mayor of New York at the time of 9/11. His record of reducing crime in New York will be a big asset. Phantom has described him as a social liberal with claws, which relates to the fact that he is quite liberal on a lot of social issues.

His extra marital affairs and his stance on abortion and gun control with not go down well with Social Conservatives. The fact that he has left it late to join the race may be a risky strategy.

Who will win?

I feel it's still too early to tell but it's going to be interesting between now and November. I'm hoping to see Barack Obama as the next President but who knows.


Ian Óg, a closet Fianna Failer?

That is the only conclusion that I can come to following on from the latest revelation in this long running saga.

It seems that Ian Óg has once again been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and in the pocket of a certain DUP property developer.

Following on from a FOI request by leader of the Prodiban, renegade Unionist Jim Allister; it now seems that during the St Andrews negotiations instead of trying to get the best deal for Unionism Ian Óg was more concerned with "constituency matters".

No doubt this will piss off the flat earthers of the DUP executive no end, yet again Ian Óg and his "constituency" work has brought the spotlight on to them.

The question now has to be asked, is he fit to be a Minister?

Rather than carrying out his brief he seems to be more concerned with getting the best deal possible for just one North Antrim constituent, a certain Mr Sweeney.

I asked if he is indeed a closet Fianna Failer because it's the sort of stunt that would be well received in the Soldiers of Destiny.

After all, when Charlie can rob money from a fellow cabinet Ministers charity fund and the current leader can have so many "financial" issues, not to mention the claim that he had no bank account when he was the Finance Minister, then this would be relatively minor.

Perhaps when a United Ireland comes Ian Óg will join that other motley crew who are more concerned with feathering their own nests rather than public service.