Sunday, 17 January 2016

A Declaration of Independence

This week I posted a comment on facebook regarding the upcoming Stormont elections. What followed demonstrated how some republicans feel strongly about elections and view participation in them as giving legitimacy to partitionist parliaments whether it be north or south of the border.

Through this debate I gauged that some republicans are sceptical of trying new approaches and have never really moved on from their respective divorces from Sinn Fein whether it be in 1986, 1998 or 2006. For some these break ups appear to have created major trust issues that keep them so far in their boxes they are afraid to look beyond the parameters they adhere to. Despite this some are quick to label those who do think outside of their box be they republican or otherwise. As someone who follows neither Queen, Kaiser or ideology I believe what is needed is a bit of progressive thinking.

Anyone who knows me knows I am no supporter of the puppet parliament of Stormont. A glance at numerous blogs will show I am on record time and time again describing Stormont as a virtual cesspool, but I would take a different view on elections. I believe elections should be contested if only for the purpose of highlighting issues. I would love nothing more than to see someone in Stormont who will shine a light on that group of cowboys masquerading as a government. As whether you view the parliaments north and south as being legitimate or not they are internationally recognised as the governments of the island.

If you look at the track record of Stormont in the council area where I live you can see that the Derry/Strabane district council area is top of the polls for all the wrong reasons. We're top for unemployment, child poverty, suicide and last year we were rated as the worst place to live. And if that doesn't scream of the need for intervention I don't know what will. I'm of the opinion we need someone in Stormont who will make it clear that Derry may be the second city in the six counties but we are not second class citizens and refuse to be treated as such.

Dr. Anne
At present an independent Dr. Anne McCloskey has declared she will stand in the upcoming Stormont election. Dr. McCloskey works in the Shantallow area of the city and works daily with those suffering from the failed policies of Stormont. So as an alternative to the clowns that currently sit in Stormont we have an intelligent, articulate professional woman who works at the coal face. The current alternative to Dr.McCloskey is serial protester Eamonn McCann. Eamonn who has stood a number of times oddly vanishes between elections, unless appearing as a commentator and not an aspiring politician on television debate shows. As one friend put it to me, he could stand in a one horse race and still come in last.
Comrade Eamonn

Now the fact that Anne McCloskey is a republican has other republicans up in arms, figuratively of course. Now for those republicans up in arms think about it this way, yes I know some of you are still smarting from your divorce from Sinn Fein, and I know they've jumped into bed with Lizzie, but going into Stormont to expose it is simply not the same as, to use the words of Francie Molloy, being 'prepared to administer British Rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future'.

Let's look at it another way not only do Republicans consider Stormont as a partitionist parliament but they also view Leinster house with the same contempt as it is only representative of the 26 counties. But here's the thing I don't remember hearing any complaints from republicans when Independents like Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have spoken out about issues including the treatment of republican political prisoners. And lets not forget that had it not been for Mick Wallace using his platform in the 'partitionist parliament' of Leinster house then the NAMA scandal would not have been exposed.

A cursory glance at the statements and actions of both Mick Wallace and Clare Daly will show that their purpose is not to give legitimacy to the free state government but to expose it for the den of iniquity it is.

So here's the thing why can't we have similar representation? Why can't we have someone in there doing what Mick Wallace and Clare Daly do? Why can't we have someone using their platform to expose the farce that is Stormont? Why can't we have someone in there for the people?

In 1981 Hunger Striker Bobby sands was elected to Fermanagh/South Tyrone. This move exposed the intransigence and cruelty of the British Government. In this case I doubt the candidate or voters saw this move as giving legitimacy to the British presence or Westminster rule in Ireland. It's obvious that part of this strategy was to force the British Government to grant the prisoners 5 demands and to save the lives of the hunger strikers. I'm sure many Republicans had some difficulty with this approach and I can understand that.

Today when I think of the need to put people before ideology one person comes to mind, the late Cecilia Burns from Strabane. Cecilia was 51 years old and suffered from cancer, despite this Cecilia had her benefits cut and was declared fit for work. After launching a campaign to have her benefits reinstated Cecilia won her challenge but sadly passed away a few weeks later. Ask yourself who is there in Stormont to bring these issues to the fore? Who is there to speak for people like Cecilia and the many like her? From where I sit there's no-one pro-active, it's just reactionary tokenism.

Son of Annagry
At times we all have to do things we don't like to do. I've had to go to meetings including some in Stormont on victims and other issues. I've sat across the table from the justice Minister David Ford knowing full well he's as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike. I've sat at the base of the Carson statue after meetings thinking that's two hours of my life I'll never get back but it had to be done if only to tell Ford that he is as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.

I know republicans would disagree with attending these meetings but then I could be pedantic and argue that republicans have in the past attended District Policing Partnership meetings. Granted they turned up to disrupt and protest but technically they still attended. So why do some people feel it was OK to attend DPP meetings to protest and disrupt but it's not OK to go into to Stormont at the will of the people to expose the fallacy of Stormont?

Oddly loyalism, unionism and dissident republicanism in Derry have worked hand in hand in recent years by voting or encouraging others to vote SDLP MP Mark Durkan in the Westminster election. I doubt this move was to give legitimacy to Westminster, well on the part of republicans anyway. This would have been more case of stopping Sinn Fein from getting the seat, not out of love for the SDLP but on a 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' basis.

For those opposed to the election a few questions to you are:

What's your alternative to exposing Stormont from the inside?

How are you going to challenge Stormont not just on a constitutional basis but ensuring that people are not shafted?

Figures from less that 2 years ago showed that 2 out of 3 children in Derry live below the poverty line, how are you going to challenge this?

For those of you who might argue abstentionism, go back to the start of the article and read again..

Sunday, 3 January 2016

To Russia With Love.

I would've liked to begin this year on a positive note but with the events of last year I remain sceptical. Here in the eventful Starship Norn Iron, 2015 shone a beam on so much including the latest in a long line of deals entitled a 'Fresh Start'. Yes that right 17 years after the Good Friday Agreement promised us a 'new beginning' we now await a fresh start. A start which involves savage cuts to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society despite promises from some that it would never happen. But then what some say before an election can greatly differ from what they do or in some cases don't do after.

Now on the subject of not doing what you're supposed to, last year it was confirmed that the IRA hadn't gone away after all. Whilst this came as a surprise the bigger surprise was that Gerry Adams was telling truth in 1995 when he said 'they haven't gone away.' Yes that right those butterflies remain armed and dangerous much like the loyalist butterflies who recently renewed their ceasefire. Despite the recent UDA death threat the British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers assures us that the ceasefire is still in tact. Is it me or does this bring back memories of the late Mo Mowlam and her reference to internal house keeping following the murder of Charles Bennett?

Thanks to the efforts of TD Mick Wallace it was revealed that a top politician in the north was to benefit from the Nama deal. Despite rumours this is said to have nothing to do with Peter Robinson's departure from politics. A departure which has led to the reigns of democracy being handed over to the DUPs first female leader, the north's very own Iron lady Arlene Foster.

The SDLP too had a change in leadership with Dr Doom being replaced by to the north-west’s very own answer to Rowdy Yeats, Colum Eastwood. Since taking up position as leader Colum has released a few statements. The problem is unless the SDLP regain support at a community level they will not make any change to their numbers or influence in Stormont. Maybe now Colum will take on board the recommendations presented in a report commissioned by the SDLP and later rejected by Colum himself in 2013. Here is one of my favourite statements from Colum.....
Or would that be old faces in new places?

The refugee crisis touched the hearts of many here whilst the prospect of their living here fueled protests from those less sympathetic. Others whilst supportive of the need to provide shelter and assistance to those fleeing presented hair brained ideas giving no indication of how these ideas would be managed, supported or resourced. Grand gestures are one thing but we must ensure that these matters are dealt with sensitively to ensure a comfortable transition for those refugees who have been displaced against their will.

A few days ago newly released state papers from 1988 showed that the Soviet Union raised issue with the treatment of paramilitary prisoners with the British government. Russia also argued that non-jury trials for certain offences infringed individual freedoms. Maybe someone should take the time to write to Russia's current president to inform him that very little has changed with non-jury courts still in use year not to mention the ongoing ill treatment of prisoners in the north. A recent report into conditions in Maghaberry prison described Maghaberry as the ‘most dangerous’ prison.

Nick Hardwick the Chief Inspector of prisons in England and Wales said the prison is "not safe for the prisoners health, it's not safe for the staff who care for them and it's not safe for the communities into which these men will be returned with very little done to reduce the risk that they will stop offending." This report follows a report published in 2009 when Prison inspectors Dame Anne Owers and Dr Michael McGuire said “Maghaberry Prison was one of the most “expensive prisons” to run yet one of the “worst in the UK.”

As well as the prison issue going unresolved we now see problems with addressing the past. Here the underhandedness of many was exposed by a group of people who simply know right from wrong. To break something down to simple right and wrong and to humanise it to see the person behind the statistic is not something we have seen from Stormont or its funded quangos. I witnessed first hand how the families of murder victims were dismissed outright for raising concerns about so called legacy plans. I saw how these people were treated at public meetings by those who claim to have victims best interests at heart. And I saw how those who attacked people who raised legitimate concerns had to eat their own words when they couldn't stand over the farce they had been sold and had in turn been selling to the public.

The simple fact that the the legacy issue was not included in the fresh start deal speaks volumes. Plans by the British Government and their Stormont puppets to rail road the legacy issues through were scuppered when exposed for what they were, a whitewash designed to give the impression that the needs of victims are being addressed when the only needs being truly met are the needs of those who stand to gain from drawing an arbitrary line in the sand.

When you look at the lack of progress being made by the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) you can't help but question if the proposed Historical Investigations Unit expected to deal with troubles related deaths will be any better. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) was established to examine allegations of torture and unlawful killings. Five years after their establishment, there has yet to be a single prosecution despite there being evidence to warrant criminal charges. 
2015 was what I can only describe as an interesting year, as we enter 2016 you could argue that we as a society are no further forward. The politicians continue to preen, pose and prevaricate with no will or ability to move from their foxholes and do the right thing. In this past year I have seen people from all backgrounds find a voice that others would love to stifle or silence. I have seen people rally against Stormont cuts, I have seen people step out of their comfort zones and raise their heads above the parapet without fear and face down those who would dismiss and demean them, and there is the crux of it my friends, people, ordinary people will make the difference, not those who have huge expenses and salaries out of the public purse, not those who run agendas to suit their own ends.

As you know I'm not fond of politicians, but I'm minded of a quote by the Labour MP Tony Benn:

In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person--Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates--ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.“ 


Onward and upwards!