Sunday, 17 August 2008

Worst floods in 50 years?

I went to visit my grandparents yesterday in Newcastle, County Down with my mum and step dad. Luckily he was driving the new BMW Estate Car rather than my Getz!

We had a lovely dinner and stayed until 5pm. When we left it was still raining. Tried to travel to Belfast via Newcastle but Shimna river had burst it's banks and road was impassable. Tried to get to Dundrum via Bryansford but road was also blocked with lots and lots of water. Then tried to get to Belfast via Newry but Hilltown was impassable as river had burst it's banks. Then went to Rathfriland and onwards to Banbridge. One mile from Banbridge road was impassable with river all over the road. Turned back and tried another route via Dromore and, thankfully, we managed to get onto A1.

Some really close shaves with water over bonnet, roads washed away etc. Eventually got to Belfast but then struggled to get through water in Dunmurry.

If we hadn’t a good geographical knowledge of South Down we would have been stranded.

Got home at 9.30pm when usually get home at about 6pm! Mum and I needed to use a toilet and had to ask some lady living near Hilltown whether we could use her toilet and she obliged. The generosity of people is amazing, with some out trying to clear water when they could have easily sat back and not offered assistance.

My mum is 50 and says she has never seen floods like what we experienced yesterday.

It was, however, the first time I have seen how chelsea tractors can be useful!

When I got home I was able to view scenes of floods across Northern Ireland via BBC News, Flickr and YouTube.

The scenes at Broadway underpass are simply breath taking.

As Wesley Johnston states in an extensive explanation of the Broadway disaster “It could be that this is not the first time we see the Broadway underpass submerged in water and the ensuing chaos”

The ongoing scandal of homes and roads repeatedly flooding must stop with Bangor’s Gransha Road again closed yesterday due to river bursting its banks.

I don’t however hold out much hope with the Environment Minister a self confessed climate change denier who feels these are one off events.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Friday, 15 August 2008

Omagh, ten years on

Ten years since the Omagh bombing my heart is full of sadness, love for those affected and anger towards those who killed twenty nine people, two unborn children and the physical and mental suffering endured by many others.

Two quotes seem to summarise how I feel today;
We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.

At the centre of non-violence stands the principle of love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Friday 15 August 2008

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Leave Derry for London?

The Conservatives’ favoured think tank, Policy Exchange, today recommended “There is no realistic prospect that our regeneration towns and cities can converge with London and the South East. There is, however, a very real prospect of encouraging significant numbers of people to move from those towns to London and the South East.” The regeneration towns in question are, for example, Liverpool and Sunderland.

Whilst the report has generated lots of headlines with David Cameron describing it as “insane” it has had one positive impact by triggering a discussion on regional development and urban regeneration.

In Northern Ireland towns West of the Bann and Derry / Londonderry have historically been ignored in favour of Belfast.

Recommending people from Derry move to London is plainly daft with society moving towards a knowledge based digital economy.

Now is the time to develop all of Northern Ireland and stop the environmental consequences arising from the daily commute done by many people from Omagh, Bangor, Enniskillen, Lisburn and Derry to Belfast.

The NI Executive can take a lead and start decentralising government from Belfast to other areas across Northern Ireland.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Countdown to China Olympics

In a few hours the 2008 Olympics will commence at Beijing, China.

China’s appalling Human Rights abuses are well documented and often publicised by organisations such as Amnesty International. I’ll therefore spare readers with the disgraceful details of the abuses committed such as their sale of organs taken from executed prisoners.


Some argue that countries should not send their athletes to the games because of the abuses but I disagree. Taking such an approach deprives athletes of a chance to participate and has proven ineffectual when you consider previous precedent
e.g. Moscow Olympics in 1980 which were boycotted by 62 nations led by USA.

Presidents and Prime Ministers from participating countries can however show their opposition to China’s Human Rights abuses by refusing to attend the ceremonies and supporting peaceful non violent protests.

It was therefore with great regret that I watched President Bush arriving in China last night to attend the opening ceremony. His mere attendance was stomach churning, compounded by his smiles and waves to the awaiting public as he left Air Force One.

I look forward to watching the games over the next number of days in awe at the sporting excellence of the participants and the courage of those who will use the event as an opportunity to highlight the Human Rights abuses inflicted by the Communist Government on its citizens.

Now is the time to pile on the pressure for change before the Olympics are over and the spotlight dims.

Now is the time for an end to executions, fair trials for all, respect for human rights defenders and freedom from censorship.


Friday 8 August 2008

Monday, 4 August 2008

History made at Belfast Pride 2008

Yesterday’s Pride Parade was the culmination of the week long Belfast Pride Festival.

As Northern Ireland develops it seems that Pride gets bigger and bigger year after year.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend a number of really good events. These ranged from the Queerspace Underexposed photographic exhibition on Thursday 24 July, Festival launch on Saturday 26 July, Peter Tatchell Amnesty International Lecture on Monday 28 July and Queerspace Life after Queens Play on Wednesday 30 July.

All were fantastic, especially when Baroness Blood spoke at Underexposed. Her determination and sheer zeal for achieving gender equality was truly inspiring.

By participating in yesterday’s Parade I feel I have made a small contribution to creating a better society where diversity is celebrated and difference accepted not just tolerated.

Research conducted by the Equality Commission in 2006 stated that 29% of Northern Irish people would mind if a relative or friend was in a relationship with a lesbian, gay or bisexual person.

A Scottish Government survey in the same year discovered that people who don’t know a gay person are twice as likely to say that same sex relationships are wrong.

I am therefore quietly confident that yesterday’s parade chipped something off the 29% with many spectators afforded the opportunity to celebrate diversity and come into contact with lesbian and gay people.

As noted by Patrick Corrigan on Amnesty International’s Belfast and Beyond blog
the attendance of so many politicians was fantastic. It clearly demostrates that Northern Ireland is evolving, especially with the attendance of two Ulster Unionist MLAs and the leader of the Alliance Party. Basil McCrea and John McCallister should be congratulated for attending yesterday and taking the lead in redefining Unionism.

Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Tom Hartley also made history by attending the parade sending out a message that Belfast is a city for everyone, including lesbian and gay people.

It is regrettable that some chose to protest against the parade citing religious objections. The extent of the opposition should however not be over emphasised. A YouGov survey in 2006 finding that 84% of people identified as religious disagreed with statement ‘homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances’ (YouGov 2006).

A day after the parade and a number of weeks after the Iris Robinson controversies August 2008 should be used to reflect, take a breath and for government and the LGB sector to continue delivering quality services for the lesbian and gay community.

Looking forward to Pride 2009 already.


Sunday 3 August 2008