Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Stadium for Belfast

This blog obviously supports one particular european candidate, but it tries to report impartially on all candidates. On the issue of national football stadia, however, I will make no such attempt at impartiality. This blog believes that the Northern Ireland football team should stay in the capital city. As such I welcome todays announcement that a consortium is considering building a 20,000 seater stadium in East Belfast.

The Maze project is now dead and buried, but Windsor Park is in a sorry state. The Northern Ireland football team doesn't need a stadium on the scale proposed for the Maze, but it does need a modern stadium in the 20-25,000 capacity range. This can either be achieved by redevelopment at Windsor or by building a new stadium. I have mixed feelings on which is better, I have fond feelings for Windsor Park and we have a lot of history in the stadium, but the appeal of a new build stadium can't be denied.

The decision may, however, be determined more by solicitors than anything else. Linfield have their IFA contract, a 99 year deal (signed in 1984) which entitles them to 15% of gate receipts at international games. Linfield are of course going to insist on being bought out of this contract if the Northern Ireland team moves. When the Maze project was being discussed it was suggested that the government might pay for this, but in the current financial climate I think the government will be reluctant to produce the cash. The result is that renovating Windsor Park could become the only viable option. At least, though, todays announcement creats an alternative for consideration.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday Night, Again.

It's Friday night again already. More regular blogging to resume forthwith. I will report on Jim Allister's visit to Castlederg last week. In the meantime please enjoy Philip Glass's excellent violin concerto recorded by the Ulster Orchestra and set to the back-drop of some breathtaking time lapse photography in Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Sickening Feeling in My Stomach

I haven't blogged in some time; I had a small family calamity at the week-end which now seems, thankfully, to have resolved itself.

It's difficult to know what to write, given what has happened in the last few days. I found out about the shooting of two soldiers at Massereene barracks on Sunday morning, it gave me a sickening feeling in my stomach. The attack was ruthless and calculated as you will all know from the news reports.

Over the next day or so I dreaded news reports until, the next grim installment came with the news that a police officer in Craigavon had been murdered. This news was, if anything, more sickening than the first killings as it suggested that the Massereene attack was not an isolated incident, but the beginning of a campaign.

At 25, I am old enough to remember the troubles buried in my older memories, I can't fully explain the feelings I experienced when I heard about these attacks. We hear of attrocities all over the world on an almost daily basis on the news and they wash over us. This one didn't, it hit with a blow like a tidal wave, instinctively it seemed people old and young knew that this was something terrible and there has been a tremendous movement in recent days from people wanting to show their resistence to sliding back. The breadth of the public show of horror and disgust is heartening, no terror organisation can sustain a campaign in a vacuum of public support. Terrorists rely on people pretending not to see what they have seen and not to hear what they have heard. So long as people are prepared to break the silence then this campaign will be short-lived, I pray and hope that this will be the case.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Friday Night

I went along to hear Jim Allister speak at a public meeting organised by the TUV in Castlederg this evening. I'll have my notes written up by tomorrow, in the mean time it's Friday evening so chill-out with the following pianist I recently discovered via the wonders of Youtube. He's called George Winston and this is "Rain" from "Seasons in Concert" (Note this feature may be shamelessly plagerised from another better known Northern Ireland blog.)

Monday, 2 March 2009

New Blog and UUP - Tory Divisions

A new blog has been set up called Unionists not Conservatives at

The blogger introduces himself as follows:

"I am a UUP supporter but not a Tory. I am rather left leaning in my politics.
But that is not why I am doing this. Over the last few days, since the formal announcement of agreement the Conservatives have acted in a reprehensible manner, trying their best to obiliterate the UUP from existance and treat us as if we are some sort of scum."

Over the weekend it looked like there were a few teething problems between the Tories and the UUP, but rather than going away these seem to be escalating. Ulster Unionists are accusing the Tories of trying to control the relationship and for their part the Tories are accusing the Ulster Unionists of not getting with the program.

As a member of the DUP I have mixed feelings about this, there is a natural Schadenfreude at the self-destruct instinct that has plagued the UUP for over a decade. DUP voters do, however, have a transfer when they vote in June. The natural home for that transfer is with Mr Nicholson. Indeed, in European elections this transfer is vital for ensuring the election of 2 Unionists. The first 2 seats in the Northern Ireland constituency will go to the DUP and Sinn Fein, hopefully in that order. The third seat ought to go to Jim Nicholson, but with a 3-way Unionist split the risk of the SDLP's Alban Maginnis slipping in can't be ruled out. A lot will depend on the campaign within nationalism; if the Sinn Fein vote holds up then the SDLP will be left too far behind to catch Nicholson. On the other hand Sinn Fein's political impotence in recent months may help the SDLP. Sinn Fein have failed to deliver for their constituency on Policing & Justice and the Irish Language, not to mention Caitrina Ruane's performance as Education Minister. If this happens the race for the third seat could tighten up considerably.

DUP voters are, however going to be alienated by some of the language emminating from the "New Front." The following quote was posted on Slugger O'Toole by a NI Conservative, Seymour Major:

"The OO and the UUP severed official ties in 2005 but with OO politicians still there, this is a problem,I want to make it clear that I dont think of OO members as being sectarian-minded against Catholics just because they are members of that organisation. This may be hard for some Catholics to understand but I speak as a Catholic who has made friendships with Orangemen. I also want to make it clear that there are many Orangemen who genuinely dont have a sectarian bone in their body.

I acknowledge, however, that the presence of so many OO politicians is an obstacle to us making inroads as a cross-community party. My preference would be that they were not allowed to stand as candidates. Those members of the OO who have the party’s interest at heart would understand and appreciate this. "

These types of anti-orange comments have been emanating from the Northern Ireland Conservatives for some time, remember the "history ossessed parish pump society" comments. Traditional Ulster Unionists may not "get the program," but clearly the Tories haven't a clue about the Unionist electorate. Added to this there are the objections they have raised to Ulster-British names and iconography in recent days. Sinn Fein have spent years trying to remove emblems and names that are associated with Ulster's Britishness, are the Conservatives and Unionists now going to join them? Altogether it makes them a pretty unpalatable second preference.

I am an Orangeman and a Unionist, I want 2 Unionists to be returned to Europe, it is important and it crosses party boundaries. Moreover, coming from a farming background I appreciate the work Jim Nicholson does at Brussels, but he has to distance himself from these people. If UUP is to expect to get transfers automatically from other Unionist parties they have to make clear that they do not support these attacks on our culture and our identity.

Anyway I've added the Unionists not Conservatives blog to the blog list so you'll be updated on posts here at Euroblog'09