Pssstt… NI Pols crib sheet on events outside Northern Ireland…

As thoughts turn to the problem of getting our politicians to think about something other than themselves tomorrow night, here are four things that are happening in places other than Stormont, Conway Mill, and Antrim Borough Council… Please feel free to add your own suggestions…The big one at the moment is the discovery of radio active material on board two British Airways flights. Forty staff at Barnet General Hospital and University College Hospital, where former KGB man Alexander Litvinenko was treated for poisoning are to undergo tests. There may an Irish link too, in that former acting Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar’s collapsed in Kildare at the weekend presenting his book Death of the Empire to a conference on Irish-Russian relations. It is thought to be linked to Litvinenko’s death, possibly through a former bodyguard of Gaidar’s who met with Litvinenko before his poisoning on or about 1st November.

Religion was big this week. The Pope has started his tour of Turkey in something akin to a penitent mood after his remarks stirred a maelstrom of controversy in September. And after the Veil controversy, Nadia Eweida won her battle with British Airways for the right to wear the Christian symbol of the cross, (possibly) following Tony Blair’s advice that you should never pick a fight you can’t win (hey ho Tony). Echoes of Fiachra Gibbons. And there is the question of the role of religious courts and their relationship with state law.

Good News, Bad News for the Murdoch empire. He put the cat amongst the pigeons, when he bought 17.9% of ITV, the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster, for £940m, the Economist reckons so that Sky can prepare us for pay-television, as in America, rather than settling for the free kind. More immediately, one his journalists, Clive Goodman, on the News of the World was convicted for plotting to intercept private phone messages of Prince William and Prince Harry, amongst others. It follows on from an embarrassing climb down over two of his News International subsidiaries’ (Regan Books and Fox News) plans to roll out OJ Simpson’s hypothetical confession of double murder, If I Did It. In the end an interview with Simpson for Fox News conducted by publisher Judith Regan was pulled, and the book mostly pulped.

To get really obscure, there is the question of who gives more. According to a new book published in America religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals. It accords with our exceeding quick and dirty poll of Big Issue sellers in Bournemouth who look forward to the Compassionate Tories coming each year, as opposed to the stingy radicals of Labour and the Lib Dems.

  • ma

    hmmm sharia law for muslim areas of britain, isn’t this akin to what Sinn Fein did around the time of the rising? In 1969 with the set up of centres throughout the north, and what punishment would these courts met out? Punishment beatings? The subjagation of women? Would they be subject to the police as they want CRJ to be, or would anything go? Multi culturalism doesn’t necessarily mean setting up their own laws, it means adapting to the host country, and being subjected to those laws. It’s a minefield.

    As for the lady wearing the cross, glad to see sense taking over. Britain is a christian country, and we have bent over backwards to accomodate other cultures and religions, its time we had room for our own culture and religion in our own country.

    Under Putin, the KGB has become the state rather than an arm of the state as it used to be under the old communist regime. The policy of sending out agents to kill on behalf of the kremlin has been revived, and hopefull all the countries now affected, (due to the BA flights) will take note and curb these policies or place sanctions on Russia.

  • and I wanted to know what was happening at Conway Mill 🙁

  • Mick Fealty

    Keep up CS… Okay, just for you…

  • heck


    let we get this right –you think britain should put sanctions on Russia because its secret services kill people?

    and you can type that crap with out falling off your chair laughing?

  • Mick Fealty

    Gently heck. Make your point, without slicing into the (wo)man remember!

  • Rory

    I found it a bit ironic too over the weekend that it was John Reid, a former Northern Ireland Minister and Peter Hain, the present one, who made all the running in attempting to hold Putin to some kind of account over the death of Litvenenko.

    What possible experience while in office could these individuals have gained on the use of state forces in the murders of troublesome citizens that could be brought to bear in this case I wondered.

    On the topic of a parallel system of Sharia law running alongside the existing state laws it should be remembered that the state religion, Anglicanism, already has its own form of ecclesistical courts, the Consistory Courts, which are still in use and often provide much amusement for the nation on page 3 of the Daily Telegraph when we learn of their deliberations on the sexual and musical shenanigans (yes, strange I know, but then they are Anglicans) of miscreant Anglican clergy. Fortunately ( or perhaps unfortunately) a penalty of burning at the stake is not available to these courts any more than I suppose flogging, amputation or decapitation would be available to a Sharia court in the UK, whatever the wild fantasies of the intolerant ignorant hordes among us.

  • ma

    Heck, your point is taken, would you criticise Sinn Fein for being involved in murder. Just to be consistent?

  • Mick Fealty

    Heck, there is some reason to be sceptical about claims that this directly linked to the Russian secret service: the trail is gross, dangerous and (potentially at least) easily incriminating.

    But isn’t the public health issue in Britain (and potentially) in Ireland not an issue of some considerable concern?

  • Aaron McDaid

    The Pope is indeed in a conciliatory mood, and so he should be. As a Christian, he should be ready to graciously accept the apologies of all the ignorant people who misquoted and misunderstood him.

  • heck


    It is the double standards which get to me (and which you call whataboutery). Hain and Reid lecturing the russians about state sanctioned murder. (It is not proven that russia was involved but there is no doubt that Britain was involved in the murder of Pat Finucane.) Straw and Honest tony lecturing the syrians about not investigating murders in lebanon–give me a break.

    honest tony has killed 650000 people over some neo con fantasy about weapons of mass destruction and now his gang want to update Trident. I know more whataboutery!

    Honest Tony’s boy wonder here in Norn Iron lectures about the rule of law while he has his civil servants lie to courts –more whataboutery!!

    These people have no shame

    any just wait –some unionist will post saying “what about SF” and that is not whataboutery?

    Can we start with the fact that there is no moral difference between Blair/Putin/Syria (and yes SF) and tell hain and blair to stop their self righteous lecturing of the paddies.

  • Mick Fealty

    So there’s no significant public health aspect to this story?

  • ma

    Thank you heck. Double standards get to me to, and everything you mention SF has been involved in, in one way or another. Sure the British were involved in killing Mr Finnucane, but they (SF) were quite ready to sell out the families when they made a side deal in scotland in order to allow back the OTR’s. that was one biggie double standard for me. The other was hillsborough castle, and there are a few other, but these two will suffice.

    As regards the murdered russian dissident, I agree with Mick Fealty, the trail to the russians door is much too convenient. It looks like a set up, perhaps to implicate the last person who met the dissident, rather than the dissident himself. The health hazard it imposed on the unsuspecting public is a case worthy of sanctions even when the point of state murder is taken into consideration. this goes beyond that. Its akin to putting poison in the water system no different, and should be treated as international terrorism. an unprovoked attack upon the public, and not just the british public either.

  • marty

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    Can nobody in this country look outside of it? It took around 4 replies / responses to get from polonioum-210 to Pat Finucane. FFS!

    And the same farce will be played out tonight on BBC1 with the rest of the UK either switching off or guffawing at the lack of anyone with a credible opinion about anything other than NI. Let’s Talk is dire enough, but at least that isn’t broadcast nation-wide

  • slug

    To be fair I think Trimble, Hain and Durkan are quite broadly educated and have been to university and having heard them talking they have the ability to speak about other topics than NI.

  • marty

    Going to University does not make someone into a politician with a global outlook.

    And the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and the last few attempts at QT from NI have been a farce.

  • heck

    correct me if I’m wrong.

    Trimble supported the attack on Iraq on an episode of Question Time before the the war started. I believe Mitchell mclauglin was on the same program and even he had some wishy washy answer to the question about the war.

    Yes -these guys do have an opinion on issues outside NI and they are just as wrong.

  • ma

    and your opinion heck?

  • Marty seems to hit a nail squarely on the head.

    Surely if we ‘ordinary folk’ (presumably with and without university education) can’t talk about these issues, there is little point in throwing opprobrium on our public reps if they fail even as they try?

  • marty

    thanks – put eloquently than I could (even with a uni education :O)

  • ma

    I think thats too big a generalisation to jump to. People (NI) do talk about other things other than our problems here. They have been active at raising money for disasters, the most generous in the UK, and if you listen to talkback, radio ulster and yes our tv talk shows I think we are as opinionated and educated on current affairs as anybody anywhere else.

    Because this thread hasn’t taken off as expected doesn’t mean no body talks about other issues. there have been other threads on other topics that really took off. IMO the problem with this thread was it was too diverse. there was no one question to answer in any single post. I think sluggerites could talk about this most definitely, an opinionated lot, but they just haven’t been arsed.

    you win some, you loose some.

  • Pete Baker

    On the public health issue, Mick.. since polonium 210 emits alpha (particle) radiation there’s very little risk unless actually ingested.

    What is the risk to other people from the dose Mr Litvinenko received?

    It cannot pass through the skin, and must be ingested or inhaled into the body to cause damage.

    And because the radiation has a very short range, it only harms nearby tissue.

    However, there is a theoretical risk that anyone who came into contact with the urine, faeces, and possibly even sweat, of Mr Litvinenko could ingest a small amount of the polonium.

    William Gelletly, professor of physics at the University of Surrey, said: “Polonium-210 is very unlikely to have contaminated any staff who treated Mr Litvinenko or anyone who came in contact with him since they would have had to ingest or breathe in the contaminated fluids from his body.”

  • heck


    As you probably guess I think the war in Iraq is a war crime on the level of what happened in the Balkans.

    I think if Russia is murdering their enemies then they should be held to account but I don’t think Honest Tony’s government has a right to comment.

    I think women in the west have the right to wear a veil if THEY want to and I think straw should shut TFU.

    I think that neither journalists nor the government has the right to listen in on my phone calls without a difficult to obtain warrant from a judge.

    I believe in a free press–including the right to publish anti Islam cartoons –but given the government’s history of banning elected representatives from TV in Norn Iron honest Tony should Shut TFU about undemocratic Muslims.

    And I think that anyone who supports the war in Iraq and condemns violence is an idiot!!

  • ma


    heck has my vote come march.

  • marty

    I think we are as opinionated and educated on current affairs as anybody anywhere else.

    I’d like to think that to, but given the evidence it seems that it rarely happens. By “TV talk shows” I assume you mean the likes of Let’s Talk, which, I’m afraid, tends to prove my point.

    In the same way that going to university does not necessarily make you educated, giving a few bob to Children In Need because Jackie Fullerton has just dressed up as Widow Twanky does not prove that you’re opinionated and educated on current affairs.

  • ma

    well marty wheres the evidence that the citizens of wales or scotland do any better? What you are saying then is your own people are thick paddies why even have a discussion about other matters becuase they are too stupid to have an opinion, and for gawd sake take your tv’s shows elsewhere cos my own people are too stupid to appear on them and when they are there you get embarrassed. Would that be a fair take on your opinion?
    Giving a few bob to children in need makes you generous not educated, but then IMO it takes a little insight and empathy to do that I for one would not knock it. If you are inferring that your opinion is educated because you think the ‘ordinary folk here’ cannot talk about anything other than NI, and that they are insular, that doesn’t make you educated only arrogant. Wouldn’t you agree.

  • marty

    wheres the evidence that the citizens of wales or scotland do any better?
    Well, i don’t know if there’s been a study commissioned but if you want to compare like with like simply watch Question Time the next time it’s in either of those countries. They do tend to be less focused on the one issue.

    Giving a few bob to children in need makes you generous not educated
    You were the one linking charity donations to the view NI people have of the outside world.

    If you are inferring that your opinion is educated
    I’m not inferring that. I’m no smarter than anyone here.

    because you think the ‘ordinary folk here’ cannot talk about anything other than NI
    The purpose of this thread was to show that the NI politicians on QT tonight had to think about something other than themselves i.e. local politics. Within a small number of posts on this thread we had made a leap from radioactive materials to Pat Finucane.

  • DK

    “Within a small number of posts on this thread we had made a leap from radioactive materials to Pat Finucane”

    I think that Heck’s point is that everyone is terribly bad and so therefore no-one has the moral right to tell anyone else what to do. A sort of Alistair Crowley “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.

    Just off to stone the neighbours for eating pork.

  • marty

    Just off to stone the neighbours for eating pork.


  • Mick Fealty

    At risk of firming this thread in its apparent conviction that we cannot talk about anything other than ourselves, some thoughts:

    – the audience in Britain are much more attuned for issues of foreign policy, media politics, religion and society, society and ethics, than we are in Northern Ireland.

    – the audience in the Republic are probably slightly less attuned to the detail of foreign policy that those in Britain, but they seem to me to be a lot more interested in the policy implications of any given set of actions/events.

    – it seems like we care less about these things, but perhaps that’s because we don’t even have indirect power over them. For instance it doesn’t really matter to our schools who runs our councils, since the primary funding and policy decisions are made elsewhere (ie Westminster).

    In England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic the issue of who controls these bodies and grabbing some understanding of what they plan to do them since their local representatives actually have the power to effect real world change.

    But, even if there is any truth in the above, will devolution actually make any difference?

  • marty

    But, even if there is any truth in the above, will devolution actually make any difference?

    Not until the tribalism is ditched I’m afraid. I’d love to be wrong but for the foreseeable future I can still see people getting more steamed up about a contentious parade than about the need for e.g. better health public transport etc.

    A significant number of local politicians don’t actually know what real politics is for they have never played any part in it and some never will.

  • heck

    Mick, one bread and butter issue that our politicans have addressed is the academic selection of childern at 11. I happen to think this is a cruel policy and that to tell an eleven year old that he or she is a failure is inhuman. I don’t buy the academic arguments either. One of the good things that the short lived executive did was when Martin Mcguiness abolished the 11+.

    I am surprised that this issue has broke along sectarian lines. I would think it would be a class issue with SF and the DUP on one side and the more middle class SDLP/UU/Alliance on the other.

  • Aaron McDaid (was Occasional Commentator)

    heck: I am surprised that this issue has broke along sectarian lines.

    Whoa. Be careful. Never mind what the parties decided on the issue, normal people from all sorts of backgrounds have a variety of opinions on selection, and they’re often decent people too.

  • Mick Fealty

    As Newt argued some time back, Catholic parents may (involuntarily?) break from the current position held by both main nationalist parties.

  • Mick Fealty


    I see the crib sheet worked with the first question. Our SoS picked up on your wee public health tip too!

  • Pete Baker

    Yeah.. how will I ever live that down..

    *shakes head*

  • heck


    will any loyalist parents from the shankill road break from the DUP?

  • Reader

    heck: will any loyalist parents from the shankill road break from the DUP?
    By demanding bog standard comprehensives? But if they care about the education of their children, first they will want to know why the local primary schools, or maybe the local community, are doing so terribly badly at preparing the children for second level education. And that is something that they should regard as a matter of extreme urgency.

  • Mick Fealty


    Indeed. Whatever the merits or de-merits of wholesale reform, the devil is most often in the (policy) detail!