Paisley apology to MPs, DUP and constituents – but none for Sri Lankans

It is difficult, therefore, to avoid the conclusion that the reason why the third visit was registered and the two earlier ones were not, was that Mr Paisley was conscious of the potential embarrassment that would be caused to him were it to become publicly known that he had accepted very expensive hospitality, for himself and his family, from a foreign government accused of serious human rights violations. This key passage from the House of Commons Standards Committee report into … Read more

Big Politics Pub Quiz tonight! #ImagineBelfast

Tonight’s the night for the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz at The Black Box in Belfast, part of this year’s fabulous Imagine Festival. We are delighted to have guest quizmasters in the shape of Steven Agnew MLA, Alex Attwood MLA, Trevor Lunn MLA and John McCallister MLA. Prizes are courtesy of Stratagem. We have already published the list of the bumper box of politics-themed books up for grabs tonight, so here are the DVD films and box-sets which will also … Read more

The eyes of March. Politics Quiz picture round #ImagineBelfast

As the Assembly winds down in advance of the May 5th election – and by way of reminding you about the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz on Friday night in The Black Box (tickets available to pre-book now!) – here’s a little picture round from our last outing. Moochin Photoman John Baucher is devising an all-new picture challenge for Friday night. And remember, these are just a few of the lovely books up for grabs. How well do you know our MLAs? Answers … Read more

Syria: 360° of destruction #ImagineBelfast

After five years of war and against all the odds, civil society still survives inside Syria. Unsurprisingly, a key priority for activists is to document the impact of the war on civilians and to appeal for help from the international community. Since early 2011, Amnesty has been working closely with Syrian media activists to help them do just this. Following training and new equipment, they’ve helped us collect 360° photography to document the devastation caused by barrel bombing on cities across … Read more

Books, books, books for Big Politics Pub Quiz

Thanks to our friends at public affairs company Stratagem, we have a bumper crop of prizes to give away to the winners and nearly-winners of this year’s Great Big Politics Pub Quiz. First up, the books. If you are a history fan, we have a bit of focus on this year’s big centenary events, with a look back to the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme. Philip Orr takes on The Road to the Somme, as he lets … Read more

Between a rock and a hard place: Syria’s women refugees #IWD16

The BBC’s Lyce Doucet is reporting a ‘rare moment of quiet’ in Syria amid the cessation of violence after five years of bloody civil war. Only the most churlish would refuse to celebrate the momentary calm after the storm. Only the most hopeful would expect it to lead directly to permanent peace. Meanwhile, the civilian population will continue to bear the brunt. Here, in advance of International Women’s Day, my colleague, Liz McKean, Amnesty International UK’s Programme Director for Women’s … Read more

Imagine… the Great Big Politics Quiz is back

What a time for politics fans to be alive! RoI general election tomorrow, NI Assembly election in May, topped off by perhaps the most important poll of the year, the EU referendum on June 23rd. If all that wasn’t exciting enough, the Great Big Politics Quiz returns next month as part of the fantastic Imagine Festival of Ideas & Politics! The Festival runs from March 14-20, with the Great Big Politics Quiz taking place on Friday 18 March in its … Read more

Raif Badawi: Saudi blogger’s flogging ‘to resume’

Saudi Arabia is to resume the flogging of Raif Badawi, the blogger whose first 50 lashes caused an international outcry, his wife has been told. Ensaf Haidar, who is now living in exile in Canada with the couple’s children, said the same “informed source” who tipped her off to the flogging of her husband in January had now told her the punishment was about to resume. Mrs Haidar, in a statement on the Raif Badawi Foundation website, said: I was informed … Read more

Marriage equality: Yes vote will build unstoppable momentum in Northern Ireland

The Republic will make history tomorrow. That’s if the polls are correct and a majority opt for Yes in the marriage equality referendum. If that happens, Ireland will become the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. An IPSOS/Irish Times survey, taken last week, shows that, excluding undecided voters, 70% of people intend to vote Yes, while 30% for No. However, Yes campaigners are warning against complacency, advising the outcome is likely to come down … Read more

Ashers verdict: ‘To do otherwise would be to allow a religious belief to dictate what the law is’

The County Court in Belfast has ruled that Ashers Baking Company and its directors discriminated against a gay customer, Gareth Lee, by refusing to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. The judgment was a resounding vindication of the Equality Commission (response here), which backed Mr Lee’s case. It became the latest in a long list of unsuccessful legal actions against LGBT rights taken or supported by lobby group, the Christian Institute (response here). The case centred on the refusal … Read more

One year on, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi remains behind bars

Today marks a year since Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail. Raif Badawi received the sentence, along with a fine of 1 million riyals, from Jeddah’s criminal court on 7 May 2014 for setting up an online forum for public debate. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and a global campaign has been initiated to call for his release, gathering the support of over a million people worldwide. On 9 January … Read more

The Great Big Politics Quiz – celebrating and lampooning politics in a way not possible everywhere #ImagineBelfast15

A big thank you to new faces and old-timers who came along to take part in the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz in the Black Box, part of the Imagine! 2015 Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics, and in support of Amnesty’s campaign for Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes (sign the global petition). As well as refreshing political trivia and recognition skills, we raised £1009.30 – thank you all. A big thanks to … Read more

Great Big Politics Pub Quiz tonight!

As everyone knows, Thursday night is politics night. But instead of sitting in for a marathon session of The View, The Issue and Question Time, why not test your political knowledge by getting down to The Black Box tonight for the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz? Sure, you’re probably on strike tomorrow anyway… Or else you’ll have to stay at home because there’s no public transport for you. Or buses or teachers for your kids’ school. Even if you’re at work tomorrow, … Read more

Big Politics Pub Quiz – anagram round!

Ten days to go until the return of the Great Big Politics Quiz – a night to find the champions of all-things-balloty, this year as part of the all-new Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics. So, if you’re a politician, press officer, policy wonk, journalist, lobbyist, psephologist, academic, student, blogger, tweeter, House of Cards binge-viewer or just a West Wing wannabe… it’s almost time to prove yourself. Just so there can be no lingering arguments over hanging chads, no … Read more

50 days since 50 lashes – blogging is still not a crime

Whatever we may disagree about here on the pages of Slugger, we can all agree that blogging is not a crime. Yet, Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi is still in jail and still due to be lashed another 950 times. On the upside, it’s now been 50 days since he was flogged very publicly 50 times by Saudi officials. In the week leading up to his flogging on 9 January, Raif’s name appeared more and more frequently in news headlines and statements … Read more

News: blogger not flogged

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was not flogged yesterday. This is good news, of course. And it’s the fifth Friday running that the flogging has not been carried out, which is even better. The first fifty lashes were administered in a public square in Jeddah after Friday prayers on January 9th. Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years imprisonment. The sentence stems from his creation of the website Saudi Arabian Liberals, a blog not unlike Slugger. He was subsequently charged for … Read more

Calling all politics fans – the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz is back!

It has been a while, but the ever-popular Great Big Politics Pub Quiz is back! As part of the soon-to-be-launched Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics, the quiz returns to The Black Box in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter on Thursday 12 March. With politics trivia questions – fact and fiction – and guest quiz-masters elevated from the benches of Stormont and Westminster, this fun fundraiser is one not to be missed. A treasure trove of books, DVDs and political ephemera awaits the … Read more

Paper trail: from Northern Ireland’s hooded men to CIA’s global torture

In August 1971 the UK authorities arrested and interned hundreds of men in Northern Ireland. Fourteen of them were selected for “special treatment” – torture in a specially-built interrogation centre at a British Army camp. The men were subjected to the soon-to-be infamous “five techniques” of hooding, stress positions, white noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and water – combined with brutal beatings & death threats. Allegations soon emerged of abuse. Amnesty International sent its first ever research mission … Read more

Mental health on death row

This winter will mark 53 years since the last use of capital punishment in Northern Ireland. On 20 December 1961 Robert McGladdery became the last man to be hanged in Belfast’s Crumlin Road Gaol, for the murder of Pearl Gamble. The death penalty for murder was finally abolished in Northern Ireland on 25 July 1973. However, depending on where you live, you can be beheaded for charges of sorcery, stoned for adultery, or hanged for drug smuggling. This is 2014, and … Read more

Hong Kong: the spirit of freedom

As far as the eye can see, young pro-democracy protestors have taken to the streets of central Hong Kong to demand the right to elect freely the next chief executive of the territory. The students’ speeches, songs and placards celebrate the freedoms they want to enjoy. Beijing has announced restrictions for the 2017 election – which effectively rule out any prospect of a democrat standing. The youth of Hong Kong are not happy with how their non-democratic future is shaping up. … Read more