Deirdre of the Sorrows

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You put your right leg in,
right leg out
Oh dear - Deirdre Nelson really is not having a good political career.

Deirdre, a local councillor in Ballymena, quit the DUP last year after failing to secure the candidacy for the European elections. She joined the Conservatives, completely bypassing the UUP along the way, and was a nominee for candidacy at the General Elections. Having failed to actually get the candidacy she has once again upped sticks and left the Conservatives.

She was one of three, along with Peter McCann and Sheila Davidson, regarded as a potential General Election Conservative and Unionist candidates, who withdrew their names over any number of issues. After a mere nine months she has severed her Tory membership.

To really rub it in, the DUP has made it quite plain that she will not be welcomed back into the fold.

The Belfast Telegraph article on Friday reports that a DUP source said: “While a very capable and effective elected representative, Mrs Nelson has failed the loyalty test. There is no way back for her.” To really give her a kicking while she was down, the same source also said that Mrs Nelson could have been a future North Antrim MLA if Ian Paisley jnr retains the House of Commons seat his father has held for 40 years.

Mrs Nelson is believed to be considering a statement over her unhappiness with how she was treated by the Conservatives.

Maybe recycle her statement over her unhappiness with how she was treated by the DUP?

Real IRA try to hoax it up

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From bombs in Omagh
to hoaxes in Belfast
 
Yesterday I had to endure hoax bomb alerts in Belfast during rush hour.  As did Londonderry and Newry.

Anyone who has to endure rush hour in Belfast will already know how slow it can be on the Lisburn Road.  Add in police cordon's because a bundle of idiots have decided that in order to free Ireland from the Saxon foe they have to cause gridlock.

Now lets be absolutely clear on what these cunning, brutal and heartless thugs really are.  They have the capability to  maim and murder.  Over the past year or so they have had a go at the Police Board HQ, Police stations, and commercial areas, they have booby trapped people's cars, they have murdered police and army personnel, and they have even brutally executed one of their own. They are far from bumbling rogues.  They must have none  of the emotions that makes a person a human being, especially if they can sleep at night after perpetrating such evil acts.   

Now, the question is this, why do they wage a war already lost to obtain something that will not happen?  They are, by physical force, trying to 'convince the people of Northern Ireland that the Brits have to go and that there is a United Ireland'.  I have had my fair share of bullies, and I won't be bullied by thugs with a megalomania complex.  How dare they!  Use of force means the argument is already lost.

Northern Ireland has enough problems to worry about at the moment like employment, job creation, education, health, social housing, heating, fuel prices.... the list goes on.  The Northern Ireland Executive will not fall because a fruitcake with an AK-47 fires of a few rounds at a police station,or because they plant hoaxes all over the place causing people to get seriously angry, or because they murder someone, or maim someone.

The people living in Northern Ireland are not angry at the Northern Ireland Executive or the institutions because of the actions of the 'I can't believe its not the IRA' brigade.  We will only get angry at those carrying out these actions of desperation.  We will get angry at the perpetrators who have nothing else to do than stop a father or mother from getting home to see their family.  We will get angry at the depraved animals who think its great to murder someone or maim them.  

In fact their actions help to solidify the solidarity the people of Northern Ireland, whether they be Unionist or Nationalist, in resisting the aims of these idiots.

I sat pondering these things on the Lisburn Road, as police cars and landrovers tried to navigate what little of the street that was visible through the vast number of commuters stuck in their own queue for the freedom of the open road.  I eventually reached home and saw my girls as they were about to go to sleep.  It may not mean much in the whole scheme of things, but my family mean a lot to me.  They are my priority.  

And those scumbuckets denied my precious evening time with my family.  

Yes it could have been worse, a lot worse.  But in the context of the moment and of my own priorities at that time, that does not matter.

really, all that be said in the end is that their arguments, their ethos, their vision is lost.  They have no legitimacy.  They have no mandate.  They have no reason for existence. 

the final nine approacheth......

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Owen Polley on Three Thousand Versts has posted that the Conservatives and Unionists are to announce the final nine potential parliamentary candidates on Saturday 20 March 2010.  The Conservative Area Executive and the Ulster Unionist Executive just have to meet to officially approve them.

Owen seems to also have found a bit of proof of this from the resignation of Deirdre Nelson from the Conservatives. I agree that this provides further corroborating evidence of the imminent announcement.

The current 9 have their biographies on the Conservatives and Unionists facebook page

So it should be too long before the other 9 are up as well.

Battlelines will be drawn from tomorrow and electioneering for the UNCUNF project will once again be in full flow.

Prep me up.....

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Education is becoming much more important to me now, as i have two girls growing up far too quickly for my liking i might add.  The eldest will soon be ready to enter that world of pain... I mean education, as she reaches the heady heights of 4 this year.  (I think the lack of sleep for the past three years has blanked out most of her growing up period).

The first stage of her inevitable education will be Primary School.  I remember my primary school, Kinnego Primary school in Co. Armagh, and do think back on the good memories (I know there will have been bad ones too but this is my flash back).  I was able to walk to school, or cycle, or get a lift down in the winter.  My parents were supportive and wanted me to do my best. I did the 11+, and just about passed.  I did not go to a prep school - my parents could not afford it.

So why should I wish to defend the funding system for Prep Schools when the Northern Ireland Education Minister said that this part of the UK will no longer fund Preparatory schools? On a principle of excellence and opportunity to attain that excellence.

I am a tax payer and my taxes are subsidising children going to a school that many would think they cannot afford.  Is it not just for the privileged classes?  I am by no means one of the privileged class.  Our family constantly look at our budget every month to ensure we can pay all the bills.  One of those major outgoings is the mortgage, the other is nursery places for our two girls.

Now, lets say I find a Prep school I would like my girls to go to and they charge £3,000 per year. 

Oh, that's got to hurt.  Yes it will, but I spend £1,200 a month for nursery places.  Not because I want to but because I have too. Any state sub for me? Er no. Apart from childcare vouchers which is part of a salary sacrifice scheme there is nothing. Yes, we get child credit but lets be serious, with both our 'on paper' salaries' its not much. 

So compare £6000 a year for two girls with what we are already paying, £14,400 a year.  A good education and cheaper at the price. Hmmm, getting more attractive.  So how does this impact on the removal of funding from Prep schools as it would still be cheaper than nursery?  The problem is that this issue is little more than an ideologically Marxist objective from an Education Minister who sends her own children to a British grammar school, while trying to reduce the quality educational output from Northern Ireland Schools.  

That's right, she has used her choice to send her children, who live in County Louth, to a grammar school in Northern Ireland.  Absolutely fine, Comrade Ruane, even though you may have bent the rules a bit to do so.  

Financially, removal of funding for Prep schools of about £800 per child, will increase the Education budget pressure to around £2000 per child.  Hmmm, do I get a rebate for the nursery places for my kids then? Thought not.  This means that there will be less money in the overall educational pot for the things that are funded now (about £5 million less), because the children going to Prep Schools will become part of the fully funded system.  As Bob Balls points out in his post 

If Ruane gets her way and destroys preps, more pupils will go to primaries. Which involves moving lots of children from the £808 funding bracket to the £2,911 bracket. If just a quarter of the prep population switches to primaries then the taxpayer would have to fork out an additional c.£5 million. This at a time when expenditure must be cut by £370 million and the onus is on cuts.

Like Catriona Ruane, I want the best for my kids.  I want them to have equality of opportunity, not an opportunity to be equal with everyone else.  They are not equal to everyone else, they will be more intelligent than some, and less so than others.  That is life.  I will encourage them and provide them with as much support as I can.  But that is my choice.  

Yes there are underachievers in our society, and we have to address that.  But by dragging down excellence to the lowest common denominator will simply not work.  If parents do not care about the educational attainment of their children, why cripple those parents who actually do care.  The real issue is how do we work to encourage children and adults in our society to achieve?  If we are all equal, creativity will be stifled, leadership will not be nurtured, entrepreneurial endeavour will falter, there will be no 'best'.  

Just as an example, my parents encouraged and supported me and my brother to work at our education.  We both went to Kinnego Primary School, we both went to the Royal School Armagh.  I went to University, my younger brother went to Upper Bann College for Further and Higher Education.  I have a degree, my brother has an HND.  I work in an office, my brother works in an engineering firm.  My brother earns more than me, and I could not weld for toffee.  I love reading books and have enjoyed my academic journey, while my brother enjoys making things.  The issue is not who did better, but what each persons' life skills are and how to encourage them to use them the the best of their abilities.  But you can not make them.  They have to take those opportunities for themselves.

With regard to the debate on Preparatory schools, I believe they are another opportunity for people and help to add to the diversity of an education mix that parents can choose from.  Those from middle economic backgrounds are essentially going have that choice removed through the removal of funding.  It will become a truly elitist education choice available to only the richest.  Maybe Catriona wants to move towards that system? I am not sure, but I do know it will reduce opportunity in the longer term.

In fairness though, it is not all black and white.  There was a debate on the removal of Preparatory school funding in the Assembly this week where the usual grand standing and political baiting were on full display.  However, the Sinn Fein amendment to the substantive motion, was put forward quite ably by John O'Dowd, who highlighted a report produced by the DUP controlled Department of Finance and Personnel that states as a recommendation

7.3 BCS has concluded that funding provision that can only be accessed by children whose parents can pay the requisite fee is not consistent with the principle of equity in the distribution of resources. We have therefore recommended that DE consider the withdrawal of such funding. 
7.4 The withdrawal of DE funding to preparatory departments is likely to have marginal impact on the education budget. We have concluded that the equity issue far outweighs the economic issue in relation to the overall decision to be made.


Catriona also referred to this, much to the annoyance of the DUP, and particularly Jonathan Bell MLA (Strangford) who was ordered from the Chamber for accusing the Minister for misleading the house.  Unfortunately the grand standing and abstinence from both sides of the debate has left much of the populace open mouthed.  It has also left little wriggle room for people to compromise and still save face.  (I see the full irony of my post in this context, especially how I started off)

I want an education system that will give my girls the opportunities they need to do as well as they can.

So........................., I have a cunning plan.  

If the Education Minister is determined to plough ahead then why not fully fund Preparatory school places, and allow them to keep their ethos and guarantee their existence for a period of time (say 10 years).  Currently this would affect 2,426 children, and as the Business Consultancy Service says  

equity issue far outweighs the economic issue in relation to the overall decision to be made

This would save the Prep school places, widen equality of opportunity, expand parental choice, not discriminate against anyone and might reverse Catriona's unpopularity.

Job done!

Poll on pointless question

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Will this be our national flag????
The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Inform Communications to poll the people of Ulster (at least the six counties of Ulster that is still within the UK) on said six county statelet surviving until 2021, 100 years after partition of the Island.

The results seem to highlight a serious lack of unionist confidence, or the 'wrong people' were asked, or the people asked just didn't care as they were probably busy trying to hold onto the jobs they may still have had.

Apparently we have a split on whether Northern Ireland will still be part of the United Kingdom in 2021. Wow, shocker there!

42% thought we would still be in the UK, while 42% did not think we would be in the UK. 25% Prods thinking we would be in a united Ireland by 2021.  Woops! 

55% of all respondents to the poll believe Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK. Well there is your answer, mucker.

In the Belfast Agreement it was written under 'Constitutional Issues' that the two National Governments of the UK and Ireland,
recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland
The last 'Border poll' took place in 1973, the year I was born. There have been a number of calls for referendums from both Unionist and Nationalist political powerhouses. A dangerous proposal, but I think a welcome one. It will either confirm that most people in Northern Ireland wish to stay in the UK and that Nationalism, while a legitimate aspiration, is irrelevant, or show that Unionists are misguided and the majority want to join with the other 26 counties.

I have a funny feeling, no matter what the surface feelings are, the result will be for the UK end of things.

This also does not take into account whether or not the Republic of Ireland want us. In the same portion of the Belfast Agreement it also states that the two governments,
recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland
So there are a few practical questions that require answering before a Nationaliat aspiration can become a reality.
  1. Does the majority of Northern Ireland want a United Ireland?
  2. Does the majority of the Republic of Ireland want a United Ireland?
  3. Can the Republic of Ireland afford reunification?
  4. Can the people of Northern Ireland afford to live in a reunified Ireland?
  5. Will we still have a free health service?
  6. Why not reunify with Scotland instead?
  7. Do people really care?

 

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