Into the void: Marching for hearts and minds

In a follow up to yesterday’s ‘culture wars’ post in Derry, I noted with interest the (mainstream media and citizen journalist) coverage of the 40th anniversary Bloody Sunday ‘march in the city.

The committee of the Bloody Sunday Trust’s announcement last year  that (post-Saville) 2011 would represent the final march, suggested the end of the annual fixture in the city.

However a number of relatives, including Jim Keys left the committee before last year’s announcement. Ten days ago he wrote in the Derry Journal:

“What is suddenly wrong with a march commemorating Bloody Sunday? And particularly when this year’s theme is ‘March for Justice’? Is it not essential that we march given there is as yet not a hint of prosecutions, even for perjury, let alone murder, of any of the 10 soldiers the Saville Report asks us to believe were the only ones responsible for the whole thing?

“And essential too given there’s no ongoing legal or political outcry at its bamboozling conclusions that the nail bombs were not planted on Gerard Donaghy’s body and that there was no high-level conspiracy or cover up. Such conclusions fly in the face of the evidence.”

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MLA Twitter list

With more MLAs than ever embracing Twitter, I have compiled a list of the 50 Assembly members to date who have created accounts.

While the 50 accounts may represent less than half of Stormont’s 108 MLAs, it shows an increasing acknowledgement from the political establishment of Twitter as a potentially useful, even powerful means of communication. Particularly in light of the use of the NI Executive Twitter account for releasing the results of the D’Hondt process for the new Executive.

Follow the list here.

Deeny stands down

West Tyrone’s independent MLA Kieran Deeny is to stand down at the next Assembly election.

Citing “family reasons” and the demanding time schedule he faced performing the role of a practicing GP and Assembly member Dr Deeny said, “It has become increasingly difficult to work even part-time as a GP and as an MLA and do the jobs properly.”

However in announcing his decision, Dr Deeny fired a parting shot at the four main political parties for not backing the hospital campaign in Omagh. While he enjoyed support from individual MLAs, he claimed there was no desire at a leadership level from either Sinn Féin, the DUP, the SDLP or the UUP to back his Tyrone County Health Coalition:

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A5 appears to avoid chopping block

With the tidal wave of austerity in wake of the EU bailout flushing throughout the South of Ireland. Up here in Tyrone we sat patiently waiting expecting on news any day that the £400m package promised by the Irish Government would be first in line on the budget chopping block.

As one of the toughest budgets in the history of the Irish Free State becomes a reality, we waited for the news of the withdrawal of the too-good-to-be-true investment package in the A5/N2 and A8 dualling projects.

But as the 140 page National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 was published. Predictions for the demise of one of the biggest road projects in modern Irish history it seems, have been greatly exaggerated. Although not expressly mentioned in the report. Those patient enough to trawl through to page 84, under a small section labelled “Delivering Economic Infrastructure” will have read the following:

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The cost of managing our health

This briefing paper has been lying around the doldrums of the Northern Ireland Assembly website for a couple of weeks now ever since it was submitted to the Health Committee. The BBC did dip into it on November 4, but in the interest of transparency, I feel the figures should be laid in full for people to properly grasp the true extent of what managing our health system costs.

The paper reveals the cost of managing the health system here and the salaries paid to directors in each of the five Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts, but more on that later.

First off the whole point behind the Review of Public Administration (RPA) and merging of the 18 legacy health trusts into five new HSC Trusts was to cut overall management and administration costs of the health service here. The total management costs of the legacy trusts in 2006/07 was £113m. After the first year of the five ‘new’ HSC Trusts along with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) an apparent £5.6m was saved with an £107.5m management spend.

However by 2008/09 the total management spend was back in excess of the 06/07 level to £120m. In response, the Department of Health gave the Northern Ireland Audit Office this spiel:

“When the 2006-07 management costs are rebased to 2008-09 levels factoring in inflation, Agenda for Change contracted progression and a change in employer’s superannuation rate, there is a real terms savings on management costs of almost £6.7m.”

Wouldn’t be like a health service press office to bury facts amongst almost impenetrable jargon.

Anyway here are the salaries in all their glory:

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Oglaigh na Jim Corr

The Real IRA’s statement to Henry McDonald in The Guardian was taken with the pinch of salt it deserved from most political observers in the north.

Out of an apparently extensive statement, The Guardian decided to pick up on the apparent threat to bankers and ran with it for all it was worth. Queue stories appearing in the Wall Street Journal and Al Jazera from a statement which sounded like the afternoon rant of a former INLA member-come-taxi driver: Read more of this post

Onwards to the ‘Green Republic’

Ógra Shinn Féin’s summer ‘Greening the North’ campaign (or “annual display of lunacy” if you’re Tom Elliott) was announced to the world in the way all modern political activism should, with a blog post complete with photographic evidence.

For uninitiated, ‘greening’ involves painting Royal Mail postboxes a deeper shade of green, ‘An Post’ green to be precise (although some of those shades were a bit pale of you ask me!). “Dozens” of new green postboxes have joined the hundred or so already ‘greened’ around in previous campaigns around Tyrone and beyond say Ógra.

Of course for a young republican, painting post boxes green is great craic, it’s like vandalism with a purpose, with the general self-satisfactory glee that you’re working toward a united Ireland, one post box at a time.

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