31st May 2017

The sun came out to welcome Steven to Enniskillen yesterday, as did lots of local people who are working in positive and co-operative ways to protect our environment, nurture our children, support our health and build a better, cleaner and fairer future.  I don’t know whether I was prouder of the Green Party or of Fermanagh.  Certainly when the two come together, joyful things happen!

We began at the Castle Museum, talking to representatives of Ulster Wildlife and to local farmers about Brexit, sustainable agriculture, the future of Fermanagh’s food industry, the county’s incredible biodiversity and the Magnificent Meadows project.

From there we went up to the Erne Integrated College, where we saw a small but magnificent meadow in situ, complete with yellow rattle (about which I’m becoming something of an enthusiast).  Fortunately our friend Dara (who writes the brilliant Young Fermanagh Naturalist blog) was there to explain it all to us.

We also met some Year 11 students from the college and talked about votes at 16, fracking, the living wage, trade unions, integrated education, the NHS, the impasse at Stormont ….  They were great conversations, with very thoughtful and articulate young people.

Our next stop was the Aisling Centre, where we heard about the vital work which they have done over the past twenty-six years in supporting the mental health needs of thousands of people in Fermanagh.  We are extraordinarily fortunate to have such a skilled and sensitive service, and grateful to the sisters who had the vision to plant the first seeds.

Finally we ended the afternoon at the wonderful Happiness Trap café where Geoff,  the Chair of the FST Greens was waiting for us.  We restored our energies with delicious veggie food and smoothies, and enjoyed lots more conversation with local people.

It was a wonderful day, and I’m really grateful to Steven and Sinead for taking the time out of his own busy campaign to visit us, to Janie for chauffeuring us and taking the photos, to Jennifer and Eva from Ulster Wildlife, to Jimmy Jackson Ware the EIC principal, to Bridie at the Aisling Centre, Alan and Laura at the Happiness Trap and to everyone who came along to talk to us, ask questions and tell us more about some of the fantastic things happening in Fermanagh and the challenges which they face.  Thank you all.

 

4th August 2016

library Good news today.  We (members of the local Green Party group) have been involved over the past couple of months in the Hands Off Enniskillen Library campaign, trying to reverse the decision to cut its opening hours once again.  I was part of the initial group which met in June to set up the campaign, along with representatives from other parties (Labour and the Socialists – none of the ‘mainstream’ politicians were there) union reps and library users, and did my bit getting signatures for our petition (above).  I was in Glastonbury for the big rally, but our chair Geoff Bartholomew spoke for us, and for all the people, young and old, who depend upon the library’s services.

Then today the Department of Communities announced that it had, after all, found the money (£225,000) to keep the existing opening hours for all the libraries potentially affected.  I have no doubt that it was our campaign and others that led to this change of heart.  It’s a comparatively small success, but a wonderful illustration of what can be done if we work together with hope and goodwill, and a reminder that no decision is set in stone.  If our communities, and those most in need, are going to suffer as a result of government decisions, it is not only our right but our duty to speak out.  Thank you to everyone who did just that.

18th March 2016

At yesterday’s Saint Patrick’s Parade in the Enniskillen sunshine….

… and a reminder of last year

14th December 2015

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Home at last this morning to a graphic, if small-scale, illustration of the urgent need for climate change action – this picnic bench is part of the new loughside walk installed in Enniskillen this summer.  I hope the ducks are appreciating it.

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3rd December 2015

1203XEnniskillen this afternoon – this doesn’t really capture the extraordinary beauty of the sky, but I only had my phone with me and was trying to make sure I didn’t drop it in the lough.

20th November 2015

1120Enniskillen in the sleet and snow this evening, as we made our way to the interchurch Vigil of Remembering in the Diamond.  A few excerpts from the short service, led by the clergy of many denominations:

We gather to stand in solidarity against the mindless killing falsely wrought in the name of religion in Paris and over the face of our planet.

To dispel the darkness of our night, you sent forth your Son, the first-born of all creation, who wept over the sins of the city, shedding tears for our shattered world.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Show us how you want us to live and give us the courage and the goodness to reach out to others in their distress. 

Many thanks to Kenny (Dean of St Macartin’s) for organising this vigil, and to everyone who came out on this bitter night to stand, to remember, to pray and to hope.

 

3rd October

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The view, walking down our hill into town the other evening.  I don’t have a great deal of fellow-feeling for the military Coles, but the monument does a good job at setting off the sunset.

25th July

Atticus Finch, shamelessly stolen from their YouTube video.
Atticus Finch, shamelessly stolen from their YouTube video.

Sometimes it feels as though there’s never any reason to leave Enniskillen at all.  This week I’ve had a wonderful time within walking distance of home.  On Tuesday evening the Enniskillen Amateur Dramatic Society had a fantastic Theatre Supper at Saddlers restaurant, last night we enjoyed a brilliant stand-up set from Simon Munnery as part of the Happy Days Beckett Festival and today we stocked up with stuff for our new garden from the Craigville Garden Centre and F.R. Cathcart (where we also indulged in coffee and excellent cake).  And tonight I’m off to the legendary Blake’s of the Hollow, the Belfast Telegraph‘s Pub of the Year, to see the talented group of my friends (including a couple of Green Party members, I’m sure they won’t mind my mentioning) that is Fermanagh’s own  Atticus Finch.

28th April

0427aIt was sunny but cold for the puppy farming protest at the Diamond in Enniskillen this morning. It follows the BBC Scotland programme The Dog Factory, shown on 15th April, which exposed the suffering caused by irresponsible dog breeding.  One of the establishments visited by the investigation is close to us, and received its licence from Fermanagh District Council.  This morning a petition of nearly 12,000 signatures was taken into the Town Hall, after a peaceful and good-natured rally by two and four legged protestors.

All the political parties were asked to send representatives, but I was surprised to find that none of the others had bothered.  This is a desperately important issue to many people, and a real concern to many more, and it is dispiriting to discover that it is of no importance to most of our elected representatives.

I spoke after two of the organisers, and two veterinary nurses, who vividly described the medical, psychological and social problems experienced by puppies who are taken from their mothers too early, deprived of contact and affection, and unprotected from serious, often fatal infections.

This is what I said:

Thank you all for coming along today: it’s really encouraging to see so many people gathered on a Monday morning. It shows the extent to which we as a community really care about the welfare of animals, and that’s a great hope and inspiration for us all.

I’m here this morning with Robbie. Robbie was found eight years ago, wandering around outside a hospital in Belfast. Despite lots of enquiries, no one ever found out who he was or who he belonged to. We think his owner was probably an old man who was taken into the hospital and never came out again.

Since then, Robbie’s lived with us and been a part of our family. He looks after us all: me, my husband, our sons, the cat … When a robin flew into the house, when a frog hopped onto the carpet, he even looked after them. And when we watched that BBC Scotland programme, he ran across to the television to see what he could do to help.

But today is about more than just one puppy farm, however big it is and however serious the concerns. It’s about a whole society that treats animals as commodities, there to serve human greed, titillation and vanity. Whether it’s puppies being separated from their mothers at a shockingly young age, battery chickens grotesquely pumped up and crammed together, foxes torn to pieces by hounds or wild animals dragged halfway round the world to perform in circuses, we in the Green Party are here to speak for those without a voice.

The health and wisdom of our society can be judged by how it treats those least able to resist, to argue or to fight back. If we cannot be trusted to behave with decency and compassion to animals, who can’t disagree with us, how can we hope to build a shared society for ourselves?

Animal welfare is a fundamental issue for us Greens. Whether it’s companion animals, livestock or wildlife, we work on every level to keep them safe from deliberate cruelty, from barbaric commercial practices and from the pollution and lost habitats caused by industries like fracking.

This issue matters. It matters to you, it matters to me, and it matters to the Green Party. Let’s make sure, speaking out with peace and dignity, that it never gets forgotten.

And by the way, everyone stood on the bench to speak – not just the little ones like me!

 

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13th March

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Fermanagh Greens (there were eight of us altogether, not including the dog) at Enniskillen’s March and Rally Against Cuts and For Investment.

To listen to the media, you’d think that today was about nothing but disruption. Innocent commuters, schoolchildren, patients, all inconvenienced by the selfish activities of a few union die-hards. Believe them, and you’d think that those of us on marches or rallies or picket lines would be rewarded with vats of champagne. Somehow I didn’t notice them.

But fast-forward twenty years, and imagine our children’s generation looking back. “You were scared of a day of mild annoyance,” they’ll say, “so instead you put up with decades of decaying public services, brutal cuts to essential lifelines, poverty, squalor and hopelessness? Good call, Mum.”

3We weren’t there, the hundreds of public sector workers and supporters,  to get anything for ourselves. We were there for those who couldn’t be: those who are too old, too young, too sick or too poor. We were there because we’ve been let down. We’ve been let down by a coalition in Westminster that can spend hundreds of billions in bank bail-outs and nuclear weapons but says there’s no more money for our hospitals and schools. And we’ve been let down by the Executive parties in Stormont, who can’t agree on their own secret agreements, and think reducing corporation tax is a really bright idea.

We’ve got news for them. Corporation tax isn’t charged on working people’s wages, so reducing it won’t lead to more jobs or to higher pay. Corporation tax isn’t charged on research or development, so reducing it won’t lead to more investment.  Corporation tax is charged on net profits, on the money that goes into wealthy shareholders’ dividends. “To those who have, more will be given. To those who have not, the little that they have will be taken away from them.”

4But we were there today,  from the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party, standing shoulder to shoulder with our friends and neighbours.  When our children and grandchildren look back and say “What did you do on Friday the 13th?” we’ll be able to answer: “We were there. And we helped to turn that inauspicious date into the beginning of some better luck, and a new hope for Northern Ireland.”
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