9th June 2017

I said earlier this morning that I was lost for words.  I’m not quite, though I can’t guarantee their civility.

Apart from North Down, held by the principled independent Sylvia Hermon, Northern Ireland’s parliamentary constituencies are now divided, in the crudest way possible, between those in the north east, held exclusively by a DUP whose shabby deal to prop up a minority Tory government will impact brutally upon us all, and those along the borders, together with West Belfast, ‘represented’ by Sinn Fein, whose much vaunted concern for ‘the most vulnerable in our society’ will not extend to taking their seats in support of a progressive coalition.

The hearts and dreams of thousands of young (and less young) people across the UK, who voted, often for the very first time, for hope and change have been broken by Northern Ireland’s myopic constitutional obsessions.  No one will suffer for it more than our own children here.

And no constituency illustrates the impasse more starkly than my own.

As I wrote on Wednesday evening,

“Every vote is precious, because every one is a real endorsement of what we stand for, and the hope we will never abandon.

But I’d give up every single one of those votes for a progressive government in Westminster from Friday morning. We stand at a crossroads, and what happens in the UK tomorrow will send ripples across the world. Be brave, wherever you are, and vote for what you know is right.”

For a few brief hours last night, we thought that progressive government was on its way.  But instead we have something potentially much worse than we had before. I would once again beg the newly elected Sinn Fein MPs to put present human need before historic ideology.  And I’d suggest to those socially liberal, tolerant, scientifically aware and basically decent Tory MPs celebrating this morning (and there must be at least a handful) that they look very closely at their new bedfellows before snuggling under the duvet.

1st February 2016

0417I was shocked last night to read the news that, at its rerun selection convention, Sinn Fein had chosen the three male candidates on the slate and rejected both the women, sitting MLA Bronwyn McGahan and former minister Michelle Gildernew.  Michelle was of course the MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone for many years, before being narrowly ousted by Tom Elliott under last year’s unionist pact.  She is popular among the electorate, having topped the poll in the 2011 Assembly election, has always been friendly and courteous when we have met, and was even mentioned positively, as a young activist, in Tony Benn’s diaries.  It is difficult to imagine that a male politician of her stature and experience would have been treated in this way.

It may be, of course, that this decision will be overturned by the higher echelons of the Sinn Fein hierarchy.  But the damage will have been done.  Whatever the party may say about building a society of equals, where the rights of women, LGBT people and minorities are cherished, attitudes at grassroots level seem to be somewhat different.  Perhaps the Trojan Horse hasn’t quite been banished from the stables…

10th September

tax justice flyer

This is what I’m doing tomorrow – speaking at the Tax haven Ulster: Faith, justice and corporation tax in Northern Ireland event in Belfast, organised by Christians on the Left.  The main speaker is Richard Murphy, Quaker, Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London, author of the brilliant Tax Research UK blog and economic adviser to Jeremy Corbyn.  I will be talking about corporation tax and about why both I personally and the Green Party, are opposed to its reduction in Northern Ireland.  Richard has mentioned the event, and his own views, in his own blog post today.

The other speakers at the event, which begins at 7pm in the HUB, Elmwood Avenue, are Dave Thomas of Christian Aid, with whom I have worked on many campaigns and events over the years, Claire Hanna of the SDLP and the Jesuit theologian Brendan MacPartlin.

I’m also planning to go to another event featuring Richard Murphy tomorrow.  This is a workshop at Queen’s University, arranged by Professor (and Green Party Councillor) John Barry entitled Lowering Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland: A Smart Move or Dangerous Risk? I’m very much looking forward to both, to contributing and to learning more about this vital and much misrepresented topic. 

Meanwhile we are awaiting the next stage in the news from Stormont.  As the BBC reports, the DUP’s announcement yesterday seems to leave three options.

a. The business committee of Stormont, meeting this afternoon, would vote to adjourn the Assembly.  This would mean that the Executive Ministers (other than the UUP, which has already withdrawn) would remain in place and in power but the Assembly would not sit.

b. The government would suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, returning us to direct rule from Westminster.

c. If neither of the above events occur, Peter Robinson has said that he and the other DUP ministers would resign.  His resignation would trigger an early election, probably in November (the next Stormont elections are otherwise scheduled for next May).

As Steven Agnew has said, the people of Northern Ireland deserve better than to be thrust into this situation.  The prospect of the Executive governing for more than a short period with no legislative assembly is, I would suggest personally, contrary to the basic principles of constitutional law and of the separation of powers.  The people’s right to representation, as exercised by their choice of MLAs in democratic elections, is not a plaything of the First Minister, to be cast aside at his whim.  Similarly, the devolution of regional government is a real and vital part of our current constitutional settlement, not an ephemeral experiment or a new toy to be taken back by Westminster when the children begin to squabble. Try to imagine either of these scenarios occurring in Scotland – the Scottish government ruling without its Parliament, or Scottish devolution being suspended altogether …  not easy, is it?

And here, of course, there are also darker reasons to keep the Stormont settlement going.  As the Rev. Harold Good, former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, and a respected figure in the peace process, has said:

Many of us are fearful that all we have put into this and all that other people have worked for could get lost just too speedily, too swiftly. How difficult it would be to get it back. Let’s remember that and let’s think also about the vacuum that would be left, we could be back to square one. There are people out there waiting in the shadows, across our community, who would take advantage and exploit this opportunity for another agenda.”

None of this, of course, is to diminish the huge responsiblity which now falls upon Sinn Fein to answer very serious and deep-rooted questions about its nature and relationships.  These questions are made even more vital and more urgent by recent events. But Northern Ireland has faced worse times, worse dilemmas before, and has overcome them.  I hope and pray that those making decisions in the next few hours and days will find it in their hearts to do so with a little patience, a little humility and a little courage.  The people of Northern Ireland, who will bear the burden of failure, deserve at least this.

p.s. Since I drafted this, Steven Agnew has issued a further statement.  He says

“Whilst no evidence has been provided that should necessitate the Assembly to collapse, it appears we are faced with two options – either suspend or collapse the Assembly.  Neither of these options is ideal however the least worst option would be for the Business Committee to agree to a temporary suspension. However this must be on the condition that there is a deadline set for the Assembly to resume. This would allow time for calm and a period of negotiations. The alternative is a political vacuum which will undoubtedly increase tensions. We need to learn the lessons of the failures of past talks. Once the best compromised has been reached, no one party should have veto over the future of the political institutions in Northern Ireland. Any proposals should be put to the people of Northern Ireland. It is their future that hangs in the balance and they should have the final say.”

I entirely agree.

 

7th September

With two shocking news stories today, and another depressingly predictable, it’s difficult to know where to start.

David Cameron and the refugees.

He’s had a long weekend to decide what to do.  He’s seen refugee solidarity groups pop up like compassionate mushrooms right across the country.  He’s seen the people and representatives of Germany leading the way, welcoming refugees and being applauded across the world for it.  He knows that the one thing most human beings in the United Kingdom want him to do is to welcome our sisters and brothers fleeing the terrible conditions in Syria.  So what does he promise?  “Up to” (familiar advertising weasel words) “twenty thousand refugees over the rest of this Parliament”.  In case anyone has forgotten, that’s nearly five years.  As Caroline Lucas quickly calculated, it’s twelve people per day, and as Gerald Kaufman pointed out, in one such day,  Germany has admitted ten thousand.  And Cameron calls this “extraordinary compassion”.

David Cameron and the young man from Cardiff

For the first time (that we know of), the UK armed forces have used remote drones to kill a British national in a country with which we are not at war.  Reyaad Khan was twenty-one and from Cardiff.  We don’t know much more about him.  We are told that he was, on behalf of Islamic State, planning terrorist activities in Britain.  The truth of this might have been tested at trial, had he been arrested and prosecuted.  As it is, we are unlikely to know anything more, except that this is now an acceptable way for our government to act.  As for Khan’s two companions, one also British, killed along with him, as collateral damage, we are told that they too were Islamic State members, and therefore worthy of no regret.

I have no sympathy at all with Islamic State as an organisation.  Violence; murder, torture and rape, are not a legitimate way to advance any cause, whether nationalist or religious.  That is why, in seeking to defeat IS, we must be careful not to fall into the same tragic mistakes.  To call the extra-judicial killing of a fellow-citizen ‘self-defence’ is to set a serious and dangerous precedent.  We have seen this week, even in the Daily Mail, how frack-free protesters like Caroline Lucas herself, can be targeted, intentionally or otherwise, by the government’s ‘anti-terror’ policies  An Islamic State activist in Syria one day, a Friends of the Earth campaigner in France the next: it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility.

The DUP and meetingless government

It must have been tricky to know quite how to follow the Ulster Unionists’ resignation from the Northern Ireland Executive.  To do the same might have looked like agreement (Heaven forbid, except for an election pact); to do nothing to appear weak.  So they’ve come up with the ideal solution – stay in power, but refuse to talk to your fellow ministers (or to the rest of the island).  Most of us realised by the age of seven that ‘non-speaks’ was the least good way to resolve quarrels, but then most of us aren’t Executive Ministers.  They do have a special talking shed, anyway, Stormont House (again) where they’re going to chat all they like about the future of power-sharing, the ontological essence of the IRA and, quite possibly, who gets the last sandwich.  Just not about doing the day-to-day work that they’re paid for.  Meanwhile Sinn Fein, of course, has some very serious questions to face.  It’s a pity that this isn’t going to come up with any answers.

 

 

20th March

0320Things are getting busy.  Last night I went to a seminar for candidates, with speakers from the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Office and the Royal Mail.  One of the things I found out, along with the rules about expenses, donations and how many rubber bands to put around your bundles of leaflets, was when and where each count will take place.  Ours is due to start at 5am on Friday 8th May (my sister’s birthday) in Omagh ….  Oh well, I don’t suppose I’d have gone to bed anyway, with all the excitement of watching the other results come in.  I’m particularly looking forward to Tina‘s in Tatton.

And tomorrow is our Green Party in Northern Ireland AGM and conference.  I’ll be giving a report as GPNI membership secretary, chairing a panel of leading Greens from across the British Isles and presenting a policy motion on libel reform.

In between all this, I’m looking forward to reading Justice for Cody, the new book by the owner of Cody, the Border Collie who died after being deliberately set on fire, and whose case led to a major animal welfare campaign led by Steven Agnew.  The foreword to the book was written by TV presenter Paul O’Grady, and one of the chapters by Steven.

Talking of Steven and the media, he was interviewed on the Radio Ulster Inside Politics programme this evening.  I was quietly listening, while updating a few bits and pieces, when to my shock I suddenly heard my own name.  Mark Devenport, the presenter, had asked Steven about my candidacy and the effect of the fracking issue on the most marginal seat of Fermanagh & South Tyrone.  Fortunately, Steven sounded considerably less amazed than I felt, and explained that, if elected I, unlike Sinn Fein MPs, would take my seat and work hard to stop fracking both in Fermanagh and across the whole UK.  Thank you, Steven.

Meanwhile he has been busy putting together a dossier detailing  the facts behind Sinn Fein’s inconsistencies on the issue of welfare reform.  As it explains:

* As Sinn Fein knew, the amount set aside for welfare top-up was only £94m per year, whereas the shortfall has been estimated at between £115m and £250m

*The Welfare Reform Bill as proposed and agreed by Sinn Fein was a replica of the Tory-led legislation imposed in England and Wales to such devastating effect.

*The imposition of the Bedroom Tax was only postponed, not abolished.  People who desperately need a spare room, for a carer or shared access to children, would still be forced to pay the tax or to lose the essential room.

*Benefit sanctions (that is the removal of all benefit for a period of three months or more) would be imposed for trivial ‘offences’ such as being a minute late for an appointment.

*Steven’s amendments, which would have removed the worst of these cruel measures, along with the commercial outsourcing of assessments for the sick and disabled, were voted down by both Sinn Fein and the DUP.

*At the heart of the Stormont House Agreement was the priority given by both the DUP and Sinn Fein to reducing corporation tax, a measure that will bring about a huge tax break for big business, while inflicting yet more damage on the real economy and ordinary people of Northern Ireland.

17th February

Everyone is anti-fracking now, at least in Fermanagh, as the election approaches, and the bandwagon begins to creak as more rush to scramble aboard.   It’s worth remembering, though, the full story of what has happened over the past four years.  The highlights include:

April 2011. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) granted a licence [click to download] to Tamboran Resources to ‘search for bore and get petroleum’ (which includes gas) in the Lough Allen Basin, including the requirement to drill two exploration wells ‘including fracturing’ i.e. fracking. The licence was granted for an initial period of five years.  At the end of this period, provided that the licensee had complied with the terms of the licence (i.e. the work programme etc.) it could apply for the licence to be extended for up to another five years. At the end of that second term, again if the terms had been met, and petroleum was shown to be extractable in ‘commercial quantities’, the licensee could apply for the licence to be extended again, this time for a full production period of thirty years.

Autumn 2011. When news of the licence was discovered, the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) was set up including several Green Party members with key roles. I set up the FFAN website and edited it until 2014, as well as researching legal issues, writing leaflets and speaking at events.

December 2011. Led by Steven Agnew MLA, the leader of the Northern Ireland Green Party, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont debated the issue of hydraulic fracturing and passed a cross-party motion calling for a moratorium on the technique.

Following the vote, the Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, stated that ‘no hydraulic fracking licence has been issued’, apparently unaware of the terms of her department’s April 1st licence. This insistence that no fracking licences exist was to be DETI’s continuing justification for ignoring the clear decision of the Assembly.

January 2012. Fermanagh District Council passed a motion ‘that this council opposes the use of hydraulic fracturing for gas exploration in the Lough Allen Basin and that in the light of the backing by the Northern Ireland Assembly for the motion put forward by Steven Agnew MLA on hydraulic fracturing, we call for the Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster to place a moratorium on the licence granted to Tamboran Resources.” Again, this motion led to no change of policy by DETI.

At some point, as was discovered later by a Freedom of Information request, and confirmed in response to an Assembly question from Steven Agnew, Tamboran decided that it didn’t want to drill the shallow cored boreholes provided for in the licence but would prefer to drill one deep borehole instead. This was agreed to by DETI with no apparent consultation or publicity.

June 2013. The powerful documentary film Fracking in Fermanagh, made by local young people, had its premiere in Enniskillen to widespread acclaim. Shortly afterwards, the G8 summit was held in Fermanagh, met by a peaceful and dignified local protest, mainly concerned with the issue of fracking.

March 2014.  As the deadline for the completion of Part 1 of the licence approached, Tamboran made a last-minute request to DETI for a six month extension, which was granted. No public consultation, discussion with concerned bodies or debate in the Assembly took place.

April 2014. The Green Party MLA Steven Agnew launched a petition calling for DETI’s decision to be debated by the Executive. This would have forced the issue of fracking to be properly considered at the highest level. The petition required only thirty signatures out of 108 MLAs. Sinn Fein alone had twenty-nine MLAs, none of whom signed, not even Fermanagh’s own representatives. Neither did any MLAs from the SDLP, Alliance or the DUP. The only two signatories other than Steven himself were members of the Ulster Unionist Party, and neither represented Fermanagh. The petition, therefore, despite huge public goodwill and pressure, was unable to go ahead, and Tamboran’s licence continued in force.

tjJuly 2014. Tamboran arrived on site near Belcoo and prepared to drill its deep borehole.  Campaigners including many local people, FFAN and Green Party members, worked together to raise awareness of the need for a proper planning application and environmental impact assessment to be carried out.

August/September 2014. The Minister of the Environment agreed that the borehole could not be drilled without full planning permission, and, since Tamboran had not completed its work programme by the extended deadline, its licence expired.

October 2014.  Tamboran issued judicial review proceedings against the two departments, seeking a reversal of their decisions and a reinstatement of the licence.  Those proceedings are still ongoing, with Green Party members working hard to ensure that the community’s interests are not forgotten.

I am deeply proud of the immense hard work which has been carried out over these years by Steven and many other Green Party members, by my fellow FFAN activists and by other campaigning and community groups such as Belcoo Frack-Free.  With very little by way of resources, we have worked together, giving up time, money and health to keep our county safe and clean.  I have written, in a response to a request from Peru, about how and why I believe that we succeeded.

It is only natural now, when public opinion has become so clearly opposed to fracking here, and an election is close, that the Executive parties will want to shine up their anti-fracking credentials.  It is easy for them to use their large funds, unknown in origin, to attach themselves to the cause.  It’s not so easy, though, to persuade the people of Fermanagh to forget who has been there for them over the past four years.  As I wrote in almost the last post of my old decombustion blog:

“We’re used to having our policies pinched; we hang them out in full view, with all their supporting arguments, and positively invite our neighbours to run away with them.  But they ought to realise that they really need the whole ensemble to look the part.  Being anti-fracking makes sense, but not when it’s combined with support for TTIP, growth-at-all-costs, other polluting industries such as gold mining in the Sperrins, and the continued failure to enact a Climate Change Bill in Northern Ireland.

Fracking is a terrible business, but it doesn’t stand alone.  To banish the spectre for good, we need to make some fundamental changes to the way that we do politics, and the way that we live in our communities.  I’m proud to have played a role in what has been achieved, but even happier to be a part of what we can do together in the years to come.”

 

With other Green Party members, including Ciaran McClean, candidate for West Tyrone, at Tamboran’s site last August.

 

25th November

Lovis_Corinth-Trojanisches_pferd
Painting “Trojanisches Pferd” by Lovis Corinth, public domain

Fermanagh is yet again at the centre of the Northern Ireland political picture, after Rodney Edwards tweeted a recording of Gerry Adams’ comments in Enniskillen yesterday evening.  The resulting furore has all been fairly predictable, with widespread horror at the coarse epithet, and Sinn Fein desperately scrabbling to explain that it isn’t all unionists they believe to be illegitimate, only the bigoted ones.

Meanwhile, though the idea that ‘equality’ can be a weapon is condemned by many commentators, the most revealing thing that Adams said seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

“But what’s the point? The point is to actually break these bastards – that’s the point. And what’s going to break them is equality. That’s what’s going to break them – equality.

“Who could be afraid of equality? Who could be afraid of treating somebody the way you want to be treated?

“That’s what we need to keep the focus on – that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is [sic] to reach out to people on the basis of equality.”

Not “the heart of the entire republican strategy” or “the core of the entire republican strategy”, but “the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy”.  And what was the Trojan horse?  As I’m sure the Christian Brothers taught young Gerard, it wasn’t a horse at all.  It was something that appeared to be benign, generous, a reconciling cross-community initiative. But, as the hapless Trojans discovered,  it was no more nor less than a means of continuing the war, at closer quarters and with all the advantages.

Meanwhile for the DUP, we’ve heard this week, equality ought to be a moveable feast, a Humpty-Dumpty word that means whatever you feel comfortable with its meaning. Are you a straight, white Protestant man who thinks things have been going downhill since Catholic emancipation?  Don’t worry; just find a few Biblical quotes to support your position, and you can ignore all that pesky rights nonsense.  After all, you’re the victim here.

Between equality as Trojan horse and equality as Humpty’s invention, onlookers might begin to wonder whether there’s anyone left who actually believes in the thing itself.  Equality as a fundamental principle, directly affecting the way we do politics, address one another, allocate resources, build democracy?  Well, quaint as it may seem this week, we in the Green Party do.   As our 2014 Northern Ireland local manifesto, For the Common Good, says:

“The Green Party stands for the inclusion of all members of society, both socially and economically, enhancing everyone’s quality of life. Our local councils must do more to protect and actively to engage the most vulnerable – the homeless, the unemployed, older people, minority ethnic communities, LGBT, disabled and other marginalised social groups.  We will take a firm stand against all forms of discrimination and social injustice; we will work hard to combat the causes of inequality, and to remove all barriers to participation in society.”

And from the 2014 European election manifesto:

“The principle of equality is at the heart of Green politics.  Without equality for women, for minority ethnic groups, for people with disabilities, for LGBT and for a range of other marginalised groups, there is no democracy.”

That, I believe, is what the thoughtful and compassionate voters of Northern Ireland mean when they use the word ‘equality’.  They don’t want it used as a hidden weapon, nor do they want it whittled away to nothingness.  We are all members of some group that others might look down upon; that some, given the chance, would treat with injustice and contempt.  Part of being a grown-up democracy is recognising the humanity of those who are different from us, and their equal right to respect, freedom and a decent life.  And in that grown-up democracy we don’t do that to insinuate ourselves with our enemies, to better be able to stab them in the back.  We do it because it’s the right thing to do, and the only way to build a better future.

 

 

5th November

On my way to collect our leaflets for the FCF Faith and Politics course which starts next week, I remember to pop into Easons to pick up this week’s Fermanagh Herald.  And here I am, on page 9!

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Meanwhile the back page carries the news that Sinn Fein are planning to hold a ‘conference on fracking’ in Fermanagh in the New Year, i.e. shortly before the election.  A coincidence?  A conference would have been an excellent idea three years ago, when little was known on the issue and we were desperate for ways to get our message across.  As it was, no one in the active frack-free movement had any money for this kind of event, and we were limited to homemade leaflets, word of mouth and busy public meetings whenever we were offered a free venue.  But we did it; we worked our little green socks off and the people of Fermanagh learned that we could be trusted.  Now everyone, even in sections of the DUP, is ‘anti-fracking’, at least until May.  It’s mildly annoying, but no more than that.   People who’ve followed the frack-free campaign know how little would have been achieved here without Steven Agnew’s work in Stormont, asking questions, holding the Executive Ministers to account and bringing the reality of what was happening into the public arena.  As I wrote in my other blog a few weeks ago, it’s easy for the mainstream parties to steal our clothes; not so easy to get them to fit.

 

 

30th October

Cycled into Enniskillen again this morning for a meeting of our Welcoming Group at St Michael’s (the town’s Catholic parish).  This sprang from an idea of mine a couple of years ago, that we might follow the example of many churches in England (and some here) in serving tea and coffee after our services.  In big parishes such as St Michael’s, where many of the members are related to one another, it’s sometimes hard for newcomers to feel that they have a unique and important place.  With the encouragement of Canon Peter, we formed a small group and now serve refreshments after two of the masses, once a month.  I don’t do any of the difficult things, like baking scones, but I can manage washing up, and order our tea, coffee and sugar from the fair trade supplier Traidcraft.   Until this morning I was also the secretary, but have had to step down from that now as it’s getting very difficult to fit everything in.  Fortunately our treasurer valiantly agreed to do both – many thanks, Pauline.

On my way there I’d picked up a copy of the Impartial Reporter and found that, unlike the Herald, they hadn’t forgotten me. As I expected, the headline and first few paragraphs were all about what I’d said about Sinn Fein, as though I’d launched a spontaneous attack rather than just answered Rodney’s questions.  They need an angle, though, and it’s more likely to get people reading than “Green party candidate says it would be nice if people were nice” which is what tends to happen otherwise, usually accompanied by the phrase ‘tree-hugger’.

No trees or hugging here, and it was a clear and accurate account of (some of) what I’d said, though not necessarily in the order I’d said it.  Some words got mistranscribed, but I think most readers will realise that the Green Party’s foundational principle is social justice, rather that ‘social injustice’ and that it’s corporations, not ‘co-operations’ who shouldn’t be getting massive grants they don’t need.

Here it is, anyway.

1030larger

After the meeting I dashed home to put the washing on (still behind with that) then out again to Fermanagh House for a memorial service for Anita.  I’d found out about it originally on Tuesday from Rodney (thanks again), then followed the trail to Fermanagh House and from there to the Fermanagh Women’s Network which was organising it. Carrie there was very happy for me to invite members of the Fermanagh Churches Forum, so there were quite a few of us there, along with people I knew from many other groups and events.

It was a gentle, low-key and moving occasion, with people sharing their memories of Anita and the many ways in which she contributed both to our community and to us all as individual friends.  She was an inspiration and model to me personally, especially when I  felt unsure about taking a leadership role, wondering whether I should keep quiet and anonymous, not being a ‘real Fermanagh person’.  But no one in that room this afternoon would have doubted that Anita was a real Fermanagh person, as real as you can get, heart and soul.  However the next six months work out, I’ll try to make them worthy of her friendship.

p.s. I also got into the Impartial’s Tweets of the Week feature – that must be real fame!

 

20th October

Home again, to five days’ worth of things to catch up on, and some press releases to send out.  Email makes that a little easier than back in the eighties, when I worked in charity PR, but it still takes longer than I expect.  Then the Fermanagh Herald asks me to call in for a photograph, so an emergency hairwash gets added in.  (Ah, the vanity.)  The Impartial Reporter already has a picture of me, taken at Tamboran’s proposed drill site near Belcoo, on the evening of the shared prayer service, when we’d just heard the news of Mark Durkan’s decision not to grant them permitted development rights.  (See my decombustion blog for more details.)  That was a joyful evening, and definitely no time for hair-washing.  Sure enough, they’ve used the picture in their story in today’s online edition.  By the way, the dog whose lead I am holding isn’t our Robbie, but my friend Lynn’s Dobby.  Lynn took the picture I was actually posing for, the one on the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Greens site.

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p.s. (10pm)  Sinn Fein have just announced that Michelle Gildernew, the sitting (well, not quite sitting, more staying away – Sinn Fein don’t believe in the House of Commons) MP will stand for them again.  No great surprise there; it will be her fourth time and she’s been the MP since 2001. Maybe time for a change now, though.