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Royal Scots Greys Memorial, Princes Street, Edinburgh

This memorial stands above Princes Street Gardens, to the south side of Princes Street, Edinburgh, and was originally erected to commemorate the men of the Royal Scots Greys who died in the Boer War, 1899-1902.

Royal Scots Greys Memorial Princes Street, Edinburgh

Dedication plaques facing Princes Street. The top one is the commemmoration of the dead of the Boer War (the Second Boer War, aka the South African War.) The lower plaque is to the Scots Greys fallen of the Second World War.

Dedication Plaques, Royal Scots Greys Memorial, Edinburgh

There are further dedication plaques on the western and eastern faces of the monument. The upper plaque here names privates of the Royal Scots Greys who died in the Great War. The lower states, “This memorial was erected in 1906 in memory of the Royal Scots Greys who gave thier lives in South Africa during the Boer War 1899 -1902. Tablets were added after the First World War 1914 to 1918 and after the Second World War 1939 to 1945. In 1971 the Royal Scots Greys amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers to form the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys.)”

Royal Scots Greys Memorial, Dedication Plaques

Here the upper plaque names officers, NCOs and men who died in the Great War. The lower plaque commemorates the dead of conficts since 1945; in Korea, Northern Ireland and Iraq.

Further Dedication Plaques, Royal Scots Greys Memorial, Edinburgh

May Day

So. This is May’s day.

… — … … — … … — …
Dot, dot, dot; dash, dash, dash; dot, dot, dot. Dot, dot, dot; dash, dash, dash; dot, dot, dot. Dot, dot, dot; dash, dash, dash; dot, dot, dot.
Mayday! Mayday!

We in the UK have recently been sailing troubled waters but now we are coming out of a lea shore and are about to enter the full blast of the storm. Who knows what the political landscape of these islands will look like in three years’ time? A second Scottish Independence referendum has been made ever more probable by the UK goverment’s stance on a so-called hard Brexit and deaf ear to other voices.

Scottish independence might have been achieved on a relatively friendly basis in 2014 but I doubt that’s at all likely now.

The febrile English nationalists (for that is what they are) who have driven this headlong rush over a cliff have no thought of (or care for) Scotland – and still less for Northern Ireland for which this represents a double crisis, the “cash for ash” scandal having led to a breakdown of the power sharing arrangements. They will exact a heavy price for what they will no doubt see as a betrayal of “England, their England”.

I believe Theresa May is trying to look stern when she lectures all and sundry in the House of Commons and on television but to me she looks threatening – as in, don’t dare cross me, my revenge will be sweet – despite there being no substance behind her bluster. Scotland can look for no favours from her.

I never thought that another politician could achieve a position lower in my esteem than Margaret Thatcher did but Theresa May has managed it. (David Cameron, aka Mr Irresponsible, though he is entirely responsible for the mess the UK now finds itself in and amply demonstrated his irresponsibility by doing so and more so by running away from the consequences, is merely a buffoon by comparison.) May is potentially dangerous. Not so much in herself as in what may come after her.

Divided City by Theresa Breslin

Corgi, 2006, 236 p. One of the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read.

Divided City cover

One night Graham (surname never specified) is taking a short cut – against which his parents have repeatedly warned him – on his way home from football training when he witnesses a gang chasing and stabbing a young lad whom they call “asylum scum”. Graham comforts the wounded boy, Kyoul, uses the mobile phone Kyoul has dropped to call an ambulance and accompanies him to the hospital then slips away but not before Kyoul asks him to take a message, and the phone, to his girlfriend Leanne. This leads to Graham almost by accident involving another boy from training, Joe Flaherty (who is of course from across the sectarian divide to which the book’s title mainly refers) in finding Leanne’s house. She is grateful but has kept her relationship with Kyoul from her own parents and so asks them to visit Kyoul for her. This strand of the book where they find common purpose off the training pitch is intertwined with the background of both footballers.

Graham’s Granda Reid is a proud Orangeman who wants Graham to march in the big Orange Walk which is coming up. Graham’s parents have always resisted pressure to make him take part when he was younger saying he should make his own mind up when he is old enough. However, this is the year he must do so. Joe’s family members are equally committed to upholding their Catholic traditions.

But this is where Divided City is too diagrammatic. Nearly every domestic conversation in the book centres on sectarianism and how the “others” mistreat “our” side.

There were other infelicities. The football training is for a youth team to be known as Glasgow City which is about to take part in an inter-cities youth competition. Here credulity becomes strained. If both boys were as good at football as the novel tells us they’d most likely already be attached to a club and probably not allowed to play for anyone else. Another unconvincing aspect is that Leanne is said to be “not yet sixteen” but she met Kyoul who had wandered in off the street at one of Glasgow University’s school open days and both ended up looking at a stand where they were each wondering what courses they would choose and struck up a conversation. Fifteen is rather young for such a trip. Also, the first time home ground of Rangers is mentioned it’s by a supporter, who calls it “Ibrox Park.” A fan would just say “Ibrox”. Similarly we get “the Celtic Parkhead stadium”. Then there is the description of an Old Firm game where the phrase “unleashed a stinging right kick” is used. It’s called a shot, not a kick. Later one fan is enjoined to ‘Watch the play’. It would be ‘Watch the game’.

Granted the dilemma of an asylum seeker from a ‘White List’ country, deemed to be safe but which isn’t, may need elucidating to a wider audience, yet while the novel is even-handed enough as between Protestant and Catholic viewpoints I struggled to see for what audience this could have been written, whom it was intended to educate. The book’s cover is emblazoned with the phrase “Carnegie Medal winning author” implying it’s for young adults. But young adults in Glasgow will know about sectarianism, those elsewhere likely not care (Northern Ireland excepted.) The incidental illustration of the usual parental restrictions on adolescent comings and goings do not expand the scope. Divided City’s earlier chapters reminded me of a certain kind of not very good Science Fiction which doesn’t trust its reader to make the connections, so too much is spelled out. And there is an overuse of exclamation marks. I would submit that YA readers deserve better.

There is a good novel about sectarianism – and/or football – in Glasgow out there. This isn’t it.

Pedant’s corner:- “the dark openings of the tenement building mawed at him” (the openings stomached at him?) the local senior boy’s club” (boys’ club, I think,) refers to winning the League Championship (it’s just “winning the League” not League Championship,) Rangers’ (Rangers’s,) ‘How are we going to do that without getting caught.’ (Needs a question mark, not a full stop.)

Where Do We Go From Here?

Under normal circumstances I would be welcoming the intention of David Cameron (known to this blog as Mr Irresponsible) to resign as Prime Minister of the UK as in my opinion he has been the worst incumbent of that office in its entire history (and there has been severe competition for that title.)

However; these are not normal circumstances. The prospect of either of the leading lights of the Vote Leave campaign, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, succceeding him as PM is beyond nightmare. The direction in which the UK would travel under their auspices is not one I would find at all congenial. That Scotland may be given the chance of another vote on independence from the UK as a result of the EU referendum does not alter that conviction. I would not wish what would then be our nearest neighbour to be under their leadership. It is to be hoped the Conservative Party turns away from them and chooses someone else but quite who is actually up to the job is not evident.

I was going to call David Cameron’s decision to cave in to the bullies’ demands for a referendum a catastrophic misjudgement, but I don’t think he made a judgement at all. Everything in his political life so far has gone his way and he thought that situation would continue. But he is a weak man and has reaped his reward. The verdict of history will be harsh.

And what will happen to that southern neighbour when the promised £350 million a week for the NHS doesn’t appear, when immigration stubbornly refuses to fall, when visas are required to travel to the EU, when jobs fail to be created and employment conditions worsen further, when the anger and resentment which Vote Leave has stoked but whose underlying causes they will neither address nor ameliorate, bursts out? Against whom will that anger be directed and in what form? Anyone who looks different? Who sounds different?

What happens to the fragile peace process in Northern Ireland?

How encouraging will this be to right wingers across Europe? What if the Front National wins power in France and starts to discriminate against Muslims – which they surely will, or worse – enraging those with a grudge against “Europe” even more. You can be sure the likes of ISIS/Da’esh will not make a distinction between French Crusaders and British ones.

The immediate future is going to be immensely troubling. This has no simple outcome. The EU cannot afford to be easy-going on the negotiations which have to take place for a UK withdrawal. If they were it would only provide encouragement to any other country which might think of leaving. In any case what incentive would it have to be lenient to a country which has just slapped it in the face. Divorce proceeding are notorious for their acrimony.

As for the main advocate of the UK leaving the EU these past twenty odd years, Nigel Farage. There is now no reason for his party to exist or for him to appear on television ever again – a consummation devoutly to be wished. There is only one phrase fit for him. Il faut cultiver son jardin.

New Cup, New Laws

I see from the club website that the Challenge Cup has been given a revamp so that it will now include more Scottish clubs from outwith the SPFL, top division under 20 sides and even clubs from Wales and Northern Ireland. The format looks like a right dog’s dinner.

I note that Tier 2 clubs won’t be joining till Round 3. It won’t make any difference to us. We always lose in it anyway. (I doubt being seeded will alter that at all.)

What concerns me most is the inclusion of the top division under 20s sides. This feels like the thin end of a wedge that will eventually see them allowed to play in the lower leagues. I know similar provision happens in Spain etc with reserve teams but the Scottish scene has unique characteristics that make me uncomfortable at the thought.

Edited to add. I just took in the fact that the draw will be regionalised. Fat chance of me getting to a a game then. (But maybe we’ll be in the North for that too.)

There have also been changes to the laws of the game. We’ll need to see how those work out.

The Stuarts on BBC 2

I watched the first episode of The Stuarts on BBC 2 tonight.

It seemed, like on its first showing on BBC 2 Scotland earlier this year, an odd decision to start with James VI (or James I if you prefer.) There were no less than eight Stuart monarchs before him. In the year of the Scottish Independence Referendum that could be interpreted as a slight, another piece of English ignorance/dismissal of Scottish History.

That the first episode dwelt on James’s desire to unite the two kingdoms as Great Britain might also seem like a dark Better Together plot as the Guardian noted today.

Yet (some, though not all, of) James’s ancestors were spoken of in the programme so the ignorance/dismissal angle can on those grounds be discounted. And the differences between the two countries that then existed (of religion principally,) and in some respects still do, were not glossed over but I was left wondering who on Earth thought broadcasting this was a good idea now. It can only lead to accusations of bias

I had another such disjointed TV experience with the BBC recently. Janina Ramirez in her otherwise excellent Chivalry and Betrayal: The Hundred Years War – on BBC 4 last week, this (and next) but also a programme that has been screened before – kept on emphasising how the events she was describing played a large part in how the country “we” live in now came to be as it is. (Note also the “us” on Dr Ramirez’s web page about the programme.)

Yet that country was/is England. Ramirez seemed totally unaware that her programme was to be broadcast not on an England only channel but one which is UK-wide. Indeed that the country all the BBC’s principal audience lives in is not England, but the UK. [Except for powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies legislation at Westminster is for the whole of the UK. No English elected body oversees the equivalent powers to those devolved elsewhere (arguably there ought to be one;) it is the UK Parliament that performs that function.]

Two parts of the UK share none of the history Dr Ramirez was outlining. Wales (having been incorporated earlier) was involved directly in the Hundred Years War but neither Scotland nor Ireland were. Yet she spoke as if that circumstance didn’t exist.

This sort of thing does contribute to a feeling among many Scots (and I suspect Welsh and Northern Irish viewers too) that the BBC is a broadcaster with a mind for England only and too often forgets the three other constituent parts of the UK.

Grangemouth

One of the mysteries – to me at any rate – of the dispute between management and workers at Grangemouth petrochemical complex is that the company that owns it, INEOS, says it is losing £10 million a month there.

The workers are faced with signing up to significantly reduced terms and conditions or the prospect of redundancy.

But…… Losing £10 million a month running an oil complex? One, moreover, that is capable of supplying all the petrol stations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of the North of England?

What sort of mismanagement led to this situation? How can anyone in this day and age not make money from owning an oil refinery and its associated petrochemical works?

On Reporting Scotland tonight a glimmer of an answer appeared.

It seems INEOS has been expanding rapidly. We were told – in passing – its owner Jim Ratcliffe has incurred debt in doing so even though otherwise he appears to be doing all right.

Reading between the lines it seems he wants to make the workers at Grangemouth pay for it.

The most disturbing thing about this whole rigmarole is that little mention has been made of this aspect up to now. Politicians and the media have been shying clear of criticism of the company’s conduct. Serious questions ought to be asked of the company and politicians – UK wide. I doubt the Scottish Government has much real clout in a situation like this. I’m not holding my breath for the UK coalition to do anything about it though.

But still.

Is Jim Ratcliffe a fit and proper person to be in charge of any commercial enterprise? Have the losses been built up deliberately to engineer a diminution of workers’ conditions and pay?

How on Earth was such a chancer allowed to get anywhere near control of Scotland’s largest industrial asset?

The whole thing stinks.

Norway’s Response

I am much impressed by the way Norway as a country has come together in reaction to the recent dreadful events there.

In particular the determination they seem to have to carry on as normal.

Compare the response our politicians have had to the various attacks the UK has been subject to. Curtailment of civil liberties is their first instinct. Sometimes it seems the only one.

Think of the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland – and how successful that was! – through the gradual increase in the time police can hold people before they are charged and now CCTV cameras everywhere. Not to mention the gunning down of suspects in the street or on the subway.

If we’re no better than those who kill without compunction then we’re worse – because we profess to be democratic and ruled by law. Summary executions and incarcerations have no place in a democratic state (and ought not to anywhere come to that.)

No measures will ever prevent a determined terrorist or deluded inadequate from carrying out atrocities. And have any of the measures above (as opposed to good intelligence) ever prevented such an attack?

Via Ken MacLeod’s blog I came across this site where you can sign to give condolences and offer solidarity for those who died in Norway.

Please do.

Michael Gove, Law Breaker

I thought the Tories were supposed to be the party of law and order.

Yet I well remember Tim Yeo once speaking up for those who, due to the use of speed cameras, had been caught breaking the law. Yeo talked as if the law were something to be neglected or set aside, as if people who broke the speed limit were not law breakers, which quite clearly they are.

At least at the time Yeo was merely a Member of Parliament (if a spokesman for the opposition.)

But Michael Gove…..

Michael Gove is the UK Secretary of State for Education.

Yet on Sunday he incited parents to take part in a mass act of law breaking by volunteering to keep schools open during the proposed strike tomorrow by teachers. (This does not affect Scotland – and Northern Ireland I expect. I’m not sure about Wales but I think education is a devolved power there too.)

Quite apart from the fact that Gove thereby declares that teaching is easy and anyone can do it without training and so demeans those who are effectively his employees (he should perhaps try it sometime) teachers are not only trained but thoroughly vetted before being allowed near children. The procedure is known, in Scotland at least, as disclosure and is specifically designed to protect children from potential danger or harm. (As some recent cases have shown it does not always work, but it is a sensible precaution.)

Gove has in effect incited parents, and any Head Teachers who permit this to take place, to break the law, since, if an undisclosed person is placed or places her- or himself in front of the children an offence has been committed.

As Secretary of State Gove ought to be aware of this law. If he was, then he has deliberately encouraged an act of law breaking – become an accessory before the fact. If he was not so aware then the law does not hold ignorance as an excuse and he is still guilty.

But then what else can you expect of a man who has conned thousands of pounds of various monies out of the taxpayer via MPs’ expenses but has got away with it – like many of his cabinet colleagues, including Mr Irresponsible himself – because, being a millionaire, he could afford to repay it? (Or some of it.)

Scotland 3-0 Northern Ireland

Carling Nations Cup, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 9/2/11.

A comprehensive win it seems, most unlike recent Scotland performances.

There were no extended highlights on television, however, just the goals* on the news, so I’ve no idea whether we were any good or not.

*Fluky second goal perchance.

The Norn Irish were missing a few players.

Mustn’t sniff at a 3-0 win though.

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