“Good heavens! You’re the health minister..”

“Good heavens! You’re the health minister..”

Tonight at the South Down hustings event organised by the Down Recorder, Health Minister Jim Wells made a claim that caused a significant reaction both in the room and online. An audience member asked the panel [Jim Wells (DUP), Martyn Todd (Alliance), Chris Hazzard (Sinn Fein), Margaret Ritchie (SDLP), Harold Mckee (UUP), Henry Reilly (UKIP) and Felicity Buchan (Conservatives)], a question on what they will do in Westminster on equal marriage. Up until this point the hustings had been well mannered and other than a few isolated outbursts, candidates appeared to share an amiable relationship with eachother with little interruption. Jim Wells response to the question, appearing in stark opposition to equal rights campaigners, may serve to amplify the position Prime Minister David Cameron. The PM said “I totally disagree with the DUP about this [LGBT] issue and nothing I ever do will go against the values I have about believing in equality and equal rights for gay and lesbian people and I’ve put that, as it were, on the line by supporting equal marriage. So I’m never going to change my views about that.” Amongst his responses, I also reported him saying the following he expanded on this by saying that “they have civil partnerships, they shouldn’t want marriage” The comment that caused most consternation however was when he said the following: http://sluggerotoole.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Jim-Wells.mp4 Recorded by @ClareC9 “The facts show that. The facts show that you certainly don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That child is far more likely to be abused or neglected…” The audience and most members of the panel appeared to take offence...
Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol – Who are they and what do they want?

Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol – Who are they and what do they want?

I met 3 of the Northern Irish parliamentary candidates for the Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol party to discuss their campaign, their goals and ambitions. Barry Brown (West Tyrone), Glenn Donnelly (North Down) & Neil Paine (East Londonderry) are all standing for the single-issue party in the 2015 general election but they admit that they are quite late to the table for this vote, with firm eyes on the 2016 Assembly elections. I asked them all the normal questions that you would expect, “gateway drug”, “addiction”, “in what way is it safer than alcohol” and they have decent answers, which is important because as a single issue party they really need to be all over this issue. The party was set up by Paul Birch, who made his money by selling Bebo, he then invested £100,000 to form CISTA with the bold claim “The war on drugs has been lost.” This to me is a misguided tone to take, “the war on drugs is lost…so lets admit defeat and just go with the drugs?”. On principle, I agree that cannabis should be made available to the public, at least medicinally, the uses are well documented and even the Israeli Army has condoned the use of Cannabis to assist with PTSD treatment. That cannabis has useful properties is established, but is the time right for a wholesale change in legislation? The 3 candidates all spoke with strong conviction and with a good knowledge base, they were able to cite various figures from different studies across the world, most notably Colorado, where the legalisation begun on 1st January 2014. The number...
NI Conservatives – (not)Sponsored by FlyBe

NI Conservatives – (not)Sponsored by FlyBe

In the 2010 General Election the Conservatives in NI party allied with the UUP and ran under the “Ulster Conservatives & Unionists – New Force” banner. It wasn’t successful, UUP lost their only sitting MP, no candidates were elected, and despite a couple of candidates coming a respectable second, such as Reg Empey losing by just over 1000 votes to William McCrea…it was a failure. The unionist alliance disbanded afterwards which has brought us to now… The Conservatives in NI have rebranded as NI Conservatives and are standing 16 candidates across the province, which is 16 more than Labour or the Lib Dems…so at least we’re being remembered by mainstream UK politics. Let’s take a look at the candidates, because the fly-in nature of many of their representatives raises questions. FROM Northern Ireland we have: Neil Wilson running in East Belfast, living in Moira Ben Manton running in Belfast South, living in Belfast West Mark Brotherston running in North Down, living in Bangor (NI) Alan Dunlop running in South Antrim, living in Foyle Johnny Andrews running in Strangford, living in Strangford Which is commendable, 5 candidates put forward for election that are from the province. With a potential candidate pool of well over 1 million, could they not find any more people who are actually living in Northern Ireland to stand under their banner? 11 Candidates are resident in the UK, some of whom are actually elected representatives in councils in their locality. Belfast West – Paul Shea is running here, he ran in the 2010 General Election for the constituency of East Ham, he lost to Stephen Timms of...
#BlameMervyn – Easter 2015 / 1715

#BlameMervyn – Easter 2015 / 1715

Everyone has their thing, their “if I was Prime Minister I would…”, mine is Easter Licensing. Except it’s more than that, it’s institutionalising one faith over that of another, enshrining the rights of the few to be of more importance than the rights of the rest. Yes, I have worked in the hospitality industry for a long time and it affects me and “us” but I can’t foresee a time where it doesn’t bother me so much that I have to do what I can to highlight it and hope that some day, enact change.   Alcohol, that’s what it tends to come down to, when discussing this issue with a pro-restriction supporter, reducing such an expansive issue to its lowest common denominator, is that enough of an argument to make, that alcohol is bad, it’s controlled, it’s addictive etc etc. No, of course it isn’t, if that was the case then alcohol would be banned, instead of having an arbitrary restriction placed on it for a particular religiously significant period. So, for those who aren’t aware, here are the restrictions.     Thursday (Before Easter Friday) Alcohol can be sold as normal throughout the day, but must cease by 11pm, unless a late extension license exists, when it must not be sold after midnight. (Many bars and all nightclubs have this extension, generally speaking, if a bar opens until 1am or later at a weekend, it has a late extension of their license)     Good Friday   ON-SALES (for consumption on premises)   Alcohol can ONLY be sold between 5pm and 11pm. There are no late licenses...