What Freedom

Freedom is a noble ambition for many and a struggle against oppression for some. In Western liberal democracies we cherish the notion that our freedoms are protected. But how vulnerable are they in today’s volatile  economic battleground?

The United Nations and NATO were established to end conflict and bring nations together to resolve conflict. However, as we have seen in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey and numerous conflicts around the world, military power is still favoured over international diplomacy and negotiation.

Here in Belfast the peace process has been largely successful. Some dissident groups and paramilitary organisations continue to live in the past, but disagreement is resolved politically, not by force of arms.

The separate communities of nationalists and unionists are still suspicious of each other, and their political representatives play the ‘them and us’ game. Sinn Fein are accused of using the Equality agenda to “get the bastards”, the DUP refuses to back an Irish Language Act, and has provided the controversy over a green energy scheme prompting another election in less than a year.

The peace dividend here not only promotes trade and encourages investment, but allows young people the freedom to associate with diverse communities of people. Gay rights, respect for foreign cultures and those with disabilities are issues that are work in progress. But there is a healthier climate to encourage freedom for all, as long as we continue to jaw jaw rather than war war.

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Peace at any price

bird of peaceHere we are again debating if the IRA has gone away. The murders that involved former members of the IRA on the streets of Belfast has caused another halt to business at the Northern Ireland Assembly, and disgust among right thinking citizens.

Whether former paramilitaries are now acting as advisers to the new crop, or carrying out criminal activities linked to drug dealing, who knows? The police on both sides of the border are being cautious with their pronouncements. To say there is no evidence that a secret organisation continues to operate, or have any identifiable command structure, is no comfort to the victims and their families.

The UUP, one of the smallest parties in NI, is walking away from the Assembly, and the DUP are wondering what they should do. Sinn Fein are busy refuting claims that the IRA exists, but don’t have much credibility with their opposition MLAs.

The Secretary of State for NI, Theresa Villiers,  will be playing piggy in the middle.