Blood Ban to be Lifted in the UK on November 7th

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From November 7th Gay and Bisexual men in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to give blood. Any Gay or Bisexual Man who has not had homosexual sex in 12 months will be able to give blood.

While its not the most ideal of situations, it is better then a blanket ban on gay and bisexual men.

Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service national director Keith Thompson said: “We are pleased that this new donor selection criteria has been made possible by the most up to date scientific advances in screening and testing.”

He added: “Blood donation works on the principles of kindness and mutual trust.

“In order for us to safely introduce this new rule we ask all potential and existing donors to adhere to the selection criteria by providing completely honest answers to all the questions, both for the protection of their own health and that of patients.”

Mr Thompson said the blood donor selection criteria and other blood safety measures, including stringent testing, mean that there has been no documented transmission of a blood-born virus in the UK since 2005, with no HIV transmission since 2002.

The National Aids Trust has welcomed the changes.

The organisation tweeted: “NAT welcomes the lifting of the lifetime blood ban for gay men and the new evidence-based approach.”

With our nearest neighbour now lifting the ban, it will give support to those advocating a more scientific based approach to the ban here in Ireland. While there will be those opposed to any sort of ban, a short term ban is better then a blanket ban.

It is interesting to note that the ban will not be lifted in Northern Ireland. So then ban, for now, is still in effect across the Island of Ireland, and I cannot see that changing despite what the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs have found in their review earlier this year.

The IBTS will have to change eventually, especially if it is confirmed that the blanket lifetime ban is against EU Law.


Garret Fitzgerald RIP

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This morning I awoke to the sad news that former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald had passed away. “Garret the Good” as he was known was always someone held in high regard in my family. He is one of the Giants of Irish Politics. He gave his all to Irish Politics and was a shining example of active citizenship in this country.

He was the founding fathers of Young Fine Gael as part of his reorganisation of Fine Gael in 1977. He is one of the reasons I joined the Fine Gael party. He dragged the Fine Gael party to the centre and allowed it be the party that is now.

Garret played a massive role in the peace process in Northern Ireland and this weeks events is a testament to the ground work he did.

Also Garret was Minister for Foreign Affairs during Ireland’s first EU Presidency and was widely praised for this. He interest in Europe never waned and he was involved in the campaigns for the Nice and Lisbon Treaties. In future campaigns on Europe he will be sorely missed. For both his passion and his intellect.

We now as a state must be thankful to Garret for what he did for us.

My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. May he Rest in Peace.

Ar dheis de go raibh a anam dilis


Northern Ireland Assembly Election 2011

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This year the people of Northern Ireland will go to the polls to elect 108 MLA’s to the Northern Ireland Assembly on May 5th.

The current standings of the parties are as follows:

  • Democratic Unionist Party: 36
  • Sinn Fein: 27
  • Ulster Unionist Party: 18
  • Social Democratic and Labour Party: 16
  • Alliance Party: 7
  • Green Party: 1
  • Independents: 5

The campaign is well under way since the Assembly was dissolved on 24th of March and a number of issues have been raised.

Issues raised have been health, education, policing, and the possibility of a Sinn Fein First Minister. This may be seen as scaremongering, but it is a possibility.

I will be following the election as it progresses. Below is some of the Party Election Broadcast that have been shown.


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Sinn Fein

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Green Party

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Have I missed any? Let me know.


House of Commons to Debate Loan to Ireland

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This Evening the House of Commons will be debating the Loans to Ireland Bill which will allow the United Kingdom to give a loan of £3,250 million to Ireland.

The plan is that the bill will finish off all stages today. It will pass the Committee stage in the whole House.

Already today the issue has been raised four times in the House of Commons. The first time by Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, during Northern Ireland Questions, in relation to assets held by NAMA in Northern Ireland and suggested that maybe some of these assets could be used as collateral in the loan. The second time was in relation to the effect of the economy in the Republic on the North. Northern Ireland Minister, Hugo Swire MP for East Devon, said that it was important that the UK was seen as part of the solution for Ireland and not the problem.

During Prime Ministers Questions, Mark Reckless MP, again, raised the issue of the loan to Ireland and suggested that the UK does not follow the wishes of the German Finance Minister. David Cameron in his response agreed with Mark Reckless and said that he was glad that the UK could come to Ireland’s aid.

I will be watching the debate on the bill and it will be interesting to see some of the remarks that are made.

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George Osborne’s Statement on the UK’s Bilateral Loan to Ireland

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A statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. Mr George Osborne. From Hansard:

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement regarding financial assistance for Ireland.I hope Members will understand that an announcement had to be made at the weekend, ahead of markets opening this morning. Last night, I spoke to the Chair of the Treasury Committee and the shadow Chancellor to keep them informed of the latest developments.

The United Kingdom, alongside the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the eurozone and other member states, is participating in the international financial assistance package for Ireland announced last night. We are doing this because it is overwhelmingly in Britain’s national interest that we have a stable Irish economy and banking system.

The current Irish situation has become unsustainable. Its sovereign debt markets had effectively closed and had little prospect of reopening. While Britain’s market interest rates had fallen over the past six months, Ireland’s had risen to record levels, and Ireland’s banks had become completely reliant on central bank funding to maintain their operations. In the judgment of the Irish Government, as well as of the IMF and others, this situation could not go on.

Members will understand that it would not have been appropriate for us in recent weeks to have engaged in public speculation about whether Ireland should request assistance from the international community, but I can now report that we have been engaged in intensive private discussions with the G7, the IMF, the EU and the Irish Government on plans for the eventuality that Ireland would request support. At the G20 meeting in South Korea two weeks ago, I was one of the European Finance Ministers who issued a joint statement that provided a brief respite. At the ECOFIN meeting last Wednesday, my colleagues and I discussed the Irish situation with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, with whom I have also kept in touch directly. Following meetings in Brussels, the Irish Government committed to engage in a short and focused consultation with the IMF and the EU. On Thursday a joint mission arrived in Dublin, and in the last few days I engaged with my counterparts in the G7, the euro area and the EU about the way forward.

Following intense work over the weekend between the Irish and international authorities, last night Ireland’s Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, made a formal request for assistance. This was followed by statements from the G7, the IMF, the Eurogroup and European Finance Ministers to

“provide the necessary financial resources for Ireland to implement its fiscal reform plans and stabilise its banking system.”

The statements made it clear that there were two components to the rescue package. The first puts beyond doubt Ireland’s ability to fund itself. The international assistance package will support an ambitious four-year fiscal strategy which the Irish government will set out later this week. This will see a fiscal consolidation of €15 billion by 2014, of which €6 billion will be implemented next year, as part of a strategy leading to a target budget deficit of 3% of GDP in four years’ time. The second part of the assistance package is a fund for potential future capital needs of the banking sector. This will support measures to promote deleveraging and ensure restructuring of Ireland’s banks, so that its banking system can perform its role in supporting the economy.

Let me turn to how the package will be financed. This is a joint programme, with funding from both the IMF and the EU. The amount of money involved will, in part, depend on the IMF’s analysis of what is needed, and Prime Minister Cowen has said that he expects it to be less than €100 billion. The international community is working on the rough assumption that the IMF will contribute about one third of the total. The total European package will provide the other two thirds. Based on the significant reform of the IMF agreed by G20 Finance Ministers last month, the IMF is well placed to play a leading role in this international effort. The UK, of course, is an important shareholder of the IMF and we will meet these multilateral obligations. I would like to reassure the House that the IMF is currently well resourced and able to meet the cost of the package for Ireland.

The European element of this package will primarily come from two sources of funding agreed in May before this Government came into office: the €60 billion European financial stabilisation mechanism; and the €440 billion European financial stability facility. The balance between the European mechanism and the eurozone facility will be determined in the coming days. The United Kingdom is not a member of the euro, and will not be a member of the euro while we are in government, and so we will not participate in the eurozone stability fund. To be fair to my predecessor, he kept us out of that fund, but he did agree to the UK’s involvement in the European mechanism two days before we took office. I made it clear at the time that I did not believe he should make that commitment. However, it operates according to qualified majority voting and so we cannot stop it being used, and to exercise that vote at this time would, I judge, be very disruptive. So the EU will lend money to Ireland on behalf of all 27 member states, and the UK must accept its share of this contingent liability, which would arise in the unlikely scenario that Ireland should default on its obligations to the EU.

On top of this, I have agreed that the UK should consider offering a bilateral loan to Ireland, as part of the IMF and European package. I judge this to be in Britain’s national interest. Let me explain why. We have strong economic relations with Ireland. Ireland accounts for 5% of Britain’s total exports—indeed, we export more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China put together. Ireland is the only country with which we share a land border, and in Northern Ireland our economies are particularly linked, with two fifths of its exports going to the Republic.

Just as our two economies are connected, our two banking sectors are also interconnected. I should stress that the resilience of our own banks, which are now well capitalised, means that they are well placed to manage any impact from the situation in Ireland. But two of the four largest high street banks operating in Northern Ireland are Irish-owned, accounting for almost a quarter of personal accounts. The Irish banks have an important presence in the UK. What is more, two Irish banks are actual issuers of sterling notes in Northern Ireland. It is clearly in Britain’s interest that we have a growing Irish economy and a stable Irish banking system. By considering a bilateral loan, we are recognising these deep connections between our two countries and, crucially, it has helped us to be at the centre of the discussions that have shaped the conditions of an international assistance package that is of huge importance to our economy. Of course, this is a loan and we can expect to be repaid. In fact, Sweden has already deemed it to be in its national interest to consider a bilateral loan to Ireland.

Now that the Irish Government have requested assistance, a lot of the detailed work of putting together the package can take place. I understand that Members are keen to hear the specifics, such as the rate of interest on the loans, the repayment periods and the contribution from each of the various elements of the package. I shall keep the House informed.

Later this week, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be in Northern Ireland to discuss the situation there. I will ensure there is a specific discussion in the House if there is a bilateral loan, and we will need to take primary powers.

Finally, let me say something about the future of the various European support funds, which are being discussed later this year. Both the Prime Minister and I are very clear that when it comes to putting in place a permanent eurozone bail-out mechanism, the UK will not be part of that.

This is a situation of great difficulty for Ireland and it is a tragedy when it did so much to improve its competitiveness with low taxes and flexible labour markets, but the truth is that it had a hugely leveraged banking sector that was badly regulated—a pattern that we have had to deal with in our own country. In addition, because Ireland is a member of the euro, exchange rate flexibility and independent monetary policy were not tools available to it when the crisis took hold. The arguments against Britain joining the euro are well rehearsed, not least by me, but although “I told you so” might be correct, it does not amount to an economic policy.

When the coalition Government came into office, Britain was in the financial danger zone. We have taken action to put our house in order. We were once seen as part of the problem, but we are now part of the solution. Ireland is a friend in need and it is in our national interests that we should be prepared to help at this difficult time. I commend the statement to the House.

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UK Election Predictions

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So tomorrow will see the polls opening for the UK General Election. I have been following the campaigns in my spare time but not really blogging about it. Mainly as I didn’t know where I stood. I do now.

I am hoping for a Liberal Democrat surge tomorrow.

But enough of who I want to do well, on to some predictions. Some of these are random, others are obvious. I will be up late into the night on Thursday watching the results on the telly and if anything interesting happens, it will be blogged about!

So, on to the predictons!

Vote Share

The Conservatives will win the most votes, followed by the Liberal Democrats. Labour will come third.


Conservaties will have about 270, Labour, 260, Liberal Democrats 90.

Other Parties

Greens will win their first seat. My money is on Brighton Pavillion.

BNP will not win a seat.

UKIP will win two seats. Buckingham and one other

SNP will increase their seats by 2

PC will also increase their seats by 2

Northern Ireland is too close to call for me.

They are my predictions. A hung parliament is in the offing. Have you got any predictions?

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Monday Links – 17/8/09

L' Oceanographic
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A bit late in the day then normal but still at least its getting done!

A friend has started blogging and she takes a look at racism in Ireland

Jason O’Mahoney has the improved Spoofers Guide to the Lisbon treaty

Beruit is getting on the Map, the openstreet map that is. Cool idea

Joe points out that us Eurobloggers are suffering an identity crisis!

Welcome to NAMAland

Why we love google, twitter and texting, we are hardwired for it!

Top 20 Northern Ireland blogs

Bryan looks at Mexico and its haters in the States

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Northern Ireland – Think Post

I put a post up on think about it website about the European Elections in Northern Ireland. To me, Northern Ireland is going to be one of the interesting constituencies in Ireland and UK where recent events and changes to parties and the split to the Unionist vote. Its all going to ve very interesting!

Something that seems to have escaped mention on this blog is the change that could come about in Northern Ireland during the European Elections this year. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that does not use the D’Hondt method of PR. Instead it uses the Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system.

Read the full post

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UUP – Ignored by main stream media?

Sir Reg Empey leader of the Ulster Unionist Party recently gace a speech to the UUP AGM back at the end of last month. Now I did not see this being reported in the mainstream media, which is shocking as it is an excellent speech on the future for the UUP and unionism in general in Northern Ireland. I found it via the UUP page on facebook.

The speech was excellent and will make me listen very carefully to the UUP in future. It is a pity that I did not see it in the main stream media and I hope they will remina invigorated until the next council elections and assembly elections in 2011. Some excerpts from the speech below.

We had to unite and reinvigorate the Party. That means attracting younger candidates; more women; and better communicators. We have to have the ability to land punches without looking like brawlers. We have to be seen to be offering choice, change and vision.

The electorate does not vote for a party seen to be in decline. But those days are over. So we must now be seen as a party of ideas, of policies and of “normal” politics. And we must have a view of and agenda for Northern Ireland which appeals to the widest possible base.

We need to turn the page on the old politics of Unionist against Nationalist; and close the book on the even older politics of Protestant versus Roman Catholic.

Here Empey is back to what the UUP should be pushing New Politics! Getting young people and women involved this is something faced by every political party

I am often asked if it annoys me that the DUP, in March 2007—having hounded us every step of the way—immediately repudiated almost every policy and mantra they ever espoused and somersaulted their way into an Executive structure that contains five Sinn Fein ministers, rather than the two we had in 1998?

Ladies and Gentlemen, “Annoy” doesn’t begin to sum it up!

I am sick of the DUP now claiming the credit for everything good that has happened in Northern Ireland since 1998. Particularly when they did everything they could to undermine the efforts we were making.

They told us that the Irish Government would never accept an internal settlement. They told us that Sinn Fein would never buy into partition. They told us that the IRA would never move on the issues of decommissioning or recognition of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland.

Do you remember the days when an IMC Report would never have satisfied the DUP? Or when the word of a couple of clergy on decommissioning would have been regarded by them as laughable? Or when a motion from a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis would have been dismissed as utterly worthless?

And I am sick of the fact that the DUP took a political formula aimed at providing power-sharing and genuine cooperation and turned it into a carve-up based on mutual loathing and balanced by mutual veto.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when I look at Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson today, snuggling under the duvet with Gerry Kelly and Martin McGuinness, I have only one question to ask them: was it really worth it?

When you look at the DUP’s U-turns and at their backtracking from every pledge they ever made, can you honestly say that it justified your efforts to destroy your old party and undermine your former colleagues?

Yes, the Ulster Unionist Party may have had made mistakes on the journey to what we truly believed was an honourable settlement in Northern Ireland; but at least no-one can accuse us of hypocrisy and sheer naked opportunism.

So he doesn’t like the DUP it seams. I have to agree with him though. He makes extremely valid points!

The DUP still boasts of their successes at St Andrews and the better, fairer deal they returned with. Oh really!

Try telling the electorate of Dromore about that better deal—where a majority of the unionist electorate voted against the DUP candidate.

Try boasting of the better deal to those once core followers who have defected to the TUV—claiming that they have been sold-out

Try convincing the Paisleys—Snr and Jnr—who have been toppled in a brutal coup: And toppled because their MLA group panicked when they became aware of the groundswell of discontent that accompanied the “better” deal.

And try selling the better deal to the tens of thousands of parents who have still no idea what is happening to those children who will be transferring from primary to secondary school in the next few years.

The next elections will be critical for the DUP, not so much Sinn Fein. SDLP have not reinvigorated has much as the UUP have.

Peter [Robinson] will try and cosy up to us with soft words about cooperation and the need to maximise the overall unionist vote. But let no-one forget that his fingerprints are on every aspect of the DUP’s tactics and strategies over the past decades. He, personally, ran the propaganda machine that spat out most of the venom at this party.

So let me put it bluntly: the Ulster Unionist Party didn’t endure the orchestrated abuse against us since 1997; or the tidal wave of attacks upon our integrity; or the vilification of our leading figures; simply to strike up a marriage of convenience with a DUP which is worried about the impact of Jim Allister.

And we haven’t overhauled our structures, transforming ourselves into a more effective political and electoral machine, just to help Peter Robinson out of a possible electoral hole.

Yes, there are areas in which the DUP and UUP can cooperate. I have no objection to that. But cooperation is a two-way process. It may have taken some people almost forty years to uncover the true nature of the DUP—which can be summed up as a sustained campaign to destroy the UUP—but too many of us in this room know too much about the DUP to be easily swayed by romantic overtures at this stage of the game.

Theres a warning to the DUP. I think he means business! Go on Sir Reg!

People sometimes wonder what we mean when we talk of “normal politics” and dealing with the so-called bread and butter issues. I’ll tell you what I mean.

In recent weeks, families of all income groups have been reeling from a sustained series of price hikes on those goods and services which are essential to modern living. Fuel, Gas, electricity, transport, mortgages and food are going up literally every day. On the 5th May I bought diesel at 117.9p. Yesterday I saw it at 131.9p!

That is only one example. Every vital item is affected; bread, milk, butter etc. This will feed through into inflation and people will naturally be seeking more wages to pay for it.

It will present the Assembly with an enormous challenge. People will want answers. They won’t be bought off with rhetoric about a United Ireland or a United Kingdom. They won’t be bought off with laying the blame at the door of the Chancellor in 11 Downing Street. And they certainly won’t be impressed by the various political parties in that Assembly indulging in a tit-for-tat propaganda battle.

Child poverty and fuel poverty are already everyday facts of life for too many families in Northern Ireland. Recent price rises are making the achievement of child poverty reduction targets almost impossible. Even supposedly well-to-do families are surviving on loans and credit cards.

Is this really the right time to burden our most vulnerable people with new water charges? We have already seen what the 10p tax revolt has done to Gordon Brown.

In our manifesto for the last Assembly election we spoke of the need for “normal politics”—the need to produce and deliver policies which address the socio/economic concerns of everyone in Northern Ireland. A recession makes no distinction between a UUP voter and a SF voter. A mortgage hike can be as devastating to someone in Cultra as it is to someone in Taughmonagh.

We have argued for years that devolution would make a difference to Northern Ireland. It has to make a difference—and it has to be a difference for the better. A recent poll in the Belfast Telegraph had 72% saying that it had made no difference to their lives so far. The Assembly cannot be seen to be impotent in the face of the huge challenges we face. The electorate would be unforgiving.

If ever there was a time for the people and parties of Northern Ireland to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of oncoming difficulties, then this is that moment. How the Assembly and the Executive Committee deal with the array of problems we face will, ultimately, determine the fate of devolution here.

Excellent! Sir Reg heads the nail on the head to what the UUP need to do! Actually what all Northern Parties need to do!

Full Speech

Also the new website is very good and Unionist TV is a great resource fr those interested in the UUP.

Northern Ireland, the "hate capital of the West"


Northern Ireland is “ the hate capital of the West”, according to new university research, with an astonishing 44% of its citizens proving disturbingly homophobic.

The research from University of Ulster, to be published in economics journal Kyklos, said that Northern Ireland matches Greece in their significant animosity toward gays and immigrants.

Vani Borooah, Professor of Applied Economics of University of Ulster and John Mangan, Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland collaborated in the study, which surveyed 32,000 people across 19 European counties, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

The Human Rights and Values survey asked respondents what they thought of minority groups – and how they would feel about having members of certain groups as their neighbors.

The five groups included members of another races, immigrants or foreign workers, Muslims, Jews, and homosexuals.

An astonishing 44% of the 1,000 respondents of Northern Ireland said they didn’t want even one of the five groups as their neighbors.

Bigotry proportion of Northern Ireland was followed closely by Greece with 43%.

The lowest proportion occured in Sweden with 13%.

Homophobia was by far the main source of bigotry in most western countries: over 80% of bigoted people in Northern Ireland and Canada, and 75% of bigots in Austria, the USA, Great Britain, Ireland and Italy wouldn’t want gays or lesbians as neighbours.

In Scandinavian countries the main target of hostility turned toward Muslims.

74% of bigoted Danes, 68% of bigoted Swedes and 63% of bigoted Icelanders did not want Muslims as neighbours.

The study also came up with the following conclusions.

– Women are less likely to be bigoted than men.

– Some evidence that financial dissatisfaction might also be a source of bigotry.

– Students were less likely to be bigots than non-students.

Click here to see the full research report.