WITH over 40 years’ experience looking after the needs of babies all over Belfast and beyond, Sandra's Nursery Corner is a one-stop shop for all your baby care needs.
RENOWNED nationwide painting and decorating brand Crown are celebrating after opening a new store in South Belfast.
PAINTING or decorating? Whether you’re a professional or a novice, there’s nowhere better to start than at Crown Decorating Centre on the Saintfield Road in Belfast.
There's a real danger that the 'code red' alert this week from the United Nations on global warming will be seen by Seán and Sinéad Public as no more than more hot air.
When the West Belfast Community Festival was launched in August 1988 — a time of tumult and torture for the good people of the West — its organisers could hardly have imagined its rise to the dizzy heights it commands today.
Justice campaigner Jude White, speaking ahead of the announcement on legacy killings by British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, didn't mince his words when he branded this "a disastrous day" for victims. Certainly, the heavily-anticipated decision to end any prosecutions of those accused of carrying out killings during the almost 30 years of warfare here — gives scant consideration of the views of victims. Indeed, it is more than just a case of ignoring the rights and pleas of victims. For the move by Brandon Lewis to deny victims their day in court is clearly motivated by the heroic and successful campaigns by the Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy families which exposed the bloody truth about Britain's 'peacekeepers'. These tireless crusaders for justice ensured that the state killers of their loved ones could not, as they hoped, get away Scot-free with awful murder. And in realising that their crimes would come back to haunt them, the British are now preparing, for the most self-serving of motives, to end prosecutions of their soldiers. Boris Johnson says this proposed legislation will draw a line under the past and allow society in the North to move forward. What he really means is that British soldiers and intelligence service operatives — still possessing many dark secrets about the dirty war — who committed murder are put beyond the law. This decision has been condemned not just by victims of loyalist and state violence. Unionist victims' groups and politicians have been equally vociferous in their denunciation of this move. Certainly, victims of all stripes, have every right to be furious at the British move. The criticism from unionist leaders, however, is deeply ironic. They rallied to the cause of British soldiers who shot nationalist civilians in the back without stopping to consider for a moment that amnesty for official killers would also mean amnesty for all. Amazingly, nothing seems to have been learned from unionism's shambolic approach to Brexit, whereby they fought for the solution which most damaged their own cause. 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me' is clearly not an adage with which unionism is familiar. Suggestions of some type of truth recovery commission as part of this 'get-out-of-jail-free' card for British military veterans should be taken with a grain of salt. The British Government is not going to cease prosecutions in court only to allow the truth to come out in other forums — indeed, if they can stop inquests of the type which gave great solace and vindication to the Ballymurphy Massacre families, they surely will. If there is any consolation, it should be in the fact that for a very long time the nationalist community has known the truth about state killers, about collusion and about the conduct of Britain's war on our streets. That truth has burnt like an unquenchable flame for generations. It will not be dimmed by Britain's latest effort to cover-up, whitewash or absolve its killers.
THE depressing annual carnival of bonfire madness is in full swing as we head towards the Twelfth, with the usual diet of cultural indignation supplemented this year by a hefty helping of Protocol paranoia.
THE announcement this week of long-overdue liberalisation of the North’s antiquated licensing laws is a rare and welome bit of good news for a hospitality sector that has been ravaged by the lockdown. In a sweeping list of changes, pubs and clubs will be allowed to serve alcohol for an extra hour almost every weekend – to 2am; cinemas will be allowed to apply for licences to sell alcohol to moviegoers; and, most significantly, archaic Easter licensing restrictions are to be lifted in time for next spring. The new rules on opening hours and cinemas will come into operation in the autumn, by which time it is hoped that the trajectory of the Covid pandemic will have continued in a generally positive direction. That means that the industry will enjoy more beneficial trading conditions in the vital Christmas season, which will go some way to repairing the huge financial damage wrought by the Covid crisis.
JUST when the largest unionist party should have been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament, the final panel fell off the DUP clown car and Edwin Poots honked his final sad honk. And into the circus ring has stepped Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the man Mr Poots narrowly defeated to begin his farcical 21-day reign. The consensus seems to be that Mr Donaldson is a serious operator who will usher in a much-needed period of calm and stability. But then we look at the headlines and see briefings being given to credible journalists by sources close to the leader-in-waiting to the effect that i) he’s willing and able to pull the political institutions down and ii) he has no intention of pulling them down.
AN extraordinary upping of the ante this week by the increasingly erratic and ludicrous Loyalist Communities Council was doubtless aimed at putting pressure on the new leaders of the DUP and the UUP as they survey the political landscape and decide down what road they want to lead their beleaguered parties.
THE two new leaders of Unionism face very difficult and very different challenges as they face into the job of defending a union which in its centenary year has never appeared more fragile and threatened. For DUP leader Edwin Poots it is quite simply a job of addressing the catastrophe of the party’s EU stance, as the DUP’s decision to pursue a hard Brexit is the crumbling rock on which partition is now based. The outgoing Arlene Foster was undone by a convergence of circumstances, but the beginning of the end came back in January when she briefly decided to face up to the inevitable and recognise what she termed “the gateway of opportunity” that was the Protocol. She was right, of course. The best-of-both-worlds deal has the possibility to be the economy-lifting, morale-boosting gift that partition so badly needs in its 100th year. But spooked by increasing opposition to the Irish Sea border and a poll that suggested that the DUP is facing an existential crisis, she did a tyre-smoking handbrake-turn which did for what remained of her credibility. After that, the end was inevitable, and the speed and brutality of the coup staged by her colleagues was painful to behold. In her increasingly desperate attempts to bolster her position, Mrs Foster painted the DUP into the corner in which her successor now finds himself. For the leading Unionist party there is one priority: Get rid of the Protocol. Mrs Foster’s increasingly uncompromising rhetoric in her final weeks and months has left no ambiguity or nuance that Mr Poots and his new team at the top can exploit. It is all or nothing. If the customs posts at Belfast and Larne are still in place by next May’s Assembly election, wipe-out is a very distinct possibility. Mr Poots may have drawn some comfort from the tough talk this week of the UK’s former lead Brexit negotiator David Frost. But Mr Frost’s words have more than a faint air of the ridiculously desperate about them and even if the British succeed in winning significant customs checks mitigations, the chances of the border being moved entirely are vanishingly small. In the end, a man who’s not renowned for fancy talk may only be saved by some smart wordplay. Mr Poots has an entire year to recalibrate Unionist expectations while simultaneously lowering the volume on the doom-mongering. But will he do it? Meanwhile, new UUP leader Doug Beattie’s coronation was as unremarkable as the reign of the man he replaces, Steve Aiken. The Protocol is not an albatross around the UUP’s neck, although it could become a problem for the party if Mr Beattie makes policy with one eye on the DUP.
THE DUP leadership contest will take place on May 14 and in just over a week we’ll find out who’s going to be leading unionism through what’s likely to be one of the most tumultuous periods for the union since partition. The conversation about a new Ireland has not only begun – despite the Trojan efforts of the DUP and the UUP to strangle it – but it is hotting up with every day that passes. And while that observable fact in a sane place would lead unionism finally to consider how best to dial down the rhetoric and stop the haemorrhaging of voters which its continued grey conservatism is driving, it appears that the opposite has happened. While there has been deep discontent within the party over Arlene Foster’s leadership for some time, the Protocol debacle has deepened the discontent, and it was extremely telling that the straw that broke the camel’s back was Mrs Foster’s decision to abstain on an Assembly vote on banning gay conversion therapy. The fact that that was the trigger – even if it was some way down the list of the plotters’ leadership grievances – was a symbolic gesture, if you like, by the reactionary forces within the party who instigated the drawing up of the letter and the ultimate resignation of Mrs Foster. But while the heave against Mrs Foster was clearly led by elements in the party favouring the leadership of Edwin Poots – a decidedly dour and uncharismatic religious fundamentalist – the tortured politics of the party mean that a victory for Jeffrey Donaldson could not be in any way be described as a victory for moderates. Because while the Stormont and Westminster arithmetic is nowhere near being settled and the battle has only begun, Mr Donaldson has been endorsed by some of the most controversial, regressive and confrontational figures among his MP colleagues. Early speculation that the process of appointing a new leader was going to be a Poots coronation instead of a competition have dissolved as it became clear that the brash and confident thrust against Foster was most likely a bluff and/or a gamble. Because it’s clear that reports that Poots had a strong majority of MLAs behind him were in fact largely baseless. As the days after Mrs Foster’s dramatic step-down passed, it became clear that there was no rush to declare for Poots, especially when it emerged that Mr Donaldson was going to throw his hat in the ring. Beyond the leadership election, the new leader will face a difficult choice as head of a party for whom one issue now towers above all others: the Protocol. Should he call a snap Stormont election, or should he continue on until next May in the increasingly threadbare hope that the Protocol can be ditched? Both options present huge risks. A quick election could see the DUP capitalise on unionist Protocol anger – but equally it could see them badly punished for helping to put it in place. Whatever happens, Jim Allister is ready to go on the offensive. And the prospect of that battle is not something that fills those of us hoping for progress with optimism.
There is an old Belfast joke with the punchline, "Yes, but are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?"
THEY say the future belongs to those who can imagine it. If that’s the case, then the diverse future being imagined right here, right now, has the potential to be very bright for Belfast. That’s because across progessive Belfast neighbourhoods, diversity is being championed and the ‘New Irish’ welcomed.Nowhere is that truer than in the west of the city. Indeed, it’s no accident that so many Syrian refugees have made their home in West Belfast for they know that there their suffering is understood, their faith respected and their heritage held in high regard.
THE ruling by the Public Prosecution Service that no charges are to brought against any of the senior Sinn Féin members who attended the funeral of Bobby Storey last June has prompted an entirely predictable wave of fury and indignation from the party’s political opponents.