Open Unionism


A forum to discuss new ideas and perspectives on Unionism…

‘Best of the Web’

By Geoff McGimpsey

Happy new year! So 2011 has arrived… bringing with it a fully blown water crisis, a VAT rise and the death of Gerry Rafferty. January truly is the most miserable of all months.

Despite Laurence MacKenzie’s departure, the catastrophe of NI Water is threatening to engulf the devolved Executive. The principle that a Minister cannot be removed irrespective of performance or public opinion is a source of ire among bloggers.

Jeff Peel’s Dairy is emblematic of a growing view that “… the buck should stop at the Minister. The Executive, and an unquestioning Assembly, are more responsible for under-investment in Northern Ireland’s water infrastructure than the body required to deliver such investment.”

Perhaps Conor Murphy has been foolish, but Rodney McCune’s blog feels that the system which permits foolishness needs to be recast.

“We don’t need to have second rate public services run by a second rate Executive,” he blogged. “We have capable and able alternatives and it is high time we get them in there and get them running things. Conor Murphy may be a fool, but he isn’t the only one.”

Similarly, while some blame the individual, A Tangled Web blames the state. According to David Vance: “This utility needs fundamental change and massive investment and it seems to me that only a change of ownership away from the State and into private hands will suffice.”

East Belfast Diary agrees the present system with Go-Cos needs to be reviewed. “The Minister is blaming NI Water senior management and says he has no cause to resign. Senior managers are blaming the weather and under-investment… This incident should provoke a debate about accountability in Government Owned Companies.”

But at least one twitterer bravely ponders whether the defenestration of Laurence MacKenzie doesn’t represent some cruel and unusual punishment. According to @CB_PRandPA: “I think we might have a new understanding of being ‘water-boarded’. Surely NIW CEO has rights under a UN convention?”


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Best of the web…

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday December 3…

‘Best of the Web’

Raucous standing ovations, Union Jacks waving furiously in the air, exuberant pensioners, BBC cameras everywhere – it’s either The Last Night Of The Proms or a DUP conference.

And so it was. The DUP conference took place last weekend and was widely regarded as very successful. So what did the tweeps and bloggers make of it all?

There’s a new star in the making according to one twitterer. ‘Good day at #dupconf liking the new panel format and reckon @simonhamilton could be the new Parky.’ There can be no higher praise than this.

So we’ve spotted rising stars – but did anyone see a black hole? Yip. According to @alaninbelfast: ’… rising star Jonathan Bell left out of the list of “Your DUP Team” in #dupconf programme – black hole of Strangford!’ Oops!

Over on Slugger, Alan added: “It was the DUP’s best-attended conference. The overflow car park overflowed – a local church that was running a craft fair and wasn’t impressed when their car park filled up with non-shoppers!”

However, I did go into the church after the conference to ask how their craft fair went. I can exclusively reveal that the Church had an excellent afternoon. All’s well that end’s well.

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‘Best of the Web’

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday November 12…

Screenshot from Burke's Corner

By Geoff McGimpsey

This week came the declaration from George Bush that water-boarding was a good thing. As ever, George put his policy forward in the style of cowboy anti-hero Alan Ladd. So when asked at his book launch if water-boarding was okay, he drawled: “Damn right.”

In George’s world view, the sheriff gets the girl and the bad guys have it coming to ‘em. I think there’s something deeply romantic about that (if you’re prepared to set aside simulated drowning and other advanced torture techniques). But naturally, those soppy romantics at A Tangled Web were coo-ing over George’s gritty honesty.

According to David Vance: “We don’t live in utopia and until we all do then I believe George W is right.” Damn right!

BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ has invited David on to debate the content of Dubya’s Alan Ladd impression. But ahead of that appearance (on Remembrance Sunday), I would urge David to consider this blogpost from Ultonia:

“This August Belfast saw its last Victory over Japan Day parade by 14 veterans, some who paraded with the help of family members. Allied troops who fought in that Far East campaign were subjected to the waterboarding torture by Japanese soldiers…. Perhaps those who wear a poppy but advocate torture should reflect on that contradiction.”

I’ll wager William Crawley will make precisely this point on Sunday.

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‘Best of the Web’

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday November 05…

Screenshot from Ultonia

Some things are guaranteed when you get close to Christmas. Firstly, a shopping centre in Ballymena will put up a Christmas tree before anyone else; and secondly, Good Morning Ulster will respond by asking whether Christmas trees are just going up too early. Cue collective humbug and emoting about the true meaning of Christmas.

Lee at Ultonia knows where he stands in the Christmas tree debate. He blogged: “The electric light bulb is a technology that we managed to crack many many decades ago, does seeing them in different colours and predictable designs really manage to differentiate one shopping town from another?” Bah humbug Lee!

One local blog has gone further still by releasing its ‘end-of-year review’ in early November. Already 1690 an’ all thon has selected its ‘Ulster Scot o’ the Year, 2000 an 10’.

So who wins this much sought-after gong? Step forward DUP Culture Minister Nelson McCausland!

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‘Best of the Web’

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday October 29…

The Minister's Pen blog

By Geoff McGimpsey

I’m about to say something which my wife has been telling me for years. Bloggers are SAD. I mean, really, really SAD.

Although, before I get a welcome-back-to-the-real-world-style pat on the back, I should qualify that by saying SAD isn’t a character assessment, it’s a medical condition. Because there’s a dark mood infecting bloggers at the moment, and I’m putting it down to a severe bout of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) ie. ‘winter blues’.

First up, Eye On The Hill with one of the cheeriest intros I’ve ever read to a post: “It’s true – the world as we know it has come to an end. We’re doomed.”

Well, that’s me depressed. The blog went on to predict that the only certainty about public finances is that “we’re going to have to listen to whinging and whining ahead of next year’s elections: after all many politicians’ raisin d’étre (sic) is to get back into power, not necessarily to sort out the mess”.

Jeez, that really is depressing.

Equally depressing is the state of the legal system here, and A Tangled Web has demanded a more muscular approach. Reacting to reports that around one-third of violent criminals here re-offend within a year of leaving prison, David Vance said: “There is an issue here concerning just how flabby and soft our judicial system has become after decades of liberal assault.”

Needless to say, one commenter believed the rule of law should literally involve rulers.

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‘Best of the Web’

This article first appeared in the News Letter on Friday October 1…

By Geoff McGimpsey

So the UUP have a new leader – Tom and the Party now need profile. But how?

Thankfully, Professor Billy McWilliams from 1690 an’ all thon is on hand to suggest that Mike Nesbitt “make a reality programme featurin’ tap Unionists, fur the moment Ah am gien’ this pilot the name Celebrity Come Whine wi’ Me.”

What a pitch! In your own time Mike…

On to the Labour leadership contest where Jeff Peel’s Diary blogged: “I know this is childish and rather barrel-scraping, but is it me or does Ed bear a striking resemblance to Gromit from Wallace and Gromit fame?”

Well, there is a sort of careworn, canine floppiness about Ed. But I’d need to see him holding up a copy of ‘Electronics for Dogs’ before I pass final judgment.

Over at the Stakeholder PR blog, Tom Kelly is urging Gromit to stand up to the Looney Left. Then on a more encouraging note, he added: “Unlike some, at least he doesn’t owe his victory to anti-GAA, gay-bashing, blue-rinsed rural Clampetts – which is a relief.”

What’s he tryin’ to say like?

Equally forthright is David Vance who’s struck by the image of Sinn Fein protesting against financial cuts. Making some cuts of its own, A Tangled Web blogged: “I suppose it’s better that they [Sinn Fein] are out protesting on the streets rather than detonating their bombs on the same streets that they ruined for decades.”

Well, quite.

Elsewhere, Alan In Belfast is pushing the envelope with one particularly high-performance metaphor. Remarking on John Kyle’s performance as PUP leader, Alan said (wait for it!) he’s like “a pilot… stabilising the damaged PUP aeroplane and bringing it down to land in a controlled way at the Harbour Airport, ensuring that the passengers (communities and stakeholders that the party represent) were not abandoned, and minimising the damage should the party fragment in mid-air over East Belfast”.

Thanks for clearing that one up Alan. You’re grounded.

The prognosticatory powers of the Irish News are celebrated over at Ultonia. Reflecting on the origins of Ulster Day and the British Covenant, Lee noted that The Irish News had “dismissed the entire thing as a ‘farce’, ‘circus’ and ‘highly ludicrous’.”

Way to go Irish News! Heck, I wonder if they reckon the internet will catch on? Well, no. Three Thousand Versts noted that “the newspaper is only available online as a facsimile behind a paywall, so unless you have x-ray eyes and can read it off the demo-reader, a newsagent is the best place to pick up a copy”.

Far-sighted stuff.

And finally, self-hosted online media means there’s now little escape for anyone trying to avoid SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt broadcasting about himself. Just when you thought you’d avoided his blog, twitter, facebook, linkedin, flickr, twitpics and website… he’s found an app called ‘audioboo’ which allows him to record and publish his own voice. According to O’Conall Street:

“… [it] allows you to upload up to 30 minutes of audio and share. I think I’m the first MLA to give it a go… Let me know what you think.”

Thirty minutes?? Jeez. Let’s tell him what we think, though it’s less an audioboo and more of an audible boo. So altogether now: boo!

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Best of the Web

This article originally appeared in last Friday’s News Letter…

By Geoff McGimpsey

It’s all change in the UUP. Empey is departed, Elliott has arrived. So farewell then cautious, right-leaning, traditional unionist message… and hello, erm, cautious, right-leaning, traditional unionist message!

Mike Nesbitt’s blog refers to Tom’s impressive margin of victory. He’s right to. Basil failed to win enough support to cause the new leader any real trouble in future.

But Mike adds: “Tom promises Basil and his supporters his UUP will not be a cold house for them. This is an opportunity to bind together, let’s take it.”

Well, Basil pledged unity in his speech so bind he must.

Lots of positive feedback filtered through onto facebook and twitter. Folk like Bill Mainwaring are now looking forward to the election.

He wrote: People want politics that make a difference and politicians who will put issues before rhetoric. Between now and next May Tom has an opportunity to show that he can lead the party in this direction.”

Over at Open Unionism, I once again showed my nose for backing a winner. Having had the foresight to back Alan McFarland in 2005, I came out for Basil McCrea. If you’ve got political ambitions, my support is a bit like Sandyknowes roundabout at 8.15am on Monday morning –just try to avoid it at all costs.

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Best of the web…

[This column first published in the News Letter on Friday June 04.]

Last week, I referred to criticism over what Nelson McCausland believes is a lack of Orange Order and Creationism displays at the Ulster Museum. That was the case for the prosecution.

This week we hear the case for the defence.

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Best of the web…

[This column first published in the News Letter on Friday May 28.]

There’s been plenty of niggle on the blogs this week. Over at Mike Nesbitt’s blog, I’ve been ribbing the UCUNF candidate on his ‘will-I-won’t-I’ positioning in the UUP leadership race.

Blogs Mike: “[Bobballs] suggests the fact that I say I have no camp, campaign or team, may, in fact, be my strategy for securing the Leadership – a sort of Masterful Inaction. Has he really sussed me again?”

Yes I have. Best of luck Mike!

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Best of the Web

[First published in the News Letter on Friday April 16.]

This week I’m taking a look at the TUV and how well their candidates have been exploiting the internet.

Up until recently, the TUV’s presence on social media had been spearheaded mainly by Party Leader Jim Allister and East Belfast candidate David Vance. Jim is extremely active on twitter, and David’s a well-known blogger. But now we can add a third name to that list… East Londonderry candidate Willie Ross.

For this week Willie announced the launch of a brand spanking new campaign website and twitterfeed.

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Filed under: Best of the Web

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