British Theresa May’s homophobic Irish allies

This satiric video says about itself:

3 May 2016

Here at PinkNews, we decided to make a more accurate version of the Democratic Unionist Party‘s 2016 [Northern Ireland] Assembly [election] broadcast.

By Donal O’Cofaigh in Northern Ireland:

The DUP‘s long history of bigotry towards lesbians and gay people

Friday 7th July 2017

Prejudice towards the LGBT community, corruption and hypocrisy may define the DUP to many but earlier this year they received their highest ever share of the vote as hundreds of thousands of Protestants voted for them amid heightened community divisions, writes Donal O’Cofaigh

The Democratic Unionists (DUP) are propping up Theresa May’s minority government — but how many British readers are fully aware of their history in regard to the issue of LGBT rights?

This is a party with a long pedigree of prejudice towards the LGBT community, which has repeatedly voted down equal marriage — using the petition of concern, a mechanism meant to guarantee community rights on either side, to veto change after majorities in the Stormont Assembly have voted for equality.

So who are the DUP?

The DUP grew up as an opposition to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), who ruled Northern Ireland as a one-party state for 50 years after its foundation. The UUP oversaw systemic discrimination against Catholics but also against working-class Protestants.

Northern Ireland — an intrinsic part of the UK — did not have one-person-one-vote until 1974 and that only after years of civil rights protests, the eruption of violence on the streets and the proroguing of the Ulster unionism’s seat of government, Stormont with the imposition of direct rule from Westminster.

While standing against “big house unionism,” the DUP was not motivated by class-based politics, instead it was founded on fundamentalist Protestantism — anti-Rome rhetoric was mixed with populist demands and attacks on anything verging on power-sharing.

The DUP was shaped by the largerthan-life personality of the Reverend Ian Paisley, who received his doctorate in divinity from the Bob Jones University in South Carolina. The DUP were the political wing of his church, the fundamentalist, evangelical Free Presbyterians.

Whether in the pulpit or on the streets his message was one of intolerance to Catholicism, ecumenism and homosexuality. The goal was to save the Ulster people from the “evils” of social liberalism, militant Irish republicanism and, worse still, the threat of godless communism.

Despite its strong unionism, the religious zealotry of the DUP has repeatedly led it to oppose the extension of progressive British legislation to Northern Ireland.

In 1977 the party launched its “Save Ulster from sodomy” campaign in response to attempts to extend the decriminalisation of homosexual acts under the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. As a result of this opposition, decriminalisation only took place in Northern Ireland in 1982 as a result of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

In the following years, the DUP’s opposition to LGBT rights has remained every bit as strident despite the fact that it has now totally obliterated its Ulster Unionist opposition and is led by an Anglican, Arlene Foster.

Ian Paisley’s son, a leading member of Parliament, recently referred to homosexuality as being “immoral, offensive and obnoxious” and that he was “repulsed” by LGBT people. Another MP, Jim Wells, claimed that children growing up in same-sex households were more likely to be subjected to abuse before being forced to apologise. He also claimed the LGBT lobby was “insatiable.”

Such comments abound in the party — filled as it is with creationists, climate change-deniers and anti-choice campaigners but their moral pronouncements are often deeply hypocritical. The DUP are quite possibly the most corrupt party in Stormont with a strong history of flirtation, if not outright and open support, for paramilitarism but they portray themselves as righteous defenders of “democracy” and “freedom.”

Perhaps the most emblematic case of this is hypocrisy was almost a decade ago when the partner of former DUP leader Peter Robinson, Iris, also a member of the Stormont Assembly, referred to homosexuality repeatedly as an “abomination” causing her to feel “nauseous” and claiming that when she encountered LGBT people she referred them to a psychiatrist (who was also a political adviser). The political fallout from this claimed her psychiatrist friend’s career but despite that she went on to claim that homosexuality was worse than child abuse.

By April 2009 both herself and her husband, the first minister of Northern Ireland, were involved in public furore as it was exposed that the pair were drawing more than £571,000 a year in expenses, not including a further £150,000 for family member advisers, earning them the nickname “The Swish Family Robinson.”

But worse was to come when at the end of 2009, details came out on how Ms Robinson was having an extended affair with a 19-year-old businessman for whom she had secured an undeclared £100,000 donation from two different property developers.

Castlereagh Borough Council, which the Robinsons were known to have run as a fiefdom, was forced to conduct an investigation into the award of a catering contract to the same young man, that she was said to have influenced.

Iris resigned from public life being admitted to acute psychiatric care at the same time as the police raided the offices of Castlereagh Borough Council. Notwithstanding this bad publicity, her husband continued on as first minister until the beginning of 2016.

Scandal, corruption and hypocrisy may define the DUP to many but earlier this year they received their highest ever vote share as hundreds of thousands of Protestants voted for them amid heightened community divisions.

Sinn Fein had almost caught the DUP in an Assembly election — the prospect of a border poll was raised against the context of Brexit. Protestants voted in huge numbers for a party that takes its own working-class base for granted — many against their better judgements.

In the absence of a cross-community progressive alternative in Northern Ireland, society here continues to polarise.

The DUP are now propping up the Tory government. They have secured a few crumbs from the table for an act of betrayal against the working class throughout these islands. This is an outcome that will only further divide communities; something that suits both sides of the power-divide.

Those of us who are trying to build a cross-community labour movement to overcome division find ourselves pushing a boulder up an even steeper gradient but perhaps, at least, the DUP’s feet of clay as well as their regressive social policies will be subject to much greater scrutiny than ever before.

Donal O’Cofaigh is a campaigns and communications officer for Unite in Northern Ireland. This article is written in a personal capacity.

American tufted tit grabs peanut

This video from the USA says about itself:

Tufted Titmouse Grabs A Peanut

5 July 2017

Mr Titmouse has his eye on a big roasted peanut, but it’s a busy morning at the feeder so he has to wait for his chance! How he is going to get that big thing open – well that’s another story……

Grenfell Tower disaster and London Muslims

This British TV video says about itself:

Grenfell Tower: lawyers question appointment of “tainted” experts to inquiry panel

Sky News 6 July 2017

By Amar Azam in London, England:

A community devastated

Friday 7th July 2017

AMAR AZAM talks to activists at the al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in London’s Ladbroke Grove – which is one of the establishments in the borough that threw open its doors in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy

MOHAMMED ALHAJALI was the first of the residents laid to rest, in an east London cemetery, thousands of miles away from his war-torn Syria.

At his funeral last month, we learnt more of the gentle nature of the 23-year-old. He had fled the conflict in his homeland in hope of a better life in Britain.

Instead, it was cut short at a tenderly young age. Like those countless others that lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the details of his final moments are difficult to bear.

Alhajali was to perish in his 14th-floor flat in Grenfell Tower after attempting to reach his family on the telephone. His last message to friends was to tell his parents that he loved them.

Who knows, over time, the civil engineering student may have completed his studies and returned to help rebuild his nation.

Elsewhere in London on that same day, Mohammed Mahmoud, the imam at the Finsbury Park mosque which was the scene of an act of terrorism the previous night, was hailed by his community and honoured by Prince Charles for his actions in protecting the attacker in the immediate aftermath.

This has been a difficult few weeks for Britain’s three million Muslims. The backlash from the tragic incidents in London and Manchester has led to a rise in Islamophobic attacks as an entire community faces demonisation. These attacks continue to escalate. However, despite this Muslims remain stoic.

The al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in London’s Ladbroke Grove is one of the establishments in the borough that threw open its doors in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Its rooms still contain surplus donations of food, clothing and toiletries, boxes stacked floor to ceiling.

In one of the offices Samer Darwish, the imam of al-Manaar, ponders the events of recent weeks.

“What that imam showed was the genuine face of Islam,” he says. “His actions were absolutely correct. He understood that he needed to show restraint and he also understood the repercussions had the attacker been hurt.”

He praised the reaction of the local Muslim community.

Darwish adds: “This tragedy has affected so many people and I was so pleased with the way Muslims reacted. The work carried out here has been for the benefit of all in the wider community. We have demonstrated that we can show humanity and compassion.”

After late afternoon prayers, some of the volunteers who are staffing the main hall and have provided all manner of support services for the victims and their families are leaving for the day.

Counsellors have been available for those that need emotional support, as have legal experts and those that have helped fill in forms, provide refreshments or just lent a sympathetic ear.

“We’ve met so many types of people and, personally, it has been a really challenging experience,” said Asif Bhayat, of the National Zakat Foundation, one of the British-based charities that has supported residents through immediate financial assistance.

“The ones that really stick in the memory are the ones that you can see really wanted to talk because they had no-one else to talk to.

“It is those interactions that will stay with me. The tears of those that have lost everything are difficult to bear. Hearing stories of the children affected has been tough.”

Hassan Awad, one of the duty officers at al-Manaar, insisted on leading the congregational prayer for his wife Rania and two girls, Fethia, five, and Hania, three. The outpouring of grief from the congregation was immense. No person should ever have to do what he did.

As dusk approaches at al-Manaar, the smell of cooked food begins wafting in as donations from local people and companies begin to turn up. It’s been like this ever since the day of the tragedy.

Fresh bread and cakes from a local firm in the nearby industrial estate arrive.

“We wanted to make a donation as we’ve seen our neighbours here go through so much,” says Shaz, one of the workers from Sally Clarke bakery.

“This is our way of doing our bit as we know that the food will go to a good cause.”

A team of volunteers begin the immediate task of distributing the food among the families in the area spending another evening in makeshift accommodation. Others remain resting, clearly left a little fatigued by the events of the day and the challenge of doing so while maintaining a fast of 18 hours in what has been the hottest week of the year.

The more we find out about our victims, the more and more it become difficult to detach oneself from the tragedy.

“I have been here since the morning of the fire,” says Tabassum Awan, 31, from nearby Notting Hill.

“I live near the tower, and I called in on the morning thinking they could need some help and was asked to man the phones as the switchboard was becoming inundated.

“What I’ve seen in my time here will stay with me forever. In this tragedy, you’ve seen people from all walks of life come together.”

The borough of Kensington and Chelsea is not only one of the most ethnically diverse in our capital, it is also one where there is a sharp contrast between rich and poor.

Make the short walk beneath the A40 Westway overpass to nearby Notting Hill and you will find the Methodist Church sitting among the white stuccoed townhouses and picturesque tree-lined streets that characterise this trendy part of London. Here you will come across one of many great floral tributes to those lost.

Faces peer out from beyond the flowers, some of them smiling. One of those is of Jessica Urbano, the 12-year-old was one of the younger residents not to escape the inferno. A reminder of how the fire did not discriminate.

A few weeks later, we return al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, and the Eid festival laid on for the families affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy is a few hours old.

A packed main hall at the centre is awash with colour. Excitable young children burst from in between the food stalls clutching presents given to the mosque from generous donors.

Others sit there, proudly showing off their fresh henna patterns and newly painted faces as they enjoy the seemingly endless supply of cupcakes, popcorn and candy floss.

Present too are local residents, mingling freely. This is a day for the community here in this part of London.

The pain and anguish will remain as a scar on the collective consciousness of the community here in this corner of London for a generation and more to come, and long after the tower is razed to the ground and replaced with whatever memorial is deemed fit.

The pervading feeling is one of injustice; of lives lost due to greed, in the name of austerity or negligence. Let’s hope that their pain will ease over time, and the community can continue to come together to mend itself.