Wednesday 25 April 2012

Belfast's Lord Mayor to resign early in order to avoid meeting the Queen

Only a few weeks after officially unveiling the city's beautiful new memorial gardens to mark the centenary of the Titanic disaster, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Niall O Donnghaile (26), the youngest incumbent of the office in history, is to resign early from his post in order to avoid meeting Her Majesty the Queen during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations. An official visit by the Sovereign to Northern Ireland will be an accepted part of the Jubilee festivities, although Buckingham Palace has not yet confirmed a date.

Mr O Donnghaile is a member of Sinn Fein, the left-wing republican party strongly in favour of Irish unification. It is currently the second largest political party in Northern Ireland, with 29 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly. (The largest party is the right-wing, pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, with 38 seats; in third place is another conservative, pro-British party, the Ulster Unionists, with 18.) Mr O Donnghaile's successor is tipped to be a member of the DUP, Mr Gavin Robinson, but Mr O Donnghaile's refusal to associate himself with the monarchist Jubilee means that the election for his replacement has been moved forward to Friday June 1st, the day before the official nationwide Jubilee celebrations begin.

Sources from within Belfast City Hall have confirmed that for the first time in Belfast's history standing orders have been changed to allow the new Lord Mayor to be elected at a meeting on that Friday.  Normally, only special meetings are held on Fridays.

Speaking on behalf of Sinn Fein, Mr J. McVeigh, the group's party leader on Belfast City Council, said: “We knew that the Jubilee celebrations were coming up and had a discussion with the DUP about that. We were happy to come out of that role and they were happy to come in a little bit early because of the issue of the anniversary. We as republicans obviously are not keen to celebrate the Jubilee in any shape or form. But, we have supported the recent round of funding when it came before council and we are happy for unionists to celebrate if they so wish. But, it is not something that we would be involved in as republicans. This is as much about accommodating the unionists as about us not wanting to be part of the Jubilee celebrations. We are republicans and have no great love for the royalty in any shape or form. We do not want to be part of the celebrations. A unionist Mayor would love to be on that seat when a member of the Royalty or maybe even the Queen herself comes to Belfast.”

Apparently, since Mr O Donnghaile's term was nearly up anyway, the decision was reached by general consensus between the unionists and republicans on the council. In February, many of the Sinn Fein councillors had voted to approve the spending of £56,000 (about USD 90,000) towards local community organisations across Belfast who wanted to organise their own celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee.

Some other unionists, however, are apparently angry at Mr O Donnghaile's decision and describe it as a snub to the apparently apolitical nature of the Lord Mayor's office and to the wider Protestant community in Belfast. Last year, one of the most prominent figures in Sinn Fein, Martin McGuinness, unsuccessfully ran for the presidency of the Irish republic; when asked in interviews if he would meet the Queen when she made a state visit to Ireland, McGuinness replied that, as prospective President, he would. In light of his colleague's promise to honour the office before personal political predilection, some unionist criticism of Mr O Donnghaile has been correspondingly severe. And not for the first time. 

Last year, the current Lord Mayor sparked another political storm in Northern Ireland after he refused to present a certificate to a 14-year-old Army cadet during a Duke of Edinburgh awards ceremony. The Army cadets prepare young people for a career in the Armed Forces and the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme was one established by the Queen's husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. The Award programme offers chances to participate in physical, mental and skills-based improvement programmes across the United Kingdom to young people aged between fourteen and twenty-four, regardless of ability or background. The Duke's award offers a huge range of such programmes and Mr O Donnghaile had handed out certificates to many participants, but refused to for the 14 year-old Army cadet. The backlash against the decision was strong, even from many Irish nationalist politicians. He also caused outrage amongst unionists and liberals when he became Lord Mayor of Belfast last year and insisted upon removing royal portraits from his parlour.

Speaking of his decision to step-down a few weeks early, the former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Jim Rodgers, a member of the centre-right Ulster Unionist Party, said, "It is definitely a snub... When I was Lord Mayor I met a wide range of people from both sides. I was criticised both publicly and privately for it — but I believe you have to lead to the city and you have to be above politics. Unfortunately this current Lord Mayor has been one of the most political that I can remember in more than 20 years in council." 

Saturday 21 April 2012

Saint Jude

Saint Jude the Apostle, identified with Thaddaeus the Apostle by some (but not all) historians of the Church, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ and a relative of Jesus and Mary. Both he and the traitor-apostle, Judas Iscariot, would have shared essentially the same name - a variant of the word "Judah". He was a relative, probably a cousin, of Saint James the Just, and ancient writers tell us that Jude preached the gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. According to the early Church chronicler, Eusebius of Caesarea, Saint Jude then returned to Jerusalem, where he assisted with the election of Saint Simeon as bishop of Jerusalem.

Saint Jude was martyred in about 65 A.D., along with another one of the Twelve Apostles, Saint Simon the Zealot. They were preaching either in Beirut or in modern-day Iran when they were beaten to death and then beheaded. Due to this, Saint Jude the Apostle and Martyr was venerated as a saint in Christianity long before the formal process of canonisation was ratified. This is known as a "pre-congregation saint."

Today, Saint Jude is venerated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Syriac Church of the East denominations of Christianity. His feast day in the Eastern communion is 19th June; in the West, it is 28th October. He is the patron saint of lost causes and cases most despaired of. He has a reputation for being one of the most faithful and beloved of Christianity's holy figures.

A beautiful prayer to Saint Jude, which I like very much, is: -

Oh Holy Saint Jude, Apostle and Martyr, great in virtue and rich in miracles, near kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor of all who invoke your special help in time of need. 

To you I have recourse from the depths of my heart and humbly request assistance. Help me in my present and urgent petition.

In return, I promise to make your name known and cause you to be invoked.

Saint Jude, Apostle, martyr and relative of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Mary and Joseph, intercede for us.

I think it's lovely and I hope it helps someone! 

Thursday 19 April 2012

Writing from the Tub's review of "Popular"

The lovely Carly Bennett has written a review of my novel Popular on her blog Writing from the Tub. For those who have enjoyed Ci-Devant and might enjoy reading Popular, you can pick up copy from the UK here, Ireland here, the United States here, Canada here, Spain here, South Africa here, Australia here and New Zealand here

For Carly's full review and to find out some of her favourite lines from the novel, click here.

In brief: -

"We don't live in happiest of times at the moment, do we? We're in the middle of a recession, the news is all doom and gloom and, as I'm writing this review, it's pissing it down with rain. Sometimes we all need a book to dive into that takes us away from the stresses and strains of every day life. If you're looking for that book then look no further because Popular is the perfect antidote to all of your worries.

Popular will have you laughing from page one and keep you thoroughly entertained until the end of the story..."

It's always lovely reading reviews like this and a big thanks to Carly.
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