Stop the Traffik

Lord Morrow at the Stop the Traffik talk in Belfast.
Lord Morrow at the Stop the Traffik talk in Belfast.

Lord Maurice Morrow took part in a Stop the Traffik talk in the Great Hall at Queen’s University last night (23rd March 2016).

The free discussion was organised by Stop the Traffik Belfast. A Facebook message about the event said that their aim is to answer the question: how can we stop human trafficking?

However, Lord Morrow said that he does not think that this is actually possible.

He said: “I don’t believe that we can wipe it out.”

He went on to explain that what we can do is deal harshly with the traffickers.

“I genuinely don’t believe that any more than our forefathers who brought legislation to deal with murder, to deal with robberies; we still have those things, but now we have tougher legislation to deal with it,” he said.

Lord Morrow is part of the Assembly’s All Party Group on Human Trafficking.

He talked about his own surprise at hearing that trafficking actually occurs here.

He said: “To my shame, I would have been saying: (a few years ago) human trafficking in Northern Ireland, really?”

He went on to say that “Human trafficking does happen here in Northern Ireland, thankfully not in a scale as other countries, but unfortunately and sadly it does, but I believe that with better awareness around human trafficking we can curtail it.”

Lord Morrow also sponsored the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which makes Northern Ireland the only part of the UK where paying for sex is a criminal offence.

I asked him about the argument made by some sex workers that the bill drives sex work underground.

He said: “This is often used that we are driving it underground […] it is already underground as much as it can be and […] I don’t think we can drive it any further underground.”

Lord Morrow described trafficking as “modern day slavery” and said that it is up to those who are in politics who “have a duty and a responsibility” to try to stop the traffik.

Up Standing: Stories of courage from Northern Ireland

 

Up Standing tells the stories of ordinary people who stood up to violence, prejudice or sectarianism.

The film gives ten accounts of different acts of bravery from people living in Northern Ireland. It was produced as part of a Corrymeela community project and funded by the International Fund for Ireland.

Making films like this one creates an opportunity for untold stories to be voiced and acknowledges quiet peacemakers who have never been recognised for their own personal acts of bravery, kindness or peace-making.

The film is used by schools so it is appropriate that it begins by telling the story of a pupil travelling to school on a mixed bus.

A series of low-angled shots are shown in-between the aisles of a dark bus with a mixture of jump-cuts and hand-held camera movements.

Gillian (not her real name) witnessed an act of sexual violence against a boy as they travelled on the same bus.

The mise en scène creates a disconcerting effect with the framing exaggerating the narrowness of the aisles and lighting helps to warn viewers that they are going to hear something disturbing.

This contrasts hugely to the end of the story where softer lighting and longer shots are used to demonstrate how things on the bus got better after two schoolgirls stood up against sectarian bullying.

Gillian changes from a twelve year old who “knew [her] place” to someone who helped change the dynamics on the school bus forever. She describes her actions as “something that just bubbled up inside of me.”

Co-Director Paul Hutchinson said that they have made the film available for schools and some “show it,” but others are still “resisting” because of “a genuine fear.”

He said that some teachers believe that “this film is encouraging young people to take inappropriate risks.”

However, Gladys Ganiel (QUB) believes that part of what makes the stories so good is that these people did something when others failed to act.

She said: “After their examples work their way into the nooks and crannies of our consciousness, perhaps we will be reminded of what we have done and what we have failed to do.”

Mr Hutchinson is now working on another project that explores the trauma of not standing up and how people cope with that.

These stories are important ones to be shared in any post-conflict society, and a free copy of the DVD is available for educational purposes.

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Game of Thrones returns with enjoyable first episode

Acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones has returned, with episode one of season 6 airing on Sky Atlantic on Monday night. And while, by no means a landmark episode, ‘The Red Woman’ was certainly a welcome opener.

Job one for producers Benioff and Weiss was certainly to address the cliffhanger they had left us all on at the end of season 5. Primarily, the fate of Jon Snow. When last we watched, the young Lord Commander was subjected to a hail of stabbings, which would almost trump the dying moments of Julius Caesar. Yet this is a series of Red Priests and White Walkers, so no one need remain dead for too long. We now have our answer. For now at least, Jon Snow is dead. Rumours persisted about actor Kit Harrington’s presence on set, but his role has been reduced to that of a tragic, cold corpse. Whether he stays that way remains to be seen.

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The episode moved us away from the goings-on in the north, and addressed some of the other characters we’d almost forgotten about while wringing our hands at Jon Snows fate. There was a satisfying moment in which Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Theon (Alfie Allen) were rescued from the Boltons by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). Heading further south towards Dorne, the show reminded us of the violence with which we’ve grown accustomed to with a number of Martell characters killed off.

The show managed to present some humour through moments of miscommunication by Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in Mereen and in a debate about beauty, by members of the Dothraki horde that now holds Danaerys (Emilia Clarke). Yet it was the very end of the episode which provided the biggest twist in the tale.

It was the red woman, Mellisandre who had the last say in the episode. Her loss of faith (after Jon Snow’s death) led us to see her true form. In showing us that she was actually an older woman, masked by her faith, Game of Thrones added another plot twist to its long line of shocks.

melisandre-old

However there is a sense that this episode is more about set-up than anything. Bear in mind that the series has now moved beyond the Books which spawned it. George R.R. Martin continues to be an active presence in the writing, but has continually postponed publishing his next book. And after all, we all know that the show must go on.

george-rr-martin-game-of-thrones

 

Martin has said that he is now putting all his efforts into getting The Winds of Winter published, but for now based on this episode, the Game of Thrones television series is a more than welcome continuation of the fantasy epic.

Ten hour mountain bike race for Glenarm in Antrim

Northern Irish mountain bikers will have their endurance tested in a ten hour race taking place in Glenarm, Co. Antrim as part of the Dalriada Festival on July 23.

The event, known as “10 in the Glen”, involves solo mountain bike riders or teams competing to complete as many laps of a 6km loop as they can in ten hours. While similar events have taken place in England, Scotland and Wales, this is the first race of this scale in Northern Ireland.

The course in Glenarm consists of sections of single speed track, gravel trails and forest runs, suitable for both novice and intermediate mountain bikers. Each team and solo rider will be designated a pit area along the race track for making repairs and resting up between laps.

Ian Cumming, Director of 26 Extreme, a company that runs outdoor events, is managing the race on behalf of the Dalriada Festival. He explained that while events like these are usually “slow to get going”, spaces for the competition are already a quarter full over three months out from race day.

He confirmed that the race will be part of the finale for the Dalriada Festival. He added: “Along with fireworks planned to close the festival, the final few laps should add to the party atmosphere”.

Depending on the success of this year’s event, Mr Cumming is planning to run the ten hour race annually in Glenarm. He is also considering organising similar events in other locations in the province to take place more frequently.

Kevin Purcell, member of Coventry Road Cycling Club, will be travelling from England to compete in the race as part of a team. Mr Purcell, originally from Donegal, was delighted that such an event was being held in Ulster. He said: “We are lucky in Ulster to have such great trails for mountain biking and it is about time a competition like this was organised”.

For more information about the race including entry forms, log on to www.26extreme.com.

Man City and Real Madrid play out goalless stalemate

 

aguero

By Richard O’Reilly

Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a goalless draw, in a cagey first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Manchester City were buoyed before kickoff, by the news that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo would not play. The Madrid striker was ruled out of the squad after sustaining a thigh injury in their 3-0 win over Villarreal.

However, City were unable to capitalize on Ronaldo’s absence as chances in the game came at a premium. The best opportunities of the game came in the second half, when substitute Jese headed against the woodwork. City were then indebted to keeper Joe Hart for keeping out Pepe’s point-blank effort. City themselves, didn’t manage an effort on target until a late Kevin De Bryune free-kick was saved by Keylor Navas.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo had been rested in Real Madrid’s 3-2 weekend win over Rayo Vallecano, and had been expected to feature at the Etihad stadium, however a simple ‘thumbs down’ from the Portuguese star to the BT Sport pundits confirmed that he would sit this one out. That news would have been welcome in the City dressing room, particularly with City captain Vincent Komapny, being fit and ready to marshal the rearguard.

The hosts pressed the Real Madrid midfield effectively in the first half, primarily through the impressive Fernandinho, however City found themselves rarely able to worry the Madrid back four. City were then left to bemoan the premature removal of David Silva on 41 minutes through injury. The Spanish midfielder was replaced by youngster Kelechi Ihenacho, but the striker who scored twice against stoke at the weekend was unable to affect the score line.

In the second half, the hosts managed to find space for Sergio Aguero to shoot from 20 yards, but the Argentine fired over. The former Athletico Madrid striker endured a frustrating game, with clear-cut chances being few and far between. He remains winless against his former cross-city rivals.

At the other end, Sergio Ramos squandered a free header from a Real Madrid corner when he directed his effort straight at Joe Hart. Real continued to press for a goal as they finished the match stronger than their Manchester counterparts. Jese headed against the bar and Pepe fired his close effort straight at Joe Hart, who had done well to make himself big to keep the effort out. Gareth Bale and Casemiro also came close to breaking the deadlock for Real, before De Bryune’s stoppage-time free-kick was saved.

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The result leaves the tie finely poised for the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. City will perhaps feel that an opportunity was missed to gain a foothold in the tie. The absence of Real Madrid’s most potent attacking threat should have boosted city’s chances. Without Ronaldo, their opponents seemed reluctant to commit men forward.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men will now almost certainly have to score at the Bernabeu on May 4th. Something which no team, other than Real Madrid has managed to do in the Champions League this season.

Review: Girls

Last week’s double episode finale of Girls saw the HBO comedy’s fifth and penultimate season draw to a triumphant close. The series had suffered from a sophomore slump with season three and four missing the brash and sharp comedic mark of the opening two offerings.

Girls is the brainchild of New York native, Lena Dunham, and follows the semi autobiographical story of Hannah Horvath, also played by Dunham, and her three female friends, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna.

Hannah unabashedly asserts in the pilot “I may be the voice of my generation. Or, at least, the voice of a generation” and the series has strictly adhered to the satirical narrative of Gen Y otherwise known as millennials. All of the girls in the series are narcissistic, entitled and aimless: a caricature of what it is to be a millennial. The flawed characters and unapologetic brand of comedy led the show to critical acclaim for its refreshing honesty.

While the series, much like its characters, intermittently lost its way, the fifth season brought an assured maturity and a return to form. The highlight was “Panic in Central Park” which enfolds over an evening that Marnie (Allison Williams) spends with old flame Charlie (Christopher Abbott) after a chance encounter. The episode has the feel of a stand alone short film and has a distinctly different tone of sincerity without seeming disjointed or separate from the rest of the series.

The subsequent instalment, “Hello Kitty”, maintains the directorial momentum. It juxtaposes a dramatic performance of the murder of Kitty Genovese with Hannah’s realisation that her oldest friend Jessa, played by Jemima Kirke, is seeing her ex boyfriend, Adam (Adam Driver). The episode concludes with Hannah left as an onlooker in Adam and Jessa’s relationship, a clever ironic touch given the Kitty Genovese murder was notorious for the phenomenon known as the “bystander effect”.

The season ended with the girls no further forward in their respective careers or love lives but each had an air of assured determination and newly discovered confidence. Girls has matured into its prime ahead of next year’s final season and the girls who gave the series its name, are beginning to become women.

Tottenham Hotspur v. West Bromwich Albion

Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 1 West Bromwich Albion

Premier League, White Hart Lane

Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw tonight by West Bromwich Albion, with West Brom defender Craig Dawson scoring at both ends of the pitch.

Dawson managed to bundle in an own goal in the first half while trying to defend a Christian Eriksen free-kick, but made amends in the second half by powering in a header from a corner.

The result spells the probable end of Tottenham’s title hopes.

The game opened with Spurs dominating possession, and the atmosphere inside White Hart Lane was electric, the optimism amongst the home support almost tangible. By the end of the evening, the optimism was gone.

Tottenham dominated possession from kick-off, stroking the ball from left to right while searching for openings in the West Brom defence, carving out opportunities where they could.

Tottenham Possession - 453/529 passess succesful
Tottenham Possession – 453/529 passess succesful

It didn’t take long; within the first ten minutes, Harry Kane had a shot tipped against the post, and Christian Eriksen curled a free-kick from just outside the area on to the bar.

Tottenham capitalised on their early dominance; the first goal came after Erik Lamela was fouled by Craig Gardner. Christian Eriksen whipped in the free-kick, and Craig Dawson managed to bundle the ball past his own keeper from six yards.

Spurs were 1-0 up at half time and seemed comfortable, but slipped into complacency, allowing West Brom to grow into the game from the start of the second half.

Despite Spurs hitting the woodwork for a third time just before the hour mark, and nerves started to creep into Tottenham’s game. With their composure gone, Tony Pulis’ team started to play more confidently. Salomon Rondón had a shot tipped over the bar; from the resulting corner, Dawson – making up for his earlier mistake – towered above his marker to power home a headed equaliser.

Position form which Craig Dawson scored both goals (32' [OG] & 72')
Position form which Craig Dawson scored both goals (32′ [OG] & 72′)
Spurs were rattled and unable to find their rhythm again, and as the minutes ticked away the fight drained from Pochettino’s team, who have fought to keep themselves in the title race. At the final whistle, the Spurs players were dispirited, some on the verge of tears.

On a night when they needed to win, Tottenham just couldn’t force a way through. The title is not entirely out of reach, mathematically at least, but it will take a more assured team than the one on show tonight to wrench the title from Leicester City’s hands.

Tottenham: Lloris (C); Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier (Mason, 75’) , Dembélé; Lamela (Son Heunng-Min, 84’) , Alli (Chadli, 89’), Eriksen; Kane.

Subs: Vorm, Davies, Trippier, Carroll, Mason (75’), Chadli (89’), Son Heung-Min (84)

West Brom: Myhill; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Evans; Yacob, Fletcher (C), Sessegnon, Garnder, McClean; Rondón.

Subs: Chester, Anichebe, Lambert, Sandro (89’), Palmer, Roberts, Leko

Conor McArdle: The Tottenham Hostpur Academy Way

Miguel Delaney: Pochettino’s triumph of coaching may take tireless Spurs all the way to league title

Check out all the stats from tonight’s game at FourFourTwo StatsZone

SEPT. 5TH – dvsn – Album review

SEPT. 5TH – dvsn (OVO Sound)

dvsn are a Canadian R&B duo who are signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label, and their debut album delivers precisely what you would expect, a mellow and stylistic production that is becoming the hallmark of OVO artists.

The duo is comprised of vocalist Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, one of the OVO imprint’s in-house producers. Nineteen85 is the producer behind the Drake hits Hold on, We’re Going Home and Hotline Bling, and his distinctive production drives SEPT 5TH forward with verve, all velvety bass and rolling trap-snares peppered by the haunted and mellow Daley and punctuated in places by airy, melodic synths. Where Nineteen85’s production is subtle, even understated in places, Daley’s voice perfectly complements the production, and blends with the tracks, with each musician given the space they need to shine.

A nine track affair, SEPT. 5TH opens with the melancholy With Me oozing, gentle, an old school R&B roller of a track which sets the tone for the album. The title track comes half-way through the album, a weak point which feels cheesy and cringeworthy, but it quickly recovers with Hallucinations, a comedown track which might be the real masterpiece of the work.

This isn’t an album full of club music – though a few of the tracks (Try/Effortless, with its smooth bass lines, springs to mind) have chart potential – but instead more of an artistic piece, a showcase of what each member is capable of, coming as it does relatively late in both their careers (each artist is 30, somewhat over-the-hill in recording terms). The record has a genuine ebb-and-flow, progressing smoothly, with the final track, The Line, an emotional goodbye to the listener, all echo and snare, the emotive vocals punching high notes in sharp contrast with the sparse sonic landscape.

On the face of it, SEPT. 5TH is a standalone work from an experienced duo who have been in the game for some time with varying degrees of success. That’s half true, but the album is also a testament to the growing collective of artists coming out of Canada. Drake’s influence on the scene is hard to underestimate, but dvsn offer a distinctly separate sound, moving towards a more emotive and uplifting kind of R&B, setting the tone for themselves – and maybe the rest of Canada, too. This is a solid body of work and, hopefully, it stands as a sign of things to come.

7/10

Buy the album on iTunes.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil set to continue negotiations over historic government deal

Fine Gael’s slogan for their Irish General Election 2016 campaign was “Keep the recovery going”. It saw the election campaign as an opportunity to convince the electorate that the party’s hard work over the previous five years was responsible for the improving economy. Unfortunately for the governing party, it’s ‘hard work’ translated as five years of crippling austerity to many Irish voters, and Fine Gael paid the penalty on 26 February when the people went to the polling stations.

Despite remaining the largest party in the country after winning 50 seats, 26 less than the amount it managed in the 2011 general election, Fine Gael lost the election. There was to be little in the form of good news for its junior coalition partner Labour, which suffered absolute decimation at the polls and which is left with just seven seats, 30 less than it got in 2011. In stark contrast, Fianna Fáil capitalised on the widespread anger felt towards the coalition parties by more than doubling its number of seats to 44. It was also a positive result for Sinn Féin and Independents, who won 23 and 18 seats respectively.

The Irish people have had their say, but almost two months have passed since the vote, and a government is still yet to be formed in the 32nd Dáil. Fine Gael will by now have adjusted to the fact that it will possibly be required to form a minority government with its arch-nemesis Fianna Fáil. The rivalry between the two parties dates back almost one hundred years to the time of the Irish Civil War, but it should be time for differences to be put to the side for the sake of the Irish people.

As the days and weeks continue to pile up in anticipation of the next Dáil, there has been a plethora of statements and announcements from various cabinet ministers and TDs claiming that there has been progress made on the brokering of a deal. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s respective leaders Enda Kenny and Michael Martin have sat down and attempted to negotiate a compromise between the parties, but there is currently no significant signs of any headway being made. The reason for this impasse appears to boil down to the infamous water charges, which have been one of the most universally loathed policies of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s regime.

The main issue is that Irish taxpayers feel they are being overcharged for a service that has been in place for years, with the responsibility for the maintenance of water being taken from local authorities and placed in the hands of a semi-state corporation. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have continuously been vocal in their opposition to Irish Water, and echo the feelings of many who feel the charge is simply austerity taken too far.

Fianna Fáil stated in its election manifesto that if the party was to be elected to government, the scrapping or at the very least suspension of water charges would be an absolute priority. It is now apparent that the party’s pre-election promise to the electorate is what is causing the bitter deadlock between the two parties, with neither of the two willing to budge on the matter.

Sinn Féin frontbencher and Dáil spokesperson for Finance Pearse Doherty is adamant that the potential coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would be a negative outcome for the Irish people, but concedes that this circumstance is the most likely to occur.

“It is evident that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are engaged in a pointless charade of political posturing. It is a fact that no political party has been given a mandate by the people to govern alone, and the only numbers that add up are for both parties to work together.

“While I do not believe that this outcome would be a good one for Irish society, it is apparent that there is a reluctance on both sides to make this happen.”

Mr Doherty suspects that this “political posturing” is inexcusable considering the histories of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who share vastly similar political beliefs.

“The political ideologies espoused by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are essentially the same, as both are fundamentally right wing conservative parties, with little variation in the policies which each respectively endorse.

“I believe that the delays and impasse which we are witnessing at present is a feeble attempt by both groups to pacify grass root supporters who are staunchly opposed to the notion of the two Civil War foes entering into Government together, or even an arrangement whereby one would facilitate a minority administration led by the other.”

The TD for the Donegal constituency maintains that his party are striving to deliver a fairer society for those who voted for one, and that potentially becoming the main government opposition would not be seen as a negative scenario for Sinn Féin.

“We have made it clear that we support progressive policies which promote fairness and equality. We firmly believe that those who voted for Sinn Féin did not do so simply to see a continuation of the failed economic and social strategies of successive Governments.

“Therefore, Sinn Féin has a duty to represent the views of the people who believe in our vision for a fairer, more inclusive society. If the only way to ensure that we do not compromise on these fundamental Republican principals is to remain in opposition, then so be it.

“However, Sinn Féin is open to constructive dialogue with anyone or any grouping whom express a desire to engage with us.”

Mr Doherty’s admission that his party have left the door open for negotiations is an intriguing one, but it is very unlikely that Sinn Féin will form any part of the new government in the 32nd Dáil, particularly given their political beliefs.

As well as opposing politicians, many voters have also expressed their disbelief at the farcical attempts made by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to form a government. Liam Brady is a student who studies at University College Dublin, and who recently was elected to the UCD Students’ Union as Arts and Human Sciences Convenor. His role in the Students’ Union requires him to keep a close eye on events occurring at the nearby Leinster House, and it is evident that the political situation unfolding has led to him sharing the frustrations of many.

“I believe that no matter what excuses both sides claim for not reaching an agreement, and their inefficiency to form a government, simply boils down to their Civil War sides and the lengthy hostilities that followed on from this ever since.

“Neither party wants to be the junior partner of a coalition, especially after the devastation the Labour Party suffered in the General Election. As such both sides are being overly cautious and are failing the democratic process. In my opinion the Irish electorate
voted for a Fine Gael led coalition with Fianna Fáil, and the votes from TDs in the negotiations favour Enda Kenny over Michael Martin.”

His sentiments echo those of Pearse Doherty TD, who also speculated that the impasse between the two parties dates back to Civil War times. Both the Member of Parliament and the voter also expressed similar views regarding Sinn Féin’s role in the Oireachtas, with Mr Brady agreeing that the Republican party are now poised to provide genuine opposition to a right wing government.

“A clear right-left divide between government and opposition I feel is the obvious government formation. I think Sinn Fein have had time to grow and develop themselves and are now absolutely ready to be the main opposition in the Dáil.

“Two right wing parties colliding in government and opposition will only see arguments between choosing one form of austerity over another. At least with a clear right-left divide it fosters the opportunity for proper alternatives and arguments.”

Mr Brady is hopeful that the formation of a government will be announced sooner rather than later, and he believes that two of the first issues tackled by the next Dáil should be the housing crisis and the issue of mental health.

“The housing crisis is an absolute must. Since being elected to the UCD Students’ Union I have had a number of students approach me regarding the hassles of Dublin rent prices. It is becoming apparent that it is increasingly tough for young people to migrate to the capital for third level education due to extortionate rent prices.

“I also believe that the homeless crisis falls under this problem too and should be another key concern for the next government.

“There is also the issue of the mental health budget being cut by €12 million. The lack of interest in this department showed itself in all of the major party’s election manifestos, but reducing its budget is an utterly disgraceful move and should absolutely be rectified by the next Dáil.”

Talks will continue in Dublin between the negotiating teams of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the hope of a new government being formed within the coming weeks. Almost two months have now elapsed since the General Election. If an agreement is not reached soon, there are fears that there may be no other alternative than for another election to be called – at a cost of around €40 million of taxpayers’ money.