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Red White and Blue

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Enquiry after memory of murdered soldier appropriated by fascist party

The Electoral Commission is facing an enquiry – and its chief calls for her resignation – after the name of murdered soldier Lee Rigby was permitted to appear on the ballot designation of a far-right political party.

‘Britain First’, a tiny far-right grouping formed in 2011 whose homepage features a video where their chairman justifies combining electoral politics with street-level “resistance-type activities”, have registered “Remember Lee Rigby” as their ballot slogan for the upcoming European elections. The party is only standing in Scotland and Wales, which the chairman explains to their presumably mystified membership as the most cost-effective way to spend their £10,000 fighting fund.

Jenny Watson, head of the commission, has apologised and said that the designation should never have been permitted, but claims it is too late to change the designation before the election.

Democratic Unionists vote down gay marriage for the third time

A Sinn Fein motion to extend Britain’s gay marriage laws (it’s not yet legal in the Republic) to Northern Ireland has been vetoed by the DUP. The party tabled a ‘petition of concern’, a legislative instrument that requires any Stormont vote to gain a majority of both unionist and nationalist MLAs to pass. The DUP control a majority of the unionist seats, meaning that even if every other unionist representative supported the motion (and they don’t) it would still have a blocking vote.

The Northern Irish director of Amnesty International referred to them as “latter day King Canutes” in the face of a “tide of equality”, and said that a legal challenge was likely in the offing. Both nationalist parties supported the motion, despite the opposition of the head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Sean Brady. The Church of Ireland also opposed any change to the traditional definition of marriage.

Scottish teaching union sacks general secretary – three weeks after she took office

Anybody who has ever felt they got off to a new job on the wrong foot can take comfort in knowing it could be worse. The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) has sacked general secretary Sheila Mechan after a ten-day suspension, citing “the immediate breakdown of a significant number of crucial working relationships”.

Ms Mechan, a professional trade union official with no teaching experience who has previously worked with the National Union of Teachers, was suspended after less than two weeks in post. She describes “relationship difficulties” and says it is “a great shame those difficulties could not have been resolved in a way which would have allowed me to get on with the job that the SSTA spent nine months recruiting me for.”

Ex-republican prisoner accuses Adams of giving IRA orders

A former IRA terrorist, jailed both by the British and then by the Republic, has accused Gerry Adams of giving him a “direct order” to transport explosives to the British mainland to sustain the IRA’s bombing campaign.

Peter Rogers was released as part of the Good Friday Agreement from the prison sentence he was serving in the Republic of Ireland for the murder of an Irish police officer, Detective Garda Seamus Quaid. Quaid stopped Rogers’ van when he was moving the explosives, and was killed in the ensuing firefight. Rogers abandoned republicanism in prison.

He claims that he met with Adams and now-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in Dublin in 1980 over his ‘reluctance’ to move explosives to the mainland because he feared they were unstable. After hearing his concerns, Adams allegedly told him that the material was irreplaceable and he’d have to get it across. “As far as I was concerned, I was given a direct order,” said Rogers to the BBC.

Gerry Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA. Martin McGuinness claims that he left in the early 1970s, having been second in command of the movement’s Londonderry wing during Bloody Sunday.

Welsh council introduces “new green age” three-weekly bin collections

The cabinet of Gwynedd County Council has unanimously voted to adopt the relaxed collection schedule, in the face of strong opposition from a public consultation. The move, which is claimed to save £350,000 a year, will according to the council soon be copied in other parts of the country – despite the Conservatives in general and Eric Pickles in particular being champions of weekly collection.

The council is dominated by Plaid Cymru and Independents, with a local party making up most of the rest of the numbers. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have a handful of councillors between them, and the Tories none (although they might be hiding amongst the Independents, as in parts of Scotland).

Fans arrested at Rangers v Celtic match…for the U-17 squads

For the second year in a row, the under-17 Glasgow Cup final has been marked by fan disturbances. Police were called after the spectators, who numbered roughly 8,000, disrupted the match with flares and smoke bombs.

Whilst the Glasgow Derby has a reputation for poor behaviour from ultras on both sides but, with the reformed Rangers team competing in a different league to Celtic for the moment, youth matches like this provide suddenly rare opportunities for traditional misbehaviour.

Fragmented unionists dominate list as Northern Ireland’s Euro candidate list announced

The full list of parties and candidates contesting Northern Ireland’s three seats in the European Parliament have been announced, and it highlights how fragmented unionist politics is at present. No less than five of the ten – the DUP, UUP, Traditional Unionist Voice, Conservatives and UKIP – are explicitly unionists.

A sixth, new arrivals NI21, are constitutionally pro-Union but identify as cross-community for the European elections. The nationalists are represented only by the two traditional parties, Sinn Fein and the Labour-allied SDLP, with the cross-community Alliance and Green parties rounding the list out.

Church of Scotland “struggling to stay alive”

For a long time, the Church of Scotland was a pillar of distinct Scottish identity – a source of non-divisive distinction in the age before the clamour for devolution. Yet like its counterpart south of the border the Kirk’s membership is in steep decline, and critics say it is struggling to remain relevant to Scottish society. Controversies over the ordination of gay clergy and gay marriage have cleaved traditionalists from modernisers, although the Church insists it is a victim of much broader trends.

 A withering of the Kirk would mark a major shift in the nature of Scottish civil society. It was only in 1988 that Margaret Thatcher saw its General Assembly – which she addressed in the so-called ‘Sermon on the Mound’ – as an avenue to re-connect with the ‘other’, non-socialist Scotland. Few politicians would ascribe it such significance today.

Londonderry MLAs successor announced

A successor to David McClarty, the Independent Unionist MLA for East Londonderry who passed away last week, has been revealed to be Clare Sugden, his former parliamentary assistant. Ms Sugden was nominated to the position by McClarty before his passing, having managed his successful election campaign in 2011 after he quit the Ulster Unionists. Due to the multi-member system used to elect Stormont, there is no by-election.

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