Friday, August 21, 2009

An unfortunate welcome home

Whilst I stand by my own blog post yesterday when I called for the release on compassionate grounds of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, convicted by involvement in the bombing of the Pan Am flight which exploded over Lockerbie, his orchestrated return to Libya was unfortunate,insensitive and unnecessary and enabled others to take the moral high ground. This though was not the fault of Scottish Government.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Releases from jail on compassionate grounds are correct

On balance, the decision of Scottish Justice Minister to release 57 year old Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds to return home to Libya is the right one. Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, had served 8 years of his life sentence having been found guilty for the bombing of the Pan Am flight which exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988. Serious doubts remain over who was really responsibile for the bombing which resulted in the deaths of 270 people (259 on the plane and 11 on the ground).

Canon Patrick Keegans was a parish priest in Lockerbie at the time of the atrocity. Giving Premier Radio his reaction to the verdict, he says Mr MacAskill didn't cover the whole story. He said:

“He quite simply painted Megrahi in the blackest of terms as a mass murderer and then said that we will have compassion. I am very disappointed he did not mention once the doubts many people have regarding this conviction.”

Revd. John Mosey lost his daughter Helga in the tragedy, but said Megrahi should be shown mercy, although he respects the decision of the courts. He said:

“I have no option not to forgive. If I don’t forgive my heavenly father won’t forgive me. However the law must not forgive. The law must pursue and protect the public, that’s what it’s there for.”

He added he would have liked to see more questions answered in this case:

“We would have preferred him to go home either an innocent man or a guilty man. Now it’s all in the air and we don’t really know either way.”

Revd. Ian Galloway, a spokesperson for the Church of Scotland, said he thinks the right decision has been made:

“It’s really important in any circumstance when you have the opportunity to show mercy that that is taken very seriously. Of course it’s possible that information can come out in later date and it could be greatly regretted.

“The Christian face has its origin in a blameless man suffering a violent death and with his last breath calling down God’s mercy on his violent killers. That example of mercy is one that we must at least acknowledge in the decisions that we make.”

I believe that the recent release of Ronnie Biggs also on compassionate grounds was also the right decision. I have visited the elderly lifers wing of Norwich Prison where staff do a good job of providing the care some of these inmates need but few people deserve to die in prison. There comes a time when the question of how the public interest is being served must be asked and it is right that it that is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Unlike the United States, we do not have the death penalty. In some cases life should and does mean life but there is a time for compassion, moving on and doing the right thing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Priest wins unfair dismissal appeal

The Wardman Wire reports the good news that Father Seraphim Vänttinen-Newton, a Russian Orthodox priest has won his appeal for unfair dismissal against GEO Group, the private firm that runs Campsfield House Immigration Detention Centre (or “removal centre”, as the UK Borders Agency website calls it).

Father Vänttinen-Newton was chaplain at the centre and gave a short interview to BBC Radio Oxford about “faith in the workplace” - a pretty reasonable thing for a chaplain to do, it might seem, but which led to his being sacked for apparently breaching company rules- an odd decision rightly overturned.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What's next for Norwich City?

I fall for it everytime:I was feeling optimistic as I strolled up to Carrow Road on a sunny afteroon-the mood was so upbeat- series of disappointing leage campaigns seemed in the past, not least because gone were the loan players instead a new team been built with lots of new faces, seemingly, many with experience of lower league football. Unbeaten pre-season, dared I hope that this would be our season?- back towards the championship this time with momentum going in our favour for a change?

So what happens next (good question for A Question of Sport)? Colchester hardly looked like Champions but by half time were 5-0 up. So much for fortress Carrow Road! Instead the 25000 fans were stunned into near stunned silence. Final result 7-1! Complete and utter capitulation.

Was this just a blip-a bad day at the office? Or symptoms of deeper trouble at Carrow Road and Colney? Is this what we can expect for the rest of season? Some deadwood out New players in, but are they good enough? Is Bryan Gunn experienced enough as manager, team builder and strategist?

I was concerned that despite that absolute horror of a first half-no substitutes emerged from the bench until over an hour of play had passed. Further inept performances like this will soon result in falling attendance figures. I am worried that players like Wes Hollahan wil start to look to ply their trade elsewhere. Matches come thick and fast in this league and it is easy to fall out of contention very quickly indeed. Yesterday triumphalism overtook confidence and we paid the price.

Let's hope for better performances and goals in the coming weeks-starting with Yeovil away in the Carling Cup on Tuesday and Exeter away in the league on Sunday.

I'm not sure whatelse to say-I am still shell shocked by Saturday. Former manager, Nigel Worthington used to talk about bouncebackability (a phrase first coined by Iain Dowie)-lets hope that everyone concerned wakes up and smell the coffee before this crucial season starts going the wrong way fast. At least following Norwich City can never be said to be boring...

So, 45 more league games to go and various cup opportunities ahead. Time to get things sorted, otherwise this could end up being a very long and difficult season indeed.



Tuesday, August 04, 2009

More about the National Secular Society

Thanks to Red Maria over at Dolphinarium for the following article relating to the attacks on David Kerr, SNP candidate in the forthcoming Glasgow by-election).There is no place for religious-based bigotry however it manifests itself.

Sounds of the brakes being slammed on and the screeching of tires as the car is put into a sharp reverse in Glasgow.

Spokesmen for the Labour and Conservatives parties told the Scottish Catholic Observer this week the politicians had been misquoted, their comments taken out of context, and that neither believed that membership of Opus Dei would bar a candidate from public office.This looks like a definite reverse ferret. But connoisseurs of bigotry shouldn't be disheartened, there's still one group which is up for some old-fashioned Catholic-bashing.

None too subtly playing the dual loyalties card, Titus Oates of the National Secular Society opined,
“The concern for voters would be that such a person would have their allegiance to the Church and not to the SNP. It is one thing to bring your religious beliefs to politics, but it is another to bring the dogmas of a right-wing Catholic organisation. That would be the worry for voters.”

Warming to his theme, Oates claimed that David Kerr had tried to "guilt trip" his critics into silence.

In fact, David Kerr had nothing more than plead for his religion not to be made an issue of in the election but in the topsy-turvy truth-distorting world of the NSS where "good" is inevitably described as "bad" and every Catholic in public office is carictured as a villain this is par for the course.

Hence Opus Dei is an "extremist" organisation, even though it doesn't teach anything the Catholic Church doesn't teach and Oates insisted, David Kerr's membership of a perfectly legal, legitimate organisation is an issue that the electorate of Glasgow North East should be "made aware of" even though David Kerr is emphatically not campaigning on a religious platform of introducing compulsory fish-eating on Friday.
Of course, the NSS has a lot of er, previous m'lud when it comes to stirring the currents of ancient hatreds and bullying people to whom it takes exception.
Two years ago, Titus Oates sprang to the defence of Dolphinarium favourite and honorary NSS member, la Venomballs when she caused uproar by suggesting that Catholics should be discriminated against in public office. Typically, he didn't just defend the bigots' champion, he also went on the attack against journalist Paul Donovan, who he described as having "launched a fussilade against her".

In fact Paul Donovan just reported the facts and gave la Nutball plenty of opportunity to reply. It's called being a journalist and writing relevant copy.
See that twisting of the facts, that distortion of the truth again, that aggressive totalitarian instinct for controlling the press and lashing out at any reporter who doesn't toe the NSS line? That's Oates's modus operandi, as is his scraping the bottom of every barrel of stereotypes his feeble impotent imagination can reach for.
In Oates's mind, Catholics are all the same. They are invariably sinister stooges of a foreign power, bent on breaking Britain under the Vatican cosh. Catholic bishops are "opportunists" who think "they have the whip hand" which they can direct with "hysterical ranting". Catholics have an "enforcement machine", which started a "campaign to silence" Mary Honeyball. Catholics are also secretive and duplicitous: "Ruth Kelly the Labour MP who became a cabinet minister, was revealed by the press to be a member of Opus Dei – she did not volunteer the information herself" and on and on.

And don't think that Titus and his friends restrict themselves to defaming Catholics in public life or running down working journalists doing their jobs. No way Jose Maria. Like the big badass fighters they are, they're a dab hand at picking on civilians, like Mrs Jackie Parkes. That must've taken some guts, boys. And, ooh, wasn't it sidesplitting to say, "this Catholic mum lives up to every stereotypie imaginable - and then some" .

That comment probably wasn't just an accident, by the way. Judging by the types the NSS invites to be honorary members, the fertility rates of different social groups are a cause of a lot of anxiety at 23 Red Lion Square. And yes, I am talking about the fragrant Baroness "tell the poor to have fewer children" Flather. She made those notorious remarks in 2004. Two years later, the NSS which has almost as obsessive a media monitoring operation as this blog does, welcomed her as an honorary member.
Ed West put it well when he described the National Secular Society not as secularists but as Athiest bigots. From producing what looks like dodgy research in an attempt to drive chaplains out of hospitals through bitching at working journalists to bullying civilian bloggers, there is no level the NSS will not stoop to in its drive to make the lives of religious people as unpleasant as possible. This isn't just another pressure group to be taken seriously in the corridors of power. The NSS is a purveyor of prejudice and it should be shunned by everybody.

Thanks to Red Maria over at Dolphinarium ( for the following article relating to the attacks on David Kerr, SNP candidate in the forthcoming Glasgow by-election).There is no place for religious-based bigotry however it manifests itself.