Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Inconsistent hand baggage sizes on Flybe website

Flybe's Baggage FAQ states that hand baggage on its non-Loganair flights must not exceed the dimensions 55cm x 40cm x 23cm and a weight restriction of 10kg.

The online check-in form states contradictory dimensions, suggesting a significantly smaller 50cm x 35cm x 23cm.

Which is it?!

Flybe's baggage policy is already much less generous than many other airlines: for example easyJet allow 56cm x 45cm x 25cm with no weight restriction as long as you can lift it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

1912: A Hundred Years On (on tour from 16 Oct - 3 Nov)

If the recent spate of documentaries and marches to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant has intrigued you and sparked an interest in the history of this place, then you may want to catch the play 1912: A Hundred Years On as it tours around Northern Ireland over the coming weeks.

Written by Philip Orr and Alan McGuckian, the hour long play takes a wide look at what was happening in 1912, placing the overlapping events into a context, politically and culturally. Two actors – Ciaran Nolan and Gerard Jordan – assume the roles of County Antrim neighbours as they adapt to the changing situation, as well as playing the parts of the leading politicians and statesmen.

The play’s first run in March was well received, and sets the scene for the next decade of centenaries, including the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish National Volunteers, gun running at Larne, the Suffragist movement in Ireland, the Battles of Gallipoli and the Somme, and the Easter Rising all form a continuum of history.

Co-playwright Philip Orr says that the arts have a role in examining our history:

“We can ask questions about our past and not be scared of it; ask questions about our own past and not be seen as traitors; ask questions about other people’s past and not be seen as bigots.”

  • Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 (various times) // Ulster Museum
  • Monday 22 – Wednesday 24 (various times) // Ulster Hall
  • Wednesday 24 at 7.15pm // Belfast City Hall
  • Friday 26 at 7.30pm // Hopelink Centre, Carlisle Circus, Belfast
  • Monday 29 at 7.30pm // Braid Arts Centre, Ballymena
  • Wednesday 31 at 7.30pm // Drumalis Retreat Centre, Larne

  • Thursday 1 November at 7.30pm // Alley Theatre, Strabane
  • Friday 2 November at 7.30pm // Glenavna Hotel, Cookstown
  • Saturday 3 November at 7.30pm // Enniskillen Library
  • Monday 5 November at 7:30pm // Kilmorey Arms Hotel, Kilkeel
  • Tuesday 6 November at 6:30pm // National Museum of Ireland, Dublin

Full details of how to book tickets – which all seem to be free – can be found on the Contemporary Christianity website, whose Centenaries Cluster Group arranged for the play to be produced.

The project has received the support of NI Community Relations Council, the Department of Foreign Affairs/Anti Sectarian Fund, and the Lyric Theatre.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hanging a former Lord Mayor & an insight into loyalism and policing

While posts that deal with politics normally end up over on Slugger O'Toole, a couple of recent subjects might appeal to Alan in Belfast readers.

Niall Ó Donnghaile handed over the Lord Mayor's chain to Gavin Robinson. However, tradition - in most councils - is that each Mayor or Lord Mayor's year is captured in a portrait that hangs in the corridors around the council chamber, perhaps to dissuade other councillors from aspiring to office!

Niall's portrait was unveiled a week ago. He'd commissioned Danny Devenny, who is better known for his work painting murals on the gable walls of houses and the Bobby Sands mural on the side of Sinn Fein's Falls Road office. Mounted in a house-shaped frame, and with a brick-textured canvass, the work included items of importance to Niall: an MTV European Music Awards mug, pictures of his grandmothers, James Connolly and a Short Strand street sign. The post includes a quick interview with the muralist as well as a longer chat with Niall who reflected on his year in office, including *that* Duke of Edinburgh awards' ceremony. (Long time readers will remember that I've spoken to Niall a number of times for this blog over the years, including on the Eleventh Night in 2011 minutes before his election poster would go up in flames on top of a bonfire.)

I first attended/observed a Progressive Unionist Party conference back in 2009. At that time, Dawn Purvis was the leader. Last year Billy Hutchinson took over as leader.

On Saturday the PUP met again. With only two elected councillors, numbers of delegates were up on last year. PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott had accepted the party's invitation and spoke at length. Linda Ervine talked about the hidden history of Protestants and the Irish language, illustrating how Irish phrasing is used in everyday vernacular as well as pointing out that the Red Hand Commando's motto is in Irish!

Councillor (and GP) John Kyle spoke about the Welfare Reform bill currently being examined by the NI Assembly. He had many issues with the mechanics of the proposed reforms, though agreed with the principle that getting people into work was good.

"For some people who are ill, what they need is a job which brings some satisfaction. I have patients, the best thing I could give them is a good job. It would do them more good than any of the medicines that I could prescribe for them."

Motions were passed - unanimously - seeking an alternative to the Parades Commission, as well as objecting to the continued use of supergrass trials.

Taking to the podium, Matt Baggott started his speech by establishing his family's links with the working class and said that policing is more than law enforcement: it’s a social enterprise. On new recruits to the PSNI: "They can use Blackberrys, I use a pencil. They can text faster than I can talk."

Throughout his speech he sought to distance the PSNI's role in investigation to collect facts from the Public Prosecution Service's role to "look at the facts and make a judgement on the evidential test or the public interest" and finally the courts' judgement. This was particularly relevant given the arrest and questioning of the Young Conway Volunteers band on Friday. On parading:

"I think we’ve shown remarkable restraint. I don’t know anywhere in Europe, the German police, French police, let alone in South America where we would have stood and taken 62 injuries on three nights for the greater good of standing between people. I don’t know anywhere in the world that does that. If you’ve seen some of the footage from South Africa recently around some of that you know what I mean. And I think that’s remarkable. It’s the right thing to do. It’s absolutely compliant. But don’t take it for granted please."

He called for "a total paramilitary withdrawal, not just in terms of decommissioning, but in terms of people’s perceptions that even when that’s happened they are still frightened".

Criminality was a subject taken up by PUP leader Billy Hutchinson in his speech.

"Loyalism is opposed to organised crime. You cannot be a loyalist and a criminal at the same time. I’ve made this statement more than once. If you want to be a criminal do not use the flag of loyalism. Go and do it as a citizen. Do not bring shame on people because we don’t want it. The PSNI should be supported in their efforts to tackle organised crime … We need to be alert and ensure that we don’t let organised crime takeover our communities …"

He also touched on education, Corporation Tax, culture, tourism and the need for "honourable compromises" rather than "concessions" when negotiating with republicans.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

TeachMeet, Stranmillis College, Friday 19 October 6-9pm #TMBelfast

TeachMeet Belfast is back this Friday from 6-9pm with an informal gathering of teachers and educationally interested in Stranmillis College.

At the first TeachMeet in March, it was impressive to see so many teachers – from right across the spectrum of schools and systems – willing to travel into Belfast on a Friday night to talk about their work and share their experiences and ideas. I can’t think of any other professions that could motivate voluntary continuing professional development on that scale and with that level of passion.

As well as tea/coffee and a light buffet, there are rapid presentations (2 or 7 minutes), raffles and prizes. It’s very informal, and while there was a strong technology theme running through some of the sessions in March, any kind of best practice can be shared – all the way through from early years and foundation to secondary level and beyond.

You can sign up at EventBrite and find out more on the TeachMeet Belfast wiki. And if you can't get to Belfast, there should be a live streaming available from the wiki.

A free preview of excerpts from new play Paisley & Me? Never! Well actually, there is ...

Paisley & Me is a new play by Ron Hutchinson that examines Ulster Protestants through the eyes of Ian Paisley and his family. Dan Gordon will be donning his heavy overcoat and dog collar to play the preacher and politician, joined on stage by actors Stella McCusker, Lalor Roddy and Des McAleer.

The play opens in the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 October, before transferring to The Grand Opera House for a week’s run during the Belfast Festival at Queen’s (Tuesday 30 October – Saturday 3 November).

You can also catch the production on a short tour at the following venues:
(There’s a certain irony in the some of the play’s performances receiving financial support from council community relations programmes using funds from OFMdFM!)

But if you want a sneak preview of Paisley & Me then come along to The Shipyard Church (Westbourne Presbyterian Community Church at the bottom of the Newtownards Road) at 7pm on Thursday 18 October.

As well as excerpts from the play, there will be a performances and readings by local community groups, and a panel discussion featuring Michael Copeland MLA, Sammy Douglas MLA, Councillor John Kyle, Jackie McDonald (UPRG), asking:
Where is the Protestant community today?
The evening will be chaired by Noel Thompson, who is no longer busy with Hearts & Minds on a Thursday evening! Contact marketing AT gblproductions DOT com for to register in advance for the preview, or just turn up on Thursday night!

Monday, October 01, 2012

A beginner's guide to American Politics (Jon Roper)

Knowing that I was heading out to the US and wanting to spruce up my working knowledge of US politics, I picked up a copy of the pocket-sized, 180 page American Politics: A Beginner’s Guide a few weeks beforehand.

It turned out to be a great introduction to the history of the country’s foundations, its constitution, the never-ending election cycle, the relationship between church and state as well as foreign policy. The second chapter’s articulation of the US model of federal government with its “separated institutions sharing powers” was particularly helpful, layered on top of chapter four’s discussion around how state governments fit into federalism.

There’s plenty of history, along with topical examples from the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations to illustrate the points being made by author Jon Roper.

Recommended as an informative but easy read. Available in paperback and Kindle editions for less than £7.