Monday, June 02, 2014
Northern Ireland First Minister forced to apologise after backing pastor who said Islam was a satanic religion
Theologically reasonable, it seems to me
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson was backed by Muslim leaders after making a grovelling private apology over controversial remarks about Islam.
The DUP leader publicly backed a fundamentalist preacher who attacked Islam as a 'doctrine spawned in hell' and said he did not trust them.
Mr Robinson said he would not trust Muslims to give him religious advice - but insisted he would be okay with them 'going down the shops' for him.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson sparked fury after backing a pastor who said he did not trust Muslims in Britain
He said: 'I wouldn't trust Muslims who are following Sharia Law to the letter and neither would he.
'However, as I have said in many of the normal daily activities of life, I would have no difficulty in trusting Muslims to go down to the shop for me.'
The remarks sparked fury in Northern Ireland - but Mr Robinson insisted his words had been 'misinterpreted' and said he would never wish to insult or upset Muslims.
Despite refusing to apologise in public, Muslim leaders in Northern Ireland said Mr Robinson did say sorry to them in private. A spokesman for the Belfast Islamic Centre, Dr Raied Al-Wazzan said: 'We accepted the apology in private and for us that was a sincere apology and we accepted it.'
A further statement issued by the DUP after the meeting said Mr Robinson was willing to apologise to anyone who had been hurt or distressed by his comments.
A party spokesman said the meeting had been 'valuable, friendly and relaxed'. 'Mr Robinson outlined his views and made it clear that there was never any intention on his part to offend or cause distress to anyone.
'He said that if anyone interpreted his remarks in that way that he would apologise to them and that he would welcome the opportunity to continue conversations at the Belfast Islamic Centre.
'The First Minister recalled his previous help and support for the Islamic community and indicated that his support was ongoing.
'Mr Robinson reiterated the important role that the Islamic community has played in Northern Ireland, particularly in businesses, education and medicine.'
Dr Al-Wazzan described the meeting as 'thoughtful, very honest and open'. 'We have told him what we felt,' he said.
Mr Robinson sparked a storm of criticism after publicly backing anti-Islamic evangelical preacher Pastor James McConnell.
Mr McConnell, who is a fundamentalist Protestant preacher at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in north Belfast, branded Islam a heathen doctrine during a fiery address to his congregation. 'People say there are good Muslims in Britain - that may be so - but I don’t trust them,' said the pastor. 'Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.'
Police are currently investigating the contentious sermon made by Mr McConnell to see if its contents constituted a hate crime.
Mr Robinson’s subsequent comments in a newspaper interview that he himself would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance but would trust them to 'go down the shops' sparked fury.
The DUP leader, who has attended Pastor McConnell’s church in the past, told the Irish News that claiming not to trust one section of society was not a hate crime, adding: 'If it is then I’m going straight away to the police to ask them to take action against all those who say they don’t trust politicians.'
He again defended Pastor McConnell’s right to free speech, but stressed: 'I would never seek to cause any insult to any section of our community.
'For the avoidance of any doubt, I make it clear that I welcome the contribution made by all communities in Northern Ireland and, in the particular circumstances, the Muslim community.'
Have-a-go heroes who ignore elf ’n’ safety to be protected by 'Good Samaritan' law
Have-a-go-heroes are to be given special protection from prosecution or legal action under a radical ‘Good Samaritan law’ being drawn up by ministers.
David Cameron wants to protect emergency workers and the public from legal consequences if they intervene in good faith to help someone in difficulty, the Daily Mail has learned.
Similar legislation operates in Australia where it has reduced the potential for negligence claims against doctors, police and firefighters, as well as ordinary members of the public.
A form of the Good Samaritan law is expected to be a centrepiece of next week’s Queen’s Speech, which will set out the Coalition’s plans for the last year before the General Election.
The purpose of the law is to prevent people from being reluctant to help a stranger in need for fear of legal repercussions should they make some mistake in a rescue attempt or treatment.
‘It’s about protecting people who act in a heroic fashion. That could include emergency workers, but really it is about anyone who is trying to do the right thing,’ said a well-placed source.
The Prime Minister has said the fear of transgressing UK and EU rules sometimes means people ‘stand aside when others need help’.
Ministers point to the case of ten-year-old Jordon Lyon in September 2007, who drowned in a pond in Wigan having rescued his young sister after community support officers were told not to intervene as they had not undertaken water rescue health and safety training.
And in the inquests into the July 7 bombings in London, evidence emerged that a number of victims remained alive long after three bombs were detonated on the London Underground in 2005.
Though it was concluded none could have been saved, the inquest heard some were left to die in pain because of health and safety protocols which left firemen unable to rush in to rescue them.
Paramedics were also alleged to have been prevented from helping victims of Cumbria gunman Derrick Bird’s shooting spree in 2010 because health and safety policies meant police held back ambulance crews and rescue helicopters until every shooting scene was cleared.
Lord Young, who was Margaret Thatcher’s trade secretary, drew up a report for the Government recommending health and safety law is reined in and Good Samaritans given reassurance in law.
‘If a fireman or a policeman commits an act of heroism in the course of his duty, he can be prosecuted for endangering himself,’ Lord Young told the Mail when his recommendations were published.
‘We all know stories of policemen standing by when people have got into trouble, and have been backed up by their superiors for not putting themselves in danger. It’s a corrosive thing. People believe they mustn’t do something they want to do.’
Ordinary citizens who are trying to help others in Good Samaritan situations must also be reassured that they cannot be sued, he said.
‘We have to make it completely clear to people, if you clear the snow in front of your house, if you stop to do anything to help somebody, you are not liable,’ Lord Young said.
While most people are not so ungrateful to sue someone who tried to help them and administered first aid, increasing numbers of court cases have been brought against Good Samaritans.
Specialist insurance is available to healthcare workers to guard against civil claims brought against what is argued to be medical malpractice – incorrectly administering a procedure, or negligence – in situations where they were doing their best to help.
As well as Australia, many other countries protect emergency workers and members of the public from being pursued in the courts when they have tried to assist someone in good faith.
In France, there is a specific obligation on citizens to help others in distress, and they risk prosecution if they do not.
While in Canada, any rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress is legally protected from being successfully sued for ‘wrongdoing’.
'We must close our borders to migrants who burden Britain'
Senior Tory adds fuel to incendiary debate over immigration from EU that is dividing the Cabinet
The Cabinet has been at loggerheads this week over immigration from the EU, with Home Secretary Theresa May leading calls for an end to the influx of workers from poorer European countries – and Foreign Secretary William Hague arguing that it couldn’t be done.
Here, leading Right-wing flag-bearer Liam Fox calls on David Cameron to seize the ‘historic opportunity’ to control our borders.
In last week’s European elections, voters across Europe sent a signal to the bloated, hideously expensive and out-of-touch Brussels bureaucracy.
From Denmark to Greece and from Finland to France, the people of Europe made it clear that they increasingly reject the idea of open borders and mass migration.
Some see it as an economic threat, others as a challenge to their perception of national identity.
Whatever their reasons, political leaders in Europe must take note. I have lost count of the number of people who told me: ‘I wouldn’t dream of voting Ukip in a General Election but I wanted to send a message.’ Usually, this was about immigration.
It is not a new issue. Between 1964 and 1980, there were more people leaving the UK than arriving and, even in the 1960s, when warnings of the cultural challenges associated with mass migration were first voiced, we were dealing with significantly fewer than half the arrivals we are seeing today.
The UK has been, and still is, one of the most open and generous countries in Europe, if not the world. Yet, in recent times, the tolerance of the British people has been stretched more than ever.
The control of our borders will be the most defining of all the negotiations David Cameron will have with the European Union after the next Election.
It is increasingly clear that voters across Europe equate it with the concept of sovereignty. But the reaction of many European leaders and the Brussels bureaucracy has been predictable and depressing. Many still seem unable to grasp the sea of change across the continent, talking merely about slowing down the speed of integration rather than considering a different direction.
Someone should point out that only dead fish go with the flow, and I believe it is imperative that Britain swims, salmon-like, against this insidious current. Reforming our relationship with Europe, including our ability to control our borders and immigration, is central to this.
There are two separate elements to our immigration problem. The first is the huge number of immigrants who have come to the UK in recent decades from outside the EU. In this case, we have the ability to institute proper controls if we have the political will to do so. The second is our inability to limit migration from the poorer parts of Europe.
In this case, it is because of our treaty obligations. It was Labour which shamefully mismanaged our borders, not out of incompetence, but deliberately, making immigration a social policy designed to push the New Labour multiculturalism agenda. It indulged in social engineering for the sake of electoral ambition and slammed those who disagreed as ill-educated.
Labour cannot be allowed back to power to continue its catastrophic approach to this most important issue. The coalition Government has made a good start at reversing the direction of travel with a new target set for tens, not hundreds, of thousands.
Yet, there are problems. The measure of net migration misses the point. If 10,000 immigrants arrive in Lincolnshire, residents there won’t be rejoicing that 5,000 elderly couples from Surrey have gone to live in Malaga, making the net migration zero. The actual incoming numbers matter as they put a strain on housing, school places, employment and medical services.
Immigration works best when two conditions are fulfilled. The first is that the host population must be willing to integrate those coming into the country and the second is that those who are coming in must want to integrate. When numbers are too great, these conditions are difficult to fulfil. We simply must see the level of immigration into Britain reduce.
But it is not only about how many people are coming, but who they are. Even if we get a drop in immigration, we still need to pay more attention to the individuals themselves and what they can bring to our economy.
There is a world of difference between a European banker coming to work here and an unskilled agricultural worker who ends up a burden on the welfare state. We need to think more about what those coming can contribute, not just how many of them there are.
The Prime Minister talks about the global race we’re in and he is right to do so. Our companies are not just competing globally for contracts or investment; they are also competing for the best people.
The immigration policy we design for the UK must not only protect the opportunities of those already here, but must also make sure we can attract those who have the skills to contribute to innovation and wealth creation in our country.
We are a country whose demographics mean we must continue to see immigration to maintain the ratio of those in work to those on pensions.
While that situation is now unavoidable, it does not mean we cannot control our own destiny. There are many examples of countries exercising a pragmatic approach to who crosses their borders.
Australia seeks engineers and those with experience in the mining industry, as it foresees huge expansion in those areas. Canada wants to build human capital within an ageing workforce by making provisions that attract young people who have work experience, higher education and language skills.
The United States has long operated a Green Card system with quotas that advantage immigrants with a profession or experience in business, the arts, sport or academia that benefits American society. We would do well to follow with a points system.
Let’s be frank, if we are going to ensure those with the necessary skills for the high end of our economy are more able to come to the UK, then the corollary will be that the numbers of those who come here, as part of our social or cultural migration, will need to be curtailed.
What I am proposing is an open and shut policy: more open to those who have the skills we need to maintain our prosperity and place in the world and more closed to those who, for whatever reason, would end up placing a burden on our welfare system and infrastructure.
That is the sort of fair approach the British people will accept.
The Prime Minister’s willingness to veto the appointment as European commission leader of Jean-Claude Juncker, the epitome of the increasingly despised Eurocracy, was a breath of fresh air.
He is right that we need to fundamentally reform Europe for the sake of all its citizens, rather than simply focus on a new relationship for Britain. It is much easier to argue that we have created a better club than that we have simply got a better membership deal for a bad one.
Britain is lucky. We have a mainstream Eurosceptic party able to form a Government and offer a referendum. Only the Conservative party can do this. It is a tremendous responsibility and a phenomenal challenge. David Cameron will reap rewards if he seizes this historic opportunity.
Too old, too middle class and too tidy: How loving couple refused to be cowed by social services and kept moving home until they were allowed to adopt child they yearned for
Bill and Hollie Speed are the proudest of parents. They beam with delight as they praise their pretty, 19-year-old daughter’s ambitions to start her own business and the careful way she saved her wages to buy her own car.
Yet only 12 years ago they were warned that Lucy’s achievements would be minimal.
She knew barely three letters of the alphabet, couldn’t count and her undiagnosed eye problems meant that she was unable to make out the blackboard during school lessons.
Lucy arrived in Bill and Hollie’s lives at the end of a long and exhausting battle to adopt a child. It was a battle so painful and protracted it would have broken a less tenacious couple.
The Speeds were told at different times, by different local authorities, that they were too old (when just in their 40s), too middle class, lived too near a river and were even too tidy to make good adoptive parents.
Fortunately, they refused to be deterred by social workers. The Speeds moved house again and again, hoping to find a more receptive local authority who would help them. To date they’ve moved a grand total of five times in a quest to find their perfect family home.
In the time between their initial application to adopt in 1991, and the moment they were told in 2002 that a shy little girl with bright blue eyes was waiting to join their family they never stopped believing they would be parents.
Today, Lucy has been transformed by their devoted attention.
‘It would be impossible for me to love her more if I’d given birth to her myself,’ says Hollie, gentle and softly spoken. ‘Whether or not she was adopted is irrelevant. She is our daughter and she’s a wonderful girl. She’s made us very happy and I hope we’ve done exactly the same for her.’
Love may seem a fundamental ingredient in any successful adoption, but the Speeds were advised early on to forget such sentimental notions.
Perhaps the most shocking indication of what they were up against came from an apparent expert. One of the first social workers sent to vet them asked how they would help a vulnerable, newly-adopted child.
‘Show them as much love as possible,’ Bill replied. To which they were briskly told, ‘love doesn’t work with these children.’
‘I thought it was nonsense then and I think it’s nonsense now,’ says retired businessman Bill. ‘Love is something that children who come from chaotic or abusive backgrounds have probably never experienced and it’s what they desperately need. If you’re not building them a future based on love, what are you? You’re just another “service provider”.’
Bill and Hollie, now a fit and active 72 and 68 respectively, live in north Norfolk in a large modern bungalow surrounded by beautifully tended gardens where they grow their own organic vegetables.
Bill has written a heartfelt book about their experience of adoption, charting a process that veers from the bizarre — for example, the charity worker who leapt out of his skin when he met the Speeds’ small dogs — to the joyous.
It is, above all, a plea for a more compassionate and flexible approach to finding so-called ‘forever’ families for desperately vulnerable children.
Lucy’s placement with this thoroughly decent couple has been an obvious success. Charming and friendly, she works at a care home and enjoys an active social life. She can play the piano and is an inventive cook.
However, she represents a fortunate minority who find permanent homes with new families each year. There are almost 93,000 children in Britain who fall under the protection of the care system, but in 2013 only 4,665 of them were successfully adopted.
‘I can hardly describe the frustration of knowing that so many children like Lucy, who would benefit from the security and love of a new family, are still being left to languish in truly awful care homes, or being moved from pillar to post in the fostering system,’ says Bill.
‘We got the chance to meet really good people on the adoption training courses we took. But the majority of them were rejected for reasons you just can’t fathom.
‘Yes, the system should examine your motives and ability extremely closely — I accept that — but what happened to us is that they assessed us, and then they assessed us again.
‘They asked endless questions: attitudes to gender, discipline, money, previous relationships, religion, race, expectations, pets . . . They dissect you, then dissect you again, then pick you apart until you feel you’ve been cut into tiny pieces. At the end of it, you wonder what has actually been achieved.’
Hollie suffered a traumatic series of miscarriages early in their 48-year marriage. Their only baby, a boy called Stephen, died when he was three days old. Unable to have more children, they had known from their 20s that the only way for them to have a family would be through adoption.
Together since they were teenage sweethearts in the Norfolk town where they both grew up, they never considered parting. ‘The tragedy made us stronger as a couple. It was devastating for us at the time but we moved on because we had no choice,’ says Bill.
Lucy says now that the first time she saw Bill and Hollie, when they were only prospective adopters, she knew immediately that she wanted them as her new parents. ‘They were nice, kind,’ she remembers. ‘I liked them straight away.’
Her early years, however, were pitiful. When she was taken from her violent natural parents at the age of two, she was filthy, neglected and wrongly assumed to be deaf and dumb because her severe glue ear prevented her from hearing.
Placed with foster carers, she was eventually given speech therapy, but it seems that a subtler form of neglect persisted.
‘The last lady she was with did her best, but it wasn’t enough,’ says Bill. ‘She was a chain smoker, which meant that Lucy was constantly breathing in smoke. She put Lucy in front of the television for most of the day and didn’t even notice that the poor little thing could hardly see.
‘We were the ones who got Lucy’s sight tested and discovered that she had a lazy eye that should have been corrected at a much younger age.
‘Lucy’s teeth were in a disgraceful state because she wasn’t taken to the dentist. Her speech was still very difficult to understand at that point and you just felt she was longing for someone who could help her to blossom.
‘It took hours and hours of patience to coax her to read and to improve her speech. She had rarely even been taken outside, but we taught her the names of birds and plants. Now she’s a keen gardener.
‘Lucy needed time to trust us, but watching her settle was the most rewarding experience of our lives.’
If Bill and Hollie had not adopted Lucy, what do they think would have happened to her?
Hollie almost winces at the thought. ‘She was classified as having special needs. I don’t know what her chances would have been. The thought of her ending up in a care home actually makes me feel ill.’ And yet, Lucy so nearly did not make it to the Speeds’ caring home.
After the loss of their son, they spent their 30s and early 40s building up their holiday lettings business, in a bid to ensure that they were well able to provide for any future family. They also made their first move.
Enamoured by the peace and tranquility of the Scottish countryside while taking a holiday there, the Speeds decided to leave their Norfolk home for what they thought would be the perfect place to raise a child. They dedicated themselves to making their spacious new home comfortable, and made their first application to adopt.
But it was in Scotland that the list of seemingly arbitrary or trivial objections to their quest for a child began. They met the social worker who thought ‘love’ a superfluous quality in 1991, who also stated bluntly at the outset of their attempt to adopt that Bill, then 47, and Hollie, 43, were too old.
With what was to become characteristic persistence, they ignored her.
The same social worker said that the Speeds would probably be unable to take a child who had grown up on a council estate because of their comfortable lifestyle. ‘It was tantamount to saying that a child from that background shouldn’t be given more opportunities. It seemed narrow-minded and limiting,’ says Bill.
They were also quizzed about the death of their baby son. ‘They just couldn’t leave the subject of Stephen alone. How did he die? How did we feel? Why weren’t we crying about him more? It became intrusive and upsetting, even obsessive,’ says Bill.
After 18 months of adoption assessment meetings, they were told that more examinations were necessary. Feeling that they were only revisiting old ground, worried that they were becoming yet older with no sign of success, they decided to move to a different and perhaps more receptive local authority.
And so, they made their second move, selling up for an idyllic farm in Wales. A perfect place to raise a family, you might think. A shallow river, easy to cross in ordinary Wellington boots, ran about 500m from their house. They rented their land to a neighbouring farmer and concentrated on making the house as welcoming as possible.
Another home meant another social worker. The way the Speeds tell it, their new contact from social services walked straight into their conservatory, squinted out at the view and cross-examined them on the proximity of the river.
She then announced that rivers — even such a shallow one that Bill offered to fence — were unacceptably dangerous places for children, and so were farms.
After she left, they were unable to gain any further response at all from her office. It was as if they had been wiped from the books.
Always ready to take decisive action, the Speeds made their third move, despite having been in their current property for only two years. But if the river was a problem, they would find another house without one.
They moved another 12 miles to a new property in the countryside. Again, they renovated the property to make it as attractive as possible before approaching social services. They did not care about the race or gender of the child: they simply wanted to adopt.
When they saw an advertisement in their local paper from Barnardo’s, stating that the charity was desperately seeking adoptive parents from all walks of life for older children with complex needs, they felt that, finally, they might be successful. It was not to be the case.
‘A pair of project workers arrived, a manager and his assistant, and the first thing he did was jump out of his chair when he saw our three small poodles. It was absurd,’ remembers Bill.
‘The assistant spent most of the time staring up at the ceiling. I had no idea why until he said, quite accusingly, “It’s a bit clean and tidy, isn’t it?” The whole visit lasted 30 minutes.’ The Speeds were duly informed that they were unsuitable.
They were back in the hands of the local authorities, but they discovered they had been mistakenly removed from the records because they failed to respond to a letter they never received.
The letter had invited them to an introductory training course for foster carers — despite the fact they had no intention of fostering in the first place. Soon, another social worker arrived and announced as an opening salvo: ‘It is not every woman’s God-given right to have a child.’
Despairing at the fact that it was now more than a decade after they started trying to adopt, they wrote to a senior social worker in their area, cataloguing the list of errors and discouragement they had faced to date.
To their astonishment, he responded and they were put in contact with an independent social worker for a Welsh adoption agency. Their luck was about to change.
After undergoing a much shorter version of the detailed assessment process they had undergone in Scotland, they were told in 2002 that they were being approved, subject to the usual checks, for adoption.
‘It was better than winning the Lottery and the football pools. It was relief and elation and the feeling that every frustration and setback had been worth it,’ says Bill. ‘We could hardly believe that things seemed to be going our way for once.’
They first met seven-year-old Lucy in 2002, when she began the tentative process of getting to know them during short visits that gradually lengthened into longer stays.
A year later, the final adoption hearing that made her officially their daughter was marked with a brief court appearance, during which the judge invited Lucy’s contribution by asking her to name her favourite vegetables.
But the couple’s battle to provide their much-longed for daughter with a perfect home wasn’t over yet. Move four came when the Speeds felt that Lucy, not a native Welsh speaker, was struggling too hard to master the language at school. Feeling she would do better with lessons taught solely in English, they returned to Scotland in 2003.
Finally came the fifth move, when they settled back in Norfolk eight years ago to escape radiation from a mobile phone mast that was erected only a few metres from their Scottish house. At last, their journey was over.
‘It’s all been for her,’ says Bill. ‘We will do whatever it takes to guarantee her welfare — and it’s been wonderful. Not roses all the way, but wonderful. We could not possibly have found a lovelier daughter.’
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.