Thursday, 22 January 2009

Day 2 Gitmo to close

Day 2 was quite eventful for President Obama. He was inaugurated again to make sure the Chief Justice gets it right this time. Do his decisions from day 1 still count? I think the courts will take the spirit of the first oath as read.

Well all those who said Obama wasnt for change for not immediately closing Guantanamo well you had to wait less than 48 hours for that decision. A year from now the detention centre will be closed. Fidel Castro sent good wishes on his inauguration.

Another peace envoy has been sent out hot on the heals of George Mitchell former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has been appointed Special Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recognition of the hard times facing people in the US the President has frozen senior aides pay and there will be a new ethics code in lobbying. Peace, moderation and transparency. The Change train has well and truly left the station.

One point though - Blackberry must be making a fortune out of all the publicity. The President is getting a spy proof phone at a cost of $3,350 - wonder what games its got?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Day 1 - Cuba and Middle East

The President got off to a flying start today. First he has asked that all trials being held in Guantanamo cease for a period of 120 days. This will hopefully be enough time for them develop a plan to accommodate the remaining 250 detainees. Some contries may be asked to accept people from a different nationality and some may be transported to the US mainland for civil trails there. Its a complex issue but the President has made a start towards eventual closure as promised during the campaign.

As expected the Middle East is also the focus on day one with a familiar face to local people being appointed Special Envoy. George Mitchell is off to try and solve the problems of the Middle East we wish him well! At least he will be familiar with one international actor over there former Prime Minister Tony Blair

Apparently the Irish American Inaugural Ball went well and there are a few people with sore heads today!!!

By the way thanks to those who sent kind words today about my various words of wisdom (or lack of it yesterday) I really need to go on a diet!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Big Day - A New Start?

Well this was the day that some of us have waited months or two years and for some 232 years ie since the American Revolution. Today saw a young intelligent 47 year old man become the 44th President of the United States. In doing so Obama has taken a step to meet the dream of Rev Martin Luther King Jnr that people will be judged by the content of their character and not the colour of their skin.

An estimated 1.8 million people of all ages and races packed the Mall to witness the dawn of a new age for America and the world.

The 19 minute speech was somewhat different to those that may have been heard on the campaign trail. The dreams and hopes expressed were accompanied with plans and messages that would deliver them.

The economy was a central focus of the Presidents' speech he spoke of harsh times ahead but also that the USA had the intelligence and work force to get it back on track. But this could not be done via wishful thinking but by the realisation that difficult decisions cannot be put off no matter how unpleasant.

In Foreign policy there was a realisation that the USA required a new relationship with countries and faiths in the world. All caught in his phrase "We will extend our hand if you unclench your fist".

Responsibility was the key to all his remarks. The government had the responsibility to help kick start the economy, to devise a new foreign policy, to look to the future of science and technology and make opportunity available to all. But there is responsibility on the citizen too. The responsibility to look out for neighbours and to make time for children.

The most common question is can he deliver? With so much expectation some will be disappointed. Time will tell and all we can say is good luck!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

It is time to stop

Have just seen some horrible footage and photographs from Gaza. It doesnt matter who did what there is NO excuse for this. A blog calling for these actions to stop on all sides will not solve the problem. It is time for people with real power to say that is enough and to back it with full and enforceable sanctions that will force people to the table.

I think Slugger O'Toole had a comment a little while back saying They have to learn to live with one another just like we are learning. Its a good point.

Obama, Bush, Brown, Medvedev, UN, can change this.

What would you do to stop this happening your child? I am afraid I am not smart enough to have a sensible answer.

Planning Service in Northern Ireland

Recent days have seen significant complaints about the Planning Service in Northern Ireland and the overall conclusion appears to be that it is not fit for purpose. The Minister of Environment Sammy Wilson stated in the News Letter, 12th January, that

"Planning officers have a role in kick-starting the economy and in this case (Aurora Building) they have failed and failed abysmally... At a time when the economy needs a boost my view is we should be using the planning service to give it that boost."

The Institute of Directors have said (News Letter 13 January) that the Planning Service noe represents the "biggest single obstacle" to economic development.

Speed appears to be one of the most crucial factors in the faults with Planning Service. This is notable in both retail development and renewable energy development - wind farms. Taking any longer than six months to assess such crucial employment and strategic infrastructure projects cannot be accepted in this time of economic crises.

There is a consultation drafted and ready to be released to the public on strategic planning, but guess what, this has been delayed for months now. The delays have been caused by political infighting which led to the Executive not meeting and since they began to meet they have been playing catch up.

It is time all Ministers relaised the dire economic straits facing people and business and got on with meetings in order to at least clear consultations that will have an impact on all of us. This may mean having two meetings a week to get these issues dealt with.

Several £100m of investment and several thousand jobs are waiting to come here how many of these jobs in retail, green energy and construction will have to be lost before the Executive realises that planning reforms are needed, not in six months, but now?

Monday, 12 January 2009

Financial Assistance Package

Well it was the first plenary session for the Assembly today. One of the main items on the agenda was the Financial Assistance Bill. This Bill will give the Executive a special fund to tackle emergencies this could include flooding and will include a £15m package for fuel poverty.

All good. But i have a potential issue. The present fuel poverty package needs to be introduced swiftly. It appears that the Office of First and Deputy First Minister are leading the charge on this issue. What role for Social Development? It is the job of this Department to lead and solve fuel poverty. Eventually the new funds will have to be distributed and Social Development is the only department set up to deliver this. There is much room for confusion and delay. This cannot be allowed to happen. No one will really care who is at fault, except those interested in points scoring rather than those in need, and people will continue to suffer.

If the funds were offered to 100,000 families as a financial credit then there is a possibility that it could be delivered more quickly and with more confidence that the money will be used for fuel.

It is essential that there are absolutely no delays and those who engage in making the issue of fuel poverty a points scoring excercise should be punished at the polls.


Happy New Year! The Assembly is back and so am I. So what kind of 2009 are we facing? Not good so far. We have a war in the Holyland that is pitting the might of Israel against Hamas in Gaza. As usual it is the ordinary people who are suffering.

Ordinary people across the world are also suffering from the global economic recession. Billions of various currencies are being thrown around and pale into insignificance against the challenges that economies face. In the USA President Elect Obama is asking for $770bn to solve the economic problems. Critics are saying the stimulus package needs to be at least $1000bn to make an impact. Where will this money come from? Who will pay the debts of nations? Ordinary people.

Is there hope? Yes there is and a lot of it rests with Obama and his new administration. The President Elect has a team of massive experience around him. This is telling that he has got intelligent and experienced people around him rather than just friends from home. However, Obama needs to be given a chance to deliver and 100 days may not be enough to even start tackling all problems. So much is expected from one man and inspite of the Spiderman comic he is not a superhero but an intelligent man who will do his best.

Having worked for a brief time on his campaign I can say that if anyone can turn things around it will be Obama and his team. The new approaches to greater Wall Street regulation and a Green economy will need to be replicated by others across the globe.

2009 will test all our politicians to help the ordinary people with jobs and support. One leader cannot do it alone but he can make a start. Will anyone have the bravery and intelligence to follow?