Monday, 31 March 2008

New Turbine for Strangford lough

It's official something that has been previously planned in Northern Ireland has actually happened after years of planning and thinking and scheming and delays the new tide turbine has actually been put into the mouth of Strangford lough . As I have grown up in the area and never known the view to change its going to be a little strange to have this in you sight line but it's also interesting to note that they said it was chosen because it was the best place with the strongest currents something that Sailors in the lough have know for years. It will be interesting to know just how it works out.I remember reading in one press release that they also wanted an area that they could bring people to to have a look at the turbine that was'nt off shore and anyone out there that knows the hospitality in Portferry will know they will have a good time there even if they never get to see the turbine at all, in fact if they go for hospitality in Portaferry they may never be able to see anything ever again................ Thanks uncle Lennie for the photos.

Two last thing, in discussion with someone in East Belfast about my upcoming trip to China we were talking about the pictures of Tibet on the news. He was saying that was'nt it nice that all that was going on just to let someone living in East Belfast feel at home on a holiday visit ;-) Oh how times have changed.
The last observation I had today was driving down shaftebury square you could see the big wheel glistening in the sun and it really felt that it was a different city to the one I moved to ten odd years ago, I parked my car on Townsend Street where I used to work on the bottom of the Shankill and the Falls and an open top bus drove through the peace line, we are a city in transition and I think many people have just started to realise it.

government stop grants for new deal

Call me silly but I just heard today that the grants have been stopped not only for the start a business programme but also for New Deal. While many of you out there are not sure what that is New Deal self employment is one stand of an option on a main government programme that helped people who are on benefits to move into self employment for them selves. It does this by allowing them to keep there benefits for 6 months while running a business. You used to get £400 of a grant to help you on your way into doing this but this has been stopped.

I've been working in areas with high benefit dependency for years and this strand was one that actually worked for people because it helped them get used to the freedom that self employment can bring and the £400 made all the difference. Anyone I got on that programme and mentored through it never ever went back to being unemployed. Since the Assembly have been back into government they have been looking at what they are doing with "promoting a Enterprise culture" for Northern Ireland at the moment they want to focus on supporting growth businesses but if that's the only thing that they focus on what about all of those people who have been left behind?? what are their chances of making a better lives for themselves? if we leave this part of society behind could the conflict in Northern Ireland spark off again, through shear frustration? I think perhaps it could.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Is it time to reclaim the St Patrick day parade in Belfast?

Ok so after reading what seems like every English website in China and the Chinese embassy in Dublin website 50 times I missed one thing out..........the embassy is not open on a Friday. So I got up at the crack of dawn for nothing. On the positive side we have everything booked and so do all of the other 6 people going on the negative side this was my only day I could go down and I was quite looking forward to it. Maybe one of the other group can go down ? Who knows we will have to have a rethink.

On a different note yesterday evening I went to a finish off of a project I have been involved with in the protestant communities in South Belfast I was speaking to a community leader in one of the areas and he was talking about St Patricks day, a few years ago I gave him a contact and he got loads of protestant children in the parade in Armagh. They have gone to parades down south before as well but this time he decided to watch the parade in Belfast. He said he has never seen such a sorry sight that the heart has been taken out of it, in fact you would not even know it was a St Patricks day parade it could have been for anything. Some years back there were issues around too many tri colours etc being displayed and many members of the unionist community feeling that the parade was not for them. However I found it really interesting that here was a man from Donegal Pass saying it maybe was time to participate in the parade in Belfast, to reclaim St Patrick. I also know of a group in Sandy Row that held St Patrick day events in their own community for the second time so that's progress people are realising that St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, nothing more nothing less.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

preparation for adventure

Trying to organise a trip to China is like nothing else I have ever experienced in all my trips around the world. Yesterday I had a strange experience while trying to phone the Chinese Embassy after wrestling with the voice mail , and "if what want this press 2" I eventually got through to the visa section which said " thank you you are through to the Visa section" then promptly cut me off . MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM now that's what I call customer service . Cant wait until it catches on here . Oh it already has, it's a bit like phoning my bank but at least you do get through to a human, even if they are in Liverpool. There are 8 of us going to China and its always somewhere I have fancied going to ever since some great Aunts and Uncles from New Zealand talked about not being allowed to visit. I did get as far as the top of Thailand on the Golden triangle where you could get a boat to China but time did not allow it, to say nothing of the lack of a visa.

I've been reading up about it and all the changes that are going on within the country especially as they prepare for the Olympics.Booking all the flights and hotels online have been very frustrating its not unusual to spend 4 hours trying to navigate your way around a website only to be told there is no availability. The websites are very slow and your computer becomes slower afterwards but such is life. Tomorrow I'm off to Dublin with all the information for the Visa's to try and go in person to the embassy and see if I live to tell the tale. It's always nice to have a trip to Dublin and I've not been in a while and when that happens you usually have time to see some differences happening.